We know…they do it because it looks cool and they’ve seen their little gangsta friends do it, too. And John Davis, a former Marine marksmanship trainer pretty much agrees with that. But he says that the sideways pistol grip is based on a sound principal — the “flash sight picture” technique. “It basically means that that picture you created when you took your time is now placed extremely fast over the target and fire. You don’t get exactly the right spacing between your sighting posts and you don’t get that picture in exactly the right place, but you get it generally in the right place.”

Davis says it can be effective in the right situation.

The important thing is that you’re close enough to the target and that you have enough experience to hit it without having perfect aligned and centered sights. This takes a great amount of time in training and use with the weapon before you will be any good with flash sight picture.

That’s time and training 99% of your garden variety hoods won’t bother with. Is Davis’s crediting them with wanting to take advantage of the flash sight picture technique giving your average street thug a little too much credit? Probably. “What [the sideways grip] is lacking is the ability to aim well and to fire the same shot twice.” Other than that, it works just great.

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42 Responses to Burning Questions: Why Do Gangstas Hold Their Guns Sideways?

  1. ONE: It looks cool.

    TWO: If memory serves, presenting the autoloader sideways was a popular way to “Isreali carry” becuase it made it easier to rack the slide with your weak-side hand. Assuming you carry on an empty chamber and only use the sites past bad-breath-distances. It might even be covered it Sykes&Fairbian’s seminal 1942 work “Shooting to Live”.

    THREE: It appears easier to hold the weapon above eyecontact level. Which I guess is more intimidating and makes a sucessful gungrab less likely. But that is giving the hoodlums FAR too much credit.

    • Actually, it makes gun-grabbing easier as you have an unsupported, extended arm with a weak wrist, and the weapon can be least-resistance rotated down to point straight back at the shooter’s body (remember the thread on pelvis shots? Ouch…). Yes, the shooter can see it coming from the front, but there’s a worse blind spot from shoulder-side because the arm’s blocking the view (and getting out of muzzle-line on that side of the opponent’s body is a sweet spot). And anyone who uses the pose kinda advertises “I suck at personal combat.” (And since it’s all about intimidation, they’re more likely to stick the gun up in your face. If they stay back out of range, I still prefer my odds in an exchange of fire, since they’re also telling me “I really can’t shoot straight.”)

      Which means we should all continue to encourage this “fashion statement” to give us the advantage over the dumbasses.

      • Okay, I went too far trying to to wrap my head around WHY some folks might hold a gun sideways and may have came across as if I was recomending such. Shooting to Live doesn’t reccomend shooting sideways, but that is how they illustrate working the slide in figures 6 and 10 (pgs 27,32). And it’s not behavior I condone, but if you’re robbing grandma you might feel like a real mean dude if you point your elbow up to point the gun down (like a grizzly bear, not the young example shown above). Thanks Mikey and Greg for ensuring no one intrepreted my post as real advice (only aim your gun sideways if you’re shooting at me).

  2. Geez I always thought it’s because theyre retarded and they saw some equally rerarded (c)rapper or movie actor do it.

  3. Oh, what the heck, I’ll take a stab at this one. I heard that this trend started because someone got hold of an Israeli training manual that was missing the last page. Gun-carrying citizens do not leave one in the chamber, so when they draw, they bring the gun to their chest, using the other hand to grip the slide. Then, the receiver is pushed forward to quickly load a round. If you don’t carry with one in the pipe, this would be the fastest way to get off a shot. Had someone seen the last page, they would have seen that the final step is to rotate the gun, and use the sights, if you have time. But maybe this is an urban legend.

  4. And furthermore (humoristic self efacing tone), I don’t buy the flash sight picture explination. I wasn’t able to open the link, but i thought the whole principle is based on doing what you do correctly faster, but still correct enough to work. There is no reason to practice sideways over and over to create muscle memory for accuracy if you never get a sight picture durring sideways slow fire.

