New Tech Improves
Handgun Handling


There’s a reason why Smith & Wesson’s “EZ” series has been a top-selling line — its
easy-to-work slide assuages fears for those who may not have the hand strength to
operate a semi-auto platform.

It’s a given most defensive firearms have historically been designed by and for males. There have been recent developments which improve the situation. Let’s remember according to the latest statistics (using as a source), the average adult American male stands just over 5’9″ tall and weighs fully 198 lbs., while the average adult American female is just under 5’4″ and weighs just over 170 lbs.

That said, though, one of the strongest recent trends in handgun development has been more compact guns, which often have commensurately shorter trigger reach. It’s important because this dimension seems to be the single most important one in determining how a pistol or revolver fits a customer’s hand.

”We can’t argue the fact modern ammunition developments have made medium calibers (such as 9mm) more effective than they ever were before.“

Another contemporary development is ammo improvement has closed the “power gap” between larger, harder-kicking calibers and medium-caliber rounds with less recoil. The latter, of course, favor the smaller person. There are many well-credentialed experts who now maintain there is no practical difference in “stopping power” between a 9mm, .45 or .357 — assuming the best ammunition is used. Whether or not you or I agree with this, and whether or not it’s true, we can’t argue the fact modern ammunition developments have made medium calibers (such as 9mm) more effective than they ever were before.

Much the same is true of the .380 caliber, where ballistic tests of rounds like the latest Federal hollowpoints and reconfigured bullets such as are found in the Black Hills HoneyBadger show increased the destructive potential of the .380.

The Custom Gun

For customers who don’t mind paying more, customized or factory-custom guns can be the answer for any client who has some difficulty in manipulating and shooting handguns.

When testing the Langdon Tactical Technologies (LTT) customized GLOCK 19 pistol recently, I was struck by a comment on the popular site by my friend Tim Chandler, a top-flight instructor in Virginia. He told of a new female student he felt would be particularly well-served by a gun like the Langdon. She had been having trouble with her new striker-fired 9mm carry pistol.

Chandler wrote: “I borrowed the gun from her and pressed the trigger and instantly understood why she was struggling. The trigger press was like dragging an anvil through gravel. I took the gun apart, blasted it with some aerosol cleaner and applied a generous portion of Amsoil’s gun lube and that made it better, but the gun itself has problems.”

This veteran instructor continued, “She shot my G17 … which is set up really, really well. Naturally she loved it and asked if she could get a GLOCK her size set up the same way. ‘Yes, all you need to do is change out this list of parts’ — and this is where she lost interest. She doesn’t want to take the thing apart and replace fire-control bits because she’s not comfortable she can work on the gun without harming the safety or reliability of it. She didn’t buy a gun to get a build-it-yourself project.”

He concluded, “A gun LTT sets up for her is enormously attractive. She puts down the money, she gets a gun set up for her that works and has support if there’s an issue.”

Walther CCP M2 — .380

Ruger LCR

Compensating For Lack Of Strength

Many current buyers of both genders are new to guns. Ease of manipulation is not just for women, who generally do have less upper-body strength (but better fine-motor coordination) than their brothers. We also have a lot of older folks who, due to current social conditions, are buying guns for the first time. If physical manipulation of things like auto-pistol slides becomes a problem, we have answers for that too, and some of those also come from recent trends.

Let me emphasize: These hand strength/manipulation issues aren’t just limited to females or the elderly. I’ve met a retired big-city cop who towers over me but no longer carries autoloaders because severe arthritis has crippled his hands. He now carries a pair of Ruger SP101 revolvers loaded with .38 Special for this reason. (I’d be comfortable having him on my side of a fight anytime; the last time someone tried to murder him, he felled his attacker instantly and fatally with a single double-action shot from his Ruger revolver.)

For these customers, show them the “carry optics option.” Not only do some people shoot better with the red dot optical sight, now small enough for carry pistols — particularly if their vision is such they have trouble with regular iron sights — but carry optics offer another advantage to any customer who is not certain about their physical strength in terms of manipulating a semi-auto pistol.

Because the optical sight rises above the slide, it forms a “shelf” able to be manipulated with the heel of the support hand. The movement resembles an actor in a cowboy movie “fanning” the hammer of a single-action, frontier-style revolver. It requires less hand strength, and really no finger strength at all.

In Hand Or In Safe Better?

We now have a generation of semi-auto pistols expressly designed for easier slide manipulation. Smith & Wesson has been successful in this market with their EZ variation of the M&P pistol in 9mm, .380 and the new 30 Super Carry, ditto Walther with their CCP, first in 9mm and now in .380, as well.

In the Ruger line we find the pioneering LC380 and also the Lite-Rack line of LCP II pistols, the latter chambered for .22 LR. My own LCP-II has proven 100% reliable with CCI Mini-Mag .22 LR ammunition.

No, there are none of us who would recommend .22 rimfire as an appropriate self-defense load against enraged, homicidal 200 lb. men. However, history shows us most armed citizen DGUs (Defensive Gun Usages) end without a round fired when the malefactor realizes he’s about to be shot and has suffered a sudden, acute and potentially fatal “failure of the victim selection process.”

And I think we’d all agree: If shots do need to be fired to save innocent lives, a .22 in hand beats the hell out of a .44 Magnum at home in a locked gun safe.

A double-action revolver with swing-out cylinder won’t be obsolete as long as there are people who can’t confidently operate a semi-auto. Weak hands create this situation, and it means easy double-action trigger pulls and light-kicking loads are the order of the day.

In today’s market, the current iteration of the Colt Cobra and the Ruger LCR seem to have the easiest triggers. In .38 Special ammunition, the lightest kicking load is the 148-grain target wadcutter, endorsed for self-defense in small guns of that caliber by authorities like Chuck Haggard.

The answers are there. So, too, are customers — hungry for the confidence of self-defense

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