By Steve Lockwood on September 28, 2011

My first article is going to be about grip strength, because I think it is a key factor for successful pistol shooting. No matter what handgun you are using a solid grip is important for any degree of accuracy.

On a single shot target a loose grip may help. The loose grip will help because it removes a lot of muscle spasm/tension; this is good for bullseye type shooting or even trick-shooting. However most of us are not Bob Munden trying to hit an aspirin at 50 yards.

For most people in target shooting, competitive shooting, close quarter combat training we need a firm grip. What I mean by firm is you need to hold the gun a hard as comfortably possible. Too strong and your hands will start to shake. One method usually described is 60/40 which is the percentage of strength each hand will hold the gun. I personally do not like this method because no two people are alike. I will grip the gun as hard as I possibly can then back off about 15-20%. When gripping hard my hands will tremble, but backing down to about 85% will hold secure with comfort for long periods of time.

The firm grip allows for quick recovery of the pistol. The stronger our upper body is the easier it is to deal with recoil. Gripping the gun hard will make it sit still in the hand while maintaining a proper firing grip; this allows for a faster more accurate second shot. This is also a key element of “visualized” recoil. If we watch a child shoot a Glock 17 9mm chances are we will see the gun come way up in front of their face during recoil. Give that same gun to an auto mechanic and the gun will hardly move. I call this visualized recoil because to the ill advised they will assume the Glock 17 is hard recoil watching a child shoot and the same works for the opposite. People will watch a YouTube video of someone shooting that same Glock and assume it doesn’t have a lot of recoil so they go buy it and wham it kicks them like a mule.

Granted there is more to recoil then a firm grip, i.e. types of grip, which I will go over another time.

We will never see someone who doesn’t have the ability to hold a gun secure with quick splits. Splits are the time in between shots. This is relevant once again for those of us who have to fire the second shot in quick succession. The competitive shooter, CQB operator, etc. should focus on grip strength to allow for that faster recovery and sight acquisition. For example, think of the gun as a car and your hands as piece of cardboard, if a car hits that cardboard the cardboard will break and not stop that car. Now picture your hands as a brick wall, if the car (gun) hit the brick wall (hand strength) the car will come to an immediate halt. We want our grip to overcome the recoil as much as possible to keep the gun from moving as much as possible. One method I personally use is a grip strengthener. I keep it in the car this way whenever I drive I can work on grip strength. Unfortunately most of the strengtheners sold in retail stores are inadequate and usually only 30 pounds. 30 lbs is fine to start but to progress the weight needs to increase.

For beginners who are just starting out or people who have injuries or who just don’t have the physical abilities yet there are alternate methods. Gun weight is the big factor here. Glocks for example are in the 25 oz. range, with a .40 S&W that’s going to recoil pretty harsh. But if I hand someone who falls in this category a 45 oz 1911, the gun will absorb more recoil. If all you have is a lighter weight gun there are methods to increase weight like tungsten guide rods, recoil springs, and brass magwells, anything that adds weight should make the gun more pleasant to shoot.

Lastly I want to mention Newton’s Law. Every action has an equal yet opposite reaction. This means the gun is firing a projectile forward that means something has to be doing the opposite. The slide is moving back from the gasses create inertia. This inertia is turned into recoil in the gun. I am not going to go into the technicalities of a recoiling gun right now but point being the gun will recoil. I can’t stress this fact enough. Too often I hear people say “oh that’s a 9mm there’s no recoil to that” or “competition shooters use wimpy non recoil loads, that’s why they can shoot that way” that is all nonsense. If the gun did not have recoil then the gun is not firing a projectile. If the gun has no recoil the slide which is mass, did not move to the rear. So when firing a gun regardless of what anyone says there will be recoil. How you handle the recoil is the key.