Proper Pistol Grip – Use This Thumbs Forward Exercise

pistol thumbs forward grip

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By Jason Steiner

Here’s a quick exercise for making sure you get a good thumbs-forward grip on you semi-auto pistol. This grip offers a great deal of control (and therefore accuracy), which explains why it’s the standard grip for top practical shooters.

Bonus: this grip is also easy for novices to learn. It might feel a little awkward at first, so start practicing at home with no gun at all, just to get accustomed to it.

Here’s all you need to do:

  1. Stand square to the target.
  2. Take a half step forward with your left foot, and give the target a big thumbs-up with your right hand.
  3. Point your left thumb directly at the target. Your wrist will be angled down a bit.
  4. Grab your right fist with your left hand. The left index finger should be in the groove between the index and middle fingers of the right hand.
  5. Lower your right thumb so it’s also pointing at the target, on top of the left thumb.
  6. Press both hands firmly together.

Of course, southpaws will need to reverse this. Once you’ve tried this a few times, add a firearm (cleared and safe, no magazine, all ammunition removed from the room).

Grasp the gun in your strong (dominant) hand. Point it at the target, thumb high along the slide, trigger finger straight and off the trigger.

Bring both hands together with the support-side thumb pointed forward at the target. Your support-side palm is now firmly pressed against your strong hand fingers and the grip panel of the firearm, with your thumb pointing along the frame*, index finger wedged up against the bottom of the trigger guard (see the photo above).

Your strong-side thumb will naturally drop to rest on and disengage the thumb safety, if your pistol has one**. If not, rest it on your support hand thumb, pointing forward.

With both hands providing even pressure and lots of good contact with the handgun, you’ll find that this grip results in your pistol recoiling more vertically when fired. It will also tend to returns to a good sight picture naturally.

Again, this may not feel natural at first, but will with time and practice. Remember, you don’t have to restrict this exercise to the range. You can do at home any time, either by itself or as part of dry fire practice.

Good luck and be safe out there.

 

* Some shooters press on the frame with the support-side thumb, some don’t. Whether I do depends on what I’m shooting. With CZs, which have internal slide rails and lots of exposed frame area to press on, I press. With other guns, not so much, since I don’t want to interfere with the motion of the slide. Suit yourself.

** If shooting a SIG or similar pistol, you might want to angle that thumb out a little, away from the frame, over the left thumb. This will keep you from riding the slide release, preventing the slide from locking back once the magazine is empty. This will vary according to your hand size and particular pistol.

comments

  1. avatar Texican says:

    Or you could lock both thumbs down and hold onto the gun in case you’re in a fight and somebody’s trying to take it away from you. Secondary benefit is you can’t touch the slide lock if your thumb is locked down. But to each his own.

    1. avatar Jedi Wombat says:

      If someone is fighting me while I have a gun in my hand, support hand comes off the gun anyways to block or preferably, reach down, pull my little fixed blade and divert his attention with multiple stab wounds. You don’t actually keep both hands on the gun if a dude grabs it and let him pop you in the face with his other hand do you? Thats sounds like a good way to come in second place in a fight where living is the prize, but as you said, to each his own.

      1. avatar SoCalJack says:

        Makes me wonder how many folks practice shooting one handed or even weak handed.

        1. avatar Broke_It says:

          I operate so hard I practice shooting thru my weak hand. The hospital bills are really starting to add up.

      2. avatar Yolo says:

        Haha pull the blade and multiple stab wounds. See ya at the John wick premiere.

      3. avatar Texican says:

        I agree I would use my support hand to fend off an attacker. But in the meantime your grip is much weaker with your thumb straight or up. Anything you hold, if you want your strongest grip, you lock the thumb down. I hope never to be in a close range interpersonal conflict. Especially one where someone has gotten close enough to touch me. But it happens. Therefore I’d like to be prepared. An axe, golf club, baseball bat, etc. all work better with your thumb locked down. Thumbs forward might be best for ultimate accuracy but I want to retain my weapon and not inadvertently cause the slide to lock back at the wrong time as I’ve seen in many a youtube video and heard described by gun writers who are supposed to be experts. If you are an expert, then why do you use a technique that can cause and has caused you to lock the slide back when you didn’t intend to? I believe it takes hundreds, if not thousands, of rounds down range to perfect the thumbs forward grip that the pros use to where it works under pressure. The “Oh, God, I might get killed right now!” kind with attendant adrenaline dump. I’ll stick with thumbs down as it works with any firearm all the time.

      4. avatar raptor jesus says:

        It’s mall ninja 101 right here.

