Fixing The 2 Most Common AR-15 Training Errors


Today, I’ve got 2 common AR-15 training errors that I’m going to take A LOT of heat for pointing out.

These 2 inferior techniques/errors are almost sacred cows in the firearms training industry.

Almost 100% of the top competitive shooters use them.

You see super-high-speed tactical ninjas with Tier I credentials use them.

They’re the techniques shown in all the magazines and YouTube Videos.

Now it would be awesome if this were a black and white issue…it’s not.

Both of these inferior techniques work.  Both work in competition and in combat.  They’re just not the most effective techniques available for combat and self-defense.

To be clear, the instructors teaching these techniques aren’t necessarily doing anything wrong.  It’s just important to know the shortcomings and train around them, if necessary.

Let’s start with the c-clamp.

I have used the c-clamp technique off-and-on for a few years.  At first I didn’t like it at all, but I kept seeing the “cool kids” using it and figured I must just be missing something.  After all, if all of the muscled up tactical dudes with operator beards on YouTube used it, it must be the best technique, right?

So, I committed to using the c-clamp grip for 12 months.  I went cold turkey.  I removed the vertical fore-grip from all-but-one of my carbines and committed to the technique.

I used it with .223, .22, .300 BLK, and .308, for hunting, “just shooting,” training, and 3-gun, as well as for all of my carbine dry fire practice.

After just over 1 year with the technique, I said “good riddance” to the c-clamp and put my vertical fore-grips back on my carbines.

Here’s why:

  1. When your left arm is fully extended with the c-clamp technique, it doesn’t help much if someone grabs the end of your gun and tries to take it from you. Since your arm is fully extended, if they pull, your surprise reaction will be to clinch and you’ll go with the gun.

    If you’ve got a bent elbow, you’ve got more leverage AND your elbows can flex if someone tries to take the gun.

  2. Depending on how high your left arm is, it’s going to block a good portion of your field of view.
  3. One of the biggest advantages of the carbine over a pistol in close combat is the ability to muzzle punch a suspected threat OR muzzle punch in the event of a malfunction. If your left arm is fully extended because of using the c-clamp grip, you lose most of this ability.  If your left arm has a bend in it, you can use this technique.On suspected threats, the muzzle punch allows you to turn your carbine into a (possibly) less than lethal tool.  This technique has been used with great success in Iraq & Afghanistan.

    When a situation is unfolding at the speed of life in high-stress, low-light conditions, and you round a corner and end up face to face with a stranger, a muzzle punch to the chest might give you enough time to determine that someone doesn’t need a bullet or stop the fight without any shots being fired.

    I’ve been told that there are hundreds of Iraqis who have multiple muzzle punch scars to the chest because of being in the same house as a high value target during a takedown.  (I’ve also been told that the muzzle strikes are done to the face and this isn’t true…and I trust all of the sources I’ve heard these conflicting stories from)
    With the increasing number of cheap ARs on the market that haven’t been run through their paces and proven reliable, malfunctions are fairly common.

    In a malfunction situation, the ability to immediately transition from using your AR as a gun to using it as a very effective pugil stick can be a game changer in a life or death situation.

  4. Like a lot of guys, I LOVE SBRs (short barreled rifles) and AR-pistols. If you train yourself to always reach your support hand out to full extension and use the c-clamp grip, sooner or later, you’re either going to grab a handful of hurt (in the form of a burn or a hole) or you’re going to run the gun slower out of respect for the potential of grabbing a handful of hurt.  In many cases, this is what’s known as a “self-correcting error”.  If you get a finger in the way of the muzzle and shoot your finger off, you won’t have the ability to shoot that finger off again in the future.

These first 3 reasons don’t really matter at all for competition.  Or for qualifying.  Or for clearing a shoot-house full of paper targets.  But they absolutely DO matter if you own a gun as a tool for fights at bad-breath distances.  Especially for bump-in-the-night situations.

Now this isn’t clear cut…it IS faster to transition from target to target with the c-clamp grip.  It can also help with recoil management.  But it’s a specialized technique that’s been applied to situations that it’s not best for.

The second inferior technique is pulling the gun into your shoulder with BOTH your shooting and support hands. (The pull+pull technique)

EVERYONE teaches this.  This technique is SO proven that if Moses had a 3rd stone, it would have been engraved on it.

The pull+pull technique WAS the absolute best technique available…until it was improved upon.  Sometimes an inferior, but effective technique that you’ve done a thousand times will work better for you than a superior technique that you’re trying for the first time.  When an instructor is standing in front of a line of shooters, they’ve got to pick their battles on which aspects of technique to change and which are good enough as-is.

