View Full Version : WHAT IS MY PROBLEM? 38 vs. 45

March 11, 2011, 05:18 PM
Hello All, and thanks in advance for your advice!
I've been shooting poorly many decades, and reloading for a few years, but this problem seems to be ME and I can't seem to overcome it!
At ten yards with my GP100 shooting .38 specials offhand, I can consistently group about tennis ball size, which I don't consider too bad for an old guy with bad rotator cuffs and tennis elbow, not to mention the other things...
HOWEVER with my Glock 45acp, Rohrbaugh R9, Springfield 45acp, Glock 40, and if I load .357's in the GP, I'm all over the board! I know I MUST be flinching or something. I say "all over" but most bad shots seem to be low left. I know it's not the guns, 'cause if I sandbag rest, they all shoot excellent.
I've tried dry-firing in the house with just primers in an empty cartridge, and realized I'm anticipating the recoil and tightening up. I thought I got over that.... Any advice/practice drills would be helpful.
Thanks for your time,
Steve W.

March 11, 2011, 05:36 PM
Yeah, from your description, it sounds like a classic case of flinch due to recoil anticipation.
There was a lengthy thread on this forum about just letting the gun recoil, instead of fighting it, and use just enough grip and control for the sights to settle back down on the target for the next shot.
Keeping the gun recoiling and returning in a straight line up and down is more important that trying to prevent recoil.
The thread had an excellent video link showing the process about half way down on the second page.

March 11, 2011, 06:45 PM
It's in the head. Lots of people are psyched out by the 45. Even though in reality it doesn't really kick that much more.

Dry firing and "ball and dummy" practice helps. Something else that would help is putting a laser on your 45 for dry firing. After dry firing a bit the shoot it with the laser. After a while use it without the laser.

When your groups start to go south again, go back and start all over, Eventually you'll work around the problem

Don't fret, its quite common with the 45. Shooting is 90% plus mental anyway.

March 11, 2011, 07:36 PM
Another good training tactic that works for me...
put the big guns away and shoot 20-40 rounds of .22LR pistol..
This helps me forget the recoil and re-focus on shooting technique.
I find that I switch to .22 less often as I go to the range..
It really works for me...
I had a big issue with my 3rd gen S&W 4566TSW shooting low and left(I'm right handed)Now I can poke out the bullseye at 7 yds and nearly as good at 10yds..

March 11, 2011, 08:48 PM
I can't hit the side of a barn with a 45ACP pistol. I've tried everything from Colt Gold Cup to Ruger P90. Dunno what it is, but I can't hit with it.

I'm a 9mm man myself because I can get good groups. That's what's important to me.

March 11, 2011, 08:57 PM
try taking a strip of brass shim stock, cut a square notch in it and affix to your pistol. take a few rounds and then open the notch wider. shoot some rounds, stop when you get nice groups and then open the regular rear notch to same size.

You might be losing the sight alignment with too narrow a notch and allowing more light to show might be your answer.

Also, use the 185gr lead target round for the .45, you might like them.

Yankee Doodle
March 12, 2011, 07:32 AM
If you think it's a flinch, try this. It always works.
Take a friend to the range with you. Have your friend load one round in the mag, and chamber the round, and hand you the loaded gun. Then take the gun and fire the one CAREFULLY aimed round. Give the gun back and have him do it again. Every now and then, have your friend hand you an unloaded gun. You won't know if the gun is loaded or not. If the piece moves at the trigger break, you are indeed flinching. This is known in police circles as "dutchloading". It will immediately let you know if you have developed a flinch. If so, dedicated dry fire practice is the cure. Balance a dime on top of the slide, and practice until you can dry fire without the dime falling off. Then use the same trigger squeeze when the gun is loaded.
Works every time.
This is easier to do then to explain, so I hope I have made myself clear.

March 12, 2011, 07:36 AM
The forum link above gives me lots to think about...
In my mind I know the GP100 38 isn't going to have much recoil, so I don't grip it as tight or wait for it, and by cocking it first, it has a nice trigger release, but with the Springfield xd45, I do try to have a 'death grip', and I have trouble reading when the trigger is gonna break. I read once that a good shooter has a grip like a vise, but that's probably my problem!
I'll practice some dry-firing with empty carts and let-off a little this afternoon and see if I can improve. THANKS!

