Super Modified Gangster Grip

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Matt Steele teaches the Gangster Grip, Modified Gangster Grip and Super Modified Gangster Grip.

Jon Davis, a Marine Corps weapons instructor, posted a long article on Quora in which he suggested that gangsters hold their gun sideways due to the mistaken belief that you can aim faster that way …

I am a former Marine Corps marksmanship instructor. I specialized in pistols and have fired these weapons thousands of times. That said, the thought has crossed my mind. The answer didn’t come to me until another coach (from the “hood”) gave me a good reason why this technique would be used. In practice it actually does utilize one very important sighting practice, but fails overall. This is a good idea in theory, but fails miserably in the actual execution.

My theory is that gangsters shoot poorly on purpose. They need to be seen to be dangerous to both their comrades and to their enemies but the cost of actually killing someone is very high (prison and/or retaliation).

If a gangster is obliged to shoot at another gangster, he is much better off not just missing but also signalling to his opponent that he is not trying to actually trying to kill him. Holding a pistol sideways like an idiot is one way to signal intent to miss. Holding an AR-15 with an EOTech while wearing a ballistic vest signals the opposite.

The practice of shooting at someone with the intention of missing goes back to the days of duels. To delope is to throw away a shot. Alexander Hamilton infamously let it be known that he intended to delope during his duel with Vice President Aaron Burr, but Burr shot him dead anyway.

Eugene Onegin and Vladimir Lensky’s duel by Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin

[ Many thanks to jdun1911 & mrsatyre for emailing me the tip. ]




Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • bbmg

    “My theory is that gangsters shoot poorly on purpose.”

    I think you’re ascribing more intellectual capacity to the average gangbanger than what would be reflected in reality.

    As to shooting to miss, in the eternal words of Tupac, “Pull yo strap on me n***a you betta kill”.

    • Burst

      On the one hand, claiming intent to kill in a song is the very definition of a paper tiger.

      On the other, when someone decided to shoot at Tupac, they got it (relatively) right.

  • http://www.batmanbatmanbatman.com Woodroez

    I had heard that they were emulating stunt men who shot like that in movies. The stunt men were doing that because the blank-firing replicas they used would spit spent casings straight back into the user’s face if used properly, so they canted them over to avoid catching a mouthful of brass.

    Not sure where I picked that up, though.

    • http://www.batmanbatmanbatman.com Woodroez

      Though, having thought about it for a few minutes, I suspect the real reason someone would do that is that they’ve found themselves in a crazy situation and are acting on frightened instincts. If you’re going to pull a gun because you’re scared to death and you’re running away while slinging bullets, why even pretend to aim? The arm points naturally at a cant. Point and shoot.

  • jim

    i don’t find humor in this video.. it fails at that sadly and is on the edge of bigoted stereotyping.. nothing more.. in a word, asinine..

    and pay attention to Jon Davis’ trigger discipline..

    these are firearms, not toys to make a weak, played out point..

    • FormerSFMedic

      I don’t know how you got so many low ratings Jim. I definitely agree with your comments.

    • Rob J.

      I wholeheartedly agree with jim as well. If this video accomplishes anything at all, it encourages irresponsible shooters to emulate this kind of behavior for amusement. It also gives most responsible shooters a bad rap; seeing this kind of sophomoric behavior paints all gun owners in a bad light. I won’t even try to expand on the negative stereotyping aspect- if it’s not already obvious how demeaning it is, then it’s not worth explaining.

      • jdun1911

        Rob J.,

        I pretty sure that the people who is watching the video knows that this is a parody . The viewers are not that dumb. If anything else it stop them from embarrassing themselves on public range.

        The last time I went to a public range was over 15 years ago . The last time I saw someone go gangster style was at a public range and the guy was 100% white.

    • jdun1911

      Let be honest here, that’s how gangsters shoot in real life. Go to youtube or liveleak and do a search on gangster shootings. Making fun of it is in no way constituted racism. It’s no difference then making fun of rednecks, hunters, high speed low drag guys, Taliban, etc.

      BTW my best friend is Black. He named his kid after me and an anime cat. I got her baby picture taped on one of my precision rifles that I used to shoot a lot with.

      So Jim your race card is max out.

      • Rob J.

        jdun1911, nobody mentioned being “black” as the stereotype in the comments above. This is an assumption you made yourself, proving jim’s point. Also, in the rest of the comments, the two pop culture names I picked out in reference to the post were Snoop Dogg and Tupac- both black gangsta rap artists.

