The wrist of the gun hand is the most important joint in shooting a handgun. It can bend
upward or downward, inward or outward. It also tends to go to its strongest position as the
hand exerts strength.
This strongest position of the wrist is what I call its neutral position. This is
because when all the muscles that can flex the wrist in any direction are contracted, the
various tendons to which they connect will all be under equal or balanced tension.
To gain some insight on this position, close your eyes and make the tightest fist you can,
with the thumb up. Almost anyone who has not trained in a Japanese or Korean striking martial
art will, on opening his eyes, see some degree of outward flexion of the wrist.
If the sight picture is adjusted by motion of the wrist, the wrist will most likely return
to its strongest or neutral position as the trigger is pressed, particularly if the shooter has
any anticipation of recoil. This will direct the shot away from the original point of aim.
For this reason, the handgun should be grasped as firmly as possible, stabilizing the wrist
in its neural position. Adjustments in sight picture should be made by the position of the feet
and motion at the other joints, such as ankles, knees, shoulders and neck.
In mid-1999 I was contacted by Matt Temkin, who insisted that I read Fairbairn and Sykes'
Shooting to Live. I was intrigued to find in that book, originally published in 1942,
a set of drawings (figs. 2, 3 and 4 on pages 21 to 23) which clearly depict that the barrel
of the gun must point somewhat toward the outer side of the forearm if it is to point at the
target when it is brought to the mid-line of the body.
I am more inclined to go with Fairbairn and Sykes on this point. However, being the modest
soul that I am, I must disagree with these two venerable authors in one regard with respect
to the angle of the gun barrel relative to the forearm and its relationship to the wrist:
They speak of bending the wrist to achieve the firing position.
I maintain that if the wrist is bent away from its strongest position, it will return to
that stronger position under the greater muscle contraction at the moment that the gun is
I believe that the issue is one of ergonomics - that
you need to select or modify your handgun so that it naturally points correctly when you
grasp it as firmly as you can.
If you don't have access to the books that I have mentioned, the position of the gun in the
hand to which I refer can be checked in the following manner:
Grasp the unloaded gun, with your finger out of the trigger guard and point it at the ground,
about a foot in front of you, while facing in a direction where you will be able to raise it
safely to eye level.
The gun should point straight to the ground. When you raise the arm to bring the gun to eye
level, the gun will point straight ahead, giving you either a coarse body index on a target
that you are facing squarely or a very rapid sight picture, with minimal flexing or twisting
of the neck.
A great deal of research suggests that most people will confront deadly threats by facing
them squarely and will focus on the threat, rather than on their sights. If, like me, your
primary shooting method is sighted fire, training in sighted fire with body mechanics
similar to those used for unsighted fire will give you the greatest
likelihood of hitting your threat under stress, whether you're using Plan A or Plan B.
Material is posted on this page for information and discussion only and
purports to be no more than the personal opinion of
Stephen P. Wenger.
I make no effort to identify or track visitors to this site, by cookies or any other means. While I do not
knowingly share return addresses from e-mail generated from this site, such as to make comments or ask questions,
I cannot preclude monitoring by ISP's and government agencies. Similarly, I cannot resist seizure of my computer
by lawful subpoena or warrant. If correspondence from you would reveal indictable, illegal activity on your part,
I suggest that you reconsider such correspondence. I have no desire to abet such activity nor to become embroiled
in your prosecution.