Why is shooting gangsta style inaccurate?

You know, holding the handgun sideways. I could see a problem at a great distance, where accounting for gravity enters into your aiming, but at less than ten meters, the rough distance of a driveby, the projectile isn’t going to drop much.

Recoil. Your weapon is pulled off target when the weapon is held sideways. Also the typical “gangsta” grip usually involves only one hand on the weapon which inhibits ones ability to control recoil. Also if using a semi-automatic in your right hand you will likely get a face full of hot brass which can affect your aim. Plus it looks unprofessional.

I would also think that holding it the proper way is more stable/secure and comfortable.

Recoil also pulls it off-target when holding it properly, but one-handed, just up instead of to the left. Is it easier to re-acquire the target vertically than horizontally? Do the shooter’s muscles and joints react differently?

Yes, it would.

But baaadaaass. :smiley:

In large part semi-automatic pistols are designed to be fired a certain way. I’ve personally owned pistols which, when ‘limp-wristed’, had problems feeding a given type of ammunition.

Well, if your gun tends to pull up, wouldn’t gravity tend to pull it back down? Not applicable if you’re holding the thing sideways.

I had assumed the “gangsta style” was adopted to throw off forensic analysis.
It would be harder to determine the height of a shooter since he’s holding the gun at an awkward angle compared to his shoulders.

I’m probably very wrong about this as I’m neither a gangsta nor proficient in handguns.

Plus, I assume people are generally shooting at a vertically-oriented target (like another person, standing) rather than a horizontally-oriented target. This would means your aim would more affected by side-to-side movement of the gun than it would by vertical movement, wouldn’t it?

I don’t know if it is easier to re-acquire the target but if you are aiming for the center of mass and the re-coil sends it off target you have more room for error while still hitting vertically than you do horizontally.

Part of the reason it is inaccurate is due to how sights work; with standard blade/post and notch sights, you align the blade in the groove of the notch. For any respectable sight radius (the distance between the front and rear sights) this allows for very little misalignment laterally–less than a couple of degrees of misalignment even on open combat sights before the blade is clearly off-center, and a good pistolero can keep it within few minutes of arc, reducing error to less than the repeatability of the gun itself. On the other hand, vertical aiming with open sights is much less precise; most modern firearms use three-dot system, or some way of establishing vertical aim, but it’s less easy to control, which is why for target shooting purposes competitors generally use peep sights, red dot sights, or a scope or tube. These generally cut out the field of view too much for combat shooting (at least, with a pistol), and besides, human beings (unfortunately the most likely target in some kind of combat scenerio) are tall and thin, so horizontal alignment is much more critical than vertical alighment when it comes to hitting center of mass or a vital organ.

It’s also the case that, for humans, visual acuity has a broader range in the vertical direction than the horizontal one; in other words, you can recognize patterns in a wider arc vertically than horizontally. (While your peripheral vision and ability to detect motion is wider in the horizontal direction, you can’t actually make shapes or colors out well, which contrasts with bovines and other herbivores with side-mounted non-parallax eyes. There are evolutiuonary reasons for this, but they aren’t important here.) So it makes sense to have a sight oriented vertically; you’re likely to see more on that vector and don’t want the image framed side to side.

Then there’s anatomy; most experienced shooters agree that a handgun is most controllable using a two-handed stance (although some argue feverently about what stance is most appropriate; give it a miss, I say, and use what works best for you.) If you try holding a gun sideways with two hands you’ll find yourself most contorted; holding it in a Weaver or isosceles stance you’ll find that you can move the gun up and down with your arms, but moving to the side requires turning the torso. Even if you fire one-handed, you still want to maintain the same orientation between the head and the arm for the sake of consistant hand-eye orientation and position; moving it side to side changes the parallax between eye and the bore axis of the gun, which decreases accuracy and controllabilty. I guess you could hold it sideways in the same position and move your torso, but what does that give you?

Finally, it’s just stupid-looking. This whole holding the gun sideways, shooting above the head meme stems from Steven Seagal and his attrocious excuse for movies. I guess a few of the gun rags are or were impressed with Seagal as a marksman, and he claims to have invented some kind of gun-fu kata bullshit, but despite occasional claims to the contrary he was never CIA or paramilitary trained, and dollars to doughnuts he couldn’t hold his own against an experienced SAS or LAPD SWAT trooper in a realistic situation with that kind of nonsense; heck, I’d put good money on Jeff Cooper wiping the floor with him on the pistol range even when the latter was in his sixties. Many students of the art of the pistol have tried various grips and stances, and with the three standard positions (Weaver, modified or compact Weaver, and isosceles stance) are essentially variations of one another.

