One topic that I’ve probably spent a lot of time thinking about, at least initially, was my grip. I seem to have a hard time finding the way the gun is supposed to fit into my hands and is probably the biggest reason for moving from the M&P platform to the Glock. The M&P felt good in my hands regardless of it’s position, which is actually a bad thing in my opinion. I want the gun to only feel right when I have my hands in the exact correct position, and feel terrible any other way. That way, I know that I have the correct grip the instant I begin to draw and can correct it, or at a minimum, know that it’s going to enter my vision with the sights out of perfect alignment so I’m expecting it to appear that way. Makes sense, right? Well, it sort of is, but not always optimal. Let me explain.
When I switched to the Glock I knew that I needed to make it an extension of my body, and that is done through lots and lots of perfect practice. The best way to achieve this in the shortest amount of time is by doing enough dryfire that it is burned into the subconscious and you never need to think about it again. The problem with this is that if you burn it in to your mind in a less than optimum configuration, you just roll with it and never question it again. The sights are always where I’m looking, my grip is good to go. In my case, this “error” was the insidious cause of some other serious limiting factors that I just couldn’t seem to master. I know this is a little long winded, but hang in there, like talking to my mother-in-law, the story is going somewhere.
So again, let’s go back to the point when I got my first Glock, suited up, and began to dryfire it with the primary goal of having the sights appear precisely where I was looking. Take note, this was the beginning of my years of limiting errors! When I would draw on a close target, the sights would be all out of whack, usually off to the left and low. Having a long range precision rifle background, the concept of Natural Point of Aim, or NPA, is paramount to building your position on the rifle. If you force it, it’ll never be consistent and that is amplified when you’re shooting 1000+ yards so it becomes an obvious error. To find my NPA with my Glock, I would close my eyes, draw to the target and see where the sites were when I opened my eyes. I changed my grip and tried it again and again until I had the sights in perfect alignment every time I opened my eyes. At the time it seemed logical and my draw was dang quick since the sights were dead on as soon as I pulled it. The issue with this is subtle, but had huge implications downstream to my overall performance. The reason why is that to achieve that draw to perfect sight picture, I was gripping the gun incorrectly. If you can imagine looking down to the top of the pistol, my right hand was rotated counter-clockwise around the grip pretty significantly. Again, this doesn’t seem to be a big deal, but let me explain why it’s one of those foundational errors that is amplified down the line.
I know it’s an obvious statement to say the grip is important since it is our interface with the gun, but we’re not just holding it, we’re operating it, and to operate it well we need to pull the trigger without disturbing the sights and manage the recoil. The better we do those two things, the more accurate our shots, and the faster the gun returns to a neutral position with the sights aligned, ready to repeat the cycle. With my poorly positioned strong hand grip I could certainly get the gun on target quickly with the sights aligned, but the rest of the requirements were missing. First off, my support hand was pretty much just along for the ride and my strong hand was doing most of the work resulting in a poor trigger pull when shooting quickly. Once the shot broke the recoil management was also being executed poorly which caused much more muzzle flip than was necessary causing a big delay in having the sight picture I needed to take the next shot. Furthermore, tracking the sights was much more difficult since the thing was bucking uncontrollably. The poor grip really introduced a series of cascading errors that all added up to a very poor, or at least very limiting, performance.
Anyone who has read my post on why I started shooting Open to improve my Production performance knows that I just couldn’t seem to get the downrange results I knew I was capable of getting, and this revelation is really a direct result of that division change. How did I figure this out? Well, it was more a series of events that came together for me and being observant to what was happening allowed for things to become evident.
The first thing I noticed was the position on the pistol. I was shooting with Keith Tyler and asked him some question I don’t even recall about my about my grip. He suggested that I get the gun strait back in the web of my hand, and imagine squeezing just the contact points on the front and back of the grip with my strong hand, and just the sides of the grip with my weak hand (I’m paraphrasing). I built that grip with the gun already out shooting groups (not from a draw), and HOLY COW! The gun wasn’t jumping around like crazy anymore! I could EASILY track the dot and see it move up, jiggle about for a moment, then return right where it began. It was amazing! Now that’s what I’ve been hearing about! It really was great, and simply amazing to see how my grip on the gun made such a drastic difference. Since my hand wasn’t rotated around the front of the grip so much, I could easily hit the magazine release, too. But the trouble in paradise was that I just couldn’t seem to get that grip while drawing from the holster. I felt like I would have to choose speed or accuracy since I just couldn’t seem to nail that grip from the draw, and spent a ton of time trying to find my dang dot. I tried shooting match in that mode and would spend seconds a stage hunting for my dot. Back to the drawing board.
The second thing that helped me figure things out was during the class I was taking with Steve Anderson last weekend. During the Six, Reload, Six drill, which we were only dry firing at this point, I noticed quite a bit of movement of my dot. It was oscillating outside of the A zone and would take me quite a bit of time to settle the dot before I had a good enough sight picture to break the shot. I had returned to my old grip for the speed, but was already hating what I was seeing. Trying to wrangle the gun so the dot would settle down, again, this is dryfire, I got frustrated and just squeezed the hell out of the grip and it settled down the dot, but it was hard to pull the trigger quickly or without disturbing the dot. So I tried it with squeezing like mad with my support hand, and relaxing my strong hand and BOOM! Like magic, I had speed and accuracy! I stopped doing the drill and just stared drawing with that feeling, and then tried it with my strong hand in the position that worked so well for me when I was shooting with Keith Tyler. What I discovered, is that if I got my strong hand where it NEEDED to be, then got my support hand in the right position to really squeeze the sides of the grip, and if my strong hand was relaxed, that the dot what where I was looking and the grip was optimal for controlling recoil, which lead to excellent sight tracking. In a nutshell, it was fast and facilitated a great visual stream.
One thing to note is that getting this grip was contingent on getting it my hands in the perfect placement and event then, only puts the dot where I’m looking if I’m squeezing about 80% with my support hand while keeping the strong hand light and relaxed. To get this consistently I had to find a few index points along the drawing process to ensure success. I know that after a lot of focused dryfire I will burn this into my subconscious, but I have years of bad practice to overwrite. For now, I have to remember to come down with my strong hand like a “U” on to the beavertail while bringing my support hand to my chest. Then I pull the gun up high, “chop” the trigger guard with my support hand, the roll it into position while pushing the gun strait out and picking up the dot. I know that sounds strange, and trying to put the feeling into words leaves a lot out of the descriptions, but I’m sure you get the point.
So at this point, I think I have what I need, at least foundationally, to build upon the rest of the skills that I need to be successful in USPSA. I hope that in a few months I will have burned this in, it’ll be without thought, and the rest of my game improves dramatically since I should have a good foundation to build upon. I’m also excited to see how this affects my progress once I go back to Production since my progress has slowed down and I was just hovering outside of A class. I do find it somewhat ironic that I’m spending all my focus on something as basic as simply holding the gun, but it seems that I have built my house upon sand and need to go back and firm things up before I can really put the pedal down.