A good handgun grip will make or break your shots. While many shooters focus on other factors such as draw, sight picture, etc., if you don’t have a proper grip, you won’t be consistent on your targets – especially if you’re under stress, when you most need your shots to count.

Here’s how to tell if you're holding your handgun properly. If you're not, we'll help you get a grip and get that fixed.

Related: How to Hold a Revolver for Best Accuracy

Why Holding a Gun Properly is Important


Kimber 1911 10mm
A proper grip is crucial to shooting accurately. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

Focusing on properly holding your handgun is a great dryfire exercise that will pay off with accuracy when you’re at the range. The body mechanics and muscle memory you will develop with proper dryfire repetitions will ensure that you can quickly grip, draw, and fire your gun. 

Working on your grip through dryfiring saves you time and money at the range, because you won’t be wasting expensive ammunition on something that can be done at home with an unloaded handgun. And the best part? You can dryfire anytime, in any weather, in the comfort of your home, so not having enough time to get to the range is no excuse.

A proper grip will:

  • Help you better manage felt recoil. 
  • Get you on target faster for your second shot, because your handgun won’t be moving all over after a shot.
  • Ensure that you’ll hit your target consistently.

Ways to tell if you’re not properly holding your handgun


shooting handgun at indoor range
If you're missing shots or consistently off-target, your grip might be the culprit. (Photo: Ryan Domke/Guns.com)

Heavy recoil: If the gun is almost jumping out of your hand, you’re not gripping it properly. You can see the gun move when you pull the trigger. The move might be left, right or even up/down, regardless of direction, you won’t be hitting the center of your target.

Missed shots: Your shots aren’t going where you’re aiming/you’re missing your target. Many shooters think it’s the gun’s fault they’re shooting low and left. It’s not – it’s probably your grip.

Readjusting: You notice yourself readjusting your grip between shots.

Handgun malfunctions: Many smaller concealed carry handguns will malfunction due to a phenomenon known in the industry as “limp wristing.” It’s a thing, and it’s happened to us all at one time or another. 

How to properly hold a handgun

Safety brief: When dry firing, always make sure your handgun is unloaded, clear, and there is no ammunition in your magazine or in your vicinity. 

Step 1:

Start by holding the handgun in your non-dominant/non-shooting hand. (For right-handed shooters, this will be your left hand, and vice versa for southpaws). 

Step 2:


This CZ Shadow 2 has an extended beavertail that makes finding the proper position easy. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

Place your dominant hand as high up on the beavertail of the handgun as possible. The webby part that connects your thumb to your forefinger should be high in the beavertail, but not extending above it. If there’s flesh above the beavertail, the slide will catch it upon firing, causing an injury. 

Step 3:


Crossing your fingers on a semi-auto handgun can be dangerous. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

NEVER cross your thumbs on a handgun grip. Keeping first aid supplies in your range bag is good practice in case you or a range buddy find out the hard way. Keeping your shooting hand as high as possible in the beavertail ensures you’re properly supporting the gun when it fires. Your trigger finger should be straight and located outside of the trigger guard until you’re ready to fire.

Step 4:

Ensure that your forearm is in line with the barrel of the gun when you move into your firing position. This will help your skeleton absorb the recoil of the handgun when it’s fired. 

Step 5:


Walther Q5 handgun
Keeping your wrist straight, your support hand should snugly wrap your shooting hand and fit flush against the trigger guard. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

Taking your support hand, place it just under the thumb of your support hand and wrap your fingers over the fingers of your shooting hand, already on the grip and under your trigger guard. Your support hand should be high and tight against your shooting hand, touching the trigger guard, and your thumbs should be stacked on top of each other with no gap showing where they touch. If you see a gap, rotate your support hand until your hands are flush. Your thumbs should be pointing forward and toward your target. 

Demonstrating handgun grip
Thumbs should be stacked, but if they're too high may interfere with the slide. (Photo: Ben Philippi/Guns.com)

Some shooters like their thumbs to be high, but I find it may interfere with the slide and prefer them low and forward. Do what works best for you. In a proper grip, there is no space between your two hands. Any space will cause more felt recoil from the energy from the muzzle not being properly transferred to your skeletal system. 

Bonus tip: Once you get the proper position with no gaps, have a buddy draw a straight line down your thumbs with a pen. This will give you a quick reference as to whether (or not) you’re gripping it right on your next dry fire draw. If the lines don’t align, the grip is not right. Practice makes perfect, and perfect practice makes for great shooting. 

Check to make sure your wrist is straight, and your forearm is still in line with the pistol. Cocking your shooting hand wrist will change the position of the pistol. Once your grip is where it should be, align your sights and transition your trigger finger to the trigger. Now you’re ready to shoot. 


If you find that you’re consistently not hitting your targets, checking that you’re properly holding your handgun. Checking for an improper grip is the first place to look to fix the issue. Get out there, practice, and “get a grip” now that you know how to properly hold a handgun!

revolver barrel loading graphic