size/shape of your hand + how to fit checklist + size/shape frame/grip = right gun for you!
Trying different handguns is like trying on shoes: You may wear a size 8, but not all size 8s fit the same — only you know if it’s “right” for you and absolutely love it… or not. Similarly, many different handguns will fit your hand comfortably, but keep searching until you find the “one.” Some people are blessed with being able to pick up any gun and have a perfect fit, but some have to try many different brands. This not a discussion on caliber, which can affect this process if the grip size varies by a single- or double-stack magazine. If you are drawn to a particular manufacture with a handgun in various calibers, be sure to do the checklist with all of them.
Your Hand: Shape and Size
First, let’s identify the shape of your hand. I love this graphic, above, from an article in wikihow on how to read palms. It is a great example of the typical hand shapes, and as a bonus you get a personality assessment!
I did a quick survey of 26 AG & AG Facilitators and asked them to best identify their handshape and then tell us what guns fit them best. Their answers included both concealed carry and full-size pistols. It became clear that they could fit many different guns across the board regardless of the shape of their hand, but ultimately made their decision based on what they loved… hence the shoe reference. The majority of answers were mixed evenly with three main manufacturers: Smith & Wesson, Springfield, and Glock. SIG, Bersa, Beretta Nanos, H&K, Rugers, Browning Hi-Powers, and Walther made a showing as well. Out of the 26 the breakdown is 8- Earth, 7- Air, 6- Water, 5- Fire. Fire was a stand out that Glocks did not fit them.
We did not ask them for the size of their hand, but knowing these women and reviewing their answers on what fit them best for concealed carry vs full size pistols, the answers reinforced that knowing the size and shape of your hand is an important component in finding the correct fit in regards to the size and shape of the frame/grip of the gun.
Now onto the mechanics of it all. **Disclaimer: when fitting yourself for a handgun you must make sure it is unloaded (meaning: magazine out and chamber check to make sure it is empty, ensure there is no ammo present, and maintain a safe direction avoiding pointing at the sales person across the counter or wherever you may be and who you are near).**
- Center the web of your hand into the beaver tail, making sure your wrist is in alignment with your elbow. Make sure the grip is high leaving no space between the web of your hand and frame of gun.
- Place your finger on the trigger to see if you can comfortably reach and achieve the proper placement on the pad of your finger. Ideally you should be able to have enough space to insert a pencil between your trigger finger and the frame of the gun. This gives you “room to work” and have a good trigger pull. **When you are done doing the trigger finger test, remove your finger from the trigger for the rest of the assessment of the gun.**
- If you choose a gun with a safety and/or decocker, does your thumb comfortably rest either above or below it? And do you have the strength in your strong hand thumb to easily engage or disengage the safety lever?
- Can you reach the magazine release and slide stop release with your strong hand thumb? If not it is not a deal breaker, you can use your support hand to manipulate those actions if needed.
- Does your support hand fit well in a high grip with both thumbs pointing down the slide. (See proper grips.)
Understanding these elements will guide you in the handguns you look at and the ones you pass over in the gun case. Once you have tried holding, and if lucky firing a few different handguns you can identify the reasons why you loved it or hated it and put that in your mental filing cabinet. Attending an event with A Girl & A Gun is a perfect opportunity to test drive a variety of guns. Many of our host ranges have an excellent rental program and our members/facilitators usually have a wonderful selection of guns that they are most happy to share!
The Gun: Size and Shape
So let’s take a look at the three most popular pistols from our survey identifying the shape and size of the frame/grips.
- Glock- Nickname “Block” as it is rectangular shallow beaver tail.
- Smith & Wesson M&P has curves in the lower part of the grip and more defined beaver tail.
- Springfield XD has a shape that combines the two above, a rectangular shape grip, but a deep curve at the top defining beaver tail.
When I am working with a new shooter, I start with these three guns. I ask the shooter to hold each gun and take notice of how the gun feels in the hand making sure they are following the checklist above. Once they have selected their most perfect fit, I point out to the shooter the size/shape of their hand and make a correlation to the size/shape of the gun. I have them shoot the gun and make any corrections on marksmanship that may be needed, and then we do a second evaluation to make sure they really did pick the right gun. After this evaluation the shooter can now go shopping confident that she/he knows what to look for and why! A gun that you train with, maintain, and enjoy is better than any gun that never leaves the safe.