Autopistol Grip Angle

What grip angle is best?


Gary Marbut, president
Montana Shooting Sports Association

It's common for new shooters in my handgun classes to ask me, "Which is better, a 1911 or a Glock?" Or,
"What is the best grip angle for an autopistol?"

One of the primary differences among modern autopistols is grip angle - the angle between the sight plane and the grip.  There are generally two different grip angles available, which for the sake of this discussion we will call the 1911 grip angle and the Glock grip angle.  The 1911 grip angle (all 1911 variants, Springfield XD, etc.) is more nearly square to the slide (about 18 degrees off square), while the Glock grip angle (Luger, Steyr M series, H&K P7, Ruger Mk II, etc.) is more raked (about 22 degrees off square).

Neither grip angle is inherently better than the other, but some peoples' hand and wrist anatomy just works better with one angle and some with the other.

Some people may have a strong preference for one type or brand of pistol or another.  This is likely because the grip angle of that type or brand is more natural for that person.  The person may say, "(That type of pistol) doesn't point well."  That's probably true for that person, because of their unique anatomy.  And, a person's strong personal bias for or against a certain type or brand of pistol is important.  If the person likes a pistol, they'll probably perform better with it.

A person can learn to operate either grip angle.  But, all else being equal, it's easier to learn to shoot well, especially shooting well under stress, if a person uses a pistol with a grip angle most natural to their unique anatomy.  So, a person is likely to benefit from first determining which grip angle is more natural for herself or himself, and then shopping among pistols offering that grip angle.

Here is how a person can make that determination (applying all standard rules of gun safety - pistol unloaded but assumed loaded, finger out of trigger guard, etc.):  Hold either a 1911 or a Glock in a two-handed, low ready hold, pistol close to the abdomen, slide level, muzzle pointing straight downrange (not down at the ground or floor), with the top of the pistol at the elevation of the bottom of the rib cage.  Pick out an imaginary target down range - something to focus on - a spot on the wall, a light switch, etc.  The target should be about the level of the tester's eyes.

Close your eyes.  With your eyes closed, push the pistol straight out to point at the target you previously selected.  When the pistol is fully extended in an good isosceles position, elbows just slightly flexed, open your eyes and notice where the sights point - high, on-target, or low.

If the Glock grip angle is most natural for you and you are holding a 1911, the sights will point below your imaginary target.  If a 1911 grip angle is most natural for you and you are holding a Glock, the sights will be aligned high, above your target.  Whichever grip angle is most natural for you, when you are holding a pistol of that grip angle and you open your eyes, the sights should be aligned at the right elevation for the imaginary target you selected for the test.

It works better to not to fight what is the anatomically-natural grip angle for you.  Beginning with a pistol of the more natural grip angle for any individual shooter will allow faster learning and more accurate shooting under stress.

Good shooting!