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The good folks at Springfield Armory write:

Geneseo, IL — ( – One of the most poorly understood elements of handgun control is how to grip your pistol. A lot of people struggle to properly position the gun in their hand. There are varying opinions on how much effort, or gripping pressure to use and how to maintain that pressure. Today we’re going to outline how to improve your grip and control over a firearm . . .

1. Get A Firm Grip

Most shooters are told to relax and not grip the pistol tightly. This is ok if all you will ever fire is  a .22, but even that gun is going to kick.  You need to hold firmly.

A new shooter or beginner may have better things on which to concentrate, but even they need have a strong enough grasp to completely control their gun. If you’re an experienced shooter, you can just go ahead and ignore the “relax” part all together.

2. Lock Your Wrist

Many shooters have too much movement in their wrist. This leads to problems returning the gun to alignment and can cause you to move the gun out of alignment prematurely when trying to shoot fast.

Try to immobilize your wrist joint. Being too loose can, in extreme cases even cause weapon malfunctions. When trying to gain speed, the old adage “do not jerk the trigger” should be replaced with “do not move your wrist”.

Keep everything solid as if the gun was mounted in a vise.

3. Position The Gun In Your Hand So You Can Reach The Trigger

The angle the gun sits in relation to your arm is not that important. Being able to place your finger properly on the trigger is.

4. Two Hands Are Better Than One
If you can get two hands on the gun, do it!

The whole point of a two-handed shooting stance is to create a triangle between your shoulders and the gun. Doing so allows the force of the gun to be transmitted through your torso, making recoil much easier to control.

5. Keep The Pressure On

Do not vary the amount of pressure you exert on the gun when pulling the trigger. This will cause a shift in the gun’s alignment and start a whole avalanche of problems.

Keep it solid and consistent.

6. Practice Holding On Tight

Gripping properly will not just happen. I have to address this issue with many experienced, top-notch shooters. Most think it will just come with practice, but it doesn’t unless you think about it. One area that dry fire can really help is maintaining a tight grip while pulling the trigger.

It’s easy to pick up bad habits from dry firing with no live fire to support the techniques being learned. If you never have to deal with effects of the gun firing, muzzle flip and recoil, you will never learn how to control them.

In my three decades of training every level of shooter, I have seen only a handful that held on too tightly. On the flip side, I’ve seen hundreds that hold on too loosely.

Learn the hand positions and make yourself do them correctly. Remember, you will do whatever you teach yourself to do. Once you memorize a technique, good or bad, that is what is likely to occur when you shoot under pressure.

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  1. I’m going to have to re-learn grip, as I just had carpal tunnel surgery. It will be quite a while before I get out the .44 mag. . .

    • You’ll get your grip back. Do your PT like it’s your job and you’ll be shooting in no time.

    • Carpal Tunnel is a horrible condition that I dealt with for quite a while myself. The surgery helped me quite a bit but I could still feel slight discomfort and numbness after long shooting sessions. I had to reduce my grip strength on my weapon and make sure to take ibuprofen before long sessions.

  2. One of the greatest tips you could ever give someone on grip. The majority of your grip in a standard two handed grip shouldn’t come from your finger grip strength.

    You should be trying to slightly over-wrap your supporting hand before extending your arms.

    As you do extend your elbows and shoulders, keep tension with your back and core. Since your support arm will be sightly more extended than your primary hand, the extension will create a vice like effect on your grip.

    No matter how strong you are, this will increase your control of recoil, and you will not have to exert so much direct grip strength to do it.

    My wife, very much a beginner shooter, instantly improved her recoil control with this tip. She says, and the recoil displayed, was like night and day.

    Granted it with a G19, nothing so sobering as a magnum or anything, but she has delicate hands and this made a much bigger improvement than any increase in finger grip strength that she could have made.

  3. The most common new shooter tendency is cupping the bottom of the magazine. We can blame the movies and tv shows for that one.

    Next most common tendency is resting the thumbs on the slide and/or frame. And when they exert a firm grip, the thumb pressures affect the slide cycle, the slide stop, and POI.

  4. I have always been a firm believer of a nice tight grip when manipulating my weapon… it makes the whole experience much more satisfying. Ohh, and when shooting handguns too.