        I don’t doubt that your best friend is black, and I’m glad that you have such a close relationship. I will say, however, that racial stereotyping is a much deeper issue than most people realize. For a small primer, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criminal_black_man_stereotype.

        The video may not have been created with any racist intention, but as an audience, let’s not be blind to the unfortunate implications. “Gangsta-style shooting” is one thing, but the “crotch-grabbing” in conjunction is a textbook example of the masculine sexualization and criminalization of the black man.

        I challenge anyone to admit that when they watched this video, the image of a stereotypical black gangster did not enter their mind. If you did imagine such an image, then you must realize that this video is inadvertently perpetuating a demeaning stereotype.

        • Gunner

          Uh, yeah. It’s called humor. Ever seen the movie “Don’t be a menace to south Central while drinking your juice in the hood”? They themselves make fun of the gangsta way of life. And yes, Jim said “bigoted stereotyping”, meaning racism. Learn to read. Playing the race card. Larry the cable guy makes fun of rednecks all the time. It’s all humor, not the white man holding the black man back. Get a clue race-baiter

    • Greg

      You call it stereotyping I call it, “If the shoe fits.”

      Did you perhaps not understand the humor in the video
      because it might apply to you?

    • Gunner

      Seriously Jim? They are both trained shooters, it was meant to be funny. Sorry if you have a stick up your ass, but I still like to have fun when I go shooting. They were shooting at a solid wood building with nothing but woods beyond. It was safe. Some people get so caught up in “safety that they forget how to have fun. Firearms safety begins and ends with your trigger finger, nothing else. Lighten up a little bud.

  • Clodboy

    I read somewhere that the main reason for its popularity is that by holding the gun sideways, your hand around the grip looks like a closed fist performing a punch, i.e. a lot more visually intimidating. Atleast that makes sense for movies – IRL, having a gun pointed at you in any style of grip is probably as intimidating as it can possibly get.

  • Alex-mac

    The reason why the gangster grip is used is because it’s how the hand naturally hangs, making point shooting more intuitive. For example, point at someone with your index finger, then do the same with a gun in it.

  • ryan

    i had heard that the sideways grip was used initially to use the horizontal recoil as a benefit to track running targets or target multiple people concentrating more on spray than precision. any truth to that?

    • NI Shooter

      Yeah, I’ve heard that too, the recoil creates a horizontal sweep at around chest level which is why it’s common in drive-by shootings. Don’t know how well it would work with anything other than a full auto, or even if it would work with anthing other than a compensated firearm, but it’s what I’ve heard.

    • J

      I had two Soldiers from different hoods explain to me that their fathers (you know, the OGs) favored the “gangsta” method because parties and other social gatherings used to be great targets. They didn’t really care who they shot, they just needed to hit as many people as possible. Of course, the gangsta method makes the barrel flip a horizontal movement and round fired rapidly would still hit folks in a crowd rather than passing over their heads. Of course, data is not the plural of anecdote so take that for what it’s worth.

      Oh, and I’d just as readily believe that there were completely non-tactical reasons for doing so. I imagine the real reasons (if there ever were any) are lost to us.

  • Kevin Berger

    FWIW :
    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/GangstaStyle
    See also the “real life” folder.

    • Esh325

      ” It is the safest method of firing the AK-47 when lying prone – due to its awkwardly large magazine, holding the weapon vertically elevates the angle of the barrel upward by a good 20 degrees, which means you have to lift your head well off the ground to look down the sights, presenting a large target for any hostiles. ”

      I’ve never heard of anybody doing that with an AK. I’m having a hard time picturing what it would look like.

      • David/Sharpie

        This is info from a Canadian 5.11 Tactical magazine….

        On page 53 there is a picture of two female officers firing ARs over the hood of a car. The rear most officer had her rifle canted over to the left (Her left) with the ejection port up, magazine to the right. She has a much lower profile than the other officer.

        This picture shows perfectly what you quoted and did not understand.

      • http://waffenbesitzer20.wordpress.com Tobias P

        Esh325, check “modified prone” and the “brokeback position”. On a side note: With both AK or AR-15 you need surprisingly little clearance for the ejection port, so it does not matter whether you point the port to the ground or the other way around.

