by Col. (Dr.) Ben Findley
I remember my tennis, table tennis, racquetball, and now pickleball fundamentals and one of the most important ones was getting a firm grip on the racquet with a locked wrist. This is important for both control and accuracy, as well as quickly getting the shots where you want them. Well, the same fundamentals apply to gripping a handgun properly and controlling and shooting it accurately.
While all of the shooting fundamentals are important, to me the proper Grip basics are indispensable keys because they affect several aspects of shooting, especially accuracy, muzzle flip, and reducing felt recoil.
Without a doubt, I believe that a solid and firm grip helps a lot, especially for accuracy, control, and follow-up shots. The amount of Grip pressure to apply is important. For me, it is firm like a solid handshake, without any shaking or tremors.
For a solid Grip, I just put pressure on the front of my support hand’s fingers when they are wrapped around and in front of my strong hand’s fingers, then gradually pull back on them towards my body.
There is not one best grip for all shooters and all handguns because of the many considerations and influencing variables, like an individual’s finger lengths and grip strength and the gun’s frame and grip dimensions.
I have seen a lot of shooters just grab hold of the handgun and not even think about the factors for a proper grip.
However, I believe there are eight definite grip considerations that each shooter should recognize and identify for him/herself and I have put them in my “Col. Ben’s Handgun Grip Checklist.”
Here is a summary of my Handgun Grip Checklist and its 8 essentials.
Shooting-Hand/Strong Thumb Pointed Downrange with Fingers Pointed Down;
- Shooting-Hand/Strong Thumb Pointed Downrange with Fingers Pointed Down;
- Form a “V” with the Thumb and Index Finger of the Shooting/Strong Hand;
- Both Thumbs Pointed Downrange and Gun Gripped by the Shooting/Strong Hand High on the Backstrap;
- Grip Index Points for the Left Side of the Gun for the Hand, Thumb, & Fingers;
- Grip Index Points for the Right Side of the Gun for the Hand, Thumb, & Fingers;
- Place the Middle of the Trigger Finger’s First Pad on The Trigger;
- Smooth Trigger Press and Trigger Finger Placed on Trigger at Right Angle; and
- Straight Alignment of Hand, Wrist, Arm, and Handgun with Forearm Bones.
Col. Ben’s Handgun Grip Checklist with 8 Essentials
1. Shooting-Hand (Strong) Thumb Pointed Downrange with Fingers Initially Pointed Down
For me, over the years I have tried several different grips and the one that works best for me is the two-thumbs downrange grip.
Overall, it just allows me to be more accurate and reduces vibration and movement helping accuracy. To start acquiring this grip, point your strong, shooting hand, thumb downrange.
Initially, the strong-hand fingers are pointed downward to enable you to easily point the thumb downrange at the target.
Then the other support hand meets the gun with its support thumb pointing downrange as well.
2. Form a “V” with the Thumb and Index Finger of the Shooting Hand
On your shooting hand, form a V-shape with your thumb and index finger of your shooting hand and place it high on the gun.
Bring your support hand to the gun and make sure when it meets your strong hand on the gun, both thumbs are pointed downrange.
The strong thumb should be on top of the support thumb and resting near the back of it. Make certain the support thumb is forward of the takedown lever and manual safety, if present.
Support-hand fingers should wrap around the strong-hand fingers and be high enough to touch the bottom of the trigger guard with the strong-hand fingers.
3. Both Thumbs Pointed Downrange and Gun Gripped by the Shooting Hand High on the Backstrap
Bring the support-hand and its thumb to the gun with the thumb also pointing downrange.
If there is a beavertail the strong hand should be up high as it can be touching the bottom of the beavertail.
The idea is to get the strong-hand as high as possible at the top of the backstrap and/or beavertail to help control muzzle rise and felt recoil.
4. Grip Index Points for the Left Side of the Gun
My Checklist has several Grip Index Points where the hands touch the gun and they are on both the left side and the right side of the gun. These Points are meant to remind you of where the hands properly should come in contact with the gun, so there will be solid support and control of the gun with minimal movement. The above image shows the four Grip Index Points for only the Left Side of the gun.
First, note that the shooting hand is high on the backstrap (1).
Then both thumbs are pointed downrange (2).
Next the strong thumb is on top and touching the rear of the support thumb (3).
Then ensure the support-hand fingers are together and that the fingers are touching the bottom of the trigger guard with no gap there (4).
The support-hand fingers should wrap around the gun enough so that they touch and overlap with the strong-hand fingers for maximum support.
Both support and strong fingers should touch the bottom of the trigger guard. Often, shooters fail to bring their support-hand fingers around the gun enough so there is not sufficient overlap for strong support.
The heel of your support hand should fill the strong-hand gap and it is important that the heel of the strong hand TOUCH in the gap.
I have found that students place the support-hand heel near the gap space, but do not actually have the heel touch the frame. Have much of the support hand touch the frame.
5. Grip Index Points for the Right Side of the Gun
There are three Grip Index Points for the right side of the gun. Again, these are reminders of where the hands, thumb, and fingers should be properly placed on the gun for maximum control and support.
Love it when a plan comes together!
Initially for the Right Side of the gun, ensure you have formed a “V” with your strong hand and that it is placed high on the backstrap and/or beavertail (1).
Then ensure that your strong-hand trigger finger is safely touching only the frame of the gun, not the slide. The slide moves, of course, and you do not want to get “slide bite” and injure your finger and/or hand (2).
