HGR 043 - Grips & Grip Technique

This week, Matt Hoffman and I discuss grip technique (how you hold a handgun) & grips (what grip options you have on your handgun). I will also talk about my recent experience with the Glock 42 and XDs 4.0 9mm!!

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Week in Review:


  • Shot a Mossberg 500 with ATI furniture and a Magpul AFG on the pump. At first, I wasn’t sure how that would affect my shooting as I was so used to having a particular grip on the shotgun, but that AFG really allowed me more control over the pump without radically altering my hold.
  • Really interested in the stuff I’m seeing come out about the Walther CCP. If it can utilize some of the advantages that the H&K P7 had, it is sure to be a hit!


      *   Shot my first match of the season. It was an IDPA match and I shot it with an M&P. Shot                      fair but really missed my revo’s. Hope to hit 2 more matches and a practice day before NRA                 World shoot.

Discussion: Glock 42 & XDs 4.0:

This weekend, I got a chance to shoot the Glock 42 and the XDs 4.0. I was really impressed with both guns. Below are some links to the videos from this week’s range session.

Glock 42 .380 ACP:

  • I know I bashed this gun, but I am now a convert. The first time I picked it up, it’s lack of weight was astounding. Firing the first magazine and grouping all of my shots almost all in a 1 inch circle and the gun barely recoiling confirmed my suspicion that this would be a very good shooting .380 ACP pistol. The sights are also wonderful. Best sights I’ve seen on a .380 pistol yet (now if they were only metal). If you can reliably run heavy for caliber .380 rounds through this gun, it will be a great choice.

Springfield XDs 4.0 9mm:

  • The Springfield XDs 4.0 takes from the playbook of a small grip frame with a long slide. It is executed well, with good craftsmanship and wonderful sights. The trigger is great too. It comes with two magazines, one fitting flush with the grip and the other offering a pinky rest/grip extension. While I do not care for grip safeties, this one is done rather well, being higher up, right under the grip tang where it belongs. On the larger XD’s I would often have trouble with the grip safety being fully depressed; not so on this gun. Very highly recommended for IWB carry.

Main Topic: Grips & Grip Technique

When shooting a handgun, the fit of the gun is EXTREMELY important. This CANNOT be overstated. Making sure that the firearm fits properly in your hand will allow you to have the proper control of the gun, both during trigger manipulation and recoil. Improper fit can cause you to use improper trigger technique, leading to a loss of accuracy and maybe making the handgun painful to fire. Changing the grips on the handgun (if possible) can oftentimes make the gun fit better for you and allow you the proper control. Sometimes though, we must accept the fact that no matter what grip we put on the gun, it is just too big (or too small) to fit our hand and we must find one that does. Thankfully, many modern striker-fired handguns are coming with multiple grips (or grip adapters) that allow for a wider range of hand sizes to utilize the firearm. We are just going to go over some of the different types of grips that are out there that may assist you, along with some technique pointers in handling the handgun.


