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How-to Personal Defense Tactics & Training

Like a Glove: Picking a Handgun to Fit Your Grip

by Richard Nance   |  July 16th, 2014 10

how_to_pick_handgunForget caliber, brand and all that stuff. The first important step in buying a defensive handgun is finding one that fits.

Grip, one of the fundamentals of marksmanship, is a determining factor in your ability to shoot, operate and control your handgun. Since grip is the interface between you and your gun, it’s important to select a handgun that fits your hand properly. A gun’s weight and caliber are also important considerations. One thing is certain. When it comes to defensive handguns, one size does not fit all.

When you get behind the wheel of a vehicle you haven’t driven before, you’ll probably adjust the seat, rear and side view mirrors and maybe even the steering wheel. This not only ensures a more comfortable driving experience but also actually makes for a safer one.

For instance, you can more easily bring the vehicle to a stop when you don’t have to stretch to reach the brake pedal. In the same vein, if you have to duck your head to avoid the roof while in the driver’s seat, you’re likely to fatigue more quickly than if you were comfortably seated. Obviously, there are countless other examples of ergonomics improving driver comfort and performance, but you get the point.

In some respects, the automotive industry is light years ahead of the firearms industry. Only recently have major gun manufacturers offered options to accommodate different hand sizes. Now, thanks to reversible or interchangeable backstraps, a pistol such as a Ruger SR45 or a Smith & Wesson M&P can easily accommodate the vast majority of hand sizes and shooter preferences right out of the box.

Still, some guns are no better suited for a particular shooter than a Smart car is for an NBA center. For example, if you have hands the size of a catcher’s mitt, a pocket .380 like the Ruger LCP may not be the best choice.

On the square range with paper targets and relatively little stress, shooting a handgun accurately is challenging. Add to the mix the adrenaline dump you’re sure to experience when you’re fighting for your life, and it’s easy to see the importance of having a handgun that you don’t have to struggle with.

The Starting Point
So how can you tell if a handgun is the right size for your hand? When you hold a handgun, place the web of your hand as high on the backstrap as possible and align the gun with your forearm. Gripping the gun in this manner helps tame recoil because the force is absorbed by the skeletal structure of your arm. It’s important to note that even with a two-handed grip, the gun will come out of alignment to some degree (unless you are shooting from a Weaver stance, with your shooting arm at near full extension and your other arm bent).

When a gun is too big for a shooter’s hand, the tendency is to change the orientation of the shooting hand in order to reach the trigger more easily. Unfortunately, this invariably results in the gun’s recoil being absorbed more by the thumb than the large bones of the arm. Not only could this be annoying and prove injurious in the long run, but it also inhibits your ability to effectively control recoil, which means it will take you longer to get back on target after firing. And without a proper grip, you won’t be able to move your trigger finger independently of the rest of your hand, which is an integral component of accurate shooting.

Like grip, trigger control is a fundamental of marksmanship. When your handgun’s sights are properly aligned and overlaid on your target, you will hit what you’re aiming at unless the gun moves as you press the trigger to the rear. Therefore, when shopping for a handgun, make sure you can comfortably reach the trigger without having to shift the gun in your hand.

If you can easily reach the trigger while holding the gun in the prescribed manner, you’re on the right track. There is some dissension as to what specific part of your index finger should be in contact with the face of the trigger. While this is largely a matter of personal preference, the pad of your index finger—between the tip and the first joint—is probably the most common finger placement for shooting a semiautomatic pistol.

However, if you’re shooting a revolver or a semiautomatic pistol with a relatively heavy double-action trigger, you may need to insert your finger up to the first joint in order to have enough leverage to repeatedly fire the weapon.

If the gun you’re holding requires you to stretch your index finger in order to reach the trigger, there’s a good chance your rounds will impact left of your point of aim (assuming you’re right-handed). That’s because with too little finger on the trigger it’s difficult to press the trigger directly rearward. In such a case, your right index finger tends to push the trigger, and therefore the muzzle, to the left.

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