When it comes to choosing the right firearm, everyone has an opinion. Yet choosing a firearm that fits properly is key to a successful and enjoyable day at the range.
“Glock is the best all around pistol for every shooter!” some people have told me… but until the Glock 43, there wasn’t one that I felt was a decent fit for the shape and size of my hand. Sure, I could shoot the Glock 26 with great accuracy – but it wasn’t the right fit.
“Every female shooter needs to start with a revolver” … well yes and no. I do strongly advocate all new shooters start with a revolver – especially women who are a little hesitant to conceal carry due to their concern in remembering to pull the slide to eject a stovepipe in the heat of a life or death situation.
I have shot a lot of different kinds of guns in my life. That is one of the many blessings of being raised in a very pro-gun family. During all the courses I have attended, there has been precious little mentioned in regards to GUN FIT – for women.
Most avid shooters say “just go try a few and you’ll know” – yes this is true, to an extent. This is true for people who know what they are feeling for, who have a keen grasp of bodily awareness. But I’ve taken several women to the range who severely lacked this skill. Not because they didn’t have the intellectual capabilities – but because listening to your body is a skill that has to be taught.
This article will be the first in a series of small pistol reviews for women, and to briefly outline what the proper fit is, and why it is important. Granted, this is a subject that can have numerous books written about it – because there is so many details involved. The physics of gun recoil, and how it travels through the body, the positioning of your hands, the tenseness in your wrists and elbows – all of this comes into play and is absolutely fascinating! All this, combined with the science of ballistics – each weight of powder, the shape of the powder grains, each caliber bullet all come into play in a very delicate art that has a tremendous impact (pun intended) in choosing a firearm that fits.
When I was researching for my conceal carry weapon, I wanted the best of both worlds – I wanted a gun that was not only a JOY to shoot, but one that I could conceal easily, and still trust to be a sufficient tool to protect my loved ones. I was told such a gun didn’t exist – that you have to sacrifice less felt recoil in order to have it small enough to conceal carry. For the most part – this is true. But after trial and error, I found a few exceptions. More on that here.
Newton said, “every action has an equal but opposite reaction.” In brief, recoil is the brief interaction of two objects, causing them to move in opposite directions. Just like two ice skaters pushing off of each other causes them to each move backward. Felt gun recoil, is the result of momentum conservation. The exploding gunpowder propels the bullet forward. The bullet has mass and speed – which is momentum going in the forward direction. Felt recoil is the balance of momentum being pushed in the opposite direction. If the gun has a larger mass, the felt recoil is much less. Now, this energy doesn’t just stop at the butt of the gun – it travels through your hand, wrist, arm, shoulder and throughout your body. I’ve had family and friends tell me how funny it is to watch my hair fly back when shooting large caliber rifles – all because of the balancing momentum traveling backward through me.
The pistol should fit comfortably in the palm of your hand. A good feel has a bit of heft in the grip, and balanced – not so forward leaning that it threatens to fall out of your hand. You want the grip to be centered in your palm – so that the energy flows through you in a central direction. If the grip is so wide that the center is over the meat of your palm, it will be felt with a sharper, harsher, felt recoil. We will discuss grip style and stance in a post about accuracy, here.
In the image above I am documenting how the pistol is sitting in my hand. The top left is a Ruger LCP .380. The grip is narrow and centered in my palm. It feels a bit front-wards leaning – which gives it a very snappy felt recoil. The recoil doesn’t hurt in my arm, but it is front end snappy, which makes for a sharp sensation in my palm. In the top right is a Colt Pony .380. The stainless frame gives it a nice heft. It is centered in my palm and feels balanced in my hand. In the bottom left is a Springfield XDS 9mm. Even though it is a single stack, the grip is SLIGHTLY too wide for my hand and the center of the back part of the grip is more over the meat of my hand. So even though I can shoot it accurately, the felt recoil is MUCH harsher than the Kimber Micro 9 shown in the bottom right image. The Kimber, as you can see, is centered over my palm, has a nice heft, and a great balance.
So go head to the range – and notice how the gun fits in your palm. This will go a long way in helping you find a gun that fits YOUR hand.