One-handed shooting (courtesy wideopenspaces.com)

We recently published Guns for Beginners: Practice Shooting One-Handed. A Lot. TTAG reader JN tells us that not doing so can leave one in a bit of a pickle.

I’ve had a concealed carry permit for a while. I’m pretty scrupulous about routine practice and training within the limits of what is available to me in my area of upstate New York. I liked to think that I was reasonably well prepared and competent with my handguns. But there was one kind of practice I neglected. That was weak hand shooting and gun manipulation. In my case . . .

this was a particularly peculiar omission, since I’m not strongly handed. I’m not truly ambidextrous, but I have a relatively high amount of dexterity and coordination with my weak hand. The few times I tried weak hand shooting, I did well enough that I should have been encouraged to continue, but I didn’t. I was bothered a little, somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew I should have been doing that.

I justified the omission to myself in all kinds of ways. I am a middle aged fat white guy, if I got hurt in a fight on my strong side, I was probably toast anyway. What was the chance I’d be in a fight anyway? But the truth was, weak hand practice wasn’t fun, it was work. I could do so many other things with my limited range time that were much more fun. So I never practiced weak hand.

And I never, ever expected what actually happened. I broke my shooting arm in a freak accident. I thumped the roof of my car and broke the ulna, clean through. And now, I’m in a cast for eight weeks, facing reconstructive surgery, and endless physical therapy down the road. And I’m totally defenseless because I was too lazy to spend an hour here and there practicing.

Trust me, the last thing on my mind now is learning one-handed weak hand shooting. My medical expenses will consume my shooting budget for the next 3-4 months, minimum. And having appliances on my strong hand, and the pain, and the discomfort, all these things really kill my motivation, and my treatments will consume my time. Now, I can’t pursue one of my favorite hobbies, I can’t defend myself, all because I was lazy.

That, my friends, is the real message here. Don’t be lazy, because you really never know what tomorrow will bring.

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39 Responses to TTAG Reader Affirms Self-Defense Tip: Practice Shooting With One Hand

      • They will, however, improve your ability to get rounds on target without trying to align your weak-hand pistol with your dominant eye.

        All other things considered, if you put the spot where you want the bullet to go, that’s where it ends up. Some allowance must be made for shaky weak hand control and etc., but one less limiting factor may have been removed.

        With a laser you don’t even have to be able to see the pistol. So long as you can see the spot on the target you will most likely get a hit.

        • Aligning the sights and target isn’t the hard part of weak hand shooting, it’s the shooting part. At least for me anyways.

        • The laser means nothing if you don’t have the fundamentals in place. I’ve seen time and time again that the laser might be on target but a trigger “yang” following changes the impact point. Lasers are not the panacea people think they are. Instinctual or point shooting is what one really needs to develop.

  1. In running and gunning with Christmas Nerf guns over the holidays, this thought occurred to me after being shot in the shooting hand. (By the way, Mega Fury darts sting, yowsers). I also learned that 5 year olds have zero fear and don’t care about cover–just lighting you up like a Christmas tree.

    • Nerf now has worse than those Mega darts: Rival balls. They are coming out much faster and, at close range, they sting almost as bad as a skin paintball hit.

      Nerf wars in my house have gotten a serious upgrade. You really need those face masks with those Rival Nerfs.

  2. I know, I should. I really, really should. But picking up a handgun with my left hand is like crossing my arms the wrong way, and it gets worse when I try to use a two handed grip. It’s just …not…right.

    • No real point in using a two-handed grip with your weak side, is there? I imagine you would only use the weak side if your dominant side was injured.

      • You would (need to two-hand your weak-side grip) if you were ‘slicing the pie’ to your strong side. I know, that’s just bs operators operating operationally talk, but if that’s not for the regular joe, then don’t ever bother using either cover or concealment.

    • Mark N.

      It feels awkward because you never do it.

      The only reason your dominant hand feels much less awkward when you try something new is because you have already mastered so many other tasks that are nearly identical. For example, if you grow up swinging a hammer in your dominant hand and pick up a fly-swatter in your dominant hand for the first time as a middle-aged adult, it already feels pretty natural because the grip and swing are almost identical to the grip and swing of a hammer. But pick up a hammer in your non-dominant hand for the first time as a middle-aged adult and it feels really uncomfortable … simply because you have never used your non-dominant hand to grip and swing objects.