March 12, 2011, 10:10 AM
Low left groups with a right hand shooter are almost always a flinch.

If I shoot 200 -300 rounds I tend to start flinching. I have a .22 conversion unit that I also shoot each session, and that reveals any flinch and a few magazines with it cures it for awhile.


March 12, 2011, 10:20 AM
My son and I were at the range recently trying out my new S&W 686 and 625. My son started with the 686 shooting 38's and his groupings at 10 yrds was excellent. After half a box each we swapped guns and his first shot with the 45 acp was dead on (literally, the center of the bull's eye). But then his grouping went to hell. Clearly (and he recognized this first) he was anticipating the recoil that was absent with the 38s and then flinching. It was a very interesting if accidental experiment.

I shoot a lot of big bores (41 Mag to 460 Mag) and I keep pretty good groups when I first shoot, but as I approach the end of a box (sooner with the 460 M) I notice my groups getting bigger and bigger. Fatigue, anticipation and flinching. Thus the practice time!

I understand that this phenomena is why the FBI, a few years after converting to 10mm in a modified 1911 platform (the S&W 1076), switched to the much lighter .40 S&W.

cole k
March 13, 2011, 07:47 PM
Quote; JerryM, Posted 03/12/11, 10:10 AM
Low left groups with a right hand shooter are almost always a flinch.

Jerry, you are correct IME.
I was consistent and shot good groups. It didn't matter what type action or if it was pistol or rifle or cartridge or caliber.

So, what I did was lighten the triggers and readjusted the sights to compensate for this.

March 13, 2011, 08:48 PM
so I don't grip it as tight or wait for it, and by cocking it first, it has a nice trigger release,
There is your problem. IMHO, there is no good reason to fire a double action revolver in single action (long range hunting excluded). In an SD situation, you will not (or should not) be cocking the hammer on your revolver.

You need to learn to shoot well with that revolver in double action...then you will be able to shoot anything (within reason).

March 14, 2011, 05:51 PM
Try low recoil ammo in the .45.

Then work your way up to whatever you like.

March 16, 2011, 05:14 PM
I think that Yankee Doodle (post #7) has given good advice on this.

Just make sure that the friend you choose is one who will not be critical, but will be helpful and supporting.

March 16, 2011, 06:26 PM
Pushing, tightening the grip in anticipation, jerking the trigger, or anticipating recoil are the primary reasons for missing left.

March 16, 2011, 06:53 PM
Shooting is 90% plus mental anyway.
Yes it is.

If you dry fire a bit each night, and concentrate on just doing everything right, just do the same when you get to the range. Just leave out the blast and recoil part in your mind, and know youre just going to hear a "click", just like you always do in dry fire, when the hammer drops. Just concentrate on the physical part of watching the sights and breaking the shot, and the round will go where the sights were looking when the shot broke.

Oh, and just relax. This is supposed to be soothing. The nerve wracking part comes later. :D

March 16, 2011, 07:22 PM
OK, my $0.02 for what it's worth.

You can do a few things, some already mentioned. The first is shoot a round with less recoil. Hits are more important than a big bang and air whizzing by the target.

Second, I like to squeeze the gun so hard I tremble. If I'm not milking wood sap out of the stocks I'm not squeezing hard enough. Center the trembling barrel on the target and that's where the bullets will go. When I shoot I have the imprint of the grips or stocks on my hand for at least half an hour after shooting. Yes, it hurts a little, but it allows me to put the bullets where they need to go. The technique of squeezing the gun so hard that you have sap running off of your hand runs contrary to popular teaching, but strangely enough it works very well.

Third, FOCUS on the Front Sight!

Fourth, dry fire nightly after unloading your gun and moving the ammunition to another room and triple checking your gun to ensure it isn't loaded. Then, have a safe backstop just in case you left a round in the gun.

Fifth, when shooting use a firm aggressive stance. As strange as it sounds this helps to make you able to handle the recoil better. Heck I snarl when I shoot.

If you are plinking or shooting Bullseye Matches this may not be the right approach for you to take. If you are practicing for a possible defensive usage of a handgun in a lethal encounter you may be quite pleasantly suprised at the results.