  5. I’m a new shooter and a really lousy shot. Thanks for this article. I desperately want to gain accurate shooting skills for defense purposes. Maybe in future article you could describe the nervous tension right before a trigger is pulled that causes a gun to come out of alignment and miss the intended target.

    • I’ve found this chart to be quite helpful with self-diagnosis of issues:×298.jpg

      My wife and I each keep a copy in our range bags for reference.

      The surrounding article is also pretty good:

      And another one:

      Of course, nothing beats finding a good teacher, and lots of range time practicing good habits.

    • Welcome! The behavior you describe is flinching. Your mind knows a loud bang is coming and so your body naturally tenses up to anticipate it. The only real solution is to just keep shooting and practicing as much as possible. To the point where you can comfortably relax because you know what to expect, and it’s not “scary” any more. Then you can start really focusing on the front sights. And then keep shooting and practicing even more. And don’t be embarassed about having the target very close to you at first (say 5 yards or less). We all started the same way.

      • Mike is absolutely right, the best way to break it is just by practicing. A helpful drill I’ve done is to have someone else load your magazine and put a few dummy rounds in it in random sequence. When you see your barrel bounce when you attempt to fire the dummy round it can help you visualize just how much you’re jumping.

        • +1, although avoid asking someone with a perverse sense of humor to load your magazine. All dummies except the last round is not nice…

      • Many years ago, my dad taught me an interesting way to detect flinching. Take a revolver, have someone else load it with some live ammo, and some empty cases in random order. It’s very interesting when you pull the trigger on an empty case, the pistol clicks, and your hand jumps about six inches. Or, after a couple of empties without a flinch, how your next shot is perfect.

      • 5 yards is probably a good distance to practice. If you shoot anyone in a self defense scenario at a greater distance you probably will wind up defending yourself in court.

        • PLUS INFINITY on this! I rarely ever run my target out past “That’ll be hard to justify to the DA” distance when shoosting my carry guns.

    • FWIW. Besides breathing and mentally trying to relax myself, when I first started shooting about 5 years ago, I found that keeping my eyes open and focused on the front sight throughout the entire shooting process helped reduced my flinching and anticipation.

      • Another thing that helped me get a smooth and steady trigger pull is dry fire drills. Unload your gun, visually and physically inspect the chamber, put your anmo in a different room and pick out a target on a wall. Focus on a smooth trigger squeeze, breathing, and keeping your front sight post steady. This really helped me take my shooting to the next level and the best part is it is free.

    • I began to flinch in response to the shock wave from the muzzle blast reflecting off the roof and sides of the enclosed booth at an indoor range. We naturally react to anything that strikes us in the face threatening our eyes. When I shot outdoors, I didn’t flinch because the shock wave radiated away. At the indoor range, I wore both ear plugs and ear muffs and wrapped a bandana around my face to cover it below my glasses. The increased protection eliminated my flinch.

      The problem with trigger control is that the force required to trip the trigger is several times the weight of the gun. Little wonder that it moves as you pull the trigger. Use your hands to keep the gun steady during the trigger pull. Take it slowly at first. You will get faster as practice improves your coordination.

      • Which is why “NY police triggers” are deadly to bystanders, and why it is a good idea to adjust triggers to lower pulls.

    • You’re getting a lot of replies…so migth as well as add mine.

      Yes, it sounds like you have a flinch. The good news is that that’s perfectly normal. The bad news is…well, there is no bad news only more good 🙂

      Buy a .22 handgun. Take it to the range EVERY time you go. Begin each shooting session with it and end each session with it. Also, use it whenever in-between, especially as you see your full caliber groups start to open up.

      The point? The point is that the .22 will REMIND YOU that you can shoot and it will REMIND you that if you maintain proper trigger control (that hardest part about shooting) you WILL hit you target with ANY caliber handgun of your choosing.

      So again, flinch is natural and the best solution is to sloooooowly convince your body that shooting is something that it can do w/o the need to flinch. A .22 (or a pellet gun) is the perfect way to do that.

