Lesson (Re)Learned: Yes, the Pistol Really Does Have to Fit Your Hand
Jon Stokes 09.14.17
One of the things you (re)discover at a gun writer event where there’s a table of guns and a few buckets of ammo on the table in front of you, and you’ve got free rein to fire away with them at steel targets for a few hours straight, is what works and what doesn’t.
As I made my way up and down the line, firing everything from Glocks to Springfields to various Remington offerings, there were two guns I kept coming back two: a pair of compact 1911s from Remington. Specifically, the difference between my level of accuracy with the compact 1911 and literally every other gun out there, up to and including a full-sized PARA USA Tomasie Custom 1911, was striking.
Now, before I continue, I should note a few things. First, I shoot SIG DA/SA pistols. They’re what I carry and what I like. There weren’t any of these on the table, so I didn’t get a chance to do a real head-to-head. Second, I only own one 1911, a nickel-plated Colt Government Model that I inherited from my grandpa, and that I’ve never shot. I’m not really a 1911 guy, not because I dislike them but for the following reasons:
- I don’t run manual safeties
- I don’t carry .45ACP
- Like high-end watches, 1911s are an expensive itch to scratch, and I try to limit my vices because I need to stay married.
So I’m strictly a DA/SA 9-mil guy, and I like it that way.
Anyway, back to the 1911. I shot the custom 1911 pictured below and didn’t have much luck with it. I shot it about as poorly as I did the Glock, which is saying something. I just couldn’t get the kinds of hits I wanted to with it. This thing has all the bells and whistles: ported barrel, expanded magwell, nice grips, fiber optic front sight, and so on. But if it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t fit.
So I moved on, and at some point during the first range session, I discovered the 1911 pictured below, which I took to calling the “Hand Eater.” This thing was miserable to shoot, because it has these super aggressively textured grips that rip up your hand. When one of us would finish shooting it, we’d show everyone our red palm that had a grid of near-bloody dots embedded in it.
But I could really hit with this crazy gun. Every shot, however painful, was ringing steel. So despite the fact that it was just killing my hands, I kept coming back to this gun just because I liked hearing the steel ring in rapid succession as I sent lead down range.
(Also, there’s nothing like the sound of somebody else’s money hitting steel. A shoot is so much more fun if you’re not footing the bill for the ammo.)
After moving on from the Hand Eater, I discovered a gun that, amazingly, I do not have a picture of, despite the fact that it ended up being my favorite handgun of the trip. This gun was another compact 1911 from the Remington Custom Shop, with a green and tan digicam Cerakote finish and a bunch of other bling that I don’t remember now. The main thing this gun had going for it was the fact that it was just like the Hand Eater, except, y’know, not painful to shoot.
I spent some time going back and forth the between the big custom pictured above and that smaller 1911, trying to figure out exactly why I was hitting with one and not with the other. I have large hands, so in theory the larger gun should’ve been better. I dunno, though. I eventually gave up on this problem and just went back to shooting the smaller one that I could hit with.
I liked this gun so much that when we did a shoothouse run with pistols, I specifically requested it. When I went into the shoothouse, I had total confidence in that gun, and this made a huge difference. This little 1911 had been run hard all week by all the writers, without a single hiccup. And I myself had shot it extensively. So when I got that gun into low ready position and threw open the shoothouse door, it was on.
In that run, my second shoothouse run ever, I plugged a bunch of bad guys center mass, and I put a single shot through the right nostril of the hostage taker at the end of the hall, while trying to talk him down.
Forget About Theory and Find What Works in Practice
The point of this whole, long-winded story is this: you may like or dislike the way a gun feels in your hand, and the way it points, and the size, and so on, but the only thing that matters is whether you can put live rounds on target with it.
No amount of online research or forum debate or muzzle flashing the gun store staff will tell you if a gun is going to fit you. You just have to shoot it, and you may have to shoot a number of them before you find out what works. If you don’t live near a range with a well-stocked selection of rental guns, then you should get comfortable with buying them and flipping them until you get one you can shoot.
Sure, if you’ve got a ton of time and resources to put into training, you can make anything work, eventually. If you’re determined to carry whatever it is the cool guys are carrying this year, and you spend enough range time with it, then you’ll eventually get there. But if your training time is limited, then you need every advantage you can get.
This is actually why I carry one of the world’s least practical carry guns: the SIG P239 SAS Gen 2 9mm. By every paper metric, this gun is a total failure. It’s too heavy and bulky for the limited ammo capacity you get, but it has a fantastic trigger and I can shoot it. I’d rather have 9 rounds that I can confidently put right in the A-zone than 16 that I can’t even wing the target with.
Anyway, as much as I bonded with that little Remington Custom Shop 1911 during my week at Gunsite, I still refuse the catch the 1911 bug. At least, not this year. Or at least not until Christmas. I think. Maybe.