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By Anner

I was invincible until my baby-giraffe-like athleticism smacked me down like a club to a baby seal. About a month ago, I broke my wrist on my dominant hand. Stuck with a thumb-spike cast that covered my thumb and forearm, I’ve met unexpected challenges in everyday life.

Thankfully, I still had range of motion in four of five fingers, allowing weak but useful gripping ability with my dominant hand. However, writing with my left hand, opening water bottles, carrying items, showering, and getting dressed all take more time and careful execution. I nearly ripped a favorite t-shirt to shreds on the rough fiberglass cast, and my signature was a generic smudge.

The minor inconveniences, while annoying, do not concern me. The real threat is my limited ability to execute emergency skills such as pulling a knife to cut a seatbelt in a vehicle accident or drawing and firing a pistol with my weak hand. I’ve had to revisit years of practice and habits to safely open a pocket knife, and cutting up a piece of steak was a danger to everyone in the dining room. While the injury was unexpected, it occurred in a benign setting with other people available to help.

Imagine an injury to your dominant hand that renders it useless at a critical moment. Your most useful appendage (outside of the bedroom) is no longer available as you try to fend off an attacker, escape a burning structure, or pull your child out of harm’s way. Below are some lessons I learned through my specific injury, but apply them to how you function in everyday situations.

Gear placement

If you normally carry your knife in a specific pocket, continue to do so. Practice drawing it with your off hand, slowly at first, until you can safely open and close the blade. Do the same with your flashlight, firearm, phone, wallet, etc. Ensure that you can reach and positively extract every item. If you find a better method of carrying EDC items that allows either hand to reach them, consider permanently adopting that setup. When you unexpectedly lose function of your weak hand, you’ll still be able to grab your EDC gear.

I also found that clothing helps keep gear accessible. My favorite general-purpose pants, 5.11 TacLites, previously allowed me to carry an ALICE pack worth of gear, to include a G19 in the cargo pocket inside a wide pocket holster. All kitted up for a romantic afternoon trip to the mall, my wife said I looked like a homeless man stashing food for winter. I found that 5.11’s Ridgeline series offered more pockets up near the belt line, allowing me to carry the bare essentials and keep it all within reach of my left hand. Less oompa-loompa AND more cripple-friendly!

EDC knife selection

I’ve found that my favorite EDC knife of all-time, the Benchmade 530 Pardue, was a terrible weak-hand knife. The Axis lock catch was too small and precise for weak-hand manipulation, and the slick handle scales did not allow enough a secure grip. My monkey brain is slow to adapt; the synapses are firing, but my fingers aren’t doing the same thing my right hand executed well for decades.

A Spyderco Endura with the Wave feature and aggressive grip texture was far easier to manipulate and control, but the four-inch blade was too long to safely deploy and the Wave feature was unpredictable at that awkward angle. It placed the tip of the blade against my right thigh as it opened, an obvious safety concern. I purchased a non-Wave Spyderco Delica, the three-inch version of the Endura, and it’s perfect. The Spyderco lock back and thumbhole are easier and safer to manipulate, the blade length is useful and controllable, and the aggressive texturing allows a solid purchase.

Concealed handgun employment

I’m currently traveling abroad, so I don’t have access to my normal selection of concealed pistols. In Korea I purchased a cheap “GLOCK 36” airsoft pistol that’s actually closer in size to a G42. It serves as an excellent training device, allowing me to practice my draw, presentation, and dry-fire. It mimics my standard EDC pistol at home, a G43, but is also generic enough in its manual of arms to re-learn the basics: charging a mag, manipulating the slide, malfunction drills (the cast serves as a perfect surface to knock a stove-piped cartridge out of the top of the ejection port), and sight picture.

Prior to the injury, dedicated practice with my EDC pistol would involve one-hand drills with at least two mags for each hand. I was confident in using only my right hand in a violent encounter; I was marginal at best with my left. Life just handed me an opportunity to learn new skills.

When I return home, still in a cast, I intend to start with a Ruger SR22. The negligible recoil and light recoil spring will pave the way to solid habit patterns. From there, I’ll graduate to a Browning 1911-380, G43, etc. Stepping it up in recoil gradually, while practicing various actions (DA/SA, SA, striker-fired, etc.) should produce decent confidence in my ability to defend myself and my family.

I don’t know yet which pistol will be my temporary EDC, but likely a medium-sized 380 such as a 1911-380 compact or Bersa Thunder with my favorite 380 carry load, Inceptor ARX.

