Book Review (Historical Handgun) – Handbook of Handgunning (Paul Weston, 1968)

I’ve been developing a new course for KR Training, Historical Handgun, that teaches the history & evolution of defensive handgun skills.  Part of that work includes reading as many old books on shooting technique as I can find.

Handbook of Handgunning (Paul Weston, 1968)

Paul Weston joined the New York City Police Force in 1936, was on the NYPD Pistol Team and taught at the NYPD academy.  He served as a Chief Gunnery Specialist during WW2, returned to NYPD after the war, and was a prolific author, writing and revising police textbooks, as well as articles for American Rifleman, Field and Stream, Guns and Hunting and other magazines.

In the late 60’s and early 70’s, he was an Associate Professor of Government and Police Science at Sacramento (California) State College, where he taught a college level course on handgun shooting.  His book “The Handbook of Handgunning” was the reference book for that college course.  Originally published in 1968 it was republished several times, including an updated edition in 1980.

It mainly focused on bullseye competition style shooting (as shown in the classic “hand in pocket” stance on the cover photo), including many hand drawn illustrations.  This one shows proper one handed grip, and aligning the pistol properly with the structure of the hand.  I cover this information when I teach NRA instructors, but it’s not presented as well in the NRA materials as it is in Weston’s book.   Having the gun twisted in the hand, so that the gun is recoiling over the thumb knuckle, is a very common problem we corrected in classes.  It almost always occurs because the shooter has chosen a firearm with a trigger reach too long for their hand, forcing them to twist the gun simply to reach the trigger, with no understanding of the negative consequences this has on their shooting.

As is common with all gun books written prior to the Gunsite/Weaver era, the two handed grip techniques shown depict various awkward and mostly ineffective use of the support hand, with that hand placed too low relative to the barrel, or in some variation of “cup and saucer” with the support hand under the grip.

There’s some discussion of seated and kneeling positions as well.

The proper technique for the “combat crouch” is shown, with a recommendation that the shooter practice their hip shooting by dry firing at a 12″ circular mirror.

A majority of the book’s text covers traditional fundamentals, from the perspective of a bullseye competitor training for a precision shooting match.  Included in the back of the book are Weston’s two written exams used in his college course: one on “area aiming” (using a target about the size of an IDPA 0-ring or USPSA A-Zone instead of a traditional bullseye), and one on trigger motion.  I used Survey Gizmo to put both tests online (since the book is out of print), so readers can take the tests and evaluate their knowledge of what was considered correct in late 1960’s firearms training.

Weston’s Area Aiming Test

Weston’s Trigger Motion Test

I may pick up a copy of the 1980 edition to see how Weston’s curriculum evolved in response to the big changes that happened in handgun technique from 1968-1980, probably the era of greatest technique and training evolution in the past 100 years of handgunning.