Canadian Forces vs C-Clamp: Battle of the Rifle Grips

Most of my time over the past 17 years with a rifle, I’ve held what I coined last week as a “pedestal” style grip. The kind of grip where your support hand rests on the bottom of the handguard, usually at somewhere between the midpoint of the handguard and the magwell (or on the magwell itself), with the support hand thumb more to the side of the handguard.

Defence Research and Development of Canada (DRDC), the research agency of the Department of National Defence, has begun the Future Small Arms Research (FSAR) project, a scientific evaluation of current technologies to ensure the Canadian Army (CA)’s small arms of tomorrow will meet all of its operational needs. (Source Canadian army website)

That was how I was first trained how to shoot in the Army and to this day, it’s what comes natural to me.  Without thinking about it, whenever I pick up a rifle, that is how I default to holding it.

Popular among 3-Gun shooters is the overhand C-Clamp grip, where the arm is extended further, often past the midpoint of the handguard with the thumb over-top of the handguard.

Range banter and Google experts report that the C-Clamp grip is superior at managing recoil, allowing faster followup shots.  For 3-Gun shooting, where a large number of your rifle points revolve around faster pairs of shots (especially on paper), that’s an advantage no serious competitor can ignore.

For “old dogs,” however, learning new tricks is hard and requires even more practice to unlearn and old to relearn a new.  Over the past few years, I’ve waffled back and fourth between both techniques, not really knowing which I prefer.

Not content to take the experts opinions on the subject, I decided to try to drop 140 rounds to compare both techniques.

The test rifle was my Modern Varmint Factory, running MagWedge coupled CPD LAR-15 mags, shooting at an IPSC Metric target at 25 yards.

For the test, I collected Hit Factor data with the following drills:

  • Low Ready, One Shot Drill (5 reps, in 2 strings, 10 rounds total)
  • Low Ready, Controlled Pair (5 reps in 2 strings, 20 rounds total)
  • Low Ready, 1 Shot, Reload, 1 Shot with MagWedge coupled mag (5 reps in 2 strings, 20 rounds total)
  • Low Ready, 1 Shot, Reload, 1 Shot with mag from a belt pouch (5 reps in 2 strings, 20 rounds total)

I would start the string with either the “Forces” grip I’m used to or the C-Clamp grip which I’m less acquainted to.

One thing to note is this may have been an imperfect test, since I was not in very good condition that day on the range.  I was sleep deprived, a bit stressed out, and struggled to get my head in the game.  I felt sluggish and sloppy on the range, chasing the sights, fumbling my reloads, etc.

That said, these were the rationale of each test and the results:

Low Ready, One Shot Drill (5 reps, in 2 sets)

The point of this drill was to assess both grips’ performance at initially engaging a target and landing a single hit.

From a simple mechanics perspective, the Forces grip should be superior, given that there should be more leverage with the support hand further back, underneath the handguard, and with the support arm having a slight bend.  Greater leverage, should translate to greater speed in bringing the rifle up.

Across 10 reps for each techniques, this was the data:

  • Forces Grip – 4.82
  • C-Clamp Grip – 4.92

The C-Clamp Grip had the higher hit factor, with the Forces Grip at 97.9%.

The average time for the Forces Grip was faster (0.98 sec vs 0.96 sec).

For one set with the Forces grip, I scored 3A and 2C, which I am certain was poor marksmanship on my part (the other set, I scored 5A).  For the C-Clamp grip, I scored 5A and 4A1C respectively.

In this regard, I think it can’t be determined if either technique is better than the other at acquiring a target and landing a first shot.

Low Ready, One Shot Drill (5 reps, in 2 sets)

The point of this drill was to assess both grips’ performance at initially engaging a target and landing a single hit than landing a second, followup hit.

In hindsight, this drill was a bit redundant to assess both techniques, given that the factors in bringing the rifle up from a low ready were already made evident from the previous drill.  (The same applies for the following reload drills).

As observed from the inconclusiveness of the previous drill, however, it is questionable that there is any meaningful advantage one way or the other.

That said, from a mechanical perspective, the C-Clamp grip should be superior at recoil management, with the support hand being further forward and on top of the handguard, that should act to counteract muzzle rise.

Across 10 reps for each techniques, this was the data:

  • Forces Grip – 6.11
  • C-Clamp Grip – 6.37

The C-Clamp Grip had the higher hit factor, with the Forces Grip at 95.9%.

The average time for the C-Clamp Grip was very slightly faster (1.31 sec vs 1.32 sec).

With the Forces Grip, I shot 5A5C for both reps, whereas the C-Clamp grip shot 6A3C1D and 7A3C.  Neither being particularly strong performances, with the C-Clamp edging out the Forces.

Usually, the anatomy of a controlled pair for me is that the first round is on, but the second round is where I screw up.

In this regard, I think it’s probable that the C-clamp afforded greater stability that enabled me to make better followup shots in slightly less time, which reinforces the theory that the C-Clamp grip is superior for recoil management.

Low Ready, 1 Shot, Reload, 1 Shot with MagWedge Coupled Mags

The point of this drill was to assess both grips’ performance at performing a reload with an inverted, coupled magazine.