In short, if you PUSH with your support hand and PULL with your shooting hand, you will have better retention, better recoil management, and you’ll be able to put multiple accurate shots on target faster than with the pull+pull technique.  I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s a pretty powerful trifecta.

The first time I heard this, I was with a friend who had several high-tempo direct action combat deployments under his belt as a SEAL.  I was trying to be respectful, but I still visibly smirked and audibly snorted at him.

He had the advantage of having proven the technique in combat, over several years, and with hundreds of students, so he humbly let me live—and proceeded to drop the mag on his carbine, lock back the bolt, hand it to me and told me to try my way and his way.

If you ever laugh (or snort) at a SEAL who tells you they have a better way and they look down, smile, and calmly ask you to try their way instead of getting mad, you pretty much know that you’re screwed.

He had me hold it with a pull+pull grip.  And he grabbed the end of the muzzle and jerked it around.  (it went where he wanted it to go)

He had me hold it with a c-clamp grip. (He grabbed the muzzle again and it went where he wanted it to go…only faster and further)

And he had me hold it with a push+pull grip. (it still moved, but about 70% less than with the pull+pull grip)

Again, weapon retention doesn’t matter in competition, on the range, in a carbine class, or in a shoot house, but it DOES potentially matter in a real-life fight for your life.

Then he had me put a mag in and try the 3 techniques with live fire.

This was a few years ago so I don’t remember the exact distance, but the target was 15-21 feet away.

The first 2 techniques—the ones I was familiar with (c-clamp and pull+pull)—gave me good results, but the push+pull technique gave me a 50% smaller group ON MY FIRST TRY!  Within a few tries, I was putting 5 rounds per second into groups that ranged in size between a tennis ball and a softball.

The more I’ve thought about this, the more amazing it is.  I tried his technique for the first time and was IMMEDIATELY better than I was with 2 techniques that I’d practiced thousands of times.

So, the push+pull technique is better for weapon retention and recoil management, but how does it get more rounds on target faster?

The secret is dynamic tension.

When you use the pull+pull technique or the c-clamp, you need to have the butt of the rifle pushed against your shoulder/collarbone/chest.

When you push with your support hand and pull with your shooting hand, you don’t need to have the butt of the rifle against your shoulder to shoot—your support arm is pushing and absorbs the recoil and the gun goes back into alignment VERY quickly, even if the butt of the gun is hanging in mid-air.

You can prove this out at home with a broom handle…the dynamic tension provided by the push+pull technique is superior in almost every way to the pull+pull technique.

That means that as you’re mounting your rifle, you can start putting multiple accurate rounds on target AS you’re pulling the butt of the rifle into your shoulder/collarbone/chest.

As an added bonus, this technique carries over to SBRs, AR-Pistols, and even AKs MUCH better than the c-clamp technique.

These are just the first 2 MAJOR AR-15 training errors that the majority of AR-15 owners are making…I’ve got several more to share with you that will help you become a more effective carbine owner and increase your chances of surviving a lethal force encounter with your AR when you click >HERE<

Do you have questions on these techniques?  Comments?  Contradictory experiences?  Please share them by commenting below:

For more on the SEAL who let me live, and his carbine course, click >HERE<

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  • Bill Schoettler

    Reply Reply November 20, 2017

    I enjoy reading your articles, enjoy your analyses and for the most part, agree with your conclusions. My “but” is simply this…while I am aware that peace can be fragile and that around the very next corner there may be a threat for which I am unprepared, I am unwillling to live my life on the verge of terror. Yes, one can live comfortably with condition yellow, one can, with little difficulty, maintain a situational awareness that just may be the difference between tragedy and inconvenience. Here’s the “but”, BUT, I have lived 81 years without ever having to use either personal skills or mechanical tools to protect or save myself. I am a hunter (Africa to Alaska and all over the western USA), hold an inactive commercial pilot’s license, ski, scuba, was a competitive target shooter (in my teens and school years), regularly ride a motorcycle (around the US, to Alaska and back), have been a trial attorney and sitting judge. My hobbies and professional life have required me to have a level of situational awareness which is probably higher than that of the average person, but (here’s that “but” again) I move through life with a degree of comfort and complacency that, compared to what you teach might be considered blind and insensitive. I suspect most of us never train for nor reach the levels you teach. My request would be to consider instruction for the majority of people who will continue to refuse to accept that “it can happen to me” and tell us how to live with an absolute minimum (but acceptable to the lazy) level of training and practice. Yes, practicing once a year is better than never, but isn’t there a “happy” middle ground? And thanks for all your work, I enjoy and embrace your philosophy even if I’m not enthused about your recommendations.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply November 20, 2017

      Thanks, Bill. There are a couple of truths that I’m sure you’ll understand…

      First, I write for my subscribers…not for people who aren’t my subscribers. If I hear an overwhelming cry from my subscribers that they don’t think anything bad can ever happen to them and that they are happy settling for minimum base standards, then I’ll write more to that audience.

