Thursday, October 28, 2010

Does this ass make my car look big?

Shamelessly stolen from my home boy Tatonka:

Saturday, October 09, 2010

There's no part as misunderstood as the vertical grip

For everyone that knows what a vertical grip is, there is an equal number that misunderstand it's purpose. Lots and lots of people want them, but there don't appear to be that many that understand what they do and what they don't do. A little understanding can go a long way towards maximizing its effectiveness...and may lead to doing away with it altogether.

The vertical fore grip, often times abbreviated as VFG, came into use in the SOPMOD kit. SOPMOD Block 1 was quite a while ago, and the standard of the day was a 7" rail-same length as handguards on a carbine length gas system-as well as the AN/PEQ-2 laser and a Surefire Millennium series light (not part of SOPMOD Block 1; that light was an Insight...sadly) was standard issue. With all that, there was no place left on the fore end to put the support hand, so the KAC vertical grip was born. It was a pretty elegant solution for a difficult problem.

But what happened next was where it all went wrong. Photos came back from the war zones with Servicemen that had VFG's on their tricked out (for the time) M4's. Lots of people assumed it was a shooting aid, and started running them as the only thing on their rails (not everyone knew they needed a white light yet; this is still several years ago), figuring that was what they needed to shoot better...or at least look cooler in their minds. Then they started making things worse by running that VFG towards the receiver.

Thanks to America's best gunfighters (they're sometimes called The Artists Formerly Known As and Those of the Burrito Eating Moustaches) ending their time in the Service, a better way to use the VFG was developed. To understand what was better about it, one must first understand what the ultimate goal is: fast and accurate shooting. We're going on a slight detour here for a second. Trust me, it'll be OK. We're coming back to this.

What follows assumes the use of no VFG at all. Essentially, shooting fast and accurate is controlling the muzzle, and by extension, the barrel. So, in order to shoot in various positions as accurately as possible, minimizing movement-controlling the movement of the barrel-is The Key. How does that happen? By putting the support hand as far forward as possible, grabbing as much fore end as possible, and pulling into the shooter's shoulder. This does two things: first, it minimizes the movement of the muzzle, and secondly, it makes driving the gun between targets easier, faster, and more precise. For illustration, here's Kyle Defoor (a former SEAL amongst all the former Delta guys at Tiger Swan Training. He must know some things). Note his support hand placement.

And here's one of the winningest competition shooters that ever lived, Jerry Miculek. Note the similarity to how Kyle D is running his support hand.

I can post pics of this all day, as there are TONS of examples of this style of shooting. Control the muzzle, control and drive the rifle. We can safely call this fact. I can show more examples, but then this post becomes a book.

OK, so back to where we were before. Remember I mentioned that Those That Shall Not Be Named were running their carbines a different way from the rest of the world. What they were doing, and remember that this is several years old by now, was running the vert grip out to the end of their rails. There's some good footage of how they used to do it starting at about the 1 minute mark of this vid on YouTube:
Normally, I wouldn't put out a link like that, but it's been posted more times than I can count over the past two years, so I'm gonna call it pretty much common knowledge.

That's "how they used to do it", because equipment has changed. Notice the rather specialized lights integrated into the vertical grips...which are at the end of the rail. Seeing a pattern here yet? Also of note is that rails have gotten longer. Take a look at the photos that follow. All those fore ends are at least 12" long. Lengthening the rail and having lasers and lights get drastically smaller. That's made shooting better even easier. More on rails and handguards in a later post.

Hopefully, the short vertical grip has become fairly well known since it's introduction. What I don't think has become well known is how to use it. The shorty grips aren't meant to be grabbed in a chicken choking grip, and most people can't unless they have very small hands. They're meant to be a hand stop. Here's Chris Costa of Magpul Dynamics using one exactly that way:
Stickman takes great pics!
Costa uses a little less of the grip than many other users do; he's got his pinkie up against it, where others have the pinkie and ring, and occasionally middle finger against the grip.

That's how it works best. How's it work worst? Run it towards the receiver and chicken choke it. I will guarantee that two shooters of equal capability will be made to look like master and beginner by where they run that grip. Running that grip in and chicken choking it is the worst way to use it. When the goal is to control the barrel, hanging a lever off 90 degrees to it is not the way to make that happen. The closer to the receiver one gets, the more control is sacrificed.

I tried almost every version of VFG's that there are, by putting them to the timer. I set up at 7-10 yards, and shot at a 4" black dot at the beep of the timer, as many rounds as I could keep in the circle in one second. I was a full round a second faster with no vert grip at all vs. even running it to the end of the rail. What I found was that not using the vert grip at all made me both faster and more accurate. Give it a try. Your results will be very similar.

Getting rid of it altogether is where I am right now, although I have acquired another Magpul Angled Fore Grip that I may put back on...again. It doesn't hurt my shooting, but in messing with it, my crew and I found that it works better with a thumb forward grip, whereas I use the "thumb over" or "competition" grip, where the support hand thumb is wrapped over the top of the rail. I may still go back to it, but at this point all my training has been without it. I'm not in a big hurry to do that for myself, but I certainly encourage taking a look at it and seeing if it makes the shooter better. It's not that expensive, so it's a cheap experiment.

However it's approached, as long as the support hand ends up as far down the handguard as possible, that's the right track.