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GUNS Magazine June 2012 Digital Edition - Page 8
STORY: Massad Ayoob baCk to basiCs, Part iii: PriMary hand GrasP How you hold the handgun is foundational to how well you’ll shoot it. T he grasp of the handgun is the interface between you and the machine. If it isn’t right, you’ll never shoot your best. It’s only the gun hand that really controls the pistol or revolver; if the support hand gets there at all, it’s stabilizing the firing hand more than it’s stabilizing the handgun itself. Let’s look at key elements of the primary hand grasp, sometimes called “master grip” or “firing hand hold.” Virtually every shooting coach and master shooter agrees that your gun’s barrel should be in line with your forearm, and the web of your hand should be high on the backstrap of your revolver, or high and tight into the grip tang of your semiautomatic pistol. The higher the hand, the lower the muzzle vis-à-vis the arm(s) behind it. The closer the axis of the gun barrel is to the line of the radius, the upper bone in your forearm, the less leverage the muzzle will have to climb upon recoil. Because most designers built their handguns to be held this way, this also means the higher the hand, the more straight-back the natural movement of the trigger will be, reducing downward “jerks” that send the bullet south of its intended point of impact. With auto pistols, a toolow hand position allows so much handgun movement upon recoil that momentum, which should have been running the slide against the rigid abutment of a firmly-held frame, is dissipated, and the slide runs out of momentum. This can result in ejection failures and “stovepipes,” and failures of the slide to return to battery, either of which can prevent the next shot from being fired. Having the barrel in line with the forearm is important for similar reasons. In that grasp, there are literally feet of flesh and bone directly aligned against the recoil impulse, resulting in surer auto pistol cycling and faster return of revolver or pistol alike to the point of aim. If the hand is twisted on the gun and only the thumb joint is aligned behind the line of recoil—called the “h-grip,” because the hand in this awkward position describes a lowercase letter “h”—the shooter has only a fraction as much “hand and body into the gun.” Recoil once again goes out of control, and reliability of autoloaders will suffer. Light, Medium, hard? Shooting techniques are tools for getting the shots where they need to go, and we must always “tailor the tool to the task.” How firmly to grasp the gun is one of the great, long-standing debates of marksmanship, and the answer is determined by the situation. If the job is to hold a target pistol weighing 2.5 to 3 or more pounds steady against only 2.5 or so pounds of pressure, in a game like American bull’s-eye where “rapid fire” is defined as five shots in 10 seconds, a light hold may be the technique of choice. But if you are firing a hard-kicking S&W Model 340 PD .357 Magnum revolver, with a weight of less than 12 ounces and a trigger-pull weight of close to 12 pounds, and “rapid fire” has turned into five shots in 1 second before Bubba smashes his machete into your head, the game has just changed dramatically. It’s now a different task, requiring a different tool and a different technique. At one end of the debate, we have light grasp: Makes sense to me for slow target shooting at tiny marks a long distance away. It doesn’t give as much recoil control as harder holds, though. The great master Jeff Cooper was among the few combat shooters who went this way. He advised holding the handgun like a quail: just firmly enough that it wouldn’t fly away, but light enough that you would not crush its delicate body. However, Jeff’s signature High hand grasp is seen on this “fighting gun,” a Glock 31 with 8-pound NY-1 trigger and firing powerful .357 SIG ammo. It mounts Scott Warren Tactical night sights. 8 W W W. G U N S M A G A Z I N E . C O M • J U N E 2 0 1 2