Two things I've always wondered about
First, when did two-handed combat shooting begin to be the norm? And did people use this style in the 19th Century in the US?
Second (and maybe connected), was the Colt New Service revolver just designed TOO BIG? I've heard complaints about this all my life whenever the NS is mentioned, and I understand that Victorians--the people who designed and first used the NS had smaller hands than most of us now do. But if the NS was "too big" for normal hands, how come it was so popular with the militaries of the time, from the Boer War to WWII?
Any informed answers gratefully accepted. Theories too.
Pistols were used on horseback a lot, so one handed made sense. For some reason, target shooters also used a one hand hold, it was in the rules, up until the 50s that's all you saw. I'd say the isosceles stance was probably used some, in the 30s-50s, but it wasn't that common. Most old timers like my dad shot with one hand. He's former USMC, 1950s.
Also I seem to remember the early FBI training was to crouch and shoot with one hand. By the 1980s, the Weaver stance became big, and never let up really.
I learned to shoot handguns in the early 1960s and by that time two-handed shooting was pretty common, at least in the gun magazines that I read and on the ranges that I used. Most cops were still required to qualify with one hand in my area, though, and the FBI required candidates to qualify one handed with BOTH the right and left hands.
I've always assumed that one reason the "Shooting Master" and late .38/.357 models of the New Service had thinner stocks was because they were intended for one-handed paper punching.
But I'd still like to know if the New Service was considered too large for many of the users, or is this just a "modern" fixation (I still hear this complaint when somebody picks up one of my New Services....).
One handed shooting was always the way people shot until fairly recently because it was just considered to be one-hand gun.
This was because the first pistols were wheel locks that were typically used by cavalry troops.
The technique was to ride in a circle to infantry and fire the pistol, then quickly ride away to reload and back again.
Mounted on a horse using two hands was not practical.
Later on, the American gunfighter drew and fired with one hand.
The reason it was used exclusively for formal target shooting was because target shooting started out as training for duels.
The classic target shooting stance of holding the pistol out with one hand and turning to present the side to the target was how duels were done.
In the 1950's people like Jeff Cooper and Sheriff Jack Weaver discovered that shooting with both hands and using the sights was a sure winner against people shooting with one hand and not using the sights.
Using two hands was steadier, and allowed faster and more accurate shots.
Prior to this the accepted method of combat shooting was to go into the FBI crouch and hold the gun below eye level, not using the sights.
Many otherwise smart people used the silly technique of holding the other arm across the chest to hopefully catch a bullet that would hit something vital.
It was silly because by simply raising the gun slightly the sights could be used for better accuracy and the off hand could have just as quickly gripped the gun for better control and faster shots.
Much of the one hand shooting was simply because that's just the way it was done and few people questioned it.
Whether the New Service was too big is not a question that anyone asked back then. Many revolvers and early automatics were very large guns, some even bigger then the New Service.
If the New Service was too big for you, you just didn't buy it. If it was an official issue pistol whether you liked it or not, that's what you used.
Men mirrored the shooting style they saw in the magazines of the era, and 'back in the day', all shooting was one one-handed - a style the military would continue to teach up until the late 1980s when the M9 was issued, and then the two-handed style was taught.
The two-handed stance - whatever one wants to call it - was popularized in the gun magazines of the late 1960s by Jack Weaver (copying Hank Sloan) and Jeff Cooper - the magazines if that era idolized them both, and many shooters copied them, but it took some time before the LE agencies followed suit.
That said - 'did' our Old West ancestors shoot two-handed?
Not likely - but there's always 'that guy', so the thought was likely there, but the real shooting was done with long guns, simply because they could actually hit things with them, and revolvers took more shooting time and skill to master - believe me, it wasn't like a SASS shoot, but then nothing is...
As to the New Service - 'I' always viewed it as a 'saddlebag gun' or something carried when mounted, because of the size and weight - that size and weight didn't fit well with the smaller-framed folks of the initial time frame, but the same chambering in a Smith & Wesson Triple Lock was fairly easily handled by them - go figure...
'I can't comfortably handle them, and I'm built on the 'Grand Scale', sans NBA All-Star paws, but an N-Frame feels great - again - go figure.
It boils down to ergonomics, then and now - I'd imagine they saw a lot of country - but not a lot of shooting.
I pretty much knew/remembered living this history of holding pistols. But one that baffles me is when did the military go from "Port Arms - bore up" for rifle carry at the ready, to the "butt up against your neck, bore down at the ground" method? I see cops and military all carrying their little plastic AR-15s up like that and just can't decide if it's better - or just another fad.
Jack Weaver was Teaching his modified stance at the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Dept., in the Mid 1960’s and it was pretty much the Departmental Qualification Stance while in the Academy.
Jack was a Deputy with the Department, Assigned to Firearms Training Division, Mira Loma and East Los Angeles Academy Staff. He was responsible for me Shooting Distinguished Expert.
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Last edited by Kid Sopris; 01-23-2020 at 04:50 PM.
Just opinion but the gun games have changed the way guns are operated. One handed Bullseye shooters soon became the Jack Weaver two handed grip which turned into the isosceles stance. Rob Leatham developed the new gamers stance and did away with the Weaver stance. It won many championships and is what winners of the games use today.
I have a copy of "Cooper on Handguns" which I think was printed in 1962. Jack Weaver is prominently featured in it, using a K38 IIRC.
Originally Posted by Kid Sopris