    2. avatar Mack The Knife says:

      Its good to have different grips for different scenarios. The locked thumb is great for a very close encounter to aid in gun retention where you may have to use the gun as a striking or jabbing tool. In this situation a knife is useless unless you lose your gun. A wasted movement may cause you to lose your gun, your knife and your life.
      The thumb forward grip is for accuracy. Thumbs and index fingers are natural pointers. Try it without your gun and see why it is a preferred grip. Employing thumbs forward puts the gun on target before you pick up the front sight with your eyes. Chances are in the fight you will primarily be point shooting.
      The thing to remember is that which ever you use, keep the same grip during the entire fight for smooth follow up. This is very important during a reload. Do not relax your your pistol grip.

  2. avatar Tom Edwards says:

    Bought a Ruger .380. Wanted smaller gun to pocket carry. Am pretty well crippled. Whole body bad. But hands are messed pretty bad. My index finger on right hand suck straight out for 10 years. Always in way. Few years ago was sawing with power saw. Used next finger on throttle. Was cutting limbs on tree to fall. It pinched. Then came loose. grabbed saw. With the next finger as throttle it is still a grip finger. Throttle wide open took skin off left hand from wrist to finger tips.
    Had finger rebuilt so was useful. they tapered bone and fused bone, so is curved. Knukle cleaned out joint so was flexible again. Great for saw. Great for shooting all my rifles and pistols. but was not right for Ruger kind of jerked in first joint because could not pull as usual. Took to gunsmith to shorten squeeze. He said first try left handed. went home and am more accurate with left hand. Happy old man!

    1. avatar cgray says:

      Your comment is incoherent.

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        He probably has a hell of a time typing with those fingers.

        1. avatar jwm says:

          People reach out as best they can. Try to stay connected. Try to contribute. And some senseless clod rains on their parade.

          Never fails.

        2. avatar George Washington says:

          Lol

      2. avatar Knute(ken) says:

        The guy bought a gun he can’t now shoot comfortably, because of a chain saw ‘accident’ some time ago. Taking the gun to a ‘smith to have the problem addressed he encountered a good ‘smith who showed him a better and simpler way to address the problem.
        Kudos to whoever the ‘smith was. Most would just give him the trigger he asked for without bothering to suggest a way that the shooter could get by without his services. Gunsmiths have vested interests too. Most do not want to turn away a customer just because that customer doesn’t really NEED what it is he THINKS he wants. Unless he had too much work just then. Then, the motivation is to NOT do the job, if one can find a way out of it.
        At any rate, what is in there that you cannot comprehend? It all seems simple enough to me.

    2. avatar LibertyToad says:

      Yikes! I’m glad you found a solution.

    3. avatar possum, destroyer of arachnids says:

      Stay away from power saws Grandpa. ;>}. You got lucky you didn’t cut your hand off.

  3. avatar Nemisis-Black says:

    Need a picture of a higher grip on the gun. Thumbs forward is correct, but if dont ride high on pistol grip recoil is not going to be fully managed.

    1. avatar OmnivorousBeorn says:

      +1

      Just slide that support hand up and then forward a hair and you’re golden.

  4. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    Damn Tom! Sorry for your misfortune. Jason I’ve tried that technique, as well as the old lock down right thumb over left. Prefer the latter. I have a lot of handguns. If I keep my thumbs out of the way it reduces the odds of malfunction. That said, I’ve used both techniques in matches and quals. In the actual shooting, same difference.

  5. avatar Nemesis-Black says:

    Need a picture of a higher grip on the gun. Thumbs forward is correct, but if dont ride high on pistol grip recoil is not going to be fully managed.

  6. avatar TheHumbleMarksman says:

    I made this video which seems to have helped a lot of people and helps increase accuracy as well as sight tracking. It’s pretty long but it lays the whole foundation for the grip in the words of some of the best shooters in the world.

    https://youtu.be/XEBd3ColVJ0

    1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

      Tried watching your video. Sorry, it was tedious. Guys were runner/gunners. Low those many years ago when I shot matches: street guns. Street leather. Often from concealment. All matches were a suprise. Shot one where you drew and fired one round. Watch the video again. Tell me what you think is more realistic.

