A Nurse with a Gun

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Over the years, I have heard gunnies say some stupid things. One of the dumbest statements I have heard gunnies declare is that hammerbite with the 1911 is a myth. I hear this over and over again from people who adopt a low grip on the 1911. They often go on to talk about hitchhiking and opposable thumbs in an attempt to insinuate that a man who grips his pistol as high as possible is somehow wrong for doing so. Here is an example:
People who THINK they get hammer bite on a 1911, actually get cut by a sharp edge on a grip safety. The correct solution to that one would appear to be to break out a honing stone, not to put on a bigger aftermarket part that adds nothing but bulk to the weapon. Look at the mil spec 1911 with the hammer in the cocked position. Its impossible to get "hammer bite" from it, unlike say, the Hi Power, which actually extends out and down PAST the tang.
Others theorize on the cause of hammerbite with no empirical evidence to speak of.
Also, I'd bet the term "hammer bite" is a "catch-all" for cutting, bruising, etc the hand. Meaning, a lot of people will cut and bruise themselves because of the frame/beavertail edges impacting your hand on recoil and might call it hammer bite. It's not the hammer, but the effect is the same...basically.
Apparently these folks have held a pistol loosely and have felt the unrestrained recoil. It is impossible for a tightly held handgun to impact your hand, just as a properly shouldered shotgun will not bruise your shoulder. Saying that hammerbite is a myth because it never happened to you is like saying bones don't break because you never had a fracture. It's incredibly egocentric and ignorant. Here's another statement fresh off a forum:
I would probably pay cash money to see anybody get "hammer bite" with a stock 1911 when shooting it with their thumb DOWN in the proper position. If you stick your thumb in the air like you are hitchhiking when trying to shoot so you can imitate some idiotic gamesman who never survived a gunfight in his life, that's YOUR fault, not the guns.
Yep, there goes that hitchhiking accusation, and a little name calling tossed in for good measure. Is my thumb pointing at the clouds in any of these photos? Arrogance based on erroneous presumptions often makes the speaker appear more ignorant than he would like. This quote though, is my favorite.
I have loose fleshy hands that are on the large side, and the only gun I ever got hammer bite from was a Model 29 with stock factory target grips. But then again, I realize that I have an opposable thumb and what nature intended it for. Grasping, not hitching a ride...
How the hell does a person get hammerbite shooting a revolver? Oh, and there goes that opposable thumb thing again.

I have shot a Sistema in my usual high shooting grip and taken the photos above for one reason. Proof of hammerbite's existence and it's cause. In the first photo, the hammer can be seen pinching the flesh of my hand. In the second photo, with the pistol moved forward, the impression of the grip safety can be seen with no abrasions present. The pinched flesh wound can be seen immediately proximal to the grip safety impression.

These same people who deny the existence of hammerbite hate the beavertail grip safety. They declare that it is a trendy contrivance not needed by real men who know how to grip a handgun properly. Bullshit. The proper way to hold a handgun is to get the web of your hand as high as possible behind the bore axis. Doing so changes the recoil impulse from a lever action to a push straight back. The recoil of the properly held pistol is unable to act as a lever against the wrist. Follow-up shots come quicker, and they are more accurate. A beavertail grip safety effectively eliminates hammerbite, allowing the pistol to be held as high as possible, giving better control and enhancing accuracy. The beavertail grip safety is a simple, elegant, and permanent solution. It adds no bulk, and it allows the pistol to be shot without pain for a long period of time. The beavertail grip safety solves the hammerbite problem. It works. Period.

Failure to recognize this and calling the beavertail grip safety trend chasing is what psychologists call projection. That's right. The insistence on a GI style grip safety is as trendy and fashionable as the desire for a beavertail ever was. Those who refuse to accept the reality of hammerbite also lack the insight to see their advocacy of the GI grip safety for what it truly is. Reverse elitism. Snobbery. It is true that some pistols look better with a GI grip safety. I keep a GI grip safety and a Rowell hammer on my Series 70 Commander because I like the way it looks. Yes, the rounded Commander hammer occasionally nips my flesh. I like the looks of the GI grip safety on my Commander, so I keep it. That's fashion. If I were to install a beavertail grip safety, I would be responding to my needs to shoot this pistol more effectively. That is form following function, not fashion.

