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As I wrote in the first installment of this series, learning to shoot effectively at close quarters with one hand is key to surviving a life threatening situation.  The stats say that with few exceptions, you will defend your life shooting one-handed. Anecdotally, the security video from the recent convenience store robbery attempt shows what happens to most shooters under stress: they fire one-handed. Obviously, there are accuracy and gun control problems that come with one hand shooting. According to the literature, in combat you will 1. have a crush grip on your gun, and 2. shove your gun out towards the threat when shooting . . .

With a crush grip on your gun, your thumb exerts pressure on the frame. It pushes the back of the gun to the right. At the same time, your middle, ring and little fingers pull the gun muzzle down and around to the left. Your index finger adds to the twisting. As a result, your shots tend to go low and left. Also, when the gun is shoved out to full extension, your wrist naturally rotates around and down to the right, which adds to low and left shooting.

There is a very simple shooting method that works very well when shooting one-handed. It provides you with a strong and level shooting platform. It can be learned with little if any training. And it can be maintained with minimal practice. It works in good light or bad, standing still, moving, shooting at moving targets, and even shooting aerials. It provides the user with automatic and correct sight alignment, and an automatic and correct sight picture.

Basically, the index finger is placed along the side of the gun, and pointed at a target, and the middle finger is use to shoot. The method has been around and known of since at least 1835, but it’s generally unknown in the US due to years and years of cautioning against its use by the US military.

I call the method: AIMED Point Shooting or P&S to separate it from other methods that use a point of aim, body indexing, a locked arm, etc..


AIMED Point Shooting is not recommended for 1911-style pistols. US Military manuals (published from 1912 up until the 1940s) contain a specific caution against using P&S with the 1911s.

The trigger should be pulled with the forefinger. If the trigger is pulled with the second finger, the forefinger extending along the side of the receiver is apt to press against the projecting pin of the slide stop and cause a jam when the slide recoils.

The 1911 was the only standard issue firearm of US forces. After thirty or so years of specifying that the index finger was to be used on the trigger, it’s easy to understand why the method was—and still is—considered the only way to shoot an automatic.

Truth be told, in a close quarters life threat situation, it doesn’t really matter which finger you use to pull the trigger—unless you are using a 1911. You will have a crush grip on your gun. And using your index finger to aim a pistol works.

Here’s what the US Army says about our ability to point at things. It is found in the US Army’s Field Manual 3-23.35: Combat Training With Pistols M9 AND M11 (June, 2003).

Everyone has the ability to point at an object.

When a soldier points, he instinctively points at the feature on the object on which his eyes are focused. An impulse from the brain causes the arm and hand to stop when the finger reaches the proper position.

When the eyes are shifted to a new object or feature, the finger, hand, and arm also shift to this point.

It is this inherent trait that can be used by a soldier to rapidly and accurately engage targets.

The grip used is a strong four-finger grip made up of the natural pincer of the thumb and index finger with the ring and little fingers adding strength and tenacity to the grip. You can squeeze the begeebers out of the gun and all you will do is strengthen the grip. You can make front punches, elbow smashes, and even use the gun and forearm as a crude battle ax.

[Note: This is not the three-fingered range and marksmanship grip, where the thumb is not supposed to press against the gun, and the index finger is supposed to be held aloof from the gun and used to squeeze the trigger smoothly back until the shot breaks.]

The index finger, when extended, helps lock up the wrist and improve recoil control. When the middle finger is used on the trigger, the gun sits down lower in the hand, which also helps with recoil. The middle finger pulls back straighter in the hand. It’s stronger than the index finger, which helps makes it easier to shoot double action guns with their heavy trigger pull.

Common sense is required. Don’t use it with a gun where the index finger will be hit by the slide, or rest over the ejection port, or extend beyond the front of the gun. And don’t use it with the 1911. Also don’t use it with revolvers if your finger will be burned by hot gas when the gun is fired.

Several of the new flat sided minis are excellent candidates for use with the method, and for adding a P&S aiming aid to them. (S&W Bodyguard, Walther PPS, Beretta PX4, SIG P290, Ruger LCP) The aiming aid helps to assure mechanical and automatic correct index finger placement, and to keep the index finger in place and away from the slide during rapid firing while the gun is jumping and bucking in your hand.

You can easily prove that the method works, by trying it with most any type of gun (airsoft, pellet, or firearm), and looking at your targets. It also can be used to enhance and improve the effectiveness of other shooting methods.

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  1. I’ve been practicing the quick draw one handed combat shooting and it’s not easy, but you can only improve your skills by being consistent and repeating everything as many times as possible. You make a great point of not using this grip on most revolvers, because if you try this on a 500 you’re going to get hurt.

