How to Hold a Revolver Correctly and Safely

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The secret to shooting a revolver accurately is the just the same as it is for shooting a pistol. It’s the simultaneous execution of proper sight alignment combined with a good trigger press. Knowing how to hold a revolver is part of that formula, and there are some similarities to holding and shooting a revolver and a pistol. But there are also some important differences—so important that you can wind up injuring yourself if you don’t know them. So, let’s get to it. Here’s how to hold a revolver correctly and safely—plus how to shoot the gun and hit what you’re aiming at.

How to Hold a Revolver: The Shooting Hand

Pistols have a distinct arch in the grip where the web of your hand goes. That arch is minimal on most double-action revolvers and nonexistent on most single-action revolvers. With both it’s possible to place the web of your hand too high on the grip. For most shooters with normal-size hands, the best way to establish the proper grip is to first place your trigger finger along the bottom edge of the cylinder, parallel to the barrel, and then wrap your fingers around the grip. Your middle finger should rest in the arch of the grip frame behind the trigger guard.

Establish the correct grip height by laying your index finger under the cylinder and wrapping the rest of your fingers around the grip behind and below the trigger guard. Sabastian “Bat” Mann

Now that you’ve got grip elevation correct, you need to finalize the windage, so to speak. To find your natural point of aim and ensure that you’re pulling the trigger straight to the rear, the revolver should also be in line with your forearm. In other words, there should be a straight line from the revolver’s front sight all the way back to your elbow. If not, you’ll struggle to get your hits.

Related: Q&A With Legendary Revolver Shooters Jerry and Kay Miculek

How to Hold a Revolver: The Support Hand

You can shoot a revolver with one hand, cowboy-style, if you have the proper grip tension, and we’ll discuss that shortly. But just as with a pistol, you can shoot a revolver better with two hands. However—and this is important—you hold the latter differently. The most common way to shoot a pistol with two hands is with both thumbs relaxed and pointing forward. It can be unsafe to shoot a revolver this way.

This is because when you fire a revolver, hot gases escape from between the cylinder and forcing cone, and they blast outward at 90 degrees. If you’re shooting a rimfire revolver and your thumb is in this area, it will feel uncomfortable; you might even receive a slight burn. If you’re shooting a centerfire revolver, like a 44 Magnum, this blast can permanently damage or possibly remove the tip of your thumb. So, consider this an iron-clad safety rule: When shooting a revolver, never allow your fingers, thumb, or any body part, to extend past the forward edge of the cylinder.

A shooter hold a revolver, demonstrating the correct two-handed grip.
Never let you fingers or thumbs extend past the cylinder, or where the red line is drawn above. Sabastian “Bat” Mann

So, what do you do with the thumb of your support hand? There are two practical options. Right-handed shooters can place the tip of the thumb of their shooting hand just behind and even slightly against the cylinder shroud on the left side of the revolver. Then they can place their support thumb just below it. This method works with light-recoiling revolvers, but hard kickers can pound the thumb. Also, some revolvers have the cylinder release positioned on the cylinder shroud on the left side of the revolver, which makes this uncomfortable.

As a general rule, the most effective way to hold and shoot a revolver with both hands is to rest the thumb of your shooting hand on top of your middle finger, where it wraps around the grip. Then, place your support hand over your shooting hand, and apply slight downward pressure on the shooting hand thumb with your support-hand thumb, as in the photo below.

How Much Grip Force to Use

A man holds a revolver with two hands, demonstrating that you need a firm hold when shooting.
Place you shooting-hand thumb on top of the same hand’s middle finger, then rest the support hand thumb on top. Get a firm grip. Sabastian “Bat” Mann

Once you position your hands correctly, you need to apply suitable force to control the revolver. With rimfire and light revolvers, the same grip force you would apply during a firm handshake will suffice. But unlike most pistols, some revolvers can be like a hand cannon, and just a firm handshake might not be enough.

For example, a firm handshake grip is sufficient for a 30-ounce, 38 Special revolver. It will generate 4 to 5 foot-pounds of kinetic recoil energy. A 44 Magnum revolver—even one as heavy as 48 ounces—with full-power loads can generate 24 foot-pounds of kinetic recoil energy. That’s nearly five times more, and a firm handshake grip might not be enough. Powerful revolvers require a stiff grip and the firm extension of your arms to keep the revolver in hand, and to keep it from smacking you in the forehead.

The Right Way to Press the Trigger

The hand of a shooter on the trigger of a handgun, showing how to press the trigger.
Center the pad of your forefinger on the trigger so that you can press it straight to the rear. Sabastian “Bat” Mann

You should place your trigger finger on the trigger, centering the pad of your finger on the trigger. A right-handed shooter with too much finger on the trigger—that is, with the trigger near the last joint of the finger—will likely pull shots to the right. If there’s not enough finger on the trigger—with the trigger near the tip of the finger—will likely result is misses to the left.

Revolver Hammer Operation

One difference with shooting a revolver and a pistol is the hammer. With a single-action revolver, you must cock the hammer prior to each shot. This is also an option with most double-action revolvers. If you’re shooting one-handed and need or want to cock the revolver, use the thumb of your shooting hand. If you’re shooting with two hands, it’s easier and faster to cock the hammer with the thumb of your support hand. If you’re shooting a revolver in the double-action mode, when you pull the trigger it cocks and releases the hammer, and there’s no need to get your thumbs involved.

The hands of a shooter pull the hammer back on a revolver before firing.
When cocking a revolver hammer with a two-handed grip, do it with the thumb of your support hand. Sabastian “Bat” Mann

How to Hold a Revolver: Putting It All Together

If you follow the instructions above, you will have a safe and proper hold on your revolver. But to have a good hold depends on your hands and the size and shape of the revolver and its grip. The only way to asses this is to shoot it and see. You need to discover if you can effectively control the recoil, if your hand is the right size to allow your trigger finger to be positioned properly, and to see if you can maintain the correct grip while firing multiple shots.

If you can’t do these things, you may need to adjust your grip, and if that doesn’t work, you might need to adjust your revolver by installing different grips. In some cases, you might need to trade for a revolver that better fits you. Once you’re correctly holding a revolver that fits you, if you align the sights properly and press the trigger straight to the rear without disturbing that sight picture, you’ll get your hits.

Read Next: The 25 Best Handgun of All Time

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