Nonsense from a Utah PD

Nonsense from a Utah PD
Nonsense from a Utah PD
Nonsense from a Utah PD
Nonsense from a Utah PD

Over the weekend, I gave a private shooting lesson to a young man who’s looking to become a police officer. This kid is having trouble with the shooting portion of the academy and came to me because he’s not sure he’s going to be able to qualify.

The truth is, most police department qualifications are a joke. They don’t raise the bar very high because they want to be able to get as many officers through as possible (I can say this because I witnessed it myself when I was a police officer). However, when you move up to the Federal level, such as FBI, Secret Service, etc., the qualifications do become more challenging.

So, when I heard this kid was having trouble qualifying at first I thought he might just be a terrible shooter. But before I started training him I asked him how he had been taught to shoot, the grip he was using, and how he drew the gun from the holster, etc.

Well… it didn’t take me long to quickly realize the (Utah) academy this kid was attending has instructors who are giving him horrible advice and these instructors have obviously not been keeping up with modern firearms training.

First, the instructors are telling this kid that he should barely be holding the gun with his gun hand, and that the support hand should be providing all the pressure on the gun. They literally told him that they should be able to walk up to him on the firing line and be able to slap the gun out of his hand because he should be holding it with such little force.

Now, it doesn’t take a genius to see the lack of wisdom in this advice. If you draw your gun and somebody were to attempt to take it away from you, is it really a good idea to hold the gun so daintily that they could quickly strip it from your hand?

Unfortunately, it gets even worse…

These instructors are teaching the old “cup and saucer” shooting grip. If you’re not familiar with this “google” it and you’ll see why it’s a bad grip that hasn’t been taught in decades by reputable agencies.

The grip that I recommend and that the top shooters in the world use is the Thumbs Forward shooting grip. This allows you to put a lot of flesh on the gun and when new shooters try this grip it almost always improves their accuracy.

Of course, I showed the kid the Thumbs Forward grip and I told him he needed to grip the gun harder and I better never be able to slap the gun out of his hand. But guess what? The instructors at this academy will not allow him to use the grip I showed him. They have told him he has to do it the way they teach shooting and nothing else.

And that’s the real reason I wrote today’s article because that’s what really annoys me.

Like I just mentioned, I use the Thumbs Forward grip and so do the majority of good shooters. But the fact is, the most important thing in the world is if you can hit your target. So if you come to me and want to try another grip and with this other grip you shoot better, then by all means, as long as you’re still obeying the 4 safety rules then use that other grip.

It’s a shame to see law enforcement agencies who are 1) teaching terrible firearms training and 2) who are not open minded and not allowing their officers to grip the gun a different way if it’s what works for them.

Whether you’re in law enforcement or not, I always recommend keeping an open mind because you never know when you’re going to discover a new shooting method that works better for you. But, when you find something that doesn’t, no instructor (police or civilian) should force you to shoot their way and their way only.

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Jason Hanson is a former CIA Officer and author of The Covert Guide to Concealed Carry. He is also the creator of the Ultimate Concealed Carry Experience, which allows you to take your concealed carry training without leaving home. For full details about this training, please visit Concealed Carry Academy. You can also follow him on Google+ and Twitter.
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A retired police instructor that I know (currently well into his 80s) has been teaching several generations of police, and many CHL classes about how to hold a gun. He bases it on how he was taught and on his years of practical experience.

I find absolutely nothing wrong with his method which he describes thus:

Hold the gun in your strong hand. Now squeeze, tighter and tighter, and tighter, untill your hand begins to tremble. Now back off the pressure until your hand just stops trembling. That is how tight you should be holding the gun. Much tighter than you would expect.

Now bring up the weak hand, and apply as much flesh as you can to the open side of the grip. Apply a lot of pressure there too. Keep your thumbs pointing forward, that way they will NEVER creep back behind the slide of a semi-auto.

If you find your groups spreading out to the left (if you are right handed) try increasing the pressure from the left hand. This usually controls it.


This guy would have a fit if he found anyone calling themselves a firearms instructor using the methods of these Utah “instructors”.


