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The grip angle myth

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by Owen, Nov 26, 2006.

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  1. Owen

    Owen Moderator Emeritus

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    In another thread ugaarguy stated:

    I propose that there is no such thing as a "correct" grip angle, for anybody. I agree completely that gun fit is ultimately important, but with a handgun, that angle is not as critical as the common wisdom holds. Further, the steeper grip angles have distinct advantages, which would lead me to point new shooters towards pistols with that steeper grip angle.

    The human wrist is amazingly flexible, and, unlike most of the other joints in the human body has no toggle position or locking set points. In other words, there is no neutral position, just limits of travel, especially in the axis we are concerned with when discussing pistol shooting. The admonition to "lock your wrists" when shooting is impossible to do, because the wrists simply do not lock, except at the limits of their travel.

    In addition, there is no such thing as a natural point of aim for a new pistol shooter. I don't care what you put in their hands, they are going to be searching for the sights by rotating their wrists around. They don't yet know what the proper angle is. We have all seen videos of first time shooters who shoot a pistol, and when they recover from the first shot, they need to look for the front sight, because the pistol is pointing down at a fairly steep angle. NPA is something that experienced pistol shooters have. NPA is learned. The reason that some grip angles seem better than others is because your subconscious has already learned the "correct" angle to use with the guns you have been shooting. Regardless of the grip angle of a pistol, you are compensating for that angle, if you realize it or not.

    With a rifle or shotgun there are numerous points of contact between the shooter and the gun. You've got the shoulder, the shooting hand, the support hand, and the face. To get all of these things working together, there are at least half a dozen measurements that need to be controlled. Length of pull, drop, cast, trigger reach, circumference of the pistol grip, size of location of the fore end, and so on and so forth.

    With a pistol, only the hands touch the weapon. Both of those hands are attached to the rest of the body by those wrist joints we talked about above. Suddenly the number of dimensions that need to be controlled has decreased. The dimensions we are concerned with are primarily the grip circumference, the distance from the backstrap to the trigger, and the grip length. Secondary considerations are the grip angle, how high on the gun you can get (to reduce muzzle flip), finger grooves, the "palm swell" aka the hump on the bottom of the grip and the roundness of the stocks.

    The importance of the primary measurements is obvious. The shooter must be able to get their fingers around the grips to hold the gun firmly, and the shooter also has to be able to reach the trigger with enough finger to press the trigger straight to the rear. The length of the grip is important, because nothing is harder to shoot than a pistol you can only get two fingers on.

    Now the roundness of the stocks is really a matter of preference. I like my stocks to have a certain amount of squareness to them, so I can feel the edges, and know I have the gun located properly in my hand before I start to rip it out of the holster.

    Finger grooves: I hate them. I have smallish hands, and the grooves are always too far apart. I have been considering taking a belt sander to the bumps on my G17, but I think it would push me out of production division in USPSA.

    That palm swell on the bottom is interesting. It's very interesting to me that so many people that swear by the arched mainspring housing on their government models also swear to the perfection of the Government Model grip angle. The hump does two things. It pushes the hand higher on the grip, and changes the effective grip angle. Without the arched housing the front strap and backstrap are parallel, and give a grip angle of about 11 degrees. The arched mainspring housing changes the grip angle to about 12 or 13 degrees, depending on how big the shooter's hands are. Pushing the hand up on the gun is important because the higher the hands are, the less muzzle flip the shooter will experience. The closer the web of the hand and the center of recoil are, the better.

    This brings us to the grip angle.

    The standard american grip angle, because of the Government Model's influence is about 11 degrees. The Glock grip angle is about 22. Target pistols with adjustable angle grips are often set around 35 degrees.

    35 degrees is fantastic for shooting with one hand only. For most people it puts the wrist at the limit of travel in the vertical direction. Voila! The wrist has been locked! Adjust the palm rest so the gun won't fall off your hand, stick you arm out and relax your forearm. Amazingly, the sights will be on target. If you don't believe me, find a friend with a high end precision air pistol, and give it a shot. So much for that 11 degree grip angle being correct!

    The other thing that steep grip angle does is it places the wrist and forearm behind the web of the hand. Instead of just muscle resisting the recoil, you now have the wrist behind the thumb, and the long bones of the forearm directly behind the wrist. The shooter now has bone and mass resisting recoil, not just the strength of the wrist.

