Controlling Recoil

Controlling recoil is no different than controlling a sparring partner. If the opponent is weaker than you, no special technique is necessary. Strength and driving power will defeat that opponent with application of any technique.

Things change when the strikes delivered by your opponent are enough to cause you physical injury or immediate loss of consciousness. These strikes exist in boxing opponents and in shooting platforms.

When blocking a cross thrown from a boxer, if the punch strikes harder than can be controlled by simple grip (checking the punch) then a fighter must brace for the impact and receive the force over as broad a surface as possible. Part of this requires distributing force over the largest surface area on the body as possible (example: taking a punch meant for the jaw on a curled blocking arm instead). Another part is distributing that force as rapidly as it is applied. For the boxer and for the shooter managing stout recoil, this means bracing for impact in a way that immediately and efficiently channels and distributes forces in the largest muscle bearing joints, across as many of those joints as possible, simultaneously.

Unremarkably, the muscles, tensioning pattern, and strength involved in a shooter using a clinch technique to manage recoil are the same as a fighter clinching and blocking a roundhouse kick to the head. The body squares to the epicenter of the strike, stiffens at the most delicate joints (wrists and elbows) without locking. The muscles of the torso, torque and torsion; maximizing clamp load in the body. Back and core muscles meet each other in mutual tension against each other. This pairs with a small but extremely muscularly reinforced drive of the shoulder and pectoral muscles into each other, creating an upper body that is muscularly locked and collapsed in neutral joint space.

We must create structure that is stiff and unyielding to minor shocks, but results in a structure that is excellent at accepting and diffusing high impulse impacts- like that of a Thai boxer’s roundhouse, or the recoil of a heavy 12ga load. A fighter receiving a kick while clinching in this manner may look nearly stationary during the event and may not show much give or acceptance of energies in that blow, until you look at the event on a high speed camera.

Viewing the event in slow motion reveals the magic of the clench technique. As the blow impacts the curled arm, the tissue of the arm, rigid from being flexed, starts to absorb energy, robbing the strike of velocity and snap before the striking surface of the kick (opponents shin) meets bones on the blocking surface. As the shin drives deeper into the blocking surfaces, the radius, ulna and humerus collapse into each other, arms collapse into chest, structures bolstered by pre-tensioned muscle tissues connected to those structures. Massive muscles of the shoulder receive energy and channel it into the large supporting structures of the chest and back, finally distributing it down the torso. What you see at speed is a massive energy transfer at the blocking surface, diminished into the slightest of rearward travel at the base, resulting in a small shuffle rearward.

It is important to understand that this type of energy transference is happening across these structures simultaneously, rather than sequentially. Clenched muscle tension is vital to making this work, as only a tensed structure transfers energy fast enough to recruit surrounding structures in absorbing extremely short duration, high intensity, shock energy like that of a whipped roundhouse kick… or a trigger press delivering 00buck.

This isn’t all of the recoil management process, but without this, the rest is of little worth.

I’ll save discussing the use of sequential sacrificial structures in recoil mitigation for another post where I will draw comparison between highway barricades or runaway truck ramps and the standard method of recoil mitigation in shotgun technique.

One thought on “Controlling Recoil

  1. Very informative. The aspect I like about all of your recoil management videos and articles now, is that you explain that it’s a system that isn’t weapon specific. By training and implementing a proper “recoil management plan”, you should have at minimum, a initial and constant preparedness to handle any caliber weapon you are shooting. I see too many guys ask the infamous question of, “how bad does it kick?”, right before shooting. Obviously, every weapon system is different and there is a learning curve and muscle memory process for each of those systems, but, I really enjoy how you point out that to be an effective shooter, one should have a general base of recoil knowledge that can be applied to all weapons systems prior to even shooting them.

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