How to Hold a Pistol | First Step in Mastering Your Shooting Skills

Why knowing how to hold a pistol is important for your safety?  It is a skill that everyone should have when in need to protect yourself and your family if the occasion arose.

Also, a pistol is safe when handled with proper care. If you do not know how to grip a pistol, it can pose a danger to you and anyone around you. Firearms accidents happen because they were mishandled or the people using them were not trained on how to use and take care of them well. So, work on your pistol shooting drills.

Another important thing is that your aiming, firing and hitting the target depends hugely on how you hold your gun - good grip equals good shooting. This goes for your 9mm gun or any other caliber. If you have smaller hands, go for pocket size pistols for a better grip, like Sig Sauer P365.

If you want to learn how to hold a pistol correctly, follow these steps, but first read our pistol vs revolver in-depth analysis.

How to Hold a Pistol

If you are considering investing in a pistol for defense, there are a couple of things that you should know before you start using it. First of all, you should know how to properly hold it before learning how to aim a pistol

Secondly, you should know safe gun handling rules. Always point your pistol in a safe direction, and away from people.

Never use the firearm to threaten anyone; it should be used only when you are in danger and lastly, get proper training on how to use a gun. This article is just a walkthrough for beginners.

Shooting with 2 hands

Proper handgun grip should be done with 2 hands as you have more stability, and you will shoot with accuracy. However, holding your pistol with 1 hand or 1 handed grip is safe if held correctly.

First of all, hold your pistol with your dominant hand; most people use their right hand. Get a good grip so you can handle the recoil and control each shot. Hold it as high as possible to contain the recoil. This is especially important for full-size guns, like the ones we covered in our Sig Sauer P320 and Beretta M9A3 review.

Your 3 lower fingers (middle, ring, and pinky) should wrap the frame of the pistol and your thumb finger should be above its frame but below the slide.

Use your index finger to pull the trigger. Only put it on the trigger when you are ready to aim or shoot.  Also, make sure that your index finger can pull the trigger comfortably without requiring the help of the other fingers.

Use your non-dominant hand or left hand to help you grip the gun properly. Your left hand should be placed above the frame of the pistol

The thumb of your left hand should be above the frame and all the other 4 fingers (index, middle, ring, and pinky) wrap the frame of the gun.

holding a pistol with two hands

One-Handed Grip

Holding a gun with 1 hand or one-handed grip is not recommended by gun experts. This is because you do not have steadier aiming as you would if you used 2 hands to hold your pistol.

However, if you hold it correctly with 1 hand, you can defend yourself in any situation. One handed grip comes in handy if met with an unexpected attack. Usually, you would shoot using 1 hand.

In addition, if you have an injury on your left hand or it is occupied with a flashlight at night, normally you will use 1 hand to hold your gun. With the proper know-how, you will discover that it is possible to shoot a pistol with 1 hand.

This is how to correctly hold a pistol with 1 hand:

  • Hold your pistol with your dominant hand. If you are right-handed, use your right hand to hold it. If you are left-handed, use your left hand to shoot. 
  • Hold it firmly. You need a solid gun grip for accuracy and maximum control
  • Wrap the frame of the pistol with your 3 lower fingers (middle, ring, and pinky). Place your thumb finger above the frame of the pistol and your index finger should be used to pull its trigger.

Two-Handed Grip Types

Holding a pistol with 2 hands is recommended by many gun experts. As an experienced shooter myself, I like to shoot with my 2 hands because my aim will be accurate and I will be able to control my firearm properly.

2 handed grip types include thumb over thumb grip and straight thumbs technique

This is how to hold a pistol with two hands

  • Hold your pistol with your dominant hand. If you are right-handed, use your right hand to hold the pistol. If you are left-handed, use your left hand.
  • Wrap your 3 lower fingers; middle, ring, and pinky over the frame of the gun.
  • Spread your thumb above the frame of the pistol but down its slide.
  • Use your index finger to pull the trigger when ready.
  • Use the second hand to offer support. Use your 4 fingers; index, middle, ring, and pinky to wrap over the frame of the gun or the top of your first hand. Your thumb finger should rest on top of the frame of the gun.
Holding a gun with two hands

Thumb over thumb grip and straight thumbs technique follow the same procedure that I have discussed here. Their difference is the placement of the thumb.

Dangerous Grip Types

A proper gun grip is essential. The way you hold your pistol will affect your balance, how you pull the trigger, and how you will absorb the recoil.  Like I said before, learn how to shoot with 2 hands as you will have more stability.

Learn how to shoot with 1 hand as well since you may be forced to do so if you are disabled, you are holding a flashlight or 1hand is injured. Dangerous or improper grip types include Tea-cupping and crossed thumbs.

Tea-Cupping Technique

This is a terrible way to hold your gun. Most novice or infrequent pistol shooters hold their guns this way. With this technique, the support hand grips the end of the frame offering gun support.

However, if the gun fires, all energy is transferred to 1 hand and it will be hard to control recoil.  

Crossed thumbs

This is another dangerous way of holding your gun. The slide can seriously injure the crossed thumbs.  Do not cross your thumbs while holding a pistol because you are putting your thumbs in harm’s way.

Slide bite of a pistol is very painful and can send you to the hospital if your thumb has been seriously injured. It occurs mostly with a 2 handed grip. This is why we also covered how to make a pistol slide easier and safely.

Additional Considerations

Safety always comes first when handling or holding a gun.  

Always assume the gun is loaded and master loading and unloading your gun safely.

For shooting skill improvement, practice in a safe place. Always assume your gun is loaded to prevent slip-us that may be caused by the firearm. You should act as if it is loaded even when the gun is clear or there is no magazine in the gun.

