I spent October 23-24, 2010 with Tom Givens of Rangemaster taking his Combative Pistol 2 course, hosted at KR Training. While my general AAR is here, there were some things that came up in class that I wanted to speak about in greater detail. What follows is inspired by something Tom said or we did in class, but is ultimately my take on things and how thoughts gelled in my head. I would encourage you to train with Tom Givens, if you ever have the chance. Reading my blather is no substitute.
Tom Givens said something in class that made the light bulb in my head turn on.
You see, I’ve struggled with grip. It’s due in part to the shape of the gun grip, the size of my hands, and then everyone and their mother having a theory on grip. Todd Jarrett and his “grip 20% harder” kung-fu grip. Bill Rogers and gripping hard and being solid like a 2×4. Then Brian Enos and his neutral gripping just enough for consistent recoil. And the list can go on. I’ve been trying them all with varying levels of success.
Now I will say, while everyone has a different flavor on it, they all are striving for the same thing: consistency. You want the gun to behave in a consistent manner, where it goes bang, the gun moves due to recoil, then comes right back to where you started, then bang and recoil follows the same path as before, then comes right back to where you started, and so on. There’s no need to hunt for the front sight because your eyes never left that focus point and the gun comes right back. So, the “right grip” is one that’s consistent.
But there was something about the way Tom described it that just gelled for me.
Look at the shape of a gun grip, especially if you have a plastic-framed double-stack gun (Glock, XD, M&P, Sig, etc.). The shape is like a rectangle with the corners rounded off. It’s not a circle. Now, how do you grip a baseball bat? The bat is circular and when you grip it your grip pressure is evenly spread all around the bat… it’s a circular grip. Now, how do you grip pliers? Your hand works more like a clamp, exerting just a “front to back” pressure. It’s a little hard to describe, but try it. The pressure your hand exerts holding a baseball bat vs. holding pliers are two different things.
Grip the gun like pliers. Your strong hand (right hand, for me) should clamp the gun’s grip like pliers, exerting that front-to-back pressure. Not a “round” pressure like a bat.
Now your weak/support hand (left hand, for me). The tendons in your hand are joined, thus when you move your trigger finger, your other fingers move as well. Due to that, moving the trigger causes your other fingers to move thus cause your gun to move in unwanted ways. This is where a good trigger job that minimizes pull weight and travel distance makes a big difference. Setting that aside, what your support hand can do to help reduce this? When your support-hand fingers wrap around your strong hand, depress those support fingers atop your strong-hand fingers and tendons (on the back of the hand) like those support-fingers were pressing guitar strings. Just clamp down on them. That helps minimize the sympathetic movement.
Strong hand gives front to back pressure, support hand gives left-right pressure. Each hand is exerting pressure along a unique axis with no overlap. You still have to have a very strong white-knuckle grip, but it’s the way/direction that grip pressure is applied.
For some reason, that explanation turned on a light bulb in my head. I tried that grip all weekend, and it made a huge difference. YMMV. That felt “right” to me. It felt awkward because I wasn’t used to it, and my forearms are pretty sore now from gripping the hell out of the gun all weekend. But there we go! I’ll be working with this grip for a while to see where it takes me. So far tho, so good.
But here’s one key thing: always perform this grip. The moment your hands come together at position 3 of the draw, you should have this grip going, including all that white-knuckle pressure. You don’t relax it until you’re putting the gun back in the holster. For me, I need to get better about this in dry fire practice. Some time ago I realized that my brain wasn’t caring about grip pressure in dry practice because my brain knew it was dry and thus no recoil and thus no reason to exert. I’ve been working to overcome this, but still would find my grip fading because I’d be thinking about whatever it was I was working on, which wasn’t grip. But now I have an explicit grip technique to focus on, so I will do my best to work on that in dry fire, in live fire, always.