  5. I’ve been reading about “center axis relock” after reading a post here. Anyone familiar with this? Specifically the “extended” position.. Just dry firing it seems easier to pick up the front sight and I am left eye dominant as well…

    …”Similar to “Combat High”, except the weapon is held forward, approximately 11–13 inches from the eyes and the sights are in the shooter’s focal zone. The elbow of the shooting arm is lifted to about jaw level and the non-dominant arm is kept in line with the torso. This is the most common shooting position, and is based on several principles. First, the smaller distance between the sights and the eyes allows a wider view of the environment; stances with the sights out farther cause the eyes to focus in a single spot. Second, the position of the arms, if properly executed, causes the recoil[4] to be absorbed straight backwards instead of up, down or sideways, thus allowing faster repeated shots while keeping on target. This position is intended to be used for shorter ranges, about 2–10 yards…..”

    This is not the same as “gangsta sideways”

    • I’ve been playing with CAR and found it very interesting. But you use a solid two-hand grip, and rotate the elbow and shoulder to match (and I usually don’t see a full horizontal rotation–I’ve been trying 30-60 degrees).

      It’s extending the arm fully and rotating the wrist all the way that makes the grip weak (and cancels gravity’s help with recoil), making it the “Pants on the Ground” of shooting techniques.

  6. For a classic video of the effectiveness of this gangsta shooting method, type “Toledo bar shooting” into your search engine. Over 100 shots fired, and no one dead. Lots of cool stylin’ though. We be bad.

    I really liked the “shooting under the pool table” and the “fire a few shots past your friend’s head” methods. The second one was combined with the ever-popular “push the pistol forward every time you pull the trigger” method of increasing the bullet velocity.

    • “The second one was combined with the ever-popular “push the pistol forward every time you pull the trigger” method of increasing the bullet velocity.”

      Add in everytime you fire you yell “Bang!”.

  7. I don’t have a lot of stats to back this up, I don’t care much for stats anyway, but in casual research of the gun skills of the average criminal type I’ve found that they don’t have any. Worse than the NYPD if you can believe that.

    I’m always shocked at the news stories of bg’s finding out that they had an inoperative weapon when they tried to fire it and it wouldn’t work. Or the stories about cops that are spared because the bg got their gun and then couldn’t figure out how to make it go bang. The list is endless and ongoing.

    And when they do get a functional weapon with the correct ammo most of them have never fired a shot thru that weapon until the actual crime they used the gun in. It’s no wonder that spray and pray is their favorite tactic.

    When I worked at the prison I actually talked to one convicted dealer who would only carry a chrome semi auto. He thought they were “cool”. So he usually carried something in the Davis or Raven line of gat.

  8. 4 step guide to acting gansta

    1. Pull gun from saggy pants
    2. Point in general direction
    3. Pull trigger
    4. Tell everybody what a bad mother you are

    • Alternate Step 1-A: Gun falls inside pants. Shoot self in junk trying to dig for it.

      Alternate Step 1-B: Draw gun from pants with bad trigger discipline. Shoot self in junk.

      Or the one I’ve actually seen most often: Step Zero: Gun falls out of pants in public place. Get embarrasing attention from law enforcement.

  9. Gangstas use the sideways hold because they saw an actor who played a gangsta use that hold on a television show that’s been cancelled for having one too many cliches.

  10. Ever notice how it is more natural to your your arm out if your hand is canted inward? That’s why uneducated gangsters hold their guns canted inward – because that’s the most natural way to your your hand with your arm outstretched. All this garbage about gangbangers putting thought into it because they want to carry without one in the pipe and rack the slide a certain way etc. is absolute idiocy.

    The simplest solution is likely to be the correct one, especially when we’re talking about uneducated shooters. It’s because it’s just more natural to hold it out like that.

    Need more proof? Watch people who don’t train one handed often shoot one handed, they’ll cant the gun.

    • I totally agree. I didn’t mean to suggest that gang bangers read WWII combat literature, I just meant to point out that it is the easiest way to chamber a round in a hurry or point a gun in someones face when you’re standing toe to toe. The reason we see them shooting this way is because their thought process/practice never went beyond basic loading and intimidation.

  11. I’ll cant a pistol approx. 20-30 degrees or so toward the center of my body when firing one handed. Gives me a much more stable grip, but I still use the sights.

  12. As an old fencer, I’m going with laziness. The easiest position for the hand is palm down (pronation}. It’s harder to hold the thumb up (supination). If the the current crop of mokes is so lazy they can’t pull up their pants why expect them to go to all the effort it takes to hold the gun upright?

    PS that’s the Hawaiian word moke (worthless) not the TV crime show word mook

    • I can’t resist, your name inspired it. Fits your handle and your mentioned hobby.

