A good grip is one of the most important, if not the most important fundamental of shooting. One of the advancements we’ve seen in pistols over the past decade is the integration of interchangeable palmswells. With the ability to switch out the grip, you can customize how a pistol feels in your hand. In this GUNSMARTS video Ken Scott walks a newcomer through the basics of M&P palmswell selection.
That moment when a handgun fits right in your hand is such a good feeling. Too often however new shooters will place too much emphasis on how the pistol feels. Beyond noting how the grip fills the hand, there are a few additional steps that can help you find the best-sized pistol for your hands.
- Ensure the handgun is unloaded and bring the slide forward.
- Acquire a proper grip with both hands high along the back of the grip.
- Find a safe aiming point at eye level so that you can line up the sights.
- Place your finger on the trigger.
At this point, it’s important to assess trigger reach. If you cannot place at least the full pad of your trigger finger on the face of the trigger, the grip is too big. If you feel there’s too much bend in your finger to comfortably move it freely and quickly, the grip is too small. In either case, whether too large or small, you can still learn to shoot a pistol and do it well! It’s just not your ideal fit and you’ll want to make adjustments.
As someone with small hands and shorter fingers, trigger reach is very important. The larger the frame on a handgun, the greater I have to stretch to reach the trigger. The more my trigger finger has to move, combined and a longer trigger pull with a larger grip can limit my endurance for shooting, both for speed and accuracy.
Where I can shoot a medium size grip rather comfortably on a full size 9mm, with a larger framed pistol, like that on a 10mm M&P, I immediately opt for the small size. For those who have larger hands, too small a grip can make their grip feel cramped. They don’t have to stretch to press the trigger with smaller finer movements under tension presenting their own challenges. It can result in what we call “pinning the trigger” meaning a failure to reset the trigger for the next shot.
Whether you have small or large hands, in either case too large or too small a grip can affect your shooting significantly. Without changes in either the grip itself or technique, you may be limited on how fast and smooth on the trigger you can be and possibly how much endurance you have for consistently pressing the trigger.
If your handgun has the option to make changes to the grip size and feel, now it’s time to narrow it down between the 2 best options and hit the range. A simple sight tracker drill is a great way to test out grip sizes. Set up a paper target at 5 yards. You can use an IPSC, USPSA, or IDPA target’s center scoring zone or just take an 8.5x11 inch sheet of paper and fold it in half width-wise. If you have a shot timer, you can use it to give yourself a start signal and time yourself, but it’s not necessary.
Start with a good, high grip at the low ready. At the buzzer or give yourself a “go.” Press out to the target, acquire your sights, place your finger on the trigger and shoot 5 shots as fast as you can while still keeping all your shots inside that center zone or on your half sheet of paper. This is a fast but controlled drill and you’ll want to see your sights lift and settle back on target each time you shoot. Shoot only as fast as you can see the sights and avoid moving your hands or changing your grip in between shots.
If you have a timer, note the time. Repeat the drill 2 more times with the same grip before switching to a different size. After you’ve had trigger time with each of the sizes you are exploring, you should have an idea of what not only feels good but also allows you to shoot quickly too.
If the grips you’ve tried produce similar results, choose the one that fills your hand the best. Keep in mind that as you shoot more and improve, your preferences may change. You may want to reevaluate and test again.
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