Coming To Grips With Grips

If grip size and shape are not important, we would not have been adapting them for as long as police have been carrying guns.

We started to think about such things a lot more when polymer framed pistols became the handguns of choice in police service. Glock has the distinction of revolutionizing the law enforcement handgun world, bringing to it the ruggedness, reliability and cost-effectiveness of their now-classic design. Since its introduction over 25 years ago, the Glock pistol has found its way into the majority of police holsters. There was, however, a problem with the Glock design. The molded polymer grip was not removable, interchangeable or adaptable to different hand sizes and shapes. It is what it is, or, at least, it was what it was.

Over the years, Glock changed the texture on the grip and added finger grooves, but the critical dimension of trigger reach remained the same. With all of the different hand sizes now prevalent in the police ranks, agencies began to reevaluate the effect of grip ergonomics on handgun shooting. So did Glock's competitors. While such companies as Beretta, SIG Sauer and Smith & Wesson continued to sell pistols with metal frames and removable/replaceable grips, it was clear that the future was going to be polymer. So, how do you compete with the 800 pound Glock gorilla?

One important way is to make a gun that fits more hands. It is not a coincidence that all of the major players in the police handgun market now make polymer-framed pistols that have adaptable grips. Each goes about it in their own way, some examples of which are shown in the accompanying photos. The important thing is that a need existed and it was filled with some creative engineering. Even Glock realized that changes were necessary. They started with the SF (Short Frame) version of their large frame .45 and 10mm pistols, but the pressure was on to do something about the standard 9mm/.40/.357 models. Voila! Glock recently announced their Gen4 framed pistols, with interchangeable backstrap overlays.

It isn't possible to summarize all of the different guns in this short column. The various reviews of police handguns here at, and elsewhere, give plenty of coverage of what each make and model brings to the table. What is important is that it is being addressed effectively. If grip size and shape are not important, we would not have been adapting them for as long as police have been carrying guns. The fact that the newest designs are addressing that need is a reflection on the ingenuity and dedication of the firearms designers and manufacturers. Sure, they want to make money selling their guns, but the users are the ultimate beneficiaries. Police personnel again have choices that directly affect their ability to safely, accurately and effectively use their guns, whether for training or protecting themselves and the public. Another lesson from the good old days.

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