How to Grip a Pistol: The Basics of Handgun Handling

If you’re having a hard time hitting targets while practicing, chances are you’re not gripping your pistol correctly. Without a good grip, you’ll experience a great deal of recoil, which will impact the accuracy of your shots.

There are many ways to grip a pistol, with some being more accurate or more comfortable than others. From the teacup grip to the thumbs forward grip, there’s a lot to explore! So, stick around to learn how to grip a pistol properly.

What Makes a Good Pistol Grip?

Before we dive into the different ways you can grip a handgun, we have to shed light on what makes a proper grip and why it’s important to have a firm grip.

When you fire a pistol, a rearward thrust is generated. This is what we call recoil, kickback, or knockback. Recoil results in the rising of the pistol’s muzzle (muzzle flip), which impacts the accuracy of the shot.

There are many ways to control the recoil of a handgun, with the most effective being a solid grip! If you don’t have a good handgun grip, no matter what accessories you use, you’ll still experience recoil and poor precision.

So, what makes a good handgun grip? Two things!

Firstly, it’s important that you grip as high up on the pistol’s frame as possible. You should aim to eliminate any space between the web of your hand and the pistol’s frame. If you’re gripping low, muzzle rise is guaranteed.

Secondly, a good handgun grip is one that involves both hands. Keeping your handgun steady is much easier when the strength of your non-dominant hand and arm is utilized.

All of your fingers, apart from the thumb and index finger (trigger finger) of your strong hand, should be gripping as hard as possible. Grip so hard that both your hands start to shake, and then back off slightly to stabilize your hands.

You should avoid one-handed grips because they make recoil management quite challenging. A two-handed grip will always be better. Does that mean you should never use a one-handed grip?

If you’re a beginner, the answer is yes. You need to keep practicing with both hands until you’re familiar with your gun’s recoil and confident enough in your shooting abilities.

How to Grip a Pistol: The 6 Pistol Grips

Now that you know what makes a good pistol grip, it’s time to crack your knuckles and start practicing some pistol gripping techniques.  

1. Thumbs Forward Grip

The thumbs forward grip is arguably the best hand grip for recoil management. As the name suggests, this tight grip involves stacking both of your thumbs on top of each other while pointing them in the direction of the barrel.

Firstly, you want to take the web of your shooting hand and choke it up as far as possible and as close to the bore axis as you can. Make sure the web of your hand doesn’t go over the top of your pistol’s beaver tail, also known as the tang. This is what we meant by gripping as high up on the pistol’s frame as possible.

Bear in mind that this strong hand position is essential in any pistol gripping technique. So, regardless of what grip you opt for, you have to start with this strong hand position!

Now, you need to wrap your non-dominant hand around your strong hand. Your support hand should be right up underneath your pistol’s trigger guard, pressing firmly against it. Speaking of the trigger guard, be sure to keep your trigger finger on the trigger guard until you’re ready to start shooting.

From there, you want to stack your shooting hand thumb on top of your support hand thumb. Further, your support hand thumb should be pivoting forward slightly.

Before you start pistol shooting, make sure to extend your arms forward to avoid locking your elbows. Further, make sure to push in a forward direction with your strong hand while pulling back with your support hand. This will create sort of a vise grip that will help you manage recoil.

2. Crossed Thumbs Grip

The crossed thumbs method is basically a variation of the previous method. It’s more suitable for close-quarters combat than the thumbs forward grip.

Once again, you need to align your shooting hand as discussed in the previous method. Now, position that hand’s thumb at the divot that’s at the top of the gun’s grip.

Next, position your support hand similarly to how it was positioned in the thumbs forward technique, but instead of stacking your thumbs on top of each other, you want to criss-cross your thumbs so that your support hand thumb is pointed upwards.

You should avoid crossing your support hand thumb behind the slide when shooting a semi-automatic pistol as it can be dangerous. When you fire a semi-auto, the pistol’s slide blows back. If your thumb is behind the slide, chances are the bottom edge of the slide will catch the top of your thumb. You definitely don’t want that to happen!

Having your dominant thumb pointed upwards keeps it out of harm’s way and it enables your support elbow to drop down freely, which is what you want when adopting a close and personal stance.

It’s worth noting that the thumbs crossed grip is suitable for revolvers. With a revolver, however, it’s best to cross your support thumb around your strong thumb so that it’s behind the hammer slightly. This will allow you to pull the hammer more conveniently.

3. Wrist Grab Grip

If you have weak wrists and forearms, the wrist grab grip is your best bet. It’s also perfect if you’re someone who usually misses low during target practice. You can use this method with a semi-automatic or a revolver!

This method is pretty simple. Firstly, align your strong hand similar to how it was aligned in the previous methods, and keep your trigger finger (index finger) pointed forward and away from the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.

If your trigger finger is your middle finger, then you’ll need to keep your index finger pointed forward and away from the trigger while you shoot.

Now, you need to wrap your support hand around your strong hand’s wrist. Make sure to wrap it firmly to provide as much support as possible. From there, you’re ready to shoot!

The wrist grab grip is one of the best when it comes to sight alignment. However, when it comes to managing recoil, it falls short compared to the previous two methods.

4. Teacup Grip

The teacup grip is probably the most popular of the bunch. Does that mean it’s the best? Far from it! It feels comfortable and it delivers a good deal of support, but it has its shortcomings when it comes to kickback management.

Essentially, the teacup grip involves having your dominant hand gripping the gun while your support hand is cupped beneath your dominant hand. It’s like holding a gun one-handed but with your support hand serving as a platform underneath.

Similar to the wrist grab grip, the teacup is great for sight alignment, but it’s not that good for recoil control (internal link), seeing as the non-dominant hand only provides support passively and doesn’t actually absorb the gun’s kick.

5. Revolver Grip

As the name suggests, this method is intended mainly for revolvers. It’s similar to the thumbs forward method and the thumbs crossed method, but with some minor differences.

To adopt the revolver grip, you need to place your dominant hand on the back strap as high as you can, with your trigger finger (index finger) along the side of the revolver’s frame. Be sure to leave some space for hammer cycling.

Your support hand should wrap around your strong hand, with the support thumb crossing over your strong hand thumb. Alternatively, you can place your strong hand thumb slightly beneath your dominant hand thumb.

None of your fingers should be placed in front of the revolver’s cylinder. Otherwise, the hot gasses that are released from each cylinder gap upon pistol firing can burn your fingers.

6. One-Handed Grip

Even though the one-handed pistol grip isn’t the most reliable, there are instances when we might only have one hand available. That said, it’s not a bad idea to practice shooting your gun with one hand every now and then to simulate such instances. This is especially the case for experienced shooters.  

If you’re going to practice with a one-handed grip, whether you’re a right-handed shooter or a left-handed one, we recommend alternating between your strong hand and your weak hand. You never know which hand will be available in a situation where you can only fire your pistol with one hand!

Your single-handed grip will basically be the strong hand position we opted for in all of the methods above. When you extend your arm before pistol shooting, you want to avoid keeping your gun perfectly vertical to prevent strain.

Instead, you want to allow a more natural and relaxed stance that tilts your pistol about 5 degrees off center. Doing so will relax your entire arm as well as your elbow and back.

In Summary

There are plenty of ways to grip a handgun. Some methods work better for a semi-auto, while others are more suited for a revolver. What’s more, some grips are better for sight alignment, whereas others help you absorb recoil more effectively. If we had to appoint one grip to rule them all, we’d definitely go with the thumbs forward grip.