Having also taught police officers I agree completely. The training the average “street cop” receives is abysmal. The re-qualification course once, or at most twice, a year is a joke. And then they wonder why they end up with situations like the one in L.A. Where a suspect is shot 13 times but a total of 108 shots are fired! Where did the remaining rounds go? Nobody seems to know, fortunately no innocent civilians were hit. Or the more famous one where seven innocent bystanders were accidentally shot by N.Y. City Police Officers at the Empire State Building and THEN received medals from the mayor! They should have been taken off the street and retrained.

As an LEO and instructor for more than 30 years this whole idea that police are so well trained is nothing more than an ongoing myth.


And between the two officers, 18 rounds were put down range at the fleeing suspect — who was not hit!


Bill Jordan wrote, on being in the Border Patrol; the sun would go down and the shooting would start, hundreds of rounds fired by sunrise, no one hit and a good time was had by all.

Little could he have imagined…….


In Pensacola, FL…Two Officers fired like 15 -17 rounds from the end of a normal driveway and only hit the man twice. The Car and House were the location for the rest of the rounds. Luckily they were bad as the man was only looking in his own vehicle for a cigarette and lived!


This is nothing new. When I was a Small Arms Coach for the US Coast Guard in the ’80s, things got interesting when we had to qualify a bunch of reservists.

60-75% of reservists who were full-time civilian Police Officers FAILED the Basic Pistol Marksmanship Course (BPMC / old Navy “F” course). I can’t tell you how many temper-tantrums I witnessed and accusations hurled at me that the course of “BS”, “unrealistic”, etc. It especially hurt their feelings because they usually arrived with an arrogant attitude prior getting splashed with a dose of marksmanship reality.

What was really interesting is that reservists in engineering divisions (mechanics, electricians, damage controlmen, etc.) scored higher than full-time active duty boarding teams, and totally SMOKED the civilian LEOs. We qualified LEOs with the Engineering teams for a reason.

Gregory Tbd

Makes sense that engineers are better shots generally having a better knowledge of physics in general. As for tantrums, lots of egos there I’m sure.


Did you contact the UTAH Police Training Academy and ask them if this is their suggested method and why?

Unkl Bob

Thank you for the E-Z lesson on how to disarm a UT police officer. As to the thumbs forward; Mind your weak side thumb placement. The slide on a large caliber semi auto can cause a lot of damage.
Unkl Bob


I don’t want to poke the “thumbs forward” bear. That position originated in the 80’s with competitive shooting. To this day I and a number of instructors maintain it’s not as stable a platform as the “weak thumb over strong thumb” grip that has been used in combat for a very long time. Both are equally accurate, it’s simply a matter of stability of platform and ease and quickness of release of the magazine.


Yup, Isosceles with your gun sticking out three feet in front of you, so you can’t move without the thing bobbing around, or better yet have to take the gun OFF target to move at all, is WAY better than a grip that keeps the gun close and tight and allows you to move freely and clear rooms easily.
The ‘you shouldn’t hold on to your gun’ story is ridiculous, but I’ve heard it taught that the off hand does the most of the actual holding grip, so the trigger hand isn’t changing its geometry when the trigger is pulled. Either the instructor or the student may have just misunderstood that.

Either way, saying a different grip from what ‘the cool kids use’ is WORSE than NOT HOLDING ON to your firearm firmly, is just shameful, and made it easy to write off every word you had to say. Further, mocking another method or system that WORKS EXTREMELY well for MANY other shooters is unbecoming, and saying ‘the internet will tell you why it sucks’ even more so.

Daniel Larson

Mick, you make some good points. I would only point out though that while the “Cup & Saucer” method is fine for revolvers and very small autos, it is not neccissarily the best method for full sized autos. If you “Cup & Saucer” a full sized auto, you generally wind up pushing the butt of the pistol up in the grip and creating a gap between the web of the hand and the beaver tail area which can cause increased felt recoil and decreased accuracy as well as possible short cycles which can cause stove pipes and other malfunctions. I myself teach the thumbs forward method because it is a much stronger and more controlling grip as well as being universal to nearly every handgun made. However I give my students the option to find what works best for them and coach them along the way. Most of my students find the thumbs forward grip to be the one they go with. Just my two cents.


