If you’ve read my column in Backwoods Home Magazine for any length of time, you’ve noticed how frequently I’ve made the point that it’s close to hopeless for a smaller person to try to shoot well with a gun too big or too long in the stock for them, and easier for a larger person to adapt to a gun that’s too small.  Well, this past weekend, I was reminded that there actually is such a thing as a gun too small for the largest shooters.

I was at a Glock match in Orlando (www.gssfonline.com) with the usual suspects and three shooters new to this particular discipline. One of the latter was Vince Edwards, an accomplished shooter in IDPA (www.idpa.com) and a very competent firearms instructor. Now, back when Vince was a cop he carried his department’s issue Glock 22 and shot it well, but as soon as he left the agency and was able to pick his own gun he chose a full size 1911 .45 automatic. You see, Vince stands six-feet-five, tips the scales past the 300 mark, and wears Size 15 shoes with proportional size hands. I’ve seen sausages in Polish butcher shops smaller than this guy’s fingers.

Well, he’d been away from Glocks for a while, so he came out to our range to get the feel of things with some of ours, which he used in the subsequent match at the excellent Central Florida Rifle & Pistol Club. In just a few practice rounds for the Major Sub event, where you use a subcompact .45, his hands proved so big that the slide of my Glock 30SF drew blood from the web of his hand during firing. Not something you see with those guns every day.

Well, at the match, we all shot that same gun in Major Sub division. Worked for me. Worked for six-foot Jon Strayer, who kicked butt with it. Worked for five-foot-nuthin’ Gail Pepin, current Florida State IDPA Woman Champion, who was the high female in Major Sub at the Glock shoot.  But when Vince shot it, there was jam after jam. It wasn’t the ammunition: he shot the same factory round-nose, full power .45 hardball the rest of us were using.

Photos showed later that Vince, who shoots with the popular straight thumbs grasp (see below), had his humongous thumbs in proximity to the slide. All that we can figure was that the combination of the web of his hand making contact with the underside of the moving slide, and pressure of his thumbs against the side of the slide, was enough to retard the mechanism and prevent complete extraction. So, yes, there is such a thing as a pistol too small for the shooter’s hands.

When my oldest was six, I bought her a Chipmunk .22 rifle, scaled down for kids. I couldn’t sight it in for her, because my fat adult male head couldn’t get down far enough on the child-size stock to bring my eye in line with the rear sight. (Talked the tyke through her own sight-in of her own rifle, though, and that worked out well as an educational experience.)

Bottom line: clothes that don’t fit you, won’t work for you, and neither will firearms that don’t fit  you.

Arrow points to spent casing, yet muzzle of little .45 caliber Glock 30SF is still on target in the hands of 6’5″ firearms instructor Vince Edwards. Notice thumb placement vis-a-vis slide.

Here, in the midst of the shooting action, Vince works to clear a jam (arrow 1). Note how the flesh of his large hand is in contact with bottom edge of slide (arrow 2) and where cuts from slide have necessitated Band-Aids at web of hand (arrow 3). Glock considers the G30SF a “subcompact” gun. Vince does not have a subcompact hand.

Gun performed flawlessly with same type of ammo for all others using it, including five-foot Gail Pepin. Note muzzle back on target, and ejected casing from last .45 round (arrow). Hands are not blocking the working parts in any way.

Another example. Child-size .22 Crickett rifle at Pro-Arms Gun Shop in Live Oak, FL is dwarfed in the hands of Roger Clark, who stands six-one-and a half and weighs well over 200 pounds…

…and the gun is so small for him, Roger has a hard time even getting his eye down to where he can align the sights. However, it’s easier for a man Roger’s size to shoot the tiny rifle, than for a little girl to shoot a rifle sized for him.


  1. Depends on far more than overall “size” of gun – like grip angle (handgun), length of pull (rifle or shotgun), drop in stock (rifle or shotgun. Browning HP is a natural pointer for typical woman – but it’s as large in overall “size” as larger Glocks that aren’t. The now-out-of-production Marlin 336Y also is a natural pointer for average size woman – as length of pull and drop in stock is perfect.

  2. I bought my daughter a youth model Rossi single shot 22LR rifle some years ago, and took it to an outdoor range myself first. There was only one other person there at the time, an older gent who was firing a semiauto 308 rifle that likely cost as much as my old truck.

    He kindly restrained himself from laughing out loud as I contorted myself into a suitable grip on the rifle for benched shooting. My daughter shot better with it than I ever could, because she did not have arms and elbows and shoulders all in her way as she fired.

  3. My 13 year old has one of those single shot Cricket 22LRs and I can’t hardly shoot it because it is so small. I also can’t shoot the daisy bb gun that my youngest kids shoot because it is too small.

  4. Would it benefit Mr. Clark if he shouldered the weapon properly by getting his support side elbow underneath the piece and his thumb of his action hand on the proper side of the stock?

  5. While I agree with the premise of the article, somebody really needs to teach Vince to get his finger off of the trigger when reducing a stoppage.

  6. I fully understand what you are saying. Another related “size” issue that I have with Glocks and why I will probably never buy a new one is that the finger ridges are spaced too closely together on the grip. As a result, the ridges press directly in the center of my fingers rather than between them. I expressed this same opinion to Glock while at the Shot show last month.

  7. Shootin’ Buddy, good question! Getting skeletal support directly under the fore-end means a lot, but is less critical with a very light rifle in the hands of a man with strong arms. While you or I might indeed benefit from having our thumb on the trigger finger side of the stock when working a right-handed bolt action rifle from the right shoulder, Roger shooting from the left shoulder actually has his thumb and web of hand closer to the bolt the way he’s doing it, which would allow a lefty to rotate the right-handed rifle slightly and operated the action faster.