From a mechanical perspective, it’s difficult to say which technique is superior to which.  The Forces grip is superior given the amount of distance the support hand needs to traverse is less (midway up the handguard versus potentially extending past the midway point).

That said, the psychological queue that triggers the response to reload is the rifle resetting to a start position after recoil of a shot – something that the C-Clamp appears to be superior.

Across 10 reps for each techniques, this was the data:

  • Forces Grip – 2.41
  • C-Clamp Grip – 2.35

The Forces Grip had the higher hit factor, with the C-clamp Grip at 97.7%.

The average time for the Forces Grip was slightly faster (3.58 sec vs 3.66 sec),

With the Forces Grip, I scored 9A1C and 4A6C.   With the  C-Clamp grip, I scored 7A3C and 7A2C1D.

This was coming toward the end of the range session, and I was really starting to fade.  My Forces performance especially, I attribute to poor focus, although for both techniques, I had an equal number of sets where I fumbled.

That said, even with my fumbles, the time was slightly faster with the Forces grip, and I still believe it is the case that the shorter travel of the support hand (both back to the mag and back to the proper handguard position) enables less time to reload.  As both shots are essentially a first shot and there is no clear advantage for either grip for a first shot engagement, I think it’s safe to say the Forces grip enables for slightly faster reloads.

Low Ready, 1 Shot, Reload, 1 Shot with mag from a Belt Pouch

The point of this drill was to assess both grips’ performance at performing a reload with a magazine from a belt mounted, magazine pouch.

From a mechanical perspective, the same logic applies as the inverted coupled mag reload.  The only difference being that the distance the support hand has to travel is quite a bit larger with this reload versus the coupled mag.

Across 10 reps for each techniques, this was the data:

  • Forces Grip – 2.31
  • C-Clamp Grip – 2.12

The Forces Grip had the higher hit factor, with the C-clamp Grip at 92.1%.

The average time for the Forces Grip was slightly faster (3.57 sec vs 3.92 sec),

With the Forces Grip, I scored 7A3C and 4A6C.   With the  C-Clamp grip, I scored 8A2C and 5A4C1D.

These were the last drills of the day, and especially the last 2 sets, I was completely done.  My focus was shot, I was shaking, my rifle was getting VERY hot, and I just wanted to be done with my range session (those are the best kinds of times on the range, I think).

Regardless, I think the performances on both sets for the Forces and C-Clamp grip were consistent and the results valid.

The Forces grip most definitely is faster for reloading.  The distance between support hand placements is too large especially when reloading off the belt, contributing to the larger time differential.

Summary

Across all sets, my times for both grips were:

  • Forces: 94.02 seconds
  • C-Clamp: 98.70 seconds

My points for both where:

  • Forces: 294
  • C-Clamp: 302

My Hit Factors for both were:

  • Forces: 3.13
  • C-Clamp: 3.06

For me personally, the Forces Grip was superior with the C-Clamp grip at 97.85%.  It was VERY close.

For myself personally, I can conclude that:

  • There is no advantage with either grip for single shot engagements
  • The C-Clamp grip enables faster, more accurate followup shots
  • The Forces grip enables faster, more accurate reloads

It could be argued that this set of drills over-emphasizes the reload and under-represents making controlled pairs, but I think that’s irrelevant.

While some might say controlled pairs are more important, under 25 yards (the range this tests was performed), a rapid first shot hit in the A-zone is fairly easy.

Under USPSA Multigun Time Plus scoring, a single hit in the A-zone is all that is needed for a target to be considered neutralized, and to shoot a controlled pair under when you could neutralize the target with a single shot is wasteful.

(As a side note, the difference in averages for my one shot vs controlled pair drills was 0.33 – 0.36 seconds.

On a stage with 10 paper targets at 25 yards, I could shave 3.3 – 3.6 seconds off my time by shooting each target once.

I could cut another 3.58 – 3.92 seconds by NOT reloading.

That’s 6.88 – 7.52 seconds total.

I’d have to have a 90% A-zone first shot hit rate for that to be worthwhile.)

Conclusion

So which is better?

For me personally, I will shoot what feels more natural to me, which most of the time is the Forces Grip.

I won’t shoot one particular style because it’s a superior to the other.  The Forces grip comes naturally to me and I have thousands upon thousands of rounds of experience with it, but if I find myself shooting C-Clamp, I won’t beat myself up over it.

More importantly, is to not over-think which technique you are shooting, as you are doing it.  I think the fastest technique you will shoot with is the one that comes naturally without you second guessing yourself.

I could probably learn to just shoot the C-Clamp grip, but I don’t have the time to practice to break myself of the tendency to default to the Forces grip, let alone to master it to the same level.

So, to that, I think shoot what comes natural to you, and don’t obsess over what the pro’s are doing.  Odds are, you’ll shoot better with a good nights sleep than choosing one technique over the other.

(On a less relevant note, the featured image for this post is from this YouTube video, which explains that the C-Clamp is terrible from a home defense/combat perspective.)

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