MASTERING GRIP: 5 Ways You’re Holding Your Gun Wrong

A correct shooting grip is one of the most important fundamentals in mastering pistol shooting, but most don’t know to do it! Find out…

Courtesy Team Springfield

It’s show and tell time.

We asked Team Springfield™ shooters to assemble some of their go-to tips to benefit the fans out there looking for some pro advice. The first topic we threw out to them was the art of the grip. Let’s dive in.

The most common email question I get is asking how to correct the low, left shot on the target (from a right-handed shooter). One of the ways to address this problem is:


When instructing, I primarily observe the arm/wrist/hand areas when a student is shooting. I often see prominent movement in the strong-side wrist and hand (and sometimes into the arm) before or as a shot is fired. Even the smallest of movement before or when the shot is fired will cause the gun to move out of alignment, typically in the low, left direction.

I don’t care if you “jerk” the trigger. You can jerk all you want if you are able to hold the gun completely still. IMO, “Do not jerk the trigger” should be replaced with “Do not move your wrists.”


When Rob asked me to explain my No. 1 issue regarding grip, my mind immediately turned to earlier in the day. Less than an hour prior to the text from Rob, I was working with a few struggling shooters. Each one of them suffered from a very common gripping issue that I regularly see:


Without proper support (i.e., position and strength) from the support hand, you are essentially shooting one-handed. One of the first indicators of improper support-hand usage is that the primary and support hands separate (partially or completely) when the gun is fired. Many shooters try to correct this problem by continually readjusting their support hands between shots; however, that correction is time-consuming and typically short-lived. The lack of use of the support hand has a significant negative effect on the shooter’s ability to both hold the gun steady when aiming difficult shots and the ability to quickly return the gun onto the target after firing.


I work with a lot of newer shooters, and the No. 1 gripping problem I see is:


One time they grab the gun with their strong hand and the webbing between the thumb and trigger finger is positioned one to two inches below the tang. They immediately have to re-position the webbing higher under the tang/beavertail before they can rack the slide and shoot.

The next time they pick up the pistol with their support hand to seat a magazine with their strong hand, they only to have to switch the gun and grip back to the strong hand before chambering a round to shoot. Or they draw the gun from the holster with all four fingers under the trigger guard, requiring an adjustment of the grip to re-position the trigger finger so it can press the trigger and move the other three fingers under the trigger guard.

My advice is to get the proper shooting grip immediately (if possible), whether picking the gun up off of a bench, drawing from a holster, taking it off of a display rack, etc. Every time I handle one of my pistols, whether I’m loading a mag, unloading the gun, drawing from a holster, just admiring it, etc., I use my strong-hand shooting grip —

Trigger finger rests on the frame (below the slide), visibly above/outside of the trigger guard.

Three remaining fingers are closed and touching under the trigger guard.

Thumb webbing is centered on the back strap of the gun and positioned under the tang as high as possible.

Thumb on the left side of the gun is touching the side of the frame.

proper pistol grip

If you can do this every time you handle your pistol, you will repeatedly reinforce your proper shooting grip, and, soon, muscle memory should take over.



Whether it is competition such as USPSA, shooting bullseye at Camp Perry, or defensive-oriented pistol craft, time and its effects on the end result are a factor present in most shooting. Time as it relates to competitive shooting can often be categorized in two ways: Expend the least amount of time (or do things as fast as the shooter is capable) or make the most of the fixed amount of time allotted. However, time as it relates to personal defense is neither fixed nor limitlessly expendable, but rather a consideration often used and quantifiable for making decisions. So when it comes to actually shooting the pistol from a personal defense aspect, how can we have more time with which to make decisions and/or react to the evolving situation?


Many times in classes (as well as competitive circles) I have seen shooters who wait to move from one target or part of a shooting array to another until they have completely recovered the gun onto their existing problems. While more prevalent in defensive pistol craft, this is not necessarily a bad thing, as it is essentially an assessment of one’s previous actions and the results they had.

However, the sooner you can get to the point of assessing your previous action, the sooner you can move on to the next problem. Herein, the application of proper shooting technique will contribute to the speed at which you can assess problems. Simply put, the better you grip the gun the less it will move, and the less it moves the sooner it will return to the target, which allows you more time to evaluate if what you did worked. My friend Clint Smith has a saying, “You have the rest of your life to solve the problem. How long your life lasts depends on how well you do it.” So grip the gun like your life depends on it, because it just might.


