Steve Comus – GUN TALK

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Dickinson Commando XX3T Turkey Shotgun

Revolver handle dynamics
“Hand” is the operative element of the concept of “handgun.” The better a handgun fits the hand of the shooter, the easier it is to use that handgun effectively.

Often, folks focus merely on the size of handgun handle (horizontal and vertical length and girth), which is important. If the handle is physically too large or too small for a specific hand, it will difficult to operate the handgun efficiently and difficult to shoot it effectively.

DOUBLE-ACTION HANDLES come in many forms. Here, the more rounded backstrap and handle of the S&W Model 629 .44 Mag (bottom) fit the author’s hand better than the squarer handle profile of the Model 657 .41 Mag (top).

There is more to fit than gross size in any or all dimensions, however. Shape also is important. And, the proper combination of size and shape can make a huge difference in everything from comfort of shooting to hitting the target. This factor becomes magnified when instinctive shooting is on the agenda.

A way to test for this is to grab the handgun normally and then hold it down at your side. Look at a target. Then, without using the sights at all, look at the “target” and “point” at it with the handgun. Then, look at the sights and see where they are looking. If all is well, they will be right on-target.

When it comes to single-action revolvers, the impetus for acquiring a handgun with a bird’s head handle usually have more to do with look than performance. Truth is, though, that there can be a functional reason for such a design when compared to the more classic “plow handle” design.

In addition to the bird’s head design having a round bottom compared to the square bottom of the plow handle, the bird’s head handle features a convex curve along the backstrap. These differences are huge when it comes to consistent grip and control in recoil.

BIRD’S HEAD HANDLES on single-action revolvers like the Ruger Vaquero .45 Colt (top) can fit some hands better than the plow handle grips of the similar Vaquero .45 Colt (bottom).

For example, my hand is big and my fingers are long. That combination translates into being able to handle the bird’s head design better than the plow handle.

In the world of double-action revolvers, the same dynamic applies, but one doesn’t encounter many full-bird’s eye handles in double-actions. There are, however, double-action variants that feature the similar convex curve along the backstrap, which accomplishes the same thing.

Interestingly, the heavier the handgun recoils, the more pronounced are the advantages to using exactly the right configuration.

Overall, the size of the handle is most important, followed by the configuration. When both are wrong, the handgun is difficult to use effectively. When both are right, not only can the handgun be used more effectively, but it also is more fun to shoot.

There exists a dramatically different single-action revolver handle design that is called the Bisley, which originally was designed for target shooting. Bisley is where one of England’s most famous target shooting grounds is located. That handle is more straight down than the plow handle and works great for many folks, but not for me. It is the most difficult design for my hand.

Which brings us right back the important basics of handgunning, which is that “hand” is the operative element of “handgun.”

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Steve Comus is a nationally recognized hunting editor with Safari Club International and a former WON Guns and Hunting Editor. His column appears every other week in WON and he can be reached at


BISLEY HANDLE WAS designed originally for target shooting, but some hands don’t handle them well, while other hands fit perfectly. The downward angle on these handles is straighter than other single-action handle designs.

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