I get that. I’ve trained (and had to qualify) with isosceles as well, but never really noticed the added ‘structure’ under the beaver tail. I see that even now as I’m taking a look at the grip. I’ve always trained to fix the ‘seating’ on the draw, but I can certainly see the benefit of that almost as a side effect of the grip that you don’t have to consider. I’ll keep it in mind next time I get to the range. Thanks.

nic h

Perhaps this explains why NYC police (and others) have a hbit of hitting more civilians than bad guys, or their seemingly use of spray and pray tactics!


Thank you for the Utah intel. Maybe one reason why several states do not recognize Utah CC? Agree with your method of firm grip, isometrics for control is used by my active Xe and LEO instructors. All of my courses have been taught that method. I attend extra courses periodically, just to stay current.. The ‘limpy grippers’ should fire a Casul or any other ‘real gun’ to learn a lesson. 44 mag can enjoy the freedom… to ‘Fly’.


The Utah CC permit is recognized in a lot of states, in fact one more than Florida if you are a UT resident vs FL resident. I have one in addition to my WA permit, it afforded me the most USA coverage possible where I travel. Yes, there are a few differences in states allowed between adding FL or UT.


My NM or Utah CCW is recognized in Wash State. My Utah CCW is coverage in many
others. We travel in a motor coach (always armed) and stay away from all
eastern states, no more highways through Illinois for sure, since they
are now highly prone to legal issues, they don’t need any of our money.
Obama sends them enough.

Now the patrol’s computers tell them
you are CCW. Son was asked, (he wasn’t carrying at the time). Local NM
city cop just asked and let it go at that. Susanna Martinez, NM (R) Gov

Texas state cop didn’t even ask me, during stop of our
coach last year. C.S. Seat belt violation cost over $300 for the two of

California 101 N state line border agent boarded the coach, on
the way out of S Ore and looked around. He didn’t ask about weapons.
Canada Border Patrol boarded and searched the coach for over 25 minutes,
after asking if I was a gun owner. International Falls US, Border
Patrol X rayed the entire coach on the way back into US. Washington state, our
yearly fall trip through Wyoming Utah, Idaho, Montana, has Never given us trouble. Oregon doesn’t recognize, but just wants
tourists… with money.

Too much hassle, in comparison to just a
few years back, we no longer go into Canada and stay away from states
where unwelcome. Colorado is ‘now’ a bit dicey. Very uneasy passing
through California. Few more years and we will stay in NM, Utah,
Arizona, Texas and camp at state parks. Saves lots of money, keeps it
here near NM :>)

james lagnese

May be the author should contact the academy.


Hey John, I see this to. Being here in Utah I have had to train/retrain a lot of individuals who have been instructed in this manner. Believe me that it is a growing trend.


I understand your frustration Jason. I spent nearly 30 years in law enforcement and sought outside training on many occasions because I knew I needed as much training as I could get. It paid off. In this situation, while you are correct, this young man has a decision to make. He either has to decide to do things as his agency wants so he can get the job with them – OR – he has to decide their training is so dangerous that a job with them is simply not worth it. He has to make that decision.

You can’t go to his agency for him an argue their policies. Jason, you were in law enforcement and you know what that will result in for him. I think nearly every police agency has some kind of training that
borders on goofy. Quite often their goofy polices & practices are in place to satisfy political and legal protections for the agency and City. It’s wrong, but that’s the reality. That is why so many of us in law enforcement seek additional training. Just as you and I did.

At least he now knows there are indeed “other” ways of doing things that are often superior to the training he’s receiving. The military also taught me to do a lot of stuff back in ‘Nam that I wouldn’t exactly recommend to anyone today LOL. When they’re watching him in training he should just do things their way. However, should the stuff ever hit the fan he should do what really works. Meanwhile, he should be networking to transfer to another agency. But Jason, I can honestly tell you that ANY police agency he goes to there will be policies and procedures that are sometimes questionable or less than ideal. It’s just the way it is I’m afraid.

Franklin J Clair Jr

Jason, I’m not an expert but I was taught the same method you use.

Sir TuberKopf

Son of a NY cop taught me how to hold a handgun.

