In a gunfight or competition, the time from beep to bang doesn’t matter nearly as much as the time from beep to when you make your first effective hit.
You simply can’t miss fast enough to win a gun fight…and only effective hits count.
And one of the fundamentals of fast first hits under stress and managing recoil so that your sights come back into perfect alignment after each shot is your grip.
There’s a quote from Colonel Jeff Cooper that I love. Col. Cooper is the father of modern gunfighting, as we know it, as well as the founder of Gunsite. To be honest, I’m not even 100% sure that Colonel Cooper said it, but it’s played a pivotal role in how I train for more than a decade and I’ve repeatedly given him credit for it.
It goes something along the lines of…
“If you only have 10 minutes to train, spend the first 9 practicing your grip.”
There are a few aspects of grip that make it so important.
First, in a very real sense, a proper grip can keep you from hurting yourself. Burns, cuts, bruising, and more can be avoided by using the right grip for the handgun you’re shooting.
Second, if time isn’t an issue, you don’t need a good grip to shoot multiple shots accurately…you can even hold the pistol upside down and press the trigger with your pinkie…but if you want to put fast, accurate followup shots on target, you need a grip that quickly and automatically causes the sights to come back into perfect alignment after each shot.
Third, and most importantly, a proper grip will help you get your first shot on target in extreme stress situations where you don’t have the time or resources to miss.
Here’s how that works…
This is a quick excerpt from the 21 Day Alpha Shooter home study course. The 21 Day Alpha Shooter course uses more than a dozen accelerated learning hacks (like deliberate practice) to slash the time it takes you to master the fundamentals of high speed & high stress shooting with the pistol…all for less than a single trip to the range. Learn more about the 21 Day Alpha Shooter home study course by going >HERE<
The vice grip technique is taught at multiple schools now, but I first learned about it from retired Navy SEAL, Larry Yatch. Larry and Beau go into more detail on it in their Concealed Carry Masters Course.
Deliberate practice is one of the keys to learning a new skill quickly. If you slow down, pay attention to your technique, and focus on perfect form, you’ll learn faster and your performance will improve way faster than if you just slam out reps at full speed.
How much of a difference does this kind of “deliberate practice” make?
Psychologist and neurological movement specialist, Anat Baniel has found that if you don’t take the time to pay attention to how physical movement feels, there is very little neurological growth, but when you focus on how precise movement feels to the various senses, you can build up to 1.8 million new neurological connections PER SECOND.
So, if you just want to play with your guns, then by all means go out, have fun, and bang out reps as fast as you can.
But if you’re serious about improving and about performing at a high level under stress, slow down, and focus on building perfect form. Speed will come…and when you build speed on top of solid fundamentals, performance doesn’t have to drop off.
As an example, one part of pro shooter, J.J. Racaza’s daily practice routine is to repeatedly react, draw, and shoot a 1” target at 30 feet in under 1 second. J.J. doesn’t do that by simply moving faster. He does it by repeatedly practicing perfect, mechanically sound technique and speed is a natural byproduct.
One thing that I didn’t cover much in the video is the support hand.
First off, you want to cock your support hand down as far as it will go WITHOUT PAIN. (I had an instructor once who was determined to make my wrist cock down as far as his did. I had a different range of motion than him and it was a painful and unnecessary experience.) As you cock your hand down, it will have the effect of moving the tip of your thumb forward.
In fact, I think more about pushing my thumb forward than I think about cocking my hand down…use whichever mental model works best for you.
If you look at your grip when you’re holding a semi-auto properly, your support hand thumb is the only finger that’s pointing at your target.
Some people mark up the frame of their pistol so that they have a tactile anchor to know when their support thumb is pushed forward to the exact same spot every time.
I won’t get into detail here, but the reasons for doing this are important and are covered in detail in 21 Day Alpha Shooter.
When you put your support hand onto your firing hand, the main thing that you’re concerned about is pressure on your shooting hand, straight back towards the body. You don’t need to squeeze the support hand around the shooting hand to keep someone from twisting it out of your hands…you just want to pull straight back to manage recoil.
I hold my support hand still, without squeezing or moving it, and pull back with my support side shoulder to apply pressure to my shooting hand and the grip of the pistol as I’m pushing forward with my shooting hand.
Put another way, I hold my fingers, hand, wrist, and arm completely still with isometric tension and pull straight back with my shoulder/shoulder blade to put rearward pressure on my shooting hand and the grip of the pistol.
I’ve seen this little tweak completely change how shooters shoot in minutes. Shooting 3-5 round strings quickly goes from being spray and pray to tight, accurate groups.
Try it next time you go to the range. As soon as you figure out what it feels right, start practicing it when you’re doing your dry fire practice.
Questions? Comments? Open fire below.
by Mike Ox
Mike Ox is an avid defensive and competitive shooter who has co-created several firearms training products, including Dry Fire Training Cards, https://se965.infusionsoft.com/go/dftcmedia/loadout
Dry Fire Fit, 21 Day Alpha Shooter, and See Faster, Shoot Faster. His brain based training focuses on accelerated learning techniques for shooting as well as controlling brain state and brain chemistry for optimal performance in extreme stress situations. Learn more about dynamic dry fire training for defense and competition at www.DryFireTrainingCards.com/blog
Photo of diagnostic targets by Mike Ox