Getting a Grip – On Your Handgun

Ask ten shooters a question and you will likely get ten different answers. Some may be similar, but I will bet you dollars to donuts, the answers will differ widely. One such topic is proper grip. Your grip will make or break your accuracy. Just as each pistol has a different diameter, contour, and feel, so do our hands. No two sets of hands are alike, so how are we each supposed to hold a pistol the same, exact way? We cannot. This is where common sense comes in to play. We need to find what grip works best for us individually. What we are comfortable with, and most importantly, what can we change to make our shot the most accurate it can be. That is the goal after all; shooting safely and accurately. A few weeks ago, I discussed several exercises to strengthen your hands, improve your grip, and improve your overall physical conditioning and well-being. Improving my physical conditioning and getting into better shape is number one on my list, how about you?
Having strong hands and arms is of benefit when shooting. I am sure you have heard the term “limp-wristing” so do yourself a favor, and don’t be “that guy” (or gal, of course!) For those unfamiliar, “limp-wristing” is a term to describe not gripping your firearm firmly enough. Limp-wristing can result in a malfunction of the firearm, and will certainly affect your accuracy. Limp-wristing can be a problem of technique, or it can be due to weakness. Both can be cured with a little hard work and consistency.

Limp Wristing your handgun can result in stiches or sometimes worse.

The thumb forward firing position.

In all honestly, it depends what you are shooting. Thumbs held too high on some frames may just get you cut. I tend to prefer a modified grip when shooting my Springfield XD-9, with my thumbs high and tight, but somewhat forward and out of the way of my slide.

Teacupping a handgun, especially one with stout recoil, won't result in accuracy.

I love a nice cup of tea, but not while I am shooting. “Tea cupping” or holding the firearm with your dominant hand, and placing your weak hand underneath like a saucer will not give you good control of the weapon. While you may be supporting your weapon, your weak hand will not assist you in managing recoil. It does seem to be a popular grip for the Hollywood set tho, keep an eye out when you are watching your favorite movie or television drama, you will be amazed at Hollywood’s creativity when it comes to firearms and grips!

One sure way to get a slide bite is crossing your thumbs behind the firearm. In a two-handed grip, your thumbs should be together, whether you choose high or modified, but they should not be crossed behind the firearm. Doing so places you in position to catch the soft, fleshy tissue between your thumb and forefinger in the slide as the firearm discharges. (Though I have never done so, I have seen pictures and it looks extremely painful!)

The positions I have mentioned are all for two handed shooting. I am an advocate however, of shooting with one hand. At each practice session, I shoot mostly two handed, but I do spend time shooting with both my dominant hand and my weak hand. If something were to happen and you were to injure one of your arms/hands and you needed to get a shot off, you had better know that you can shoot accurately and safely using only your weak hand.

One handed shooting with both your dominant and weak hand is great practice in case one hand is injured.
Practice shooting with one hand, it is important!

Get out on the range and watch some of the other shooters. Pay attention to how they grip their pistol. Try out a few variations and see if any feel better than what you are currently doing. Go ahead and ask a friend with a lot of pistol experience to watch your grip while you are shooting. See what feels right; see what improves your accuracy.

Correcting bad mechanics takes time and practice, but it is always worth it. Here is one quick tip that I learned early on and I have done with some of my students as well as with my daughters.

  • Grip your firearm as if you were ready to shoot. Once you are in the proper position with your grip, have a friend draw a straight line, in pen, down your hands from your thumbs to your hands. Each time you re-grip your pistol, make sure that the line is lined up and straight. This will ensure that you are back in the proper position.


Shooting is a sport of accuracy and we all want to be the best shots we can be. Get out there and practice!

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