This checklist covers the essential, but often overlooked, interface between the shooter and handgun
When you’re interested in purchasing a new car there’s a reason you take it for a test drive. During that drive you want to see how the car performs, but just as importantly you want to gauge how well you interface with it. Does the seat fit you? Is the armrest and steering wheel comfortable? And are all the controls convenient and easy to use? If the answer to any of these questions is, no, you’ll most likely try a different car.
What does this have to do with handguns? A lot actually. How you interface with a handgun has a lot to do with how well you will shoot it and how often you will carry it. I believe shooters often fail to consider this interface when selecting a new handgun, often paying too much attention to other things that do not matter as much. When it comes to handguns there are five primary points of interface. Let’s look at each of these and their importance.
With defensive handguns, a critical aspect of shooter interface is carry comfort. A defensive handgun will be carried a lot more than it will be shot and carrying a handgun in a holster that’s hidden on your body is not as easy or as comfortable as it might seem. Generally, shooters will find their interface with the grip and recoil control is better with mid- to large-size handguns. But, when it comes to carrying a handgun concealed, the smaller handguns are easier to hide and more comfortable to wear all day.
Though it may seem like you’re going at it backwards, if you’re looking to purchase a new handgun for all day concealed carry, start your selection by determining what size and type of handgun you can comfortably carry, all day. Once you’ve narrowed the field you can then begin to look at the other elements of the shooter interface.
The primary point of interface of any handgun is its grip. A handgun’s grip needs to fit the hand or hands that will be holding it, not the hands that are selling it. How well your hand fits the grip also contributes to how well you can control recoil and manipulate the trigger. Some handguns seem to fit a wider variety of hands better than others. This is why almost anyone who picks up a Browning HiPower or a Beretta 85 Cheetah often comments about how good the gun feels. Some handguns just seem to have a more universal and comfortable design.
If you’re going to be serious about carrying a handgun for self-defense, you will be spending a lot of time shooting that handgun. Shooting a handgun that does not fit you is not conducive to accurate or fast shooting, or enjoyable range sessions. And both are critical to establishing a practical level of competency. Try several handguns to find those that are comfortable in hand and if a certain handgun does not feel right, avoid it, no matter how hard the geek behind the gun counter attempts to convince you it’s the best choice for you.
Proper Trigger Geometry
The trigger on a handgun could be considered part of the grip, but it is possible that you might find a handgun with a grip that feels good, but with a trigger that does not interface well with your finger. To operate a trigger correctly your trigger finger needs to rest on the face of the trigger at a 90-degree angle and with the pad of your finger centered on the trigger. If your finger is too short or too long for the trigger it can cause you to push or pull your shots to the left or right. It can also cause you to improperly adjust your grip while trying to correct this problem.
You can fondle a handgun a lot and never really get a good idea about the grip or the trigger. The only way to absolutely know if your hand fits the grip and if your finger fits the trigger, is to shoot the handgun. Doing so will bring any issues with grip and trigger reach to the forefront as you attempt to control the handgun through the third element of shooter interface which is recoil.
Recoil is subjective but a shooter’s ability to properly manage recoil has a lot to do with how well the handgun’s grip and trigger reach fits them. But it goes beyond that. Like many who find a Browning HiPower to have a great feeling grip, they later learn that they experience hammer bite when shooting one. You may find that a 1911 grip fits you very well, if the handgun it fitted with a short trigger, but you may also find 1911 recoil uncomfortable unless the handgun is chambered for 9mm as opposed to 45 ACP.
For these reasons it’s critical to test drive a handgun much like you would test drive a car. This gives you an opportunity to see if the grip that felt so good at the gun counter holds up on the range when shooting full-power defensive ammunition. It lets you discover if the trigger that was easy to manipulate during dry fire is just as easy to manage during live fire. And finally, it’s where you learn if the gun has any sharp edges or peculiarities that make it uncomfortable to shoot.
Those who claim to be experts in the field of personal protection will often suggest one type of sight is superior to all others. When it comes to handgun sights there are a lot of different options including everything from basic black to glow in the dark Tritium and bright fiber optic inserts and beads. The most important aspect of any handgun sight is that it be easy to see in a variety of lighting conditions. The second most important aspect of a handgun sight is that it is something that you interface with well, and that allows for fast and accurate shooting.
For example, the Big Dot sights from XS Sights are some of the most visible sights available. I like them and use them on many of my handguns. However, the express-type sight picture they offer is one that some shooters struggle to master. Try a variety of sights to discover what style works best with your eyes. Fortunately, with the wide availability of aftermarket sights, you can generally fit about any sight you like to whatever handgun you choose.