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Light Vs. Heavy Guns

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This thread was started by Dowter and lost before the conversion.

Light vs. Heavy Guns


I've just read on these forums that Leatham won one of the Nationals with a 50+ ounce gun. †I had always thought †that the optimum weight was about 36-40 ozs - go any heavier and your target transitions slow down.

So what is the current consensus (or debate) about light (faster transitions) and heavy (softer) guns.

I'm thinking about putting a tungsten barrel and magwell on my gun so I'm interested.


Robby was probably shooting a steel frame high cap which would be noticable heavier than an STI or SV.

I think it is all a matter of personal preference. An average open gun would generally weigh more than a pig of a limited one. I think the balance (where the weight is) of the gun would be a little more important.

The more weight you have at the muzzle of the gun, the more likely you are to experience a torquing when trying to stop on a target. The point where this occurs will vary between differrent people and their particular way of shooting. Some people have stronger wrists, forearms, and a grip in general compared to others.

Chuck D

My limited gun is an SV with the standard dust cover. I like a gun weighing in at 42-44 oz. Height helps if it is in the right place. A tungsten guide rod and tungsten plug put a bit more weight on the muzzle end and helps keep the muzzle down. I'd think 50 plus oz. is a bit much but without shooting it for myself i'll never really know.


I like lighter guns but Robbie's height/weight is quite a bit bigger than me. If we worked it out to a proportional ratio I bet its the same as we all use except he was getting a little more recoil reduction.

Chriss Grube

I think it all comes down to personal preference. I went from a para with an EGW 8 port comp and tungsten GR to a STI with a tribrid. It takes some getting used to but I like the lighter gun better now. I don't think the physical size really matters unless we are talking about smaller shooters. I'm 5'10" 205 and the heavy gun was great when I started out now the lighter gun transitions much better.


They were talking about Limited guns. Heavy does equate to less recoil but as your skills progress you give up comfort for whats faster. Less mass to move is faster. There is a point where it is too light. You can use a Ti slide and frame. No-one does. I know $5000+ but I see a lot of shooters with unlimited budgets.

Who cares about recoil? I don't even notice except in practice. I agree that its personal preference except on the point that Rob using a 50+ ounce gun. He did partially because he is bigger, my ratio theory( I assume only he knows). I would not like it and probably give up points because of fatigue. If you don't feel comfortable then you won't shoot well.

By the way my Open gun is real light. Hogged out slide, Ti comp, hollow guide rod etc. Most people that shoot it say its real violent. Yea it is and I like it :)


BTW - I'm actually a little bit larger than Leatham. †I figured that he was more comfortable with a large gun since he was a large guy. †That gave me the idea of trying out a heavier gun for myself.

Ron Ankeny

I have been wondering about this issue too because I am thinking about getting a new limited pistol. I saw an advertisement on a well known pistolsmith's sight that advertised "Light and Fast"or "Heavy and Stable" so apparantly there is a substantial market for both.

I have arthritis in my hands and a heavy stable gun is a blessing because it reduces the shock to my hands. But i still wonder what I am giving up as far as speed. My current limited pistol is a six inch with a tunsten guide rod and magwell. It weighs 54 ounces. I am thinking of going to a five inch with a long dust cover, tungsten sleeve, and tungsten guide rod to add a bit more weight up front.

I don't see where the heavy pistol slows down my transitions on closely spaced targets like we see in most classifiers. If anything, the heavy gun slides in and stops smoother than a light gun. But it is slow in some field courses where the transitions approach 180 degrees.

I have a real light and fast open gun built on a short dust cover 2011 and a Commander length slide. The gun does handle fast. I added a 9 ounce magwell and a tungsten guide rod to soften it up. I guess I defeated the whole reasoning behind the gun in the first place, but it is so much softer to shoot. This gun is a heavy pig, but on closely spaced targets, like the El Pres., it indexes itself. Heck, I don't know which way to go anymore...

BTW, I am 6'4"and I weigh 240 pounds, but I am not particularly strong or fast.