    So we have an upper limit somewhere around 35 degrees. A perpendicular grip is usable, but uncomfortable. When I point my finger, my knuckles are around 5 degrees. (I took a really crappy picture and measured) So I'd say that anywhere from 5 degrees to 35 degrees is usable for a pistol grip, at least for me, a man with strong, but smallish hands. I suspect a woman would have a much larger range of motion that I do. Remember, there is no true neutral position for the wrist.

    (I can't believe I'm about to advocate Weaver stance. Darn you Gunsite!!) Now, moving to two hands, the easiest transition from one hand to two hands is the Weaver Stance. The Weaver Stance has the chest squared to the target, the shooting arm is straight and locked, and the support hand is wrapped around the shooting hand, is rotated so that it nests within the shooting hand in the pocket on the support side of the grip and is pulling back hard, the support elbow is pointing down and is somewhat bent. In this stance, the shooting arm is still directly behind the pistol. The problem is that with a 35 degree grip angle, and the bent support hand, we can no longer bend the support wrist far enough to get good contact with the stocks or the shooting hand. If we decrease that angle a bit, the thumbs can now spoon the way they are supposed to. Note that this angle is probably around 25 to 26 degrees for people with typical wrists; still steeper than the 22 degree angle on a "too steep" Glock. If we pick this new angle properly, the support hand is locked against it's limit of travel. With the locked support wrist we have effectively prevented the front sight from dropping too low. With the reduced muzzle flip, we have eliminated most of the upward variation in the angle of the pistol.

    In other words, we have decreased the majority of error in the vertical axis, simply by moving the shooting wrist up behind the thumb, and the placing the support wrist at it's limit of travel. In fact, we are pretty close to being able to shoot simply by pointing the straight, locked shooting arm at the target and pulling the trigger. I find that the 11 degree grip angle is not quite steep enough to accomplish this.

    So, for pointability, grip angle is not particularly important. Any reasonable grip angle will do, your subconscious will adjust to it fairly quickly. For mechanical shooting reasons, a steeper grip angle offers significant advantages, and the Glock grip angle isn't quite steep enough.

    (I need to find some help to take photos, and then I'll post this on my blog)
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2006
  2. jonsidneyb

    jonsidneyb Member

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    Hmmm, I will accept what you are saying as I might have learned the angles that work for me.

    There are a couple of guns I can pull up with my eyes closed and the sights are lined up.

    When I bring up a Glock the sights are pointing high for me.

    What guns seem faster for me to get the sights lined up affects what I like to shoot alot.

    For me certain grips on a K-frame and J-frame seem fast to me and the CZ-75 with slightly thinner than stock grips really work for me.
     
  3. Owen

    Owen Moderator Emeritus

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    You learned the 11 degreee angle for pistols, because almost everything on the american market has an 11 degree angle. Let me ask you this, did the first gun you ever picked up point for you? I doubt it.
     
  4. WarMachine

    WarMachine Member

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    Well, steeper angles may be advantageous in some respects; but, every gun that I have fired has had a grip angle less steep than that of the Glock models. With so many companies (Sig, Beretta, S&W, CZ, 1911's etc.) following the same general pattern; the Glock's can take a bit of getting used to, especially with the hump at the bottom of the grip.

    Some people may like it, but it's something that I have personally grown accustom to. Other guns simply point better for me which provide a more comfortable shooting experience.

    Certainly, there isn't anything "wrong" with the grip angle that many have grown accustom to?
     
  5. sm

    sm member

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    owen,
    Excellent writing and sharing of information on a difficult subject - most often overlooked by folks choosing a firearm , recommending a firearm, learning to shoot and instructing others to shoot.

    Moderator - please sticky this for a bit please.

    Steve
     
  6. jonsidneyb

    jonsidneyb Member

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    I was in grade school when I got a pair of K-frames. I can't remember how they pointed for me back then. I will admit it might have been learned. I am 45 now and have had a gun in my hand from a very very young age. I might have conditioned myself to the point of no return.
     
  7. kentucky_smith

    kentucky_smith Member

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    As a chronic sufferer of carpal tunnel and a previously broken wrist from falling off a horse, I object to this statement.
     
  8. wally

    wally Member

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    If you ever are fortunate to handle an 18th century flintlock pistol (or accurate reproduction) I think you'll find nothing "points" more instinctively than its "plowhandle" grip. Good thing as they generally didn't have sights. Don't think this could work in an autoloader.


