The Truth About Muzzle Flip and Bore Height

When we talk about handgun recoil, we’re really talking about two major factors. Recoil energy or ‘kick’ depends on the weight of the gun and the power of the cartridge. Heavier guns and weaker cartridges make for less recoil energy, which is why a .22 caliber Ruger Mk.II target pistols is a pussycat to shoot, while a .357 Magnum snubnose is an angry lion.

The other major factor is muzzle flip…

Muzzle flip is the angular (rotational) momentum of the pistol caused by the axis of the bore sitting higher than the center of the grip. The higher the bore, the worse the muzzle flip, and the longer it takes you to bring the gun back on target after each shot.

Revolvers barrels tend to sit very high above the shooter’s hand, but the Chiappa Rhino is trying to change all that: its barrel fires from the bottom cylinder chamber, rather than the top. Muzzle flip is almost nonexistent, but I won’t line up to buy one until I feel one with a good trigger. (And reliable ignition. But that’s another story.)

Most semi-autos have lower bore heights than revolvers; just how low depends on the cleverness of the engineering. Single-action semi-autos like the 1911 and Hi-Power kept their bores fairly low, but the complex lockwork of some older DA semi-auto patterns (SIG, S&W, Beretta) placed their barrels ridiculously high over the grips and cursed them with much more recoil than their modestly-powered cartridges could justify. Modern striker-fired designs can put the bore just above the web of your thumb, and the Steyr and the M&P have just about the lowest bore axes on the market.

In the video above, Joe Grine shoots a 9mm SIG/Sauer P6 (P225), a full-length Glock 17, and a compact Steyr M9. The SIG’s bore axis is about .5″ higher than the Steyr’s is, relative to the grip, and the result is a much flippier handgun, even though the SIG’s all-metal construction makes it a significantly heavier gun. The Glock’s bore height is about in the middle between the two.

28 Responses to The Truth About Muzzle Flip and Bore Height

  1. avatarracer88 says:

    FWIW, I made a video comparing the muzzle flip of the Chiappa Rhino (2″ snubbie) to a S&W 642 Airweight: http://s1042.photobucket.com/albums/b425/racer88_bucket/Gun%20Stuff/?action=view&current=RhinovsAirweight.mp4

    Don’t know if the link will work. :)

    • avatarfrankgon4 says:

      Link worked The Chiappa had much less muzzle rise.

    • avatarChris Dumm says:

      Nicely done! Loved the Rhino, but hated the trigger.

      • avatarLevi B says:

        The trigger is bad, and Chiappa has demonstrated contempt for their US customers on a couple of occasions. I’ll stick to lovely, made-in-the-USA Smith & Wesson revolvers, thank you.

    • avatarJoe Grine says:

      I think the Rhino is a game changer. I’m hoping they get the trigger issues worked out.

      • avatarBrice says:

        I got to shoot the 6″ target model of the Rhino. Possibly the lightest single action trigger I have ever felt. So light that it scared me. No creep, no over travel, just insane. The double action felt unchanged from the snubbie version.

  2. avatarSplashman says:

    OT, since this is the first time I’ve visited since the new site design was implemented, here’s my feedback:

    It’s better than the old design. But that’s not saying much. Not much at all.

    Apparently, even with the kajillions of hits TTAG now gets, you still couldn’t afford a professional design. Either that, or you’re deliberately going with the “designed by Uncle Fred using a Frontpage template” vibe. Whatever. It’s not like I’ll stop visiting. But it would be nice to visit without rolling my eyes so much.

    • avatarI_Like_Pie says:

      It is called wordpress. You act like it should rub your shaft for you.

      The site is clean and focuses on, you know, words. Not bells and whistles that are meant to keep your attention away from your gameboy, playstation, Iphone, baby rattle, or whatever you people like to do for fun these days.

      The KISS philosophy works here. I like it.

      • avatarAccur81 says:

        Amen to that. TTAG isn’t made to replace your 3D HD Blue Ray Cerebral – implant entertainment center.

      • avatarSplashman says:

        You’re assuming my idea of good design is lots of bells and whistles. You assume incorrectly.

        On the positive side, just in the last hour, Uncle Fred apparently read “Web Design for Dummies” and realized it wasn’t good to have the text butt up against the left and right borders, so he added a margin of 10 pixels. That’s a start. Might want to do the same thing for the right margin in the comments, Fred. Then, grab a copy of “Color Coordination for Dummies”, “CSS for Dummies”, and “URL Truncation for Dummies”.

        I snark because I care. This being TTAG, feel free to shoot the messenger. I’ll shoot back, though.

        • avatarI_Like_Pie says:

          You snark all you want.

          Because I know – You are certainly entitled to so much more than a website unpleasing to your eyes.