      1. avatar Knute(ken) says:

        Its just the fashion of today. Gunning used to be about accuracy and speed. Now it seems to be mostly about how much PT(or, sometimes, math problems!) one can do while carrying more than one firearm.
        Of, they have a few shots to be fired in between the PT and the math problems, to be sure. They couldn’t hardly call it a shoot if the whole goal was to see who can run the obstacle course the quickest while carrying a firearm.
        And I fully understand the idea of causing stress to make the shooting more difficult, but I’m still quite glad I’m retired now.
        I just can’t see the utility of rules forcing a shooter to divide by a random number and only shoot the targets that that that number divides into evenly, or some such. Why not just give all competitors an SAT exam while on a stage, and then divide the time to shoot the stage into the SAT score ala “Comstock Count”?
        It’d still be fair to everybody. But it sure wouldn’t have much to do with “a real word scenario”. But it would be just as real world as having to decide what’s a no shoot target by doing math in one’s head. There is no way that could ever happen in the world. How is a math problem ever going to decide who to shoot or not shoot? Fun, perhaps, but real? Under no circumstances that I can imagine up.
        And I’d get a serious advantage in that game, because I’m good at quick math. But the whole idea is just dumb(IMO,OFC), whether it favors me or not.

  7. avatar Kendahl says:

    A bigger problem is keeping the support hand in contact with the dominant hand during recoil. The sharper the recoil, the sooner my support hand is shaken loose. At best, I have to reposition it every two or three shots. (I’m not the only one as I have watched others doing the same in YouTube videos.) I’ve tried the recommended solutions — gripping my dominant hand as hard as possible and pushing my dominant hand into my support hand. The only one that works, and is limited to revolvers, is to hook my support hand’s thumb over the base of my dominant hand’s thumb. That also helps keep my dominant hand closed during recoil.

    1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

      I don’t understand what you’re describing. Taught hundreds if not thousands. Isometric (push pull) in calibers up through .44 Mag is no problem. The only time I had a problem with my grip breaking was maybe when I had that Freedom Arms in .454 Casull. Jesus, that was a hand full and a bit much for North Florida. The only revolver more accurate than my Python. I’ll have another one one day, just in a more reasonable caliber for where I live. Like 5 1/2″ Field Grade w/micarta grips in .44 mag. That would be a great carry revolver.

      1. avatar Kendahl says:

        I suspect the root of my problem is inadequate strength which, at age 73, isn’t going to improve. I cannot rack the slide on my Gold Cup or M&P using the slingshot method. My support hand loses its grip on the slide. Instead, I hold the gun sideways (turning 90° to keep the muzzle pointed downrange) and push my hands together.

    2. avatar Grumpster says:

      Hey Kendahl if you have not seen this very short video by Travis Haley it might help, the part where they talk about setting the pin for the grip where you press the palms of your hands together as you extend out your grip.

  8. avatar possum, destroyer of arachnids says:

    Thank you, these tips are always helpful.

  9. avatar Jon in CO says:

    The missing piece is the force of grip on both hands. You need to squeeze the ever living shit out of your hands. To the point right before you start shaking.

    1. avatar strych9 says:

      Just buy a gripper, or a set of them.

      The exercise you can do on the couch and it’s still really an exercise!

    2. avatar Knute(ken) says:

      I just can’t wrap my head around racking a slide being an issue. At 60 I can still do it off the front of the slide, with two fingers, even w/o serrations or other help. OK, I did have a combloc something(7.62 Tokarev, maybe?) once that took both hands in the proper spots, but it went down the road pretty fast. They’re ALL good guns, but there were many better than that thing. And I like combloc pistol’s esp. today’s CZs. But not that one, I didn’t. Actually the high velocity was really cool. It wasn’t any worse than a Glock. It just didn’t fit my hand correctly. All good guns. But, some ARE better than others.
      I guess being a 250 pounder does have some advantages after all, to make up for bumping one’s head constantly.

  10. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    I prefer to shoot single handed as I’ve never been much good at holding the reins with my teeth.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      It;s even harder to hold the steering wheel of a 4runner in your teeth.

      1. avatar cgray says:

        Something a senseless clod would find amusing, no doubt.

        1. avatar jwm says:

          You would be the judge of that, boy.

      2. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

        A moment of silence for the Duke. I have a Colt’s SAA in. 45 Colt. 4 3/4″ barrel. Ivory grips. An El Paso Saddlery Duke rig. Still looking for a vintage Winchester 1892 with large lever loop. Can anyone help me?

        1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          I’ve got a Marlin 336BL and a Ruger Blackhawk .44 magnum (50th anniversary model), that’s as close as I can get. There’s a bit of a boost in horsepower there, but the fundamentals are the same. Someday I’ll expand that collection though.