Chriss Grube

I've shot the heavy and light in both open and limited. As Bill said in a match I don't notice the recoil. The heavy gun depends on where you have the weight. The light gun transitions better for me, it all comes down to personal preference. It was a bigger issue with the old 175 PF than it is now. The only way to know for sure is to try both out.

Erik Warren

Look at the Limited and L-10 guns of the top 16 and other good shooters... there's every possible combination and they all do well. TGO won a bunch of stages with a super-heavy gun. Sevigny won a stage with a super-light gun (Glock).

I believe Brian's book said it's easier to call your shots with a heavy gun.


"I believe Brian's book said it's easier to call your shots with a heavy gun."

Yea, but the difference is infinitesimal - wouldn't really matter on anything but a bloated pig of a Bianchi Cup device.

I'd say just experiment - you gotta see for yourself what you prefer.

Patrick Sweeney

"bloated pig of a Bianchi Cup device"

Gotta write that down somewhere.


Thought you might like that one.



For the longest time we were putting tungsten guide rods in the guns making them heavier and heavier. At some point in time I realized that really doesn't work for me - it is harder for me to stabilize the muzzle that way.

I then lightened the guns up - titanium comps and plastic guide rods. Hated that too.

Eventually I learned that I love a gun light out front with a regular steel guide rod (Ti comp on an open gun) and a heavier frame.

My current .40 is set up exactly the way I want. A steel framed Springfield with a standard top end. I also have the same configuration on an open gun except for a couple of slide lightening cuts.

Just my $.02 - I really struggled with this for a long time. Robbie was going heavier and I was starting to really dislike the guns while he was loving it. I couldn't figure it out. Then I realized to each his own.


You hit the nail on the head with that one J1b. Some people have looked at my Limited and Open guns and asked "why, that isn't right.". My response was always the same. "why not, they're mine":)


Wheww! †As a person who has only been in the sport for a short 1-1/2 years, †I'll say that all this gun-weight stuff seems miniscule next to the mountain of skill needed to †effectively drive a handgun in competition.

While some will look for ways to add or subtract ounces, others will be on the range shooting a gun.

JB, you asked on another thread what "the ticket"is? †Well, I'll bet if you stayed with your favorite gun from years back, you've got your ticket! It's comfortable right? Inspires confidence yes?

"..If we worked it out to a proportional ratio I bet its the same.." Bill's comment about gun weight to body mass is important. The only constant here is the 170PF recoil. †A heavier gun will cancel that force better. A larger, stronger person will move that heavy gun as fast as a weaker person will move a light one.

So it seems that smaller, lighter people are better off shooting Open division (recoil reduction via technology). While larger, stronger mammals are better suited to handle the heavy recoil-reducing Limited guns (recoil absorbsion via body mass)

This thread has inspired much pondering, I must sleep now.


Two things -

In Brian's book somewhere it says that after all this screwing around with guns he realized that if he missed one target in a single match that all this other crap didn't mean a thing. Yeah - the gun is important - but not as important as the shooting.

Second - I don't know if I agree with the smaller guy open gun bigger guy limited thought process. If you've ever shot a 9x25 you'd know a gun that is about as unpleasant to shoot as anything. I loved them - but they were rough! Smaller guns have a snappier feel, bigger guns have a smoother feel. Depending on what you like to SEE while shooting - either can work for you. That's what I think at least.

Alas I am picking up a gun that I do enjoy shooting. You hit the nail on the head there. Ironically the past two or three guns I've gotten - set up the way they are - are just incredible. Each of them has reminded me of a 1911 I had built about ten years ago that is to this day probably the best gun I've ever owned. It was so tight it was tough to load - the great thing is today it has about 50,000 rounds on it and it continues to be tight, shoots great groups, and is as reliable as the sun coming up in the morning.


I want a gun like that......

When I cycle my Glock, I don't really get that "ball bearing"feeling. :(

Chriss Grube

Might be because ball bearings are steel not plastic? There is nothing sweeter than a perfect slide to frame fit!


