All About Pistol Grip

posted on February 23, 2020

There are many shooting positions which may be used for firing a pistol, some of which are specific to certain shooting disciplines. Even before any shooting positions can be introduced, the new pistol shooter must know how to assume a proper one- or two-handed grip.

The Two-Handed Grip

For most pistol shooting activities, a two-handed grip will be used. The vast majority of pistol shooters find that such a grip provides more control of the firearm, steadier aiming, better recoil absorption and stronger gun retention.

To assume the grip, first grasp the pistol behind the muzzle in the support (non-firing) hand. Make a "Y" of the thumb and fingers o the firing hand, and place the gun's backstrap firmly in the web of the firing-hand thumb. When this is done, wrap the firing-hand fingers around the pistol's grip.

Next, bring the support hand around the front of the grip so that its fingers overlie and overlap the firing-hand fingers. The knuckles of the second joint of the support-hand fingers should be roughly aligned with the same knuckles of the firing hand. Gripping the gun with tension from both the support and firing hands creates a steadier hold on the pistol.

With a semi-automatic pistol, the support-hand thumb should lie directly forward of and below the shooting-hand thumb. With a revolver, the support-hand thumb lies directly overtop the firing-hand thumb.

Grip consistency is essential for accurate shooting. Use dry-fire practice to check and reinforce the correct trigger finger placement. Note that the proper grip for one firearm may not be appropriate for another firearm; your grip may vary depending upon the shape of a gun's grip frame. Also, your grip may vary slightly from position to position.

The One-Handed Grip

The one-handed grip was at one time the most common way to hold a pistol. Today it is used primarily in certain forms of target competition, such as NRA and International bullseye (precision) shooting. One-handed shooting may also be practiced by those who own a pistol for self-defense. The one-handed shooting position presented here is the basic position used in NRA bullseye pistol competition. This position is readily adaptable for use in other pistol sports, or in other activities in which one-handed shooting is used.

Because the one-handed pistol shooting position offers less support and stability than any of the two-handed positions, good shooting performance in this position is even more reliant upon proper technique.

Perhaps the single most critical factor in one-handed pistol shooting is establishing and using the Natural Aiming Area (NAA). To this end, target shooters, plinkers and others who wish to use any one-handed position should regularly perform the NAA exercise outlined here.

In this one-handed position, the shooters assumes a stance, with the strong-side (firing) foot forward, the weak-side foot back, and the body facing at an angle from the target. Depending upon body type and proportions, some shooters will end up with the feet aligned directly with the target and the body at roughly a 90-degree angle to the target, while others will position the weak-side foot slightly forward for an "open" stance. The specific foot placement will depend upon the shooter's natural alignment with the target, as revealed by the aforementioned NAA exercise. Regardless of foot position, the weight should be distributed evenly between the feet, with the knees neither bent nor locked.

The head should be held erect and at an angle that allows the sights to viewed out of the center of the eye. The strong-side arm and shoulder should be relaxed, with the shoulder in a low position. The firing arm should be bent slightly at the elbow, rather than locked.

When the one-handed position is used for bullseye pistol competition, the non-firing arm is placed in a relaxed position on the waist or in a pants pocket. Many bullseye shooters prefer to rest the hand on the belt buckle.

When the one-handed shooting position is used for bullseye target competition, there is no need for the shooter to lean forward (as in the Isosceles and Weaver positions), as neither of these activities usually requires rapid shooting and recoil control. However, under circumstances in which a heavy-recoiling pistol is used, or during the rapid-fire stage, the shooter's upper body may lean slightly forward, with most of the body weight on the forward (strong-side) leg. The weak-side leg acts as a brace to support an aggressive, forward-leaning stance, with most of the weight carried on the ball of the strong-side foot.

The one-handed position can easily be assumed from the low ready position, simply by stepping toward the target with the strong-side foot and raising the gun with the strong hand. With practice, the shooter will come to automatically assume the proper foot and body position that is consistent with a proper NAA.

If you haven't already, we highly recommend watching our series of bullseye pistol training videos featuring 12-time NRA National Pistol Champion Brian Zins for additional one-handed grip instruction.

See more: Training: The Secret To Improvement


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