How to Hold a Handgun for Maximum Accuracy

The handgun is the most difficult firearm to master. It has no stock to brace against your shoulder nor foregrip for the supporting hand to hold. Accuracy is determined by how the weapon is held at a single point of contact.

To hold a handgun for maximum accuracy; assume a solid stance, grip the gun high, and hold it firmly. Place the supporting hand on top of the shooting hand and pull back with it while pushing forward with the gun hand. Practice this in conjunction with dry fire drills to build the muscle memory needed to keep the pistol steady during the trigger squeeze.

Stance

Footwork matters as much with a handgun as it does with a rifle. A solid stance will help you remain steady when you fire the weapon, and it provides a foundation for the work your upper body will do during the shot. The three main firing stances taught today are the Isosceles, the Weaver, and the Power Point. Most other stances are variants of these. Practice all the stances with both your dominant and non-dominant sides.

Isosceles Stance

This stance begins with your feet shoulder-width apart or a little more and your whole body squared off with the target. Using a two-handed grip, drive the pistol away from your body towards the target. The isosceles stance is considered the most natural. The Army teaches it since it keeps a soldier’s body armor oriented towards the target for maximum protection from incoming fire.

Weaver Stance

Also known as the combat stance, the Weaver takes longer to assume than the isosceles but is much steadier. Begin by placing the supporting foot forward and pointed towards the target, with your other foot behind you at a forty-five-degree angle, sort of like a boxer. The firing hand is extended almost all the way, with the supporting hand pulling back on it. With practice, the Weaver stance allows for good control of a pistol, even during rapid fire.

Power Point Stance

Sometimes using two hands is not an option. In these instances, use the power point stance. Assume a foot position like the Weaver, then ball the non-shooting hand into a fist and hold it up tight to the chest while fully extending the shooting hand. This stance is the least stable but will give as solid a foundation as possible for situations when you can only use one hand. 

Mind the Grip – Hold the Gun

How you grip the handgun is even more important (for accuracy) than how you hold your body. Some advocate a loose grip or medium grip, but champion shooter Rob Leatham advocates a tight grip, just shy of white knuckles. A firm grip is especially important in calibers with heavy recoil. 

For autoloading pistols, hold the weapon high on the grip with the web of your hand up tight to the horn on the back of the frame, with the thumbs pointed forward or up. Having the firing hand close to the bore axis helps to mitigate muzzle rise and aids in quick target re-acquisition after the shot. 

A revolver grasp is the same. Hold high on the gun, except tuck the thumbs down out of the way, or wrap the thumb of the supporting hand around the back of the firing hand.

Some individuals prefer to use the cup and saucer (aka Barney Fife) method to hold a handgun where the non-firing hand supports the bottom of the handgun grip with the palm, with the fingers of the hand wrapping up around the firing hand. The cup and saucer is not a bad grip, but it offers less rigidity than other methods. 

Do Practice Drills

Knowing all of these positions and grips does little good if they are not committed to muscle memory. This is where practice drills come in. Dry fire practice will reinforce the motions until they are easy and automatic. When practicing, remember the phrase, “slow is smooth, smooth is fast”. Do not try to be lightning-quick right off the bat. Practice the motions slowly and correctly. Speed will come with time and repetition. Here are two drills to help you get started.

Drill 1: Trigger Squeeze

Start by verifying that your weapon is unloaded. Remove all ammunition from the practice area, and ensure that there is a solid backstop behind it. Tape a target to the wall, mark the center of the bullseye with a black dot and step back so that the target is several inches beyond your muzzle. Take a stance and hold the sights on the dot, slowly squeezing the trigger until the hammer falls. The idea is to keep the sights on the spot through the take-up, break, and let-off of the trigger squeeze.

Repeat this ten times per session. Variations on this drill include bringing the trigger up to the point of firing and holding it there while keeping the sights locked on the dot, or balancing a coin on the front sight and attempting to keep it there through the squeeze. The iTarget laser system is a great tool to use with this drill. The system offers instant feedback, showing the point of impact on the screen, and it tracks your session progress in the app.

Drill 2: The Ready-up 

Set a silhouette target up between three and ten yards. Practice drawing your weapon and firing as soon as the front sight covers the center of the target. Fire one round and re-holster, then repeat. As your confidence builds, start to vary the number of rounds fired so that a specific round count does not become ingrained into muscle memory.

Hold a Handgun for Maximum Accuracy – Conclusion

Every handgun shooter should strive for maximum accuracy. The fundamentals discussed here should give you a good start towards maximizing your potential behind the gun. Practice makes perfect, so go and get you some.

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