In the past several weeks a number of things have been brought to my attention and reminded me that little, simple things can help us be safe or prevent our success. Here are a few items that will be expanded upon in this discussion: Eye issues, small almost invisible sights, trigger reach problems, heavy trigger pulls and weak hand strength, too thick of stocks/grips and the too little too light firearm chosen for self protection.
First item: Eye issues with the related small sights. In a recent Utah CFP class I had a gentleman who wore bifocal lenses in his glasses. It so happens I require those as well. He had a Smith and Wesson Model 642 he had rented for the class. This is a small 5-shot 38 Special light-weight revolver with tiny, stainless steel colored sights, and a very short sight radius (the distance between the front and rear sights). It was apparent he had trouble in the lighting of the range picking up his front sight and struggled to see it, which led to him elevating the barrel in order to get a sight picture. His shots went high. I could see what was happening and reviewed sight alignment and picture and noted I also wore bifocals, which frankly, suck when shooting. Since it was a rental gun, there were no changes that could be made, but I did recommend a large front sight or a brightly colored one that could be more easily seen on his personal weapon. Bright colors attract the eye and draw it to the front sight, which needs to be on the target or misses occur. This phenomenon of pushing up the front sight has shown up a lot in the past months in classes. Students raise up the front sight in order to, in their view, see it better. It has the effect of throwing shots over the target. When shown the correct sight alignment, hits are back on target.
Next issue: Trigger reach and heavy trigger pulls. When choosing a self -defense tool, it needs to fit the hand and the operator of that tool should be able to reach all the controls and parts. If the grip area is too large in circumference, trigger reach becomes a problem.
A security force firearms trainer was having difficulty getting his officers to qualify with the issued handgun. He contacted me and asked for assistance in figuring out what to do. In questioning him, he said the issue handgun was the Berretta 92FS, a gun known for it’s long trigger reach and large grip diameter. Trigger reach is how far the finger needs to “reach” in order to press the trigger to the rear to fire the shot. Further inquiry revealed he had people of small stature with small hands and short fingers. They did not have the “reach” to pull that double action trigger to the rear.
In the second instance, a young couple was attending a CFP class. The husband had purchased the firearm for his wife, who when I asked, stated she was 4 feet ten inches tall. Her hand would barely reach from my wrist to the bottom of my fingers, and my hand is medium large. The firearm was an early Kel-Tec 9mm Luger with a large double stack magazine and large grip circumference and long, heavy trigger pull. She got one shot off by using BOTH hands, slammed the gun to the bench and said, “I don’t like this!” The gun was traded for a Colt .380 Government model with a single column magazine and short trigger. That one fit her hand. Lesson learned: Check to see if you can pull/press the trigger before you purchase. A member of my family wanted to use a double action revolver and found she did not have the hand strength to press through the double action trigger stroke. Better to know in advance, than to not be able to operate it later!
The third example comes from again, concealed carry classes. Over a several week period I had two older people, a man and a woman, come the class with the new Ruger LCP .380 pistol. It is a nice, small and easily concealed tool. It does have, however, a long and heavy double-action only trigger. With both people, it was very difficult to operate. Each had issues with hand strength. The woman would finally get it to fire but pushed the gun down by squeezing with her whole hand to have enough strength to get the trigger back to the firing position. Neither one had tried the trigger pull before purchase.
At this point you can see how several of these things are inter-related. Each must be considered in choosing the correct tool that fits both the purpose and the person using it. The fourth item is stock or grip thickness. At various times I’ve observed people using firearms with stocks or grips that are usually too large and occasionally too small. A frequent observation is a person putting one if the slip-on finger-grip extensions on Glocks. The Glock is already quite large, especially the model 20 and 21, and it is very hard to hold correctly with that extra piece of rubber attached. The usual cure after it gets warm, slips up and causes the magazine to self-eject is to cut it off! This is an area where anyone can custom fit their firearm to their hand. Revolvers particularly lend themselves to stock changes that help the gun fit the hand and controls recoil and aids in accurate shooting. Don’t have more than is really needed. Try before you buy also is good advice here.
The last item is too little and too light. Any time weight is removed, recoil increases. Yes, it is more convenient to carry a light, little gun, but the trade-off is it becomes harder to control, thus harder to shoot accurately. Most experienced users will say that they consider these types of firearms to be expert’s guns. It takes LOTS of practice to get and stay good with one. The recoil can be too much for many people, which is why it is a mistake for hubby to buy the wife or girlfriend the “cute, little gun” with no input from the end user. If it hurts to shoot, they won’t practice with it and the purpose of having a tool for defense is defeated. On the Guns and Patriots website, Caleb Giddings pointed out this fact in a review of the Smith and Wesson Model 60 Pro-series revolver: “Small frame revolvers are notoriously difficult to shoot well, combining an alliance of heavy trigger pull, short sight radius and stouter than average recoil into a package that is often challenging for even expert shooters to manage.” Even some small semi-autos fall into this category. To deal with these issues, take the time to be sure the tool fits the hand. Ask for help to get it right and the benefits will last for many years.