A note on revolvers: I love the idea of a revolver, with five to seven rounds of potent ballistics, brain dead simplicity, less concern about malfunctions, etc. I’ve tried — good grief, I’ve tried — to become proficient with all size and shape of revolvers: I’ve purchased, carried, and trained with a S&W 642, Ruger SP101 (two-inch and three-inch), Ruger LCR, and even a Ruger Single-Ten and Ruger Vaquero 5-1/2 inches. The long, yet smooth, DA trigger was predictable and controllable in slow fire.

However, speeding up the pace or firing one-handed was laughable. Single action models, though fun to shoot, were cumbersome to conceal and far slower to employ one-handed. As much as I wanted a revolver to work for me, especially that there-inch SP101 with a bobbed hammer, I couldn’t accept the decrease in hits on target at speed compared to my G43 or P2000/LEM. With weak-hand shooting my only option for a while, I don’t see myself carrying a revolver. It’s a shame, because an LCR would be a perfect companion.

Holsters

I’m hesitant to drop cash on a left-hand IWB holster to mirror my standard carry method when I’ll only have the cast for a few more weeks. Most pocket holsters are ambidextrous, though they won’t hold a Bersa Thunder in my clothing. A shirt holster with pockets on both sides may be an option. I’m open to suggestions—go, TTAG devotees, go!

Flashlight selection

Prior to the injury, I carried my flashlight clipped inside my left pocket. I was accustomed to drawing and pointing it with my left hand, so I continued to carry the O-Light S10R or StreamLight 1AA Dual Fuel.

TTAG Armed Intelligentsia, I ask for your lessons learned in dealing with all manner of injuries and specific suggestions on my experience. Thanks!

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30 Responses to Re-Thinking Everyday Carry Choices After an Injury – Content Contest

  1. Sorry to hear about the hand but excellent points. I am right handed but left eye dominant. While I use either hand to get stuff from pockets I have never considered trying to draw opposite hand, despite practicing with both hands, two handed and single handed. Will be trying this myself now.

    Hope you heal quickly.

  2. Yup… relearning everything really sucks!

    What I will say is there are a few tricks that help (single stage reloading helps teach hand dexterity for missing digits).

    Good news is six or so months later you should be able to keep all the rounds on the paper. :/

  3. It’s a tough call. Most of the shooting courses I do encourage weak hand shooting for at least some of the targets to be engaged, but I’m more likely to cheat and contort myself into odd shooting stances to avoid the trouble of trying to shoulder my rifle on the opposite side of my body. Similarly, I don’t think I could even REACH my sidearm with my weak hand in full kit.

    For CCW, I’ll admit it’s one of those situations I never really considered. My EDC gear has been riding in the same pockets on the same pants for half a decade. With the weather heating up, my Glock 34 is going back into my competition from my OWB EDC kydex. These days, I pulled a Sig C3 1911 from the back of my safe due to its ease of conceal ability in light summer clothes with a good Aliengear IWB holster. After reading this, I am more than a little disturbed by the fact that it would be almost impossible to deploy the pistol from 5 o’clock and even if I did, the lack of an ambi safety on a weapon that has to be carried cocked and locked is a huge issue.

    Thanks for the food for thought. While I don’t think there is a good solution to the problems you raise, I’m going to spend quite a bit of time looking for one.

  4. After my recent stroke and subsequent incapacitation I regressed 50 years and once again began carrying my original blue DOJ 3″ RB model 36 .38 spl–while not an 18 shot 9mm, I am secure in my ability to draw, shoot, manipulate, and hit with it, if needed. Chazzer

  5. Yeah it’s a tough call. I’d be screwed. My left hand is weaker than the right. And I can’t write left-handed worth a damn. I’d go with a revolver. I also don’t have 20 or 30years of shooting experience. May you win that gun and be healed by that time…

  6. Good article. I recommend people train with their weak hand and weak eye often. You never know what could happen in a fire fight. Lose an eye. Lose a hand. That doesn’t mean you have to lose. I learned this when I had a platoon seargent that made everyone qualify left handed, in gas masks, with night vision on, all at once. It was a bitch but it was good training that paid off in the real world.

    • Bill, I like that advice. In case one gets winged in the shoulder and can’t use the “lead” hand, being skilled in using the other would surely be a life saver!! That old sarge was wise!

  7. Problem is you’re starting off on the wrong foot, looking for obstacles not opportunity. You should just have the doctor mold a folding karambit into the cast, so the blade sticks down from the butt of your hand… and avoid schools, prisons, courthouses etc.