  • “Splinter” or Factory wood Grips (Especially S&W J-Frames): The so-called “splinter” grips were the typical factor grips put on the S&W J-frames up until S&W switched to synthetics in the early 90’s. The splinter grips leave a large space between the frontstrap and the back of the trigger guard. This puts your hand up high in the back of the trigger guard and can cause some discomfort under recoil. Those folks with smaller hands may find the splinter grips comfortable to grip, but not so comfortable under recoil. There are methods of changing this. Some people install a Tyler T-Grip (or the more available and modern BK Grip Adaptor) to fill in the space between the frontstrap and trigger guard. This setup is great for pocket carry, because it allows for a smooth, stick-free grip, with the space filled in.
  • “Boot” Grips: These can be had in synthetic plastic, rubber, or smooth wood. The boot grip functions much the same way as the Tyler T Grip adaptor. The boot grip DOES NOT cover the backstrap (which can make a difference in finger placement on the trigger) and it fills in the frontstrap area to allow for better control and comfort. The boot grip also does not extend below the bottom of the metal grip frame AT ALL, allowing for maximum concealability. I personally have some Altamont Silver-Black wood boot grips on my Model 60 S&W and they are wonderful. They allow for great pocket carry (being smooth wood) and they position my finger perfectly on the trigger for fast & accurate double-action work.
  • Factory Wood “Target” Stocks or “Coke Bottle” Grips: Both the factory “Target” grips and the “Coke Bottle” grips are similar in construction and function. They have a large flare at the very bottom of the grips, and they narrow toward the top. The “Coke Bottle” grips have a slight swell in the center of the grips if you are looking at them directly from behind, almost taking on an old Coke bottle shape. These stocks are rarely comfortable except for those people with larger hands. I have fairly large hands and the wood target grips on my Model 19 are not the greatest for quick double-action firing.
  • Hogue/Pachmayr Rubber Grips: On many handguns today, rubber grips much in the style of Hogue or Pachmayr are installed on new guns leaving the factory. Hogue and Pachmayr have offered rubber grips for many semi-autos and revolvers. Some grips utilize finger grooves (which I DETEST!) and some do not. Pachmayr grips for the 1911 typically cover the frontstrap of the gun, allowing for better purchase on the firearm. The Hogue & Pachmayr grips can offer much more comfort in terms of recoil, with the soft rubber grips absorbing some of that initial shockwave.
  • Wooden Specialty Grips: A number of different custom grip makers are out there for you to utilize! I used Altamont for my J-Frame, but they are a somewhat larger company that produces a few different product lines. There are custom grip makers such as Ahrends grips that can make a grip fit to your personal specifications. There are hundreds of different grip shapes, each of which has their distinct advantages and disadvantages. These custom grip makers will work with you to pick the particular wood you want on your handgun, and will match those wood pieces so the grain matches on both sides of the grip. They can take a measurement of your hand and manufacture the grip just right so your finger falls in the proper place on the trigger each and every time. Some of my favorites are Badger Grips, Eagle Grips & Esmeralda Grips along with Ahrend's Grips that were mentioned above.

Some Pointers about grip technique on the handgun:

  • Like I stated before, your grip technique on the handgun is NUMBER ONE to proper control. It is also important that the gun you choose has all the controls placed in such a way that they can be manipulated without you shifting your grip, or with you shifting your grip in the tiniest way possible! Guns with slide-mounted safeties are notorious for forcing the shooter to shift his/her grip in order to manipulate it. Even people who have larger hands like myself have trouble with the safety on guns such as the S&W Autos like the 59 and the Beretta autos with the slide mounted safeties. These are great guns, don’t misunderstand me, but they require that you shift your grasp pretty substantially to manipulate the gun. Efficiency is key to running a handgun smoothly and quickly.
  • Keep in mind where your trigger finger falls in relation to the trigger. You typically want the trigger to fall somewhere on the first pad of your finger. Any further than that, and you risk pulling the barrel off to the side when you press the trigger. Altering the grip on your handgun can put the trigger further down your finger or more toward the tip. On revolvers, altering where your finger falls can be achieved by changing to a grip that covers the backstrap (or doesn’t, depending upon your needs) or incorporates a slight palmswell.
  • Recoil is also an important factor when it comes to gripping the handgun. I have seen many uninstructed first time shooters holding the handgun WAYYYY down on the grip, with almost an inch between the web of their hand and the beavertail or tang. This will cause the gun to pivot, as the bore is much higher above the hand than intended. Instructing people in the proper grip with the web of the hand tucked tightly under the tang will prevent any injuries to the shooter and will allow them to be far more accurate with their handgun.
  • Grip shape tends to alter the recoil characteristics of the handgun. I have heard many times that “That S&W Model 29 in .44 Magnum hurts the hell out of my hand!” yet then I see that same person shoot a Ruger Blackhawk in .44 with the single-action “plowhandle” style grip without any problems. The difference is in the grip shape. The S&W grip is optimized for double-action shooting because it is a double-action revolver. the Ruger uses the classic single-action plowhandle shape, and this causes the gun to roll in the hand. Oftentimes,this rolling action is far more comfortable as the recoil energy takes a different path than it does with the grip optimized for double-action work.