Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Forty Caliber Flinch

When I first purchased a centerfire sem-auto I picked up a 9mm. Not unusual. It's perhaps the most common. I picked it up and fired it "adequately". Meaning I thought I could shoot better.

I then got a .45. I shot better with it. Not unusual. The old workhorse chambering of 45 ACP is known for accuracy.

Later on I picked up my first .40. I got it because I wanted to try the round that had filled the niche between 9mm and 45 ACP.

I was awful. Really, really awful. Yes, I know I shot it better than other people. I have standards that I apply to myself, though and expect better.

I thought it was the round. That it was inherently inaccurate. I've seen that charge from people who post on website forums. I stopped buying .40 guns, passing up ones that I could have gotten for a reasonable price.

What had happened to me has probably happened to a lot of people. I had developed a horrible flinch. The .40 is usually put into the same frame as a 9mm. It throws out a lot more energy because it throws more lead with each shot. The gun weighs the same as when it is chambered in 9mm but the round is as fast or faster and weighs more. More muzzle energy out of the same weight of firearm equals more recoil/muzzle flip.

Because the .40 is faster than a 45 ACP, even though it weighs less, it can also have more percieved recoil. Usually a handgun chambered for 45 ACP is heavier than a 9mm which helps fight against recoil and muzzle flip. A .40 doesn't usually weigh any more than the same handgun in 9mm.

What I needed wasn't magic. It was a better grip. A better grip and better trigger control. These two solutions brought my group size down from greater than 5" at 25 feet to under 3". It has become so easy to group well at 25 feet that I have switched to shooting at 50 feet.

The forty caliber is not inherently inaccurate. It can be as accurate as any other you can shoot. It can also pack more punch for self-defense or hunting purposes than the 9mm.

The lesson here is to work on grip and trigger control. Your own accuracy can only get better, no matter what caliber you choose to carry.

The images here illustrate what I'm currently shooting like at 50 feet. The ammo is bargain basement quality. I can do better. I will do better. It's just a matter of practicing.


Rivrdog said...

Welcome to the blogosphere, sir.

I've heard a lot about CZ, but don't own any yet. If I could get one in the zippy 7.62X25 caliber, and a bullpup carbine to match, I'd be VERY interested.

BTW, the 1st Annual Gunblogger's Rendezvous is coming up soon in Reno, NV, just a day's (hard) freeway ride from you. October 5-8, at Circus-Circus.

Go to the GBR website at:

for all the details.

Welcome aboard!

Hyunchback said...

I'm not aware of any carbine, bullpup or not, chambered for the 7.62 x 25. The CZ 52 is chambered for that round. I've not fired one nor even held one. I've heard the round can have some impressive ballistics. I'm just not familiar with it.

CZ has had a long history with many noteworthy products. While I tend to focus on their later ones in common U.S. calibers there is a lot to explore from the CZ factory.

Chris Byrne said...

Actually, the .40 is somewhat less inherently accurate than the .45 or 9mm; but the differences are very small, especially in pistols.

I'm a big fan of the .40, and it's daughter cartridge the .357sig; but I LIKE short, sharp recoiling guns, because they recover from recoil faster.

I've never had a weapon that doubletapped better than my P229 in .357 sig.

And this is coming from a guy who has five .45s

Hyunchback said...

I haven't fired a .357 Sig. At this point I'm still working on what I do have. Since CZ doesn't make any factory chamberings for .357 Sig I don't know that I'll be very tempted to try it out.

I am sure I will, one day. Today's just not the day.

karlrehn said...

Just some free unsolicited advice. I'm master class in IPSC (Open/Limited/Limited 10) and IDPA (CDP) + training with multiple Grand Masters and world champs, worked as RO at multiple Nationals, trained 2000+ shooters.

Accuracy: barrel quality, barrel fit and ammo both play a role. In my .38 super I can get sub 1" groups at 25 yds running handloaded ammo w/ Starline brass and Hornady XTP bullets. I can get 3" groups or bigger by changing to lower quality bullets and mixed range brass. So when you compare accuracy of 9mm vs .40 vs whatever the ammo you use is part of the test.

