Glocks, Grip Angles, and Picking Handguns for Combat & Self Defense

by David Morris on March 16, 2012

Welcome to this week’s Urban Survival Newsletter.  I’ve got limited internet connectivity this week, so this week I’m not going to talk about anything current…simply a timeless piece of self defense wisdom that’s pure meat.

I like Glocks.  That statement is guaranteed to divide the audience.  If you didn’t know, Glocks are a polarizing brand in firearms.  Like I said, I like them.  In fact, I’ve got 5 firearms that are either Glocks or based on the Glock and take Glock magazines (KelTec Sub 2000s). They’re reliable, accurate, and my experience carrying and shooting the same Glock for over 14 years is that they eat anything that I put in them.

Don’t get me wrong…I LOVE my 1911s and I’m pretty fond of my other handguns as well, but I have a particular affinity for Glocks as a result of carrying my Glock 27 next to my skin the majority of the time, year in and year out, since the late 90s.

I’ve read debates for years saying how poor of a gun Glocks are. I never understood the criticism. I’m not at the level of professional shooters, but I’ve shot better in competitions than countless guys with $2000 1911s and 2011s with my humble Glock 27 subcompact. My Glocks have eaten hundreds of rounds at a time in classes without malfunctioning and they’ve just performed like tanks for me.

And then, a couple of years ago, I traveled to a class with a guy who had won several Glocks at Glock tournaments. The interesting thing was that he didn’t like Glocks at all. In fact, he told me that he trained with his Springfield XD for 50 weeks out of the year and only pulled out his Glock to train with for 2 weeks before the Glock tournament every year. But I still didn’t understand why.

Last year, I was going through some advanced training and the instructor started Glock bashing. I’m used to it and usually just space off until whoever’s talking gets done and moves on to something worth listening to, but something he said actually made sense and I tuned back in.

John Browning designed the 1911 with an angle between the barrel and the grip that happens to be the angle that most people’s fist is at when they throw a punch.

The Glock, on the other hand, has a grip angle that’s just a few degrees more. This happens to be approximately the angle that martial artists punch with if they’ve learned to concentrate the impact of their strikes on the knuckle of their index finger and middle finger rather than across all 4 fingers.

Here’s where this comes into play. After reviewing thousands of lethal force encounters with handguns, it becomes obvious that under extreme stress and high pulse rates, people instinctively punch their firearm out one handed and pull the trigger. As they’re punching under stress, very few people end up firing with their handgun straight up and down and most have it canted to the side somewhere between 10 and 11 o’clock from the shooter’s perspective as if they were throwing a punch.

Keep in mind that this isn’t an issue when shooting competitions or qualifiers. It is specifically an issue when stress levels are so high and pulse rates are so high that gross muscle movements and reptile brain thinking take over and your body responds with a lot more instinct than thought.

The result of this is that if you’re shooting a Glock and you do a high volume of consistent training or you’ve done extensive training to focus the impact of your punches on the knuckle of your index finger and middle finger, you’ll probably hit close to what you’re aiming at.

Both of these are the case for me.  I train extensively with my Glocks AND I’ve thrown focused punches for the last two decades.  I’m not sure what WAS natural for me before all of this, but by now, my arms, hands, and muscles are hard-wired to throw out my fist in a two knuckle punch…and line up the sights perfectly on my Glocks.

But if you’re used to punching traditionally with all 4 knuckles (as most people are), there’s a good chance that your shots with a Glock will go high and to the left when you’re under stress. Incidentally, this matches up with analysis of over a decade of after action reports of officer involved shootings. In one semi-famous case, officers fired more than 30 rounds at a bad guy firing back at them IMMEDIATELY ON THE OTHER SIDE OF A BED! Nobody was seriously injured in this demonstration of instinctive shooting.

So, how do you take this fascinating bit of trivia and turn it into something other than simple fodder for debate with your gun buddies?

The answer depends to a certain extent on which of the following two groups you find yourself in…

1. Those who have Glocks.

2. Those who don’t.

If you have a Glock, go through the following drill. You can do it either while practicing dry fire after following all necessary steps to make sure that you do NOT have a loaded weapon or you can do it with a loaded weapon at a range.

