When it comes to firearms instructors, most of them fall into one of two camps. There are the “proper grip” instructors and the “slow, steady press” instructors. What if I were to tell you that both camps are right and wrong at the same time? If a pistol is placed into a vise and the trigger is pressed, the round will hit exactly where the sights were aligned, regardless of how the trigger was pressed. On the other hand, if a shooter were to use the worst grip possible but execute a perfect trigger press, the round would hit exactly where the sights were aligned. Taking these two facts into consideration, if you have a perfect, vise-like grip, trigger pull does not matter at all. If you are capable of executing a perfect trigger press each and every time, your grip will not affect your accuracy.
I know some of you are already thinking about muzzle rise, follow-up shots, weapon retention and all of the other stuff that comes along with a proper grip, but for right now we are just talking about accuracy. It is a given that larger movements are more repeatable than smaller, more intricate movements. It is also a given that under stress, we tend to lose our fine motor skills. Considering both of those facts, grip seems to be gaining a slight edge over trigger press. However, it is not necessarily the strength of your grip that matters most; it is where that strength comes from and how the pressure is equalized on the sides of the pistol.
We have all been at the range and seen the cop squeezing their gun so hard they were shaking. That is not what I am talking about here. I am talking about utilizing the “thumbs-forward” grip that I hope we are all using by now. With that good thumbs-forward grip, turn your elbows slightly up. This will incorporate your forearms, triceps and even your shoulders into your grip. It will be much easier to equalize the pressure on the sides of the pistol and will require less strain on your hands and wrists. In addition to taking less physical effort, you will be incorporating larger muscle groups, making this grip more repeatable. The reduced strain on your hands and wrists will also let you shoot longer without your hands experiencing fatigue.
I have mentioned actions being repeatable twice now. For those of you who are not aware why this is important, it is about consistency. We can shoot a decent group for our abilities, but occasionally there is that “one little guy,” that stray round, that is about an inch or two outside of your group. Some of us have more than just the one, and that’s OK, too. The idea is that by utilizing larger muscle groups, and making everything grip-related as repeatable as possible, we will increase the consistency of our hits. We will start seeing that “one little guy” once out of every 500 rounds instead of seeing him once every 50.
Trigger press is also important to achieving consistently accurate shots. We already talked about consistency and utilizing larger muscle groups to make our actions more repeatable. However, there really isn’t a whole lot you can do for that regarding your trigger press. What you can do to improve your trigger press is practice, especially dry firing. I tell my officers to place a dime on the top of their front sight, carefully come up with a good sight picture and cleanly press the trigger to the rear. Practice this, and if the trigger press is executed properly, the dime should still be balanced on the top of your front sight. The practice of pressing the trigger perfectly to the rear will help reinforce positive muscle memory.
If I had to choose what was more important between grip and trigger press for law enforcement, I will admit, I would have to say grip. However, I practice perfecting both. There are no rules in a gunfight, and anything can happen. When training force on force, I get shot in my hands. I get shot in my hands a lot. If I get shot in my hands in a real gunfight, I am not sure if it is going to mess up my grip or my trigger press more. But I do know that if my grip is good enough to make up for my sloppy trigger press, the round is going to hit where I want it to. If my trigger press is good enough to make up for my sloppy grip, the round is going to hit where I want it to. Until the day comes — and it will come — we really do not know which will be more important in our gunfight. Regardless of our personal thoughts or opinions, we have nothing to lose by focusing on both grip and trigger press in training.