      Here is some inspiration:
      Several years ago, I started using both hands to brush my teeth. The first time I tried using my non-dominant hand to brush, it felt really awkward … and I was slow and sloppy. Within a couple months, my non-dominant hand was working nearly as well as my dominant hand. Years later, both hands are equal.

  3. To JN: No time like the present to start. Dry fire while you’re sitting up in bed or on the Lazy-Boy watching the Kardashians. While I’ve been shooting support-hand-only for years, it’s always taken a back seat to two-handed shooting and strong-hand shooting. But I had a long-running staph infection (30 years – really) in my strong side bicep that ultimately ended in surgery with a long recovery. I had six months of three-times-a-day, self-administered antibiotic drips that lasted about 30 minutes each so I was just sitting there while the meds pumped in. Since the docs weren’t really sure that I was going to keep the arm I started the dry-fire thing with my support hand. Made the wife roll her eyes a lot but it was a tremendous help and I’m a much better support-side-only shooter now. (and, I still have the strong side arm to boot – another long story)

  4. Long story, but here goes.
    Some year back I had a run in with the neighbors to a rental property I had just purchased. Their son told me to my face that he was going to watch for me and shoot me down like a dog.
    I started keeping a gun in my car, right on the seat, loaded and ready to roll.
    One night I got stopped by a Sheriffs patrol for something, don’t remember what, most likely speeding.
    When he approached my vehicle, he had his flash light trained right on the gun which was on the passenger seat. I assumed he saw it, so didn’t say anything.
    After he got my info, he returned to his vehicle, wrote out a warning, and returned. About ten seconds into his speech, dropped his clipboard, jumped back, drew down and basically went bezerk. I put my hands flat on the ceiling of the car and tried to not crap myself.
    He accused me of pulling the gun while he was back in his patrol vehicle. I then explained to him why I had it with me.
    His next remark was, “Do you have enough ammo?”
    The next morning as I returned home from work, our local officer was standing beside his cruiser when I got to town. He switched on the lights and flagged me to stop. With out a word, he motioned for me to follow him into city hall where he picked up the phone,dialed, and said only, “He’s here.” then handed the phone to me.
    On the other end was the Sheriff, and he matter of factly instructed me to be at the police range the following Saturday at 8 A.M. sharp.
    The SO’s range instructor went through quite a bit of training with me that day as well as with some reserves. They drilled me on right handed, left handed, cross draw upside down, and a bunch of other ways to get a gun into action.
    I think I went through close to 250 rounds of ammo that day. I still practice the maneuvers they showed me. The cross draw upside down is important because some one might grab you by your gun hand preventing you from bringing it into action any other way. It is a trick to fire a gun pulling the trigger with your pinky, but it might save your life.

  5. Yeah I’m an OFWG-but even though I’m falling apart I can still shoot with either hand. A bit of damage with left but if I had to I could shoot with it. Enough to defend myself anyway. THIS is way too whiny…

  6. Nice thing about being a member of a shooting league is you for one thing have use of range officers range and other is that you can shoot as a group off handed, one handed and off hand only. It is really enlightening how difficult it is. I grew up left handed in a right handed family. Because of that I can do most things with either hand except write. I shoot right handed & play golf right handed. It’s awkward shooting left hand only but can rack the slide off handed. Glad my older brothers made me use my right hand in sports. One thing I’ve learned over time is I can shoot a revolver with off hand better with than a pistol

  7. Your excuse beforehand was laziness, and your excuse now is your injury. Both are weak. Dry fire practice now, while you’re laid up and can’t shoot strongside, anyway.

  8. Dear JN,
    Your mind IS your greatest asset.
    DECIDE to do something, then take action.
    8 yrs into being a therapist I destroyed my R. shoulder in motorcycle accident.
    Was told I would never be able to lift my R. elbow higher than my shoulder.
    Thought my career was over; Allowed myself to grieve, then whine. Then after the second surgery to remove all the internal hardware, I got frustrated. VERY frustrated.
    The only PT visit I had I was told by the PT that I asked “too many questions”, and “that I should just accept treatment”.
    Remember, as I stated above, I am a therapist.
    I walked out. Got REALLY PISSED.
    Decided right then and there to accept the challenge.
    I did my own rehab, through tears and pain, and perseverance.
    Six years later I dunked a basketball for the first time in my life, WITH MY RIGHT HAND.