      Second, you won’t know the “minimum level of training” that will work until you have either succeeded or failed in a life or death situation. The time requirements of our base trainings are SOOOO minimal that it’s almost impossible to make them simpler or easier. There’s no other system available where you can get such huge jumps in performance with such little effort.

      Thanks for your note and please let me know if you’ve got anything specific that I can do for you.

  • Jeffrey Turner

    Reply Reply November 20, 2017

    This is the Absolute difference between civilian 3 gun shooters & combat vets!
    They can even see supposed innocents vs bad guys BEFORE THEY EVEN GET TO THE SPOT THEY HAVE TO SHOOT!!
    TRY A SHOOT HOUSE! hmmmm no walls you can see through!

    • Ox

      Reply Reply November 20, 2017

      Hi Jeff…Having spent 3 days shooting 3-gun with the Marine Corps Combat Shooting Team, I have to disagree with you. 3-gun can be as applicable or “gamey” as you choose to make it. All training is compromise, and 3-gun is no exception. The CST was a choice posting and everyone on it had 1 or more combat deployments. Most of them said they didn’t REALLY learn how to shoot and move until they shot 3-gun.

      I asked them about guys who were on the team and deployed again. Their fundamentals were WAY better.

      I asked them about the 3-gun training that they did for Marines when they went on training tours around the country and, again, 3-gun training made their ability to shoot, move, and think improve way faster than traditional training.

      I noticed that you said “every 3 gun competition I’ve seen” instead of “every 3-gun competition I’ve SHOT.” Have you ever shot a 3-gun match? Not a 3-gun nation match, but a REAL 3-gun match…the kind that’s now called “outlaw” where the stages range from contact distance to 400 yards and where you might run 200-400 yards during a single stage. Like this: . Is it a game? YES! Do I move that fast in force-on-force? No…but it’s way easier and way cheaper to go do a 3-gun match than to find good OPFORs, gear, and training facilities.

      3-gun and shoot houses aren’t mutually exclusive…in fact, each makes you better at the other. If you haven’t done 3-gun yet, I’d encourage you to do so. It’ll help you shoot, move, and think better 🙂

  • Carl B

    Reply Reply November 20, 2017

    I get the rifle technique and see others mention using it with pistols. Can you explain with some detail how that works and what it looks like?

  • Drew Rinella

    Reply Reply November 11, 2017

    This is simply brilliant and answers a number of questions I had about the frustrations I have been encountering with c-clamp and traditional grips. Preliminary practice with push-pull is working great. Thank you again for taking the time to share this knowledge.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply November 11, 2017

      No problem, Drew 🙂

  • gid

    Reply Reply February 3, 2017

    Please confirm. I’m right handed and right eye dominant.
    Left hand on grip pushes out and right hand pulls in?


    • Ox

      Reply Reply February 3, 2017

      That’s correct 🙂

  • Sean

    Reply Reply November 8, 2016

    I have always been a believer in the push-pull method. It was taught to me by a DEA instructor about 17 years ago. He had quite a bit of time running around Central and South America and was in Army Spec-Ops. He was a beast with this technique using an 870 shotgun. He would easily beat us running a Benelli. I think it did not hurt he was a competition shotgun guy back in the day and ran an 870 like it was on fire. We fired using push-pull with the 870s and M-4s. The 870s he would dump several hundred rounds in a box (Slugs, Buck and birdshot) and have us grab at random. Using the push-pull recoil was not an issue. The M-4 evolution was just as impressive using that technique. Since then I have used the technique and always tried to run the 870 as well as he did. In 17 years I am not even close to him. I try to teach this to my guys, but only a small handful even care. Great article.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply November 9, 2016

      Thanks, Sean! Let me know if you want to connect directly by email…I might be able to help you tie the technique to increasing their effectiveness/survivability in a way that will get them to care.

