Since I began shooting, I have tried to find the right combination of instructions which would help simplify and clarify the most efficient ways to perform each task. It's not enough for me to just know how to perform a task. I also have an insatiable need to know why we perform that task in that manner. As I continued to search for the best way for me to control a semi-automatic handgun utilizing a proper grip, I began to look at how some of the other master shooters explained their preferences. While no two instructors explain their grip the same way, there were quite a few common threads of instruction that I tried to hone in on. Therefore, my grip (and thus my explanation of grip) contains a blend of styles from people such as Ken Park, Claude Werner, DR Middlebrooks, Travis Haley, Bob Vogel, and others. As I explain the way that I prefer to grip a handgun, please keep in mind that many of these concepts were first explained by one (or more) of these sources.
When considering how we should grip a semi-automatic handgun, we must first identify the goals of our grip and understand why we are gripping the pistol the way that we are. What is it that a correct handgun grip should accomplish?
- Control lateral movement (minimize the amount of travel the gun experiences laterally)
- Control rotational movement (minimize the amount muzzle rise/flip that we experience during recoil)
- Minimize and mitigate recoil for faster follow-up shots (efficiently acquiring our front sight after each shot)
In order for us to achieve our goals, we must maximize the amount of friction that our hands have with the weapon. This means that we must figure out a way to bio-mechanically control the movement of the firearm as effectively and efficiently as possible. Physics also teaches us that energy is going to always take the path of least resistance. We want that path to be through our bone structure and through large muscle groups in our bodies to be able to absorb that energy displacement with minimal effort. In other words, we want to absorb the recoil in our elbows instead of our wrists, as well as in our biceps/triceps instead of our forearms. Let's take a look at how we can accomplish that...
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Get Your Grip As High On The Weapon As Possible
We want our primary hand (our shooting hand) to counterbalance the energy displacement as much as possible by being as close to the bore-axis as we can get. Obviously we would like to be directly in line with the bore, similar to the way that we would be behind the bore on an AR-15, but obviously that's not possible as the slide must be able to travel freely for the firearm to cycle back and forth. Therefore, we want to be as high up as possible without interfering with movement of the slide.
Keep Your Shooting Thumb High and Out of the Way
One of the most common mistakes that people make is by dropping the thumb of their shooting hand down across the grip panel. This obstructs their ability to make maximum contact with the exposed grip panel highlighted in the image above. This open panel illustrated above should be contact directly by the "meaty" of the palm of your support hand, which we will discuss shortly. First, we must get the correct angle of you support hand's wrist for maximum recoil absorption.
Use the Support Thumb to "Point" at the Target
This is an absolutely vital, yet often overlooked step to correctly gripping a semi-automatic handgun. To help students understand this point, I will often separate the instruction into two sections: what to do with their support hand; and what to do with their shooting hand. From the time they are very young, humans have an incredible ability to very accurately point at objects without much effort. With the support hand, use your thumb to point directly at your target. Be sure that the tip of the support hand thumb is pointing directly at the target and aligned with your vision. Once you are sure it is, open your other four fingers straight, and you should find that they are pointing down at a 45 degree angle from the target.
"Meaty Part" of Support Hand Contacts the Open Grip Panel from Step 2
This is where we put the two hands together. We are going to leave the thumb of our support hand pointing directly at the target and our other four fingers pointing down at a 45 degree angle. Keeping our thumb high and out of the way on our shooting hand, we will place the open panel of the handgun into our support hand making sure that the "meaty part" of our palm creates maximum friction with grip frame of the handgun.
Wrap your Support Hand Fingers, Rest Shooting Thumb
Simultaneously, you will allow the thumb of your shooting hand to rest (and even apply downward pressure) across the base of the thumb on your support hand. The thumb of the support hand rests against the lower frame, allowing the slide to move freely.