    I think the connection to good feel and good shooting is loose. Glock 17 feels very good in my hand but is probably the gun I shoot worst. Beretta 92 feels very clunky in my hand but is among the ones I'm most accurate with.

    A more apples to apples comparison is the Ruger MkII and 22/45. I've had the MKII far longer and it feels better in my hand, but thousands of rounds have shown I do a bit better with the 22/45.

    --wally.
     
  9. Owen

    Owen Moderator Emeritus

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    as always, there are exception for injuries. If you simply can't move your wrist to a certain angle, then you're going to have to adjust. Most people can move their wrists far enough to adapt to a steep grip angle.
     
  10. mete

    mete Member

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    Grip angle not important ?? Pointing the gun down at your side ,grip the gun with what is comfortable to you and face the target . Close your eyes, point the gun at the target. Open your eyes . A properly pointing gun for the shooter will be very close to right on target. That works for me with a 1911 with straight mainspring housing, BHP, HK P7. It does NOT work with a Glock or Luger !! Those two point very high as does a 1911 with curved mainspring housing. When target shooting you can learn to point it and you have the time to adjust grip. In combat , drawing from a holster ,you do not have the time .It must point naturally for the shooter. There definitely is a neutral 'lock 'position for the wrist .In combat you grip ,draw and lock the wrist ....BTW my rifles I made with the stock carefully fitted to me and I can do the same closed eye test and be right on.
     
  11. TexAg

    TexAg Member

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    I always thought it was interesting to see new 1911s with a flat mainspring housing, or those who alter them to add flat housings, when (so I've read) the whole reason for an arched mainspring housing on the 1911a1 was becasue the troops in WWI complained of shooting too low when shooting instinctively in the trenches.

    The Glock angle works for me. And so does the 1911.

    I am curious as to when and why on revolvers (especially S&W) the factory grips, be they wood or rubber, started filling in the area behind the trigger guard rather than following the contours of the frame. My old Model 10 with wood grips (without the sapce filler) feels better in my hand than my 19 with rubber grips that do fill in the space. Is this altered grip supposed to be "better"?
     
  12. Owen

    Owen Moderator Emeritus

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    mete,

    did you actually read what I wrote, or are you reacting to just the first paragraph?

    How long have you been shooting handguns? If you've shot more than 3 or 400 rounds you've learned to shoot with the 1911 grip angle. Adjusting to a different grip angle simply takes a little ammunition, and dedication to the platform.

    I repeat, for a brand new shooter, grip angle is not important. worry about the grip circumference, and the trigger reach.
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2006
  13. mete

    mete Member

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    I read the whole thing .I've been shooting handguns for over 35 years including target [ some with a Browning Challenger 22 with Glock like angle !!!], Hunting [22-44 Mag] extensive training and years of IPSC and a carry permit for all those years.. I'll repeat , for combat proper pointability is important !!
     
  14. joneb

    joneb Member

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    I was at the a gun shop the other day, and compared a Glock 19 and a XD 40, the Glock pointed high for me, and so did the XD but not near as much. I compared the two and saw no noticeable differences in grip angle, but I did observe the Glock had a more pronouced hump at the rear lower butt of the grip this seemed to be why the Glock pointed high for me ? And for some other reason the XD 45 is a natural pointer for me, perhaps I've grown to accustomed to my 1911's , and S&W revolvers. I've owned a G19 and G17 and the conflict in pointing was not worth the trouble.
     
  15. pax

    pax Member

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    Owen ~

    Good post, but you're tilting at windmills.

    pax

    A change of opinions is almost unknown in an elderly military man. – G.K. Chesterton
     
  16. Owen

    Owen Moderator Emeritus

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    mete said:
    And if you give anyone of those guns to a new shooter, it won't point naturally, because pointing a pistol is a learned behavior. You've learned how to point with one grip angle, so the other grip angles now feel improper.

    I agree that a pistol needs to point well, but what pistol points well for whom is entirely dependant on what that shooter has been shooting for the last 35 years. Further, if a pistol doesn't point well, it generally won't take very long for it to start pointing, as long as the shooter is dedicated to the platform.
     