        2. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

          Gov, I recently bought a mint Marlin 336 18″ Texan 30-30. Without that stupid cross bolt safety. Like them because it’s easy to mount ghost ring sights on the solid top receiver. Still, a ’92…

        3. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          Well yes, the 336 will never be as classic as the ’92, especially with the big loop and laminated stock. From a practical standpoint I like the cross bolt safety just because it makes unloading by cycling the action a worry free experience. I mostly bought it to have (and practice with) an open sighted rifle. In that respect a .30-30 with an 18.5″ barrel will do just about anything you want to do without a scope.

        4. avatar strych9 says:

          Large loop + vintage 1892 is going to be a rare bird. I’ve never seen one IRL made like that from way back when.

          I’d keep an eye on GunsInternational and CollectorsFirearms to see if one comes up for sale.

          Or, if you have all the time in the world, use GunsAmerica to look for one in specific local areas around the West and then arrange an FFL to FFL transfer.

          Or you could get a hold of a specialty dealer/auction house and see if they can locate one for you. If you were going to go that route I’d just call up Christie’s Collector’s Services and ask them to put you in contact with a reputable rare gun dealer.

          Regardless, this is going to be kind of like hunting down rare books and I would imagine it will be just as, if not more, pricey unless you get really lucky with an online sale.

        5. avatar Victoria Illinois says:

          A good old fashion guy. Not too many of them around nowadays. For all the guns/explosives/car chases of Tom Cruise, he’s still a dweeby guy.

        6. avatar possum, destroyer of arachnids says:

          Wasn’t John Wayne’s in 44-40

  11. avatar UpInArms says:

    Try as I might, I’ve never been any good with a two-handed grip. Just something too clumsy about it. I was taught to shoot one-handed when I was a kid, and I’ve been doing it that way ever since. I’m a better shot with one hand (left or right) than I am with two. And I figure I’ve got better things to do with my other hand– like hold on to a flashlight or a second magazine.

    So, no thanks. Go with a two-hand grip if you like– it certainly looks very stylish. I’ll stay with one hand.

    1. avatar SoCalJack says:

      Nice. I’m still working on point shooting one handed.

    2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      In an actual gunfight you’re not likely to have time to ‘take a half step forward with your left foot, and give the target a big thumbs-up with your right hand.’ These tutorials are fine for range time and with lots of practice can become a natural way of presenting your weapon but will almost never factor into an actual fight.

    3. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

      Up. You are the rare exception. My hat is off to you. I have to work at strong and weak had shooting.

  12. avatar Victoria Illinois says:

    In a crisis situation how much time do you have to correct your stance, slow aim, adjust grip? I’m guessing one-handed, fire-while-aiming is the usual method.

    1. avatar possum, destroyer of arachnids says:

      How much time do you have??? None or not enuff. It’s bad enuff pulling the gunm out of the holdster filled with
      molasses let alone all the other stuff. I suppose if you do it a million times?

  13. avatar Erik says:

    An article about proper pistol grip and it shows a Glock! Bwahahahahaha!!!

  14. avatar Greg says:

    The only reason thumbs forward became popular was a few guys were kicking ass at competitions.
    Just like the old days when Jack Weaver was doing it.
    Use whatever grip gets the rounds on target and works for you. A threat doesn’t care how good your grip or stance is.

    1. avatar KGM says:

      Spot on. What works for you! The range tacti-tards and keyboard experts can KMA.

    2. avatar Southerner says:

      Indeed, the thumbs forward grip can and does work well with light recoiling autoloaders common in competition. However, such a grip does not work as well with very small handguns for obvious safety reasons, nor with higher recoil autoloaders and revolvers. The reasons are simple, the forward wrist roll is not as strong as the relatively straight wrist normal in a traditional weak hand thumb over strong hand thumb grip style. The gripping power loss of a natural full hand grip position is quite obvious when a thumbs forward grip is used heavier recoiling handguns.

      From a personal standpoint, I prefer to use a two handed grip that works equally well with all handgun designs and sizes – from the diminutive Beretta Jetfire to J-frame 357 revolvers and up to such superpower holster guns as the 475 Linebaugh chambered single actions.

  15. avatar Karl Rehn says:

    The picture shown is actually not good technique for the thumbs-forward grip. The author should go study handgun technique with a top shooter or just buy a copy of Brian Enos’ Beyond Fundamentals book — where the technique was first described and published back in the early 1990’s- to learn more about it.

    In the picture, the hands are too low on the pistol, and the support hand wrist is not rotated enough. The picture is a great example of how pistol training often becomes a bad game of “telephone”, with information being degraded each time it’s passed down.

    The #1 problem that occurs when people try to use the thumbs forward grip without understanding it in enough detail is that they push down hard with the firing hand thumb, and the support hand gets pushed off the pistol with each shot. Thumbs forward grip, done properly, requires a fair amount of grip strength in the fingers — because the thumbs should not be pushing down nor in on the frame or slide. For those that lack that finger strength, the thumbs-forward grip may not be as effective as a traditional thumb over thumb grip.

