This Is What We Call “A Learning Experience”

As you may remember, I’ve been having a problem with my SIG-Sauer P228. Namely, I haven’t been able to shoot it worth a darn. Literally, ever single pistol I’ve shot, with the exception of a S&W .22 revolver, I’ve shot world’s better than my SIG. I was at the point where I was seriously considering selling the SIG and putting the money towards a new pistol.

Then I stopped and thought about it for a moment, and realized something: every single pistol I’ve shot so far – Ruger Mk. III, Glock 17, Browning Hi-Power, Kahr CW9, 1911 – has had a grip that is markedly thinner than my SIG’s (the Glock being the possible exception). Maybe, just maybe, the P228’s grip is too thick for me. And maybe the new E2 grip would solve that problem. That said, I didn’t want to drop money on the new grip if it wasn’t going to help me any. So I went out to the range today and rented a P229 with the E2 grip installed and tried it out.

The grip is indeed noticeably thinner than the old-style SIG grips, and once I got used to the feel of the grip, I was indeed shooting the P229 noticeably better than I’ve shot my P228. Not as well as I did with the 1911 (put about half a box of ammo into one ragged hole I can cover with my palm) but still a marked improvement. All my shots were in the black, clustered pretty evenly around the bulls-eye, and I even cut the ten-ring a few times. Worlds better than than “shotgun patterns way low and to the left” that I usually shoot with the P228.

So I shoot about 70-75 rounds through the P229 and have pretty much decided that I’m going to order an E2 conversion kit when it occurs to me that I should probably shoot the P228 for comparison’s sake (I only had 2 boxes of ammo). So I put down the P229, hung up a new target, loaded up the P228, and… shot it just as good as I’d shot the P229. What the heck?

Okay, technically, I didn’t do nearly as well as I did with the P229. My shooting glasses had fogged up, so I was having a hard time finding the front sight. Vertically, my strings were all over the place, but they all went into a column maybe 4 inches or so wide. But even taking that into account, it was nowhere near the aforementioned “shotgun pattern way low and left.” I’ve never shot the P228 that well before. And I couldn’t figure out why.

All too soon, I ran out of ammo and started packing up when I decided to compare how well each pistol pointed for me. What I did was this: hold the (unloaded) gun at retention, close my eyes, push the gun out into an “instinctive” firing position, open my eyes, and acquire the sights.  With the P229, the sights aligned perfectly. Normally, when I do this with the P228, the front sight will be way low, to the point where it’s not even visible. But this time, the sights aligned perfectly too. So I did it again, this time consciously checking my stance and grip, and it was only then that I figured it out.

I was using a thumbs-forward grip.

Normally, when I shoot, I shoot thumb-over-thumb. But for some reason, this time I switched my grip to thumbs-forward and didn’t even realize it. I tried the instinctive-point drill again with both pistols, this time consciously switching to thumb-over-thumb. Both pistols pointed low. The P229 didn’t do as badly, but it was still noticeable. And I discovered that I get a much firmer hold on the P228 with thumbs-forward vs. thumb-over-thumb.

Also, when I shot the P228 this time, I was really concentrating, taking my time with each shot, focusing on everything – sights, breathing, trigger pull, stance, grip, follow-through – the whole ball of wax. I realized that when I normally shoot the P228,  I don’t do that. That definitely made a difference.

Now, I must admit that the E2 grip is more comfortable, for me, than the standard grips. But not so much that I feel justified in dropping the money on the E2 Conversion Kit. What I have works just fine, or at least it will in the future, now that I’ve finally figured my problem out.

All this time, I’ve been blaming the gun for my poor performance, when all this time the real problem has been my shooting grip. This, class, is what we call “a learning experience.”

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