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Old April 3, 2013, 05:54 PM   #1
Texshooter
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Gripping a 1911

Was at my local range today, and in the next stall the Store's instructor (believe he is NRA ceritfied if that is the correct rating) was giving a lesson to a new 1911 shooter (not new at pistols however).

The instructor told this fellow that his firing hand thumb could be placed on top of thumb safety or beneath it, however he found it more comfortable.

I was under the impression the strong thumb (while shooting 1911's) should always be on top.

I am in no way an expert, so could some of you more skilled with the platform chime in?

Many Thanks
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Old April 3, 2013, 06:01 PM   #2
deadduck357
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While you're right about placing the thumb on top of the safety while holding/shooting a 1911 there is no written rule, it's more like a commandment.

Hold it whichever way is most comfortable and secure.
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Old April 3, 2013, 06:07 PM   #3
polyphemus
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""I was under the impression the strong thumb (while shooting 1911's) should always be on top."
On top of what?Jus' keep your digits off of moving parts(except the trigger) and
let the pistol do its job.
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Old April 3, 2013, 06:29 PM   #4
RickB
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For "practical" use of the pistol, as opposed to bullseye or plinking, placing the thumb on top of the safety has been the accepted best practice for about forty years. If someone can't comfortably hold the pistol that way, then they will have to hold the thumb below the safety, though they can also replace the stock safety with one which locates the lever lower, to reduce the reach.
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Old April 3, 2013, 06:42 PM   #5
James K
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Maybe I had the wrong instructors 50 or so years ago, but I never heard that "commandment"; I have always held the pistol with my thumb more or less horizontal and in a position close to the magazine catch. The safety doesn't (or shouldn't) need any help to stay down.

Jim
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Old April 3, 2013, 08:49 PM   #6
Mike38
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While shooting a M1911, I always hold my thumb horizontal, with the thumb having very very little pressure on the grip surface. Think of it this way. Imagine placing a thumb tack, pointy side towards the thumb pad. While gripping / shooting, the thumb tack should not draw blood. That’s how lightly the pressure of the thumb should be on the grip.
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Old April 3, 2013, 09:28 PM   #7
HKGuns
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Gripping a 1911

Quote:
Maybe I had the wrong instructors 50 or so years ago, but I never heard that "commandment"; I have always held the pistol with my thumb more or less horizontal and in a position close to the magazine catch. The safety doesn't (or shouldn't) need any help to stay down.

Jim
^^Me too^^ - Just not near 50 years

There is no such commandment about holding your thumb over the safety lever. I first learned to shoot a 1911 in the military when I was far younger than I am now and that is most certainly not what was taught. What possible, valid, reason could there be to hold your thumb over the safety lever? Other than nearly guaranteeing a good case of 1911 hammer bite because you are holding too high?

The tacti-cool grip being taught today doesn't work for me. You also find far too many people, using that grip, having inadvertent control cycling issues on pistols other than a 1911. A good grip should work on just about any pistol, including revolvers, which the one that appears popular today does not. But hey, it's all the rage and you're not a real operator if you don't hold your pistols like that!

This is the grip I use for all of my pistols. If it is good enough for Jerry it is good enough for me. I also don't have an issue with hitting the de-cock lever on my pistols with this grip.

For clarity, I use the crossed thumb grip not the thumb behind the gun grip he demonstrates using the smaller revolver.
http://www.shootingusa.com/PRO_TIPS/.../miculek2.html

Last edited by HKGuns; April 4, 2013 at 02:07 PM.
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Old April 3, 2013, 10:19 PM   #8
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There's no right / wrong way. Take the worlds best shooters and I'm sure you'll see multiple ways for holding a pistol. I hold mind the best way it feels to me and the most accurate I can shoot.
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Old April 3, 2013, 11:52 PM   #9
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Quote:
The tacti-cool grip being taught today doesn't work for me. You also find far too many people, using that grip, having inadvertent control cycling issues on pistols other than a 1911. A good grip should work on just about any pistol, including revolvers, which the one that appears popular today does not. But hey, it's all the rage and you're not a real operator if you don't hold your pistols like that!

I agree
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Old April 4, 2013, 05:50 AM   #10
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Top

Quote:
I was under the impression the strong thumb (while shooting 1911's) should always be on top.
I guess that Jeff Cooper is responsible for that one, supposedly to prevent bumping the thumb safety with the thumb under recoil and inadvertently placing it on safe in the middle of a life or death thing. I've never quite understood the logic in that, seeing as how the pistol torques in the wrong direction for bumping the safety up...but there it is. He even went so far as to insist on a "high thumb" position with both thumbs vertical in the course of his pistol classes...which doesn't work at all for me.

