Thoughts on the J Frame Grip
The Smith & Wesson pocket protector is not the gun for everyone. Although available in a wide variety of styles and chamberings, more is not always better. As the revolver is chambered in more powerful cartridges, the ability to control it for rapid second or third shots quickly diminishes. The muzzle rise is often extreme and torqued. Returning the sights to target is frequently compromised. In flyweight magic metal versions, the more powerful cartridges are often more than some shooters want to detonate in their mitts more than once. They revert to less powerful loads in an effort to better control the gun. The problem with the Smith & Wesson J frame is often the grip. The rubber boot grips that come on these revolvers, like the older factory wood often leave the shooter's pinky finger dangling uselessly beneath the grip.
Some shooters try to adapt to the recoil by gripping the revolver higher on the grip frame. I have found that this not only allows the gun to squirm around, but worse, it changes the relationship of the trigger finger to the trigger. Instead of pulling the trigger straight back, gripping the gun in this fashion leads to a 45 degree trigger pull and reduced efficiency in double action. The end result is reduced accuracy with a weapon containing only five chances at survival in the cylinder.
Fortunately, the selection of grips can radically change the handling characteristics of the J frame revolver. There are so many styles of grips available that there must be one on the market for every shooter's needs. The problem becomes determining which grip is best for the individual shooter. My friend Stephen A. Camp has penned an excellent piece regarding the differences.
I happen to be a rather large fellow, with big hands and big pockets. For me, a grip which allows me to wrap a third finger around the gun gives the leverage against recoil needed to control the revolver when firing it. My pockets are big enough that concealability is not compromised.
Unlike Mr. Camp, I actually like the Uncle Mike's grips that extend beneath the grip frame. You can see them on the Model 649 in the center, above. The extra finger on the grip helps me control muzzle flip, and the extra material behind the grip frame allows me to control the trigger without a cramped trigger finger. The result is better shooting, for me. Unfortunately, Uncle Mike no longer makes this grip. It can still be found at gun shows and on ebay though.
An extended grip works for me, but every shooter is different. Our hands are as individual as our fingerprints. Among J frame grips, I divide them into two basic types. Forget about wood or rubber, grip adapters and such. Consider how you hold the weapon. I divide J frame grips by how many fingers I can use to hold the gun: three finger grips and two finger grips. Once separated in this way, each type has selections that fill the area behind the trigger guard, and those that leave it open. The factory wood gives a two fingered grip with the area behind the trigger guard left open. Of course, grip adapters such as the Tyler "T" used with factory scabs result in a two finger grip that fills the area behind the trigger guard.
Beyond that, J frame grips either leave the revolver's back strap exposed or they cover it. I have found that people with shorter fingers generally shoot better with an exposed back strap. The covered back strap simply increases the distance between the web of the hand and the trigger. Finally, if a shooter plans to carry a speedloader, they must make certain that the grip they have chosen does not interfere with it's function. Not all grips are speedloader compatible.
There is no doubt that smaller grips help conceal a J frame revolver. The person who chooses to carry such a fighting gun must first consider the reason they carry it though. They carry it to stop a threat, using accurate and effective fire. If their grip choice does not allow them to shoot the gun accurately and quickly, they might be better served with another choice, either in grips or in the gun itself. The J frame only gives five chances before a reload.
Getting a Grip on J Frames by Stephen A. Camp
Labels: Snubbie Revolvers