Get a Grip II: Support

Last week I sort of got into the weeds on properly gripping a handgun. When I realized my bloviating had swelled to more than 1,100 words I sort of cut it off at the primary hand. Today I’ll look at the support hand more thoroughly.

As we saw last week, the purpose of gripping a handgun is to provide a stable platform to deliver an accurate shot in a short amount of time, and to be able to recover from that shot and deliver subsequent shots as needed. The primary hand is pretty well consumed with grasping the pistol, operating the fire-control system, aligning the pistol sights with the shooter’s eye and disengaging any manual safeties that may be present. In modern parlance, the primary hand is multi-tasking, so it could use some help.

The most efficient way to control something that wants to escape from your hands is to maximize the contact area your hands have on it to spread the load over a wider area. Translation: Envelop the object with your hands. This is why cup-and-saucer and wrist-grabs are useless ways to support the primary hand. They simply do not support the hand while it is attempting to restrain the handgun.

Back in the ’70s and early ’80s it was popular to extend the index finger of the support hand to the front of the trigger guard. Gunsmiths even made some whiskey money squaring off the front of the trigger guard or even adding a sort of hook to the front of it to enhance this tactic. Glock builds its pistols with this feature to this day and that profile has become iconic with the Austrian gunmaker. And no, I will retrain myself from any snide comments about Glocks or Europeans’ rapturous adoration with pistols that do not work. I will, however, point out that this notion of extending the support index finger to the front of the trigger guard actually weakens the grip, thus doing exactly the opposite of its supposed intention.

Try this demonstration only if you have access to a non-gun replica or can render a handgun incapable of being fired. You’ll need a buddy to do this. Present the demonstration piece with your support-hand index finger to the front of the trigger guard in any way you think will enhance the support—or look cool, if that be your intent. Have your buddy stand to one side and rap the muzzle of the barrel/slide mimicking recoil. Make a mental note of how well you are able to control and recover from this “recoil.”

Now try it with your support-hand index finger hard against the bottom of the trigger guard and the remaining fingers wrapped intimately around the fingers of your primary hand. Those fingers, by the way, should be nestled at the juncture of the primary hand’s fingers with no gaps whatsoever between any of the fingers. Your support hand palm should be filling the area of the handgun’s grip not covered by the primary hand and in close contact with the grip. The force applied to the hands on the gun should be about 40 percent on the primary hand; 60 percent on the support hand. You should have a firm grasp of the handgun with the primary hand but not a death grip that induces tremors. The support hand should provide slightly more restraining force since that is its only task. Now repeat the demonstration. You should see and feel a clear improvement and recovery with this method. An additional benefit to those blessed with longer fingers is that the index finger of the support hand cannot interfere with the trigger finger, thus messing up the shot.

Is this an instinctive, intuitive or natural way to present the handgun? Nope. I hate to sound like a broken record, but until people get this notion burned into their minds, I’m going to repeat it like the Pledge of Allegiance: The Modern Technique of the Pistol is a disciplined response to a potentially deadly threat. The instinctive, intuitive or natural response will likely get you killed. A disciplined response has a much better chance of addressing the real problem.

Dave Campbell
Dave Campbell began his hunting career with a spear off the southern California coast in the late 1960s. It did not take long for him to graduate to the gun on land. Campbell is the founding editor in chief of the NRA’s tremendously successful Shooting Illustrated magazine. In 2006 he also edited the iconic book of terminal ballistics, Rifle Bullets for the Hunter—A Definitive Study. He returned to his beloved Wyoming in 2007 as a freelance writer, though he usually refers to himself now as a “recovering editor.”
  1. Chris V Reply

    This is very good Dave..

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