How we grip our pistol ultimately sets us up for success or failure on the range in competition or during a defensive encounter. Establishing a proper grip technique is one of the most misunderstood training concepts out there and often the cause of poor shooting fundamentals. So, let’s dive right into it and discuss the 360-Degree Grip fundamentals and how to properly apply them.
We will start with the pistol unloaded and in a verified safe condition; no ammunition in the room or area, no magazine, slide locked back, visual and physical inspection (preferably by another person). If you can, practice on the range from the holster. You may have a bunch of onlookers wondering who the weird person not shooting is, but maybe they will catch on and realize that this is a great form of inexpensive, yet valuable solo training. If the range does not allow pulling from the holster, go ahead and practice these techniques dry, at home, with or without a holster. Again, NO AMMO.
First, we establish a high grip on the firearm with our dominant hand. We need to verify that there is no gap between the web of our hand the back strap of the firearm. (Pic 1). Our middle, ring and pinky finger are acting like a vise and pinching the grip of our firearm between our three fingers and the palm of my hand (Pic 2). Our trigger finger will be straight and placed alongside the frame of the firearm (Pic 3). The trigger finger is in this position for several reasons, but first and foremost for safety. If the trigger is not being manipulated on a modern-day service pistol, the likelihood of the firearm firing unintendedly is almost zero. The other reason that we locate our trigger finger straight against the frame is because we, as people, have been using that finger to point at and manipulate objects with our entire lives. We know where it is without even thinking about it. So if we align our finger very closely and in line with the barrel of our firearm, we should be able to simply point at our intended target within 7 yards and start making combat effective hits without ever having to see our sights. We can now check our wrist alignment with the firearm. The frame and slide of the firearm should be in line with the bones in our forearm (Pic 4).
Now that we have a dominant hand grip on our firearm that would rival that of King Kong’s, we can move onto our other dominant hand. If you look at the open gap between your fingertips and palm you will notice that that area has a lot of space to capitalize on (Pic 5). The entire concept of the 360-degree grip is to wrap skin around the entire grip of the firearm, so let’s take our other dominant hand palm and securely press as much skin as we can onto the exposed side of the firearm (Pic 6, 7). A crucial part of this other dominant hand grip is to align the bottom of the trigger guard with the second knuckle of the index finger while acting like all four fingers are glued together (Pic 8). Now we can pinch our other dominant hand fingertips to our palm like a second vise (Pic 9). If we have done this grip properly our vise like hands will be creating an X of crushing grip pressure directly through the center of the pistol grip (Pic 10). Our other dominant hand wrist should be rolled forward so that the wrist and forearm are nearly level (Pic 11).
The thumbs of our dominant and other dominant hand simply get in the way and should float off to the side of the firearm. Hopefully we are shooting a firearm that fits us well and all the controls; slide stop, magazine release, de-cockers, etc. do not interfere with our thumbs (Pic 12).
Once we have our proper 360-degree grip established we can then work on presenting the pistol to the target and verify that we have a proper sight picture (Pic 13). Remember, it is the very first placement of our hand to the backstrap of the pistol that determines how successful the rest of our target presentation is. If the sight picture is improper we must reevaluate our grip and/or the way our firearm fits our hand (Pic 14, 15, 16). Repeat this presentation several times.
After we are certain that our grip is proper we can head to the range, or start our live fire if already on-range, knowing that we can better handle recoil, point and make combat effective hits more effectively and engage targets far more quickly. Everything starts with the grip; a poor grip will induce poor results. If you find that your grip strength is lacking, there are many wrist strengthening tools out there that can be used while driving or even while watching your favorite gun show. When I began my deep love affair with shooting, my biggest weakness was my grip and grip strength. For me, holding my pistol with this 360-degree grip and improving the strength of my hands and wrists took time and patience, and to be honest, a bit of discomfort. Since my full development into my 360-degree grip, my speed and accuracy has improved tenfold as I hope it will for you as well. Remember we are looking for progress not perfection. Stay safe and train often.
Note: A remote camera was used to ensure the safety of those involved with the photography process.
1. The most important part of your grip and target presentation is your initial setup of your draw. Make sure the web of your hand is high under the “tang” of the pistol.
2. My middle, ring, and pinky finger are acting like a vise and pinching the grip of my firearm between my three fingers and the palm of my hand.
3. My trigger finger is straight and placed alongside the frame of the firearm.
4. With my trigger finger pointed at my intended target, I am making sure my wrist is in alignment with the firearms and my forearm.
5. Notice the large open gap between my fingertips and palm.
6 & 7. I take my other dominant hand palm and securely press as much skin as I can onto the exposed side of the firearm.
8. I focus on my other dominant hand grip so that I align the bottom of the trigger guard with the second knuckle of my index finger, while acting like all four fingers are glued together.
9. I pinch my other dominant hand fingertips to my palm like a second vise.
10. I create an X of crushing grip pressure directly through the center of the pistol grip.
11. My other dominant hand wrist is rolled forward so that my wrist and forearm are nearly level.
12. All the controls; slide stop, magazine release, de-cockers, etc. do not interfere with my thumbs because this pistol, in particular, fits me properly.
13. I am verifying that I have a proper sight picture.
14-16. A common mistake is to let the gun rotate to the left or right in my hands, however, it is easy to verify the proper pistol to target presentation. My pistol hold is incorrect in pictures 14 and 15, but I can verify, in picture 16, that I have properly aligned my grip and pistol to the target.