    The experience of what that PT said to me, with his tone and attitude, changed my life.
    That moment was my baptism unto Molon Labe.

    I hope you decide to use your experience to become better in many ways.

    BTW- I am in my 40th year as a therapist (serving those with special needs, TBI, and spinal cord injuries) and will never forget why I am driven to serve.

    • I think those PT folks try to make people crippled to get more $$$! Not near as serious as shoulder injury but broke my right collarbone in motorcycle high side and the smart guy at the ER said to practice moving the arm up to the pain threshold several times throughout the day. A week later when I got to the PT specialist and told him that he said that was the worst idea ever, but it made sense to me so I kept doing it. Long story short I used my arm for as much as possible and was riding motorcycle and lifting weights within the month (although could barely lift more than the bar!), I can’t imagine how weak that arm would’ve been if I’d listened to that PT idiot and completely immobilized it for 6 weeks!!!

  9. So does this mean I need to go get a left handed holster for my EDC, just in case? How far am I supposed to take this advice? Not trying to be snarky, by the way.

  10. Not only practicing with one-handed with your weak hand, but one handed with your strong hand only.
    I was in a sling for a month after shoulder surgery on my left, (weak), hand/arm. It was pretty useless.

  11. Last year I was introduced to USPSA matches. One of the station on a particular match required you to use the the weak side shooting one handed. I was surprised at how easy it was for me. I am not ambidextrous but, I do agree if you own a firearm you should practice shooting from both sides.

  12. I’m always amazed at how few people shoot with their support hand. And how few folks shoot one-handed at all. It only takes a couple minutes on Live Leak to see that a lot of shootings involve one handed gun handling.

    Not knowing how to shoot, or clear a malfunction, with either hand is equivalent to not knowing how to punch with both hands. I learned that lesson at age 16, when I broke my strong hand in a school yard fight, and subsequently took a beating. But a short time later I was pounding the bag and learning how to use either hand to defend myself. Two is better, of course, but one will do if necessary.

  13. Rifle I practice both hands. Pistol I practice single handed both hands as well as both left and right handed with a modified Weaver. Oddly, I tend to be more accurate single handed. Go figure?

    • We see that with LE recruits. When going to one-handed drills after having done only two-handed shooting, they revert back to the fundamentals, being more careful with sight alignment and trigger control. They’re slower, but tend to be more accurate.

      • Oddly enough I’ve found that after a good bit of drinking I play pool better left handed because it forces extra concentration on fundamentals…

  14. Hardest test I ever did was a single weak hand reload on a Smith j frame with speed strips.
    Ended up on 1 knee using teeth and hand together, but got it done and continued to shoot.

  15. Good post. Most understand the idea that their strong hand/side could be injured during a fight but sometimes don’t consider getting a severe injury prior that can leave them with only their weak hand for an extended period. It tends to only take once for someone that always carries. I was decent shooting with just my off hand but after an arm injury I put a lot more time into it.

  16. Suburi – cutting practice as i learned it – is done symmetrically: both handed grips; also both one and two handed. Some drills you do twice as many cuts on the “weak” side as the strong.

    Musashi wrote of his 2-handed form that it was not for combat, but for training. You will get hurt. Be able to use what you have left. (I know of no record of Musashi dueling w 2 swords. Bokken and improvised bokken, yes.)

  17. I am right handed, but strongly left-eye dominant, so I shoot long guns with my left hand. I generally shoot pistols with my right hand (using a two-handed grip), but with .22s and 9mm I actually like a left-hand only duelist stance.

  18. 26 broken bones means I’ve had just about everything broken at some point, so I’ve always been one to practice with my weaker hand. I do it every single time I shoot.
    And I’m still horrible at it. Just horrible. No matter how much I practice, I still often have beginner shooters outshoot me with their left hand. I’ve always been extremely right side dominant in everything I do.

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