Shooting a gun that really fits well can make all the difference in the world. As a general rule though, off-the-shelf firearm models are manufactured for the ‘average’ shooter (for good reason), and you may end up with a less-than-ideal experience if you get a bad match.
There are obviously a TON of options on the market for pistols, rifles and shotguns – and how they fit each shooter is critical for comfort, performance and safety. For new gun purchases, ideally you have a knowledgeable dealer or certified instructor that can steer you in the right direction. There are many situations though, where you end up using a weapon that isn’t the best fit. This could be because you ‘inherited’ a weapon from someone or are borrowing one, you’re using an ill-fitting range rental or you’ve been issued a gun for your job. This also comes up when you’re teaching someone else to shoot with one of your own weapons. This would really apply when teaching kids.
A lot of people don’t ever consider fit as a ‘thing’ when trying out a new weapon. They end up with it for one of the reasons stated above, perhaps they get some bad (or no) real advise from the source or simply just like the way the gun looks. Like a lot of things that are new to a person ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ and you might happily go along with your firearm getting mixed results. If the fit isn’t too horribly off, most people will end up compromising their grip or positioning to compensate, sometimes without even realizing that they’re doing it.
Essentially, it just comes down to your size vs. the size of the gun (Duh!). Your height, the length of your arms, the size of your hands and your general strength all play a role in finding the ideal firearm model for you. Here are a few top-line reasons why proper fit is so important:
- Better overall control & stability
- More consistent accuracy for initial & follow-up shots
- Smoother, more efficient raising and aiming of the weapon
- Improved recoil control
- Ability to help minimize muzzle rise
- Avoid wild or errant shots
- Minimize fatigue with extended shooting & the risk of certain personal injuries
Shotguns & Rifles
There are a lot of resources available for shotgun fit due to the popularity of sport shooting. I’ve had some limited experience shooting clays at some local clubs and you basically just shoot what they give you. There’s some effort to match for body size, but that’s about it. The regular club members have some pretty impressive custom rigs that work really well for them. There seemed to be several main things that they focused on for fit that included overall barrel length, the length of pull and the height of the comb (for optimal rib view). They were looking for consistent head position in relation to the sights (for dominant eye) and trying to avoid having the shooter have to lean back to compensate. That, and not trashing your shoulder.
For other rifle types, it really depends on the use and how you position yourself, especially when using a scope. It will vary for combat/defense vs. hunting vs. range shooting and whether you’re standing, prone
or using a bench. Ultimately, you’ll want to be able to look through the direct center of the scope lens for the best results and the gun should fit you to be able to accommodate that.
The fit for handguns can be even more important, given their basic design and the variety of types and sizes available. Having a proper grip is critical for maintaining control, reducing felt recoil and ensuring accuracy. You’ll also want the best set-up possible if you use your weapon for your job or may need it in a personal defense scenario.
You will find differences of opinion and instructional techniques when it comes to 2-handed grips and what part of your index finger should be making contact with the trigger. Not really going to get into that here, but needless to say that you’ll find what works best for you with some trial-&-error.
The grip basics include seating the gun high-up and in the center of the ‘V’ web of your strong hand so that the muzzle is pointing in the same direction as the index finger. You should be able to grip firmly, reach the trigger with minimal effort and pull it directly backward comfortably as many times as is necessary. Keeping the barrel, wrist and arm aligned will also help to absorb any recoil and minimize muzzle rise. If you find that any of these things is difficult, then the fit may not be right for you. Other elements to consider are:
Maintaining the ability to quickly and efficiently work the safety, release the magazine or de-cock (only where necessary on specific weapons).
Avoiding obvious gaps between your hand and weapon.
Having too much or not enough finger on the trigger.
Comfortable & stable positioning of your support hand.
Avoiding contact with the trigger guard when touching the trigger.
Note that revolvers will often be molded or notched in a way that helps to facilitate proper grip placement.
Being aware that your thumb hasn’t slipped around onto the backstrap or under the beavertail in an effort just to reach the trigger.
Since concealed carry weapons tend to be somewhat smaller for discretion and portability, be sure to practice handling and firing them (especially if you have larger hands).
Grips can be modified for optimal fit post-purchase. Maybe avoid the DIY fixes and see your dealer for more info.
The best gun fit will always help to maximize comfort, your performance potential and maintain safety. Work with a qualified expert to ensure that the gun, grip and stock etc. is right for you and try-before-you-buy where possible.
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Not to be a grammar Nazi – but “perhaps they get some bad (or no) real advise” should be “advice”. I know, I’m anal but I love the English language (even as spoken by Americans). Firmly agree with the comments about handguns, my first centerfire handgun had walnut handles which were pretty but replaced them with a rubber monogrip which was thinner and reduced recoil (and improved my shooting), I’ve had handgrips made to order by MarschalGrips who does an excellent job also. I’d also like to comment on the rifle information, I enlisted in ’69 and was trained with the M-14, was taught to grasp the stock, slide the thumb on the stock up to the rise of my zygomatic bone to have a consistent sight picture. I could usually fire nine rounds of the -14 at 25 meters and have all 9 touching which I thought was decent for a shot-out -14. While I could still fire “expert” with the Matty Mattel, I was never as consistent with a pistol grip.