I taught a lot of private handgun lessons over the past two weeks, and I wanted to share some of the observations and lessons learned from those classes, which I taught at KR Training’s A-Zone Range facility. Private lessons are available, by appointment, on most weekdays and weekday evenings. Often these take the form of private versions of our regular group classes, refresher lessons on group course material, or coaching to get graduates of those courses tuned up and ready for the next course in the series.
HAND STRENGTH AND FINGER SIZE ISSUES
Multiple students had challenges with lack of hand strength and small hands. Most of the time, I strongly recommend against pistols in 380 caliber, and against the idea of planning on thumb-cocking a double action revolver in a defensive shooting situation. However: I had situations occur during lessons where both of those things turned out to be what produced the best results with students.
I had a student with short fingers: not unusual. She was able to shoot both the 9mm Shield and Glock 42, but gun fit on the 42 allowed better trigger finger placement because of the 42’s shorter trigger reach. We ran multiple drills using both guns, and her scores with the G42 were better. It wasn’t hand strength, nor any aversion to recoil. In the end, ability to get hits has to come first before caliber or capacity, so I ended up recommending the G42.
Grip strength was an issue for one student that could not work the slide on his Walther PPK, and could not handle the double action first shot trigger. As is very common with untrained shooters that buy DA/SA style guns, he had not practiced with the DA trigger prior to the lesson, only the single action trigger, and had not been told by the gun salesman that the gun was not safe to carry with the hammer back (had to be decocked to carry.) We tried a variety of 9mm pistols but based on hand strength issues, the little G42 was once again the gun that worked best.
The final case study was an older student with limited hand strength and a mild tremor in the dominant hand. That student tried a variety of guns but ended up shooting best with their own steel framed double action revolver that was thumb-cocked for each shot (S&W model 36). The student’s hand strength was low enough that even the G42’s slide was a challenge. At the end of the lesson I suggested the student try switching hands, shooting the gun two handed but using the left (tremor-less) as the dominant hand. I am hoping for a report back from the student on whether that worked better or worse.
A side note: New York’s recently proposed “Child Operated Firearm” bill, mandating a 10 pound double action only trigger pull on all firearms, would effectively disarm several of my recent students, as they would be physically unable to fire a pistol with a trigger pull that heavy.
Many of these cases served as reminders to me that the end goal has to be improving the student’s ability to get timely, effective hits, regardless of the equipment used. For younger, stronger shooters with medium or larger sized hands and good vision, many equipment options are available. Those with less ideal physical characteristics have to work harder, and often have fewer viable choices for gear.