There seems to be some controversy over the usefulness of a pistol grip on a rifle. I have fired rifles both with and without pistol grips. It really comes down to a personal preference. My preference is for a pistol grip. The first rifle I ever fired was an M-16A1 when I was in basic training in the U.S. Army. This is the first rifle I learned to fire, from some of the finest Basic Rifle Marksmanship instructors I have ever had. Drill Sergeant Van Wagner, Drill Sergeant Ruff, Drill Sergeant Albee, Sergeant Maynard, and Drill Sergeant Gear. (I don’t remember the other drill sergeants that were also there, but there were more.) Naturally the rifle I was trained with had a pistol grip. It also had a select fire switch that stated “Safe – Semi – Full.” I fired it when it was on the Full Auto setting only once, during training. In any case, I am most comfortable with rifles with a pistol grip, as you can tell by what I use as a hunting rifle.
This was not the only rifle I have used for hunting, but is by far my favorite. I used to use a borrowed Winchester Model 88 like the one pictured below.
It is a great rifle, and the first deer that I ever harvested as a hunter was with that rifle, but it is not the one I prefer. A pistol grip is much more comfortable and natural for me. Chances are that a pistol grip is more comfortable for you as a shooter also. Some gun enthusiast purists may disagree, and prefer a rifle without a pistol grip. I am not trying to convince anyone to change from what they are comfortable with. If you prefer standard rifle stocks, stay with that.
So why do I prefer a pistol grip? Here is an exercise I want you to try. Get a short stick, or piece of pipe, and with one hand, hold it out in front of you with your arm fully extended. Hold it in the way that is most comfortable to you. How are you holding the pipe? Chances are you are holding it similar to this.
Notice that the pipe is up and down, perpendicular to the ground, not parallel to it. There is a reason for that. It is more comfortable and more natural. Rifles without a pistol grip tend to be held like this.
You will notice that is is not as natural, as your wrist is not as comfortable this way.
For rifles with a pistol grip, it is easier to pull the stock into your shoulder, and get a good snug consistent cheek to stock fit. So why aren’t all rifles and pistols like that? Basically, they evolved, and are still evolving. Some of the very first trigger operated weapons were ancient crossbows, and the trigger mechanism was a large awkward lever.
In order to apply enough force to release the trigger, you needed leverage. It was a long, slow evolution from what you see pictured above to the modern pistol grip you see today. Some of that is due to the construction materials that were available at the time. Using a pistol grip stock made out of just wood, would probably be very fragile. As construction methods and materials, and the weapons themselves improved, so did the grip portion of rifle and pistol stocks. Once upon a time, even pistols didn’t have pistol grips. Like the one pictured below.
So while the technology of firearms has advanced, from that old crossbow, to match lock, wheel lock, and flint lock firing mechanisms, to cased ammo, hammers, and now striker fired weapons, the technology to support it has evolved also, from a basic stick, to metal, to fiberglass and plastic, and eventually to the modern high strength polymer construction used today. As the construction and methods improve, the ergonomics also improve. Pistols today have a grip angle that was specifically designed to be comfortable. Why shouldn’t rifles and shotguns be allowed the same benefits? (Bet you’ll never guess what my favorite shotgun has as a feature…)
Here’s a hint;
On the those rifles, you will notice something; many of them have a pistol grip.
So why is there a pistol grip on certain rifles? Simple; it is because it was the natural evolution of the rifle into its current, most comfortable, most effective layout. You will likely see more and more rifles with pistol grips as shooters get familiar with them. More and more rifle stocks now feature pistol grips also, from manufacturers such as McMillan, Blackhawk, Hogue, and other high quality manufacturers. I have a feeling that eventually, a good majority of rifles and shotguns will feature pistol grips, and the ones without them will be looked at as the oddballs. Firearms are still evolving, even today. New technology is being introduced, new better ammunition is being made, and new construction materials are being implemented every day. It would not surprise me at all if we saw some carbon fiber construction in the very near future.