Thumb over or forward

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by PWC, Jul 28, 2022.

  1. PWC

    PWC Member

    Feb 20, 2018
    Central AZ
    I was reading an article in a woodworking magazine that said to easier control a skillsaw cutting a straight line to place your thumb alongside or on top of the hand grip rather than folding it over.

    That got me thinking...I have always shot a rifle (non-pistol grip) with my thumb over the stock, rather than along the top or side. I have seen pictures of both ways, and indeed, Hollywood has played it up in "Sergeant York" in the scene at the qualification range.

    My Army field manuals, show thumb over stock. Many pictures on you tube and several gun forums show the thumb on top or alongside; or both ways.

    I'm curious, what do you do, and why do you hold it that way?
  2. edwardware

    edwardware Member

    Feb 23, 2010
    From the bench, I rest my right thumb on the tang (on top of the wrist of the stock) instead of wrapping it around and gripping the wrist. I think it helps me be more deliberate about what forces I'm applying to the stock with my right hand.

    Maybe I'm just doing it to impress everyone watching. . . :cool:
  3. rayatphonix

    rayatphonix Member

    Dec 27, 2011
    I took a long range shooting class. The instructor moved my thumb from over the stock to the top. He explained that the thumb over the stock could result in unwanted pressure / leverage that could affect accuracy when I squeezed the trigger. Simulating firing the rifle I could see his point. Since that time I’ve positioned my thumb above the trigger. It’s become automatic now and I don’t even think about it.
  4. earlthegoat2

    earlthegoat2 Member

    Aug 28, 2008
    SE GA
    I think the idea in bench marksmanship is that there will be no squeezing action of the hand to possibly toque the rifle.

    With the thumb forward, trigger pull can be more straight backward and I have heard with significant training, the trigger pull can actually be engaged by the back muscles through the arm much like rowing a dumbbell with little to no pressure on any part of the grip area of the rifle. I suppose that is why benchrest rifles don’t have much of a grip area.

    This makes sense as releasing the string in archery, whether mechanical or fingers, should be engaged predominantly by the back muscles. They even make mechanical releases to better take advantage of this principle. I’ll admit, in relation to these archery releases, that a part of it is psychological as target panic is very prominent in archery.
  5. FL-NC

    FL-NC Member

    Feb 10, 2016
    Fl panhandle
    This is correct. The only time my thumb goes over the wrist of the stock (or around the grip, as in an AR or similar rifle) is when the rifle is being fored from some offhand position, without any type of support and generally at shorter distances and/or in a rapid fire engagement.
  6. trackskippy

    trackskippy Member

    Oct 2, 2010
    If you're shooting a traditionally stocked rifle with moderate to heavy recoil, your upper lip might want to weigh in on your thumb placement. That can have a definite effect on accuracy. :p
  7. South Prairie Jim

    South Prairie Jim Member

    Apr 18, 2019
    Montana Gold Fields
    Do whatever is comfortable and puts rounds on the bullseye, in BR we don’t want to influence the rifle or upset the rifle while in position to return to the X each time we cycle the bolt plus I use 1 oz trigger pull with free recoil and the pinch method of touching it off.
    Demi-human and Walkalong like this.
  8. Sav .250

    Sav .250 Member

    Jun 5, 2007
    Central Fla
    Over the top.
  9. jmorris

    jmorris Member

    Sep 30, 2005
    I am not consistent, I do as little as I can and maintain control of the firearm.

    If the firearms is OK on its own, I can shoot just as good a group with something else pulling the trigger and have zero opportunity to mess things up touching anything.

    Most of the time that’s simply not an acceptable practice and I have to impart more control over the firearm, in order to maintain control. I then add contact points and elevate force to a level where I can maintain the control. This helps accuracy despite being contrary to my first method but we are talking about two different situations.

    That’s just two, there are many others that fall between them and I adjust accordingly, generally based of my memory of what works.

    Like spring powered air rifles, seem to prefer a “loose hold” that’s impractical for firearms with lots of recoil, so I must employ more than one method to get the most from more than one firearm.

    Like Jim said, on a bench gun, you might not touch any part of it from the time the tip of your finger touches the oz trigger and the rifle slides back in the rest to contact your shoulder; however, that method obviously won’t work at all if you have to actually be holding the rifle.

  10. citizenconn

    citizenconn Member

    Mar 7, 2022
    Houston-ish, TX
    Bench shooting target rifles I've learned to place the thumb alongside the stock. Many newer chassis and other stocks have a shelf just for this. With my AR carbines and pistols and handguns I wrap the thumb around to get better control.
  11. Turkeytider

    Turkeytider Member

    Oct 19, 2021
    Since I`ve always subscribed to the " 95% Indian, 5% bow " philosophy, I try to influence the rifle as little as possible. On the bench, pull the butt of the stock into my shoulder securely, then gentle pressure with the bottom three fingers of my shooting hand. Thumb is down the side. How I hold the gun seems to be REAL important with my .17HMR at 100 yards. Much more challenging to shoot sub-MOA groups than with my .223.
  12. TonyAngel

    TonyAngel Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    It depends on what sort of shooting you're doing. If you're shooting from a rest with a rear bag for accuracy, I'd say either have your thumb straight up the tang or resting on the strong side. It's simple biomechanics. When you squeeze with your thumb, your gonna twist your wrist too.

    Getting a good control grip on the rifle is more for the next shot than the one you're trying to make now.

    Some guns like to be held and some prefer as little interaction as possible. I have friends that don't touch the rifle with anything but their shoulder and trigger finger for the strong side and use their weak side hand for holding the bad and supporting the rear of the stock.

    When shooting prone with a bipod, my thumb is on the tang.
  13. jmorris

    jmorris Member

    Sep 30, 2005
    I have found spring powered air rifles to be the most sensitive to holds, for me.
    Bfh_auto likes this.
  14. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

    Jul 17, 2016
    Thumb along side, supported on the thumb shelf for me…


    Or when the position is less stable and the rifle more apt to move under any unwanted pressures, I don’t even want to touch the rifle with my firing hand at all…

    Demi-human likes this.
  15. BobABQ

    BobABQ Member

    Dec 17, 2016
    I have tried both ways and for me when shooting silhouette matches I have found I score better with my thumb on the top instead of over the top of the stock.
  16. .38 Special

    .38 Special Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    I shot "thumb over" until I started playing with dangerous game rifles. I very quickly got into a different habit!
    Bfh_auto, trackskippy and citizenconn like this.
  17. Bfh_auto

    Bfh_auto Member

    Feb 23, 2016
    How true. Heavy recoil makes you thumb knuckle and nose try to occupy the same real estate.
    My 35 Whelen handy rifle weighs 6 pounds and broke me of that.
    I don't notice an accuracy difference using either method.
    Demi-human and .38 Special like this.
  18. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 20, 2006
    Depends on the rifle and application.
    Demi-human and South Prairie Jim like this.
  19. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

    May 26, 2007
    I love how so many times the best answer is the most concise.

    I wrap my thumb over the stock. I'm a hunter who likes to shoot at the range. Shooting off-hand I have more control that way. I can see why it might be better to use the thumb on top from other supported positions. But I also like to practice the way I'm going to actually use the rifle.
    .38 Special and trackskippy like this.
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