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Thumb position and the role of different segments of the thumb in gripping

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mhayford45
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Thumb position and the role of different segments of the thumb in gripping Empty Thumb position and the role of different segments of the thumb in gripping

Post by croesler 3/11/2024, 7:49 am

I'm seeking input on thumb positioning and the role of pressure applied by the thumb.  I would consider the thumb to have three pressure-point options: 1) from its base joint, 2) middle knuckle, and 3) from middle knuckle up to the tip of the thumb.  

This topic is directed to managing service .45 and 3.5-4.5 lbs trigger pull pistols, not .22/2lbs.   

Positioning wise, I have generally read the thumb would cause more damage than good.  I've let it rest on thumb-rests where I have one (Pardini HP) or along the slide on 1911s.  No pressure applied past the base knuckle, or at least not of consequence.   So there is "up" on the rest, or parallel with slide, and at least one other option "down" - I think Bruce Martindale calls this "choking the chicken" - where the thumb forms a circle intersecting near the tip of the trigger finger with trigger pulled back.  I will refer to these as "up" or "down" but feel free to add other variations.  

For the role of the thumb, I've read or heard pressure from the extremities of the thumb can cause problems pushing.  As such, besides a tight notching of the grip against the V in the hand (using the inside edge of the base thumb knuckle), I've not used any pressure from along the length of the thumb otherwise, e.g. the middle knuckle.  Recently I've noticed in dry-firing that maybe there is some application for more of the thumb to apply squeezing pressure.  Perhaps up to the middle knuckle even.  For me it seems the middle knuckle can help offset sight movement and maintain better follow-through when I actuate the trigger?  

Interested in all opinions and explanations/rationale.  I'm figuring this is probably the difference between me shooting expert vs. high master scores, and I've been feeling ready for a big promotion for quite a while.  Smile LOL.
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Post by RodJ 3/13/2024, 3:07 pm

A HM gunsmith here advised me that he’s mainly referring to the base of the thumb pressing laterally, and to some extent the first phalange. The tip, not so much.  But I’m just a struggling marksman whom he’s trying to help.  Hopefully I’ve correctly stated what I he was describing to me.

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Post by chopper 3/14/2024, 4:43 pm

Depending on the way the person grips the 1911, I've seen the thumb on top of the safety.
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Post by james r chapman 3/14/2024, 5:43 pm

chopper wrote:Depending on the way the person grips the 1911, I've seen the thumb on top of the safety.
Stan
I believe generally to prevent recoil causing the knuckle to engage the slide safety.
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Post by chiz1180 3/14/2024, 7:55 pm

Just gonna toss this out for discussion, not everyone has the same hand size. obviously that changes some things
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Post by Merick 3/14/2024, 9:39 pm

chiz1180 wrote:Just gonna toss this out for discussion, not everyone has the same hand size. obviously that changes some things

Also there are numerous internal anatomical variations, and more than a dozen combinations of trigger lengths, grip panel widths, mainspring housings, and grip safteys.


Last edited by Merick on 3/15/2024, 9:46 am; edited 1 time in total

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Post by BE Mike 3/15/2024, 7:35 am

chiz1180 wrote:Just gonna toss this out for discussion, not everyone has the same hand size. obviously that changes some things
When I first started out I wrongly believed that I had to do exactly what the top shooters did to be successful. I should have used the information as a starting point or guide as to how to grip, stand, where to put the off-hand, etc. Not everything that worked for Blankenship or Zins will work exactly the same for everyone. That is not to say, in any way, one should ignore their experience, advice or instruction. Just consider that everyone is a little different.
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Post by mhayford45 3/22/2024, 7:28 am

For me the thumb should be in line with the trigger finger or just slightly above the trigger finger. To see why, reach out to pick something small up with your trigger finger and thumb only. This provides the best dexterity and pressure sensitivity with the least movement in the hand and wrist. Test it for yourself and you will see. 

As for thumb pressure when taking your grip, the thumb tip should be as far forward as is comfortable... as near to the trigger fingertip as is comfortable. Forget about thumb pressure and let your thumb find the least tension to press 3.5 pounds straight back.

