So, you’ve decided it's time to purchase a weapon, or perhaps you already own a handgun and don't know where to start when it comes to practicing with dry-firing or live-firing.
We understand that properly shooting a handgun requires a good blend of consistent practice, proper pistol grip and stance, accuracy, and recoil control.
However, none of that would matter if you don't have a good grasp of how to properly hold a handgun. In this article, we discuss all the basics of properly holding a handgun for accurate shooting.
We explain the basics of handling a firearm while teaching you to always follow gun safety rules and proper shooting techniques.
The Fundamentals of Handgun Safety
Learning the fundamentals of handgun safety ensures your safety and the safety of those around you.
As long as you or someone around you has a gun or has access to a gun, it is your duty to follow gun safety rules at all times.
According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and other authorities on firearm safety, here are some of the most important gun safety rules you must observe when holding a pistol:
Never Point Your Gun at Anything You Are Not Willing to Kill or Destroy
While every rule of firearm safety is important, this is perhaps the most important one. Do not point your gun at anything or anyone, whether it is loaded or unloaded, if you are not ready to shoot.
This rule requires that you always point the muzzle of your gun in a safe direction while you are not shooting. And when you are shooting, keep your entire focus and the muzzle of your gun on the target and nothing else.
Do Not Rely on the Safety of Your Handgun
While many guns come with a safety mechanism that prevents them from firing when you pull the trigger, do not rely on this when handling a gun.
Always point your gun in a safe direction and keep your hands off the trigger until you are ready to fire.
Always Check Your Target and What Is Behind It
Before firing your gun at anything or anyone, be sure of what is behind the target to ensure the safety of the structure and the people around you.
Use the Correct Ammunition for Your Firearm
Only use the recommended and specified ammunition for your gun, to prevent causing severe damage to your gun or yourself.
Always Wear Ear and Eye Protection When Live-Firing
Guns are loud - always wear eye goggles and ear protection when firing live ammunition.
Keep Your Hands Off the Trigger
Ensure that you keep your hands off the trigger until you are ready to fire your weapon. It's that simple.
Treat Every Gun Like It Is Loaded
Even if you just removed all the bullets from your gun, always treat the gun like it's loaded and follow every gun safety rule mentioned above.
Basic Handgun Parts and Terminology
In order to fully understand some of the tips about how to properly handle a pistol provided in this article, it is essential that you know the parts of your handgun.
Here are the essential parts of a pistol (semi-automatic):
- Grip: This is the part of the gun that your hand wraps around, and it is also where the weapon's magazine is held.
- Magazine: The magazine is a removable storage or container for your ammunition that helps to feed bullet rounds into the chamber of your pistol. It goes into the grip.
- Magazine Release: The magazine release is typically a small button located behind the trigger guard but in front of the grip. It is used to release the magazine from inside the grip.
- Slide: The slide is the top portion of your weapon that slides back and forth when your handgun is fired.
- Safety: The safety lever is also known as the decocking lever. It is typically located below the rear sight of your handgun. It is mostly used to prevent the gun from being fired accidentally by preventing the gun from actually firing when the trigger is pulled.
- Frame: This is essentially the part of the gun that the slide rides back and forth on.
- Back strap: The back strap of a handgun is where the web of your dominant/shooting hand sits under when you are holding the gun in a firing position. The back strap typically bends toward the back of the gun to provide protection for the space between your thumb and your index finger and protect them from sitting close to the slide.
Two Important Shooting Terms for Beginners
- Dominant/Shooting Hand: This is the hand used to pull the trigger and is typically in direct contact with the gun.
- Support Hand: This is the hand that is used to support the actions of the shooting hand. The support hand is not used to pull the trigger; instead, it is typically wrapped around the dominant hand as it holds the gun in place.
Handgun Grip Techniques
Now, let's get on to handgun gripping techniques that you can use.
We would like to iterate that we do not recommend the use of the one-hand grip as it is usually not as stable and can be dangerous to use with a gun with high recoil.
However, when done right, it can be a quick way to shoot at a target using only one hand. The basics of the one-handed grip:
- Hold your pistol using your dominant/shooting hand.
- Spread your thumb and index finger apart to form a "V" shape and hold the gun in the center of the "V" shape, ensuring that the space between your thumb and index finger is directly beneath the back strap.
- Wrap the rest of your fingers (middle, ring, and pinky) around the grip of the gun, and place the thumb by the side of the gun. The index finger (trigger finger) should also rest on the side of the gun but not on the trigger.
- Ensure that you hold the gun with enough pressure that the gun sits well in your hand but it is not so tight that your hand begins to tremble. You need as much stability as possible.
- When you are ready to fire, place your index finger on the trigger. Ensure that your index finger lies on the trigger with the portion between the tip and the first bend. Ensure you can pull the trigger without shifting the weight of the rest of your hand.
Note: Do not release the pressure on your grip when pulling the trigger. Maintain uniform grip at all times to ensure safety and accuracy during shooting.
Also, we recommend that you avoid the one-handed grip unless you absolutely need to use it. Opt for a pistol with less recoil for one-handed grip firing.
This is perhaps the most popular and recommended type of grip for beginner and experienced shooters alike. The two-handed technique provides better grip and stability for shooting handguns and is much safer to use.
There are essentially two ways to grip your pistol with two hands. The first is using the thumb-over-thumb grip technique and the straight-thumb technique.
In this article, we explore the thumb-over-thumb technique, as it is the most common among beginners and is more intuitive to pull off.
The basics of a two-handed pistol grip:
- Hold the gun with your dominant hand like you would using the one-hand grip. Place the gun in the middle of your thumb and index finger.
- Ensure the space between your thumb and your index finger sits firmly below the back strap.
- Ensure that the thumb of your shooting hand rests firmly on one side of the frame, and the rest of the fingers (excluding the index) wrap around the grip and grip it firmly.
- Let your index finger rest on the opposite side of the gun in a comfortable position while gripping the gun with enough pressure to hold it strongly in place without making your dominant/shooting hand feel uncomfortable.
- Now, there should typically be a gap between the wrapping fingers of your shooting hand and the rest of the grip. This gap is typically in front of the grip. Put your support hand over the gap, ensuring that you wrap the fingers of the supporting hand over that of the shooting hand.
- The thumb of your supporting hand should underlap the thumb of the dominant hand.
- Ensure that you have the right stance (either the isosceles or weaver stance) while gripping the gun. Typically, you want the leg on the side of the supporting hand to be slightly in front, while the leg on the dominant side will be slightly behind, providing you with ample support.
- When you are ready to fire, place your index finger on the trigger. Ensure that your index finger lies on the trigger with the portion between the tip and the first bend.
- Fire your weapon!
Apart from learning the right way to hold a pistol, using the right stance when holding your pistol plays a huge role in the accuracy and the amount of recoil control you have on your handgun.
We wrote an article on pistol-holding techniques using different shooting stances. It contains information on the best shooting stances to use with your handgun.
Two of the most commonly used stances are the Isosceles Stance and the Weaver Stance.
Dry-fire training systems are great for practicing your handgun holding techniques, and dry-firing can be a great way for you to practice becoming a better shooter without spending too much money on ammunition.
At Strikeman, we manufacture some of the best dry-fire training systems on the market, and we provide articles like this to support you on your journey to becoming a better shooter.
Remember to always maintain good firearms safety practices while shooting your pistol and use a two-handed grip for the best stability and accuracy.