by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

I’m enroute to the NRA Annual Meetings in Louisville, KY, today, so I’ll ask you old hands to help out with the questions. I have my laptop with me, but there isn’t a lot of time to be on the internet.

Let’s talk about vertically aligning the pistol with the target. In the last, segment we learned how our stance will keep the pistol within a very narrow segment of lateral space. The key to the vertical is your grip and the grips on the pistol. This is where the less-expensive 10-meter pistols such as the Gamo Compact let you down a little…and the Daisy 747 abandons you entirely. It’s also a huge reason you can’t shoot real 10-meter with guns like the Beeman P17 and the Crosman 1377.

Get a real grip
A real 10-meter pistol has a grip that’s angled so far back that you must rotate your hand forward to align the sights with the target. When you do this, you also lock the muscles in your arm. This is what gives you the steadiness on target vertically. The IZH 46 has some of this rotation; but, on guns that cost a little more, the grips are a huge help in stabilizing the pistol vertically.

When I hold my hand in a relaxed posture, the pistol points upward. The backward rake or slant of the grip determines this.

When the sights are lowered to the target, the wrist locks up. It cannot move much lower than this because of the fit of the grip and the palm shelf.

But wait – there’s more!
Good 10-meter pistol grips also have a small amount of outward slant to their grips, which further forces your arm into a locked position when the sights are on target. A few of the really top ones like the Steyr offer the facility to adjust both this outward slant AND the backward slant, so you can actually adjust the pistol to your body. These pistols turn you into a shooting machine. At almost $2,000, they’re quite expensive, so I’ve never popped for one, despite knowing they could potentially add 10 points to my score in a 60-shot match. I shoot a Czech Republic Chameleon, which can still outshoot my ability, and I could never bring myself to spend the money to upgrade.

I propped up the grip with a laser, but the gun is lying flat on the table. This is how much the grip slants to the right.

The grip that keeps on giving
Once you rotate your hand forward to drop the front sight into alignment, the palm shelf digs into the heel of your hand and provides what feels like a solid support. When you have the palm shelf adjusted properly against the heel of your hand, it feels like you couldn’t possibly lower the pistol any more by just rotating your hand. The Diana model 10 that I started out with in the 1970s actually had a sliding piece on the palm shelf that could be adjusted back to hit your wrist to further enhance this feeling. That may no longer be allowed in competition, because it worked very well yet the modern guns don’t have it.

The rest is up to your arm
This is where that stance I showed you last time really comes into play. Your arm will now gain strength from the bones of your back and shoulder, and you’ll be amazed at how steady you can hold that pistol at arm’s length. For owners of the Daisy 747, this isn’t going to happen for you because you don’t have the adjustable palm shelf.

DIY grips
Nearly all pistol grips must be modified to fit their owners. The owner will use a wood rasp to remove wood or wood putty to add wood. I’ve done both on my grips, which is par for the course. I don’t know how to explain how you can know what to remove and what to add, but after spending 50-60 hours with a set of grips, you’ll know by the feel what needs to go and what needs to be added.

The wood putty at the rear of the grip fills a gap where the grip didn’t contact the heel on my hand. Notice the adjustable palm shelf that must be tight against the hand.

A wood rasp deepened the finger grooves on the other side of the grip. I recut the coarse stippling pattern to keep it “grippy.”

When I was at the Little Rock airgun show, Dennis Quackenbush showed me a Russian TOZ35 free pistol. I’ve never held a free pistol before and always felt that it would somehow be more stable than an air pistol, but I must tell you that it isn’t. The modern 10-meter target pistol grip is so refined that it feels nearly as nice as a free-pistol grip, despite not wrapping all the way around your hand. Air pistol grips actually have to fit inside a special 50mm box to demonstrate that they don’t violate the ISSF regulations. But, what they can do within those 50 millimeters is magic!

The Olympic .22 caliber free pistol is considered to be the finest target pistol ever made, but I find modern 10-meter air pistols to be almost as nice. The wraparound grip is not permitted on air pistols.

And now – wax on, wax off!
Now, instead of pointing your finger at the target, you grasp the pistol and align it with your eyes closed. Then open your eyes and make your fine leg and foot adjustments until the sights align with the bullseye. And, nobody better ask me what wax on, wax off means. That was a homework assignment, and I warned you I would be testing you on it.

The grip on a 10-meter pistol is so important to a shooter’s success that top competitors will often not upgrade to a new pistol (at no cost to them) unless their grips will fit.

Next time…how to raise and align the pistol, how to breathe and how long to hold on target before starting over.