If you are reading this article it is safe to say that you are looking to improve your marksmanship with a handgun.
Well luckily, you’re in the right place.
Today I’m gonna go over everything there is to know about how to shoot a pistol properly, and some prime examples of what not to do!
There will be some handy tips to take away as well.
Feel free to grab your gun and have it with you as you read so you can try out the techniques below as you get through the content.
Just make sure it’s unloaded before you get anywhere close to that trigger!
The Basics of Gripping a Pistol
The best way to think of your shooting grip is that you want to make it an extension of your body.
Properly gripping your pistol is vital to firing accurately and consistently.
It helps a ton with recoil control.
Perfect Grip, Step by Step
Start with the gun in your non-dominant hand.
Place your dominant hand as high as possible on the grip in the back strap without it interfering with the slide.
When a pistol is fired the recoil travels directly backward so if you have your hand as high as possible there will be less muzzle flip.
Keep your arm outstretched in line with the pistol to maximize the effect.
In an ideal situation, you would be able to put your hand directly behind the barrel but that is not realistic since you will get hit by the slide trying to cycle.
Keep your strong hand thumb forward and nestle your support hand thumb forward just under the strong hand thumb.
You want the rest of your fingers to wrap around the grip starting directly underneath the trigger guard.
Cover as much grip surface as possible with your support hand. Ideally, you would want to be gripping with your support hand at approximately a 45-degree angle.
The back knuckle on your support thumb should run almost parallel to the frame.
Try to ensure that none of your fingers will touch or interfere with the slide. Even if you have a finger gently resting on the slide, it could be just enough pressure to stop the gun from cycling properly, not to mention you could cut yourself on the slide as it moves.
Also, be careful not to cover your slide lock with your hands since it could also interfere with it locking the slide back on an empty magazine.
Your trigger finger should engage the trigger halfway up the first section of your finger.
You should put equal amounts of pressure on the gun from all contact points. It is common for new shooters to shoot low and left
Palm under magwell
Holding your pistol with one palm under the magwell is not recommended. I know you see this stuff on TV all the time but realistically your support hand isn’t putting in any work.
Index finger in front of the trigger guard
This is something else you will find in movies. It is not universally recommended and I definitely would not recommend a new shooter to use this technique.
Not like this Bruce!
The thing is, with one finger stretched out it is easier to jerk that hand to the side leading to less accurate shots.
Some people who have been shooting for a long time and have superb control over their fine motor skills can find this shooting position more comfortable than having all their fingers under the trigger guard.
Jerry Miculek is a prime example of a fantastic shooter that likes having a finger forward. Also, a very good shooter at my local club uses this as well and he can center punch a target all day long, but again he’s been doing this for close to two decades.
Another thing to keep in mind, is if you are training using this grip and you want to purchase a laser or light attachment you will be forced to learn to shoot the other way regardless since the attachment will occupy the space directly in front of the trigger guard.
This should go without saying but holding your gun sideways is going to do nothing for you for accuracy. It can downright make your gun less reliable by making the case fight gravity when trying to eject from the gun.
Not only that but you get no style points in my book and everyone at the range will think you’re only exposure to firearms training is from TV.
When you have your trigger finger stretched out to the side of the frame it should be in approximately the same position as your support hand thumb on the opposite side.
If you cannot shoot consistently at the center of your target one of the main problems is likely a bad grip.
If you find that you need to readjust your grip often you likely do not have a strong enough grip. Try holding the gun tighter.
If you want to get fast with transitioning grip to presenting your gun, get yourself a target (ideally a bullseye type target) and put it up somewhere in view.
Close your eyes, and grab your unloaded gun with your ideal grip to get the feel for it open your eyes to see if it is as described above.
Point it at the target with your arms extended. Point directly at the center of the target (bullseye) close your eyes again for a few seconds then open them back up again. Are you still in the middle of the target or has your sight shifted?
The best tip of all
The stronger your hands are the more firmly you will be able to grip the gun. This will lead to less felt recoil and being able to get your next shot back on target faster.
If there is one takeaway you want to remember when you take these grip skills to the range it would be high and tight.
Your trigger pull is actually a squeeze. Make equal slow pressure straight backward until the gun goes off.
Dry firing will help you see flinches before heading to the range.
Most new shooters will hit low and left due to hand movement and bad trigger control.
How to shoot one-handed
Now that we have covered an ideal two-handed grip, what happens when we only have access to one hand?
This could be due to an injury or potentially a required stance for a competition such as a bullseye shooting.
Shooting with one hand is going to be harder than with both hands on the gun. The fewer points of contact you have the harder it gets.
Ideally, you will have your arm straight out with your wrist directly in line with the rest of your arm to help with the recoil.
I also find that slightly canting the gun toward my body helps the gun feel more natural in my hand but it takes some getting used to.
How to shoot a revolver
Shooting a revolver is going to be very similar to a pistol.
All the same basics apply to these guys that work with a semi-auto.
There are 2 more things that you need to know before taking one out to the range.
One is that you don’t want to have your hand interfere with the hammer.
I know that there are hammer-fired semi-automatic pistols but the hammer is usually blocked by a beaver tail that doesn’t let your hand get in the way of it putting in work.
A revolver on the other hand is made to give easy access to the hammer so it can be easily put in a single action.
You’re still gonna want to keep your hand as high as possible on the grip to absorb that recoil but that gets into the next point.
Don’t put your hands around the cylinder.
When a revolver is fired some of the hot gasses will escape back out of the cylinder.
Because of this, you want to make sure you don’t have any body parts close to the cylinder gap when shooting.
Not following this rule will result in toasty fingers.
Another tip for revolver shooting is that you can wrap your support thumb over your dominant one.
In summary it is important to have a solid fundamental grip on your handgun when you are going to use it.
I would say that the grip and your trigger pull would be the two most important things that will make you a better shooter.
Focus on these things and practice them, I promise that you will notice a difference after some time and work.
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We are pumping out a ton of content catering to new shooters and we hope to be helping you learn and grow in your journey with firearms.
Until next time this is Phillip signing off.