Proper Grip: Get Your DIP and Cam Correct

Support Hand Index Finger on Trigger Guard

Support Hand Index Finger on Trigger Guard

When shooting with a two-handed grip, some new shooters seem to naturally rest the tip of their support index finger well below their DIP on the front of the trigger guard. With some new students, I must continuously remind them that they are doing this. Most do not realize they are doing it. But, is this finger placement acceptable for a proper handgun Grip when using two hands? Does it stabalize the gun better and help control recoil and improve accuracy? What do shooting “experts” believe? What are the the pros and cons to consider? Does the NRA include this as part of a proper grip? What do I practice and what do I recommend?

Distal Interphalangeal Joint

Distal Interphalangeal Joint

First, what is the “DIP?” The DIP is the first joint of the finger and the acronym stands for “Distal Interphalangeal” Joint. Most agree that you should not grip the trigger below that first joint of your index finger or trigger finger. Some believe that you should not even grip the trigger on the DIP itself, but rather somewhere between the DIP joint and the tip of the index finger. However, some (including this shooter) do grip right on the DIP joint for better leverage on a handgun with a hard trigger press, like a 12-pound revolver double action trigger. Otherwise, I grip almost all of my handguns somewhere between the DIP and the tip, but not on the tip itself. This works for me and is influenced by the overall size and frame of the gun, the width of the grip, pressure required to press the trigger for a specific handgun, revolver vs. pistol, and my hand and finger sizes. I agree with the NRA Basic Shooting Manual that says your grip may vary depending upon the shape of a gun’s grip frame, but I try to be consistent with my grip and have developed my muscle memory to use the same two-thumbs down range grip for pistols and the locked or crossed thumbs grip for revolvers. I have seen some terrible accidents and appreciate the NRA’s recommendation to use a crossed or locked thumbs grip for revolvers.

So what about putting the support finger on the guard? I could not find any information in the NRA Shooting Manual one way or the other about the issue of putting the front tip of your support index finger on the front of the trigger guard. The NRA manual does not state whether it is or is not part of the proper grip. Although the images of proper grips in their manual do not show it. As I always say, the real bottom line is does it work for you, no matter what any organization, asssociation, writer, shooting expert, professional, or layman says. The Gold Standard Test for any grip, shooting stance, breathing technique, or fundamental you use is always “does it accomplish your major goal of hitting the target consistently and enhance your accuracy.” Well, here’s what I believe and some ideas for you to ponder for your decisions.

 

Support Index Finger on Front of Trigger Guard

Support Index Finger on Front of Trigger Guard

Is this Front of Support Index Finger on Front of Trigger Guard the ideal grip? What are the considerations? Again, I recognize that it is not the fundamental grip advocated by the NRA manual and most professionals, but like I say in the Handguns Skills class if it really PROVES to work for you, go for it. I would not, however, recommend this for new shooters as they need to get down the conventional grip and basics that are most recognized and proven. Remember, accurate hits on the target is priority. Whatever it takes. However, recognize that for safety reasons to avoid negligent discharges you want to keep fingers off the trigger and any finger closer to the trigger than it has to be, is NOT GOOD. The support index finger could slip into the trigger guard and cause a negligent discharge. BAD! Why risk it, even it it is a very low probability of occurrence.

Support Index Finger on Front of Trigger Guard

Support Index Finger on Front of Trigger Guard

To me, a MAJOR consideration is that applied pressure (either directly or indirectly by you) by the support index finger will pull the gun usually down and to the weak side. You want to eliminate as much movement as possible (you cannot totally eliminate it, but strive to minimize it) when aiming and moving as little as possible with only the trigger finger moving smoothly and straight back, while keeping everything else as still as you can. You end up steering the muzzle subconsciously, whether or not you think you are. Using the support index finger on the guard creates an additional push/pull point on the gun which can create steering issues while shooting as the finger tension changes… affecting accuracy of course…. especially when shooting fast. By placing your support index finger on the trigger guard, its position will force the palm of your support hand away from the frame and mainspring housing and out of the gap as I discuss in class, weakening your grip on the gun. The gap is where the heel of your support hand fits in place onto the grip frame just below your strong-hand thumb, which is held high to make the gap and room for the support heel.

