Are You Strong Enough?
From nrawomansoutlook.org By Il Ling New- I usually get one of two reactions when I walk onto the range: Someone saunters over, looks me up and down, and says, “Yer just a little bitty thing…” Someone walks over, looks me up and down, and heaves a sigh of relief: “Well you’re not as big as I thought!” I’m taking that as a compliment!! Usually, it’s the guys who do the former, and the women who fall into category two. And they’re both thinking, “And she’s the instructor? Yeesh!”
Doesn’t really matter. But what does is that I’m not what one might expect for a shooter, especially considering some of the bigger calibers I prefer (.375 H&H, .454 Casull, .45 ACP, and so on). But at 5’4”, and 120 pounds (plus 5), I’m not only not very big, but I’m not particularly strong either.
So how do I do it? More to the point, how are you going to do it?
It turns out, there is much you can do with your body—not just your gun hand—that can strengthen your position. With proper technique, you’ll be very positively surprised by how much more you can do. If you can cut through a watermelon, or work a knife through a roast, you can manage a firearm. Here are some tips for basic manipulation (especially useful for the slide work required of semi-automatic handguns!):
Fit: Make sure your firearm fits you. Yes! There is such a thing, and girls, guns are like shoes. They have to fit both you, and the occasion.
In particular, make sure that the length-of-pull (LOP)—that is, the distance between either the buttstock face and the trigger face, or for handguns, the back strap and the trigger face is not so great that you don’t have enough leverage to operate the firearm.
And when I say, “operate,” I’m referring to everything you need to do to keep the firearm in shootable condition—work the action, press the trigger and in some cases, load/unload it. You need to be able to press the trigger (dry—that is with no ammo—is fine—you do not need to fire the gun to fit it), run the action, and do whatever else is required in the full operation of that firearm, to evaluate it.
No one but you can judge final fit, preferably together with a firearms trainer, but you are really the final judge. You will be amazed at how much stronger you are with only fractions of an inch of difference in the LOP and other dimensions!
Body Parts: How and where we hold our firearms makes a difference in how well we’re able to manipulate them. Make sure that the position your body parts are in—especially your torso, arms, shoulders and hands—is such that you can operate most easily.
Remember that when we extend our limbs, they tend to be less strong—so having to straighten and extend your arm to shoot that shotgun or rifle up is going to compromise your ability to hold it. (It’s also going to make it much harder to operate a bolt-action and a pump-action). Similarly, when you extend your trigger finger so that you can reach that trigger face, your finger will have less strength to press the trigger with (and it will also probably angle the muzzle–and thus your shot—to the side a bit as well).
Use as much of your body as you need to. Put your back into it!
Close to your body: Whenever possible, handle your firearms close to your body. For most loading/unloading, malfunction clearances, and other non-shooting manipulations, a longgun action or handgun should be about 4 to 12 inches in front of your sternum—not down at your waste, or an arm’s length in front of your chest. This tends to make everything stronger—and it’s why, for example, you don’t try to open a tight jar lid with your arms extended—you hold the jar close to your chest, and voila! This allows you to use more of your body and its leverage to get the job done.
Gross Motor Movements: Whenever possible, use gross motor control movements to operate your firearm. Instead of the weaker, fine motor skills of the fingers, for example, try using your fist, palm, arm…and then get as much of the rest of your body into the act.
Don’t try to pull with the hands—use the arms. If you can, use your shoulders and even your back to make and control your movement.
Wrists: It’s said that the wrists, when bent, are among the weakest joints in the body. That’s why we don’t punch with bent wrists—we keep them straight, through the fists. Similarly if you find your wrists bending as you bring your firearm closer to your body to manipulate it, try turning your body toward your strong side while leaving the muzzle pointed down range. This will allow your wrist to stay straight, even as you bring the gun close to your body for maximum leverage. This also ensures that the firearm stays pointed in a safe direction, and doesn’t start to go sideways (literally) as you struggle to stay strong by keeping your wrists straight.