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Selecting a personal-defense handgun is a very subjective endeavor. We may see a certain write-up in one of the gun magazines and think that that is just the gun for us. So we go plunk down our hard-earned cash only to find out that the gun is far from ideal. This is not necessarily the fault of a particular gun so much as a case of a gun that doesn’t suit us.
As a young shooter, I was really impressed with the writings of Elmer Keith. And I quickly decided that a double-action .44 Mag. was just about the only handgun that a fellow would ever need. When I finally got the cash and took home that big DA .44, you can imagine my disappointment when I discovered that I didn’t shoot it very well at all. The distance between the face of the trigger and the backstrap was just too long to fit my hand size. I tried all different kinds and sizes of grips, but that didn’t help. Because I couldn’t hold the revolver properly, that .44 Mag. cartridge just really beat up my hand. I know that was the case because I continue to enjoy the .44 Mag. cartridge, but in a single-action revolver, which fits my hand much better.
To shoot the handgun quickly and accurately, it must fit the shooter’s hand. When it does, the shooting grip feels comfortable and natural. It is this good fit that translates into quick, accurate shooting.
When a defensive shooter sets out to purchase a new handgun, this business of proper fit should be uppermost in mind. If one is not knowledgeable about handguns, it’s a good idea to take someone along who has plenty of experience so they can make sure that only quality guns are being considered. While one might have their heart set on the latest double-stacked auto, they may find that the single-stack version fits better. That experienced helper can also advise when you could improve a gun’s fit by changing to a different stock size.
When considering a defensive revolver, there are several different-sized stocks that can change the gun’s fit. If a 1911 might be the choice, there are long triggers and short triggers, thick stocks and thin stocks, all of which make a difference. In striker-fired pistols, the prominent companies have been good about making the same gun in a double-stack version or single-stack. Many have different grip panels or backstraps to better fit the pistol to the individual’s hand.
We are blessed to live in a time when so many good defensive handguns are available for us to choose from. When making your selection, it is good to choose from the best quality guns that you can afford. And, among those guns, be sure to choose the one that fits your hand the best. You will find that you feel more secure with it because your grip feels comfortable and natural. More importantly, you can shoot it quickly and accurately.
A version of this article appeared in Shooting Illustrated.