Because guns vary in size, dimensions, having a beavertail or not, and location of levers, etc. make certain you know your gun and its controls, so you can place hands and fingers appropriately on the gun for its specific configuration.
Next the strong-hand fingers should be close together and touching, with your middle finger touching the bottom of the trigger guard for better control (3).
6. Place the Middle of the Trigger Finger’s First Pad on The Trigger
Be certain to place the middle of your trigger finger’s first pad (just below the tip of finger) solidly and squarely on the Trigger, with no deviation to one side or the other.
This is important for control and accurate follow-up shots.
NOTES: When measuring from the hand to the tip of the finger, the Distal Phalanx of the finger is the distal (farthest end) or third of the three bones of each finger.
There is a Distal Phalanx Joint for each finger and the middle of the trigger finger’s pad should be placed on the trigger centered above the Distal Phalanx Joint of the trigger finger.
This allows balanced pressure with minimal movement to be applied.
The goal is to fire the handgun without disrupting the sight picture.
Keep in mind that if you are shooting revolvers or Double Action-Single Action semi-automatic pistols with longer and heavier triggers, you may need more pressure and strength applied to press the trigger.
So, some use the first JOINT of their index trigger finger to press the trigger.
For me and my accuracy, I want to avoid pushing the muzzle away from my strong side by using too little finger and the pull toward my strong side by using too much trigger finger. Middle of pad.
7. Smooth Trigger Press and Trigger Finger Placed on Trigger at Right Angle
Most shooters, not all, use a positive approach to trigger control. I prefer this and I have proven to myself that it helps my accuracy. Once the trigger press is started, there is a continuous smooth (not jerky stop and go) press of the trigger with constant and gradual increasing pressure applied without any interruption or taking the finger off the trigger until the gun fires.
Note that I say “trigger press” rather than “trigger pull.” Shooters tend to jerk, flinch, and move more when they pull something, like a rope in a tug of war. Whereas a press is a more straight-to-the-rear, distinctly direct, and smooth action.
Of course, there should be a focused concentration on sight alignment with minimal movement maintained concurrently with proper trigger control.
It is important that the fingers and thumbs of both hands have minimal movement. And the trigger finger ONLY should only apply pressure on the trigger and the grip pressure applied should be constant.
Note, that it is not possible to have NO MOVEMENT, since we all naturally move to some degree.
For me, the trigger finger should be placed on the trigger at a right angle, as shown in my above image. This helps the trigger more easily move straight to the rear, rather than move to the side.
You do not want the trigger to move to the side because it causes the weight of the press to increase in a disproportionate way and to cause additional friction on the trigger mechanisms.
It also causes and affects sight alignment errors and accuracy. Some shooters with smaller hands may find it very challenging to place the trigger finger at a right angle, so gun choice is important, but still a shooter with small hands may have to adjust their grip.
If possible, place your trigger finger at a right angle to the trigger.
Some shooters like to cant their handgun in their hand, with their wrist and arm positioned or tilted to the side. For me, this is not the optimal alignment for the large majority of my shooting.
However, I do cant my wrist and gun slightly rarely sometimes when I shoot one-handed, if it feels more natural for my particular situation at the time. Like shooting on the move sometimes.
If the wrist and arm are tilted to one side rather than in straight alignment with their gun, body, and bones, there is much less of a chance that the recoil and muzzle movement will be controlled to its fullest extent and recoil felt more.
Newton’s Third Law exists which says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, like recoil for shooters. Shooters want to dissipate or spread out the recoil forces so they go through the body’s strong forearm bones and not stay localized in a wrist, ligaments, tendons, or joints.
This is so because recoil movement impulses usually travel in a straight line direct to the rear and the radius and ulna bones of the forearm absorb recoil better than ligaments, tendons, and joints. The alignment and cant for you comes down to what feels the most natural for yourself, your wrist, what lessens felt recoil and movement, and helps accuracy.
Best to check with your medical doctor for your specific medical condition affected.
I believe there are at least eight key Grip essentials to be considered for a handgun that each shooter should recognize.
So, I have included my eight of the most important ones in my Handgun Grip Checklist. Certainly, there are others and you may think of them as you read mine. The positions, locations, and alignment of the shooting hand, thumb, fingers, wrist, and arm relative to the handgun are very important. I have given you my Grip Index Points for the left side and right side of the handgun. And finger placement on the trigger is also essential.
Having a straight alignment of the handgun with a firm hand grip, locked wrist without cant, and straight-arm position are keys to a proper grip for enhanced accuracy, control, and optimal distribution and dissipation of felt recoil control.
Continued Success My Friends and Be Safe!
Photos by Author.
- This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.
© 2022 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col. Ben Findley at [email protected]
Col. Ben is retired with 30 years service in the U.S. Air Force, with joint services weapons training, Special Ops duty at various bases, and is Air Force qualified as “Expert” in small arms. He is a Vietnam-era veteran. Ben is an experienced NRA-Certified Pistol Instructor, NRA Range Safety Officer, and FL Concealed Carry License Instructor. His doctorate is in business and education and he has served as director of legal affairs for an organization and taught university business law. He is a graduate of two law enforcement academies for civilians.
Ben wrote the book “Concealed Carry and Handgun Essentials for Personal Protection” (second printing) with 57 comprehensive Chapters about concealed carry and handgun principles, techniques, and tips for both experienced and new shooters. His reference book is endorsed by several organizations and is available on his website at www.FloridaHandgunsTraining.com. Contact him at [email protected]