top of page

The Fundamentals of Grip

Shooting at the range should be fun whether you are a target shooter or Action Pistol shooter. To achieve that you will need some guidance and training whether it is from reading a post, an article, a YouTube, or one-on-one training. All is better than NONE!


There are four fundamentals of shooting that impact accuracy. They are GRIP, STANCE, BREATH CONTROL, and AIMING. These are all variables to be overcome through training, discipline, and practice.

One of the most critical fundamentals is how to properly grip a handgun. If your grip changes or relaxes each time you squeeze the trigger your accuracy will suffer because your sight picture (Aim) will change. When your grip changes, chances are that your hits will be either to the right or left on the target. 

There are two grips taught, revolver Grip & Semi-auto Grip

There are two grips taught depending upon whether you are handling a revolver or a semi-auto pistol.

  • With the revolver both thumbs are tucked down. The reason is there are hot gasses that shoot out of the gap between the cylinder and the frame. These gasses can be easily seen when shooting at night.
  • With a Semi-auto pistol both thumbs are up and pointed at the target. This allows you to work the buttons (slide release, slide stop, and the safety lever). Using the thumb in this manner allows you to quickly release the safety lever, fire your shots, drop the magazine, reload and release the slide back into battery all quickly. It is essential to learn for anyone using a Semi-auto in competition or self-defense (CCW).

However, this grip is not necessary for those using the gun for target practice and home defense. Some would say if you need to use the gun for home defense then you may need to accomplish a tactical reload! If you are in that kind of fire-fight at home, you have bigger problems! The revolver grip on a Semi-auto is a much easier grip to learn for new shooters and those just having fun target shooting. 

Classic Semi-auto Pistol Grip

This is the classic semi-auto pistol grip above. Notice that the firing hand thumb is not too close to the moving slide.

The proper revolver grip

With a revolver it is important to have BOTH thumbs tucked down to protect you from hot gasses that escape between the frame and cylinder, to prevent injury.

Revolver grip on a semi-auto pistol

The revolver grip on a Simi-auto is a much easier grip to learn for new comers and thoughts just having fun target shooting. 

Bad and Dangerous Grip

If you get your firing hand thumb too close to the moving slide, as shown below, you may need a first aid kit! You also will impede the action of the slide release lever.

At the range watch other shooters using an improper grip, and their shots will be all over the targets more like a shotgun blast!

How to Properly Grip the Gun

To properly grip any handgun, you must create a pocket with your hands. This requires you to mate your palms together as much as possible. The ideal pocket is when both palms actually touch each other as shown. With the grip of the gun resting on the heel (or lower portion of palm) of your firing hand palm.

To achieve this you start by:

  1. As you pick up the gun your hand creates a “V”. The center of the “V” is called the “web” of your hand. The Back of the firearm (curved area) below the slide is called the “Tang” of the gun. As you pick up the gun your hand needs to be as far up into the tang of the gun as possible. This creates a tight sturdy grip. If there is a gap between the tang of the gun and the web of your hand this will increase recoil and damping the slide. You will have trouble holding on and the dampened slide will create “Stovepipes”.

  2. Pick up the firearm using your dominate, or firing hand. Index finger straight just below the slide. Remaining fingers wrap around the grip with the middle finger tucked tight below the trigger guard between the first two knuckles, thumb and middle finger touching, or almost touching. The gun should be a natural extension of your arm and hand otherwise you will be articulating your wrist to keep the sights on target instead of rotating your arm at the shoulder. 

  3. Your support hand (fingers tight together) then wraps around your firing hand tightly just under the trigger guard. The palms of both hands meet together to form the tight pocket completing the grip. If possible, your firing hand thumb should contact your middle finger as shown below.

At first this may feel awkward, but it creates the pocket in which the gun is trapped securely. With the grip resting on the heal of your palm, the gun is held tight and will not shift during firing. The grip should be 60/40 pressure (see below).

Web of the hand

Your hand creates a “V”. The center of the “V” is called the “web” of your hand. 

Tang of the gun

The Back of the firearm (nice curved area) below the slide is called the “Tang” of the gun.

Firing hand grip

Trigger finger straight on the frame, middle finger under the trigger guard for support. Remaining fingers tightly together wrapping around the grip.

Support hand grip

Support hand wraps around to create a tight pocket. Thumb down, or both thumbs up to control the buttons.

Developing bad habits can lead to a lot of frustration. Learning to shoot properly can be fun and rewarding. Like Golf, it takes proper training and patience. 

60/40 Grip Pressure

The grip is one of the most important fundamentals to learn properly. This proper grip gives you stability throughout the shot and allows you to easily and accurately bring the firearm back on target with each shot.

Now this final part of the grip is important. To complete the grip, the pressure used is a 60/40 split. Your firing hand is gripping with 40% pressure pushing into your support hand, which is completing the remaining 60% grip. If the grip is too tight with your firing hand, you have a tendency to move and readjust your grip with each shot, and shoot to the LEFT. The support hand should be the main support for firing the shot.  With a grip that is 60/40 the support hand holds the firearm steady allowing you to have better control so that the index finger on the firing hand can move independently while firing the shot. 

Developing bad habits can lead to a lot of frustration. Learning to shoot properly can be fun and rewarding. Like Golf, it takes proper training and patience. 

Examples of Bad Grips

Getting use to shooting with a bad grip can really take the fun out of shooting. Most people develop these bad habits for different reasons. Some just start out shooting with a friend or family member that just does not know how to instruct. They give them a firearm that may be too powerful for the first time shooting, or just hand it to them and let them try to figure it out by watching them.  Whatever the reason, there is no proper understanding of how a gun works, how to aim at a target, or even how to squeeze the trigger.  If you spend anytime watching other people shoot you will see a lot of different "bad" techniques. It's not just the bad grip you see, there's more. 

  • You will see people yanking, or slapping the trigger instead of squeezing it. 
  • You will see people looking only at the bullseye and not the sights (their target will look like a shotgun blast).
  • You will see people flinching just before they shoot (anticipating the recoil).
  • You will also see people look away or close their eyes just before they shoot (afraid of the bang).
  • You will also see them release their grip just before they shoot (afraid of the recoil).

These are just a few of the things you will see anytime watching others at the range. Then give yourself a pat on the back for taking the time to learn the right way.

This grip is one you will undoubtedly see often. This is a very bad grip with a Semi-auto that will cut your thumb every time. With your thumb crossed under the area where the slide comes back, the slide will retract over the top of your thumb cutting it. To prevent this people will often use the same grip (thumbs crossed) only holding further down on the grip. That only makes the firearm recoil more, and restrict the movement of the slide, causing stovepipes. 

Fingers Intertwined

With this grip there is no firm grip on the firearm with either hand. The gun is loose between both hands so they need the finger on the front of the trigger guard to try and control it. You really need that 60/40 split for control and accuracy. 

Finger on Trigger Guard, and Thumbs Too High

Bad Grip with a Semi-Auto Pistol - The support hand is too far forward, and thumbs are too high. people that shoot like this offtin will hit the magazine release in error causing it to drop out or release enough that the firearm will not fire.

Gripping the Wrist

With this grip you are just shooting one-handed. The support hand on the wrist is trying to control the recoil. Most likely the firing arm is bent causing increased recoil. If you are trying to shoot one-handed your arm should be straight. 

Classic Teacup Grip

With this grip you are just shooting one-handed. Again the support hand is not doing much and you are fighting the recoil all the time.

To sum up, always try to establish a proper grip. You don't have to grip the gun "for-dear-life", that will only ruin your accuracy, and it's not necessary. You want to grip it like you would a golf club or fencing foil!

bottom of page