how to grip a gun

How To Grip A Handgun

For the beginner learning to shoot, one of the first skills that has to be acquired is how to get a proper handgun grip. It's also good for experienced shooters to occasionally brush up on every so often.

There are a few different schools of thought on the best way to grip a handgun, just as there is on shooting stances. Virtually any method of doing...well, just about anything at all...has been disputed or changed by someone at one time or another, including how to grip a handgun.

We'll start with the basics of the shooting hand, and then go over some different schools of thought when it comes to the support hand. You'll have to do a bit of experimenting to find what works best for you, but with that said…

Good Handgun Grip Starts With The Gun Hand

good handgun grip

A proper handgun grip begins with how you hold the gun to begin with. There are a few different ideas on certain aspects, but there are certain universals that anyone and everyone will agree upon.

The hand, the gun and arm must align. When properly held, the pistol is an extension of the arm. This is achieved by centering the grip in the middle of the web of the hand between the thumb and the palm.

With a semi-auto, the backstrap should rest on top of the crease between the thumb and the rest of the hand, to the left or right - depending on your dominant shooting hand - of the first knuckle of the thumb. The thumb should be near the controls, but curling down toward the distal joints of the fingers.

If shooting a revolver, the top of the backstrap should be close to or just underneath the web of the thumb. The thumb should curl down toward the distal joints of the fingers, as if trying to make a fist. It's okay if they don't touch, it's okay if they do.

How to see if you're gripping properly is to tilt your arm upward when gripping the pistol, raising up by tilting upward from the elbow. Does the gun align with your arm? The barrel should point in the same direction that your arm does.

You'll want to grip the gun as high as possible, as that impacts control over recoil. Pistols with a high bore axis - meaning the barrel is higher than the top of the hand - produce more torque on the wrist, as the recoil forces the pistol in a backward arc. Since the arc is larger,

How Hard Should I Grip A Handgun?

solid handgun grip

Now we come to a point of some contention: how hard you should grip a handgun.

There are two schools of thought. First is that you should grip the gun just hard enough to get a firm grip and to control recoil. Pressure from the thumb, whether shooting a revolver or a semi-auto, should be even, firm and consistent from the second you make ready to fire.

Squeeze the gun as hard as you possible can, then back off the pressure until you feel like you aren't exerting yourself. Hold firm, but not to the point where you feel strain.

You should exert a similarly even, firm and consistent pressure with the fingers, as the goal is to keep the gun firmly anchored in place. You'll have to experiment with what that feels like.

The other school of thought is to throttle the thing like it owes you money.

It's certainly the easiest to contemplate. You just squeeze the pistol grip as hard as you can and start shooting. Unfortunately, this may not be the best practice as too hard a squeeze can actually pull shots off target. If the hardest possible hold still gets you good groups, then by all means grip it and rip it, but dialing it back a bit may pay more dividends. Your mileage, of course, will vary.

Fitment And Your Handgun Grip

best handgun grip fit

Now, you can have the most perfect handgun grip in the world but it won't matter if the gun doesn't actually fit you. Experienced shooters know what fits them well and what doesn't, but the novice - and that's really who this is written for, and welcome to guns and stuff! - may not necessarily understand the finer points of how well a gun fits their hand.

First, notice how it feels and fits in your palm. Does it feel good, like it fits in your hand well? A good fit will make the gun practically part of your arm. Does it feel too thick? Too thin? You want to find a gun that subjectively fits you well.

Pay attention to how well your finger gets to the trigger. Your finger shouldn't feel "cramped" but nor should it be a stretch. Your finger should naturally find its way into the trigger guard.

The gun should find a natural resting place on or about the web of the thumb. When it sits there, it should feel easy to control and point.

Something that will mess your shooting up as much as bad habits is a poor fit. This is why it's important to get out to gun stores and handle a gun before buying it. Granted, you can alter a gun to get a better fit. Revolvers and certain semi-autos can be equipped with better grip stocks. Grip sleeves can be added, some even come with swappable backstraps.

However, those are just incremental improvements. The gun will feel like it's 90 percent of the way there, but could fit really well if the grip was a little different. Unless you can tell it's close to a good fit, a grip sleeve, upgraded grip panels or custom revolver stocks aren't going to make a poor fit into a good one.

The Support Hand With Your Handgun Grip

support hand on gun grip

Now we get into some controversy regarding a proper handgun grip: the support hand. How are you supposed to use it?

The old school method is what's called the "teacup" grip. The shooting hand is a teacup, the support hand cups it sort of like a teacup saucer. The shooting hand sits atop the support hand, which keeps the shooting hand up in the air and that's about it.

It doesn't work as well as other support hand methods, as it offers little recoil control. There's no push, no pull; it's barely removed from shooting one-handed. So really, you should either just shoot one-handed or switch to something else.

The Modern Technique and the Weaver and Chapman shooting stances require a push-pull from the strong-side and support hand. This will put both thumbs on the left or right side of the gun, depending on which hand you shoot with.

The Isosceles shooting stance will as well, as both hands grip the gun.

One technique, that some people pick up intuitively, is the "thumbs over" grip. In this instance, the thumbs are curled over one another in a sort of crush grip. This grip is very intuitive, and it definitely helps keep the pistol supported, but serious competitive shooters shy away from it.

Competitive shooters prefer a straight-thumb grip with both hands, where one thumb lines up behind the other or is overlapped by the other. This helps get the gun on target and keep it there. However, it does present certain problems.

The straight thumbs method can prevent shooters from being able to ride the slide stop or can interfere with it. Other semi-autos can also put controls in a position where straight-forward thumbs can interfere with operation, as it has been observed with Sig Sauers, Glocks and Browning Hi Power pistols, among others. This grip method has also been known to prevent some shooters from successfully disengaging the grip safety on a 1911.

Revolver shooters will also get a nasty flash burn from having their thumb near the forcing cone.

You'll have to work out for yourself what works for you. After all, what works for you is what works for you. Get out there, try it out for yourself, maybe get some instruction and see what happens to work.

Sam Hoober 

About The Author


Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.

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