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Post by bruce martindale 3/22/2024, 4:17 pm

What do Abbott and Costello have to say?

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Post by croesler 3/23/2024, 5:40 am

I'd like to thank everyone for their input so far.  Much appreciated. I'm not sure about Abbott & Costello, but Laurel & Hardy are finding: 1) messing around with thumb has evidenced overall grip was never tight enough in the first place; 2) the thumb CAN play a key role, especially to the extent it aids in getting good front-to-rear and rear-to-front pinch hold; 3) advice from Mark Hayford on thumb stretched forward led to revisiting my grip completely, notably was there enough pressure from the other fingers primarily against the front-strap pushing directly towards back-strap, and, was it sustainable?  4) all hands ARE different, and the Zins grip might be a good starting point, but as BE Mike says, its only a start for finding one's own sweetspot.  Don't slavishly follow advice without interpreting it; 5) the original question arose from my struggles to properly retain grip on a revolver ... for me, with a revolver, a solid thumb pressure seems to help a great deal; 6) for semi-auto, where one can get a far better front-strap and back-strap squeeze going, the thumb remains relevant, albeit maybe less so.  7) For me some thumb pressure against the frame up through the first phalanx is essential for revolver.  For semi-auto it has been helpful in revisiting the whole grip. In each instance its mostly about getting a very solid grip that doesn't loosen while operating one's trigger finger, and where the gun doesn't shift inside the hand-grip with each recoil. 

Conclusion as of this writing:  I wasn't holding tight enough and my grip needed re-work.  In trying to get a tight hold initially, I had to let up (on the grip) during the shot to avail independent trigger finger movement. This "compromise" is a bad one.  As with every single element of bullseye, there is the headline topic, e.g. "grip", and there are 100 nuances within to be studied and explored.  The thumb pressure is a nuance (for revolver I think a more essential nuance). A tight grip that doesn't change during a string of rapid fire is the must. Does one's thumb help to obtain and sustain a very firm grip?  Does one's thumb contribute in some way to allowing a very firm grip AND keeping an operational trigger finger?  For this shooter, thumb against-the-frame pressure (up to the first phalanx) proved helpful in finding an overall tighter front-to-back grip on the semi-auto frame.  I would summarize "find a grip that lets you hold your gun very firmly, emphasizing front-strap and back-strap squish, while still able to operate your trigger finger independently."  Then fool around with your thumb a little.  For me it was a circular study that came back much more to: 1) very firm; 2) front-to-back; 3) trigger finger still independent? 4) where is thumb when the rest is right?
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Post by bruce martindale 3/23/2024, 5:40 pm

Laurel and Hardy of course! Zoot skipped a groove again

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Post by ermakevin 3/25/2024, 5:20 am

bruce martindale wrote:What do Abbott and Costello have to say?
"what a fine mess" you got me into with Bullseye shooting.
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Post by MarkThomas 3/25/2024, 10:09 am

I am a novice Olympic air pistol shooter just starting to think seriously about my grip.  I sort of discovered myself to minimize the amount of thumb used, and recently reading about grip confirmed that.  The thumb is only there for it's base, which provides a place for the back strap of the pistol to seat.  Next I read, the fingertips should never apply any force to the grip.  It will all be bad.  They can rest there.  I have gone extreme, and my shot plan has me lifting my fingertips off the grip and and squeezing the straps between the thumb base and the fingers between the first and second knuckles.  The finger tips are out in space with my thumb.  It works.  I'm also putting the center of the trigger in the center of the first joint on my trigger finger.  Doing this is all new to me as of yesterday and the day before.  I see better control when I do it over how I used to hold the gun.

Of course, with a Steyr EVO I have no recoil to contend with. so I don't need my thumb to hold on to the thing between shots.  Besides, who ever listens to a novice for grip advice?

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Post by Jwhelan939 3/29/2024, 5:58 am

I saw this on an AMU video at some point. I do my best shooting when my thumb is pointed at the target. Pushing as if I’m trying to put my thumb through the target. Only the base of my thumb is touching the gun, but the remainder is stiff and reaching out for the bullseye. If nothing else, it gives the thumb a consistent task so it doesn’t get into trouble.

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