The Second Habit of Highly Effective Shooters
Your grip is your connection to your weapon system. Without a good grip, your weapon will go to the path of least resistance and your shots will fly aimlessly off their mark. Most novice shooters will grip their gun by copying what they've seen in pictures or movies, but there's a better way! Don't follow Hollywood. Think outside the box — hell, ACT outside the box and you'll tighten up those ugly shot groups in no time!
The most important part about gripping your gun correctly is selecting a gun that fits your hand. Guns are built to a variety of specifications and so are your hands. It’s a good idea to start off with something that fits your hand rather than try to adjust your grip to fit a gun. Head out to your favorite Gun Mart before you purchase a gun to see how it feels in your hand. Some guns these days have different grips or back straps you can change out for a better fit, so check to see if these are available. The gun should fit comfortably in your hand with the forearm of your firing hand in a direct line behind the pistol, and your trigger finger should be able to reach the trigger without dragging along the side of the gun. We’ve all heard the saying, “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” When it comes to guns, “If the gun doesn’t fit, you’re not going to hit.”
Now that you’ve selected the right piece of equipment, let’s talk about how to control that explosion going off in your hands. When you grip the gun, make sure that the forearm of your strong hand is in line with pistol. Just like I talked about in the First Habit of Highly Effective Shooters, it’s important to have as much of your body behind the gun as possible to control recoil, and it starts here with a pistol. Your hand needs to be as high up the gun as possible. In a perfect world, you would have your hand directly behind the barrel, but guns have moving parts up there making this impossible. Keeping this in mind, your hand should be high enough on the grip so the webbing of your hand is compressed on the beaver-tail. Wrap your hand around the gun and make sure your trigger finger is not riding along the side of the grip as this can pull the gun off target as you press back on the trigger. Don’t get caught up on placing your trigger finger in a certain spot on the trigger. Everyone’s hands are built differently, and what works well for a paper shooter on a one-way range may not work for you when you hear the snap of rounds whizzing past your pineapple. Just make sure you’re able to press the trigger straight back while keeping your sights on target.
If you’re using a two-handed technique (and I suggest you do whenever possible), the support or reaction hand should be placed with the palm of the hand filling the space on the grip left by the strong hand. To do this your support hand should be angled down at about a 45-degree angle. Some people teach a 60/40 grip for how hard you should be gripping the gun. I teach a 100/100 grip since that’s what you’re going to do in combat and it’s best to think about how you’re going to drop the threat rather than how hard you’re squeezing the gun. Both your thumbs should be pointing forward. I’ve found that the more things you have pointed at your target, the better chance you have at hitting it.
The grip for the firing hand of a carbine is the same as a pistol. The gun is controlled with the support hand, leaving the strong hand to concentrate on fire control. Before I talk about the forward grip of the carbine, I need to talk about accessories such as lights or lasers. Before you start tricking out your bang-stick with cool-guy gear, make sure you can shoot it accurately. Take it out to the range and establish a solid shooting position and note where your forward hand grips the gun. Now look at the open space you have available…this is where you need to mount accessories. I see a lot of guys on the range saying they can’t grip the gun properly because something is in the way. Don’t let the tail wag the dog! You need to be able to shoot effectively first or that cool new light is not going to do you any good.
Now that we’ve cleared the playing field, grip your gun as far out on the gun as possible. I ask my students; if you were going to nail a 2×4 to a wall and only had two nails, where would you put the nails to give you the most support? The answer is always the same, as far apart as possible. If you want to support your gun, you need to do the same thing. There are a number of different ways to grip the gun, but it’s important that some part of your hand is above the level of the barrel. The recoil of the gun is going to kick the gun up. If you’re trying to hold the gun from underneath, it’s going to bounce out of your hand every time. For the same reason it’s important that you take that hinge-point (elbow) out of the equation. Most people I see on the range shoot with the support elbow directly beneath the gun giving the weapon a perfect hinge to move around. By simply rotating the arm out to the side, you eliminate the hinge and are better able to drive the gun. As with the pistol, I like to point anything I can at the target. In this case, depending on your grip, you can either point your thumb or your index finger.
Get a Grip!
If you didn’t want to read all the fine-print above, make sure you write this stuff down in your range book:
- Select a gun that fits your hand.
- Establish your grip from the holster.
- Get your forearm in a direct line behind the gun.
- Get your hand as high as possible on the gun.
- Squeeze the gun with both hands…hard.
- Put your finger where it fits and press straight back.
- Point everything you can at your target.
- Remove hinge points.
- Dry fire!
Checkout my book, How to Shoot Like a Navy SEAL for the complete guide to combat marksmanship fundamentals.