Get a Grip

Or better yet, get a proper grip.  As one of the fundamentals, brother Dave Spaulding calls them essentials, grip is the culmination of a proper draw stroke, it aligns the pistol in the hand(s), ensures the trigger finger is at the proper place, geometrically, on the trigger, reduces muzzle rise to due to recoil and places the hand(s) in proper place to “run the gun.”  The proper with many (most?) newer and lesser trained shooters is, A) A misunderstanding of what a proper grip does, B) Lack of consistency while gripping the pistol, C) Development of a bad or poor grip motor skill (bad habits), D) Reduced efficiency and accuracy based on a poor grip.

Proper Grip

grip 3

Proper grip is a function of hand placement or geometry and the understanding of the forces of recoil.  A “death grip” is not required to hold and shoot a pistol but a firm, consistent grip does increase accuracy and recoil control.

Bandied about on the gun forums and internet are these questions: How much pressure is necessary?  How much pressure by the support hand?  My frequent response to such discussions are, who knows?  Pistols don’t come with grip measuring meters, so who even knows how much force to assert?  50%, 60%, as high as 80% with the support hand?  I don’t know but I do know that the support hand, if it’s in play and the pistol not fired one handed, is vitally important in the grip and control of the handgun.

Colonel Rex Applegate of WWII O.S.S. and the book Killed or Get Killed (1976 edition; Paladin Press) fame, believed in the “convulsive grip” taught in pistol training.  This strong grip of the pistol was conducive with what he believed the body would do under stress.  Further, Col. Applegate believed that the pistol should be held centered in the hand so that the center of the bore line was straight in line with the gun hand forearm.  Since this is a one-handed technique Applegate accepted that this alignment might cause bullet impact to drift to the shooters support side with distance.  But Applegate was primarily about one-handed point shooting in close quarters.  This alignment along the gun side forearm is not a part of the modern isosceles stance but is a part of the Weaver stance and modern technique of the pistol.

In the modern isosceles the grip aligns the barrel with the centerline of the shooters body.  Whether one or two handed, the barrel does not follow the forearm’s line.

Proper body mechanics and hand placement positions the shooting hand high in the back strap, to minimize muzzle flip during recoil.  Gun hand pressure is from a three finger grip from the front strap to the back strap.  The thumb is held high on the grip panel or “flagged” upward.  True gun hand pressure is exerted by the three fingers: middle, ring and pinky toward the “meat” of the thumb or the muscles of the thumb at the palm.  I prefer to use the term “setting” the wrist, as advocated by Avery, versus “locking” the wrist.  Locking oftentimes restricts trigger finger movement and shooters have a tendency to lock the shooting thumb downward.

According to shooting great and master instructor Ron Avery, pistol control is aided by two things, leverage and friction.  Leverage is gained by being high on the back strap so that the recoil impulse does not produce “flip” of the gun in the hand.  Friction can be gained by a texture gripping service and a proper 360 degree grip.  My Gen 3 Glock 19 was notoriously lacking in friction.  This was most pronounced when my hands were slippery with sweat.  I can remember being on the ranges of FLETC in August when my hands were dripping with sweat.  Man, I could have used the Talon Grip decal that my G19 now sports.  The Talon Grip is applied without permanently affecting your pistol.  It is applied and then fixed in place with a heat gun, blow dryer (or in my case the hand dryer in our staff restroom).  I selected a textured rubber grip versus the sandpaper style.  I was more concerned with carrying concealed on this point where the sandpaper may give away my armed status or cause “printing.”  *Note here – personnel preference only.

The 360 Grip

The support hand is a vital part of a two-handed grip and proper control of the pistol while shooting.  Many shooters grip hard with their strong (gun) hand but don’t focus on gripping with their support hand.  The support hand grips the pistol side to side.  As much of the support hand as possible should be gained.

grip 2

This is where many shooters have problems or fail to develop a sound grip motor skill.  They either curl the shooting thumb downward or hook the trigger guard with the index finger of their support hand.  Either way, the support hand does not make contact with the side panel of the pistol.  This gap reduces friction on the pistol.  We want both hands high on the pistol, close to the barrel/slide line, to help control the pistol during recoil.  We don’t want to see the support hand have to be repositioned for multiple shots.

grip 1

A couple of notes here.  We are all not the same height, weight, body style or even hand/finger size.  When selecting a handgun, LEO’s may have less choice if the agency issues the duty handgun, grip is important.  There are a large number of well-designed pistols out there.  Further, both the Smith & Wesson M&P pistols as well as Gen 4 Glocks have several back strap options depending on hand size.  The new Glocks come out of the box about two centimeters shorter than earlier models and have a more aggressive stippling to hold onto.  The shooter can opt for a Medium model which brings the pistol up to a Gen 3 grip, a Large standard grip for bigger hands or two “beavertail” models, Medium and Large.  I prefer the smaller grip out of the box since it allows a solid 360 grip.

Some double column pistols can cause grip problems with shooters of smaller hand size.  One young female officer was required to carry a double column 9mm pistol by her agency.  Even with a trigger which allowed a shorter reach, she still had to shift her hand around the pistol to fire it.  What was silly is that detectives in her agency were permitted to carry a single column 9mm pistol but not her.  When shopping or selecting a new pistol, take the time to handle and shoot a variety so that you can properly reach the trigger with proper geometry.  *Although we are deviating into the trigger management of our fundamentals, it is my opinion that the first distal joint of the trigger finger is placed on the trigger face, not the pad or tip.

Wrap Up

A solid, functional grip is started with a three finger grip of the pistol while it is in the holster and then presented with the support hand meeting and gripping the pistol at sternum level.  In rapid fire, we want control of recoil to reduce follow-up shots and increase accuracy.

In a recent range session as I looked a shooter’s grips, I noted that support hand fingers came off the gun or showed other signs of a “re-grip” during a string of fire.  Once I showed them a proper 360 degree grip, the hands no longer shifted during recoil.  Now, they simply need to engage in sufficient on-going practice to make that grip a habit or “motor program.”

Get a grip, get a proper grip and increase your ability to shoot accurately and control recoil.  For as Clint Smith atones, “Misses are nothing but loud noises, and they never stopped anybody!”

Kevin Davis

Leave a Reply