Importance Of Pistol Grip


To the point – having read just about all your postings over the years about gun fit I thought I would add my two penn’th as it covers something I don’t recall seeing mentioned. Lots of stuff about stock alterations and fit but what about the grip?

The story begins…. – I shoot a (beloved) f/c 30 inch Winchester 6500, handles like a dream. looks great etc etc BUT if I shot it out I would be heartbroken so I have been casting around for a while for a good new and inexpensive gun I could fiddle with to work out my set up etc etc (before winning the lottery and travelling to Belgium the next day to order a minimum of half a dozen custom built jobs you understand). So I picked up a Grade 1 Browning 425 30 inch fixed choke sporter at a show (two months old, 200 dollars below new, hardly used and warranteed by dealer for two years) – a nice gun and perfect material but a bit ‘lumpish’ compared to the Winchester’s oft called ‘legendary’ handling.

And so it was off to the local gunsmith for the fun to begin (Ladbrooke and Langton in the UK). Having explained it all to Carl Langton (the guy who would actually do the work) we started, Eventually (after several intermediate set-up experiments – we all want to be true junior technoids after all) the gun ended up set up like the Winchester but with a kik-eeze pad (as I had a disk replaced in my neck and can’t take heavy recoil – I also have varying eye dominance but thats whole n’other story).

One of the key adjustments I had made was one I cribbed from another shooter who had a grade 6 version of the same gun altered – he had had the pistol grip changed to a ‘prince of wales’ check i.e. shaped like the curl on the feather on the logo. And when I picked his up it just felt so right – and this guy is not far off my dimensions…..

The rough work was carried out by Carl with me present so that he could fit the grip exactly to my hand (I am on the short side and nothing – and I do mean nothing – fits me ‘off-the shelf’). Having got the palm shape correct including the finger grip/contact he then shaped the top part of the grip where the thumb curls over. After the rough work was complete I left and came back when it was re-checkered and finished off. To help the balance/feel I had some lead placed in the butt (melted and shaped to fit the hollow – not just slapped in).

The result was that first time out I shot my best ever score at my >regular shoot. It doesn’t handle quite like my Winchester (but what would ..) the extra weight/handling is tamed by virtue of the butt insert but the custom fit to the hand made a huge difference (as both guns are fitted the same in other regards, except for choke there is little left that is different) no more little flicks and twitches (inconsistent mounting) creeping in at times of lack of concentration/stress/fast shots – my right hand is part of the gun now. Okay I know we are not supposed to work our non fore-end hand when shooting but we all do don’t we ?

This grip change in one that lots of shooters could try and is really not too expensive. My thanks go to Ricky Figg on the UK for having it done to his so I could steal his idea. It looks good to boot.

One word of warning though – if you are very fond of your gun because it is a lovely thing, has beautiful wood and you have spent many happy hours patiently rubbing walnut oil preparation into the grain (while talking to it as well…) then ask for a blindfold – when the gunsmith takes a rough file to your stock you will need to be brave ! I am still working up the courage to take my Winchester in for the same operation – I should be ready in about 4 years (depending on how the therapy goes……it was the talking to the stock that gave me away so they told me…….)

Now if I can just get as good with my Browning as A.J. ‘Smoker’ Smith was with his Winchester it should all be a breeze ! (hey the medication is working !!!)

Anyway enough for now. Feel free to comment/use/discard/ridicule as you see fit. Keep up the the great work O Mighty Technoid, we need you to shine your light into our darkness.


Steve (UK)

Dear Steve,

Sometimes I think that shining my light into the darkness is about as welcome as the flashlight the usher in the drive-in movie shines into the teenagers’ car when they are “otherwise occupied”.

Although you obviously realize it, I doubt if many other shooters realize the important role that the pistol grip plays in stock feel and fit. Very few people go to the trouble that you did to reshape the pistol grip. For example, the pistol grip area on the Beretta AL390 gas operated sporter has caused more unfavorable comment from shooters than any other case I am familiar with. I can’t tell you how many Beretta owners have ended up selling the guns rather than bite the bullet and wield the rasp to that bulky, chunky vertical grip.

I also think that extensive stock modification of this type is more common in the UK than in the US. In the UK, a “fit stock” is sometimes included in the price of the gun. In the US this is less common unless it is a “custom” gun from a carriage-trade vendor. Most Americans shoot their guns “out of the box” with just a modification to length. I will absolutely guarantee you that the average American clay target shooter will choose to buy a new gun over getting into extensive stock reconfiguration of the existing gun. The top US shooters don’t hesitate to modify guns, but the average weekend warrior in the US leaves it alone so that it stays “original”.

A true “shooting gunfit” is still something relatively new in the US and the gunsmithing talent to make the alterations is not universal. Remember, US gunsmiths get far more rifle and pistol work than shotgun work.

Personally, I think that the shape and location of the pistol grip is as important as the height of the comb in how the stock feels. Where the pistol grip is placed, or its slope, definitely affect the length of pull. Gunsmiths like to measure the length of pull from trigger to center of butt, but that is really just for convenience and consistency. The effective length of pull should be from the web between the third and fourth fingers of the hand when it is holding the pistol grip thence to the center of the butt.

Here’s what I mean when I say that the location of the rear hand as placed by the pistol grip helps determine how long the stock feels. Try this: Hold your gun with the hand on the pistol grip held very HIGH on the grip so that it is closer to the trigger. Now mount the gun and “feel” the length. Now hold the pistol grip so that the hand is very LOW on the pistol grip, right near the bottom. Mount the gun. Feels shorter, doesn’t it? The length of the stock hasn’t changed, but by changing where the hand holds the pistol grip, you change the “effective” length of the stock.

I don’t quite agree that the pistol grip hand should be held very loosely. I concentrate more on my forehand hold, but I still hold the pistol grip firmly. I have found that a fairly firm hold front and back on the gun will significantly reduce perceived recoil. When I hold “light” I get kicked more. I don’t mean a death grip, but a nice firm one.

The whole reason that target guns have pistol grips and many game guns don’t is because the target shooters is willing to accept the bulk and weight of the pistol grip in order to maintain more control over the gun with the rear hand. There is no point in having a pistol grip unless it is used, in part, to control the gun. That’s why it’s there. The rear hand shouldn’t be in charge, but it should definitely aid and abet.

The preference for the shape of a pistol grip also varies with the shooter’s style as well as his hand size and stature. People who shoot heads up (normally those with shorter necks) can often deal with a “tight” and vertical pistol grip better than those who have long necks and tend to crawl the stock. The body seems to like the neck and grip to be at vaguely similar angles. I am a “stock crawler” and have always felt uncomfortable with the vertical pistol grips on many Italian guns because they make me hold my wrist at an uncomfortable angle. Others shooters feel very comfortable with them. That’s why shoes and shirts come in different sizes.

Well, that’s enough blinding light piercing the Stygian darkness for now.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck

Shotgun Report’s Technoid

This entry was posted in Shotguns and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.