  16. avatar Timothy V Noecker says:

    As a Former Correctional Officer and Current Detention Center Jailer, My Training In Weapons Retention Will/Would Never Allow Me To Use The Aforementioned Grip. My Biggest Fear (At Least While Possessing a Firearm) Is Being Shot and Killed With My Own Weapon From a Felon/Bad Guy, Thus I always Grip My Firearm With Thumbs Down. I’ll Sacrifice (Some)Accuracy In Order To Be Able To Retain My Firearm Anyday…

    1. avatar Knute(ken) says:

      This is why there is NEVER one, single, proper, correct, way to do ANYTHING with a firearm. Everything is situation dependant. And a guy in charge of a prison full of violent felons is quite a different situation than a guy at a shooting match.
      It sure is too bad that more people can’t grasp such a simple concept. Everybody’s situation is different, just like everybody’s life is different. So no one of anything will be the single “correct” one. Caliber, hold, gear, grip, projectile… whatever.
      I would think that something so simple and obvious would be able to fit into anyone’s head, but that is obviously not the way it is.

  17. avatar Ted Unlis says:

    Not sure if this guys technique works as advertised, but I do know that once someone showed me 20 yrs ago that having both thumbs pointed toward the target improves accuracy and for me significantly reduced pulling shots left. The hardest thing was reprograming hard wired muscle memory of locking my thumbs, which like the weaver stance, we all did back in the day before we knew better. Even though I’m 60, I’m not so hard headed to ignore or refuse to learn something new. The number of comments with a bull$#it explanation, excuse, or argument of why the inferior locked thumbs grip works better in defensive semi-auto handgun applications proves just how many keyboard commandos and virtual small arms experts frequent this site and don’t know $#it about basic handgun marksmanship or defensive handgun techniques because they’ve rarely if ever received any competent instruction and trigger time on an actual range, OR, they’re too dumb or hard headed to improve their shooting skills.

    1. avatar Knute(ken) says:

      So are you then willing to say to “Timothy V Noecker” above, that in a weapon retention situation, holding the thumbs UP is STILL the one…. the only… “correct”, bestest…. way? That all that he said is just; “bull$#it explanation, excuse, or argument of why the inferior locked thumbs grip works better”…. even when it comes to retaining your weapon? I very much doubt you would say THAT(even though you already did say exactly that, but just weren’t aware of it), because, phrased that way, it is so obviously false.
      The normal human pattern at that point would be to hastily back pedal from your earlier, extremely rigid stance, and try to wriggle free with lots of confusing words and go off road instead, in the hopes that anyone reading will fail to notice that your first, rigid, position was so obviously incorrect.
      Or is it perhaps, just maybe, that you just managed to learn something new along the life’s pathway… (just one more tool to add to your toolbox…), but you, surprised that it is even possible for an old dog to learn new tricks, have then lifted and glorified this one thing to the point of unreasonableness?
      Hey, if it solved a problem for YOU, then it worked. THAT time… for YOU. Don’t try to make it into something perfect, for everybody, everywhere, all the time. That’s just pure falsehood. As for me, I’ve never seen my shots go left, unless the sights happened to be adjusted that way on one particular day. So, not suffering from your problem, your solution to it probably won’t do anything for me, or for Mr. Noecker either. The Weaver works just as good for me now as it did when I learned it, away back when.
      I’d also be really interested to know why you seem to believe that one cannot use the Weaver stance with the thumbs high grip. Nobody at Raven(back in the day, remember) ever told me the thumb positioning had anything to do with the Weaver “stance”(the position or bearing of the body while standing -dictionary.com).
      I WAS told a lot about the whys and wherefores of the stance. I would be very interested in hearing why you think that the weaver stance is no no longer useful. In fact, I’d be interested in hearing what your understanding of what the stance IS.
      Care to share your REASONS for abandoning the weaver stance… and, most importantly… WHY? What got better for you, and how?

      1. avatar Ted Unlis says:

        As you’re obviously unaware, in a weapon retention situation (aka fighting someone without a weapon while preventing them from taking yours) the handgun should be firmly gripped by your strong hand and firmly planted against your upper torso pointed toward the assailant with the weak hand or fist retracted to protect your head and face. If you want to give your assailant a chance to disarm you, leave your arms extended with your gun stuck out there where it can be grabbed, thumbs locked or not. The other stance is called ISOSCELES, google it.

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