Clifford W. Saylor Firearms Instructor

Handgun Fundamentals

The story is told that when legendary Coach Vince Lombardi took the reins of the Green Bay Packers that he told the players that they were going back to the fundamentals, at which point he held up a ball and said, “Gentlemen, this is a football!” Well, guess what, we’re going to start with the fundamentals. Ladies, this is a handgun!

There are two primary fundamentals to shooting a handgun, stance and grip.

I recommend one of two stances. The first is the isosceles, or where your toes are even across the front of your body. The second is the modified Weaver, or what I call my baseball stance, where the strong side foot is slightly staggered behind the weak side foot. Note, in both stances the toes of both feet should be pointed toward the target, not at an angle to the target.

Once you are in your preferred stance, bend the knees slightly (We’re not going potty in the desert). Ladies, you are different from men. When I bend my knees my shoulders go slightly forward, yours will most likely go back. You need to concentrate on bending slightly forward at the waist and “getting into” the gun. Note that this is a slight forward bend, not extreme.

Now for the grip. Place your strong side hand on the gun with the web of your hand all the way up in the backstrap or beavertail of the gun. The trigger finger should be along the frame of the gun. Place the heel of your weak side hand against the grip and your fingers over the strong side fingers on the grip. The fingers on the weak side hand should be covering your strong side fingers on the gun. Do not spread your weak side fingers or “tea cup.” Your thumbs should be uncrossed and up on the weak side of the gun. Never cross your weak side thumb behind the gun, especially with a semi-auto. The slide will shred your thumb if you do. Your grip should like a strong, firm handshake. When in your stance, extend your hands and arms out almost fully, push forward with the strong side hand and pull back with the weak side hand. I like to “lock in” with my arms to the point that they will actually quiver a little. Now, when you shoot, you will have maximum control of the firearm.

Let’s talk about recoil for a minute. If you have your stance and grip correct, you will be able to control the recoil of the firearm, as long as it is a firearm that you are capable of shooting. You don’t need a “Dirty Harry” .44 Magnum to get the job done, nor should you shoot one unless you are a very experienced shooter. Do not allow the gun to “muzzle flip” or “limp wrist” as this will not only hurt your wrists, it will likely cause a semi-automatic to jam. The cure to limp wristing? Keep your arms, hands, and firearm in a straight line and take the recoil with a slight rise in your arms. A tip, concentrate on keeping your front sight on the target when you shoot and do not let it come off of the target! This will go a long ways to controlling recoil.

Finally (as always), when you go out to shoot, always remember TAB+1: Treat every firearm as if it were loaded. Always point the muzzle in a safe direction. Be sure of your target and beyond. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot!


Have fun, be safe, and I’ll see you next time at the Corner!


Located in Phoenix, Arizona, Cliff Saylor is the owner and lead instructor for Sun Country Outdoor Adventures. Classes offered include all types of firearms, personal protection classes, and outdoor skills classes including mentored hunts. Introductory handgun classes are Cliff ’s specialty. Cliff can be contacted by email at