In many departments, ordering pistol grips on nozzles has been institutionalized. In these situations where the pistol grip is something you “have to have”, I would hope there is reason for it. Unfortunately when the "why" question does get asked, the response isn't an explanation, it is a history lesson; “thats the way we have always done it.”
I often get contacted by individuals or departments to provide some information on why they should or shouldn’t order pistol grips for their next order. I preface the explanation with the fact that I can’t tell them what is right for their department, that is something they need to decide. What I can do is provide a detailed explanation as to why we train without them.
First a little background on the methodology of our program. Over the last several years we have been conducting a lot of 2 ½” attack line trainings across the country. The reason we focus on using the 2 ½” attack line is because it is seen as a challenge. True success with it is dependent on good technique, training and attention to detail. By developing skill sets with the 2 ½” for the most part they translate down to good practices with the smaller and more frequently used 1 ¾”. Only training with the 1 ¾” does not necessarily prepare you for the 2 1/2” and may in fact have created some bad habits which will put you at risk with a heavier and higher reaction handline. I use the analogy of a bench press; if you can bench press 135 pounds 10 times it does not mean that you can bench press 225lbs, but if you can bench press 225lbs you will have no problem bench pressing 135lbs 10 times.
Nozzle out front to minimize movement at the foundation "body" that is managing nozzle reaction
As far as removing the pistol grips for training we do it for two key reasons. The first is technique, by removing the pistol grips the firefighters are not seeing or given the option to use them. This moves the nozzle out in front of the firefighter more. Having a nozzle further out from the firefighter allows greater nozzle movement with minimal body movement which reduces the effects of nozzle reaction and pushing the nozzle firefighter around. For another analogy, shooting from the hip with a pistol versus your shoulder with a long rifle, which provides the most stable platform for better accuracy and ability to repeat effective shots?
The second reason the pistol grip is removed is for safety. We teach a lot of hose advancement. It is natural with fatigue for firefighters to want to drag or pull hose by a handle versus gripping the line. If firefighters drag hose by a pistol grip the bale is vulnerable to getting knocked open either by the firefighter’s body, wall or ground. With an 1 ¾” at lower flows this may be controlled but if a 2 ½” line gets knocked open and ripped from a firefighters hand it is a dangerous situation. By dragging by the bale it is a good solid closed handle and any forward movement forces the bale closed.
Nozzle drag by the bale on the exterior
In the hundreds of hours of flowing and advancing hoselines with firefighters across the country of various size and skill we have not had a reported injury as a result of loosing control of a hose line. I feel strongly that this is due to our focus on good methods.
Interior hose drag by the bale for hit and move
While the presence of a pistol grip would not necessarily negate this training or good habits it does provide the potential. I hope this helps you make an informed decision.