Remember, ideally you want: ONLY THE TRIGGER FINGER TO MOVE and you need most of the support from your SUPPORT hand to control movement and recoil. About 60% support and control with the support hand and 40% or so support with your strong hand. I have found several who have not been exposed to this idea.

While most competitive shooters and instructors that I know do NOT use this finger on guard style, I am aware of a few pros that do, e.g Angus Hobdell (Grand Master Champion with CZ Custom Shop), but they have been doing this for many years… and probably based on “old-school” learning and from habit. It is difficult to change that muscle memory you have developed over the years, even if you recognize some advantages of another approach. Believe me because I have been trying to switch away from closing my non-dominant eye when aiming.

Another consideration is that there is more of a probability of getting high-speed gun powder residue (and maybe flame fire) blown back on the finger & knuckle with that finger placement on the guard, especially with high-caliber revolvers. Low probability, but it’s there.

There is a positive to consider with the conventional support-fingers-wrap grip around the strong-hand fingers and in between the strong-hand fingers’ grooves. By pointing both thumbs down range and wrapping the support fingers, it “Cams” (corrects the asymmetrical cant) your support wrist & support fingers correctly forward for more support, rather than back (because of the support index finger position.) This contributes to a stronger support wrist for better control. If you are using a proper thumbs-forward grip (with all support hand fingers under the trigger guard) you are leveraging the forward cam of the support hand wrist to combat the recoil, verses a single finger on the front of the trigger guard. This will be stronger and more consistent because you have a whole wrist positioned correctly rather than just the one support finger. An important factor is consistency of recoil recovery (not so much control of the recoil) with the support index finger helping when clustered with the others. Remember you should grip more for control with the support hand (60%) than with the dominant hand (40%.) Now I know what to do, but have got to practice a lot more because this is critical.

Another positive I think about is that my support finger located off the guard also helps me to quickly activate my weapon light more easily & efficiently. Of course, this varies with the type of light, its controls, and the handgun you use.

What works for me is to NOT place my support hand index finger on the trigger guard with a two-handed grip.

So I know what works for ME, but what works for you. Only you can decide that for yourself. Do not put this grip decision off for long, because consistency equals accuracy and you must practice your chosen grip to develop that muscle memory. Of course, you can always change your grip later if it does not work for you. When you are shooting fast with .10-.20 second  splits or defending yourself in front of a bad guy, you need a grip that is strong enough and consistent enough to support that fast level of shooting… and to have it ingrained into your muscle memory for an automatic response. The only grip that is able to do that and yield consistent results FOR ME is the both thumbs forward grip with ALL fingers under the trigger guard.

Some ask why there are grooves and stippling on the front of some trigger guards. Are they there because you should place your support finger(s) there when shooting? I do not think so. Maybe it was intended as a place to rest the fingers when not shooting? But honestly I am not certain about this, but I am aware that some materials say that the military introduced it many years ago so troops could have a firmer contact when wearing their thick gloves. Of course, most don’t frequently wear gloves and what about very warm weather wear. Some say it is purely for appearance. Not sure I “buy” any of this and maybe some of you have some insight. Personally, I do not like the stippling and/or grooves on the front of the trigger and don’t use them. However, I only have one handgun that has it.

Whatever grip you decide on after a few weeks of experiment, make a decision and stick with it, rather than constantly switching and trying what somebody else thinks is best. CONSISTENCY EQUALS ACCURACY…. through PRACTICE!

Continued success my friends!

Photos by author
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney in your state or jurisdiction for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense, stand your ground law, and concealed carry. This is not legal advice and not legal opinions. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever. 
© 2014 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley mailto:ColBFF@gmail.com

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  • Noffie56

    I agree 100% with everything Col Ben said here in this article.

  • Cobrawing

    Once again, a very useful tip. It’s the simplest of shooting basics that make the largest differences in improvement. A great reminder. Thanks Ben!

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  • OldDog

    Great tips. Not sure if it’s true, but I’ve heard that the stippling on the front guard is to allow the shooter to brace the pistol against a solid object during single handed shooting.

  • Robert Smith

    I tended to rest the tip of support hand index on some of my trigger guards that have the serrations, but after looking closely see that getting the heel of the thumb into the area between strong hand fingertips and heel of thumb sure fills in the space and allows a firmer grip. Do not remember what the Army taught in 67 but was a pretty fair 1911 shot with it.

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