  • West

    “My theory is that gangsters shoot poorly on purpose. They need to be seen to be dangerous to both their comrades and to their enemies but the cost of actually killing someone is very high..”

    True, in order to avoid murder charges it’s now common practice to straight up shoot people in the ass. It’s humiliating but not murder.

    And I think it’s still fashionable to simply shoot right past the guy you’re supposed to be mad at and into the house full of kids behind him.

  • Nicks87

    Let’s hope these clowns on the street really are “shooting to miss” because it causes them to develop bad habits.

    When it comes time to react to a stressful situation your body naturally reverts back to what it is used to doing. So in reality, what they are doing is training themselves to shoot poorly, giving law enforcement officers a distinct advantage.

  • Mike Knox

    The “gangster grip” pretty much came from mexican back woods gunsmiths when they test fire pistols. Story goes that a lot of times the slides come off flying backwards into their faces unless they held it obliquely off..

  • NickB

    Matt Steele should practice teaching them how to use a mac 11 or mac 10 in sidegrip, then it might be usefull. I recall reading about how in WW2 they fired sidegrip alot because it would make the guy spray sideways instead of up.

    • Sol

      I remember something about this too. Maybe someone can chime in with more info. I actually have a friend who was in the South Vietnamese Army who by his own admission fired his M16 sideways to “spray” the bullets horizontally. Perhaps the practice carried over from the multitude of M2 carbines that can be quite uncontrollable in the untrained.

    • Gunner

      Not just WWII. Many, and I mean many soldiers used their m16’s sideways for the exact same reason. On full auto your weapon will rise significantly, no matter how good you are, wasting the majority of your ammo above the intended target. Sideways shooting allows you to start at the right of your target and cut a line to the left of your target. Point of aim stays relatively unchanged and the recoil of the rifle provides a smooth accurate transition through the intended target. Very effective

  • Scott

    The theory that they are shooting to miss has validity, though I don’t believe it is fully intentional on the part of the idiot with the gun. It seems to stem from one issue: the inherent human aversion to killing other humans. Most people, especially the untrained, would rather not kill so they are known to engage in posturing. This derives from the oversimplified flight or flight response, which would more properly be rendered as “Fight-flight-submit-posture”. Posturing is nothing more than threatening actions meant to intimidate the opponent, and is prevalent in tribal warfare, and by extension gang warfare. So shooting the gun sideways has the psychological advantage of being less-likely to result in the target dying, has the psychological benefit of being intimidating by virtue of being a gun, and supposedly looks more intimidating to the untrained target.

  • http://deleted Sardaukar

    In an Italian book (Gomorra) while commenting on the influence of movies on the mafia, it’s said that since viewing american gansta movies mobsters started shooting with the gun sideways too. It’s noted that, instead of “clean” torso shot, now they get gut shots, which require a messy coup de grace in the head afterwards.

  • Anon

    Please.

    Trust me when I say that the average gangbanger hasn’t the slightest fucking clue what the word “marksmanship” means. They shoot in whatever position seems natural to them specifically because they lack any form of firearm training. I’ve seen the occasional exception to this rule (one guy tried teaching his buddy the hood rules of firearm safety: “Ain’t never go putting yo fuckin’ finger on da trigger until you be ready to bust a cap in some fool’s ass, okay?”), but for the most part they’re just like any other group of people who A: own guns, and B: have never been shown how to use them.

    And it’s not just limited to gangbangers. A very large percent of new shooters who come out to the range have no idea what sights are or how to use them. Until and unless someone spends time on a range and learns how to properly hold and employ a firearm, they tend to shoot in all sorts of classic bad positions.

    • FormerSFMedic

      Anon, you may be right, but those gangbangers get more hits on the street than our Law Enforcement officers. They may use whatever feels natural to them or they may not understand sight picture and fundamentals but they practice more than most LEO’s.

      It’s a dangerous mindset to think that because these street criminals lack “proper” shooting fundamentals that they are somehow less effective. In fact they have been proven to be much more effective than the average gun owner or professional LEO and possess the mindset to kill without hesitation.

  • tony

    The guy with pink mufflers, holding his crouch and shooting, LOL

  • Lance

    Always said “Gangster” style is dumb and tactically waste of ammo with no sight picture or balance with no good grip waste of ammo for stupid rap movies.

  • Dean

    “Super modified” McMillan tilt….maybe? No….definitely not.

