For a while I've not been really happy with the Hogue monogrips that came with my S&W 686 4" .357. They just don't quite feel right. In particular, while they do absorb a good deal of the recoil, they don't have a good texture when I carry it in a holster (too sticky) and they don't give me a good trigger reach or fingering with the finger contours on the grip. I end up having to cramp my fingers, and overall it just wasn't quite working.
My hands are pretty small, so larger, meatier grips wouldn't really help. I need all the help I can get with the heavy trigger pull on a 686 in double action, so that was also important. In looking around, the nice wood Miculek grips have a lot of the things I want. They are narrow, small, and rounded, and without finger grooves. At least in the abstract, they would be a perfect fit for what I wanted out of grips. Indeed, when I first put them on the gun, they did feel much better. I can say now, after working with the new grips for a while, that I'll probably keep them on the gun. However, it hasn't been a smooth transition from the Hogue grips to the Miculek ones.
Firstly, I have had a terrible trigger pull and a not so good flinch when dealing with handguns. It's just annoying, but it's something that finally did me in with the Miculek grips. I never got out onto the range often enough to fix it, but with the Miculek grips, it's really obvious how bad it was. It's taken a lot of careful dry firing to get to a good trigger pull and figure out what the right trigger/finger interface works best for my hands and conditioning. I thought that I had it worked out a while back, but when I took the Miculek grips to the range for the first time, and then a time after that, it became all too apparent how bad things were. Not only was my trigger pull off, my grip was horrendous.
With the Hogue grips, because of their stickiness and also their rubber cushioning, I had become pretty lazy about how I held the gun. In fact, to compensate for a bad trigger pull, I had been using a pretty weak grip, which I could get away with in the rubber grips, kind of, because the gun sort of stuck to my hand. However, after shooting the first cylinder of 158 grain .357's that come in at about a 230 power factor, the sharper, more defined edge of the Miculek grips took a nasty liking to my thumb's nerves. I tried a number of different grip positions that I could find, but for some reason they all hurt too much with the wood grips.
I was pretty sure that this was my own fault, and not that of the grips. And, after some range time today, where I shot about 150 of those magnums out of the gun in the space of an hour, I can say that the problem was definitely me. I haven't been able to find this level of information out there, so I'm going to detail just what I've been doing to fix the problem of my grip with these grips. This has improved my shooting overall, and I think it would also help me if I were to put the Hogue monogrips back onto the gun, which, after having managed to figure out what I was doing wrong, I'm probably not going to do.
I was experiencing two kinds of problems when shooting with the Miculek grips. Firstly, if I held the gun with what I thought was a firm grip, as recommended by a number of top revolver shooters, with the thumbs wrapped over one another, the grip would just eat my hand alive. After a lot of simulation at home I was able to determine the forces that were causing this. I also spent some time looking over the various grips, including semi-auto and revolver grip styles. The cause of the over-aggressive biting came down to the top of the grip rotating back and sliding against the inside of my thumb before locking down on the lowest thumb joint. After testing it out at the range a few times, I figured out that my hands, despite the smaller grip size, just weren't getting enough purchase on the grip, and moreover, the death grip I had on the gun was causing all the forces to go directly at the thumb joint. Switching to a thumbs forward grip, I was able to get more purchase on the gun, and as an aside, it forced my thumbs to open up and move out of the path of the gun's recoil. This instantly made a difference in how the gun felt. The wood grips are still less forgiving on the recoil than the rubber ones, but it's very manageable now, and I can easily shoot 200 rounds without discomfort, though there might be a bit of bruising when it's all said and done. :-)
However, opening up the thumbs revealed yet another failure of my grip, which is to say, losing it. Because almost all the purchasing power I had was centered around the thumbs and first finger, the gun has a tendency to rotate in my hands with the slicker wooden grips, making a follow up shot without adjusting the grip nearly impossible. That obviously isn't acceptable, so I want to work on that. After some more study, and a final range test, I've determined that fixing my grip to get the gun further down into the palm of my hand, and getting my whole hands, both of them around the gun with a firm grip that gets as much palm and finger purchase as possible across the entire front and back of the grip especially, leads to the appropriately reduced and manageable recoil while still enabling me to retain my hold on the gun. It's not perfect yet, and I still have to work on it, but at least now I know that I can fix it. Combining this with the proper locking of the wrists and so forth, recoil is very manageable in the gun, even with the magnums, and making accurate follow up shots isn't a fantasy.
Hopefully I'll get back out to the range soon and nail down the final bits that I need to keep those tight groups. There's no reason I can't get reasonably fast shots and keep my groups under 2 - 3" at 25 yards with double action. At the moment I'm still working with 4" groups at 15 yards (three rounds, any more than that and my consistency drops). Here's to some hard work!