You're not kidding. Yesterday I had the priveledge of playing with a SV recently built by a gent named Carlos Brigante (sp?). †Absolutely beautiful!! It was built for a local GM who placed top 16 this year. He wanted a lighter gun, I think he said it was 36oz.

Duane Thomas

Ahhhhh yes, that perfect slide action. You're talking about my Wilson gun with Slide-Glide.


Let me put myself on the line as a newbie shooter. Having shot Commander, Gov't and 6"(heavy w/ a bull barrel and tungsten rod) guns in competition, for a novice heavier and longer is definitely better, especially for smaller shooters. I feel a noticeable differerence in recoil between a heavy 6"gun and a gov't model. The platform feels more stable, shots are easier to call, and the recoil is lower because I can load lighter. D or low C class shooters don't sweat quick transitions like upper class shooters. What's important for novice shooters is stability, shot to shot sight acquistion (less muzzle rise), and an easily controllable, flat shooting gun. The long, heavy guns seem to do those things better. Sure the slide cycles slower, but slowing things down for a new shooter isn't necessarily bad. It's too easy for new shooters to get sucked into the IPSC speed thing and then when it's time to tape targets they suddenly realize that half of thier shots were D's or mikes.

Contrary to other posters, I think smaller and lighter shooters do better with a heavier gun because it absorbs more recoil, which is positive for a small shooter with less body mass. I presume as one gets more proficient, is better able to master recoil and begins to surpass the potential of the gun, lighter is probably better. Just some observations.


I switched from a fairly conventional custom P14 to a heavily modified 6"bull barrel STI recently. †The STI is 38 oz., while the Para is a bit more.

I discovered that I really liked the longer sight radius, but that was a minor point to the felt recoil. †Granted, the switch from .45 to .40 was also a factor, but the 6"with all the weight off the slide (particularly from under the slide) seems to shoot more like an Open gun than a Limited.

Sort of the best of both worlds...a long light gun †:D



Ron Ankeny

I shot a fat free six inch from Triangle for two years, then sold it. Don't get me wrong, it was (is) a great pistol, but the weight distribution just wasn't quite right. If Benny used a long dust cover and a "coffin"cut slide he would really be on to something.

Phil Dunlop

I think I have finally weaned myself off my tungsten rod. The gun's a 5"STI, full length dust cover with a Gramms tungsten mag well. all up weight was around 47oz.

I loved the smooth ride, but it was a beast!

Now with a standard steel guide rod and lots of 3 slide glide the gun is remarkably quicker feeling and still soft to shoot.

Julien Boit

Phil is right, Slide Glide really helps in softening the gun.

I feel my gun is softer now with SG at 178.5 PF than it was when only lubing with oil at 173 PF.

The gun is a full profile/Long frame SPS with tungsten guide rod and 12.5 recoil spring , but not for a long time Phil, next pistols will be STI or SV.




Phil Dunlop

why the change Julian?

Julien Boit

Because everybody want me to !

And so do I !!


Phil Dunlop

say no more!


Joe D

Guys I have been thinking about building a STI/SVI Limited gun for the last year. I may actually get around to it this winter. It would seem to me the lighter the slide the better, but use a bull barrel with a tungsten guide rod. Should not the reciprocating weight be kept low? Is my thinking all wet?

Erik Warren

Joe, I have near-identical Limited guns and I swear the lightened-slide gun flips more than the heavy slide gun. And it's not a huge weight difference, just material milled out around the disconnector channel, around the hammer contact area.

I shot it Sunday for the first time in a while, and I tossed high shots all over the place.


Well guys I finally weighed my 6î STI. It came in at 35ozís. And I think it works killer for me! I am 6í3 @ 270. Not much recoil, but I have found a load that works great and shoots soft (200G 4.2 of titgroup). Gun was done by CG customs in southern Texas. Looks killer shootís awesome!! I like the light gun much more than my old heavy pig. Oh AikidoGirl is mad because mine is A LOT lighter than her open gun! Oh well thatís too bad!!!!

