Linda M. Gilbertson
The small pistol is a favorite of many women, not because it can hit every target, but because of the pistol’s size and appearance. Many men also believe this is the gun for their wife or girlfriend and jump at the chance to purchase such as a gift. However both the women and the men fail to realize before it’s too late, that the small pistol is harder to shoot. For the beginning shooter, it can be a disaster.
The small pistol, whether a revolver or semi-automatic, is best described as an expert’s firearm. The grips are shorter, and thinner. The sight radius is shorter and the shooter consumes more time in obtaining its alignment. The answer is to learn with a larger pistol before moving to the smaller one.
The grips of a pistol are as personal as a pair of shoes. If your shoes pinch your toes, they end up at the back of the closet. In a similar way, if the grip hurts your hand or is almost non-existent you won’t practice. If you don’t practice, you won’t build competence or confidence. You’ll put the pistol on a shelf in the closet – only to be forgotten. You may remember it if/when a burglar comes a knocking. But, again, you’ll hesitate to use it because of recoil pain or your inability to maintain your grip. A woman’s fingers (less the trigger finger) must fully surround the pistol grip in order to control the pistol during recoil. If you don’t have any place for the little finger, you won’t have the hand control to prevent rotation of the pistol during recoil or the grip strength to pull the trigger without lateral pressure affecting the frame, sight alignment and subsequently the placement of the shot. Your follow-through will be non-existent and you’ll fail to quickly recover to address the personal protection issue at hand.
Secondly if you can’t comfortably place the pad of your finger on the trigger and place the back strap of the pistol in the webbing of the hand, with the index finger’s third knuckle and the thumb’s third knuckle opposite each other, you won’t be able to pull the trigger straight to the rear. If either of those knuckles end up behind the back strap, you’ll soon have joint irritation which will cause discomfort and possible hesitation to pull the trigger when needed. Both length and width of the grip determine comfort and success. Small pistols reduce the grip size in length and width to provide easier concealment. A smaller grip is harder to control.
Sight Radius is the distance from the front sight to the rear sight. The shorter sight radius in the smaller guns make them less accurate. The longer the sight radius the more a small error in sight alignment is magnified. You can see this small error with the longer sight radius so therefore you can correct it. It’s like comparing a ruler to a yardstick. With the yardstick, you can see that the end of it is aligned with your target, and if you‘re off a bit. With a ruler, there is too much horizontal and lateral error. What may look right on target, will be way-off the mark based on perspective.
Some men and women buy small pistols without considering the issues of weight, size and usability. Purchases are made based on the belief that a small and light gun will be comfortable to carry. While that it true, they are also much harder to shoot making it more difficult to hit your target. Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals of pistol shooting (sight alignment, trigger control, breathing, stance, hold control, follow through) with a much larger pistol, then you will be ready to downsize.
If you own a small pistol and find that you can’t hit the broadside of a barn when you practice, don’t be frustrated to the point where you give up the pistol. Just realize that small and cute is hard to shoot! Start with larger pistol and you’ll be more successful and happier with your shooting experience.