How to hold a Handgun – A Marksman’s Guide

“Fight or flight”. What category do you belong to? God forbid if you find yourself stuck in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by not-so-nice people, what do you plan to do? Do you even know how to hold a handgun?

We live in a terrible world with rising crime and weakening chains of control. You can’t even trust what would happen the very next second. The least you can do is be prepared. Prepared to pick up a firearm and be the hero for yourself and your loved ones. As I, for one, would not suggest “flight”.

Handling a handgun does not make you any cooler or tougher. Yes, it looks far more fascinating when it happens in your favorite shows or movies. But the real deal is nowhere close to that.

Let’s be honest, the policemen and criminals in TV shows use handguns most bizarrely. They would hold it near their ears and aim from weird angles without being affected by the sound, which can turn a normal man deaf.

Funnily so, there is no concept of a knockback or recoil in these programs! Anyone would shoot a bullet and have absolutely no kickback post-firing. Like shooting a real gun is as easy as using a water gun. That is far from reality.

Jokes apart, nobody wishes to be stuck in a situation where they need to use a firearm (unless you are a soldier surrounded by enemies, of course). But for unprecedented times, one must be prepared to go the limits for themselves and their loved ones.

Just a few admonitions before we jump on to learning the A to Z of how to properly hold a handgun:

1. Yes, indeed the modus operandi and mechanics are key things to know before using a handgun. But situational awareness and judgment are more important skills required to be a master gunner; just because you are a professional and know how to hold a handgun doesn’t mean you know when to use it.

2. Never use your weapon to intimidate or scare away someone. That’s not what a handgun is made for. You cannot use it to threaten people or even as a joke. Take your gun out only when it is a matter of life and death. This is what the best home defense handguns are for.

3. It is best to keep yourself away from trouble. Stay far away from situations that might put you in a spot to fire at someone. If you are ever caught in such a situation, our advice is to call law enforcement first. You don’t have to be a hero on your own.

4. This article is only a guide on how to properly hold a handgun. It does not give you any degree or diploma in handgun management. So it is better to take a safety course and proper training before employing any of the following techniques on the field.

How To Hold A Handgun — Get A Grip!

Step-1 is to erase all the fancy ideas of gun-handling that you learned from your weekend action flicks binge. Don’t try to imitate any whimsy gunplay from John Wick. Once you have accomplished this, you can move on to our actual steps on how to properly hold a handgun.

Two-Handed Grip

For a beginner, it is better to use a two-handed grip to deal with the recoil. Not surprisingly, beginners find this to be the most convenient gripping technique. It is not as precise as you would want it to be, but it provides you with enough stability to get through your early days as a shooter. 

A forward thumbs two-handed grip technique is more stable than the thumb-over-thumb approach. It also ascertains a faster draw, however, it is a tedious task for beginners to master.

It might be less quick, but you can still manage to aim properly with regular and meticulous practice.

  • Use your dominant hand’s index finger and thumb to form a V-shaped grip. Hold the gun high on the backstrap — as high as possible. Once you place the gun in this crook, it allows you to handle knockback better.
  • For the time being, rest the index finger of your dominant hand along the side of the gun frame, right outside the trigger guard.
  • Wrap the remaining three fingers — the middle, ring, and the pinky fingers — around the grip and beneath the trigger guard.
  • Observe a tiny gap between the heel of your hand and the tip of your fingers. Take your support hand and wrap it around the dominant hand to cover the gap.
  • Overlap both your thumbs — the support thumb over the dominant thumb.
  • You can also use the straight thumbs technique, also called the forward thumbs technique. The entire process remains the same. The only difference would be that instead of overlapping your thumbs, you will now have to line both of them up to point forward.
  • To make sure you are doing it right, you can note that your dominant thumb would no longer be touching your dominant middle finger. Instead, you will find it resting on the top side of your supporting thumb.
  • Whenever you need to shoot a bullet, use the index finger of your dominant hand. Only the space between your top knuckle and the tip of your finger should be covering the trigger. This is the proper technique on how to hold a handgun with a two-handed grip.

