Tag Archives: technique

How to hold a small pistol with large hands

I was training a woman for precision rifle shooting when she showed me her defensive handgun: a S&W M&P Bodyguard 380. This is a very small pistol: 5.25″ long, 4″ high, and just 0.75″ thick! Its dimensions make it easy to carry concealed, but can make it tricky to shoot.

This woman’s hands are almost as large as mine (which are 8″ long and 3.5″ wide mid palm), so I asked to see how she was able to handle such a small gun. Through practice on her own, she had concluded that even though she is both left-handed and left-eye dominant she shot it better with her right hand. Since it’s a double-action-only gun with a long, heavy trigger, she had resorted to pulling the trigger using the second knuckle. She noted that doing this she would often hit the magazine release with the tip of her trigger finger, but she didn’t know how else to run the gun. She also couldn’t figure out how to get her support hand on the gun, and so she presented it with the largely ineffective “teacup” hold.

The same guidance for holding guns that fit can be applied to holding undersized guns. Of course, the first order of business was to nix the idea of pulling the trigger with anything other than the center of the first joint of the strong hand’s index finger. (With large hands it can often be necessary to arch the trigger finger outward, but you never compromise on this point.) Then I showed her how to follow the usual steps of establishing a proper handgun grip:

  1. Push the firing hand web between the thumb and trigger finger as high on the grip as possible.
  2. Find a “home” position for the trigger finger outside the trigger guard, and then close the remaining fingers and palm snugly around the grip.
  3. Now snug the support hand up and around the gun and trigger hand in order to maximize contact with its palm and fingers.
  4. Ensure that the support thumb and index finger don’t interfere with the gun’s controls or the trigger pull. (Typically the support thumb will rest parallel and ahead of the trigger hand’s thumb. The support index finger needs to find a home too, and while that is often atop the knuckle of the trigger hand’s middle finger, on some guns it can instead find a consistent grip on the front of the trigger guard.)

Chronos High Speed Video Camera for Shooter Diagnostics

Today I’m going to show a project that exploited the Chronos 1.4 at high image resolutions and at the lower end of its temporal resolution (i.e., frame-rate): What does handgun recoil look like, and how can a shooter control it?

I took a rusty shooter to the range with his Sig P239 chambered in .357SIG. This is an excellent concealed carry gun shooting arguably the ideal cartridge for defensive handguns. However, since the fully-loaded gun weighs only two pounds it has somewhat snappy recoil which requires training and practice to handle well.

Stepping through the video frames we can see that this pistol’s “lock time” (the delay from when the trigger is pulled until the hammer hits the primer) is 5ms. Also, from the moment the trigger is pulled, it takes 18ms for the slide to cycle to the rear, and 63ms to return to battery.

We filmed the shooter’s first few shots. He had forgotten some pistol fundamentals, including: proper grip, not anticipating the recoil, and following through each shot. (Granted, most of these problems can be detected or assumed even without high-speed video.) After retraining we filmed a few more shots. The improvement was remarkable. Beginning the refresher the shooter experienced muzzle flip of 40 degrees and consistently took over 60ms to halt the recoil of the gun. This composite overlaying the moment of discharge with peak recoil shows the slide already returned to battery by the time the shooter has stopped the recoil:

Recoil composite before retraining

After retraining, the shooter was able to keep muzzle flip under 20 degrees and stop the recoil in under 40ms. (This was accompanied, of course, by faster and more accurate shooting.)

Recoil composite after retraining