I promise you it’s not 2008 again. However, the more things change, the more they stay the same. I’ve been a fan of the vertical grip for quite some time now and have wanted to talk about the glorious rail penis. It did start in 2008 when I got my hands on an M16A4 equipped with a Knight’s rail.
It was for a short few months I spent at Camp Geiger, School of Infantry East, Infantry Training Battalion. There the vertical grip, specifically the Knight’s Armament grip, ruled the roost. One of our instructors would chastise us for not using a vertical grip. In the first decade of the Global War on Terror, the vert grip ruled.
There was the Knight’s grip, the only good for setting your rifle down Grip Pod, and even grips on M203s. They ruled the roost for a few years, but then things changed. The vertical grip became the angled grip, and then the grip stop. Nowadays, a vertical grip is a rare sight to see. Well, not for me anyway. You’ll see me using vertical grips frequently.
Mainly because my left shoulder is shot, my doctor told me my shoulder joint looks like it belongs to an 80-year-old man. The grip angle a vertical grip provides is much more comfortable on days where my shoulder ain’t feeling so great.
Outside of my exclusive old man shoulders, what’s the deal with vertical grips? What advantages do they offer, and why were they ever popular?
Vertical Grip Advantages
Back in the early days of the GWOT, two things happened. Guns got shorter, and they started wearing more goodies. Those goodies were often large, like the PEQ 2 and the early Surefire lights. They took up a lot of space on the short carbine rails. There wasn’t room left to grip, so a vertical grip allowed shooters to maintain some control on their gun when it was outfitted with accessories.
These days that’s not an issue. Rails are longer, and accessories are smaller. Some bullpups don’t offer a lot of room to grip, so a vertical grip is handy here. Guns like the Steyr AUG even come with a vert grip built into it for that very reason.
I rocked one on my M249 SAW because that damn thing got hot and some extra room between the barrel and my hand was absolutely needed. To this day, I’ve found them to be quite handy when using lightweight rail systems and shooting high volume. Barrels still get hot, and the vertical grip keeps your hand away from it.
One of the best parts about a vertical grip is that when installed, you’ll grip the gun in the same place every single time. It acts as a constant index point to ensure I always have the same grip with the gun.
A vertical grip can also be used as a barrier brace. You can dig the damn thing in and stabilize your gun for easy and accurate shots against a barrier. Some work better than others for this role.
Finally, there is some argument that it could work well for weapon retention issues. The vertical grip allows you to better fight for your gun. However which is more likely to occur, a vert grip saving the day or getting an original Charizard from the first 151 Pokemon?
Downsides of the Vertical Grip
The most obvious is having a few inches of crap hanging down from your gun. It’s prime to catch on a wide variety of gear, especially when wearing a plate carrier adorned with all your tactical goodness.
They can suck in the prone if you go with a full-sized option. That’s why the stubby grip became so much more popular than the full-length KAC grip. Over time the stubby morphed into the angled foregrip, and so on and so forth.
To Vert Grip of Not?
Good question, and like most things, it’s up to you! With modern rails and smaller accessories, the grip stop offers a lot of the same advantages as the old vert grip. A vertical grip seems a bit much for the modern rifle. I use one for my shoulder issues, but if I was patrolling ten to twenty miles a day, I’d toss one on regardless of my shoulder. They make carrying a weapon for a long period of time much more comfortable.
For everyday use on modern rifles, they don’t offer a whole lotta advantages. Check out an angled grip or grip stop design for a more modern option. If you really want a vertical grip, Magpul makes a great M-LOK option, and the old Knights variants are still kicking around.
[Editor’s Note: I am stalwart fan of the BCM shorty vertical grips. Many of the advantages of grips and handstops with few problems. They allow me to consistently index my various rifles.]