Friday, April 13, 2012


It's kind of funny, in a suicidal kind of way, the kind of things that shooters will do on their way to becoming "Competitors".

Last weekend, for about the tenth time in the past year, I watched a student in the "Introduction to USPSA" class wrap his weak-hand thumb over the top of his strong-hand thumb.

He was shooting a 1911-style pistol ... you know, the kind where the slide rocks back every time you pull the trigger? And his off-hand thumb was splayed right below where the slide could rip that sucker off!

I'm asking if you can get the picture, here. Because from my (Range Officer) point of view, this looks like a recipe for disaster. So when I saw this Good Ol' Boy gripping his pistola that way, I hollered "STOP!"

Ol' Vern, he didn't do nothing, but he didn't change his grip none, either.

So I hollered "STOP!" a couple or four more times, until Vern looked back at me like a Coon Dog when you holler about the same damn thing, y'know?

It's like you holler your lungs out on a Chocolate Lab, and he's so pleased to please you he looks back, lays his tongue over his bottom teeth, and pants at you, just so show you how happy he is you're talking to him even though he's got no IDEA why you're talking so loud.

Crap-o Crap-o Doo Dah .. these are the moments when you realize how GLAD you are that at least you've taught the concept of the "STOP" command!

In case you are not intrinsically familiar with the range commands, Stop means that if you are the competitor .. when you hear the word spoken in the "Command Voice" you stop whatever you are doing and wait for the Range Officer to tell you what to do next. It doesn't matter who yells STOP ... you just stop!

So, while we "assume" that all of the people who go through the "Introduction to USPSA" course, the minimum discipline which is established during the classroom phase is that when someone-one says "STOP", the shooter STOPS!


The situation was, the shooter (I had never met him before, and had certainly never seen him shoot) was laying his weak-hand thumb over his strong-hand wrist while he was trying to shoot his semi-automatic pistol ... the mechanism of which involved slinging the slide back over his hand every time he pulled the trigger.

Now, if that thumb is situated low enough on his strong-hand wrist, there's no problem; plenty of room for the slide to rack back on every shot, and miss his weak-hand thumb.

The guy has used this wimpy, unhelpful, dangerous grip for (who knows HOW long?), and he has no idea why why it's not a Good Thing to do.

As Chill Wills says in the movie McClintock:

People, People, People!

Give me your attention here.

I know that you've been shooting your 1911-style pistola like this for YEARS, and it has never caused you any problems.

How can I say this?

I don't give a SHIT what you've been doing for years!

Don't do it HERE!

The thing is, we're trying to teach you how to shoot competitively, safely. All the stuff you've been doing without hurting yourself? It doesn't mean SQUAT. When you begin trying to shoot, better, faster, you forget about safety and you fall back to your old (bad) habits .... you put yourself at risk.

I don't want to see it, and I for sure don't want to be part of the squad who is obliged to chase all over the bay to find the parts of your left thumb which have been splattered all over the North 40 because YOU think it's okay to put it behind the slide of your semi-automatic pistol!


This is not the first time I have seen a "New Shooter" try this really really STUPID way to support your shooting hand. And every one who has done so, I've either corrected it to the point where I'm sure he will NEVER do this again, or I've stopped him (as well as I could) from competing in a USPSA match.

You want to know why I'm opposed to this technique? It's because if you get all excited in a COMPETITION environment and forget how you are supposed to hold your pistol while you are shooting ... there are three consequences, in order of escalating consequences:
  1. the slide will take the skin off your thumb;
  2. the slid will take the bone off your thumb;
  3. the slide will take your entire freaking THUMB offa your hand!

None of these are A Good Thing. But I can't convince you of this, during the class. Why? Because you've been holding your pistol with your weak-hand thumb on the back of your strong-hand wrist for YEARS, and it has never caused you any problem!

When I tell you not to do that ... you ignore me.

Oh, sure, you (talking to the student/shooter) have been doing that thumb-over-wrist grip-thing for YEARS, and it has never hurt you. But you have not been shooting in COMPETITION, which is a whole other thing!

But do you listen to me? Sure, for the duration of the class.

Am I confident that you have learned from my advice?
NO! You think I'm an idiot, so why should you listen?

Question: why are you taking the class? Because you have to do that to shoot in competition? And why have I told you so many times that the most important thing we are trying to teach you is SAFETY?

You get all flummoxed in competition, and you do not always get the exact perfect grip ... because you're trying to cut down the time you're spending on non-shooting moments. Just as I have taught you, right?

And you grip your right hand just a LITTLE bit higher, and the slide takes your thumb off your hand, and when the Insurance Adjuster comes around at the Emergency Room and asks you how the HELL you blew your thumb off, you tell him "Hey! I took the training course, and my instructor never told me that was a dangerous practice!"

Guess what?

It is dangerous, and if you can't beat your bad habits, I'm not going to let you compete in USPSA matches!

NOBODY flunks the "Introduction to USPSA" class, unless they have shown that they cannot handle a firearm safely. It's not just about keeping the muzzle pointed safely downrange. It's also about ensuring that you won't hurt yourself.

I don't really care if you go to the range and hold the gun in an unsafe manner, and frankly, I don't really care if you hurt yourself because you haven't a CLUE about what "gun safety" means as long as you don't endanger yourself.

But I've seen three different people try to hold a pistol in this manner (with your thumb in the way of the reciprocating slide), and I will no longer allow ANYONE to complete the "Introduction to USPSA" course until I'm confident that you not only know why this is an unsafe act, but you are not going to repeat the egregious action .... even under the stress of competition. (Well, none of the other two people actually went to a match, but you may ignore that precedence, and I can't allow that.)

YOU may be willing to shoot that way, but I'm not willing to allow you to shoot that way. Hell, I might be squadded with you. I might be the guy who has to put a tourniquet on your arm, so you don't bleed out.

I'm not "comfortable" with that. So don't do it. Either learn to shoot safely, or don't shoot in competition.

It's your choice. But don't learn it on MY time!