      More than prince of cats, I can tell you. O, he is
      the courageous captain of compliments. He fights as
      you sing prick-song, keeps time, distance, and
      proportion; rests me his minim rest, one, two, and
      the third in your bosom: the very butcher of a silk
      button, a duellist, a duellist; a gentleman of the
      very first house, of the first and second cause:
      ah, the immortal passado! the punto reverso! the
      hai!

  13. The sideways hold came about because cheap guns like the Davis .380 had the extractor on top of the slide instead of the side and so when the gun actually cycled without jamming it would toss the brass right into your face. Holding it sideways ensured the brass would kick out to the side and not hit you in the face and also solved most jamming issues with this gun.

  14. The sideways thing started when the gangbangers saw the first SWAT officer moving through the door way holding a body bunker and the officer had his pistol sideways so he could see the sights through the view port of the body bunker.

  15. “During the first half of the 20th century, soldiers used the side grip for the express purpose of endangering throngs of people. Some automatic weapons from this era—like the Mauser C96 or the grease gun—fired so quickly or with such dramatic recoil that soldiers found it impossible to aim anything but the first shot. Soldiers began tilting the weapons, so that the recoil sent the gun reeling in a horizontal rather than vertical arc, enabling them to spray bullets into an onrushing enemy battalion instead of over their heads. ”

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2009/12/why_do_rappers_hold_their_guns_sideways.html

    Some of them may believe that they will hit more targets with a horizontal string of fire and others are just trying to look cool. In the end, they are all still d-bags

  16. I tilt a handgun medial a little when I’m shooting offhand, because I am right eye-right hand dominant and shooting left-hand it makes it easier to use the sights.

    The Gangsta Grip is used because the firearm is a totem, not a tool. It is the display of the firearm that is important, not the utilization. The posture is immediately identifiable as “gang member with a firearm”, which accomplishes the display purpose intended. I do not believe there is any other logic behind it other than for display/dominance purposes.

    I’m totally cool with this because it is so impractical and unhelpful to aimed fire. I only wish it increased the rate of mechanical failures as well.

  17. There is nothing you can do with the firearm sideway that you can’t do with the firearm held properly. If you don’t want to look down the sights and just want to point and shoot, or flash sight, have at it.

    But one there is one crucial thing that you can’t do holding your piece sideways: you can’t aim properly down your sights, and if you did, you would lose the elevation and windage calibration.

    So, sorry Devil Dog, I don’t buy it.

  18. I thought they did it so they can catch their brass in their shirt and face. That way they dont leave evidence laying around.

  19. we had a democrat voting resource get on the bus awhile back…
    wid him saggys and baggys hangin down past his craggys, yo!
    fool had a galisei 25 acp in wid hims junk, yes hims did, slid down hims leg onto de fluur, sumones widz a fhonz called de po-po, dey sentz 3 carloads to meets himz at de mall, yes thems did…
    hims bez guest ub de state nuw…;-p

  20. I think it’s funny that people get on their high horse and start talking about proper shooting technique when critiquing criminals. Have you ever been in a shootout? No? Then I would recommend that you go to an advanced cc or reflexive shooting course. A decent course will have you train in a mirror or hand signal based shootout against a live person. You will be crouching and adopting cowboy or even gangsta shooting styles in no time.

  21. Best way to survive a gunfight with a gangster, stand directly in front of him. Dont shoot back until he’s out of bullets. Not related to shooting sideways but I have a theory on why they always push the gun in the general direction of the person their shooting. They may very well believe that they get a few more FPS out of the bullet. But who knows, just a guess of mine.

  22. I don’t know she looks kind of cute holding it sideways! Other than that I have never been taught or tried to hold a hand gun in such an awkward position.

  23. I heard, and it kind of makes sense, that they hold pistols sideways for drive-by shootings. Since the recoil an d muzzle flips of the pistol in a partially rolled down window causes interference with the pistol and possible broken glass, the logical thing to do is hold the pistol sideways. Using guns in this mannerism carried over to outside the car.

  24. This much discussion over something so stupid?

    Go look in the mirror. Throw a punch.

    Your hand flattens out correct?

    It is an instinctual, flailing motion, nothing more. There is no thought behind it.

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