      • avatarJWhite says:

        ^^^^ This.
        I enjoy the clean, simple, easy to navigate site. When you start adding bells and whistles issues start popping up. As a graphic designer, I admire the simplicity. All to often people are begging for more bells, and more whistles. The content on this site is great. There is no need for glossy buttons, and buggy wordpress plugins.

        Oh wait… You hear that Splashman? Sounds like the Waaaaambulance. Enjoy your free content.

        • avatarJWhite says:

          Just noticed the NEW NEW theme. My only gripe is the header positioning. I’m using Chrome so it could be me. Other than that, its fine. I say it gets the job done, roll with it if your happy.

  3. avatarHenry Bowman says:

    Joe Grine, you’re slapping the trigger. Try to work on follow through and trigger reset.

    • avatarJoe Grine says:

      I’m not exactly sure what “slapping the trigger” means. Can you explain? Anybody? I noticed that my finger comes off the trigger in this video – a lot more that I would have expected. I’m a fairly mediocre pistol shot – a fact not aided by the fact that I own 20(+) pistols and I typically take different ones to the range each time (instead of learning how to shoot one really well). I tend to take my rifle shooting a lot more seriously – pistol shooting has always been somewhat of a “plinking” affair for me.

      • avatarRyan Finn says:

        That’s what he’s commenting on Joe, the fact that you’re releasing the trigger all the way out and then taking your finger completely off it. Releasing the trigger out just far enough for the sear to re-engage, and not any further, while leaving your finger in contact with the trigger the whole time will result in much better accuracy.

        • avatarJoe Grine says:

          Oh, Ok. Thanks. It kinda interesting to see the slow-motion imagery. Seems like it can be used as a good teaching tool.

    • avatarI_Like_Pie says:

      I did see it once at exactly 1:00 mark with the glock.

  4. avatar"Dr." Dave says:

    The muzzle on those guns would flip up a whole lot less if the shooter locked out his elbows and didn’t give the pistol a way of traveling straight up, up the path of least resistance.

    Science is awesome, but it only offers true advancement if you have a good technique in the first place.

    • avatarcounihan says:

      Quite a bit of muzzle flip can be negated through grip and stance. Before I received any formal training I hated shooting anything above 9mm. I had a horrible, loose grip and nothing close to a proper stance. I was fortunate enough to get to work with some of the AMU guys. Using a solid modified weaver or isosceles with proper thumbs forward grip can really clean up most muzzle flip.
      As to the trigger control mentioned: I have had the same issue, most shooter do as well. Think of pressing the trigger like swinging a ball bat. Without follow through the hitter will stop short and either miss the ball entirely or connect with reduced momentum. In the trigger press the follow through comes from squeezing completely to the rear, feeling the pull through its full motion. Then after discharge slackening the tension on the finger to allow the trigger to reset in a controlled motion maintaining contact with the trigger the entire way. There will be a tactile “click” from the sear engaging, this is the end of the trigger’s reset travel (in most pistols). In some pistols, Glocks especially, there is an audible click as well. After the click maintain the pressure you are applying to keep the trigger in this staged position. Now with the followup shot you have already removed the pretravel.
      Note that with some heavier calibers this is not a recommended method. It can be dangerous in pistols with extreme recoil leading to double fires.

  5. avatarIdahoPete says:

    With an S&W Model 340 Airlite Kit Gun (scandium J-frame, 5 shot .357, 3″ barrel, about 12 oz.), there is virtually zero muzzle flip – the gun just comes straight back into your palm. It is probably a function of the light weight with the very fast bullet exit, or some other cool physics principle involving charmed quarks and quantum mechanics.

    However, it does have recoil. Oh my yes. It isn’t bad with +P .38s, but with .357s it is painful. Sort of like holding your hand out and having someone hit you at the base of your thumb with a very fast moving ball pein hammer. Whack! But no muzzle flip, so you can keep the barrel lined up on target until you start flinching.

  6. avatarTom says:

    A lot of variables on this one.
    Power of the cartridge, weight of the gun, grip design, bore axis above the grip and center of gravity, length of bolt travel, spring tension, operator technique and hand grip.
    I have shot some .45 acp that was mild, and some .357 that stung after a few rounds.

    Generally, more powerful rounds require a heavier gun and the ability to grip it better.

  7. avatarGabba says:

    no love for the p7 ?

    • avatarChris Dumm says:

      Much love for the SIG (Joe’s shows the love of custom hardwood grips and a custom finish), but many of them do have more muzzle flip.

    • avatarJoe Grine says:

      HK P7 ?? Didn’t have one handy. One day I will add that gun to my collection.

  8. avatarsupton says:

    Hmm, the Rhino puts the cylinder that fires that much closer to the hand. Now, a kB! is always bad, but will it be worse on a Rhino? Usually the topstrap blows off; but here those pieces are in that much better position to get you hands or arms.

  9. avatarCAGLS says:

    That’s why I love my CZs. I still like my Sigs but with a beaver tail and aggressive front strap checkering or grip tape to mitigate the muzzle flip.

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