Good luck and I hope that helps.


March 16, 2011, 09:37 PM
+1 to all advice about "flinching" or in more clear cut terms "Pulling" the trigger rather than "Squeezing" it. The natural movement of a finger "pull" will put you low and left every time (R handed). Practice "squeezing" without hand movement and them implement.

How do you hold the gun?...what stance? If not "Isosceles", try it. It seems to work best for most people.

March 17, 2011, 01:42 PM
The down and left may be from your finger on the trigger- you might be hooking the trigger or pulling it off center. Try just the tip of the finger. Old timers used to put a match book between the two middle fingers and practice moving the flap back with their trigger finger.
What about going in the other direction? Your flinch isn't good shooting form -if you are shooting 38 Specials okay. Get a 44 magnum and shoot the h$%l out of it. When you go down to a 45ACP the recoil will seem like zippo- problem solved.
And....not every hand fits a semi-auto- that's why there are revolvers.

March 17, 2011, 02:35 PM
Revolvers sort of require you to place the trigger finger on the trigger in the crease between the first and second joint, because of the strength required for the double action trigger. With an auto, the pad from the first joint of your trigger finger - not the crease, just above it - should contact the trigger. So you wind up pressing, not pulling, the trigger - particularly important if it has a short reset.

Interesting comment from Biker about the deathgrip. I play a lot of golf. They say hold the club firmly, but not death grip tight. However you need to remember that a merely firm grip for a touring pro may EQUAL OR EXCEED the deathgrip from many amateurs in terms of actual pressure exerted. Translated, it means your relative muscular strength figures in here too. Personally, i find a nicely balanced .45 has very little recoil, not at all as harsh as a lightweight 9mm. But i shoot both equally well (or poorly) on a given day. I don't know which is right - but i hold my pistols firmly, but not in a deathgrip. The question is, how "firm" is your "firm"? If the action cycles and you don't lose grip on the pistol, it's firm enough. If your knuckles turn white, it's too tight. If you're that tense, you lose both fine and gross motor function.

I'd try very slow firing, literally one shot every 30 seconds or so. This is similar to the dutchloading drill but doesn't take a buddy. Take your time aiming, then slowly press the trigger and allow yourself to be surprised by the shot itself. Your arms should be loosley tense. Or is that tensely loose? You can't flinch if the shot takes you by surprise. Remember, slow trigger. Go through a box of ammo this way, see if this changes your grouping.

Then i'd also try some double taps. Focusing on the quick recovery and follow up shot might ease the back of your brain that is saying "flinch now". Good luck!

March 17, 2011, 03:05 PM
I havent read all the previous post so maybe someone already suggested this.

Simply put a snap cap in and than take a dime and place it right behind the front sight (assuming the surface is somewhat flat), when you squeeze the trigger if you flinch the dime will go tumbling to the floor, when you do it right it wont. Work on relaxing...

March 17, 2011, 05:37 PM
Excellant advice.

Try double hearing protection. For example use ear plugs, with the muffs over them. The noise can be a contributing factor.

In a real situation you won't even hear the gun.

Practice the fundamentals so that it's all wired in.

March 17, 2011, 07:44 PM
1. Avoid fatique by shooting fewer rds per session
2. Select one pistol and exclude the others until you have resolved the issue
3. Dry fire at home; you don't need primed cases. Use a mirror to fire into.
4. At the range, dry fire at the target and then load five rds. Fire these with
without praying over each shot. Fire the five within 20 seconds.

A common mistake is interrupting the firing process by checking to see where each rd went. Shoot the five and then check group size. Your concern should be grouping and not placement or impact point of the group.

Many sights have white dots. Black them and concentrate on sight picture and not dots. Use a bullseye that is large. A small dot won't work. Center the sight picture within the bull. Your mantra must be: FRONT SIGHT. PULL.

During dry firing, decide on the best grip and finger position on the trigger. Use what works for you. Now you have reduced many variables and can work on technique Don't fret. Have fun.

March 18, 2011, 10:26 AM
part of the issue might be hand strength, or the lack thereof to be more precise. You can use Gripper balls, GripMaster or other squeeze implements, or my personal favorite - the Dynabee (a gyroscope inside a plastic ball). Each will improve hand and forearm strength, allowing your muscles to better absorb the recoil. You'll feel it less, and shoot better.

