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Discussion Starter #1
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.
 

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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.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
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....).
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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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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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.
 

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The book "Shooting to live" (1942) showed the use of the two handed pistol grip, came from the SMP combat instructors real world gun fight experiences in the 20's & 30's



https://blog.krtraining.com/book-review-historical-handgun-shooting-to-live-1942-fairbairn-sykes/

Most WWII era shooters in general used the single hand, hand gun grip in my experience, double hand grip was used once in a while by some in the early years- I have one photo saved in my "infernal machine" (T.M. Jim Martin) of a old west gent shooting (ready to shoot) a SAA holding the gun in his right hand while holding the barrel of the revolver with his left hand- damn strange and we all know it would have burned the hell out of him- had he fired it that way.

 

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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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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.
 

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Ray Chapman had something to do with the popularization of 2-handed holds, IIRC. He is mentioned in Col. Cooper's book.
 

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Yelp, two-handed hold has been around since the post WWII days but really cemented into tactics and competition in 1976. May 1976, brought the formation of IPSC shooting into the world under the direction of Jeff Copper. The IPSC Columbia (MO) Conference attendees included many well-known names like Ken Hackathorn, Thell Reed, Ray Chapman, etc. Also the meeting had international representation from several countries.

DVC: Diligentia, Vis, Celeritas (accuracy, powder & speed), would be the guiding principles for practical shooting competition. The 2-handed hold would become predominate to effect the fundamentals of DVC.

Vic
 

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Sure enough, I'm another one who's hands fit an N frame S&W just right, but the Colt New Service...it just ain't right. I take an X-large glove size, but I think I would need another 1/2" at least added to my index finger to shoot the Colt more comfortably D.A.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Thanks, guys! Plenty of thoughtful answers and things to think about! I knew about the Fairbairn book but had forgotten its two-handed shooting instructions. Fairbairn was an acquaintance of Oregon genius gunsmith Gus Peret, who was a relation of the Oregon stockman, deputy, poet and novelist H.L. Davis, who won a Pulitzer in 1935 for his first (but not best) novel.

I was re-reading one of Davis' better ones ("Winds of Morning") and came across the expression "two-handed death grip" used to describe how a greenhorn aimed a revolver. That got me looking at my newly acquired 1924 .38-40 NS and got me thinking about these subjects--two handed shooting styles and the New Service's size.

I'm about average for my generation (1943 DOM, 5'10" and 200#) and have large hands with long fingers--my gunsmith calls them Neanderthal fingers on the ends of ape-hanger arms. I've always taken to New Services, perhaps partly for that reason. The other reasons were that they were cheap when I was a kid in the 1950s--SAAs and S&W "N" frames were THE fashion in revolvers. And they are easy to work on when they break, which is just about never.

I "get" that military users of firearms have to adapt to what they are issued, no matter if it doesn't really "fit" them. Only exception I can think of is the various length buttstocks that the Brits used to fit their SMLEs to their troops.

Thanks again!
 

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Got a 1961 Detective Special .38 ANIB and it has a flyer "Handling The Handgun", Four basic steps to better handgun shooting. Colt says "Your shooting arm should be fully extended with your free hand completely relaxed, preferably in your pocket." Check it out ...

1961-shooting-stance.jpg
 

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My Dad was born in 1891, and while not a real shootist like his youngest son, was more than a fair shot with rifle or handgun. I don't know when he first used this stance, but it was all I ever saw him use when shooting for accuracy at longer ranges.

His hold and stance, was called "rock the baby" or "cradle the baby." He held the revolver in one hand, sort of across his body, and cradled his shooting arm in the crook of his off hand elbow. He was left handed, but right handed, grip your revolver in your right hand, extend your arm across your body. Bring your left arm up and cradle your shooting arm in the crook of your elbow, and grasp your right shoulder with your left hand.

Bob Wright
 

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Thirty years ago I took several handgun courses from Chuck Taylor...unquestionably the best man with a handgun I ever personally witnessed...super nice guy...not pompous or arrogant as some can be. I learned a lot from his techniques...he believes in the KISS principle...Keep It Simple, Stupid.He believes the simpler you keep thing the less likely you are to screw up under stress. He told us that just because he writes books and magazine articles that doesn't mean he's some kind of infallible person...some of the encounters he had been in as a Deputy Sheriff in AZ he survived because the other guy was dumber than he was.

While every name instructor teaches what he thinks is best, Chuck took the time to break down all the individual moves in shooting from the holster. He broke it down to six separate hand movements and everyone had to practice each move until it was done smoothly...speed came with practice. When you had all the moves down it looked like one fluid motion unholstering, bringing up the support hand and you were in either the ready or shooting position. We had two seconds to go from the holstered position to putting two rounds on target and lower to the ready position. I watched Chuck shoot on the line with one relay...he could do it before anyone else even cleared leather.
 
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