When determining the monetary value of a new widget to hang on your carbine, most people try to determine if it adds enough functionality to justify its price. I suggest that we should be performing the same type of value analysis with weight. I rarely hear people talking about whether or not an accessory adds enough functionality to justify its weight.
Bipods are a good example. Bipods are a great tool for the precision shooter mounted on a rifle that is set up for precision shooting. The enhanced stability that a bipod offers justifies its weight in that role. Simply put, you are better off with it than without it. However, you wouldn’t (or at least you shouldn’t) put one on a carbine that has a red dot optic mounted. In that case, there is no justification for the additional weight of the bipod when just using the magazine as a monopod is more than stable enough for the relative precision of the carbine as configured. In this case, the weight of the bipod is unnecessary and it doesn’t make sense to carry it.
All of that brings me to the subject of this article – hand stops. These unsung little widgets are weight-to-functionality ratio poster children. The seed of an idea for this article stems from a picture that I posted on Facebook a while ago of a lightweight carbine build. I received an email from a reader wondering why, if my intent was to build the lightest carbine possible, I didn’t just remove the hand stop. If that truly was my intent, I suppose he would be right but that is never my intent. My intent is to build the lightest carbine that I can without sacrificing functionality or reliability.
My two favorite hand stops on the market weigh just half of an ounce and yet they offer for more than a half an ounce worth of capability. Hand stops weigh so little and yet provide so much capability that it hard for me to justify removing them. Hand stops can do most, if not all, of what a vertical grip can do but in a smaller and lighter package.
The most obvious use of a hand stop is as a grip aid or index point. When using it as a grip aid, place it directly behind where you would normally grip your carbine with your support hand to give you something to pull against when shouldering the carbine. It works very well with a thumb forward or thumb over grip.
Hand stops can also make it easier to activate your weapon. Activating a weapon light often requires at least a small shift in grip. This shift may make it harder to maintain an aggressive grip. The presence of a hand stop lets you use different parts of your hand to control the muzzle end of the rifle, freeing up your fingers to reach buttons/switches that would be difficult to use otherwise.
Barricade shooting is much more stable with a hand stop as long as their shape is well suited to it. I like my hand stops to have a vertical face or a slight forward hooked shape to ensure that they will bite into the barricade. You can either drive the hand stop into the barricade with the weight of your shoulder behind the carbine or hook the hand stop over the barricade and pull the hand stop back. I prefer the former.
Hand stops can also be very handy with improvised shooting positions. If you have ever shot under a low barricade from a bent over position on your knees, you will appreciate the stability that a hand stop can add when you pull it against the forearm of your support hand. This technique provides excellent stability and very fast follow-up shots.
Perhaps best of all, hand stops don’t get in the way as much as a vertical grip when resting your rifle. Shooting off of a sandbag, backpack, or an improvised field rest like a log or stump is drama free with a hand stop. That isn’t always the case with a vertical grip (not that this article is anti vertical grip as they also offer great functionality for their weight).
There are two hand stops that I have used extensively and am very confident in recommending. The previously reviewed Low-Pro Products Hand Stop has a slighty hooked shape and very well rounded corners for comfort. It weighs just half an ounce and doesn’t take up much rail space. I also use all flavors of the Impact Weapons Components Weapon Control MOUNT-N-SLOTs (KeyMod, direct-connect, and Picatinny Rail versions). The Picatinny Rail version of the Weapon Control may look chunky but it is actually cored out on the underside so it only weighs half an ounce.
Almost all hand stops will weigh less than a vertical grip and almost all of them will offer more than their weight’s worth of functionality. If you are budgeting your weight like you do your money, you can’t afford not to try a hand stop.
Check out Low Pro Products and Impact Weapons Components (remember to use code “triggerjerk” to save 5% on your Impact Weapons Components order).
I completely agree. I was issued a vertical grip in the Army, which I found cumbersome and obnoxious. In the end I mounted it almost all the way back to the mag well and just used it as a modified magwell grip.
After the Army I tried the Magpul AFG for a while. That was better, but still not quite right. I finally landed on the Magpul handstop kit. The IWC looks to be better built and less complex, but the Magpul handstop was cheap and it works great for all the reasons you mentioned above. Light, unobtrusive, and very helpful.
Handstops are the perfect combination of ergonomics and functionality. If you get mud on your hands, it keeps you from losing too much fiction and leverage on the gun. And if you need to stabilize the weapon you don’t have to worry about your attachments getting in the way. Best of all it weighs almost nothing while providing everything you can ask for out of a grip and more.
I’m sure grips server a greater purpose somewhere out there, but I cannot rationally justify the use of grips unless I am forced to use them or if I wanted to be “tacti-cool”.
Vertical Fore Grips/”broom sticks” we’re developed “back in the day” when everyone was issued M4s and had to add on PEQ-2/4/15/etc, mounted lights, pressure switches, possibly pen flares, ad infinitum. Once all that crap was clamped/taped/zip tied on an M4’s 6.5″ rail there wasn’t much room left to grip the rifle unless you had monstrous paws or used the magwell. Some unknown genius probably zip tied a broom stick under there, or who knows what, and the vertical fore grip was born to give a guy the ability to move his hand back out and regain the leverage needed to push that massively front heavy carbine around.
Since we don’t have to use issued rifles/rails and most of us don’t use NVDs, along with all the required accessories, the vertical fore grip has run its course outside of those with an old school bend or those who don’t know any better. Vertical fore grips then started getting cut down shorter and shorter because they were a pain in the ass and caught on everything. Eventually the light bulb clicked on and some smart guys started developing purpose built hand stops.
“The king is dead! Long live the king!”
Hand stops are a 3 gun invention. I am not saying they are bad or good. I have tried them and I have a few hanging out in a AR storage box.
I had a VFG on my issue M4 and yes it was to support a heavy front end at the time. As a civilian I only have a light out front but I also have a VFG. A VFG has many uses. Push/pull support on a barrier while standing, kneeling, or shooting under a vehicle using your leg to pull the VFG against. Its a mini-mono pod at times. It is great hand stop in general and even better when using flashlight with a clicky tail. Engaging your light with many momentary on bursts while sweeping the rifle front end is a lot easier with a VFG, even easier than a hand stop.
I must be old fashioned because I still run a quad rail. Its a high quality light weight Centurion Arms, but its a quad rail. Strong as hell with infinite adjustment points that I don’t have to move around. The AR world is turning into a fashion show at times.
Vertical fore grips are VERY old school. M1928 Thompson anyone?