Best Pistol Grip Techniques for Self-Defense


There are as many pistol grip techniques for shooting as there are people who shoot, but many of these choices group together in recognizable patterns.

We will review the major grip methods today to show the positives and negatives for each method.

One-Handed Pistol Grip Techniques

Before we dismiss the one-handed grip, it has a definite place and needs to be practiced. You may have an arm in a cast, a child may be in tow, or the off-hand may be in use gaining standoff distance.

That being said, a proper two-handed grip is almost always preferred.

The proper one-handed grip is much like a proper two-handed grip, minus the off-hand. The web of the hand should be as high up as possible on the pistol backstrap.

The index finger should index across the frame along the barrel until such time that a shot is required. The remaining fingers should wrap the grip tightly.

If you are not sure how tight, grip it as hard as you possibly can, then relax about 10-15 percent. The thumb should wrap around the top of the grip and provide pressure on the top of the lateral portion of the grip.

This keeps the web of the hand and the thumb out of the way of the rearward motion of the slide and aids with recoil control.

For revolvers, the grip will be a little lower as the grip design is lower. The thumb will also wrap lower.

This often requires the shooter to ride with the recoil through the wrist, as opposed to fighting the recoil.

For large/magnum calibers, this riding with the recoil often extends to the entire arm.

One-handed pistol grip technique
A one-handed grip is sometimes necessary when firing from retention.

Two-Handed Pistol Grip Techniques

The Teacup

This is currently the most popular grip used by the know-nothing people in Hollywood. There are some variations to this manner, but essentially the pistol is placed in a firing position with the shooting hand.

The off-hand is placed perpendicular to the grip and used to hold up the firearm and primary grip hand. The name comes from the fact that the off-hand looks like a saucer under your firearm, the teacup.

The best thing that can be said about the teacup grip is that it keeps your off-hand out of the line of fire. What it doesn’t do is help mitigate recoil or maintain a firm grip on the weapon.

Teacup Pistol Grip Technique
The teacup pistol grip technique is not the best way to mitigate recoil when firing your handgun.

Wrist Grip

This is the predecessor Hollywood-favorite grip. I have no idea where the idea came from that this was a great way to shoot, but it was very popular in the ’70s.

Clint Eastwood utilized it in the Dirty Harry movies when he did not have to do a quick-draw shoot.

As with the teacup grip, it does keep the off-hand out of the way of getting hit, but it does nothing for firearm retention or recoil mitigation.

If you have seriously weak wrists, it does act a bit like a tight ace wrap.

Wrist Grip Pistol Grip Technique
The wrist grip pistol grip technique keeps your support hand out of the line of fire, but is not the best way to control the handgun.

Pistol Grip Tips

The modern action sport, the two-handed grip is as follows:

  • Grip like defined above in the one-handed grip. Grasp the top of the grip as high as possible with the web pressed firmly into the grip.
  • The index (trigger) finger should be free to reach down the length of the barrel and reach inside the trigger guard with ease. The remaining fingers should wrap around the grip, with the middle finger in contact with the trigger guard.
  • The thumb should initially point up. The off-hand should be placed firmly on the off-hand side of the gun. The thumb rests just under the strong-hand thumb and runs down the barrel, pointing towards the target.
  • The strong-hand thumb drops down to rest on the off-hand thumb. The remaining fingers wrap over their friends from the strong hand as a secondary grip.
  • The off-hand thumb applies slight, steady pressure against the frame. This helps to offset trigger-induced movement to the left, as well as helping to stabilize the sight picture.
  • Do not cross the thumb, especially with the off-hand thumb reaching across to the strong-hand side. This will often place the thumb into the space where the reciprocating slide will travel upon firing. Being in this position can cause “slide bite,” a situation where the bottom of the slide bites out a bit of skin. It can also trap the thumb between a rapidly-moving slide and the pressure of the strong-hand thumb. This can result in a strained, dislocated or broken thumb.
  • The off-hand should grip slightly less strongly than the strong hand, but it should be a solid grip. The goal is to make both hands one with the gun. This adds at least 50% strength to your grip and thus reduces recoil movement by a similar amount.

Such a grip almost makes it almost impossible to limp wrist the gun and greatly reduces malfunctions caused by poor recoil control.

There are slight variations to this method, but the goal is to conform both hands into an overlapping grip that is strong and repeatable.

The high placement of the hand forces the recoil down the length of the arm, as opposed to primarily being rotational at the wrist.

By overlapping the thumbs instead of crossing them, you allow for easy release with the off-hand if needed and you save the underneath thumb from recoil-induced damage.

As mentioned earlier, pressure from the off-hand thumb acts as an aim stabilizer. The most important aspect of this two-handed method, is both hands are active in maintaining grip and fighting recoil.

This increases grip significantly, increases fine control of the weapon and decreases recovery time between aimed shots.

Proper two-handed pistol grip
A proper two-handed pistol grip technique allows for fast and accurate follow-up shots.

How do you grip your firearm? What are your favorite pistol grip techniques? Let us know in the comments section below!

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