The most common difficulty with a two-handed grip is the tendency to grip the pistol too tight. A tighter grip can lead to instability and may cause your hands to twist during kickback. This is an ideal tip on how to hold a handgun.

One-Handed Grip

A one-handed grip can be a combination of both dangerous and difficult if you are not careful and serious. You automatically lack the support of one hand while operating with just a single hand in this kind of grip.

The lack of support increases instability, and you need to be extra cautious while handling a recoil to save yourself from injury. If you can master the art, you can distribute the entire knockback force equally and the gun can be stabilized.

  • Grip the gun with your dominant hand.
  • Form a “V” with the index finger and thumb of your dominant hand. Place the weapon conveniently in this “V”-shaped hollow so that your rear and front sightlines are evenly lined up with your gun and your dominant arm.
  • Wrap your other three fingers tightly around the grip. Use enough pressure to hold the gun firmly to the back of the palm. The thumb would act as glue to keep the weapon in place securely.
  • To know you are holding it just right, apply pressure until you feel your hands trembling. Then, loosen up just a bit to stop that trembling. There you have it — this would be the ideal amount of pressure needed to secure the gun in place and maintain stability.
  • Make sure you remember this pressure or at least remember this technique. It is going to be extremely beneficial in mastering the one-handed grip.
  • Now, when it is time to aim and shoot, place your index finger on the trigger. Make sure only the area between the tip of the finger and the second knuckle clips the trigger. Always ensure that the positioning of your index finger on the trigger must not interfere with the other fingers.
  • Keep practicing and remember the pressure and positioning of the fingers on the gun. This is the best tip on how to hold a handgun with a one-handed grip.

The One-Handed Grip Disaster

We suggest that you must try to avoid using the one-handed grip as much as possible. It has got nothing to do with your caliber or potential. The one-handed grip, even if mastered, is a relatively unstable style of gripping a firearm.

You can never be completely sure about perfect aim and precision with a one-handed grip, even if you are a professional. A novice would miss the easiest of targets. Thus it is not highly recommended in our how to properly hold a handgun article.

The primary and perhaps the only advantage of a one-handed grip is the ease of access and speed. If you need to fire in a hurry, the capability to use your gun with just one hand comes in handy. 

In a matter of life and death, every second counts, and knowing this grip could just about help you in shaving off that one extra second between victory and disaster. Keep all your fantasies of behaving like a TV Cop out of the window until it is the need of the hour.

NOTE — This grip is more suitable and convenient to pull off if you have a handgun with a lesser recoil. A lighter knockback would automatically mean more stability, and hence this grip would work.

The —  “DO NOT USE THIS GRIP!” — Section

Yes, it is true. There are a variety of grips that can be used to hold and shoot a handgun. But there is an entire lot of “don’ts” in holding grips too. A wrong or unstable grip is a potential threat to you, as it would be hazardous using it.

To make your life a little easier, in our article on how to hold a handgun, we have added a dedicated section on how NOT to hold a firearm. 

Here is a list of “DON’TS” while holding a grip:

1. Avoid Tea-Cupping

Tea-cupping, also known by the name of cup-and-saucer grip, is surprisingly a common and popular style of two-handed grip technique. This grip, however, is relatively unstable and not advised at all.

In a cup-and-saucer grip, the dominant hand would wrap around the handgun like any other two-handed grip. But here’s where the twist comes. The supporting hand rests below the dominant hand, practically “cupping” it from the lower end.

The supporting thumb is placed somewhere around the middle and the ring fingers. Your non-dominant hand fails to provide enough support to your primary-gripping hand, skewing your aim and destabilizing your hand completely.

If you get further unlucky, the gun might just fly back and hit your face during recoil. You surely would not want that to happen now, would you?