There are those who will say that all a person needs to do to eliminate hammerbite is trim the hammer. They would be right. I have done this on pistols. Still, there is a huge advantage for many people, as I stated above, to adopting a high grip on a 1911. The thumb sitting on top of the thumb safety provides leverage to prevent what little muzzle flip is left after raising the web of the hand behind the bore axis. The pistol pushes against the web of the hand rather than levering against the wrist. As a result, the sights stay closer to the target, and the target is reacquired quicker. That is not inconsequential. The improvement is measurable in split times. Some beavertail grip safeties get the hand higher on the pistol than others. I prefer the Ed Brown grip safety. It gets my hand a full quarter inch higher on the pistol than a stock grip safety. It also prevents hammerbite. That is not fashion. That is form following function. That is the evolution of design and an improvement worth keeping. All else is just fashion.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Preach it! Can I get an A-MEN?

It's hard to not develop a flinch when your gun is drawing blood every round!

I can do without ambi-safties and extended slide stops, but I need a good beavertail on my 1911. I also like a nice shelf to park my thumb and sights I can see.

Cocking serrations on the front of the slide however, those are pure fashion. ;)

8:30 PM  
Blogger Sterno said...

How did he get hammerbite from a revolver?

8:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Sterno:
Apparently, as suspected, these people are either full of S$(% or are, indeed, the ones who do not know how to keep their hands where thy belong on a handgun. Can't say I am surprised, he gunforums are full of people who don't know jack.

In addendum to pdb:

I like a bit of a beveled magazine well too. :)

8:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By all means a 1911 in my hands NEEDS a beavertail. I wouldn't own one without it.

Now, if only I could find a way to mount a beavertail on other guns I buy that need them.

Sig 230 that gives me slide bite (I've had it from a Makarov, too) and my Cougar L which bites the hand that holds it.

10:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have never gotten hammerbite from my 1911, but that doesn't mean that others don't. It bothers me that people would get so up in arms about a small peice of metal. Don't these people have better things to do with their time?

10:39 PM  
Blogger Syd said...

A-MEN. I have photos just like Xavier's of bloody little wounds on the back of my hand from being bit. I will say that some pistols do it, and some don't. Small differences in the geometry of the the hammer and grip safety seem to make a difference, at least for me. My unmodified SA Mil-Spec has never bitten, but I have shot others that have. There is also the phenomenon of the sharp edges of the grip safety, especially on Commanders, cutting the hand in a way that looks like hammer bite, but really isn't. That's happened to me too, and switched to an extended beavertail for that gun.

Good article.



10:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got bit once..somehow. I have been shooting my govt model style grip safety 1991A1 for more than a decade using a high grip over the safety. That was the way I was taught when I traded my glock for the Colt.

I'm the guy who thought beavertails were for quickdraw protection from holster grabs, not from HB. I wouldn't be so arrogant as to say you should hold your thumb under the safety because you aren't supposed to.

11:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've had hammerbite from mil-spec 1911's. I've never had hammerbite from ANY 1911 with both a beavertail grip and a commander hammer. But then what do I know, I'm just a guy who has owned half a dozen different 1911's.

1:34 AM  
Blogger Porta's Cat said...

you can imitate some idiotic gamesman who never survived a gunfight in his life,

Am I the only one who is still scratching his head over the various implications of this one? How do you "not survive" more than one?

7:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never suffered from the bite myself, but I've seen plenty of people that have over the years. I did loose my right thumbnail to a 1911 20 years ago. It took several months to grow back to normal. Needless to say, I learned to be mindfull of my thumb placement after that.

7:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also am I the only one that hates the beavertail that comes on the Colts from the factory? I wish I had the knowledge and ability to change it to a Ed Brown as opposed to having to send it to someone.

8:24 AM  
Blogger Keith Walker said...

I've got a Springfield XD and think that a beaver tail may help control muzzle flip. Any ideas?

8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I've got a couple of different 1911's, with and without beavertail grip safeties. Since I have extremely small hands, I've never had a problem with hammer-bite using any of them.

However, I do have a complaint regarding the latest trend in grip safeties, the "memory" or "speed" bump at the bottom of the grip safety (as illustrated in the left-hand .45 in your photo). Shooting a 1911 equipped with that type of grip safety leaves me with one heck of a sore spot right at the base/pad of my thumb.

This bothered me to the point that I sent my Springfield stainless "loaded" model back to the factory to have them fit a non-bump grip safety for me. Much, much nicer for me to shoot comfortably. I take it you've never had that particular experience?

10:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This discussion isn't about assertions and refutations, it's about religion. When you criticise the 1911, in the form conceived on the mountain and delivered to the U.S. Army, for anything you denigrate their g-d, the intelligent designer, J.M.B.

11:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After 50 rounds from a GI-spec grip safety, my skin is the slightest bit red. After 300, it's bleeding.

BHPs bite even worse, though.

I also heartily concur with blackwing1 - those memory bumps are a PITA for my hand after awhile, and they sure as heck don't seem to do anything.