  17. shield20

    shield20 Member

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    Plenty of good info...but still doesn't change the fact that there are natural wrist angles, natural 'pointing' angles, and so natural grip angles, and then there aren't. Any kid who ever played cops and robbers & pretended to shoot a bad guy with his thumb and forefinger has used an already-developed natural angle. Pointability is VERY dependent on grip angle.

    Like with most other things, we CAN be trained to match the equipment, but why bother? Too many choices out there that are just right to have to settle for ones that are not, that require adjustment from the natural and the norm -w/o providing real benefits in exchange. When choosing my 1st gun, AFTER shooting my Pop's 586 that was NOT a natural pointer, I tried a few models, and I found by dry firing & blind pointing that the Beretta I had bought was just right. When the Glock came along, it pointed high - unfortunate too 'cause they make a nice product - just doesn't point naturally for me.
     
  18. ugaarguy

    ugaarguy Moderator Staff Member

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    Owen, I don't think we're entirely in disagreement on this. I did say that some pistols will point naturally for some people, others will point naturally for other people (the opposite is also true).

    While there may not be any one angle on a pistol grip that points naturally for all people, there will be a grip angle or very short range of angles that point naturally for each person. To me, natural (for the individual) pointability is just another element of grip fit.

    My G22 was the first handgun I ever handled and shot extensively. I shot friend's pistols, and had an early S&W Sigma that my dad bought for me in my teen years. However, I was rarely able to handle or shoot the Sigma with dad's busy work schedule. He sold the Sigma and paid the difference toward the G22 to help me get a better gun (we all know about the Sigma's reputation). At 18 with older mentors (Dad's cousins & friends from church) the G22 rode on my hip in hunting seasons, and was shot quite a bit on land where they took me shooting. It was also carried and shot for several more years after I turned 21 and only sold recently. I can honestly say it was the first handgun I shot and handled extensively, and it just didn't point right for me. I worked at a gun shop before joining the USAF, and I always liked the way the 1911 type pistols felt. But I was biased, Glocks had the great press, the FBI carried Glocks, it was Dad's Cousin's (a senior deputy, now Sheriff) duty gun, they had all the media hype. When I finally looked past my bias and started shooting other guns I found that the 1911s and BHP both fit me better and pointed more naturally for me. I was only suggesting that folks find a gun that fits them, and grip angle is a part of this.

    Oddly, the 1911 is one of few guns i've seen that fits my short fat fingers well while also fitting other folks well who's hands are similar to mine, larger, or even much larger than mine. We've all read Old Fuff & 1911 Tuner's posts on the development of the 1911, how everything was tried, modified, and tweaked over a period of about 5 years until it was just right. I wonder if that 11 degree grip angle doesn't fall into the right pointing range for a large percentage of folks. I know Fuff and Tuner have access to some of the books and documents that record the history of the M1911's development. If the grip angle was factored in by Browning, and to what extent, I'd love to hear from these gentlemen on that.

    I agree with Steve, I think you've brought a very important topic Owen. I'll keep an eye open to see where this thread goes.
     
  19. Owen

    Owen Moderator Emeritus

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    I think the sigma grip angle is about 15 degrees. I'll ask one of the designers tomorrow.
     
  20. Kor

    Kor Member

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    So what if a gun happens to point a little high...

    ...it's better than pointing low. Something that I found out for myself probably 10-11 years ago, which I later found confirmation for in Bill Jordan's No Second Place Winner:

    I first noticed and came to appreciate this with my first revolver(Ruger SP101), then with my 3" S&W 686, next with my Glock 23, and finally with my arched-mainspring 1911. These guns present the front sight high enough over the rear sight that I can see and acquire it immediately for a flash sight picture (or Massad Ayoob-style "StressPoint Index", or "shooting out of the notch a la Jerry Barnhart, etc.) and subsequently lower the front sight into the rear notch for a precise sight picture if time and circumstances allow. I find this infinitely more preferable than having the gun point low, which then makes me have to hunt for that front sight - especially when I'm under the clock on a POST qualification or at an IDPA match.

    Anyway, even if the round goes a bit high off your intended point of aim between arm's-length and 15 yards because you triggered the shot without lowering the front sight into the rear notch...you've still got a head- or throat-shot instead of a torso-shot, which is OK with me...and if you're trying to hit a reduced target due to intervening cover or bystanders, you're still going to take the extra split-second to "fine-up" your sight picture anyway, so you're still not gaining or losing anything.

