For the last six months, or so, I have been repeatedly reminded of the need to have a firm foundation in the basics of good shooting techniques. Some of the safety related ones seem to be almost too basic to have to keep repeating, but then we have yet another tragedy and it seems we apparently have not said such things enough. And then there are basic shooting skills, such as proper sight alignment and smooth trigger manipulation, that also seem so simple as to not need so much repetition. And yet, shooters are still struggling with the effective application of these important basic techniques. Another basic technique that does not get enough attention, based on a lot of personal observation, is the most effective way to grip a handgun used for personal defense. From students, to competitors, to supposedly savvy gun folks I saw testing guns at the SHOT Show, someone needs to help these folks "get a grip."
As I said, I'm talking about shooting a handgun used to defend your life or that of someone you are sworn to protect. The old competitive "bullseye" shooting technique of gently gripping the gun is not useful for self defense. For one thing, the old school theory was that you didn't want to grip the gun so hard as to induce hand tremors. When someone it trying to kill you, you will already be shaking! Also, in the competitive arena, no one is going to be trying to take the gun away from you. This is a distinct possibility on the street. If your hands are sweaty in a match, or you get clumsy and drop your gun, the worst that will happen is that you will have to suffer the humiliation of being disqualified. No one is going to pick the gun up and shoot you with it. Anyone who has spent any time on the street understands how important it is to keep control of all of your equipment, particularly your gun. The funny thing is that having the correct grip on your gun not only helps with keeping it under your control, it also helps you be more accurate.
In today's combat oriented competitions, you do need to shoot quickly and control the recoil of the gun if you expect to score well. You will certainly have to shoot quickly if your life is on the line. That is one reason such competitions are a good training venue, even if they aren't as realistic as we would sometimes like. When I watch successful competitors, I see good grip technique. But among shooters who don't get much trigger time, such as cops going to infrequent qualifications, some bad habits seem to hang on tenaciously. For example, the old "cup and saucer" grip. That's the one where one hand grips the gun and rests in the upturned support hand, like a cup in a saucer. The main problem with this is that no matter how hard you grip with the support hand, the gun recoil will separate your hands and you will have to continually re-establish your support hand grip. Not good in a gunfight. Then there are the folks who still grip auto pistols as if they were revolvers, with their thumb around the back of the slide and over the "drumstick" of the strong hand. This is usually a self-resolving problem, but a painful lesson, nonetheless. And, easily avoidable. I won't even comment here about the old method of grasping your strong hand at the wrist with your support hand. The people behind "Dirty Harry" must have thought that it looked cool when using "the most powerful handgun in the world."