2. Crossing Thumbs Is A Strict No-No

While a professional would be well aware of not crossing both his or her thumbs while shooting, a novice must keep this in their heads at all times — Do NOT cross both your thumbs while holding the gun.

A shooter — a beginner at that — would wrap both the hands around the gun from either side for a two-handed grip. Just as the fingers would overlap in the front of the grip, it tends to cross the thumbs at the back.

Quite frankly, you can’t just blame a beginner for that kind of tendency. It is not just the newness that creates this error. Perhaps it is also the impact of films and shows that gives us all fancy ideas about holding our guns.

It is essential to know the reason too. When you cross your thumbs at the back of your handgun, you put them at great risk for injury. To understand why dive a little deeper into gun mechanics.

If you observe the handgun mechanism (which you should), you will note the slide of the pistol moving backward once a bullet is fired. When you have your thumbs crossed at the back, they are right in the path of that slide.

The slide would crash right into your thumbs with full force. You don’t need us or anyone else to further explain how disastrous or painful that could be.

Better Safe Than Sorry

Even after becoming a professional gunslinger and mastering the art of fusillading, it is essential to stick with the cardinal rules of gun safety. By keeping these rules in mind, no matter you are a novice or master, you will keep yourself and others safe from potential damage and hurt.

Here are a few fundamental rules to abide by while handling any sort of firearm:

1. Imagine The Gun Is Always Loaded

Even if you have triple-checked the magazine, always treat a gun like it is loaded. Act like there is at least one last shot in the chamber, even if it is completely empty. This is done to make sure that you hone your skills properly.

2. Always Point It In A Safe Direction

Practicing to shoot is not a crime. But shooting someone is. Always point your gun in a safe direction. Judge your surroundings. Point the barrel in a direction where an accidental barrage would not cause any physical injuries and minimum to nil damage.

3. Hone And Master Trigger Discipline

At all times and under all circumstances, keep your fingers off the trigger. Keep them away from the trigger guard as well. Do not take them any close to the trigger until you have made a conscious decision of firing a shot at a certain target.

Even after making the decision, do not go near the trigger until your gun is pointing towards the target. Once the target is in line, and you have made up your mind and are double-sure about shooting the same, only then take your finger to the trigger.

4. Beware Of The Surroundings

Be absolutely sure about the consequences of you pressing the trigger. You have to be well aware of the before and after circumstances of your firing. This will not be your concern if you are at a gun range.

At a gun range, they take additional precautions to make certain that no one gets hurt. But be it a gun range or any other situation, always check your line of fire and the damage that it would cause.

The main thought behind this is to avoid any mistakes or slip-ups while dealing with equipment that has the potential to kill. Handling a lethal weapon can have weird effects on your mind and so you have to take that extra step of precaution.

Practice Makes A Man Perfect

There are slight differences in how to properly hold a handgun, especially when you deal with arms other than pistols — for example, revolvers. But you will observe that it is more or less the same.

The method we elaborated upon is perfectly suited and designed for a variety of automatic to semi-automatic sidearms. Although we insist on abiding by these basic guidelines, a few things can be tweaked as per comfort and convenience.

A snug and technical grip plays a huge role in the precision and stability of your gun. Hence you can slightly allow your hands to decide and find a comfortable position for operation. Make sure they are well placed to handle a recoil after firing.

Handling a firearm is not a child’s task. You cannot pretend to be James Bond with a gun in hand just to look cool. Handgun management is a very intricate and dangerous activity. Extreme caution is always recommended while dealing with a handgun anywhere.

Unless you are well-versed and aware of how to hold a handgun and how to use it, don’t mess around with a gun like Tom and Jerry. Always stick to the book rules and abide by the guidelines. 

This guide may appear to be thorough, but you must take proper training before firing rounds. Take it very seriously as it is important to prevent injury and damage. Safety is your primary concern, but don’t forget to have fun while mastering the art.