Everyone talks about recoil, absorbing recoil, how to compensate for recoil, etc. The best practical pistol shooters in the world seem to not even feel the effects of recoil as they hose bullets downrange. At various points in my life, I’ve been told that the best to compensate for recoil is my stance, or how I’m holding the gun, or that one arm is locked, or that one arm shouldn’t be locked, etc etc.
After much thought and consideration, I have a new theory. It’s all in the grip. As Tam talks about here, reference Mas Ayoob’s “crush grip”, and as Todd Jarret demonstrated with the “champion’s grip” how you hold the gun is the most important aspect in absorbing recoil. That’s what allows guys like Jerry Miculek and Robbie Leatham to fire accurate, fast shots while off-balance or not in the best recoil absorbing stance.
My theory is further borne out by the gigantic Popeye-forearms these guys have. If you’ve never shaken hands with Jerry Miculek, I’d advise you not to if you don’t want your hand unintentionally crushed into paste. The forearm theory of recoil works like this – when the gun is fired, the first action it wants to take is to use your wrists as a pivot point and rotate the muzzle upward. This is compensated for by a variety of mechanisms, which do include a proper stance, the muscles in the shoulders and lower back, etc; however the first muscle group that recoil encounters resistance from would be…the muscles in the forearms.
If you’re gripping the gun “20 percent tighter”, your forearm muscles are going to be properly engaged so that when recoil forces act on the gun, they will encounter resistance from your muscular tension. Of course, unless you’re like Jerry Miculek or Todd Jarret, your forearms (mine included) probably aren’t strong enough to soak up all that recoil, which is where the importance of arm extension and proper stance come into play.
However, if you’d like to have some serious “recoil-soaking-grip-crushing-goddamn-popeye-arms”, here are a few exercises you can do around the house to strengthen your grip and improve your recoil absorption.
If you have some dumbbells or light weights around the house (you won’t need more than 10 or 15 pounds unless you’re already a forearm freakazoid), sit down in a chair with your forearm resting on your leg, with your wrist able to move freely up and down. With the weight in your hand, proceed to curl the dumbbell moving your wrist only until failure point; transfer the weight to your other hand and repeat that number of reps. Hit this link for an excellent example of wrist curl form.
Push-ups are the ultimate upper body exercise. While not ideal for targeting the forearms, those muscle groups are used during a proper push-up to maintain your form and positioning. When you’re doing push-ups, you’ll get better results if you maintain proper form and do fewer reps than if you blast out as many reps as possible with lousy form. This link has essentially perfect form.
Hold a piece of newspaper out at arm’s length, and using one hand only crumple it up as fast as possible. Don’t believe me? Just try it!
Dry fire a DA Revolver
Ref: Exhibit A) Jerry Miculek.
There are a lot of other ways you can strengthen your forearms, including some gimmicky work out items designed just for it. While you’re increasing your grip strength and helping your ability to soak up recoil, it’s important to keep in mind that superhuman popeye arms are no substitute for proper fundamentals. Grip strength is only one part of absorbing recoil and shooting fast, and while I’ve come to believe that it’s an extremely important part, it’s only one aspect of the total package.
And as a final side note, chicks dig good forearms; or at the very least my wife likes mine.