How’s Your Gun Grip? An Introduction for Beginners

Does it matter how you hold a handgun when you shoot? Yep, it sure does. And not because it looks cool; a proper gun grip can help you shoot better. In some cases, it can keep you from getting injured as well. If you read very many articles about guns, you will find 100 different ones telling you the “best way” to do things.

The rest will say it is personal preference, leaving you where you started in the beginning. Part of why this happens is because there are multiple ways to do some things in the gun world. Where you mount a light on a rifle, how you set your vest up, or the type of optic you choose is all up for debate. Different people will tell you why they choose one over the other, and to them, it’s the best way.

Training for self-defense on the range.
Staying prepared all the time can be a chore, but it’s easy to overcome with the right training and determination. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
Others will give multiple options and say their personal preference. I’ve been guilty of that before, but I will try to keep it somewhere in the middle on this subject. We will discuss the different types of grips (which is personal preference) but I will tell you which grip I like the best and way. With some types of firearms, there is a wrong way to shoot them, and we will talk about that too.

The important thing is to understand why a gun grip matters and what options you have before you decide what type of grip to use. The size of your hands, and the size and type of gun you purchase will dictate to some degree the type of grip you will use.

Thumbs Forward Grip

We are going to look at a few different grips for semi-auto and revolver handguns. The names of grips may vary from one person to another, but the techniques are universal. The most popular grip for a semi-auto handgun is the thumbs-forward Grip. Also known as the “modern” grip, the shooter places both thumbs forward on the gun. Because the barrel of a handgun is at the top, the force of the bullet as it leaves the muzzle will push on the top of the gun.

Thumbs forward grip with Glock 19.
The thumbs-forward grip is the most popular and modern method used today.

The grip is in your hand which creates an anchor for the lower part of the gun. This causes the top of the gun to go back and then up. To help offset this, you want your hand to be as high on the gun as possible. Most newer handguns have curves and grooves on them to help your hand find the right position. As you grip the gun with your dominant hand (I’m right-handed), raise your thumb so it is no longer on the gun.

Now place your left hand on the gun with your left thumb pointing towards the barrel. Now lay your right thumb back down over your left hand. Both thumbs should be pointing in the same direction as the barrel of the gun. Your left fingers will wrap around your right hand to help hold the grip of the gun. This method places both hands as high on the gun as possible to help absorb recoil.

Finger Wraparound Grip

This method of gripping a handgun is like the last one, only the left index finger wraps around the trigger guard. This places the middle finger directly under the trigger guard moving the palm of your hand even higher on the gun. The index finger around the trigger guard helps control recoil as you fire the gun. You will notice many handguns have texturing on the front of the trigger guard which is to help with this style of gripping.

Shooting the Glock 19 handgun.
The finger wraparound grip places the index finger around the trigger guard. One issue with this type of grip is that many guns now have lights on them. [Photo: Jason Mosher]

Butterfly Grip

This type of grip isn’t used much anymore because it places your hands too low on the gun. The butterfly grip is one my grandfather used when he would shoot guns because he learned to shoot on revolvers. To use the butterfly grip, start with a standard one-handed grip.

Then place your left hand over your right with your left thumb locking down over your right thumb. This is a method people use when shooting a revolver with two hands. People like my grandfather learned this method and stuck with it for the rest of his life. This style will work on a revolver but is not ideal for a semi-auto handgun.

Shooting the Taurus 605 on the range.
The butterfly grip works best with revolvers. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
The reason people use this style of grip on revolvers is that a revolver has a cylinder with gaps on the front and back of it. When a revolver is fired, gases will shoot out the sides of it which could burn your thumb if you have it down the side of the gun like you would on a semi-auto. So, my opinion for this style of grip is yes on the revolver but not preferred on the semi-auto.

The Backstrap Grip

Now, I have no idea if this is a real name, but again, I learned this one from my grandfather. I have also seen countless people use this method with revolvers over the years and it can be dangerous when used with semi-auto handguns. For this method of grip, hold the gun with your strong hand and wrap your other hand (left in my case) over your strong hand.

Now place your left thumb on the back of your hand, directly behind the hammer. With this style of grip, you can easily pull the hammer back with your left thumb when shooting revolvers. This style of gripping is not used much anymore because it is not very efficient. The biggest problem with this grip is people tend to keep using it when they pick up a semi-auto handgun. Any time I teach a firearms class, I talk about slide bite.

Shooting the Taurus 605 on the range.
Placing the thumb behind the hammer is not uncommon with revolvers. It should never be done with semi-auto revolvers, however, as it can cause slide bite. [Photo Jason Mosher]
Slide bite is where the slide on the gun comes back and cuts the hand or thumb. This is caused by improper gripping of the handgun. When you fire a semi-auto handgun, the slide moves all the way to the rear. To visualize this, lock the slide open on your gun and hold it like you are going to shoot. If your thumb is in the way, the slide will run across it when you fire.

The Palm Grip

The palm grip is just what it sounds like. Holding the gun and placing it in the palm of your support hand. I would never recommend using this grip because it provides very little support for the other hand or the gun. But some people use it and I have met a few people that had reasons to use this grip. Once a person had a splint on their two middle fingers making it impossible for them to bend. Placing the gun hand in the palm of the support hand allowed them a little more support than shooting one-handed.


When you learn a type of grip, remember that it’s okay to adjust your hand until it works for you. Start with a standard grip and do some shooting. If you find you have some type of issue, move your hands just a little to a different place until it feels comfortable shooting. I have shown people how to get a proper grip on the range and watched as they awkwardly shot how I showed them to.

But after they shot for a while and started moving their hands just a little, they found what worked for them and shot better. They also looked more comfortable doing it. The only set-in-stone things that should not be done are the things that affect shooter safety. Placing your finger behind the slide will hurt your hand. Not holding the gun correctly and letting it fly out of your hand could hurt you or someone else.

Beyond that, you can try different methods out, adjust, and find what works for you. I use the thumbs forward style because that’s what I learned in the police academy years ago and it works for me. Find your method and have fun shooting.

Sheriff Jason Mosher is a law enforcement generalist instructor as well as a firearms and tactical weapons trainer. Jason graduated from the FBI-LEEDA (Law Enforcement Executive Development Association) and serves as a Sheriff for his day job. When he’s not working, he’s on the range, eating steak, or watching Yellowstone.

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