Rifle Recoil Management

When the Clinton-Era crime bill banned "assault rifle" characteristics on "sporting arms," it meant no more flash hiders on our semi-autos. Before that time, the idea of putting a muzzle brake on an AR-15 seemed just silly. Muzzle brakes were for .300 win mags, not .223's! But, those plain, crowned AR barrels just didn't look right, and since a muzzle brake was the only legal option, that's what we were stuck with. Then the "assault weapons" ban sunset in 2004 and we couldn't wait to take our muzzle brakes off and put real flash hiders back on. Here we are 10 years later and there's this huge niche market for AR muzzle brakes, some of them costing over a C-note. I don't actually know if these make any measurable difference in .223 recoil, which is already considered a "light recoiling" caliber, but they sure do make the range a noisier place.

If controlling AR recoil and muzzle climb is an issue for you, before you punish your fellow shooters with a new Eargershplitten Loudenboomer brake for your carbine, consider that maybe your technique could use a tune-up.

STANCE - It doesn't matter whether your foot position is slightly bladed, isosceles, or you're shooting on the move, your rifle doesn't care what your feet are doing. Stance should be understood to be mostly an upper torso activity. Lean the upper body a few degrees forward, shrug your shooting shoulder up into the rifle and get a solid cheek weld. Tighten your core muscles when you're ready to shoot and you will be able to control the most unruly recoil monsters.

GRIP - When many of us first learned to shoot, it was on shotguns and hunting rifles and we were told to let the forearm rest in our support hand loosely, like we would hold an egg to avoid crushing it. There may be some merit to that if you're shooting a shotgun or a competition precision gun. A carbine, on the other hand, responds to forceful handling. Grip that forearm and pull the rifle into the shoulder. Use the support hand to "drive" the rifle onto the target. A vertical foregrip can be helpful, but not necessary. C-clamp gripping may be helpful, but not necessary and may even create other problems. Keep it simple.

TRIGGER - Pulling the trigger "fast" isn't difficult. Pulling the trigger fast and hitting the target is another matter. Speed is less important than control. If the sights are off the target, we shouldn't be pulling the trigger just to make the gun shoot fast. This results in errant rounds which can cost us dearly whether we are shooting in competition or in a defensive situation. We prep the trigger as we are beginning to align the sights on the target by applying gentle force to it and taking up the first stage of pull if it is a 2-stage trigger. Once the sight picture is what we want we continue our press, holding the trigger rearward as the rifle recoils. As we come out of recoil, the support hand drives the front sight back onto the target and we release just enough of the trigger to "reset" it, not lifting the finger off completely until we are done shooting and the sights come off the target. This controlled trigger manipulation helps prevent "slapping" the trigger.

These skills can be practiced in a simple drill that I like to call a "cadence" drill. I call it that because our main focus is on shooting in an even cadence, not to beat a timer. In this drill, our shots should sound like: "BANG... ... ... BANG... ... ... BANG... ... ... BANG ... ... ... BANG" and not like: "BANG...BANG... ... ... ...BANG... ...BANGBANG."

Check out this quick video that demonstrates the drill:

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