Chris Sajnog demonstrates the correct pistol grip.

Proper Pistol Grip – Retired Navy SEAL Teaches Pistol Grip

Hi, I’m retired Navy SEAL sniper instructor Chris Sajnog and founder of The New Rules of Marksmanship. In this post, I’m going to teach you how to grip your pistol properly. Now let’s go ahead and get started. The importance of a proper pistol grip cannot be overemphasized. Don’t think that your pistol is just something you’re holding on to and trying to control, really make it part of your body. If you use the techniques that I described here, it’s going to feel that way. A proper shooting grip is a cure for the common recoil.

Proper Pistol Grip


Let’s go ahead and show you how to set up the right pistol grip. Now the first thing that I want you to do is always start with your pistol outside of any holster. Just start with it in your non-shooting hand. Put your shooting hand up on the back of the gun as high up as you can.

You want to have your skin tenting up there. Don’t make it so high that it’s going to interfere with the slide, but as high up as you can possibly get it. That’s going to really help ensure that you are supporting the gun as well as possible.

When this gun fires, it’s going to go straight back. Because of the way these firearms are designed, you can not put your hand directly behind that energy. So we want to get it up as high as possible to have a mechanical advantage. 

Chris Sajnog shows where you put your hand on a pistol

Arm Angle

Next, in this proper pistol grip, you also then want to make sure that your arm is directly in line with your firearm. This is why it’s so important to start outside of the holster because when most people grab a firearm from the holster, they are nowhere near in line with that.

So that means the energy is going to be coming straight back and forcing my elbows to bend and my whole structure to break down.

What you want to do is you want to take away any spot on the gun that that energy could go to, because energy is always going to go to the path of least resistance. So if I have an open space in here, the energy is going to be forced into that. Say, for instance, I have a little space where the energy could go, well, some of the energy is going to push back that way, and I’m going to be pushing to that side. We don’t want to do that.

So we are going to cover this up as much as we can. You also want to have your hands down at a 45-degree angle and that is a perfect pistol grip.

How to Grip a Pistol


To know how to grip your pistol, one of the biggest misconceptions or pieces of just bad information that I have heard for over 25 years in teaching firearms is that your finger needs to go to a specific place on the face of this trigger. That could not be further from the truth.

The place this came from is professional shooters with very heavy guns and very light triggers. They didn’t need to worry about having a good grip and they didn’t need to worry about manipulating their trigger properly.

All they had to do was just touch that trigger and the gun was going to go bang. With self-defense pistols like you’re shooting, that gun-to-trigger weight ratio is the difference that makes shooting harder.

If you’re trying to put your finger somewhere on a trigger where somebody tells you to like the hat of the tip of your finger or something like that, it’s not going to work for you. You need to set up your grip first and then let your finger land where it may on the face of that trigger. That’s going to be the perfect spot for you.

Testing Your Position

We’re all different as shooters. So with that, there are some things that you can test to make sure that you are in a good shooting position. 

  1. Number one is to point your gun straight up, and the thumb of your support hand, and your trigger finger should be about even.
  2.  Another thing you can do here is let go of the gun with your bottom fingers, and the gun should stay straight. So that means that on the top of my gun, I’m supporting it as well.
  3. Now another way that you can test to make sure that you have a good grip, is just to bring the gun up and look down the sights and just squeeze the grip as hard as you can. Your gun should be shaking, but not in one specific direction. It should still stay straight while you squeeze it.  
  4. Another way is to ask yourself, “Are you shooting consistently in the center of your target.” If you’re not one of the first culprits could be your grip. 
  5. “When you shoot, does the gun jump out of your hands?” This means that you will have a big recoil because you don’t have a proper grip. 

A little piece of bonus advice is to work on your grip strength. It’s super important. The stronger your hands are, the more you’re going to be able to control that gun and put rounds where you want to. So that’s it for now in this proper pistol grip. Until next time, keep paving your path to perfection

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