Cooper was no idiot, but some of the things that he's stated simply don't follow logic or agree with physics.

I have run into the occasional 1911 pistol that would place itself on safe under recoil...the most recent being a Les Baer Stinger that would only do it when fired by the small lady who owned it...but a few minutes spent with a file to smooth up a small burr corrected it for her.

I have noticed that it happens occasionally with certain styles of ambi safeties, due to the knuckle pressing upward on the safety, but that's more a matter of individual hands and it's most often seen with upswept grip safeties and weak grips allowing the pistol to wedge itself downward as the string progresses. That's the drawback of such grip safeties. The spot weld afforded by the standard safety tang is lost and can present a problem with less than a strong two-handed grip.

As for me, my thumb has always been placed in much the same position as
James K described...and I've never had one to bump ON SAFE. Of course, it follows that I don't use the ducktail grip safeties on any of mine.
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Old April 4, 2013, 06:38 AM   #11
WC145
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I was always taught (first by my Dad, a military weapons instructor, then by other military and LE instructors) that when shooting a handgun for defensive purposes you always start with a strong one handed grip - same grip for pistols and revolvers - similar to the Miculek pics shown in the link posted above, then you support that grip with your free hand. The reason being that in a fight you don't always have the luxury of shooting with two hands, an opponent may try to wrestle your gun from your hand, and, worse case scenario, your gun makes an excellent blunt instrument if it comes down to having to beat your opponent with it. That's the way I've been doing it for 40+ years and it all still makes excellent sense to me, I've taught many people to shoot the same way for the same reasons.

Honestly, I've never understood using the "high thumbs, palms squeezed together" two handed grip popularized by competitive shooters for defensive shooting. That method may work well in the controlled environment of a shooting range, but when your gun is supported equally between your two hands you can't remove one and still expect to have control of it. If you have to change or shift your gun hand's grip when going from one handed to two handed shooting or vice versa, you don't have a solid grip on your gun to begin with.
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Old April 4, 2013, 06:42 AM   #12
thedudeabides
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Right thumb on the grip, facing forward, just above the channel of the thumb safety (if the 1911 has one).

Left thumb on top of right thumb, crossed, and pointing nearly vertical.
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Old April 4, 2013, 06:48 AM   #13
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If you hear a "bump in the night" do you go checking things out with your double action revolver cocked with the hammer back into single action mode, or with your 1911 in your hand with the safety off?

Same situation in both cases, you're carrying a weapon with a very light and short trigger pull.

Using a high thumb hold on a 1911 allows you to keep it in your hand with the safety engaged, but still bring it into action with the same speed as a low thumb grip with the safety off. Carrying it in a low thumb grip with the safety on requires moving your thumb above the safety, pushing the safety down, then re-acquiring your grip with the thumb below the safety.

Quote:
He even went so far as to insist on a "high thumb" position with both thumbs vertical in the course of his pistol classes...which doesn't work at all for me.
Never heard that in the 6 Gunsite classes I took in the 1990's. He was all about one movement "riding the safety" (keeping downward pressure on the safety) once you had decided that it was appropriate to go to condition red. He repeatedly stated that he thought a 1911 safety should be spring-loaded UP (safe) so you had to hold it down to shoot. Never heard anything about moving your thumb back up to vertical after you had moved the safety down.

EDIT: This is how I remember Cooper's viewpoint:

Quote:
Ride The Thumb Safety High

You can only snick the thumb safety down and off when your thumb is resting on top of it. This is, therefore, where your thumb belongs -– from the moment you grip your pistol in its holster throughout your firing sequence until you temporarily move your thumb down to the magazine release button to reload or until you are finished firing and decide to return the safety to the on position at which point your thumb momentarily glides over and beneath the safety so that you can snick it up. At no other time does your thumb leave its assigned position on top of the thumb safety, and it always returns immediately to its high-riding position and stays there until your gun is holstered.
From http://jeffcoopersfivefactsof1911lif...lutionary.html

Last edited by 45_auto; April 4, 2013 at 07:05 AM.
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Old April 4, 2013, 07:08 AM   #14
TBT
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I was always taught to "ride the thumb safety" as well. My support hand thumb is actually closer to the trigger guard than the thumb safety. I was taught that to tell you had a proper grip (not during live fire, but learning to grip) you should be able to touch your support thumb and your trigger finger through the trigger guard. If you couldn't, then the grip was bad. Don't know. Seems to work for me. <shrug>
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Old April 4, 2013, 07:30 AM   #15
cbennettx
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Honestly, a shooting grip is like a golf swing; everyone has their own little nuances. If you can do either with precision, then keep on truckin'.. who cares what it looks like to anyone else.

