Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 382, August 27, 2006

"Government is not the way to get things done."


Isosceles and Physics and Weaver, Oh My!
by Michael Bradshaw
speaker [at]

Credit The Libertarian Enterprise

Back in April a lady named Kirstin posted the following question on the Claire Files Forum and I decided to help her out:

"My hand is killing me..."
on: April 17, 2006, 11:44:47 AM

Every time I go shooting, I remember why I hate going shooting. I was shooting yesterday, and today my hand is killing me! That muscle right below my thumb feels like someone has been whacking it with a mallet for hours. Is there anything I can do about this?

I sent a message with some ideas, and did not hear any more about it until August 20, when she sent the following message back to me:

Hey, Speaker,

Thanks for the below PM! I went shooting yesterday, shot nearly twice as many rounds as I did in April, and now the day after my hand still feels fine all due to switching from the Isosceles stance to the Weaver stance. Would you mind if I copied and pasted your comments on those stances into a post in the thread I started back in April to share this helpful tidbit? And if you don't mind me posting it, would you like to be credited or remain anonymous?

Thank you so much for your helpful comments!


[And from her after action report on the fourm of the same day:]

I figured that I'd just kind of start implementing all of the suggestions I got one at a time from simplest to most complicated and that way I'd do as little work possible to solve my problem because I am lazy like to be efficient. (I will probably still implement a few of the other suggestions in the future, though.) Turned out to be pretty easy. The first and only thing I had to do was to switch from an isosceles stance to the Weaver stance. Yesterday I fired nearly twice as many rounds, half of them more powerful than last time, and my hand feels fine today.

And here is the original message that Kirstin is referring to:

Hi Kirsten, Apr. 18, 06

Re your thread on hand/thumb pain after shooting a .357 mag. with .38 specials, I have a thought or two.

Total recoil is a function of the energy expended, or half of the bullet + powder mass times the square of the velocity at the muzzle. However, the blows that we feel are a result of the speed of the guns whacking our hands. The heavier the gun, the slower it is going -- and the lighter it is, the faster it hits us. Ouch!

My Smith & Wesson model 625 is a .45ACP revolver built on the N frame (the same as the .44 magnums) with a 5 inch full-underlug barrel that weighs about 3 pounds loaded. It is easy and painless to shoot with full power ammo. My Mom, who was 83 years old at the time, shot it and had fun without pain; and she could not lift it to aim. She had to horse it with both hands up onto a box with a folded towel for a rest. I loaded special low-power ammo for her, but it still lifted off the towel a bit. She used the Weaver Stance.

I wonder how much your gun weighs? If it is a snubby or has an alloy (aluminum) frame or both it may be too light for the ammo, and so kick too hard. For example Smith & Wesson has a very light alloy .357, if I remember, that would kick like hell. When I shoot my American Derringer Model-1 in .45ACP, which weighs just one pound empty, I must use light bullets and download it 25% below maximum. It still stings my hand but I can just control it that way in the Weaver Stance, so that is my combat load. I use a 150 grain cast bullet and 6 grains of HP-38 powder, while the manual lists 8 grains of powder as maximum for that combination. When I tried 7 grains of powder it hurt my hand severely and I could not control the gun. Rabbi Mermelstein tried it with two of his standard loads and it recoiled up to the vertical in his hand both times. The Rabbi is an expert who chews the bull's eye out of his targets with a 1911 and hits 6 inch steel plates at 50 yards with his S&W .44. I lost the bet. He said "no, thanks" to any more shooting with a one-pound .45ACP.

If your hand is small for the grip you may be rotating your hand around the grip to reach the trigger so that it hits square on the thumb muscle. I have to do that with my big S&W (or slide my hand up to the bulge of the frame) and a little bit with the 1911, as I have small hands. With the Derringer the grip is so small that I can set the center of the frame into the space between my thumb muscle and the bases of the fingers; right on the crease area of my hand. That way the thumb muscle does not get compressed.

What stance are you using?

If it is the isosceles (facing the target, both arms straight and elbows locked with the weak hand covering the strong one that is on the grip) you will tend to place the center line of the grip on the center of the thumb muscle as you try to absorb the recoil energy without moving. That will concentrate the energy of recoil into the least amount of time and distance for the greatest possible impact -- and batter you where you said that you are hurting.

If you are using the Weaver Stance you will be able to tuck the center of the grip into the center of the palm of your hand -- so that the center of the gun will line-up with the center of your hand (just inboard of the thumb muscle on the creased-skin area), the center of your wrist, the center of your elbow and the center of your shoulder -- all in a vertical plane. Your strong/shooting arm will be at an angle of about 45 degrees to the way your body is facing and you will be facing about 45 degrees away from the target. Example, I am right-handed; so I take a half-step forward with my left foot and face 45 degrees to the right of the target. Both knees are bent a little and my weight is a little more on my left (target side) foot. My right arm crosses in front of my body toward my left to put the gun on target. Your strong arm will bend at the elbow about 5 degrees {You locked-elbow folks stop screaming! This is about recoil. Alter Ego} and your weak arm will bend at the elbow more like 60 or 80 degrees to support the strong hand with an over-lapping grip just below the trigger guard, which rests on the forefinger of your supporting hand.

On recoil the gun pushes your shooting hand and forearm back as your arm bends at the elbow. In that way you absorb the recoil over several inches of movement instead of trying to do it without moving -- as in isosceles. This spreads the force/energy out in both time and space so the peak pressure on your hand and wrist is much less than if you tried to remain ridged.

You control recoil by applying opposing force between your hands: push forward with your shooting hand (strong side triceps muscle) while pulling back with your supporting hand (supporting side biceps muscle). The opposing force you apply with your arms is just less that the amount that would cause trembling. In this way your supporting hand will not release the shooting hand. It will travel back with the shooting hand in recoil, and the tension of your triceps muscle, which is already applied to the opposing force, will absorb the recoil energy as the gun tries to jump away from the pull of the supporting arm -- and the supporting arm follows it with automatically reduced force.

As the recoil energy is used up in the shooting arm triceps the gun will stop recoiling back and your opposing force muscle tension will automatically return the gun-arm combination to your original on-target position for the next shot. This is not only more comfortable, it is also more accurate on the shot and faster in recovery to your on-target position than any other stance that I know of.

See "Survival Guns" by Mel Tappan, page 363, chapter 10 on skill and the picture sequence of Michael Harries demonstrating the Weaver Stance starting on page 373.

In summation:
1) Your gun could be light for the power of the ammunition.
2) Your grip may be rotated toward your trigger finger, placing the center of the grip on the muscle instead of the center of the hand. (Ouch!)
3) Your stance may be concentrating the force of recoil to a high peak striking pressure on your hand and wrist instead of pushing far and slowly into a nice, big arm muscle.
4) I could be all wet; and none of this will do you any good at all!

All the Best,


Michael Bradshaw is the Speaker (also the Lord-High Janitor) of the United States House of Repeals, Copyright © 2006, Michael T. Bradshaw

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