When I taught concealed carry permit classes, we would spend the first day in the classroom discussing safety, state self-defense law, basic shooting technique, and — did I mention safety? On day two at the range, after discussing safety again, I would ask the students to shoot a group at 5 yards and 10 yards, and my primary objective was to observe how the student gripped the pistol. While I would occasionally have students shooting revolvers, most were using a semi-automatic pistol, such as the 1911 or the striker-fired XD® line. So this is the grip I’ll focus on.

What I immediately noticed was that most shooters would place their primary thumbs over the top of their support-hand thumbs, with the thumbs almost pointing down. If you can visualize a good revolver grip, this is what many shooters were doing while shooting their semi-autos.


However, most firearms instructors and accomplished competition shooters grip the pistol with a high thumb grip. Visualize my primary-hand thumb resting on my support-hand thumb, with both thumbs somewhat pointing toward the muzzle of the gun. Thumbs should look like they are in direct line of the slide/barrel.

gripping pistol
This high-thumb hold/grip allows you to get more of your support hand on the pistol and forces your hands as high up on the pistol as possible. The best thing about that grip is that it reduces the muzzle flip!

With this tip, and the others that my Springfield teammates have suggested, head out to the range, give these techniques a try and see if you don’t just notice some improvement…

7 thoughts on “MASTERING GRIP: 5 Ways You’re Holding Your Gun Wrong”

  1. Pisses me off when people presume to tell that what I am doing is wrong when they have no idea what I am doing. Tom

  2. I would like to know the proper grip for a revolver also. My wife and I shoot both pistol and revolver. She is having a lot of trouble shooting her S&W M&P 9c and no problem with her revolver. I shoot better with my Browning BDM but have grip problems with a Model 19 Combat Mag.

  3. I have to disagree with the last hold picture, as the grip in the picture is, not necessarily with what they are saying. I have seen many people taught to hold more or less how exactly how the picture presents, with the thumbs high. This presents problems, especially for someone with large thumbs. The thumbs have a tendency to interfere with the slide, and cause malfunctions. I have personally witnessed this. Also, this is not taught by some experienced combat teachers. I say holding the thumbs this high gives you no place to put the thumbs besides in open air, resulting in a poor grip. Pushing the support thumb against the frame immediately below the slide results in possible malfunctions, especially in a defense, excitable, situation. The thumbs do need to be in a relative straight line with the frame, but not the way the picture imitates.

    1. I admit that, rather than hearing only that the picture is wrong, I’d like to hear what would be right. You want your strong hand position to be as high as possible, almost directly behind the line of recoil. For me, then, with web high against tang, three fingers on grip right below trigger ring, and index finger outside ring and high, I hold the strong hand thumb slightly high and tight against the upper part of the grip (for example, on a .45 M1911). Then, I wrap my four support fingers tight around my three strong hand fingers, these also high, the support index finger touching the underside of the trigger ring, and all of the second finger joints lined up directly below the trigger ring. In the small gap, then, between my strong hand thumb and middle finger, I tuck the second joint of my support hand thumb, in a tight grip. After that, though, I hold the tip of my support hand thumb down on the support index finger, but outward a bit, away from the trigger area, because otherwise the thumb tip can interfere with the finger that pulls the trigger. Sometimes I pull the trigger with only the finger tip, and sometimes I pull closer to the middle of the fingerprint, but in any event, the support hand thumb needs to be kept out of the works. At least this is my approach, but I’m not sure who all would consider it “right.” Is it “wrong?”

    2. I agree with Jim’s comments. I have large hands and big thumbs and holding the pistol, as pictured, is not only uncomfortable it impracticable for me. I found that I was pulling to the left, I’m right handed, and corrected it by placement of the left thumb on top of the right thumb and applying more pressure to both thumbs. Consideration should be given for comfort then improved accuracy will likely result by paying close attention to your shot groups and with practice.

    3. IMHO your support hand thumb needs to be down as far as possible; it has nothing to do with getting a high grip on your pistol. A high thumb allows a shooter to slow down the momentum of the slide (causing a jam) or hitting the slide release. Keep that thumb down!

      1. Much appreciated. Down but out of the way, sounds good to me. When down, it seems also to add something to the firmness of the grip. Of course, I’d like to hear more ideas if anyone disagrees or has more to add. Thanks, again.

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