The Basics of How to Grip a Pistol

When it comes to the world of professional shooting and firearms training, every experienced shooter has the little tweaks and nuances for how they land rounds on a target. But those nuances are built on a foundation that’s agreed upon by anyone who’s serious about the art and craft of holding and shooting a pistol.

So while there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to operating a pistol safely and effectively, there are the basics that make up 75 percent of your shooting technique. These should be mastered before moving on to the finer points and customizations that work for you.

Whether you’re in the tactical shooting community or the competitive shooting community, there are some things that everybody does pretty much the same every time they pick up their pistol.

Pistol Grip Basic #1: Hand Web High on the Backstrap

You want to maximize leverage on the pistol by getting the web of your hand, between finger and thumb, as high on the backstop as possible to manage the reciprocating mass (the back and forth motion) to manage recoil.

Pistol Grip Basic #2: Clinch The Handle Rather than Squeezing

The pressure of your grip on the gun handle should be placed on the front and rear of the handle, not evenly all around. If don’t properly, this front to rear grip will engage fingers and palm while leaving the thumb free to move about. The firing side thumb should have nothing to do with your grip.

Pistol Grip Basic #3: As Much Meat As Possible in Contact

The idea here, again, it to create a stable but flexible wrap for your gun to rest in and that springs quickly back into proper position after recoil. So as you bring your support hand up to meet your firing hand, it should fill in the spaces left, starting with your firing side thumb resting on your support side thumb and both pointing toward the target.

How far forward your support hand goes is where the contention of grip styles comes into play between John Lovell and Paul, training director for WPS.

Pistol Grip Basic #4: Active vs Passive Recoil Management

While John rides his support hand further up the gun and wraps the support side trigger around the trigger guard, this also requires a slight turning in of the elbows and he seeks to tighten the wrap around the gun and thus manage recoil. This is also called Active Recoil Management.

Paul’s approach–which he calls the modern pistol grip–emphasizes a sturdy wrap around the gun but one that allows for consistent, equilateral arm extensions for consistent pistol presentation. This utilizes Passive Recoil Management, which means the equilateral presentation is coupled with relaxed arms with bent elbows and flexible shoulders so that the recoil is absorbed by those springy joints. Pro Tip: Too much muscle tension decreases absorption and efficiency.

Pistol Grip Basic #5: Pick A Technique and Master It

To learn proper pistol technique, it’s almost imperative that you get good training from reputable sources. And once you learn a good technique that works for you, stick with it until you’ve mastered it. Get really good at it, and have a valid reason for why you do what you do when someone asks. This reinforces your understanding and confidence in your skill, and it prepares you to teach others.

Train Hard. Train Smart. Live Free.