Teaching Proper Handgun Grip To New Students (Part Two)

All three methods of gripping the handgun referenced in Part One of this series have one thing in common. Both the dominant hand and support hand should be placed as high as possible on the handgun butt (also sometimes referred to as the pistol or revolver grip). To do otherwise may leave a noticeable gap between the top of the hand and the top of the butt. This gap will cause the muzzle of the handgun to rise higher than necessary during recoil since a distinct pivot point is created between the axis of the bore and the top of the hands. Remember, the higher that the muzzle rises during recoil the longer the same is not oriented on the target and capable of making accurate hits if the need still exists.

In my opinion, the two best grips for controlling recoil in most cases are called the thumbs-forward grip and the thumbs-up grip. Both grips call for the shooter to make 360-degree front-to-back and side-to-side contact with the butt of the pistol. The shooter’s hands should make as much contact as possible with the butt, with no gaps that create energy leaks during recoil. One of the secrets to making any grip work is that the shooter must apply strong support-hand pressure before firing, during firing, and after firing. One of my former instructors, Ron Avery, described the support hand grip as being the equivalent of a C-clamp (a type of clamp used to hold wood or metal workpieces in place with little or no movement during carpentry and welding operations).

The thumbs-forward grip is popular with competitive shooters, law enforcement officers, and certain military special operations groups. The support thumb is literally pointing forward along the frame of the gun and typically the entire support hand is rotated downward to its maximum extension. Both hands are high as possible and ideally the support hand index finger is wedged tightly against the bottom of the trigger guard and the web between the thumb and the index finger of the strong hand is pressed high on the backstrap. Most people will observe a compression of this web when gripping in this manner. Some shooters, myself included, find that a malfunction can be induced if the shooter allows the support hand thumb to contact the slide during firing. Even slight pressure against the slide can slow the slide down to the point that a subsequent round is prevented from being fully chambered. I have rather long fingers and have experienced this phenomenon more times that I would like to admit during both competitions and timed drills. However, thousands of shooters have adopted this method without issues. One of our instructors has small hands and prefers the thumbs-forward grip to the other methods, and she is an outstanding shooter. I recommend to serious concealed carriers that they find the method that works the best for them, and then stick to it despite well-intentioned advice from others. There are simply no two persons alike, and when we throw in other variables about handguns, such as width of the butt and distance of the trigger from the frame, it gets more complicated. Part Three in this series will cover the thumbs-up grip, which is a method of gripping the pistol favored by multiple defensive shooting instructors (myself included).

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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