Teaching Proper Handgun Grip To New Students (Part One)

As a long-time defensive firearms instructor, I have lost count of the number of students that have attended our classes, but the number is in the hundreds. Our students have included persons of all sizes ranging in ages from 21 to 84, and included law enforcement, active military, MMA fighters, and great grandparents. I believe that teaching my students that there is only one way to grip a handgun may be doing them a disservice. I will be the first to admit that I have a preferred gripping method, but if a student can’t meet certain shooting standards with that method but they can with another accepted method, then the results speak for themselves.

Ask any extroverted professional golfer, tennis player, or bowler how important a proper grip is, and expect to receive an earful.  The same is true when it comes to defensive handgun shooting. Most people forced to use a handgun to defend themselves are not in danger of running out of ammunition, but instead they are in danger of running out of time.  The most reliable way to shut down an attacker or attackers representing a genuine threat to life and limb when no other options are available is to place accurate fire on target as quickly as possible and achieve effective hits.  A proper grip is necessary to not only hold the muzzle of the handgun as steady as possible while pressing the trigger, but it also minimizes muzzle rise between shots. Excessive muzzle rise slows down the ability of the shooter to get the sights back on target. A dirty little secret in the training industry is that in real-life shooting events, handgun bullets are not particularly effective in shutting down a motivated attacker, and many criminal assaults end because the criminal attacker did not want to get shot anymore. It may be necessary to place multiple rounds into a vital area and obtain a blood loss of as great as two liters to achieve cessation of another party’s deadly actions. A proper grip is much superior to a poor grip in making that happen.

If possible, we always want to get two hands on the butt of the handgun in order to obtain maximum control of the pistol or revolver. I personally believe that there are at least three different gripping methods that can work. It is my opinion that instructors should be able to teach all three grips in order to assist their students in adopting the type of grip that works best for them, then encourage them to  practice (much of which should be through dry-fire practice) to the point that they automatically default to it without conscious effort every time they pick up or draw the handgun.

My statement may incense a certain percentage of experienced instructors. However, I now believe that such variables as the size of the handgun selected, the width of its butt, the distance between the trigger and the frontstrap of the handgun, the size of the shooter’s hand, and his or her grip strength are likely to make one grip preferable to the rest. The three different grips will be discussed in future articles.

Steve Moses


Steve is a long-time defensive weapons and instructor based out of Texas who has trained hundreds of men and women of all ages for more than two decades on how to better prepare to defend themselves and their loved ones. Steve has completed over 80 private-sector and law enforcement-only defensive weapons and tactics classes, and has trained civilian and law-enforcement officers in six states. Moses is a reserve deputy, former member of a multi-precinct Special Response Team, competitive shooter, and martial artist. Steve has written numerous articles for SWAT Magazine and other publications. Steve is a licensed Texas Level 4 Personal Security Officer and Instructor who was Shift Lead on a mega-church security detail for seven years, and has provided close protection for several former foreign Heads of State. He is currently an instructor at Relson Gracie Jiu Jitsu/Krav Maga in Tyler, Texas and Director of Training for Palisade Training Group (www.ptgtrainingllc.com).

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