Are subcompact pistols hard to shoot?

Recently, my oldest became of age to purchase and carry a handgun. My guidance to him had more to do with the bigger picture than a freeze frame.

Enough Gun

Since his primary goal for purchasing a handgun was concealed carry I advised him to consider the subcompacts platforms. He probably will not be able to afford another pistol so picking one to fulfill the primary mission was key. It was important to consider his most likely enviornment; which is mainly work, home, family and friends. In these situations, he stands a higher chance of a robbery or assault. Passing along situational awareness trade craft will hopefully help avoid the vast majority of these situations. Little things like avoid distractions, pay attention, look at people’s hands to name a few. The real question was whether his subcompact choice would be enough to handle the most likely deadly force encounter.




In a recent class I had one student attend with a subcompact handgun. I don’t see this often, particularly with first time students to our classes. I think those who feel it is a good idea do so because it falls into “train like you fight” mindset. Aside from them being more abusive in a high round count class they are challenging to shoot. I’m confident had the shooter attended with a compact or even full size framed handgun they would have seen far superior performance. It is true, the subcompacts are challenging to shoot. Don’t mistake that for harder. What I mean is they are less forgiving and require more focus for longer periods.

Don’t Be Lazy

The recent family range trips have focused more on his new carry handgun. Having learned the fundamentals on a full size frame it was time to apply these fundamentals from the subcompacts. In particular are two areas you need to pay extra attention to when seeking peak performance shooting subcompacts; crush grip and powerful mount. There are a few other areas you could always seek improvement, but these two are the ones that will make or break your performance. Ironically, these are also the areas I see performed poorly when shooting the full size frames. A better way to put is the shooter is being lazy.

Lock In The Grip

Things are pretty easy when you slow fire, but the moment you step it up to rapid fire you want your crush grip locked in like a vice. Of all the shooting errors I see, a consistent, vice like grip with pressure applied to the proper contact points have greatly improved shooters performance. We spend a good deal of time at the 101 & 201 class covering and reinforcing this subject. During the recent drills I noticed the difficulty to quickly apply follow up shots with the smaller frame. The moment we talked about the crush grip we started see faster splits on multiple shots. The secret is squeezing both pinkies hard, like really hard.

Stay Tight & Engaged

I also noticed his shooting mount was a bit loose. We want tension through the arms into the shoulders and upper back. While there are points of diminishing returns I remind folks those diminished returns usually still have a positive outcome. Keeping the wrists, elbows and shoulders tense helps to create a solid kinetic chain. Again, coupled with a crush grip the powerful mount will help keep the sights within the shooter’s sight box. This will promote sight tracking; which will lead to rapid follow up shoots.

It is a joy to watch my own kids develop into safe and competent firearms owners. I’m blessed to be able to guide them on their own journey.

2 thoughts on “Subcompact Shooting Situations

  1. Don says:

    Jeff, thanks for your reinforcement of the basics of the grip. I recently bought a subcompact and now have a problem I’ve never had before in all my years with handguns, which were all larger: when I get grip on the sub, my wedding ring is right in the middle of it and no amount of adjustment helps. Any ideas? Yeah, I know – but other than taking it off.

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