    MH, you make a good point too. What you see in the blog (my bad) is just one shot in a motor-drive sequence. I’ll get the rest of them together this week and post them in sequence. You’ll see that Vince’s finger was out of the guard less than a second after realizing he had experienced a stoppage.

    best to all,

  8. I have had the same issue with my thumbs on my Beretta Px4. I shoot “straight-thumbs” and have created a jam that was most likely caused by letting them drift up to where they rode the slide just enough to cause a failure-to-eject. IDPA is good for sorting out things like that…

  9. I also have large hands, and discovered that the grip of the Kimber ultracompact is too short for me; I can only wrap three fingers around the butt, giving me a slightly unstable grip; I can shoot with it, but the ergonomics of larger Commander models suit me much better.

    I borrowed a friend’s ParaOrd Commander once, and it fit like a perfect extension of my hand.

  10. I took a friend to the Range with his kids, 15, 13 and 11. The 11 year old had short arms so the only long gun he could fire was my AR-15 with the stock collapsed most of the way. Luckily they all had fun, I was very glad I brought that rifle though since the Ruger 10/22 was too large for him.

  11. Just another reason I prefer DA revolvers (always S&W) to autoloaders of any type. They’ll digest any loads, from pipsqueaks that just clear the muzzle, to full-power magnums without a hiccup.
    And my large hands can adapt easily from any custom-stocked J-frame to any N-frame model.

    And while I like the flat compactness of a 1911, it takes a lot of practice to get it into action quickly first time every time, even carrying it cocked and locked.

    Finally, if you need more than five or six shots in any close-in shoot-out situation, you’ve probably already lost the argument.

  12. While I don’t have near enough experience to make blanket claims, it seems that most shotguns-at least the older wood stocked models have longer lengths of pull than rifles/carbines, sometimes as much as an inch.
    I read somewhere, or had someone tell me, can’t exactly recall right now, that the longer length of pull supposedly reduces recoil.
    Anyhow, if anyone has any insight here, I’m all ears.
    Final point is in agreement with Mas here. I once had a very fine rifle that I loved, but could never shoot worth a darn, due to a stock that was too long, and had the wrong drop for my eyes. I was always hunting for the sights, or getting the stock hung up on my chest whenever I tried to mount it. Finally faced reality and let her go to a much bigger fellow, who shoots and enjoys this gun very much.

  13. “Too small to fit” is certainly a valid point. I have “large-average” hands, and small “pocket” pistols, such as J-frame size revolvers and micro-9mms are close to the bottom of of my comfort range. The tiny size of the latest-generation .380s makes me hesitate gives me pause.

    Besides problems such as your friend has, a too-small grip makes a handgun difficult to control; the classic case being the original “lemon-slice” grips on early S&W j-frames.

  14. I believe that John Moses Browning, when designing the 1911 pistol,used the grip safety as a method of keeping the web of the hand away from the slide as it retracted. This may have been in cooperation with the US military ( I don’t have my biography of Browning with me). I know he deleted this safety on his 9mm Hi-Power. Glock compact pistols need to have Pearce grip extensions for me to use one. I have a model 30 in .45ACP and I cannot shoot it without that extension. I wear Large/Extra Large gloves but Mr. Edwards obviously wears XXXL gloves. As for Mr. Sheppard (above), the J frame with large grips could be a solution. He knows his revolvers, but there is a tremendous variation in J frame replacement grips. The Crimson Trace grips are slippery, the compact Pachmayr and Houge grips are better and the biggest Pachmayr grips have more surface area too. Of course, they become harder to hide CCW. The original tiny J frame wood grips were impossibly small for me, but modern rubber grips give a good surface to hold on to in most cases.

  15. Mr Bartlett, I appreciate your comments. Fortunately, my hands are not quite too large for J-frames. I currently carry an S&W 49, and used boot-grips until my Tyler T-Grip arrived. With it, I was able to go back to the original “tiny” wood grips. The T-Grip makes the little wheelgun comfortable to grip while restoring the classic appearance of the Bodyguard. Since I pocket-carry, larger grips aren’t an option.

  16. I think there is entirely too much emphasis being placed by many gun bloggers on this question of “one-shot stopping power”. Firearms are not star trek hand phasers and no gun is guaranteed to instantly kill (unless your caliber is 20mm AA!), despite how much crowing the .45, .44 mag and .357 mag owners do. Pick a caliber that works for you as a hunter, plinker or for self defense and practice, practice, practice!

    Learn to shoot well, know the limitations of your firearm, read Mr. Ayoob’s book “Truth about Self Defense” and focus on the overall picture, not caliber!

    Indeed Mr. Ayoob, as always you are on target with “no such thing as too small a gun”.

    regards to all!

  17. I’m only 5’8″, and don’t have what I’d consider to be large hands, but over the years, I had started using a much higher and tighter grip, and both my Glock 22 and 27 started ripping on the web of my hand the same way as Mr. Edwards. I ended up having to sell both the G22 & 27 because I got tired of getting sliced up. I ended up with a M&P 9mm, which I’m quite happy with. It has a little bit of a beaver tail that keeps the web of my hand out of the way. The Glocks really do have a pretty low bore-axis.. just in my case too low for the way I grip them.

  18. hello there’
    i’m going into business sometime soon and interested in a G30 because of its’ size and i just will like to have steps on this weapon on how to disassemble and reassemble this weapon and safety please