Don't judge an entire production line of pistols for accuracy based on a single sample. At a minimum I suggest running multiple types of ammo. Generally it's unrealistic to expect better than 3" groups at 25 yards from any stock gun. That's why match grade barrels are made and why gunsmiths stay in business. You can often improve a gun's accuracy by re-fitting a stock barrel.

Grip: you don't want a gun to "fill your hand" completely. If your trigger finger is rubbing on the frame as you manipulate the trigger that's going to cause some movement in the pistol. You actually want a pistol that has a grip that's narrow enough that you can position your finger properly on the trigger w/o having it contact the frame as your finger "turns the corner" to get to the trigger. Learned that from a state bullseye champion.

The top shooters in IPSC and IDPA run heavy bullets in their iron-sighted guns because slow/heavy bullets generate less muzzle flip than fast/light bullets. Typical "split times" between shots for top shooters on 7 yard targets are down below 0.20 seconds and splits as fast as 0.11 have been recorded.

.357 SIG looks great on paper but if you thought .40 caused flinching (it does for all the reasons you wrote about), .357 SIG is much, much worse. That's why no one that shoots pistols at the pro level has switched to .357. The guns wear out faster because the high pressures of .357 loads beat up the guns that were all designed for 9mm pressure and recoil. In general nobody that's shooting at a high skill level has found that .357 SIG loads improve any aspect of their shooting other than how much oomph the load has when it hits a 'tactical' target like a human or a car body. The problem is that "oomph" only matters if the bullet hits where you aimed it and .357's more likely to cause a miss than any other defensive pistol caliber. Just my observation working with students on the range and watching people miss a lot w/ .357 guns on match day and talking w/ other trainers about this. You can't find a trainer that's switched. Just old guy gun writers that don't shoot fast or all that well that have to fill the spaces between the ads in gun magazines with content.

The other factor in split times is trigger characteristics: how far does the trigger have to move, how far do you have to release it to reset it (don't take your finger completely off the trigger when firing a multi-shot string, trigger release should as controlled and precise a motion as trigger press is).

The reason 1911 and Glock shooters basically dominate the speed pistol sports is that one trigger pull (not two like the SIG guns have) and triggers with short travel and light pull weight are a lot easier to shoot fast and accurate. Bullseye has a minimum trigger pull limit of 3 lbs IIRC.

The CZ style pistols run in SA mode can be shot very competitively. Angus Hobdell ( is sponsored by CZ. Ted Bonnet from San Antonio won the IPSC World Shoot in stock gun division with a .40 CZ back when he was sponsored by them.

Angus sells lots of good gadgets to tune up your CZ to shorten the reset and lighten the pull and replace the factory sights with match grade sights. Might be worth checking out.

Hyunchback said...

I agree that part of the equation is going to be in the ammo and how that particular batch is going to function in that firearm. In 9mm my most common round is a 115 FMJ. I am shooting some cast bullets now made up by one of the club mebers. I don't know the weight. I'll ask him when he gets back from the Police Nationals. They function wonderfully.

I don't know the full accuracy potential for any of my guns. Putting it in a Ransom Rest and then running different loads of ammo could give me a better idea than resting on a cheap rest on a rather battered shooting table and trusting to human error to reproduce the exact same hold, aiming point and trigger pull.

I've been happy to see <3" out of my guns at 25 feet with my eyes and my hands unsupported. When all five shots are inside a 3" Shoot-N-C paste on bullseye then you feel like you've done something.

This past week I ran some ICE-QT targets down to 50 feet and tried out shooting without a definitive aiming point. If you know this target then you know that the landmarks aren't all that clear to old eyes at that range. Even with that handicap almost all my rounds went into the 5 zone with many in the 5X. Notably the ten rounds dumped into the target when I used his belt buckle as my aiming point. Some very unkind shots.

I value the time and effort you put into your post here. Your experience is a great wealth to share. Do you teach in the Denver area?

The other day that I had a chance to shoot I practiced one-handed "bullseye" style shooting at the 50 ft. mark with 22 and .38 Spl. I won't get a chance to compete in my club's Winter league this year but I can keep practicing and the move out the full 75 ft.

JR said...

You don't have an email listed anywhere I could find so I am using this bottom of the page post.

We have a carbine match every 5th saturday of a month. If you are interested, I have an extra bed or two so all it would cost you is gas if you wanted to shoot.


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