3:47 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

As a matter of fact, I know exactly what you are talking about. You will see in my Sw1911 range report that I describe that same problem. Strangely the Brown speedbump doesn't bother me, but my preference is stilla plain non-speedbumped grip safety. Brownell's quit stocking the plain Ed Brown safety though......

3:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Xavier you can still get the Ed Brown safety without a memory bump direct from Ed. I just checked.

5:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to know how anyone is able to grip a 1911 high enough to be behind the bore? Hmm, cover the hammer with the web of the hand? I want to watch. MSH

6:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


The point is to get your hand as close to the line of the bore as possible, it doesnt have to be directly behind to make a difference.

2:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm coming at this from the standpoint that I've never understood why anybody would try to shoot a 1911 pistol with their thumb hiked up over the safety lever instead of beneath it in the lower position that comes naturally. I am one of those people who always assumed the "high thumb position" was invented by some magazine writer who felt the need to prove his cleverness by advocating technique so screwball that nobody else would ever think of it, and then it somehow became fashionable -- in the face of all common sense.

I'll give Xavier credit for this. . . This is the first place where I've seen any kind of rational explanation, that I could understand, for the high thumb position. And I'll grudgingly admit, if you are in competition and the clock shows you are shooting faster that way, I can't blame you for using it.

However. . . I still remain unconvinced that the high thumb position could have any practical use in any venue outside of competition. It's awkward and unnatural, it compromises your grip on the pistol, it enables hammer bite to occur (as Xavier documented), and it can allow the grip safety to engage when you are trying to shoot. Even if it's a valid trick for shooting games, it's still nothing more than a trick for shooting games.

Incidentally, it nags at me that every 1911 maker today puts on an extended thumb safety and standard slide release. I've had all mine replaced with a standard thumb safety and extended slide release. The latest screwball fashion seems to be "experts" telling people never to use the slide release as a slide release, but instead to use their weak hand and tug on the slide when they want to release it. I've yet to hear any explanation for that technique that makes sense to me either.

9:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Slide cuts from a Makarov? Now that's a high grip! Unless it was one of those "polish makarovs" that I have been seeing alot lately (which are not makarovs, but are always called a makarov because it says 9mm Makarov on the slide in large lettering). They are actually a Polish P64 Radom, and they have nasty slide bite if you grip them even a little high. I have one, great gun other than that.
I used to have a Keltec P40 that drew blood from my trigger finger because there was a sharp edge somewhere near the trigger guard that my finger was hitting on recoil. I never figured that one out, I sold it to fund another gun I needed.

5:14 PM  
Blogger wjkuleck said...

A little history here.

Those whose first M1911 wsa a 1911—not a 1911A1—can speak authoritatively of the very real phenomenon of hammer bite. The combination of short M1911 grip tank with the long M1911 hammer creates a condition where a high hold does indeed put the web of the thumb between the bottom of the hammer spur and the top of the grip safety tang.

I have the scars from 40 years ago.

And yes, this was true hammer bit, not sharp edges of a grip safety or any other reason. You coudd in fact "bite" the web simply by cycling the slide.

Where one puts one's thumb can be influenced by the size of one's hand. Generalization in these matters fo personal configuration is most unwise :-) .

4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I almost didn't comment, but I am astounded to think anyone would refute the existence of 1911 hammer bite. Anyone who spent anytime arround Camp Perry in the 70's or 80's (when I was a kid, I'm relatively young for a foggie) would know that its not a myth, it was an hourly occurance then. I'd bet it actualy started several of the modern trends besides beavertails. Strip of those fancy, nancy boy shooting gloves off the otherwise grizzled men at the range and you might just find some bite scars. Of course the younger guys, well, if someone sold a "Tatical" Minivan they'd be begging the wife for one.


2:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh and you get hammer bite from a revolver by trying to fan it, or perhaps some other jackassery.

2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

can you put an ed brown beavertail on a springfield GI45 without welding?

10:54 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

You can. The tops of the frame tangs will be just a little off. You will have to do a bit more work to blend things, top and bottom, and it still won't be as pretty, but you can fit the part.

5:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have large hands just like my dad and never have any problem with hammer bite, yet my dad will have a bloody mess whenever we go shooting our colts. The only difference between us is where the gun feels right in our hands. The only time I've ever experienced it myself was with a hi-power, they are not made for big hands at all.

12:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If anyone has been shooting 1911s for any length of time; say 30 years+, I almost guarentee you'll see a small scar between the thumb and index finger. As to contol a 1911 the best one should try to have the shooting hand as high upon the frame as possible. Unfortunately, if one shoots a 1911without a "beaver tail", and takes a "high hold", the shooter stands a pretty good chance of being pinched by the hammer and frame during recoil. That's hammer bite.

1:15 PM  

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