We have all had our tails kicked by the dude with the ugly golf swing.. Same with punching holes in the target; whatever works.
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Old April 4, 2013, 09:10 AM   #16
MLeake
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In the past, I have used the high thumb grip, with mixed results. Safety configuration seems to have had some bearing on those results.

With extended safety levers, and my long thumbs, I have encountered the phenomenon of inadvertently safing the gun during recoil. Switching to thumb on top solved that issue, and worked well with the Ed Brown safety on my old DW - but did not work well with my Baer. With the Baer, the lever itself was too level, and my thumb biases against the slide, slowing reciprocation and causing some FTRB issues.

(Edit: That diagnosis resulted in part from the thumb oil smears down the left lower edge of the slide...)

I have been told by a gunsmith friend that he only likes thumb high on Ed Brown safeties, as the Browns slope slightly away from the pistol, preventing the thumb from acting as a brake on the slide.

In the case of my Baer, I just had him mill the safety lever down to Mil-Spec, switched to low thumb, and the gun has run perfectly ever since.

A self-defense instructor I know also advocates for a low thumb to assist with retention, if necessary.

YMMV.

Last edited by MLeake; April 4, 2013 at 09:50 AM.
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Old April 4, 2013, 10:26 AM   #17
1911Tuner
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Cooper

Quote:
Never heard anything about moving your thumb back up to vertical after you had moved the safety down.
He started insisting on both thumbs high/vertical near the end of his tenure, as reported by a couple of my friends who attended. According to them, he was quite adamant, and it can be seen in photos of him shooting the pistol.

I tried it on several occasions, as well as my thumb on top. Vertical weakened my grip so much that I couldn't use the gun well. Thumd on top blistered and skinned my thumb. I went back to horizontal, crossed thumbs.

On the "Spring Loaded" safety...not exactly one of his better suggestions. I admired the man very much, but some of the things that he espoused were a bit over the top.
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Old April 4, 2013, 10:30 AM   #18
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Cooper

Col. Cooper made the transition from horizontal crossed thumbs seen here, to thumb on top to vertical thumbs in a fairly short time. I'll keep searching for a picture of him firing with both thumbs vertical.

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Old April 4, 2013, 11:04 AM   #19
HILLBILLY-06
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{QUOTE:}There's no right / wrong way. Take the worlds best shooters and I'm sure you'll see multiple ways for holding a pistol. I hold mind the best way it feels to me and the most accurate I can shoot.{END QUOTE}

Well, there is at least one wrong way... You should, especially with a new shooter, make them aware of what happens when the 1911 fires the shot & forces the slide to the rear...
I have seen people get cut by the slide during this rearward travel because they didn't understand what you were trying to tell them, & crossed thier thumbs at the rear of the pistol a meer second before firing the shot.
Usually the beaver tail grip safety is ample enough on 1911's to avoid this, but not 100% of them. Another one that can get you good is the Browning High Power 9mm... "the pinch factor" on that one is one to become familiar with. But I have seen a couple of people get cut real good with a Glock, while not paying attention to thier thumb position, & or understanding about the rearward travel of the slide.
These were people that formerly shot revolvers well, but were making the transition to 1911's some years later.
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Old April 4, 2013, 11:13 AM   #20
RickB
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I've seen current, or at least recent, Gunsite instructors still using the thumbs-crossed grip, but I suspect they've been teaching long enough that Cooper himself showed them how.
There's a lot of "use what works" comments, but it's been pretty conclusively shown that strong thumb on the safety is what works BEST.
When I was learning to drive, holding your hands on the wheel at 10:00 and 2:00 was taught, and that still works, but all the world champion racing drivers hold the wheel at 9:00 and 3:00, so should I change my "grip" to that of the people who are the best drivers in the world, or just use what "works"? It's also been pointed out that if your hand is at 2:00 when the airbag goes off, your arm will likely be flung out across the car, breaking the nose of your passenger, so even if you poo-poo the idea that commuters should hold the wheel like a racing driver, there's more than one reason to do so (as there are multiple good arguments for having your thumb on top of the safety).
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Old April 4, 2013, 11:38 AM   #21
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We all have different size hands, so what works for one may not work so well for others.