March 18, 2011, 01:51 PM
steve1147: If I understand your original post you can take your Ruger, stand upright, off the bench, and at ten yards put all your 38 Special shots into a tennis ball BUT if you shot anything larger- your shots are all over the place.
Conventional wisdom is that a flinch is occurring for fear of the heavier recoil and you solve that problem by dry firing- to over come the flinch.
But.....you said you already did that and it didn't work.
I realize what I said is not common and none of the magazine gurus go around pushing the idea so one one talks about it. As I see it the way to get comfortable shooting a heavier load is to start shooting a WAY HEAVIER LOAD and then go "down" to a 45ACP - 357 Magnum. Will it work for you? I don't really know but the dry firing is always recomended and that didn't work so you don't have that much to lose.
One last thought- having a grip that fits your hand can lessen the effect of recoil. To change topics a little- there was a Canadian Strong Man about 100 years ago Louis Cyr (I think that was his name) He had a barbell with a 2" diameter bar that a lot of others could not lift. They could lift the weight with a 1" diameter bar not not the bigger diameter bar.
What's the point?
Have you ever noticed that Elmer Keith- father of the 44 Magnum actually had rather small grips on his 4" barrel 44 magnum- Elmer knew what he was doing. I switched from the oversized grips and found smaller grips fit better and helped more on recoil- just the OPPOSITE of what everyone else says. In any event maybe a different grip- either larger or smaller might help. The 38 Spl is so mild the grip isn't an issue but it may help on the other rounds- I'd start with the Ruger and 357 magnum loads and when you can get those on target the other psitols ought to work out better.
Finally- the comment of ear protection could also be valid-make sure you have good ear protection.
Let us know how things work out.

March 19, 2011, 09:40 AM
I too had that problem when switching from gun to gun. A friend of mine, who is a top rank pistol shooter with the State Police watched me and realized that I had my trigger finger all the way in to the first knuckle. Had me pull it out to the tip and this really solved my problem and now every time I get "odd" groups, I stop and feel where my trigger finger is and my groups come right back in.

March 24, 2011, 01:52 PM
Yeah- as far as pulling the shot- often the finger too far on to the trigger.

March 24, 2011, 09:25 PM
If you want to shoot a .45 get one with a lighter trigger pull.

My Kimber compact II breaks at 2.5 lbs. The 1911 is easy to grip and using the pad of my finger, I can get the same groups with it and my Ruger sp101 shooting double action 38 specials.

Try this and all the other things earlier posters suggested about perfecting your trigger control.

March 26, 2011, 06:31 PM
OK. Flinching in anticipation of recoil indicates to me, that you KNOW when the shot is going to break. Why, because you are jerking the trigger. If you DON"T know when the break is coming, you are squeezing the trigger. If you will do some dry firing practice of just putting slow pressure on the trigger when the sights are on. When the sights drift off, hold what you have on the trigger, and when they drift back on continue your sloooooww gentle squeeze. Suddenly, without warning, the trigger will break. Here is how you tell if you are doing it right. THE BREAK WILL COME AS A COMPLETE SURPRISE. If it is NOT a surprise to you,-------- you are still jerking the trigger.

You have had this problem for a long time and some very bad habits have been repeated and are firmly established in your mind. It is going to take a concentrated effort to break these habits. You have to think about what you are doing on every shot. As to grip, there have been a lot of good opinions already mentioned. Personally, I judge my grip by one thing. I squeeze until my hand starts shaking, then relax a bit until the shaking stops, and break the shot. When you have, by dry firing practice and actual live fire at the range, are able to keep the sights on target when the shot breaks, you will eventually be able to break the shot when you want to without flinching. When you finally start shooting good consistant groups and then suddenly start throwing shots all over the paper, immediately go back to square one and work on the break coming as a complete surprise.

I am NOT a firearms instructor or a shooting guru, so all the above is in my humble opinion only and others mileage may vary. I do know that I whipped my jerking/flinching/anticipation problem by doing what I have told you in this post and I taught my boys and my wife to shoot by this means. It's worked for me and for my family and others, and I bet it will work for you. It's going to take a lot of practice to replace bad habits with good ones, and the way to start is to practice this on every shot, every time. Be honest with yourself. If you knew when the shot was going to break, you are doing it wrong. Again, later on, you will be able to break the shot cleanly and accurately and know when the break is coming, but NOT TO START WITH.

