As a firearms instructor, I ask my students a series of questions to get them thinking. One of the first questions I ask is, “which one of the seven shooting fundamentals is the most important?” This is certainly a loaded question, and one could argue that they are all important for different reasons. However, if you were to ask which one of the fundamentals is the most misunderstood or the one shooting fundamental that is applied incorrectly most often, the answer would be simple…the grip.
Establishing proper hand placement and proper grip pressure sounds simple enough, but it is one of the more difficult fundamentals for shooters to master. The hands need to be in the right position and the shooter needs to create enough grip pressure to help manage the gun as it recoils. One of the biggest issues that instructors see with grip pressure is not that the shooter struggles to create enough pressure to control the gun, it’s when they apply that pressure and are unable to sustain it consistently throughout the entire string of fire. The primary hand grip and grip pressure need to be established when the pistol is still in the holster. If the shooter can’t establish a proper grip, they need to eliminate whatever is preventing them from getting that proper grip while the gun is still in the holster. This can be an issue more so with IWB holsters that are not set up correctly or carried in the wrong position, but I also see it with poorly designed Kydex holsters or leather holsters that have a retention adjustment which blocks the fingers from getting a good grip.
Good, firm grip pressure also needs to be established for defensive and retention reasons. Once the proper grip pressure is established it needs to be maintained through out the course of fire, being careful not to increase the pressure. Maintaining consistent pressure is very difficult when the pistol’s surface is slippery. Increasing the grip pressure with the primary hand is usually done by trying to squeeze the entire hand around the grip. Our hands are naturally made to wrap around things when we grip them however, increasing the primary hand’s grip pressure while shooting tends to wrap the hand around the gun more and will result in a twisting motion. When the pistol twists in a right-handed shooter’s hand it will usually turn to the left causing rounds to impact left of the point of aim. The opposite is true for left- handed shooters. The support hand is also extremely important in this process. Even though very little of that hand touches the pistol surface, it is wrapped around the fingers of the shooter’s primary hand and can impact the overall grip if not placed properly.
Another factor may be the external temperature and skin surface. The skin’s surface may not play a role when dry, but on hot, humid days it can become very slippery, making the portion of the support hand that is in contact with the pistol much more important. If this little bit of surface is slippery, the support hand could slide around easier and when the support hand slides around, the shooter’s tendency is to increase the grip pressure to help secure the pistol. The problem arises when the grip pressure is increased. The pistol will twist in the direction of the support hand causing rounds to impact left or right of the shooters point of aim, depending on which hand is the support hand. When the surface of the gun is slippery the likelihood of grip issues increases, making point of aim/point of impact shots much more difficult for most shooters.
When a shooter can’t properly manage recoil with their grip, most will try to manage the recoil by pushing forward into the gun as the trigger breaks, often resulting in anticipation breaks or “flinching.” This action will cause rounds to impact much lower than the desired point of aim. Flinching is one of the harder habits to break, mostly because shooters don’t realize they are doing it and the anticipation is so engrained in their neuromotor pathway that breaking the habit can take a good amount of time and practice. With proper hand placement and the proper amount of grip pressure, shooters can effectively manage recoil.
If you are having issues with your point of impact in relation to your point of aim you may have grip issues. It’s always best to seek out a qualified instructor to help you develop and maintain consistent grip position and give a set of TALON GRIPS a try.