(Continued from Part 1. This concludes the article.)
A search of the internet revealed a number of suggestions for combating flinch. There were three that I decided to try first.
The first of these measures was more frequent and extensive dry firing. Over the course of the following days, I set out to rack and dry fire the PPQ at least 200 times. I hoped that this might help to dampen my flinch somewhat. It should also serve to gently break in the moving parts and further smooth out the trigger.
The second involved wearing both ear plugs and ear muffs during my next range session. This would reduce the impact of noise on my flinch.
The third involved a more relaxed stance. This should help me to receive the recoil more flexibly, thus reducing its shock.
P99 Versus PPQ
My next range session was dedicated to side by side testing of my Walther P99 AS versus the Walther PPQ 5″ Standard. I fired 10 round groups at successive targets offhand from 15 yards, according to the following pattern: P99, PPQ, PPQ, P99, P99, PPQ, PPQ, P99.
The anti-flinch measures seemed to moderate my flinch a little. I could consistently see the cartridge cases being ejected from the chamber, which was not the situation prior to implementing anti-flinch measures. However, I still had a long way to go in conquering my flinch, as will become obvious from the following information.
The PPQ handily beat the P99. With the P99 I was only able to place the shot within 2″ of the center of the target 22.5 percent of the time. With the PPQ, I was able to do this 55 percent of the time. The extra one inch of sight radius helped me a lot. It even seemed to help my bifocals focus more effectively on the front sight.
But neither the P99 nor the PPQ were any where close to measuring up to the SW22 chambered in .22LR. Using the SW22, I am typically able to place the shot within 2 inches of the center of the target from 15 yards about 90 percent of the time. The 55 percent I achieved with the PPQ just did not cut the mustard.
I know that many SurvivalBlog readers can shoot much more accurately than I can, regardless of which gun I am shooting. This is an honest account about how I shoot and the things I am doing to try to shoot better, warts and all.
Although this was not one of my better range days with either the P99 or PPQ, the side by side comparison was sufficient to make me seriously consider putting my beloved P99 on the market and replacing it with the PPQ.
9mm Versus .22LR
I must admit that my relatively better accuracy with the SW22 sometimes makes me wonder if I should just forget about 9mm and focus solely on .22LR After all, a hit with a .22LR is more effective than a miss with a 9mm. But then I remember that my functional accuracy with 9mm at home defense ranges is sufficient to give a high probability of hits at those ranges. And all other things being equal, a 9mm hit four inches from the center of mass is probably more effective than a .22LR hit two inches from the center of mass. So in the long run I am probably better served by improving my 9mm accuracy than by focusing solely on .22LR.
Firing from Rest
During my next range session, I fired from rest. I did better than when I was firing offhand, but was still hindered by flinch.
I tested six different types of ammo (more on that later). All of them seemed to function well in the PPQ.
For the sake of comparison, I also fired a number of rounds from my P99 from rest. The PPQ groups were better than the P99 groups, but not as significantly as when I was firing off hand.
The most interesting occurrence took place while I was firing the P99. A fired casing of Winchester USA Forged ammo became so jammed in the chamber that I had to field strip the gun and pry the casing out with the Craftsman four way pocket screwdriver that I carry. On a subsequent range session, I had a round of USA Forged ammo whose primer would not ignite in spite of several good primer strikes. So although I like USA Forged as an inexpensive range ammo, I do not see it as reliable enough for use in any critical situation.
The Friend Test
I concluded my PPQ testing by inviting a number of friends to join me at two different range sessions to share their impressions. For the sake of this article, I will pseudonymously identify those friends as “Cool Hand Luke”, “Welly”, “The Natural”, “Glock 17″, and “Annie Oakley.”
Luke noted that the magazines are easy to load, that recoil is manageable, and that the gun is a confidence builder. He had his best ever 9mm group from 10 yards.
Welly liked the trigger, the low recoil, the good feel in his hand, and the sights. He fired his SIG P320 for comparison purposes, and felt that the trigger, recoil and accuracy were similar between the two guns, but liked the way the Walther fit his hand a little better.
The Natural liked the minimal recoil and the feel of the gun in his hand. He also liked the way the sights naturally came on target as he raised the gun.
Glock 17 liked the trigger, the low recoil, and the smooth action.
Annie loved the trigger, the low recoil, and the choice of different sized back straps. She had one stove pipe with each of two different types of ammo. This problem seemed to be resolved by a firmer grip. This suggests that stove pipes may be an issue with this gun while shooting lighter loads with a more relaxed grip on the gun.
During one of these range sessions, I had my best ever off hand 15 yard group using a self defense caliber, so I was pretty happy too.
During the course of our testing, my friends and I used the following ammos: Winchester USA Forged 115 grain FMJ, Winchester Whitebox 115 grain FMJ, Remington UMC 115 grain FMJ, Sellier and Bellot 115 grain FMJ, Perfecta 115 grain FMJ, Independence Aluminum 115 grain FMJ, Blazer Brass 115 grain FMJ, Federal Champion 115 grain FMJ, and some lightly-loaded reloads. The gun handled all of these ammo typees well, with the exceptions noted above.
My friends and I really like the Walther PPQ 5″ barrel standard 9mm model. It is an outstanding firearm that any of us would be happy to own.
After much internal struggle, I decided to keep my P99 and send the PPQ back to Walther rather than buying the PPQ and putting the P99 up for sale. Although the PPQ is more accurate in my hands than the P99, I love the decocker on the P99 as well as its handier size. If Walther offered a long slide version of the P99, I would buy it in a heartbeat. In the mean time, I decided to stick with my current P99 until further notice.
Possible Avenues of Future Research
Since my primary problem in shooting self defense calibers seems to be the flinch monster, I continue to look for strategies for defeating it. Here are some approaches that I have been considering.
- Shooting the SW22 a lot. Shooting the SW22 seems to improve my 9mm shooting more than shooting 9mm itself does. So one potential strategy for better 9mm shooting is to shoot my SW22 a lot.
- Using a laser training aid. A laser training aid would enable me to practice inside in all kinds of weather with minimal expense and no recoil.
- Trying a heavier 9mm handgun. In general, a heavier handgun will have less felt recoil than a lighter handgun in the same caliber. This may be why I have had some good groups using my son’s Beretta 92FS. But I have to admit that the P99 is much more pleasant to carry then a 92FS, so a heavier 9mm would not be my first choice.
- Trying a handgun in .380 ACP. The .380 ACP is a lighter load than the 9mm, so all other things being equal, it would tend to have less felt recoil than 9mm. The problem is that most .380 ACP firearms are “mouse guns”, which due to their small size, blow back design, and light weight do not absorb recoil as well as they might. Also, their short sight radius is not particularly conducive to practical accuracy. A recoil operated handgun in .380 ACP with a double stack magazine and a five inch barrel with a correspondingly long slide would seem to be ideal. Such a gun does not seem to exist. The closest I can find seems to be the Browning 1911-380, which fits all the aforementioned specifications except that its barrel is only four and a quarter inches long, and it has a single stack magazine. Maybe I should give it a try.
- Trying shooting .38 Special in a .357 Magnum revolver. This would give the recoil advantages both of a lighter load and of a heavier handgun. Also, there are .357 handguns available with longer barrels, which would give a better sight radius. This would allow me to practice with lighter loads, while giving the possibility of using heavier loads for self defense. The disadvantages would be lower capacity and longer reload times.
Perhaps in the comments to this article some SurvivalBlog readers can suggest other approaches that I should consider as I seek ways to reduce my flinch and increase my accuracy with self defense calibers.