Does Your Pistol Fit You? By: SLG


I was on the range with a couple of friends the other day and one of them was having trouble hitting. He is an experienced shooter who doesn’t get to shoot as much as he would like these days, but he has had good training and is an experienced guy. He’s also a giant. We’ve shot together a bunch over the years and he was having much more difficulty than usual, so we took a break and I shot his pistol. No problem, center hits. Gave it back to him and shots were still low left for him. Sometimes, just proving to a guy that his gun is not at fault, will cure the problem. Not today. And by the way, always rule the equipment out first. Saves a lot of time and frustration.

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While I was shooting his gun, I noticed that it had some hotgun stippling added to it in a few parts of the grip, so I asked to see it again. My thought was that the grip had been reduced, but it had not. Then I realized that he was shooting the gun with no backstraps. I asked why he had such a small grip setup and he mentioned something about people saying that taking two wraps around the grip would be better.

I have been guilty of repeating that over the years, and as far as I know, it started in print with an article from Ross Seyfried. I happened to mention that article a few posts back about the 1911. In it, Seyfried said that he would prefer to take two wraps around the gun if he could. He was talking about his 1911’s, which had long triggers and flat mainspring housings. They also had Pachmyer rubber grips, with the front strap cut off of them. That is not a small grip setup by any means. In addition to its general size, the 1911 has a very directional grip. That is, it is considerably longer from front to rear than it is from side to side. A typical double stack pistol is closer to square or even round and has much less length than it has width (proportionally). The directional grip of the 1911 tends to make it point easier (side to side), whereas the less directional grip of a double stack can make it hard to know exactly where your muzzle is pointed.

The other benefit of a gun that is longer from front to rear, is that it makes it less likely that you will be able to wrap your fingers too far around the grip. The extra expanse of the grips will stretch your hand out and allow your fingers to fall more beneficially. Of course, this depends on the actual size of the gun, as well as your hand.

I wear a size small glove, and I usually shoot my guns with no backstrap. A medium backstrap doesn’t hurt me though. My friend the giant, probably needs a large backstrap, though he might be able to use a medium as well. Why does this matter? How does this affect where the bullets go? Just don’t disturb the sights when the trigger breaks and your job is done. Yes, but it’s not that easy.

In order to not disturb the sights when the gun goes off, you need to apply front and rear pressure on the gun with your strong hand, and side-to-side pressure with your support hand. You have probably heard this from any decent instructor you have been to. If you apply side-to-side pressure with your strong hand, you will disturb the sights. When a grip is too small for you, your fingers wrap further around it then is ideal and your hand then tends to apply pressure “around” it, rather than just on the front and back strap. This leads to driving the gun to the left if you are right-handed.

I have mentioned this before when talking about little guns. Even those of us with small hands have a real problem in over gripping the little guns and have to be diligent in ensuring that we grip only front to rear. One of the advantages of a duty-type gun is that it should fit us better and allow for more unconscious use. While adjustable-size pistols are all the rage and are a really excellent thing for many people, they also require a bit of testing and fitting, much like a rifle or shotgun might. Pistols in the past have mostly been one size fits all, and like the highway patrol, you are expected to fit yourself to the hat.

So, the giant went back to the range the next day with a backstrap on his gun. I had my fingers crossed, as rarely does everything work out as cleanly as we would like. The gods of war must have been smiling on him as they have in the past, as he had instant success with the larger grip. Why relearn how to grip a pistol if a 5-cent piece of plastic can solve the problem? Often, we prefer to blame ourselves, and that’s probably a good thing in many cases. Nonetheless, good guns do what you ask them to. Great guns make it easy for you. Sometimes though, it takes a bit of tinkering to make a good gun great.