One of the most prolific cottage industries to crop up in the world of practical handgunnery in recent years has been that of polymer-framed pistol modifications. Talented artists and machinists have taken to soldering irons and mills en masse to create customized solutions for ergonomic shortcomings in the world of firearms, and demand isn’t slowing down.
Many of these changes are far from cosmetic, and are designed to fundamentally alter the relation of the grip to the bore — commonly known as the “grip angle.” Many shooters find fault with this supposedly critical dimension of their handgun, and find that sending their polymer-framed pistol to a custom ‘smith is often the best solution.
But are these extensive modifications actually needed to make a pistol shootable, or are they simply the product of pride in ownership and a desire to own a custom firearm? And is the grip angle issue actually big enough to really warrant basing your handgun choice on it (as many do), let alone adding a significant cost to ownership via customization? Let’s step back a bit and really break it down.
Every single principal here can be applied to every single handgun on the market. This post isn’t hating on Glocks or 1911s in particular. They are simply an effective engine for discussion.
With that out of the way, let’s begin.
Pistol “Ergonomics” are a Sham
If between the flexible joints in your hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder, neck and eyes you can’t create a proper sight picture with any handgun on the market, you need to put the gun down and see an orthopedic surgeon, because something in your body is broken and/or not functioning.
The angle of your handgun’s grip in relation to the bore simply does not matter, in any practical consideration.
If you aren’t willing to practice enough so that you’re accustomed to shooting your primary handgun, then a magic grip angle isn’t going to help you. It’s simply not going to make you a better shot.
The ergonomics of the 1911 pitted against Glock’s “severe” grip angle are a mixture of sales hype and folklore, pure and simple. Anybody who tells you that you need one pistol or the other based solely on the ergonomics and grip angle is selling you something.
Fit vs. Ergonomics
Now, don’t misunderstand the point here. A handgun must fit you in order to establish a proper grip. But the fit of a handgun is a completely different story from the marketing myth of ergonomics.
For example, my grandmother cannot shoot a Beretta 92, because her finger is not physically long enough to even reach the trigger with anything resembling a proper grip.
But, assuming you’re an average guy or gal and not my grandma, you will be able to pick up any handgun made by a major manufacturer and it will fit your hand. Can you reach the trigger? Depress the magazine release with little or no grip shifting? Release the slide?
If so, the pistol fits you.
To be finally clear: Fit has nothing to do with grip angle and everything to do with where the controls are located in relation to your hand. And the grip angle has little, if anything, to do with that.
Glock vs. 1911: It Simply Doesn’t Matter
Fact from above: The “ergonomics” of a handgun do not really matter.
Fact from knowledgeable sources: 1911 handguns require more maintenance and attention than Glocks and similar handguns.
Because of this, I find very little needs changing on my carry gun. Much like any grip angle, a Glock trigger can be learned. And like the popularly maligned Glock finger grooves, the intricacies of a 1911 must also be mastered.
It’s amazing to me that the concept of the “correct grip angle” is so prevalent, and that many shooters choose to select their pistol with said “correct angle” as a primary factor.
Ask yourself this question: What’s going to make a bigger difference in how well you can handle a firearm? The grip angle, or consistent practice?
If you’re not going to practice regularly with your handgun, either dry firing or with live ammunition, then it really doesn’t matter which one you buy. Just get the one that will make you happy. After all, a stock Glock rests in your safe the same way the finest custom 1911 does.
And don’t talk about how certain pistols have more “soul” than others do. They’re all inanimate objects. Put your “soul” into developing skills, not acquiring shiny toys for the sake of intangible, non-quantifiable benefits.
Because of these two above listed principals, I shoot a stock Glock. I’d rather focus on improving skills than becoming a 1911 gunsmith. With Glocks, there’s simply nothing to change… or is there?
Get Rid of Those Plastic Sights
The reliability of your firearm is far more important than perceived ergonomics. You can readily learn to shoot any handgun very proficiently; but you cannot practice enough to make one objectively more reliable.
As bombproof as Glock pistols generally are, they tend to have one big weakness: the sights. If you carry and shoot one long enough, you’ll notice that these plastic parts start to get chewed up quite a bit just from normal use. Bottom line: They need to be replaced, especially if you’re serious about your training.
There’s no reason to fight a lumpy Glock sight picture, especially with the many steel aftermarket choices available. Out of the many fine options for aftermarket Glock sights, I favor the Defoor Tactical versions for their simplicity, well-executed design and attractive price point.
Defoor Sights Mini-Review
I’ll keep this short: There’s practically no reason not to have Kyle Defoor’s sights on your Glock. The sight ratio is the same as that favored by competitive shooters, yet the height is optimized for carry. An all-steel construction means they aren’t going anywhere, and Ameriglo produces them.
All of these features come at an exceptionally attractive price point. You can likely afford to put them on all of the Glock pistols you own for consistency across the board. They’re even newly available with illuminated options, if that’s your cup of tea. And if it’s not, there are a myriad of other Glock sight options available. Just ditch the plastic sights.
So, those are the reasons I shoot a (mostly) stock Glock. There’s no magic grip angle, only what you’re used to—and that is very easily changed with consistent practice. Glocks don’t “point high” for me, and neither do 1911s, or any other handgun for that matter. I simply put the sights on the target and press the trigger. I’m able to do this because I have a normal, functioning human body and only fire a shot when I have achieved an acceptable sight picture.
Don’t worry about whether or not your pistol “points” right for you or not. Do your research, and purchase the most reliable firearm your budget allows. For everything else, a little bit of intentional, focused practice can be truly priceless.
What do you think about the author’s conclusion? Are pistol ergonomics a “sham?” What evidence do you have to support your argument? Share your experiences with us in the comment section.