  2. I see that John Velt has found a new home to spread his nonsense. Let’s see what an actual professional instructor, John Farnum has to say about it:

    Lessons: The “middle-finger-on-trigger” technique, sometimes call the “Pittsburgh Grip,” has been used off and on by the Pittsburgh PD and others for several decades and had caused uncounted accidents (mostly self-inflicted)[.] It proponents say the index finger is used to point, and the middle finger is used to manipulate the trigger, but there is no way both fingers can go into register simultaneously, so we see incidents like the one [where a student shot himself in the leg – ed]. How stupid can you get?

  3. This is the same grip used by Jack Ruby when he shot Lee Harvey Oswald. I guess you can say that Ruby really did give Oswald the middle finger.

  4. Wouldn’t there be some difficulty with coordination using the middle finger on the trigger?

    C’mon guys, that’s not what god made the middle finger for.

      • What does that mean Ralph, that you like this asinine way of shooting AND you’d like to give me the finger? Or, you do not like that asinine way of shooting BUT would like to give me the finger? Or neither one but you just wanted to make a joke?

  5. This “instructor” and his technique has been laughed off numerous other forums. He deserves no place here as some people may think his dangerous technique to be legit.

  6. John Velt, aka OKJOE has the distinction of being banned from almost as many internet forums as “Gunkid”, which is saying something. He also has repeatedly tried to peddle this Pittsburgh grip nonsense on various unsuspecting bloggers in the goal of finding a platform to shout from.

    If you visit his site, you’ll see all sorts of spurious claims about how the 1911 has a “fatal flaw” that has resulted in “hundreds” of combat deaths. The problem is he can’t actually point to ONE.

  7. That “Pittsburgh Grip” looks awkward to hold much less to attempt to draw and establish in the heat of battle. It seems simpler to practice drawing with the conventional strong hand grip while trying to visualize just the proximal phalanx (the finger bone attaching to the palm) part of the index-trigger finger as the pointer.

    Better still perform that index finger pointing during the brief time in the draw that ones finger is still outside of the trigger guard. “Safety rule #3: Don’t put your finger on the trigger until the pistol is pointed at the target.”

  8. Wait, I thought Point Shooting was where you bring the gun from low-ready up to the target in an arc. It’s the way I shoot, and find that I am much more accurate than just pushing the gun outward. This middle finger business is just a way for someone to make a name. It’s the Slap Chop of shooting techniques. (Or is it the Magic Bu…no, too easy.)

  9. I just returned from the range and I had them bring up this post on their computer. They all laughed and said that this is one of the dumbest grips they’ve ever seen. A few of the instructors also stated that anyone who would attempt to teach this grip should be stripped of their teaching certification.

  10. Middle finger grip feels natural to me, however, not using this style of grip routinely may preclude one from attempting it in a pinch.

    I read study somewhere about the differences in axial (?) strength of the index and middle fingers and it appears that the middle finger is the better digit for this type of movement.

  11. Thanks for your comments.

    Seems a bit odd that some disparage something they don’t know about or haven’t tried. The US Military of the early 1900’s knew of it, and cautioned over and over agin for over thirty years against its use with the 1911 as the 1911 can jam if the slide stop pin is depressed with firing.

    The Russian Tokarev, which was of similar design to Browning’s pistol, was fixed by adding a simple clip that keeps the slide stop pin in place. About 1.5 mill were produced.

    Why the US Army of the early 1900’s did not fix the 1911 is unknown.

    The US Army of 2003, in its combat pistol manual, says that a soldier can rapidly and accurately acquire targets by pointing at them.

    Here are 1902 and 1908 patent pics which also show that using the index finger for aiming, was a known method of shooting in the US in the early 1900’s.

    And the following is from a review of the Mauser C-96 “Broomhandle” Machine Pistol by David M. Fortier. In it, he says that the C-96 was extremely popular in china from the early 1900’s up through the 1940’s and beyond.

    “…Special commando units were armed entirely with the C-96, and later the selective fire variants, as well as a large beheading sword carried in a leather scabbard on their back. Recognizing the Mauser’s weak and strong points, the Chinese developed the following technique for using the C-96 and later the 712. They would hold it sideways (what we would today refer to as “Gangbanger style”), with the index finger lying on the magazine well pointing at the target, and pull the trigger with the middle finger. ”

    Here again is last para from above:

    You can easily prove that the method works, by trying it with most any type of gun (airsoft, pellet, or firearm), and looking at your targets. It also can be used to enhance and improve the effectiveness of other shooting methods.

  12. 1.The only thing actually holding on to the gun is the pinky and ring finger.
    2.How are you supposed to keep your index finger from sympathetically contracting automatically under stress. It WILL try to make a fist.
    ATTN: numbnuts
    Your index finger already points at the target in a normal grip. The end of it just curves around the trigger.
    I am reminded of the ancient chinese proverb involving a monkey having romantic encounter with a football.
    What an embarrasing way to die.

