The most important part of your pistol isn’t the caliber, trigger, sights, slide serrations, ambi-mag release, or any other “feature”. In fact none of these things make you a better shooter. There is only one component on your pistol that is absolutely critical to your effectiveness, the grip.
SMALL FRAME SMALL CALIBER
If you look at modern pistol development over the last 20 years, you will see a major shift away from small-framed, pocket guns, to larger caliber, compact guns. In fact if your grandparents were into guns, chances are your grandmother had a small caliber Derringer or something like it.
Today, it’s pretty well known small caliber guns are not effective for self defense. Ballistically speaking, going lower than a .308 may be more dangerous to the shooter than the assailant. Granted, nobody wants to be shot by anything, but you need stopping power.
But the actual size of your gun really matters. Only recently did pistol manufacturers begin appreciating this truth in their designs. Mainly because they wanted to tap into the female market, but also to innovate smaller frame, larger caliber carry guns.
Today you can get a sub-compact or even a compact gun with a real hand-sized grip in just about any caliber, any frame size. The explosion of popularity of the M&P Sheild or the Sig P365 is a perfect example. But there is also a reason they only come in 9mm in many cases: shooting a sub-compact .45 is quite brutal.
BIGGER GUN SMALLER GRIP
With increased caliber comes increased recoil, which is both frightening to the average shooter and makes it increasingly more difficult to control. So manufacturers are now targeting the optimal grip size to accompany the optimal caliber, and 9mm is the clear winner.
It all really started when Sig and Glock competed for the Army contract a few years ago. Glock presented their 19x, a hybrid of the Glock 19 slide and the 17 grip. Sig presented their first striker fire pistol, the P320. Both 9mm platforms at heart, and both a very different takes on grip.
The problem we had with the 19x wasn’t the upper, it was the lower. The G17 is awesome, don’t get us wrong, and we are huge fans of the G19. But it was just more of the same from Glock. Very little innovation.
Not only that, but the static grip size of the 19x made the gun unapproachable by many shooters. The G17 grip is a monster in terms of fit to most people, and as such, it didn’t catch-on. I sold mine within a month.
But Sig had a different idea. Retain the compact 4” slide like the G19, but provide the ability to modify the grip size as well. They weren’t adding back straps or grip enhancers, they proposed a completely modular grip. For under $50 you could swap your Medium grip, what comes standard, with a Small or Large grip frame. Making it ideal for different sized shooters.
GRIP MEETS FORM
But comparing one gun to another isn’t usually fair unless you understand the design that drove the product. Some would say the blocky Glock grip design is intentional, allowing you to grip better. Objects with corners are much easier to grip and than something rounded. But they even went away from finger grooves in an attempt to appease smaller handed shooters. And a lot of shooters simply looked for alternatives.
What resulted was an industry of pistol manufacturers who began to focus more on their grips. Now just about every grip looks like the M&P Sheild, like a smooth Corvette with long curves. Except for Glock. Will they will slowly die on that hill or break with tradition?
The grip designs in the past 5 years have been a game changer for new shooters. Put a P320 into the hands of a new shooter and you can immediately see all the nuances that make it work so well. Not to mention the P320 grip feels amazing.
The point is you must have a grip that fits your hand. Too small and you will find it difficult to place your finger in the trigger frame. It will also be difficult to properly grip the pistol with both hands. Too large and your trigger finger will tend to hook the trigger which is the number one cause of accuracy fail. And even though you have a lot of grip to hold onto, that doesn’t increase your ability to effectively maintain recoil.