My first experience with a handstop came in the form of an obligatory “bump” on an MP5 handguard that warned me of further farther digital exploration would equal digital reduction. The HK-MP5 was one of the first fully auto firearms I’ve been lucky enough to tinker with, and began an unrequited love affair that cannot ever be fulfilled, in that I’m an ordinary guy who can’t possess one for my own.

My first experience with a vertical grip was on the 6 o’clock side of a select fire Steyr AUG, and this is another select fire device I cannot possess. There are civilian versions available now, and if you ever get the opportunity to experiment with a bullpup configuration, it doesn’t take long to appreciate the benefits

Having been given access to a LOT of select fire equipment over the years at work, I tried to glean everything I could, to transfer information to anyone requiring it.

From those days of the late 20th century, the AR platform has definitely became the Lego set that people can go completely nuts with, whether they need any of the attachments or not. If you’ve been around long enough, you likely had the carbine handguards that didn’t exactly allow for a lot of accessories. The next quantum leap was the  (now) old school Quad Rail. This was the  key that made everything easier. The Vertical Grip was added to help those who go into harms way by giving them a secure purchase on an arguably lightweight platform filling up with lasers, lights and other assorted sundries.

Fast forward to the Key Mod, and rails began running the length of the barrel to attach battery powered toasters and solar reflectors to power all of the batteries. Now it appears that M-LOK will come out on top as it arguably holds accessories more securely on the rail. What will be in vogue in 10 years…who knows.

Let us look at these  adaptations from a civilian aspect for a moment. For the carbine/rifle variations, the vert grip may still have some following among some people, but I personally have no affection for them. There are versions that sport lights, or baby bi-pods that pop out. Yawn. The challenge for you, if you have this stuff is simple; prone out, and imagine that you literally have nowhere to go as rounds are supersonic within your bubble.

Look at life while down there from the position of an earthworm, because you will invariably feel that being beneath the soil is preferable to your current position above it, where those scary bullets are.Ironic that you want to be in the dirt because of a gadget, no? Stay where you’re at, and you will literally be beneath soil, soon enough. That’s my opinion on the matter. Every piece of gear on the firearm must serve a critical life saving role, or it’s simply garbage.

AR platform pistols are becoming extremely popular, with good reason. For a lot of us, this is about as close as we can get to a “sub gun”, and they are fun, with  the bonus of serving as a legitimate defense tool. Again, this is one guys opinion, but a lot of people run right out and put an AFG (Angled Fore Grip) on them, because they can’t attach a vert grip legally.

I’ve said my piece about why I personally don’t like vertical grips. I deplore Angled Fore Grips for the same reason. Again, I ask you to go prone and work through the various body exertions that may be necessary from the prone. Put in a 30 round magazine, and try to get yourself situated to have the ability to return accurate fire with this abbreviated firearm, and not have your head/eye/optic exposed while fixed on the area of concern. If you’re in the prime of your life this may be no big deal, but most of us are not in your boots anymore. Things can get hinky, really fast. Maybe vert grips and AFG’s require tacticool clothes, fierce facial hair, and the opposition to only fire blanks, so that we don’t ever have to go prone, or even kneel.

The idea of going prone seems to be waning-apparently people deplore getting dirty these days. Prone body position can translate into very accurate fire, and sometimes it may be all that you have. Asa private person this may be no big deal, but, if you wear a chest rig and all of the other stuff that some of use for employment, prone is a lumpy, uncomfortable position used briefly, at best.

So, we’ve touched on prone positioning, and we’ve (hopefully ) thought about vertical grips, (if we have one), and AFG’s. At this time, I beg you to consider the Humble Handstop. I’ll give you a laundry list of items I like about them, and maybe I can help you rethink what you might put on your firearm.

To keep things simple, we need to do a bit of visualization, now. With the AR platform in the shoulder, your top rail, where the optic lives, is 12 o’clock. To your right at 90 degrees is 3 o’clock, at the bottom nearest magwell is 6 o’clock, and at the last 90 degrees is 9 o’clock. As a righty, I set up my handstops at 9 o’clock. This seems wonky to some, but here is my methodology. (Lefties, you would set yours at 3 o’clock)

First, my favorite handstop is the Strike Industries Link. It costs about 40$ “ish”. I get nothing from this compoany for plugging them.  When I buy these, they meet my Dremel. There are 2 legs, or hooks, or whatever the heck you want to call them. There are tons of buzzwords for the ergonomics, orientation, ad nauseum, about them. The same holds true for every other example out there, too. I’m not being mean, it’s just advertising.