Mark S. A-18138

Shoot fast! Look good! Donít worry about your hits! LOL

Joe D

Erik, do your guns weigh the same in the front? I was thinking if two guns weighed the same and had the same weight forward of the trigger guard then the lighter slide gun should have less flip, assuming they have the proper recoil spring.

Erik Warren

Joe, yes, they are near identical. One has a Caspian slab slide (flat-topped), the other lightened STI slab slide (flat-topped). Same bull bbl, recoil system, etc. etc.

Now some people might argue a lighter slide makes for a less flippy gun. I speak only of my own experiences.


After sitting here reading every post on this, I am as confused as ever......final conclusion? To each his own.

I had the OPPOSITE exp of the guy above, did an informal "side by side by side"of my med weight lim SV, a heavier Edge, a lighter weight short dust cover bushing barreled STI, a long wide bull 6", and a "Fat Free"6".

For ME (and maybe only ME): †The Long wide 6 was slow but real soft, the LW 6"was not as soft, seemed a little slow, but pointed real well. †I didn't like the Edge set up with the heavy bits in it, my middle weight (38oz) SV seemed just right (duh, it was mine) and the short / light bushing gun, while a but more snappy FEELING, was the gun everyone said I shot the quickest and flattest......

.......go figure.


check out the article of Bob Londrigan ( brazo's custom) in Front Sight regarding the plus and minuses with regards to light and heavy limited guns.


I added a tunsten guide rod and my draw improved .15, go figure. I like the feel of light guns better, but my times are better with heavier guns. I have no idea why, that why I use a timer to figure out what works better for me.

I added a Tungsten rod to my open gun after I found I was shooting a plate rack faster with my limited gun than my open gun. They felt the same but the splits on the limited were faster (.25-.30 vs .2-.25 @10 yards) The only thing I can figure is that when the buzzer goes of I am stronger than normal and don't notice the extra weight.


It would seem that changing the weight of the gun changes more than the "feel & flatness". It also changes the timing.

I like L2S's idea of using the timer to help sort things out.



One thing that we often learn to do subconsciously is to use the recoil of the gun to help move it to the next target. The open gun has less recoil to help you. That accompanied with the lighter weight up front will account for the faster target to target acquisitions. Splits are a different story.


Ron Ankeny


I read Bob's article last night. It is very well written. He makes a whole lot of sense. †Take two S_I pistols in almost identical configurations with the only difference being that one had a short dust cover and a tungsten guide rod, and the other a long dust cover and a steel guide rod. Shooters would debate the merits of each until the cow's go home. After shooting either for a year, how many of use could really point to a where one or the other offered any real increase in performance?


Shooting a plate rack faster with a Limited pistol than an Open pistol just isn't right. It is a crime against nature.


1042041539|Hey, I moved and Front Site hasn't caught up with me yet, give ht eme short version? Not much difference I'm betting.




THanks, I never thought of that. I guess it might be a trade off, faster draw and slower transitions maybe, I need to get out and check that out once I get my open gun back, thanks.


The plate rack thing made me sick too, but then again I shoot dang near all the same scores with open or limited.


ok, I can't type. I would like the short version of the conclusions...


Brazos Custom

The article is posted on the website:


Glad you liked it Ron!



If more people went with the idea that "one size doesn't fit all", we'd all likely be better off.

Good article....and, at the right time too.


Wow, really deep thought and informative post here guys. Anyway, in all the shooting I've done and the YEARS it took me to make GM in Limited, I've found that I too, like Rob Leatham, like a heavy gun. It seems to not beat me up as much during the shooting season when your shooting a lot of rounds and makes it little easier to call my shots, for me at least.


I just read Bob Londrigan's article and what I found interesting is that it basically came to the exact opposite conclustion of what seemed like the consensus(sort of) in this thread.

Bob - the bigger you are, the better you can handle recoil, the lighter your gun should be

Thread -the bigger you are, the better you can handle a big gun, the heavier your gun could be

Both sides seem equally valid. A rule of thumb that I sometimes use in figuring something out is - if the exact opposite positions of an issue seem equally valid then the issue probably isn't really an issue.