Point it in a safe Direction

Gun safety is not only knowing how to hold a pistol correctly but minimizing property damage and causing no physical injuries. You can achieve this by aiming or using your gun in safe places at all times.

If everyone handled a firearm carefully and never aimed at somebody or something they did not want to shoot, there would be no accidents. A safe direction means a bullet cannot hit something or somebody even if there is an accidental discharge.

Do not forget that bullets penetrate walls, wood, ceilings and they can ricochet so consider all these when pointing your pistol in a safe direction.

Practice Trigger Discipline

Do not place your finger at the trigger until you are ready to shot. This will prevent any accidental discharges that are reported regularly.

Firing a Pistol

It is worth noting that there are several things that you need to consider before firing a pistol. For instance, proper firing stance, balance, and stability of the muzzle on the target. So stand properly so you don’t fall when shooting.

To fire a pistol, holding a gun correctly is crucial so your aim will be accurate.

Proper alignment

Proper alignment is one of the basics that you need to master when handling a pistol. Be in line with your target and avoid deviating as you squeeze the trigger. A consistent sight alignment will deliver great accuracy.


The other factor that you need to consider when firing a handgun is mobility. That is the ability to move while shooting, maintaining a good grip and focus. This flexibility will come in handy with a follow-up shot especially if your targets are moving.

Hold the gun with your dominant hand for a better grip

To ensure you get the best grip, take the gun in your dominant hand. That will depend if you’re left or right-handed shooter. Make sure your hand is well wrapped around the gun to avoid it flopping around in your hands. We recommend the equivalent pressure of something like a firm handshake.

Ensure your trigger finger is not on the trigger unless ready to shoot to avoid accidental discharges.

Support the grip with your non-dominant hand

Use your other hand to support your gun grip.  Your four fingers should wrap the frame of the pistol. Place the thumb on the other part of the handgun.

A man shooting

Shooting Stance

The basic starting point of firing a handgun is having the right stance. A proper shooting stance and grip guarantees a solid foundation where you can incorporate other shooting basics.

1.    Weaver stance

The weaver stance is an aggressive shooting technique. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, weight-forward. Hold the gun closer to you with slightly bent elbows allowing good control of the weapon.

This stance allows for a proper handgun grip, firing your weapon with stability and set for mobility. From this position, your toes are pointed at the target and can equally move up, down, left, or right in any direction and still have a good balance.

2.    Isosceles stance

This technique gets its name from the arms and chest making an isosceles triangle. The shooter stands with their feet about a shoulder-width apart, and the legs’ toes pointed at the target and arms fully extended to their full length.

This stance is suitable for people who are a little taller or have trouble bending their knees. Maintain weight-forward to get the best shot on target and also get a good focus for a follow-up shot.

3.    Chapman stance

The Chapman stance is often called the modified Weaver stance. Like the traditional weaver stance, the Chapman stance uses the same basic foot position.

It requires your feet to be shoulder-width apart with toes pointing towards the target, the knees slightly bent, and the strong side leg slightly front.

The major difference between the Chapman and weaver stance is arm placement. In the Chapman stance, your strong arm is fully extended and the supporting arm is bent with the elbow pointing towards the ground.

shooting class

Rack the Slide

You must be able to use your pistol correctly to minimize property damage and for the safety of you and the people around you. Pulling the slide can be a challenge depending on the type and size of the gun. Successfully pulling the slide of your gun isn’t about the muscle but the technique.

It might seem difficult as a beginner but once your hands and muscles are used to the technique, you will become an expert. Here are the steps to follow to rack the slide of your gun.

Step 1

The first step is to get a good grip of your gun with your dominant hand. Keep the muzzle pointing in a safe direction. Make sure to hold it in a correct position so you can absorb as much recoil as possible.

Step 2

Using your non-dominant hand (support hand), wrap your fingers over to grip the other side of the slide.

Step 3

Push the gun away from your body with your strong hand, while your support hand pulls the slide in the opposite direction.

After you have pulled the slide back, immediately let go and allow it to spring back to position on its own.

a gun in the hands

Aim the Weapon

Learning how to aim a weapon is as equally important as knowing how to hold a pistol for accuracy. Aiming is about maintaining steadiness and proper form to make sure that you have hit your target.

In addition, you need a strong grip on the weapon and proper trigger control. When aiming at your target, you will need to keep your non-dominant eye closed.

The aim with your dominant eye

For target sports such as shooting, it is important to determine your dominant eye. Your dominant eye provides a considerably superior degree of accurate information to the brain about an object's location.

How to find your dominant eye

1.    Use your index fingers and thumbs to create a triangle.

2.    Keep both eyes open, find an object in the room such as a wall clock or a light switch, and center it within the triangle that you have created with your hands.

3.    Close your left eye, if the object stays centered in the triangle, your right eye is the dominant one. In case the object has moved outside the triangle frame, your left eye is dominant.

Ensure you have a tight hand grip

When you're aiming, make sure you have a tight grip and a good alignment. If the alignment is not correct or you have not to hold your gun properly, you will shoot low or high. This will result in an inaccurate shot.

A woman aiming

Press the Trigger

Knowing how to pull the trigger is important when handling a handgun. You have to maintain balance, aim correctly where you want to shoot then press the trigger.

Smooth trigger press

Place your finger on the trigger. Take a deep breath and exhale. Then continue to squeeze the trigger maintaining a steady hold and make sure you are in line with your aim until the cartridge ignites. Retain your focus and front sight in case a follow-up shot is required.

To build your marksmanship skills, practice dry-firing your firearm. It goes a long way and saves ammo at the same time. Double check that your gun including the chamber is not loaded. Safety always comes first!

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