The shorter of the 2 legs gets chopped off, and smoothed out. My paw does not fit in the confines, so the little leg goes into recycle, to be a beer can in the future. I use the wide end of the stop, and it is mounted pretty darn close to the muzzle brake/forward limit of the handguard. If I’m gripping forward, it will not let me shoot my fingers off, but more importantly, I use it to go against things like door jambs, or wall corners. We don’t want to linger in doorways, a.k.a. “fatal funnels”, but there are places where I need to do exactly that, in my occupation. That’s all we’re going to cover on that.

Chances are, as a normal person, you will not likely ever be required to lock in, and hold a doorway for hours, but the stop works well for this. I can take a secondary grip on the rail, and be pretty darn solid.I can also let my Support Hand dangle occasionally to restore blood flow. This stop has 2 attachment points, and 2 points on a rail are better than one.

The stop also lets me know that I’m right where I need to be to activate my light. The light is for a pistol (but the light is not aware of this) and it lives on my 12 o’clock rail. Having ambidextrous bump switches, I can use either thumb to activate it, depending on which shoulder I’m in at any given moment. There are no wires or pressure switches to foul up this way, and since the light is “supposed” to be on a pistol, it is small.

The hand devices you see in use are “supposed” to be at 6 o’clock, also, but this isn’t the way I want to do things. Let’s consider our prone position again, for a moment. With the “leg” of the stop at 9 o’clock, all I have to work around, while on my tum tum, is the magazine, now. I can still pull that one off. If I have to, I can prone on my  Support side and tip the firearm. Using a dot, where I put said dot still enables me to get hits, and the stop leg can’t hit dirt, because my hand is in the way.

Believe me folks, I’ve though this through, and tested it. I’m practically a scientist…A vertical grip or AFG will give you issues prone wise, but we’ve already covered that. What we did NOT cover is that you should have a spare battery for both light and optic in that hollow cavity on your pistol grip. Wrap them so they don’t make noise, and touch one another to discharge.

Let’s look at AR pistols now, and think about them. We can’t have the vertical grip (we didn’t want it, anyway) but we can mount an AFG. Again, my paws don’t fit these funny looking things. However, let’s say you have one mounted at 6 o’clock. It may serve some purpose while standing, and it may work somewhat as you’re kneeling, but try the prone piece we talked about earlier. Remember that there is very limited real estate on this miniaturized firearm (depending on your barrel length of choice), so do you want to consume most of it with an AFG that isn’t so great at 6 o’clock? Try it mounted at 9 o’clock, and it’s just foolish, but a handstop will work. For pistols, I’ll typically use a simple 90 degree “L” shaped stop, as minimal as possible. It may not be as sturdy as a 2 point model, but it keeps me from losing my fingers. We will be covering pistols more in depth, in articles that are coming, very soon. The same light orientation is arranged on my pistols as well. I even use the exact same light type on all of my firearms, so that I’m not overthinking things when I need to be focusing on the Bad Thing in front of me. Oddly enough, there are back up batteries hidden in the pistol grip, again.

This next bit will seem to fly into the face of conventional wisdom, but please try it out the next time you go shooting.

We are constantly told to pull the stock (or brace) tightly into our shoulder pockets during the firing sequence for stability and accuracy. Here is something that I was taught a hundred years ago by “consultants” who came to town to show us some things.

With your handstop firmly mounted exactly where you want it,your Support Thumb is in the juncture of the stop, while your Support fingers are wrapped around the rail. (This technique works best with the absolute slimmest handguards you can mount. Have your stock adjusted where you like it, as well.Rather than use the Support hand to PULL the firearm into the Strong Shoulder, use it to PUSH the firearm forward. Your sling is tightened around the body this way. With your Strong Hand, PULL the stock into the shoulder pocket, and allow the Trigger Finger to do the job it is designed for. You’ve now created rigidity, and since .223’s don’t recoil much, try some rounds from this position. You may find that this method works slightly better than other stuff that has been pounded into your head.

We have found that this helps females, who have smaller shoulder pockets, but the trade off is that it’s more physically demanding than the “conventional” method. Another issue is that without a handstop, you can get uneven tension, and your muzzle may track right (as a right hand shooter).

As everything firearms related tends to come down to personal preferences, all of this may seem silly to you, but, as a student of life, there may be some wheat among all this chaff. Please try it out, and if you learn ANYTHING from the experience, share it with your friends. As someone once said “Knowledge is Power”.

Stay Safe, Train Often

Photo courtesy of US Army