1. With your firearm at your side or holstered, pick a target that is 5-10 feet away.

2. Close your eyes.

3. “Punch” your firearm at where you think the center of the target is. Use the same stance that you’d use if you were punching a heavy bag. This probably means that your feet are slightly more than shoulder width apart, your dominant leg is back slightly, your weight is equally distributed between your legs, knees bent slightly, shoulders rolled forward and closer to your target than your hips are.

4. Open your eyes and see where you are, in fact, aiming. Try to keep your firearm exactly where it is and move your eyes as necessary to line up with the sights to see where you’re aiming.

5. Either mark where you were aiming with a pen, shoot (if safe), or make a mental note and repeat 5-10 times.

Wherever the majority of your rounds land will roughly be your natural point of aim and will probably be what your groupings would look like in a high-stress lethal force encounter unless you regularly do firearms training under stress.

If the group is tight, but high and to the left, then you’re going to want to either do a significant amount of dry fire / airsoft training / range time to change your natural grip angle to match the Glock or find a handgun that matches your grip angle.

If you don’t really have a group and the shots are random then you are going to want to do a significant amount of dry fire / airsoft training / range time to establish a consistent natural point of aim.

The next time that you go shopping for a pistol, whether it’s a Glock or not, I suggest that you go through the 5 step process above with as many firearms as you can and pick the firearm that best matches your instinctive grip angle. In other words, instead of picking a cool gun, and then figuring out how to get good with it, pick a gun that compliments your natural ability.

Regardless of whether you have a handgun that matches your current natural grip angle, the more you train with your firearm and the more stressful your training, the more likely you’ll be to hit what you need to if you find yourself under high stress in a lethal force encounter.

This drill can be particularly useful when working with new shooters, as it helps you stack the deck in their favor for having positive experiences early on with shooting.

You may be asking yourself what I’m going to do with my 5 guns. On one hand, I train extensively with both my Glocks and with my 1911s (and other firearms based on the 1911 grip angle) and am able to acquire my sights quickly with both grip angles. On the other hand, I know that my skill level would improve faster if I would focus on a single grip angle rather than dividing my training and that I would perform better under extreme stress if I only had one platform that I worked with.  As a result, my Glocks are for “fight’n” and my 1911s are for “fun.”  (If you get the reference, keep the comments G rated 🙂

If you find that your natural punching angle is more of a 4 knuckle punch than a 2 knuckle punch, an option in the Glock “class” that you should consider is the XD. Springfield XDs have most of the strengths of Glocks along with the grip angle of the 1911 AND metal drop-free magazines.

If you’ve gone through the same struggle, please share the rational for your decision by commenting below.

God bless & stay safe,

David Morris

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Vote -1 Vote +1Jeff
April 9, 2012 at 11:04 am

Being a retired police officer of 30 years, I had to transition from a wheel gun to a semi-auto that was supplied by my department. That weapon was the 40 cal. H&K. I was always a marginal shooter with the wheel gun. When I transitioned to the H&K my shooting improved exponentially. I never worried about qualifying. I would go out twice a year and bang, done in one.

Then the dept. made us transition to the 40 cal Glock. What a disaster. Everytime I went to qualify, it was problematic if i would make it, and on several occasions, had to get remedial training. I was not alone in with this predicament. Ever since we transitioned away from the H&K to the Glock, more and more officers that easily qualified, had a difficult time making it.

Having read this article, it now makes sense as to why I had such problems. To compound matters, I am left handed.

I do not believe our instructors are aware of this issue of the increased angle. I wish I had as I would have at least understood why I was shooting so poorly after having done so well for may years with the H&K.

I still hate the Glock.


Vote -1 Vote +1markthemagic
April 15, 2012 at 1:13 pm

I had Glocks for several years, liked them, and shot them well. The only issue I had with them was that when inserting the polymer magazine I did not get a positive click. Even though I had no failure to feed miss-fires due to mags not being fully engaged, it left me a little concerned. At the range I also noticed that aiming was a two step process for me; 1. Draw and extend my arm. 2. Tip the barrel down. Then one day I read about the difference in grip angles with the Glocks and 1911 pistols and decided to do my own experiment with closed eye aiming, similar to that suggested in the article. I found with my Glock my natural aim point (with eyes closed) was always barrel tip up, which would make my shots high. The Springfield XD was the answer for me. The grip angle points true for me naturally and the metal magazines have a reassuring positive click when loaded. Glocks were are good, but XDs are better for me.


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