Getting A Grip

While I have greatly enjoyed Othias and Mae’s “Primer” series on WWI guns, there’s something I need to mention — not as criticism, mind you, but as a technical issue.

Whenever Mae talks about the old rifles’ “ergonomics” (what we old guys used to call  “handling”), she often complains that a straight buttstock does not give her the optimum means to pull the rifle back into her shoulder, so as to mitigate the effect of recoil.  She prefers rifles to have a “semi-pistol” grip so that her hand can feel its way back into its firing position more easily.


I’ve never had that problem with straight stocks (as opposed to “semi-pistol grips”) myself, because I hold rifles differently from the way she does.  Here’s the difference:

Note how her thumb rests on the side of the stock.  What this means is that only her three remaining fingers can grip the stock, leading to a weaker grip than if she were to cross her thumb over to a “baseball bat” type of grip.

Which is how I hold a rifle with my right hand:

That hold gives me a good grip on the stock, and I can pull it into my shoulder quite firmly — so whether I’m using a straight stock or one with a pistol grip is irrelevant.  (When it comes to shotguns, I prefer a straight, or “English” stock, because I can slide my hand into the firing position.)

I know that a number of shooters — very good shooters, e.g. Doc Russia and the Layabout Sailor — hold their rifles the same way as Mae does, and as I said above, this is not at all a criticism, merely an observation.

Not that any of this matters much, mind you, as all the cool kids seem to be using actual pistol grips on their rifles these days:

…so once again, I’m out of step with the times.  [sigh]


  1. +1 for the “baseball bat” style hand placement. Mae’s grip looks like the gun could easily be plucked from her hands.

  2. I agree with you Kim, I have always used the “baseball bat” grip. Why would you not use your thumb around the stock to help hold the firearm firmly in place while shooting. To each his own I guess. I have seen benchrest shooters using a grip without the thumb wrapped around, but that is a different discipline altogether with the rifle held in place with a shooting rest and sandbags.

  3. A friend once explained to me that some bolt action rifles have a bolt configuration that can impact your thumb under recoil, so moving it to the side will prevent this.

    1. I’ve read that keeping the thumb on the side was to keep the thumb from impacting your nose under recoil.
      After having read the Tracy Cox article on sex misinformation posted above, I now wonder if THAT is true, too.
      I can say that my nose and the K-31 safety ring are too close together to keep the cheek weld in place when I work the bolt.

  4. baseball bat.

    What was the name of their channel again? The last time you posted a link to their videos I lost a day or so just watching Lee Enfiend videos


  5. Gotta go with the baseball bat grip, even with a semi pistol grip stock. My thumb is an integral part of my getting a consistent spotweld. When the knuckle touches a certain spot on my cheekbone, all is right with the world.

  6. Until today I didn’t know there was another way other than having your thumb over the stock (Baseball Bat as you call it).

    Educational as always Kim.

    1. In his writings somewhere (SOBCJC — Somewhere by Colonel Jeff Cooper) he wrote that a technique for a rifle with a bad trigger is to place one’s thumb BEHIND the trigger guard and one’s trigger finger on the trigger, and squeeze them together, firing the rifle.
      Somehow this compensates for flaws in a bad trigger.

  7. Most of my shooting has been from the bench so I would tend to lay the the alongside. I suspect the baseball grip is more prevalent among hunters. As somebody above said it’s a different discipline.

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