Handgun Skills: Grip

The proper grip technique is an essential skill for utilizing a handgun for defensive applications.  The more experienced I have become over the years as both a shooter and an instructor the more I have realized just how much of a factor the grip on the weapon plays.

A good grip helps in making accurate shots as a tight grip tends to minimize movement of the weapon during trigger press.  But the grip is also absolutely essential in the overall craft of defensive pistol shooting.  A solid grip controls the recoil impulse, allowing you to make faster follow-up shots.  This may not sound like a big deal to the average plinker hobbyist who never shoots fast and only shoots for groups on paper plates.  However, for those that study and train in the use of the weapon for defensive purposes the ability to make fast follow-up shots is paramount.

There is some deviation in handgun grip and I will not criticize the other methods that I personally don’t use as some good shooters do use them.  However, I will describe to you the most prevalent current approach to gripping an auto loading handgun and this technique is what most instructors are teaching and what many shooters are using, myself included:

The modern handgun grip is characterized by a “high tang, thumbs forward” approach.  This maximizes recoil mitigation by getting the hand as high and close to the line of the weapon’s bore as possible so that the recoil impulse drives back into the hand rather than flipping up and behind the hand as happens if the gun is held low on the grip.  The dominant hand should sit as high on the back strap as possible with the web of the hand pushed into the tang.

The support hand wraps around the fingers of the dominant hand and the pointer finger of the support hand should press into the trigger guard of the handgun.  The support hand should also sit at a canted angle rather than purely vertical so as to put inward pressure against the dominant hand to help tame recoil.

The thumbs of each hand should point forward on the frame, support hand thumb laying under the dominant hand thumb.  The thumbs should stay in contact with the frame, thus maximizing contact with the weapon to add control.

The high-tang thumbs-forward grip is the modern standard and for good reason.  The inherent benefits of controlling recoil make it a good default grip to use on pistols so that you can run the gun faster, bringing it back on target after recoil, which is critical in defensive shooting.

2 thoughts on “Handgun Skills: Grip

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  1. You state, “The support hand wraps around the fingers of the dominant hand and the pointer finger of the support hand should press into the trigger guard of the handgun.” Do you mean that the finger presses into the underside of the trigger guard or the front or vertical portion of the trigger guard? I’ve seen it taught both ways and even tried it both ways.


    1. Great question and I should have worded that more clearly. The optimal grip calls for the top of the support-hand index finger to be pressed into the bottom of the trigger guard. Guys with larger hands will often naturally gravitate towards placing the finger on the from of the trigger guard (vertical portion) but that actually gives up recoil control and grip consistency.


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