  • omologato

    As the character “Snoop” proudly declares on The Wire: “F**k them west coast n****rs, in B-more we aim to hit a n****r.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhbrAkY_58s

    And by the way Boyz in da Hood is a great film, even if it perpetuates the ‘gangsta’ stereotype.

  • gunslinger

    funny video. love the satire. and if you can’t understand it.. well it’s a sad day for humanity.

    yes guns are serious and dangerous. so are cars, but check out all the stunt drivers, and people who watch drifting and such.

    now if this was bubba and joe schmoe in the middle of the woods, i’d be a bit more worried, but it’s a joke.

    oh, and on that. if the “gangsta” community is offended, maybe the “gangsta” community should step up and change its image from the inside. because, generalities are well…generally true.

  • http://www.shootersnorthwest.com/forumdisplay.php?f=2 Tweak

    Wow, OK folks, that shooting “style” developed from sticking pistols out of car windows. The fools are lucky to hit a house at speed but hitting isn’t the intent. It’s reinforced by appendix Mexican carry that places the butt of the pistol to the side on the draw instead of down as with normal hip carry.

    And before you write if off try shooting from behind a ballistic shield some time.

    Like sagging and stupid hats it’s propagated by the human instinct to copy whatever is perceived as successful, a lot like all the posers that want “them Special Forces gloves” when it was just some team sending a guy down to AutoZone to buy whatever was handy by the gross. Now if want to be one of the cool kids it has to be Mechanix (sp) gloves with your super Ninja load out.

    The “they mean to miss” and “they get more hits than cops” parts don’t line up. They get more hits because they initiate the shooting. By the time the officer has pulled the threat is actively hostile, moving and probably in front of no shoots. Most successful “gang shootings” are more assassination and less gun fight.

    Before he passed Jim Cirillo taught a flash sight picture that used the back of the slide squared up to the target no sides or top showing. Works fine at speed and close in.

    Do not ignore the threat these cannibals pose, they may not know how to do it well but they are far more willing to kill than the average person.

    Remember, professionals are predictable but the world is full of amateurs.

    • Alex-mac

      This makes the most sense since drive by shootings are low risk and thus more common. But it also makes sense that gangstas would modify their 90 degree position to a 45 degree shooting position when outside the car.

  • Jim

    God Bless Aaron Burr.

  • JT

    What peeves me is that when I shoot tilted at a 45 degree angle, people mistake this for a full 90′ gangerwhatever rather than a method of shooting one-handed that allows easier sight acquisition when both eyes are open. The secondary sight picture is disregarded by the brain. Looking through the Marine Corps pistol field manual, they even show an illustration with the 45′ tilt

  • Bob Z Moose

    I agree with Clodboy. The grip (at level with the body, not “modified” or “super modified” geez) has a lot in common with the weapon that most street thugs start out using and use most often: their fists. That’s what I always thought at least.

  • Avery

    Steve’s theory reminds me of the bit from the Dave Chappelle sketch, “The World Series Of Dice”, when the sportscasters are describing the intent of Charlie Murphy’s robber character when he shoots Chappelle’s Eastwood-esqe gambler in the leg: “he shot him below the waist, so it’s not attempted murder”.

  • jacob

    Clearly the writer isn’t very familiar with gangs.

    Gang members are frequently very young. Like 15-18. No firearms training, a life usually totally absent of hope, addicted to drug, abussive parents.
    Hold the crotch because of sagging pants, they don’t miss on purpose, you don’t missing when you don’t care about anything or worse because someone someone mudered your friends. Can’t go to the cops they’re as likely to beat you or get you killed as help you.

  • HEP-T

    Holding dead aim using an upright handgun as opposed to holding sideways is merely the difference between murder and a homicide.
    Dead aim with normal grip is consider (with malice) and the desire to kill.
    Holding gangsta style means you did not use the sights or take dead aim, you shoot but not to hit or kill deliberately and that’s what you say at your trial to lower the sentence from murder and lethal injection or Homicide which just means prison for 20 out in 2 for good behavior.
    Like shooting a gun and saying god is great, let god take the blame cause you didn’t aim. If you didn’t aim your not guilty of trying to kill.

  • Jay

    This guy watches WAY to many movies, and has obviously never spent any real amount of time in an area where gangs are prevalent. I’m from Chicago, and I lived in Inglewood for a while. I’ve seen my share, and not once did I see anyone shooting like that…