Handgun fit is one of the keys to using your firearm effectively. In fact, after reliability, it is probably the most important aspect in selecting a defensive handgun.Proper handgun fit will make it easier for you to hold, aim, and fire, control recoil, reload, and clear malfunctions. If your gun doesn’t fit your hand as well as possible, it will compromise your performance in one or more of those areas.
Proper handgun fit begins with making sure that you can hold the gun in a way that deactivates any grip safety and allows you to actuate the trigger while the first knuckle of your strong-hand thumb is positioned to the weak side of the gun frame. If you cannot deactivate the safety with that thumb, or press the trigger with the pad of the first joint of your index finger, you will obviously not be able to use the gun the way you should in a critical encounter. The proper position of the thumb enables correct alignment, recoil management, and the use of that thumb to release the magazine, operate a safety, and de-cock the gun if necessary. The right positioning of the finger on the trigger ensures accurate fire.
The most common sign of poor gun fit seen on the range is the thumb knuckle being under the beavertail on the grip and not extended around the side of the gun. This commonly results in a blister or raw skin on the knuckle after any extended shooting sessions.
If you can achieve the proper thumb-knuckle position, the next thing you want to look for is being able to actuate all of the necessary levers or buttons on your gun with your strong hand only, without changing your grip on the gun much, if at all. Safeties, magazine releases, the trigger and de-cocking levers, all should be reachable and usable without having to employ your weak hand. Many people will install an oversized magazine release on their pistol to meet this aspect of handgun fit and, of course, instead of choosing a hammer-fired defensive gun, a striker-fired one–such as models of Glock, Ruger, Sig, Smith & Wesson–without a manual safety lever or de-cocker is recommended, alleviating worry about having to operate those features by keeping the gun’s use as relatively uncomplicated as possible.
Lastly, remember that handgun fit is a very personal metric. You need to put several guns in your hand and take them to the range to see if they genuinely fit you, and not some prototypical shooter. Don’t just go by someone else’s recommendation or a list of measurements. All gun contours are slightly different; and you have a unique hand shape, size, and flexibility. Before you put down your money for a pistol you intend to carry to defend family, friends, and your own life, make sure it fits like a glove.
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