Handgun Basics 101: Get a Good Grip

K-frame revolver grip

When I first started shooting handguns, I had issues gripping my handgun correctly. The grip refers to how you hold the gun. A proper grip will help absorb recoil, provide shots that are more accurate and is safe. Gripping a gun properly can feel unnatural if you have never shot before. It can feel really unnatural if you have been shooting with an improper grip. Your instinctive grip might be unsafe, especially on a semi-automatic pistol. Every time you pull the trigger to shoot a semi-auto, the slide moves back. If your thumbs are in the way, there is a possibility of the slide hitting them.

To grip the gun, first find your strong side and dominant eye. I am right-handed, but more importantly, my dominant eye is my right eye. My strong side is my right hand. Take your dominant hand and form an L shape with your thumb extended away from your fingers.

Bring the gun into the web of your palm. Hold the gun high up into your palm so that the bottom of the slide and the top of the backstrap rests on the top of the squishy part. Minus your thumb and index finger, wrap the rest of your fingers around the grip of the pistol.

Take your index finger and point it straight out and rest it above the trigger guard on the frame of the gun. Your thumb rests under the slide on the opposite side of the gun, pointing toward the target. If your gun has a thumb safety, your thumb should be in close proximity so that you may flip it off and on without much movement of either hand.

With your weak-side, in my case this is my left hand, bring it up around the hand already gripping the gun. Place your index finger under the trigger guard, on top of your strong-side middle finger. The trigger guard should rest between the first and second joint of your weak-side index finger. Your weak-side thumb should rest on top of the strong-side thumb in the exact same position. Both thumbs are pointing forward facing the target and down away from the slide.

Now that you have the gun firmly in both hands, you will want to create a push-pull to absorb recoil when you take the shot. Push forward on the gun with your strong hand and pull back with your weak-side hand.

There are alternative ways you can hold your thumbs—pointed slightly down, locked together, and up and out-of-the-way from the gun’s frame. However, most of us at Cheaper Than Dirt! grip it with our thumbs forward. For me, this grip feels more natural, my focus is forward on my target, my thumbs are safely out-of-the-way of the moving slide, and I can also manipulate the gun’s controls quickly and easily from this position.

If you have a revolver, your grip will differ from a semi-automatic handgun. To learn how to safely grip a revolver, read the post Get a Grip and Don’t Lose Your Thumb! How to Correctly Grip Your Revolver.

If you are a beginner shooter or a brand-new gun owner and missed the following basic how-to articles, you can find them here:

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 (7)

  1. Hi Don,
    I am not sure if this is exactly what you are looking for, but have you tried a pistol with interchangeable backstraps? This might give you the extra bit of space you are looking for. I am partial to the Springfield XD(M), Beretta PX4 Storm or the Glock 22 Gen 4.
    Click on this link, and then tell me what you think.
    Thanks for your inquiry!

  2. As I grip a pistol as shown, my index finger between the first and second joint is even with the front of the trigger guard, thus it is awkward for me to get my finger between the trigger guard and trigger. Does anyone make a pistol that increases the distance between the backstrap and the trigger? Is there another solution?

    Thanks, Don

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