Why do Gangster “Wannabes” Hold their Guns Sideways?


Holding a handgun high and sideways is commonly used by stick up kids, the thugs who rob convenience stores. Experienced stick up kids hold the gun sideways when robbing a convenience store because it’s easier to point downward at someone standing behind a counter. If they cower behind the register or duck to the floor behind the counter, all you have to do is raise the arm up and point the gun down. Try keeping the gun pointed at someone ducking behind the counter while you have locked elbows and an upright gun. I guarantee you’ll find that it’s much harder. It’s not impossible, but in a robbery situation where seconds count, you would waste valuable seconds trying to readjust.

Another reason is that most thugs hold their guns in their beltlines. When they pull out their guns, it’s already sideways. Sometimes when they aim they just keep the gun sideways.

Yes, holding a gun sideways is terrible for accuracy. But for stick up kids, accuracy is not a concern. For starters, the gun isn’t there to kill; it’s there to instill fear and make the victim give up their money. If murder were the objective of a robbery, every robbery would begin with a murder and end in a robbery. Why go through the hassle of shouting orders at someone who may or may not follow directions when you can just shoot them and take what you want? Simple. Murder isn’t the objective.

Also, keep in mind: they’re not pointing their pistols at people standing 20 meters away. They’re basically standing directly in front the victim. Accuracy isn’t all that important at point blank range .

Obviously, this doesn’t reflect what every crook in the world does, just a small segment. But there are some semi practical reasons why it happens.

And no, it doesn’t just happen in Hollywood. Sideways gun holding happens in real life (BTW, these are two of the dumbest criminals in history).

Way more than you want to know about gangster’s and their guns
(The following information is provided by Jon Davis, Marine Corps weapons instructor)

I wouldn’t advise it though. I am a former Marine Corps marksmanship instructor. I specialized in pistols and have fired these weapons thousands of times. That said, the thought has crossed my mind. The answer didn’t come to me until another coach (from the “hood”) gave me a good reason why this technique would be used. In practice it actually does utilize one very important sighting practice, but fails overall. This is a good idea in theory, but fails miserably in the actual execution. 

First a primer on aiming a pistol.

Sight Alignment: Sight alignment is how you line up the weapon to aim. You need to remember that the trajectory of the round doesn’t automatically point at the target. (Why I hate most movies with shooting in them) You have to have control to make sure that both the back of the weapon and front are pointed at the target in a straight line. The easiest way to do this is what we were taught as “building the castle”.

You build the castle by lining up the three “turrets” or posts into a formation where the tops are all even and the posts all have even spacing between them. This diagram shows what having an improperly built “castle” or rather how, having improper sight alignment will cause your sights to go off. (The bottom is the correct method, however I disagree a bit on the sight picture element, because I believe in aiming center mast, as I have shown below. Besides this, as long as you aim in the same place every time you will still be all right.) 

Epoch Times Photo

Sight picture: Sight picture is when you place your perfectly aligned sights, or in this case, the same thing every time, over your intended target in the same place. The normal practice is to place the sighting posts over the center of your target. This creates a picture of how you should aim. With weapons that don’t allow you to change your sights, you need to figure out how to aim and always offset the weapon to where the bullet will hit where you intend it to instead of where you are aiming. 

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As long as you know how to offset your weapon this is not a problem that you are aiming low and left if your weapon shoots high and right. So technically if you just aim the right the same way every time, you can predict where the bullet will go. This is why sight picture is so important. You know where the weapon is in relation to the target. Below is a show what a good sight picture with good sight alignment looks like.

Epoch Times Photo

Flash Sight Picture: This is a technique the military and other organizations use to get on target fast. Really fast. 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. 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. This is a very quick way of aiming OK under time intensive periods.  This is much more common in combat style shooting than the marksmanship style methods of better shooting. 

So that is why Gangers aim the way they do. Confused? You should be. It is a good way to get a flash sight picture, but absolutely horrible for getting sight alignment. Let’s take a look at why. The red arrow is the focal point for sideways shooting. This is what will be used along the side of the weapon to get the sight picture. 

Epoch Times Photo

In general, as I said, if you are aiming the same way every time you will be hitting your target. The problem with tilt style shooting is that it is almost impossible to acquire a reliable sight alignment. The alignment in tilt style is achieved by making the weapon flat and aiming down the side. In theory this works, but in practice you can’t accurately measure movement left or right and you have absolutely no way of knowing if the weapon is tilted down below your field of vision from the back of the weapon. This means that you never actually take the same shot twice since you are never actually aiming the same way.

Epoch Times Photo

The correct way should look much more like this. 

Epoch Times Photo

Your focal point should be on the front sight tip and located exactly between the other two sights. There should be an imaginary lined formed along the top of the three posts. This is proper sight alignment. Below you will see proper sight alignment and sight picture. The picture is difficult to see the alignment so I added three dots that are common feature in many weapons that help gain sight picture and sight alignment. 

Epoch Times Photo

In general I think that most people would agree that gangster shooters aren’t really trained that well. Most of them are probably just imitating others. Only seasoned ones would have actual knowledge of why this is done. If you ask them they would probably not have ever heard of Flash Sight Picture, but this is the technique they are using. In general only the best criminals place very much emphasis on training and even then you need a few people who actually know how to teach everyone else. As I said, most people are probably just imitating, but they are doing it in a way that is consistent with some actual shooting methods out there.

So you see there is a rational method to the way that “gangsters” aim their weapon. It isn’t an extraordinarily good one, but it does exist. What it is lacking is the ability to aim well and to fire the same shot twice. This is precision and tilt style lacks it. What it does have is speed and if you’re lucky speed can be a good asset. However, the Marines don’t think this way. It doesn’t really matter how fast you can aim if you can’t hit what you’re aiming at.

Thanks for reading!