BTW - Can anyone actually confirm that TGO has a 50 oz gun? I talked to a GM who says that he handled TGO's gun at the nationals and he says that it was not 50 oz. I'm particularly interested in the TGO's gun because his selection directly contradicts Bob Londrigan's article. Also what are the components of TGO's gun?

LOL I'm almost at the point of just saying screw it, it's not important. I'll just make my next gun a glock like flexmoney and save some cash.


His limited 10 gun is probably approching the near 50 Ozs/ Long slide with bull barrel.


I believe his Limited gun is also a heavy one, maybe not 50oz exact, but close, 48-49oz.

He has a Springfield all steel frame, bull barrel w/ tungsten sleeve on it, tungsten guide rod and Grams special tungsten magwell. Just these simple things make it about 48-49 oz, I think.


I took a class from Burkett and he shot my full length dust cover/slide limited gun. We both used the same loads. His limited gun was a standard length one and nothing fancy about it (really!!). He said mine wasn't bad, but it was a tad heavy for him. I then shot his and then realized I had progressed to the point where the lighter gun was better for ME. I thought it was faster to point target to target. Oh well........its only money ...

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I love this topic. My 15 yo son and I where discussing this the other day and he compared it to his passion, rpg video games and football. He stated that my approach to recoil management was like some of the rpg games he plays. Find the perfect stats. Weight is only a portion of the science of recoil management. To properly manage recoil in a handgun the following aspects are to be taken into consideration: Grip strength, grip form, muscular recovery, body weight, physical height, arm length to height ratio, shoulder width (Reach length), hand size, Gun : frame weight, slide weight, weight of parts, spring weights. load design, slide and barrel length, bore axis.

It's not just the gun that is involved in the kinetic science of recoil management and I believe that this is where some shooters stifle themselves while traveling that path.

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Metal grip, heavy guns seem to be what everyone wants now. Don’t see very many 6” guns anymore. I recently shot 5” .45 1911 42oz, 172pf ammo. No preconceived notion of recoil having only shot PCC mostly for the last year. My goal for the match was to just see the sight and pull trigger when it was on the plate. There may be something to heavy guns, you don’t need to grip as much or drive them as hard. But with proper grip, stance and recoil management, you can shoot light polymer guns just as fast. I wish Dave Sevigny would come back and shoot Production. 

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Lately I have been shooting Glocks and decided to change out a slide on my glock 34 to a ZEV lightened slide . While it swings faster and can cycle faster due to the lightened mass .It feels like a toy gun in the hand and is a huge transition. I ended up added weight with a brass and tungsten guide rod.


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Shoots flat, recovers quickly, allows very fast spits on targets that are farther away than a lighter gun will allow. The downside is that it gets heavy on the waist and is too heavy for some belt/holster setups. Also, it will slow your draw speed down by .2-.3, which can be a factor on classifiers. 

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I personally think that the deciding factor is balance, not weight. This is evident with the Shadow 2 which weighs a tonne compared to other production guns, however with its weight being distributed in the areas to reduce muzzle rise while keeping it balanced, competitors continue to win with this behemoth.

Edited by abb1
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Going between my Glock open gun to a para open gun never had any issues. I like the feel of the heavier but tuning and load are crazy important.

I am moving away from open and settling in with my CZ TSO which falls in the heavy side

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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I never had a problem with a heavier shotgun at clays "overswinging" nor with a heavier handgun. I think the tendency to over correct is more likely with a lighter gun so I'd never compete with one of my Berettas, they just feel too flimsy. For me the whole thing with weight is a balance between comfort and accuracy. Find that and you're golden. 


Nowadays I carry a Witness Limited pro with magwell which when loaded tips the scale at 50 ounces NP.


I figure if petite female police officers can  wear a vest, carry a gun, spare mags, stun gun, radio and handcuffs for an 8 hour shift I'm on shaky ground crabbing about a few ounces plus or minus on a single firearm. 

Edited by gnappi
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What I have found is that I can transition faster with a lighter gun and don't have as much tendency to overswing past the target. But a heavier gun is more stable and my sights don't dance as much on more difficult shots.

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