I hope this makes sense to you and that you will try this type of practice. You can whip this. Just consistantly apply this to each and every shot.

Good Luck, and do come back and tell us how you are doing using whatever means you choose to apply.

March 29, 2011, 07:23 AM
As usual, LOTS of great advice, and LOTS for me to work on! NOW if this lousy Missouri weather would finally break long enough to let me out in the field! Meantime, I'm doing some dry-firing inside where it's warm and dry.
Oh, and the .45 is an XD, the .40 is the Glock which I don't shoot much.
Thanks everyone, I'll re-post with results, the weather is suppossed to break enough this week so I can walk across the muddy yard to my home range.
Steve W.

April 2, 2011, 05:04 PM
Alright, weather's nice yesterday and today,l got to shoot a little, and, I'M GETTING BETTER WITH YOU GUY'S ADVICE!!!!.
This probably don't sound like much to some of you, BUT practicing trigger control and finger placement, grip, and trying to control my anticipation, I put 100 rounds of .45acp from the XD into a minimum 8-10" circle today at 10 yards standing, and at least half within the 4 inch bullseye!
That would normally SUCK with the .38's, but it's my BEST with the .45!
Thanks again everyone, I'll keep practicing and take this seriously so I can shoot well someday. Hell, I'm only 55, got a good couple years left!
Steve W.

Rifleman 173
April 4, 2011, 06:04 PM
I also thought at first that it might be flinching but what if the design of the gun is not right for the OP? Maybe his hand is too small to fit the thicker grip or something. Maybe he should consider a thinner pistol to carry in the same caliber. I've seen a lot of shooting problems and small hands trying to grip some thicker Glock pistols is one of them. Just a thought to consider as a second idea.

April 5, 2011, 11:07 PM
Had the same problem when I was a kid and upped to a 12 gauge. Did it when my dad started putting .357 mags instead of .38s in the security 6. Did the same thing when I shot a .44 mag for the first time as well. It helps that I started on a .357 mag revolver for pistols, and my first semi-auto was a .45acp. My father cured me of this and I did the same thing with a friend of mine who is now a US Marine.

Allow a friend to load the weapon without you seeing if they chamber a round or not. Have them set the weapon down(pointed in a safe direction). Pick the weapon up and squeeze the trigger. You will catch yourself flinching, but you will break the habbit.

We developed another version also after I was getting used to shooting the 9mm. I noticed I was flinching when I was shooting the .357 again. Not a good habbit because that is my hunting pistol. So dad broke out the the .38s and the .357 mags. Loaded up the revolver with both .38s and .357s. 1 .38 or 5 he wouldn't tell me. This also helped break me. End of the day it is all just recoil and you can handle it.

April 6, 2011, 10:09 AM
I'll admit it, I'm a recoil wimp.

The way I manage it is to identify what the factors are that bother me and address them individually. I sometimes have to change grips to something that fits me better. A 1911 fits me like it was made for me, a K frame Smith with the small grip needs a t-grip type filler, and the N frame target grips always get put in a box somewhere. Since my hands are not callused from years of manual labor, I am sensitive to the abrasion that a sharply checkered grip can cause so I put Pachmayrs on just about everything. This also has the effect of eliminating slip due to sweaty palms in the summer. If the grip fits me well and is not abrasive, then I'm usually fine.

I wear glasses and a cap with the brim pulled down low as well. If it is very cold out my joints will stiffen and be sensitive, so gloves get put on. This winter I was wearing a layer of the poly disposables under the leather and that really helped. Now I find all my pistols are tame.

I do the same thing with rifles, even my Garand wears a Limbsaver recoil pad. I will send a lot of rifle rounds downrange in a session, and I find heavy -06 loads in my Mauser can be a problem, so I load down a bit. One subtle factor that bothered me was muzzle blast, I bought better muffs and sometimes double up wearing plugs and muffs.

Most important though is that I always take .22s to the range with me. These help me regain control of the basics and allow a nice break during a long session, which they almost always are.