    Of course, the flip side of the coin is:

    But then again, what we're talking about immediately above is a situation where the gun is fired when grossly off-target, due more to poor light, poor grasp or panic, than to the relatively small deviation attributable to grip angle. I say, as long as the gun isn't pointing straight up when held in a normal shooting grip/stance, it's OK.
     
  21. RyanM

    RyanM Member

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    I've found that guns do tend to point differently, some more naturally than others. There may not be any "natural" wrist angle, but there is a natural index finger angle, and almost everyone has the intuitive ability to point accurately at an object. Maybe It'd help if I take pictures.

    All I have is a scanner, so picture quality isn't that good. Index finger was held at the angle it ends up with no effort to move it up or down. The angle which is also used to point at things.

    [​IMG]
    Just pencil to measure approximate grip angle that would coincide with finger. ~24 degrees for me.

    [​IMG]
    Ruger SP-101. I think the scan got distorted or something, because when I actually hold it, it looks more like my finger is exactly in line with the barrel. Oh, well.

    [​IMG]
    Glock 23. Points only a few degrees low.

    [​IMG]
    Fake 1911. Points very low.

    So for me at least, a Glock or a revolver are the best bet for having the gun point like a finger.
     

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  22. jonsidneyb

    jonsidneyb Member

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    This is not the case I am getting. When I pull up guns that I am familiar with they do not come up low.

    You can look across the top of the gun and index off of the front sight while the plane of the sights is parallel to the line from the eyes to the target, that will make only to fount sight pronounced. Or it can be higher than that and they you are looking across the top.
     
  23. Owen

    Owen Moderator Emeritus

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    RyanM,

    I didn't think of using my scanner. Now I may be dangerous. Could you take an image of the 1911 pointed with the sights aligned? I'd like to show what happens when the wrist is rotated more up.
     
  24. joneb

    joneb Member

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    Let me put it this way, I can get Minute of pie plate at 7 yrds by point shooting with my S&W K grip round butts fitted with S&W target grips, and it comes natural. I Had to retrain myself to do it the with Glocks, and that effected how I shot the S&W J frames :banghead:
    It's a good thing the Glock has High cap mags.
     
  25. TimboKhan

    TimboKhan Moderator Staff Member

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    I will weigh in and say that I agree with Owen. I don't think grip angle is nearly the issue that people make of it, just like I don't think stock fit is the issue that people make of it for rifles.

    First off, let me say that I certainly acknowledge that there are some guns that are more comfortable to shoot than others. In other words, grip angle and stock fit are contributing factors. However, neither is, in and of itself, an excuse for poor marksmanship. I have shot pretty much all the major brands of pistols out there from 1911's to Glocks, to Mil-Surp handguns, and given the mechanical ability of the gun to be accurate, I can place my shots in pretty much the same place with any of those guns.

    The differences in comfort generally do not rotate around grip angle. My two favorite guns to shoot currently are my MkII and my 1911. My carry gun is a Taurus 605 and my bedroom gun is a Ruger P90. All of these guns have different grip angles (although some not as drastic as others), and I can shoot all pretty well. What comes into play more for me is grip width. I am most accurate with the 1911 and the MkII. No surprise there as both have narrow grips. My P90, and my 9mms produce larger, but still acceptable, groups, and as near as I can tell, its a matter of width. To be sure, there are other factors involved, but the main and most noticeable factor is grip width, and to a much smaller extent, grip length. Grip angle plays virtually no role that I can discern in how I can shoot a given gun. Now, that being said, I can make some concrete statements regarding certain guns: I don't like Glocks and I am not super crazy about SIGS. I REALLY like XD's (especially the Tactical model), and despite years of complaints about the ridiculous pricing of 1911's, I am pretty much in love with my 1911. In each of these cases, there are different reasons, but grip angle isn't one of them.

    As mentioned before, I don't doubt that there is a correlation between "proper" stock fit and grip angle. I just don't think the correlation is as strong as it is made out to be, especially with rifles. Given that this is a handgun post, I won't get into my rant about stock fit other than to say that I think it is much, much less important to the average marksman (and even less so to the accomplished rifleman) than it is made out to be. Admittedly, these are only my opinions. I will also admit that my bias is right in line with the old drag-racer adage "run what ya brung" in that I think that a pistol or rifleman should be able to shoot anything within reason pretty accurately, fit and angle be damned.
     
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