By Lars Dalseide | June 11 2014 11:12

Grip circumference, width, trigger reach, and grip angle come into play when firing a pistol

Tiffany grips the pistol and readies to fire on the NRA Range Wendy LaFever, managing editor for NRA Family Insights, shares tips for the small-handed pistol shooter ...

Get a Grip (Angle, That Is)
The one subtle measurement that can affect a new shooter's success on the range.

When I began pistol shooting, one of the first things I noticed was that the ease with which I shot differed widely from pistol to pistol—even between guns that were very similar in terms of size, action type, weight and caliber. As a beginner, I blamed myself first: My hands just weren’t big enough for some guns’ grips. What I didn’t know was that there was a subtle but very important factor that I was totally missing.

There are actually four measurements relating to a handgun’s grip frame that are relevant to how an individual shooter will experience that gun. The one that gets all the headlines, particularly when those of us with smaller hands are shopping for guns, is grip circumference. The second is width, which is related to the circumference. The sheer length of your hands comes into play when you’re working out gun fit as it relates to these first two measurements. The third is trigger reach, which is the distance from the trigger’s face to the backstrap, and it helps determine where your index finger will contact the trigger.

It’s the fourth measurement that tends to be overlooked, but it can hold a lot of importance for your comfort: the grip angle. More properly termed “pitch,” grip angle is the angle of the grip in relation to the axis of the bore. It affects comfort, as well as where you naturally point the gun as you bring it up into firing position.

It’s important that I include a caveat here. An experienced shooter who has practiced their grip in a wide variety of situations, with a wide variety of handguns, can compensate for all manner of differences in all of the measurements. It’s also important to note that there is no “right” or “wrong” grip angle. But if you’re already working with hands smaller than most gun’s designs accommodate, I believe finding the grip angle that works for you can make a real difference in how much range time you’ll want to put in. That, in turn, will affect your future success.

To test this hypothesis, three women co-workers and I headed down to NRA's test range to do some casual shooting. Some of us are relatively experienced; others not so much. I selected four semi-automatic, compact handguns chambered in 9mm, to provide as close an apples-to-apples comparison as possible:


Read the Wendy's article on first time pistol gripping tips on the NRA Family Insights website.

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