April 6, 2011, 02:08 PM
bad rotator cuffs and tennis elbow, not to mention the other things...


As a lifelong shooter it can tell you, this stuff HURTS! I know 'cause I've had this stuff.

As a specialist in upper extremity rehabilitation, I can advise you with confidence that these issues are fixable.

You are flinching because you are injured. All the advice you have been given to just suck it up and maybe do some exercises is wrong. :eek: OK, let me try stating that in more diplomatic terms: Listening to people who don't have a clue about what's wrong with your body or what it takes to make it heal is just going to make it worse. You have overuse injuries, AKA cumulative trauma musculoskeletal disorders. And they are telling you to fix it by doing more repetitive exercises and further engagement in the activities that have caused the problem?

You need to make an appointment with a Certified Hand Therapist (CHT). This could be either an occupational therapist or physical therapist. Find one in your area by going to the Hand Therapy Certification Commission at HTCC.org.

Get the help you need, not off the cuff solutions from the uninformed.

April 12, 2011, 07:30 PM
I took an introduction to IPSC course last Friday night and the instructor told us to make 50 dummy rounds (no primer or powder) and dump them in a box along with 50 live rounds, mix them up and load our magazines and practice practice practice. About 1/2 way through the excercise my groups went from 8" down to 3" using my 230 gr .45 ACP over 4.9gr W231.

This along with a proper grip helped me the most.

Terry A
April 12, 2011, 08:46 PM
March 12, 2011, 08:32 AM #7
Yankee Doodle
Senior Member

Join Date: December 5, 2004
Location: NY state
Posts: 403 If you think it's a flinch, try this. It always works.
Take a friend to the range with you. Have your friend load one round in the mag, and chamber the round, and hand you the loaded gun. Then take the gun and fire the one CAREFULLY aimed round. Give the gun back and have him do it again. Every now and then, have your friend hand you an unloaded gun. You won't know if the gun is loaded or not. If the piece moves at the trigger break, you are indeed flinching. This is known in police circles as "dutchloading". It will immediately let you know if you have developed a flinch. If so, dedicated dry fire practice is the cure. Balance a dime on top of the slide, and practice until you can dry fire without the dime falling off. Then use the same trigger squeeze when the gun is loaded.
Works every time.
This is easier to do then to explain, so I hope I have made myself clear.
God Bless America

What a great post! I was going to suggest him having a buddy to "load" his weapon for him & then let the shooter actually see for himself how he's responding each time he pulls the trigger, but I could never have written it as well as you just did!

Allow me to add this little tid-bit. In addition to what Yank wrote, try shooting every round you shoot, no matter the caliber, with your eyes wide open. Concentrate on not blinking them at all as the round is fired. It may take some time, but that will cure your flinch if you try it.

The reason for most flinches isn't the recoils or momentum of the weapon coming back upon firing, it's the loud noise. We humans just naturally close our eyes tight when we hear a loud noise. Sometimes, even the shoulders of some people will creep up towards their ears upon being startled by a loud sound. But by re-training your body to become used to the sound of a round being fired, you'll in effect, cure yourself of any flinch.

Good luck my friend!

ice monkey
April 12, 2011, 09:15 PM
I have a Ruger SP101 and I can tell you that when I first got it, I had a hard time hitting the side of a barn with it! Talk about buyer’s remorse. I was used to shooting semis and using the ball on the tip of my trigger finger. My Ruger will just not allow that finger placement with me behind it! I have to use the crease on my first knuckle. It may be that revolvers have a different distance to their trigger – I don’t know. I do know it took a lot of dry firing to get the “feel” of that little wheal gun to shoot for me. Now that I do … does it ever.

At first I thought I might have been flinching too, but I did what BikerRN said and held it tighter than the first penny I ever made grunting all the way … I knew then, recoil wasn’t the issue lol! :)

Good luck!!

April 12, 2011, 09:52 PM
I can't hit the side of a barn with a 45ACP pistol. I've tried everything from Colt Gold Cup to Ruger P90. Dunno what it is, but I can't hit with it.

A few years a go I bought a very nice stainless 1911 from my doctor who said the same thing as you just stated. I guess some people are just more comfortable with a 9 than a .45.