  13. Isn’t the point of firearms training to make things as simple and fool-proof as possible? When I’m holding a gun I shouldn’t have to think about which of my fingers I decided to put on the trigger this time. This grip might have merit if it was the only one you ever used (including on shotguns and rifles) but otherwise it’s just throwing unneeded complexity into your training.

    It also seems like a great way to cut up your index finger as it rides against the side of your slide. You can tell from the LC9 picture that it’s extremely cramped and awkward on small pistols.

  14. “The only thing actually holding on to the gun is the pinky and ring finger.”

    The grip used is a strong 4 fingered grip. It is made up of the thumb, web of the hand, the index finger, and the ring and little fingers. It provides a strong and level shooting platform. You can squeeze the beegebers out of the gun and all you will do is strengthen the grip. You can make front punches, elbow smashes, and even use the gun and forearm as a crude battle axe. It is not a competition or marksmanship grip where the thumb is not supposed to press on the gun, and the index finger is supposed to be held aloof from the gun. Per the literature, in combat you will have a crush grip on the gun so it doesn’t matter which finger is used to pull the trigger.

    Also, both the index and middle fingers can flex and extend individually. The middle finger pulls back striaghter in the hand, and it is stronger than the index finger which makes it easier to shoot double action guns when it is used on the trigger.

    Dont use it with a gun where your index finger will be hit by the slide.

    A P&S aiming aid can make index finger placement mechanical and automatic, and keep it away from the slide when the gun is jumping and bucking in your hand with rapid firing. You are welcome to add one to your personal firearm/s at your own risk and expense.

    Here’s a link to the u-tube video that shows the method used in shooting:

  15. “Isn’t the point of firearms training to make things as simple and fool-proof as possible?”

    Yes, but there is usually always more then one way to skin a cat. To each their own as long as each doesn’t interfere with or hurt my own I say. Do what works for you. I can see the merits of learning to fire this way. Broken pointer finger anyone? Off hand firing scares the crap out of me when I know a friend at the range is about to do it. As much as it does I learn myself to do such because who knows? Maybe in the pinch your main hand is smashed, broken, cut off or generally of no help. What then? Use the other. It isn’t the ideal but it is better then the nothing I would say. Why should we think any different in terms of fingers? They are easier to break in a scuffle and even easier to lose – ping pong table removal. Heck I want to learn to shoot with all my fingers now and my thumb. Yeah, it isn’t what I prefer but if the gun fly’s out of my hand after I have plinked the bad guy oh well. I think safety is moot at that point anyway. If I miss and he creams me? Well, at least I tried, right?

  16. I am all for whatever works.

    Back in 55 a WWII Sgt told me to use this method when shooting my grease gun from the hip. Ihad never tried the method prior to that, but did as I was told. It worked as I saw wood splinters come off the wood target support that ran up the back of the target in its center.

    In boot camp, I qualified as expert with the M1 rifle and used my index finger on the trigger. The 1908 patent was for an aiming aid on a rifle. Some rifle shooters use the middle finger on the trigger according to the literature.

    As to simplicity:

    The P&S shooting method is the simplest of shooting methods. You don’t have to cognitively think about and align the sights, or use the hand eye coordination that is necessary to get a correct sight picture.

    All you have to do, is grab your gun, point your finger, and pull the trigger. [Check out the video link in my prior comment.]

    Just having to point-n-pull, point-n-pull, is good because according to the literature and science, you will have a crush grip on the gun, your fine motor skills will be lost to use, you will have lost your near vision which is needed to focus on the sights, and chances are the light will be poor, and your target/s may be dark, and also moving.

    With an aiming aid on your gun, correct finger placement is mechanical and you get correct sight alignment automatically, and then when you point naturally you get a correct sight picture automatically per the US Army.

    The method is for self defense close quarters use where there is the greatest chance of your being shot and/or killed.

  17. This grip was taught to me back in 1992 or so. Didn’t like it then, and still don’t like it. But, practice can only improve ones abilities. I personally think that your better off using the time perfecting weak hand shooting first.

  18. I just pulled my carry weapon and tried this. The weapon pointed down relative to my index finger. Maybe this works with larger weapons – please try it and see before relying on this.

    The idea sounds good, I’d never heard of it before – but it would not help me without training. As I said, the weapon pointed down relative to the finger. And we won’t be aiing, will we?

  19. A note on aiming.

    1. The US Army says a soldier can rapidly and accurately engage targets by pointing at them.

    2. The sights and barrel of a gun are in alignment.

    3. If the index finger is placed along the side of the gun, it and the sights and the barrel will be in alignment. (It is best to have your finger in parallel with the sights and barrel, but if you are pointing at center mass, it won’t make much difference at 15 to 20 feet if you index finger is not exactly in parallel. Check out this picture of Mr. Orange. The difference in the hits was either due to finger alignment, or recoil and re-pointing, or whatever. [And FYI, I was shooting to hit Mr. Orange ]. The point is, I am sure he ended up with a really sore head.)

