[Guide] How to Grip a Pistol: Pictures & Video By: Eric Hung

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You’ve got to have a proper grip that minimizes recoil.

Gripping a Semi-Auto Glock 19
Gripping a Semi-Auto Glock 19

Follow along as I cover:

  • what makes for a good grip
  • where all your fingers and hands go
  • how hard to grip
  • best grips for both semi-auto handguns AND revolvers

By the end, you’ll be shooting better in no time.

Table of Contents

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What Makes a Good Grip?

Remember high school physics?

Maybe not…but how about for every reaction there’s an equal and opposite reaction?

When a bullet leaves the barrel, there’s force that goes backward, and how you hold your handgun will make or break your control of that recoil.

gun recoiling into shooters face
Oh noes…

Think of the gun and your hand as a lever system.

Handgun Low Grip
Handgun Low Grip

The recoil is going to travel straight back in the slide.

Glock Slide
Semi-Auto Firing

If you’re gripping low…that lever-action will really try to flip the gun.

So what’s the solution?

Get behind the recoil as much as possible.

Best Grip But Slide Booboo
Best Grip But Slide Booboo

That’s the best to absorb the force…but remember the slide is going to be moving back and forth.

Everything now in this guide is to best absorb the force…but without giving yourself a booboo.

How to Grip a Semi-Auto Handgun

Alignment

If you’re new and pick up a handgun…chances are you’ll grip it at an angle that’s the most comfortable for you.

Incorrect Handgun and Wrist Alignment
Incorrect Handgun and Wrist Alignment

But resist! That recoil is going to go straight into your (weak) wrist.

You’ll want the gun turned so the recoil can go into your arm and locked wrist.

Handgun and Wrist Alignment
Handgun and Wrist Alignment

The Grip

Back to grip height…let’s get it as high as possible without putting your hand in the slide’s way.

Look at this empty space…

High Grip Missing Area on a Handgun
High Grip Missing Area on a Handgun

I want it gone!

Take a look at the webbing on your dominant hand between your thumb and index finger.

Hand Web for Gripping
Hand Web for Gripping

Jam it up as high as possible on the grip without getting behind the slide.

It’s going to feel weird but you’ll get used to it.

High Grip with Hand Web
High Grip with Hand Web

How about a top-down view?

Top Down View of High Web Grip
Top-Down View of High Web Grip

Keep your gun aligned correctly and the right side of the gun (if you’re right-handed) should look like this.

Handgun Three Grip with Index Finger Along Slide
Handgun Three Grip with Index Finger Along Slide

Keep your trigger index finger along the slide. Remember the safety rules…no finger on the trigger until you’re on target and ready to shoot!

How about your non-dominant hand? Keep your thumb loose.

And don’t you dare do the teacup grip.

Teacup Grip
Don’t do it..

It does nothing for recoil management.

You want to fill up as much as possible of the empty space on the remainder of the gun.

Handgun Grip Empty Left Side
Handgun Grip Empty Left Side

So take your non-dominant hand, point it forward, then tilt it down 45 degrees.

Handgun Grip Wrist Angle
Handgun Grip Wrist Angle

Wrap those four fingers around the knuckles of your dominant hand.

Handgun Grip Wrapping Around Knuckles
Handgun Grip Wrapping Around Knuckles

And keep that thumb pointed along the frame. Depending on your hand geometry it might look different from my long fingers.

Handgun Grip, Thumb Down
Handgun Grip, Thumb Down

And remember your dominant hand’s thumb? You can have it down on your other hand.

Or up….it’s a personal preference.

Handgun Grip, Thumb Up
Handgun Grip, Thumb Up

If you’re shooting a 1911 or something else with manual safety…I like to rest my thumb on it.

STI Trojan 1911, Safety Down
STI Trojan 1911, Safety Down
Handgun Grip, 1911 Safety Shelf
Handgun Grip, 1911 Safety Shelf

Lastly, when you punch out with your gun I like to set my wrist at an angle that keeps everything steady and prevents limp wristing (floppy wrists that mess with proper ejection and loading of the cartridges).

Handgun Grip Set Wrist
Handgun Grip Set Wrist

Grip Strength

Easy…as hard as you can without losing full control of your trigger finger or having your gun shake.

Sacrificing those two aspects will totally hinder your accuracy.

Want to beef up your hand strength? Try a hand strengthener — they work!

You can also add some drills into your routine as you get more comfortable to work on your grip. Check out the Brownells Daily Defense video below for a good one on grip!

Now…how about revolvers?

How to Grip a Revolver

The basics are the same.

Gripping a S&W 686 Revolver
Gripping a S&W 686 Revolver

You don’t have to worry about a slide moving back and forth…but a revolver brings with it a whole new set of other things!

First…get that angle correct. Same for all handguns.

Handgun and Wrist Alignment
Handgun and Wrist Alignment

Now you want your grip up as high as possible.

There’s no more moving slide to worry about…but there’s that hammer!

So you want it high but not so high that you get hammer bite.

Revolver High Grip But Under Hammer
Revolver High Grip But Under Hammer

Dominant hand is the same… three fingers on the grip and keep your trigger finger along the frame.

Revolver Grip with Index Finger Along Side
Revolver Grip with Index Finger Along Side

As well as your non-dominant hand…but you have to watch out for the cylinder gap!

Revolver Cylinder Gap Grip
Revolver Cylinder Gap Grip

In revolvers, the cylinder gap is where all the hot gasses escape when you shoot a round.

Depending on the gun and caliber…you can get a simple owie, a messed-up nail, or even some things missing.

You’ll have to modify your grip a little so you won’t be near it.

Since I have long fingers, I adopt a thumb-tucked position instead.

Revolver Thumb Tucked Position
Revolver Thumb Tucked Position

Or you can also try out a thumb-over position which helps a lot for smaller revolvers that tend to kick up and down more.

Revolver Thumb Over Position Grip for Smaller Guns
Revolver Thumb Over Position Grip for Smaller Guns

Final Thoughts

That does it for now!

Remember the basics of recoil and how all the aspects of grip go to fight it.

Weaver Shooting Stance, Side
Weaver Shooting Stance, Side

Keep your grip aligned with your arm, get a high grip with your dominant hand, and cover as much area with your non-dominant hand.

And finally, grip it as hard as possible without affecting your trigger finger!

Having some issues with grip? Check out Brownells Daily Defense for more tips on how to diagnose and correct grip issues.

Want to shoot even better? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Shooting More Accurately. Better yet…want to learn everything in video in under 2 hours? Check out my Beginner Handgun Course.