      • Kent A Briley

        Reply Reply May 4, 2017


        If you have any method of tying this technique to effectiveness and survivability which would decrease any student or junior Soldier apathy, I would be most appreciative if you could tie me in on that, as well.

        Perhaps a future article detailing that very thing may be in order for the masses..?

        In either case, thanks for the great articles – keep them coming! I’ve already gone through the dry-fire card training, shared many of the drills with students, and recently received the DVD – which admittedly, I haven’t made time to go through quite yet.

        Thanks again!


  • Joe

    Reply Reply September 22, 2016

    Great idea. I’ll try it next chance I get. One small quibble though — It’s a muzzle brake, not a muzzle break. It brakes (stops or slows) muzzle motion. It does not break (damage) the muzzle. Check your dictionary if you don’t believe me.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply September 22, 2016

      I believe you…and I know you are right. I only own about half a dozen more muzzle brakes than I have guns to put them on. I just messed up 🙂 Thanks for the heads-up 🙂

  • Stuart

    Reply Reply September 21, 2016

    Thanks Ox. I’ve been using (and teaching) the push-pull for 40+ years, on both pistols and long guns. Didn’t realize it wasn’t common knowledge. My soldiers all know it. Sure appreciate the info though … keep it coming! And remember … age, experience and treachery ALWAYS outweigh youth and enthusiasm!

  • Johnny

    Reply Reply September 20, 2016

    I see immediately I’ll need a rail on the front end of my M&P for a vertical grip.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply September 21, 2016

      It depends on your M&P. I have a round tube on the front of one of my ARs. I simply screw a 3″ section of rail onto it and attach my vertical foregrip to that. You PROBABLY don’t need to buy a whole new foregrip.

  • Johnny Miller

    Reply Reply September 20, 2016

    As a brand new AR owner I haven’t developed any habits or techniques yet. Sounds to me like I need to start of right with your push+pull grip. Sooo let me go price a vertical grip…

  • JEFF

    Reply Reply September 19, 2016

    Good read. Will check it out.

  • John Whitney

    Reply Reply September 19, 2016

    I’ve used push/pull since my days at Devens and find it is heads above other techniques. Now with AR pistols in a variety of calibers it only makes sense to continue this technique. It is also so much easier using the same push/pull with handguns and long guns. You only have to train one technique. Thank you for the article. Looking forward too more!

  • Paul

    Reply Reply September 19, 2016

    Brilliant article. I’ve tried this method and Yes it really does work. Far less shaking, better control, easier on the breathing too. Looking down the scope seems a lot clearer.Thanks so much for the great tip. Cant wait to use it on the gun range. Cheers guys…

  • Michael Norris

    Reply Reply September 19, 2016

    Interesting. …I’ll give the push pull a try. Thanks.

  • Paul

    Reply Reply September 19, 2016

    Great article. I learned a lot including. Dad taught me pull-pull in the ’50s. I discovered the C-clamp by myself while teaching Boy Scouts in summer camp (1961). It worked well with kids and paper targets. Even Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children a year later didn’t correct me. Thanks to you I have gone from blissfully ignorant to knowledgeably incompetent. Keep the hacks coming. Thanks.

  • Muscoe

    Reply Reply September 19, 2016

    I don’t know ….. the C clamp is so damn cool looking! I bought my AR and all the Gouchie tac equipment so I can impress my friends at the range! Practical over Tati-Cool? Gee I just don’t know!

    Great article. I’ve been using the push-pull method since I was a kid and it just seemed right to me. For me, I’ll grow old and leave a decryptid looking body; the Tact-Cool guys can die young and leave a good looking body! lol

  • Ronald Krepis

    Reply Reply September 19, 2016

    Thanks, okay with me.

  • Dave

    Reply Reply September 19, 2016

    Very good points. Instead of describing this as right and left hand you should describe it as PULL with your trigger (You pull the trigger anyway) hand and PUSH with your support hand. I am left eye dominant so use a rifle left handed. My right hand is support. As an old cop who also has some time on a 870 it is good to PUSH the support hand to avoid racking an unfired round. Safety off with the left middle finger because some one is about to get F—-Up. But the dynamic tensioning is reversed with a pistol. Pushing with your trigger hand and pulling with your support hand.

  • Kevin

    Reply Reply September 19, 2016

    Hi, I am a little unclear of what grip you are using on the forearm is it a “Regular” or “C” clamp, and you are pulling back with forearm and pushing with pistol grip on an AR is that right? I just bought an AR a few months ago and haven’t fired it yet.

