The World is Flat

Ok, maybe not. But in competition circles, we talk a lot about guns shooting “flat”. What do we mean by that?

For pretty much all of the handguns on the market today (and for all of the handguns currently being used in competition), the barrel is mounted to the gun in such a way that it sits higher than the shooter’s hand when the gun is gripped in any sort of reasonable firing platform. When the gun is fired, this position gives the gun leverage against the shooter’s hand, and causes the barrel to lift in recoil (if you want a detailed discussion of the physics, let me know – otherwise, just trust me!). This phenomenon, as experienced from the viewpoint of the shooter, is referred to as “flip”.

“Flat” is basically the opposite of “flip”. From the viewpoint of the shooter, the gun appears to lift a relatively small amount. A gun that’s referred to as “flippy” appears to lift a larger amount.

Interestingly, many times, bystanders will think a gun that appears to be flippy from the shooter’s perspective will appear to shoot very flat. This is really an illusion – and actually, the notion of “flat” in the shooter’s mind is also somewhat illusory. The human eye really can’t really accurately follow the full recoil cycle of the gun – the gun cycles in about .05 to .06 seconds (some claim even faster), and the eye only catches a small portion of that (the human eye has the potential to see at approximately 60 frames per second, but in most normal circumstances, we see at about 30 fps – so we catch very little of the actual recoil cycle). Slow motion video actually demonstrates that guns that appear to be flat actually flip quite a bit – but their motion is different from a gun that appears to be flippy. It’s this difference in motion that we’re picking up on as the shooter.

The bystander is frequently reacting to the shooter’s recoil control abilities – for instance, many folks comment on how flat Dave Sevigny’s Glock appears to be, yet photos of him shooting clearly demonstrate the gun is flipping quite a bit. Dave has exceptional recoil control abilities, and the gun returns to point of aim more quickly than the bystander’s eye can follow.

In the end, the gun is almost certainly lifting more than the shooter or the bystander perceive it to be.

Hopefully, that gives you a better idea of what is meant by “flip”… The next time we talk about flip, we’ll talk about whether it’s actually important or not…

Many, many thanks to Dave Sevigny, and Sevigny Performance, LLC, for the two images of Dave shooting FNH’s new duty gun, the US-made FNS.

About the author


USPSA Grand Master, NRA Instructor, http://re-gun.com/about/

Permanent link to this article: http://re-gun.com/2012/01/the-world-is-flat/


4 pings

  1. Karl Rehn says:

    In a class I took with Todd Jarrett, he described a drill he ran at a military base, using a 1911 with standard ball ammo. They had the gun set up with a laser that was constant on, and a 20 ft high backstop. They had him shoot the 1911 in 7 yard Bill Drills, running splits in the “teens” and they videoed the backstop to see where the laser went as the gun recoiled. According to him, the laser went up to the top of the backstop and back down, basically the same way every time – so what was important was his management of the recoil and his ability to be ready to break the next shot as soon as the gun was done recoiling.

    Generally what I’ve found teaching others is that guns that snap harder in students’ hands cause them to flinch more, and recover more slowly – not because of the gun but because of human reaction.

    1. DaveRe says:

      Karl, what would be potentially more interesting is seeing Todd do that same drill with a race gun – I think there’d be similar results. And, likely, similar results regardless of the gun’s setup (springs, FP stop, load parameters, and – on open guns – comp design). I don’t mean exactly the same results – but I think it’d surprise a lot of folks how much the muzzle of basically any gun lifts during recoil, regardless of what it looks like from the shooter’s or spectator’s perspectives…

  2. Rick says:

    Hi Dave

    great posts, keep them coming. I remembered these youtube vids, seem to fit in your thought.


    What bothers me with these videos is that the standard gun 40 seems to recoil less then the open gun.

    1. DaveRe says:

      Rick, thanks for the link. It’s nice that he’s got two different Open guns there, and you can see a distinct difference between them. I’ve got another link or three with slo-mo vid, as well. Definitely going to be useful in a future post!

  1. DR Performance says:

    New blog post: The World is Flat : http://t.co/WCwHJN3U – many thanks to Dave Sevigny for the pics!

  2. xre says:

    New blog post: The World is Flat : http://t.co/WCwHJN3U – many thanks to Dave Sevigny for the pics!

  3. How the Eyes See | Re-Gun says:

    [...] discussion of “flat” is incomplete and uninformed without an understanding of how the eyes actually see. I’m not [...]

  4. “Flat” and Calling Shots | Re-Gun says:

    [...] seeing, and what shooting a gun that we perceive as “flat” really does for us. So far, we’ve defined flat, and we’ve talked about how the eyes see. If you haven’t read those articles, you might [...]

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