  6. I use the thumbs forward grip with an isosceles stance and I love it. Really steady shooting platform. I also get my hand as high up in the tang as it can go. I see a lot of inexperienced shooters at the range holding the pistol halfway down the grip, which leads to more perceived recoil and is difficult to hold steady.

  7. I really reduced flinch by mentally focusing on two things: crystal clear front sight, and a steady squeeze of the trigger to the rear.

    Moving my mind away from “the gun is about to fire” to keep that front sight steady really improved my shooting.

  8. As noted in the post, a firm grip is required in order to control and manage recoil and prevent malfunctions when shooting a pistol or standard-to-large revolver. For shooting an Airweight or other very light snubby, a convulsive grip is required — try to squeeze the handle into powder. It will cut your group size in half and speed your follow-up shots.

    • I have also found this to be true of .380 “mouse guns.” If you don’t “gorilla grip” them they tend to stove pipe… on me at least. YMMV

  9. I’ve had advice given to me that has been good and has been bad. Most people had always told me years ago to grip firmly but not too firmly. Later, I read an article by Ayoob to put a death grip on the pistol, to eliminate sympathetic reflex when squeezing the trigger. He reasoned that if you’re already squeezing as hard as you can, then you won’t squeeze any harder accidentally when the trigger is pulled. Additionally, when you are in a situation where you need to shoot as a real threatening target, you are going to be pumped with adrenalin. You should train to use that adrenalin pumped grip.

  10. I haven’t fired in competition for way too many years but I remember when Curt Lemay emphasized marksmanship in the USAF. I earned a spot on our base pistol team and learned the core points from the team captain and coach. It was a surprise to find out we had to do PT besides shoot 500 rounds a week practicing the 3 calibers. Also dry firing, 500 times a week. This last was an honor gig. Twice a year we shot for choice of gear. Me, I had flight pay so I bought my own pistols but the USAF supplied ammo range and targets. The team PT regimen stressed core, legs, grip, arms with biceps and triceps. I have a lead-filled magazine for my 1911 and used it for dry-firing and holding one-handed aiming position as long as I could 3 times in a row. Since I was on the team when we went nuke my CO appointed me to train 40 pilots to NRA sharpshooter level with that weak sister the S&W airweight 38 special that used P- ammo. (nuke security was not a trivial affair.) He asked me what I needed and I replied 40,000 rounds of target ammo. “Order it!” was his answer.They all qualified in about six months. Our alert schedule called for 2 on 5 minute and 6 on 15 and shooting was more fun than watching daytime TV so every decent day we were shooting bullseye and silhouette targets. Hog heaven for a shooter! That little pistol had a good trigger and smooth action and was accurate. Of course I got to shoot a lot too, proving the thing could hit the target if the shooter knew what he was doing. Fighter pilots are by nature competitive so they all worked at it. What an assignment! I wouldn’t let them bet money but after duty at Friday ‘Happy Hour’ a few rounds were paid for. BTW some tried regular 38s in that baby or they exceeded their service life and the aluminum (!) cylinders cracked. The USAF recalled and destroyed them. I had taken the nuke security seriously and had bought a S&W 28 six-inch and a KC shop made me a shoulder holster so I could wear it in the cockpit. At a Denver regional NRA match (1960?) an S&W rep did a really fine trigger job on that 28 for me so I started using it in the center-fire events. But all too soon I finished training the guys, SEA started up and we became short of pilots and the free time disappeared and I had to drop from the pistol team. Oh, I could shoot now and then but couldn’t maintain true competition levels. But it was sheer fun training those guys. Nailing 5 silhouettes in 5 seconds at 25 yards with that pop gun showed the skeptics what training could get them. (And shooting that course to attain that level was fun for me.) But now it’s 2015 and I’m kinda creaky now but it’s still fun to go out to the range and unload a few rounds from 22 on up the scale to 44 magnum double action rapid fire. Between zombies and jihadis one must keep sight picture, feet set, shoulder neutral, elbow straight, wrist locked, firm grip, trigger squeeze, reset, repeat. One more challenge – slow fire at 100 yards plus. Learn and study the ballistics and use Kentucky windage. And practice regularly and often, even if it’s only dry fire. And please don’t blow a hole in anything doing that!

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