    Thanks in advance

  • Chuck

    Reply Reply September 17, 2016

    Excellent info, feels good, will try it at the range and in the field.

  • Bob

    Reply Reply September 17, 2016

    As a former competitive archer, I found this article to be enlightening. It is the same technique we used drawing and shooting a bow, and thinking back on the technique it makes sense. Of course our hand that held the bow was fully extended, but the push pull technique was the way to go. Thanks for jogging the memory !!!!!!!!!!!

  • Dustin Knuttgen

    Reply Reply September 17, 2016

    I do want more AR/carbine/home defense articles. Thanks

  • Stuart H

    Reply Reply September 17, 2016

    I have instinctively used this method ever since I got my Glenfield Model 60 over 40 years ago. It just felt right. I just bought an AR-15 a short while ago and haven’t had a chance to break it in yet, though I have fired a friends rifle. For the first time out with that platform, I got 3-4 inch groupings at 50-75 yards. I don’t see that I’ll be using any other method. Thanks for the write-up.

  • Redwood

    Reply Reply September 17, 2016

    Thank you for sharing the concept … definitely on the look out for more AR/carbine/home defense articles. I started training with this on the pistol from SEALed Mindset course and have found it to be superior, so on that I have faith when I try this for the carbine, the result will be the same.

  • Gary

    Reply Reply September 17, 2016

    This confirmed what I always believed, the c clamp never felt comfortable to me. I truly enjoyed your article.

  • Sam Williams

    Reply Reply September 17, 2016

    I have a four inch 44 mag for hunting used push pull for decades just opposite hands. If this works I will use my AK pistol for hunting, I was wondering how to stabilize more without going sbr or Velcro brace. Thanks

  • Herman

    Reply Reply September 17, 2016

    Outstanding. I just tried this with two of my training rifles (AR & AK) with an assistant moving the muzzle around, I shouldn’t be surprised, you’re right about more control, Heading into the simulator now to try it out on targets, Great article and timing. Would like to hear more about rifle techniques in future.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply September 17, 2016

      Awesome, Herman! You know this as an instructor, but I’m always excited when people actually try/test/use the stuff we teach 🙂

    • Mark

      Reply Reply June 1, 2018

      Completely agree Herman, would love to see some more long gun techniques!

  • Larry

    Reply Reply September 17, 2016

    I found this very interesting and will try it next week at the range. I wish there was a range close that
    U could do do movement Stationary is just ok. I live just north of Tampa Florida. If u know of one
    In my area. Thanks for the tips

  • Douglas Allan

    Reply Reply September 17, 2016

    Absolutely outstanding article. I learned more about technique in reading this than I have in years of shooting AR’s. I particularly like the fact that the techniques covered here go against the fads, and that the Seal’s experience trumps 100 gun writers’ views. Well done!

  • Robert

    Reply Reply September 17, 2016

    Awesome article!! Thank you. More please..

  • Joe

    Reply Reply September 17, 2016


    The other great thing about the push/pull method is that it carries to any platform. As you well know this is taught in the SEALed Mindset Concealed Carry Masters Course. Since I’ve adopted this for defensive pistol my shot groups have tighten considerably. And you don’t have to remember a different technique for each different platform. So I can train one way very time and it doesn’t matter what I’m holding.

  • Scott Wilcox

    Reply Reply September 17, 2016

    Great info. Keep it coming! Thank you. It makes sense and I’ll try it soon as I pry myself out of this recliner (It seems to have a push-pull action of its’ own!)

  • Russ Smith

    Reply Reply September 17, 2016

    I use dynamic tension with my handgun. It works. Once I put a broomstick bipod on my SBR I naturally began using dynamic tension, without thinking about it. I have tried the C clamp for the same reason that you mention, all the cool dudes do it. And, it looks cool! But I quit doing it because there was absolutely no question that when it came to CQB situations weapon retention was far better with a solid grip on my broomstick. And, as you point out, it is easy to carry the weight closer to you and you can use your weapon in a less than lethal manner, should the need arise.

    Thanks for a very timely article, and for letting me know it is all right to use common sense! I look forward to more information on this timely topic.

  • JL

    Reply Reply September 17, 2016

    Always used this method for pump shotguns – any gauge. Don’t know why I never used it for all long guns. Will do so from now on – and on “short” gun, too. Thanks again for another great lesson.

  • JD

    Reply Reply September 17, 2016

    Interesting, the push / pull a try.

  • John

    Reply Reply September 17, 2016

    Tried the push pull and it feels good cant wait to try it at the range .

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