    4. Place finger, point to aim the gun, and pull the trigger with your middle finger. Point-n-pull, point-n-pull. That is all there is to P&S.

    3 of the 4 pictures in this part, were supplied by TTAG (thanks), and they may not have the index finger in parallel with the slide, sights, and barrel. A few shots down range, will show if any changes are needed in the position of the finger. If a gun is not suitable for use with P&S, don’t use P&S with that gun. Dry fire to see how it would work. Also do that with the slide locked back. Common sense and safe gun handling are required.

    An aiming aid can make finger placement mechanical, automatic, and correct. See this pic for a good example:

    Thanks for your continuing comments.

  20. The only value to part one of this post was to point out that shooting with one hand is a useful skill- not ideal, but useful in case one hand is useless or occupied. Part two is totally worthless. If the recommended technique worked even remotely well then some mainstream school somewhere, whether military or civilian would teach it, but other than an un-elaborated mention in a few manuals (which mention pointing, not middle fingers) I have never seen any instructor recommend this. If you want to disprove it go to the range and set human silhouette targets at 7 and 15 feet. Shoot each of them by “point shooting” and shoot each of them – still one handed- using the sights. The sighted group will be better and it will get rounds on target within a similar window of time. Now remember- winging a full-size silhouette is the equivalent of a miss. Only count shots in the thoracic cavity, the neck on or medial to the carotid artery, or the CNS. No one with a mind to hurt you is going to stop if you punch a small hole in one of his obliques and I personally knew a fellow who survived a shot to the skull because it was not centered enough to enter his brain.
    Another thing to be noted about the recommended PS (BS) technique is that it works even less effectively when you don’t have a good view of your hand, a common thing in low light encounters. The reason it normally seems easy to point at something you’re looking at is only partially a matter of kinesthetic sense, the other pert is because your brain is processing the visual information to adjust the motor signals directing the finger. If this method is only ‘good’ when you can see your finger, why don’t you look about one inch up and over and use the sights, which are in much better alignment with the barrel than the finger you are trying to replace them with. Even better- good night sights are visible even when the hand and firearm are in darkness.
    I must refer to my comment on part 1 which includes the views of two very competent instructors with businesses in the field of firearm and leadership training. I could easily quote several more serious instructors’ thoughts on using sights, but I am comfortable with the competence of the two men I have already quoted. These ‘two good one better’ posts are full of dangerous delusions.

  21. The key to effective combat shooting, CQB or otherwise, is PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE!!!

    When I carried as a career, I spent hours drawing and sighting over and over. I would practice in front of the tv and I would practice on the range,

    When I found myself in a threat situation, low light, armed aggressor surprising me, I became consciously aware that I had drawn and set on target only when I heard the click of my thumb disengaging my 1911 safety. Thankfully, the bad guy didn’t force me to pull the trigger.

    Many LE agencies have learned the hard way that, when in a shoot or die scenario, muscle memory and familiarity are what someone on the line falls back on,

    CHP learned this when 2 officers, 1 with 7 years,1 with 10, were killed in a traffic stop. CHP practice at the range was “we don’t like a messy range so, rather than dumping your brass on the ground (standard issue .38 revolvers then), dump it in your hand and pocket it.”

    After an initial exchange, the felon rushed up and killed both officers while they were reloading. Post shooting investigation revealed that 1 officer had spent brass in his pocket and was inserting the speed loader when shot. The second one had his hand, full of brass, in his pants pocket when he died.

    Both were killed because they learned to pocket their spents costing them valuable seconds and their lives.

    The CHP range is not so neat anymore.

    The point is you need to practice it to use it. Then you need to practice it again. And again. And again.

    When a range instructor gave me a copy of “Quick or Dead” and followed up with some instruction on what you call thee “Pittsburgh Grip” (which he called the “Vermont Grip” because it was taught to the Vermont Highway Patrol) I was skeptical.

    Within weeks, using the same, obsessive practice techniques, I found myself able to make snap head shots at distances over 10 meters. Using Cassidy’s and Fairburn’s techniques I was able to hit small objects accurately with a pocket derringer I carried in my boot as a backup. A few times I was able to hit a soda can and hit it again in quick succession while it was flying, using the derringer.

    After this, I would only use my sight picture stance for qualification and longer range.One qualification, my instructor accused me of sloppy stances and told me I was a lousy shot. I responded by drawing and quickly firing twice with P&S, hitting a target center forehead with overlapping shots (I was angry). He came over after quals and asked me to teach him how I did that.

    Don’t dismiss it until you’ve really used it and practiced it.

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