FIREARM TRAINING: How to hold a pistol and fine-tune your grip

While a ‘thumbs-forward’ grip is commonly accepted as the best way to hold a handgun, the technique doesn’t guarantee perfect results every time.

That’s because even a thumbs-forward grip can have variations in terms of…

  • How high your support hand is positioned on the frame
  • How far forward your support hand is placed on the frame
  • How much palm contact is on the frame
  • The wrist angle of your strong hand
  • The wrist angle of your support hand
  • Whether your arms are fully extended or slightly bent

Because your grip is crucial to accuracy, speed and shooting a relatively tight group, your technique needs to be finely tuned and consistent.

So, how do you fine-tune your grip with repeatable results?

Well, you break it down.


The Bill Drill is one of the most effective ways to test your grip performance / technique.

Start with a single target at 7 meters and fire 6 rounds as fast as you accurately can at the centre of the target. Adjust your grip slightly and perform the drill again.

Make a minor adjustment to your grip each time you perform the drill. However, start the drill with the pistol unholstered and aligned on the target. This is because you want to work on your grip specifically and don’t want other influencing factors (such as your draw and sight acquisition) to impact the results.


Conventional “bullseye” targets can be beneficial here. Print approximately 10 targets and shoot one string / Bill Drill per target. Write notes on each target detailing your drill time / splits (provided you have a shot timer) and your grip technique in terms of hand position, wrist angles and arm length.


Think of this as a data-gathering exercise. Eventually, a pattern will emerge, and you’ll start to see that specific grip inputs yield better results in terms of speed and accuracy.

For example: Extending your support hand further along the frame may offer better recoil control along the vertical axis; however, you may find that your accuracy starts to “wander” along the horizontal. This is because the closer your support hand gets to the muzzle, the easier it is to inadvertently “steer” the gun.


Of course, the results from this training session will vary from person to person. That’s because we’re not all the same in hand size, shoulder width, flexibility, arm length and strength.

The exercise aims to find what subtle changes yield the best overall results for you. The placement of your shots, and the time of each string, will indicate what’s working.



Once you know where your hands need to be to generate the best result, you can go home and work on achieving those positions in Dry Fire.

For example: If you know where your support hand needs to meet the pistol’s frame for optimum accuracy and speed, work on achieving that position in isolation. Start with your strong hand already on the pistol’s grip (where it needs to be for best results), and draw the firearm with specific attention to where your support hand meets the frame. Do this 20 to 30 times in Dry Fire.


Likewise, perform 20 to 30 “gun grabs” where all you do is land your strong hand exactly where it needs to be on the pistol’s grip. Don’t complete the full draw stroke. All you’re doing is “greasing the groove” in how your shoulder, elbow and wrist need to move to land the perfect strong-hand placement on the pistol’s grip.

Once you’ve done the above, along with working on your support-hand matchup, that’s when you perform the complete sequence:

  • Land the strong-hand grip
  • Draw the firearm
  • Meet the support hand
  • Get a sight picture

Happy training.

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