My last book was my first and it was published by a very good but niche publisher at a time when publisher advertising was reserved for authors with household names. Fortunately for me there were gun blogs. Readers who liked my book blogged about it. Consequently, The Perfect Pistol Shot has done pretty well. I appreciate it. From time to time, some reader who is new to shooting will ask other blog readers for an opinion about something they read in my book. Invariably, the subject always concerns grip. I advocate a light grip. The current trend is toward a heavy grip. I notice when bloggers identify themselves as “newbies” on a shooting site, everybody else instantly becomes an expert, resulting in me being called an idiot. Not just “idiot” but always idiot in bold caps–IDIOT! I’m serious, its the same every time, never moron or dolt–always idiot. That I am an idiot is easily provable but the writers don’t know me. What they do know is how to parrot other misinformed shooters who have upended marksmanship orthodoxy over the last thirty years by looking at magazine pictures rather than studying marksmanship.
Here’s a few of the complaints against a light grip:

Lessens recoil management: Partner, if you think your hands manage recoil you are fundamentally mistaken about the mechanics of shooting. The weight of the shoulders (when forward of the hips) combined with the weight of the arms flattens recoil. The arms must have a natural break (not hyper-extended) to prevent heavier recoil from getting past the elbow, thus avoiding the Starsky and Hutch phenomenon. There’s no argument here. Go to any military bullseye match and watch a 110 pound woman shoot a .45 single handed with a light grip during rapid fire and near the mechanical accuracy of her handgun. She doesn’t drop the gun, lads. You don’t have to be afraid of the handgun, it won’t beat you to death. The shooter outweighs the handgun, so the handgun moves to displace recoil. An explosion, causes equal force to be equally dispersed, the same force that moves the bullet out of the barrel pushes back against the shooter. If an officer gets shot in the vest and the vest resists penetration, the officer isn’t moved by the force of impact. Meaning, if the bullet-end can’t force a human to move backward neither can the grip-end. Very little of the shooter need move under service load recoil. Muzzle flip, the rising of the muzzle, will occur depending on load, barrel length, and firearm weight but the rise with service loads is extraordinarily slight when the shoulder carriage is forward of the hips. Too many shooters cause their own muzzle rise through bad posture.

Gun will fall out of your hands: Similar to the recoil argument this fear is based on ignorance of the science of shooting. Listen to me, all that is required to keep a service handgun from flying away is the web of your shooting hand and the trigger finger. Why? I already told you–recoil pushes straight back. That means the web of your shooting hand does all the work anyway, not your pinkie finger. The reason we use all our fingers when we shoot is to keep the handgun in the exact same position between shots not to prevent dropping it.  Now some intelligent, knowledgeable, and thoughtful blogger may ask, “What about my .460 Weatherby Magnum Super Lite Titanium Revolver with 1″ barrel and no grips?” In that case, you win. Grip with your hands and feet if you want but service loads, including full house .357 magnums and many .44magnum loads (depending on the shooter) don’t require the whole hand to retain the gun. I used to demonstrate this with a full load .357 magnum to every law enforcement class I taught to dispel the over-grip superstition.

Accuracy requires the gun to be locked into the hand: This one seems to be the bane of my instructing career. Male students love over-grip as if it were unpatriotic to do otherwise. When the arm is extended and the fist is gripped tightly the hand torques downward and inside. This is the most common fault in shooting and since most of you are right handed, most of you shoot LOW AND LEFT. Right? On the Sig Sauer blog the bloggers had convinced themselves that a particular Sig had a low/left mechanical fault. Seriously. Look at your sights. They require you to make adjustments within hundredths of an inch. How do you do that when shaking? Don’t hold a 3 pound gun as if it weighed 10 pounds. Lifting the thumbs reduces your ability to torque the weapon. So lift your thumbs if you shoot low and inside and for evermore lighten your grip. Lifting thumbs means lifted away and held loose not straining forward which torques, again. (Lifted thumbs is also the immediate cure for pushing the trigger but that’s another matter.)

So what is a good grip? A good grip is one in which the trigger finger is placed based on shooter/handgun fit to bring the trigger straight to the rear while keeping the barrel inline with the bones of the forearm all the way to the elbow with only the hand pressure needed to carry the weight of the handgun. If it weighs 40 ounces use 40 ounces of pressure not 12 pounds. Pressure is energy and excess energy is movement and we want to reduce movement. The lighter object displaces extra energy meaning the handgun will shake-off any extra pressure. If a man pushes hard against a skyscraper the man will tremble. If he squeezes his gun tightly, the gun will tremble. You know all this. Think.

None of this stuff, that is the time honored fundamentals of marksmanship are of my own invention. I learned them in the United States Marine Corps. That slap-happy crowd had been preserving them (the U.S Army and U.S. Navy all but abandoned marksmanship) for two hundred years. Jeff Cooper, Elmer Keith, Ed McGivern accepted these principles. So why don’t we teach them today? Because its hard to teach marksmanship or at least it takes knowledge and commitment from both student and instructor. Which means all these 5 yard-Crouch-Grimace-and Jerk schools would be out of business when their graduates failed to meet objective competency standards. Many experienced shooters cannot shoot at 25 yards and those that do are happy with groups that would barely fit inside a hat box. Go to the local range and watch. Still, they love the Rambo poses. This is the current state of American shooter competency. Now everybody is an expert, except for me. I’m still just an IDIOT hoping to make moron.

Good Shooting.

The Author
Albert League is a former Marine and law enforcement firearm instructor who consults on a variety of security topics.