Fixing Your Firing Grip After an Injury

By Michael Mills
Posted in #Skills
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Fixing Your Firing Grip After an Injury

August 31st, 2022

10:32 runtime

We have all been injured at some point in our lives, and some of us have experienced it affecting our favorite activities. I have personally had several injuries from work, sports or the rare golf accident … . Well, actually, that last one was a joke; no offense to my golfing readers.

Fixing pistol grip after injury
A hand injury can severely impact your ability to shoot. When you are on the mend, how do you train up without further injury?

Each of these injuries changed a lot about my shooting skills. Personally, I have had a spinal surgery, broke my left arm in half, have nerve damage in my right hand, and have had surgery on the left.

Needless to say, I have been around the block with injuries, from my days in the Army to building my favorite hot rods. The real trick is not the healing — generally your body does that for you — it’s the comeback after the injury. And that is what we are going to focus on today.

How to grip pistol after injury
Before shooting after an injury, make sure you talk to your doctor and determine it is safe for you to resume firearms training.

Before we go any further, make sure you are healed and your doctor has signed off on you returning to normal activities. Now that the warning label has been read, once you are healthy there are a few exercises for your hands to regain strength and dexterity after injuries or minor nerve damage to those areas.

Using Springfield XDM for hand rehab
A hand injury may impact how you grip the pistol or how you are able to manipulate the trigger. Pistols like this XD-M Elite offer a number of features that may work well for you.

These include stress ball squeezes, a spring grip finger strengthening trainer, and simple hand movements for training your hand to grip again while only moving the trigger finger. Let’s discuss these one by one so you can work on them and rebuild your skillset.

Getting Back to Your Best

First, let’s talk about the stress ball. Depending on your injury you may need to regain strength and feeling, and simple squeeze exercises will help with this. Then, move onto squeezing each finger at a time, especially you trigger finger. When working the trigger finger, squeeze and concentrate on keeping constant pressure with your other fingers to retrain your skills.

Learning to shoot with two hands after an injury
A simple two-hand hold on a pistol may be an accomplishment after an injury. Rehabbing with a stress ball or other simple devices can help improve your grip strength.

Next, let’s go to the spring finger strengthening device. These were actually shown to me by a guitarist friend who had a bad injury and had to completely relearn how to work his hand with the neck of his guitar again. This tool helps you not only build strength, but also speed and finger isolation.

All of these are pretty self-explanatory, but there is something else that may also be the key to success. That is working with your best body angles. After an injury, especially to your wrists, you may need to change the angles you hold a pistol with both primary and support hands.

Angles Improve Control

Everyone’s body is a little different, and each person will be more comfortable holding a pistol at certain angles. It is best to put your wrists and hands at the angles they most comfortably want to be at, within reason.

Shooting at an angle to improve one handed shooting
Hand, wrist and arm strength may all be reduced when rehabbing after an injury. Pistol angle may help improve your control of the firearm.

I explain this to new shooters when I ask them just to point at an object. Most of them will point with their palm down and knuckles to the sky. I have found very few people will naturally point with their thumb vertical as if they were doing the old “finger gun” motion. There is a reason for this: Your bicep muscle and tendon are tightened in that position causing stress, and this finds its way right into your hand and primary grip.

Rehabbing a hand injury with a pistol
Don’t push too hard, too fast. Work within the recommendations of your doctor and build up your strength and confidence.

Now, we are not going to hold a pistol sideways, or at least I hope not, but give your body a chance to relax and allow your primary hand to be at a slight cant, say 5 degrees. This small movement allows you to relax your muscular and tendon structure and will ultimately allow you to isolate your trigger finger better.

How Many Ways to Hold a Pistol

There are several grip techniques you can also try that may benefit your shooting post-injury, or even just to advance normally. One of my favorites I learned in DEA firearms instructor school was gripping the pistol grip from side to side like a vice rather than death gripping it from front to back.

Hand injury shows new way of holding a pistol
A full-size pistol will often be easier to shoot than a subcompact handgun. When rehabbing, try a larger pistol like this XD-M Elite.

Another thing to try may be pinning the triggerguard with your off-hand pointer finger to provide more stability while using the vise grip. Another thing to think about is how locked-out your arms and elbows are, which can cause you to tuck your head and “turtle” a bit. Relax your shoulders and allow your elbows to bend slightly so they can act like shock absorbers on a car rather than a rigid bone-on-bone impact device.

Stay Patient and Positive

There is a lot to work on after an injury. Remember to stay patient and allow yourself to recover bit by bit. Think consciously about all of your actions and positions while regaining your skills. Remember, these can all be worked on with dry practice in a safe place with no ammo needed.

XD-M pistol used in hand injury training
Rehab is never a quick and easy process. Take your time, work with your medical team and rebuild your skills in a thoughtful way.

And finally, don’t be afraid to cheat a little bit. Maybe downsize to a 9mm if you’re a .45 kind of person, or look for the softest-recoiling ammo to train with instead of high-pressure ammo. All of this will help you get your range groove back. If you want to really make it easy, try a 9mm 1911 like the new Garrison model. It will make life fun and easy out on the range with its minimal recoil and lower cost on ammunition. And finally, set small, achievable goals to make your range experience more fun and less like work. You’ll be back in the swing of things before you know it!

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Michael Mills

Michael Mills

Michael Mills created as a way to help spread good information, shed positive light on the gun community and to have fun. He has always loved teaching and helping others, especially when it comes to gun rights. This passion was further ingrained during his service in U.S. Army Special Operations, and he is a Use of Force Instructor, Defensive Tactics instructor, DEA Firearms Instructor and Police Academy instructor. He also has 15 years of law enforcement experience from patrol to supervision.

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