Take an average weight 22 rifle and hold it by the hand grip only with two hands like it was a handgun, and hold it tight enough to control it. That is how firmly you need to hold a handgun of any calibre.

The dominant hand and arm locked and the weak hand pulling back as firmly as you can without shaking. Place your thumb where it gives the firmest grip without interfering with the action or your grip. Thumb forward back or up, whatever works best for the weapon, grip size, and you.

The last time we shot together was with a silly airgun in my basement, at air rifle targets (pistol targets weren’t challenging enough). Yes and even with an air pistol this is how firmly a handgun should be held. We shot for over ten minutes before one of us missed the ten ring. Did I say these were 25 foot rifle targets with a ten ring the size of a .177 pellet! The loser bought the beer. Ahhh it was tasty!

What works best, works!

Sir TuberKopf

After reflecting on this for a day, I wanted to add; it’s all about the grip. For many LEO’s the weapon is not a choice, it is a standard you must conform to, regardless of the fact that they are people with different size and shape hands. However, the grips on the weapon can often be customized to accommodate different hand sizes and shapes.

Don’t overlook subtle differences available through grip upgrades or modifications. If your weapon fits your grip and consistently comes on target with sights aligned, accurate on target shots will nearly always follow.


It sounds like they are teaching him how to hold a golf club.

James Van Valkenburg

Back in the old days, we had excellent instructors that passed on knowledgeable real world experiences. It was the military. With the wars nearly over, I wonder how many former Marines, Army and other branches have a surplus of trained, experienced instructors? Maybe they can teach the LEO’s that spray and pray is not a viable solution to their problems.


Apparently, the Utah trainers have been watching too many movies. Actors never miss on screen but with the cup and saucer and various grips that look good, the shooters couldn’t hit anywhere near the target. Let’s hope these young men and women get serious training before they face a live fire situation.

Gregory Tbd

I never limp wrist, always a firm but not death grip. Breathe,open both eyes,squeeze. Depending on firearm one hand,which I actually prefer. If I’m shooting a beast like a wildy,44 mag, etc.,it’s thumbs forward,squeeze,and allow blowback. Main thing is to not flinch or over concentrate the shot. Also I’ve found that if you enjoy shooting,you tend to be a better shot because you want to practice more than the minimum.


Being a Utah CCW instructor as well as a LEO instructor, it offends me that instructors are writing these type of false articles. There are NO and I’ll repeat this there are NO LEO instructors in Utah teaching the cup and saucer nor do they teach a overly loose grip to students in the academy..That’s bunk.
anyone who teaches a ccw course over the internet (in violation of NRA Instructor procedures) is not very trustworthy to me in the first place. If this is the type of articles that USA Carry relies on it has lost all respect to me. He calls the article Nonsense from a Utah PD (PD meaning a Police Department) then belittles the Utah Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) training. Get your fact straight. shame on USA carry for even letting this article post.


I was taught four years ago by a retired former city cop and county and state police range officer. Also a former competition handgun shooter (won more than his share too). I had never held a gun. He showed me teacup and saucer, thumbs crossing, thumbs forward and had me shoot multiple examples of his pistols and revolvers in multiple calibers so I could get a feel for them and what might work best for my personal protection. Also covered was situational awareness, state laws, shooting from the hip, shooting from the belt buckle position, a couple stances, etc. etc. It took a long time to show me properly and I overcame my anxieties. We have been friends since shortly after the class and shoot together every chance we can. I am now an enthusiast who has a small collection, reloads in multiple calibers and I find the thumbs crossed and thumbs forward best for most handguns. But as the author writes, keeping an open mind about what might work with a particular weapon or in a situation leaves one to grow and learn. Rigidity can get you killed. My daughter who was 14 at the time found the cup and saucer method best for her with a revolver — I didn’t discourage her since she was more accurate with it. Thanks for the article.


Unfortunately, I’ve found over the years that I (average joe) can regularly out-shoot most cops on the range. A good friend (cop that took me to his departments range) excused his poor shooting skills compared to mine because he was using a Glock and I an H&K. While that may influence the outcome, I believe the author to be dead-on in his assertion that the bar is set far too low in training at the academy and this is where change needs to happen so our law enforcement officers are the best damn shots in the neighborhood.