That being said I'll be willing to bet that the majority of shooters will shoot a 1911 better with their strong hand thumb high and horizontal under the thumb safety and their support hand thumb laying horizontal under their strong hand thumb.
This is exactly the way Uncle Sam taught me to shoot his 1911A1 in 1968.

Keep in mind that in most cases the 1911 torques to the left during recoil so shooting with your thumb over the safety creates a couple of problems.

When the gun torques to the left, your thumb over the safety hand position is automatically forcing your thumb toward the slide, this causes many shooters to induce malfunctions in an other wise reliable gun.
I have a friend that when trying to shoot with a high thumb (thumb over safety) would cause every 1911 he shot that way to malfunction in less then three rounds fired.

Another thing the thumb over safety creates is opening of the grip of the strong hand around the back of the gun.
Hold your favorite 1911, put your thumb over the safety then under the safety watch your grip on the back of the gun and you will see exactly what I'm referring to.
Shooters with average size or smaller hands will find they have a lot less control with their thumb over the thumb safety because of the opening up of their stong hand on the back of the gun.
Closing your hand for more torque control on the gun you will find that the front sight will track in a more vertical line instead of wanting to torque to the left.
The more vertical front sight movement will speed up follow up aimed shots.

I honestly believe the main reason the thumb over safety ideal came about was because of thumb safties with oversized paddles being inadvertainly bumped to the on position while firing the gun.
I've use small and large paddles, I personally prefer my guns to have thumb safties as close to the original 1911 design, the ones with the small nub type paddle.

I shot with a thumb over safety postion on competition guns I've used, however if I had it to do over again I would be using the small 1911 safety with my thumb high and horizontal under the thumb safety like Uncle Sam showed me.

As for things going bump in the night, I have no trouble investigating the situation with my 1911 cocked and locked, my thumb on the safety and my trigger finger along side the gun.
If I need to fire the gun it's no problem to snick the safety off, allow my thumb to drop under the safety for a good strong hand position and place my finger on the trigger, this is accomplished in one effortless motion.

It's already been pointed out, but keep in mind it's easier to wrestle a gun from someones strong hand if they are holding the gun with a thumb over safety strong hand hold.

In closing all I can say is use what works for you.

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Old April 4, 2013, 02:10 PM   #22
HKGuns
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Gripping a 1911

Quote:
There's a lot of "use what works" comments, but it's been pretty conclusively shown that strong thumb on the safety is what works BEST.
I would like to see the data behind that proof. It is opinion only as you will find no data that proves this to be the case.
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Old April 4, 2013, 02:24 PM   #23
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This was an interesting thread for me. I'm pretty new to the 1911 and this was the first time I've even heard of the thumb over safety grip. I've always shot with both thumbs forward, under the safety. What I found was that my support hand did a good bit of the work with that grip. I'm accurate with it and it works.

So, I decided to go to the range today and try thumb over safety. Wow... I felt like I had a lot more control over the pistol and target acquisition seemed quicker as it was easier to stabilize. I'm not 100% and it's definitely not second nature to me yet but I think I'm liking this.
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Old April 4, 2013, 03:17 PM   #24
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Quote:
There's a lot of "use what works" comments, but it's been pretty conclusively shown that strong thumb on the safety is what works BEST.

I would like to see the data behind that proof. It is opinion only as you will find no data that proves this to be the case.
I've shot over 500 USPSA/IPSC and IDPA matches over the last fifteen years, and the winner of very single one held the gun with their thumb on the safety (even tiny little ladies' champ, Lisa Munson). Of course, there's no "data" there, but it's no less true.
One of the primary reasons for forming IPSC was to determine and develop the best techniques and the best equipment for "practical" application of the handgun. Competition would create a sort of laboratory, in which the best rose to the top, and everyone who wins puts their thumb on the safety. You don't have to, but don't argue that there's no evidence or no proof that doing so has been proven to be the best way to do it.
If there is some arena where different techniques are invited, and the winners don't put their thumb on the safety, please provide some data!
I don't have a horse in this race, it's not like you can "prove me wrong", because I'm not necessarily advocating anything, other than looking to the way it's done by the people who do it best.
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Old April 4, 2013, 03:40 PM   #25
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When holding any handgun with two hands, I prefer a grip where the thumb of my support hand is over the thumb of the "trigger" hand. This grip is very secure and helps to keep the thumb of my strong hand out of "trouble" with things like the decocker and slide-release levers and the rearward movement of the slide on semi-autos. On single-action revolvers or double-action revolvers being fired in the sa mode, the thumb of the support hand using this grip is in the best position for cocking the hammer on subsequent shots.
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