Get a Grip and Don’t Lose Your Thumb! How to Correctly Grip Your Revolver

By Suzanne Wiley published on in Safety and Training

S&W 460XVR blew my thumb off today! No joke, about 1/2 of my left thumb is gone … what’s left is a friggin mess.

This urban legend really is no joke. The escaping gasses from a revolver can seriously injure you. Due to the higher pressures in the round, the bigger the caliber, the higher your risk for injury is. When your fire a revolver hot gasses and particles released will come out of the cylinder gap. If your fingers are near or covering the cylinder gap, you can be severely burned, cut, or worse. The cylinder gap is the gap between the cylinder and the barrel. The back part of the cylinder, closest to the grip will not hurt you.

Cylinder Gap Explosion

This is why it is so important to keep your thumbs and fingers away from the cylinder gap at all times.

In 2008, a man named Todd Brown shot his

S&W model 460 revolver, chambered for .460 S&W Magnum, and blew off the top of his thumb. He filed a frivolous lawsuit against S&W saying he “placed his support hand under the trigger guard to support the weight of the gun.” Brown and his lawyer attempted to sue S&W for negligence on not warning the shooter on how to hold the gun properly. S&W puts a warning in their revolver manuals to keep your fingers away from the cylinder gap.

There is a correct way to hold a firearm. Rifles, shotguns, semi-automatic pistols, and revolvers are different in the proper way to grip them. If you have been shooting a semi-automatic pistol for a while, you might think that the grip on a revolver is the same, but it is not. Most likely, your grip on your pistol is what we call “thumbs forward.” This is when you have both your dominant thumb and support thumb along the side of the gun’s frame, pointing forward and away from the back of the slide. If you were to grip your revolver the same way, your thumb can be in the danger zone of the cylinder gap.

Jerry Miculek demonstrates proper revolver grip. Photos courtesy of Shooting USA.

Jerry Miculek demonstrates how to properly grip a revolver. Notice the placement of his thumbs. Photos courtesy of Shooting USA.

To properly grip a revolver and avoid an injury, take the grip in your dominant hand and place the top of the backstrap directly into the web of your hand. This will place your hand high up on the grip. This helps manage recoil. Then cup your support hand over your dominant hand. Point your dominant thumb down under the cylinder release and cross your support thumb over your dominant thumb. Both should be pointing down and nowhere near the cylinder gap. This grip is the “thumb over thumb” grip. Julie Golob in her book, Shoot describes it as, “The thumb of the support hand hooks over the thumb of the strong hand.”

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) reported in the year 2000 that there were 23,237 firearm-related non-fatal accidents. The best way to prevent any accident is to make safety your number one priority. Training and practice helps a lot, as well. Before cleaning, dry firing, target practice, transporting, or any time you are around your gun, follow these basic firearm safety rules:

  1. Make sure the gun is unloaded. Check it twice to make sure.
  2. Always keep the barrel pointed in a safe direction. Never point a gun at something you are not willing to shoot.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
  4. Know your target and what is behind it.

Do you own a revolver? How do you grip it? Talk about in the comment section.

To read about how to grip a semi-automatic pistol, read our blog post “The Proper Pistol Grip.”

Tags: , ,

Trackback from your site.

The mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, "The Shooter's Log," is to provide information-not opinions-to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (14)

  • Do You Use These Common Five Wrong Gun Terms?


    […] Grip also defines how you hold the gun. There is a right and wrong way to grip a gun. To learn how to grip a semi-automatic pistol, read “Handgun Basics 101: Get a Good Grip.” To learn how to properly grip a revolver, read “Get a Grip and Don’t Lose Your Thumb! How to Correctly Grip Your Revolver.” […]


  • nickolas


    i have never owned a revolver but plan to buy one soon so this post was very insightful on how not to blow your thumb off when shooting a revolver thanks CTD always making us better shooters


  • Adam


    I tried many different techniques before adapting my own modified combination of the ‘fist grip’ and the ‘cup & saucer grip’ techniques with applied isometric tension: As defined in U.S. Army FM 3-23.35. It’s not completely either technique but somewhere in the middle of both. It’s almost the same (and probably is) as Jerry Miculek’s example above, especially that on the right.

    I use this grip with both revolvers and semi-autos and it works just fine that way and has for many years now. I’m sure someone here will try to tell me that I’m doing it wrong but save your bandwidth – I know what works for me.


  • Silas Longshot


    Any firearm you pick up can do a number on you. If you aren’t familiar with it, and are too much of a ‘know-it-all’ to find out how to properly deal with it, you will be the first to know where you screw up.
    And I’ll keep my Rugers and Tarus’ in .357 over 99% of pistols, thank.


Leave a comment

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.

7 − = four