Besides, anyone who refers to themselves or any position they use as “gangsta” needs to be beat about the head with the butt of a Garand until they realize that being a gangsta is about the worst combination of “stupid” and “asshole”. That alone should dissuade anyone from adopting this technique.


I understood the purpose of holding a pistol in such a fashion is to prevent a “top hat” jam. This is when the expended case falls back into the ejector port before it can close fully, looking like a top hat.

I have never experience or witnessed such a malfunction.

As to why it is inaccurate, simple a pistol in involved.

I heard somewhere (possibly at a Dopefest) that the “gangsta” shooting style comes from cheap handguns with a tendency to backfire or suffer hard recoil. So the guns had to be held off to the side to protect the shooter’s face from the backfire, and the wrist had to be loose so the recoil wouldn’t injure the wrist.

Does anybody have something just a little more authoritative than “I heard…”?

If so that wouldn’t work. You’d have to have one god-almighty recoil on a pistol for it to hit your face. It’s simple phsyics. No pistol on the planet could make that much recoil.

And a loose wrist is more likely to get hurt by recoil ( your want a firm and solid grip, not bone-tight or loose).

The best explanation I ever heard for the origins of the “gangsta stance” is that it is a bastardized version of how Israeli soldiers are taught to handle a pistol.
Basically, they are taught to carry the pistol with a loaded magazine but empty chamber. The pistol is drawn and held horizontally i.e. gangsta style while the slide is racked. The pistol is then rotated to the conventional vertical position for firing. There were several articles in gun magazines about this in the 80’s and 90’s. The story is that some director in Hollywood saw these photographs and thought the pistol being held sideways looked really cool and depicted it as being fired that way. Other film makers, upon seeing his work, thought likewise. The 'bangers, who mimic a lot of what they see in movies, picked it up as also looking really cool…and so the gangsta stance was born.

A “top hat” or “stovepipe” jam occurs whenever the spent cartridge doesn’t eject cleanly. (It would be virtually impossible for the cartridge to fall back down into the ejection port once expelled, though certainly other things in the environment can jam into an open port, which is why closed-port submachine guns are favored these days.) I’ve seen guns that would do this regularly, either due to a defective ejector or ejection spring, or bad port geometry or whatnot. Holding your gun sideways isn’t going to prevent this and in fact might cause feed problems in some weapons, though a quality combat sidearm ought to be capable of being fired in any orientation without failure.

This seems like a very specious explanation to me. It’s true that the cheap, straight blowback 9mm’s once favored by gangbangers had a stiff recoil (compared to recoil-operated pistols) but it’s not enough to injure the wrist if held tightly, and in fact you wouldn’t want to hold such a thing sideways or looser, as it would increase felt recoil. As for the “backfire” claim, I’m not sure what this even means; there’s no tailpipe on an autoloading pistol. Sometimes with a slow-burning powder you’ll get little flakes of unburnt propellant ejected out of the port with the cartridge, but turning the gun sideways doesn’t prevent this. The correct way to deal with this, at least on the range, is to wear proper eye protection. I doubt “gangsta” punks really think through this kind of thing anyway; they just copy one another no matter how stupid it looks or how poorly it works.


Would there be any advantage in chambering the first round with the pistol held horizontally?

The Zeliska, with its .600 Nitro Express (!!!) cartridge might come close, or perhaps the the Maadi-Griffin (.50 BMG, but only single-shot).

Somehow I think these are out of the viable price range for most gangsta-types, though.

Now that that’s answered, I recall a popular target shooting stance when I was young had the shooter stand sideways to the target with feet spread, the right arm out straight, and the left hand on the hip (with handedness reversed for southpaws). Now that shooters can hold on with both hands without being told they shoot like girls, does anybody do it that way anymore? Are there matches that require you to use one hand?

And what about those pictures from the 19th century showing guys with their upper arms 45° down, their forearms 45° up, and their wrists bent to bring the gun level–did anybody actually shoot that way? COULD they, with the lower recoil you get with black powder? And did they realize they looked even dorkier than gang bangers?

What black powder weapons are you talking about? Every one I have shot kicked like a friggin mule on steroids.

Has anybody actually ever fired, or seen a gun fired in this manner? I thought this was understood as a “movie convention” in the same way that wire-aided flying kung-fu action scenes are.