Defense Media Network

SHOT Show 2010: Tactical Ergonomics

The 2010 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show, owned and sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, bills itself as “the world’s premier exposition of firearms, ammunition, outdoor and tactical apparel, optics, cutlery, camping and related products and services.”

Held Jan. 19-22, 2010, in Las Vegas, Nev., “SHOT Show” drew more than 58,000 attendees as buyers studied exhibit booths to review products and place orders on the latest shooting, hunting and outdoor gear. Moreover, a pre-SHOT “Media Day at the Range” provided many with an additional hands-on opportunity to test fire the latest in weapons, optics, and ammunition programs.

Interspersed with SHOT Show’s shooting, hunting and outdoor gear is an increasing amount of hardware designed for the specialized applications on the Military/Law Enforcement (MLE) community. In fact, SHOT Show’s increasing importance in the MLE arena was clearly evident in the number of active duty military professionals scanning the aisles in search of that one tactical advantage that might have been overlooked by traditional military acquisition processes.

It’s All About the Grip

In addition to facilitating the application of multiple tactical sighting and aiming systems, the proliferation of “mounting rails” on various weapon surfaces over the past two decades has also provided a degree of tactical personalization through the installation of posts, fore grips or other add-ons to facilitate engagements in tactical operations.

The myriad “ergonomic” options seen in booths at SHOT Show 2010 reflects a continuing expansion of those personalization options through new materials and designs focusing on softer, more rugged, or more comfortable add-on options.

One trend that seems to be emerging within the tactical “ergonomic” field involves a “magazine grip” for the AR-15 / M16 / M4 series of weapons.

One set of examples comes from EMA Tactical, which demonstrated a range of tactical ergonomic products that included its three new curved magazine grip (MGRIPS) designs out at the pre-SHOT range firings.

According to Mike Grandy, who handles U.S. sales for EMA Tactical, the designs come from Israel, where the Israel Defense Forces employ “a lot of our gear.”

“We have the full gamut of accessories for the M4; the stocks, the forward grips, the rail systems, magazine couplers, ‘countdown magazines,’ lights, lasers, and grips,” Grandy said. “The M4/M16 platform is a great rifle and we make it more comfortable. The end-user, the G.I. in the field, is carrying this thing all day. Maybe there’s a grip that’s going to make it more comfortable for him to carry this thing. That’s the kind of gear we make and it is all designed to enhance the shooting capabilities of the individual.”

Two of the MGRIP models – MGRIP and MGRIP1 – mount to a standard “Picatinny Rail” in front of the magazine well on the bottom of the barrel.

The MGRIP is a curved magazine grip, provides shooters with a curved holding surface with ridges to grasp. The 3.2-ounce grip mounts to the rail with a screw tightened clamping mechanism.

MGRIP1 is a finger groove magazine grip that provides the user with three indentations for finger placement. Also weighing 3.2 ounces, the MGRIP1 features a plugged waterproof storage compartment for extra batteries or other small items. Two rails on the back side of the grip also assist in guiding the magazine into the magazine well.

The final MGRIP, MGRIP2, is a two-piece grip that does not require a Picatinny Rail for mounting. Also weighing 3.2 ounces, the grip is screw-tightened around the magazine well to provide the user with finger grooves as well as two removable covers for pressure switch wiring mounting channels.

“I haven’t seen anyone else out there who makes the grips that go around the magazines,” he added. “But I’m sure that once they catch on there will be other manufacturers. But I am sure we are one of the first.”

Perhaps one of the first but certainly not the only one, as evidenced by the Integrated Grip Rail System (IGRS™) from Grauer Systems Grauer Systems used the SHOT Show to launch the new product, which they characterized as “the ultimate weapon enhancement platform for the AR/M4/M16.”

“This is the introduction of the production version of IGRS,” explained John Brixius, founder and president of Grauer Systems. “We were actually at the SHOT Show last year, with what we thought was a production unit. However, based on some feedback from some folks, we decided to go back and redesign it. So we took this past year to perfect the design, get our tooling in place, and get ready to launch and ship them out.”

The system, which can be field installed on any existing carbine-length AR, not only allows operators to grab the magazine well area with their non-shooting hand, but facilitates laser/light/switch integration and provides users with an advanced flared magazine well funnel to speed magazine loading in tactical settings.

“We call this a ‘weapon enhancement platform,’” Brixius said. “The whole point behind it is how the shooter interfaces with the weapon and whether they ergonomically get the most out of it across the broad spectrum of applications and situations. Basically, if you look at what shooters are doing in the field, if you look at images coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq, you’ll see that they have a ‘broomstick’ handle on the front but 50 percent of the time they’re not using it. They also might have a horizontal grip but again 50 percent of the time they’re not using it. In many cases they are instead gravitating toward gripping the magazine, because that’s a more intuitive and ergonomic way to hold the weapon.”

He continued, “But the problem is that there are two shortcomings with doing that. First, one hand is too far rearward, placing the hands too close together for adequate control. Second, you’re grabbing the magazine, which can cause a jam. So the heart of our system is a modified improved magazine hold, in which we extend the grip forward 2 ½ inches to not only give you the appropriate level of control but also to take your hand off the magazine, so you’re not causing a jam. So you have all the ergonomics of a magazine hold – your upper arm is at a lower position where its more sustainable, your wrist is in a natural position where you’re pulling straight back without having to squeeze, and you have all the tactical feedback of a flat side, so that you can tell where the weapon is pointing with one hand.”

“So far we have got some sales to some special operators,” Brixius added. “There are about half a dozen units out there in the field being used for test and evaluation by forces like that.”


Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...