    • I’ve never been so thoroughly inspected, outside of a doctor’s office, as when I walked through TSA. First the cancer chamber, then an explosives swab, then a wand over the cast. That’s the guy that’s gonna takedown an airliner with a hidden chopstick–the cripple haha.

  8. I have a bersa thunder .380 and even after several hundred rounds through it that is still the toughest gun to rack that I have ever encountered. Just an fyi.

  9. Sorry about the bad luck! I like your thinking with the smallish Browning 1911-380. That scaled down version makes a lot of sense you your “off-hand” shooting.Like you said, work out the SR22 first and maybe that is where you may have to stop? I think moving to the little Browning will come naturally soon tho.

    wondered about the LCR and such, the revolvers? I tried to picture myself in your situation with mine and agree, not comfortable in the off hand. You’ll do well with your Browning and I wish a fast recovery to you.

  10. There is an advantage to being as old as I am as I was born left handed but the Nuns thought that was bad, perhaps even evil, and so were quick with the ruler to teach me to use my right… result … not only can I write with both hands at the same time the same text but one hand will be writing in mirror form so to read it most will have to use a mirror… I am just as accurate with either hand with any weapon and I have always kept up the needed practice…. I think most folks could train themselves to no longer have a weak hand if they applied themselves for a year or two 😉

  11. I feel for you, dude. An accident a few years back left my dominant hand and wrist messed up (I can’t use to of my fingers, one finger only has about half of its mobility, and it can’t move my wrist more than 20 degrees up or down) relearning to shoot with my other hand was truly a pain in the ass.

      • In all honesty, I haven’t gained all of it back, but I still try to do target practice at least once a month, and while I was never a crack shot to begin with, I can now keep it on a pie pan at ten yards.

  12. I started thinking about non-dominant hand carry a few years ago while shooting cowboy competition I was shocked to find I was far faster shooting my second pistol from my left hand and using my dominant thumb to cock my Ruger. This caused me to think about what might happen if I should injure my dominant hand. As a result I picked up an OTF automatic knife that works brilliantly in either hand. For my pistol, I picked up an off side holster that is a mirror image of my standard standard dominant hip carry and a S&W Shield to supplement the Glock 19.

    My investment in time, money and left hand practice came to a payoff two and a half years ago when I injured my shoulder badly enough that it took weeks of healing, and months of PT to get my shoulder back into shape. For a while, shooting with my dominant hand hurt, even bringing the gun up to use the sights hurt. One word of advice, if you are over forty, stay away from the neighbor kids skateboard even when your buddy goads you to try it!

    • At least it’s not boobs and dicks. That’s all the guys at work want to sharpie on me. Makes for an interesting visit with the in laws.

      • we wrote “f me” on the worms cast when he passed out. filing it off in the morning made him late for work.

  13. Did some training with weak hand only. Biggest problem I had was 1 hand weak hand reload with a S&W j frame and HKS speed loader. It wasn’t pretty but did get done, also an eye opener!

  14. After suffering a similar wrist break in my late 20s as I was approaching the peak of my handgun-competition-shooting days, I then vowed to always keep a couple of left-handed holsters on hand for my common defensive handguns, AND to shoot at least a couple of mags/cylinders of ammo weak-handed at EVERY practice session — no exceptions. I’m definitely slower and not quite as accurate from the southpaw side, but just a little practice on a regular basis goes a long way in making you comfortable and confident when shooting “wrong-handed”.

    If you find yourself getting cocky about your weak-handed skills, enter and shoot a basic club-level IDPA match one-handed weak-handed (usually you’ll have to use a standard lefty holster). Having someone else set-up a shooting situation and forcing yourself to deal with it weak-handed, as it appears, is a great way to build confidence and spotlight areas that still need work.

  15. For me the CZ type pistols with a D/A first round is a comfort. The new ugly poly frame units have a comfortable weight to themselves and also a good first magazine round count. The Handi-racker is a good tool, a must have for weak hands. Also the Cold Steel “axe head cane” is a good replacement for a POS aluminum ‘fit all’ the VA likes.

    Fist rule still applies no matter the physical limitations. FIGHT. Give the Popo a trail to follow; and the predator a second thought.

  16. I know how you feel, even though it’s not dominant hand I to am handicapped because of a stroke! You don’t understand how for granted we take the simple things in life, let alone being put in a life or death situation. I could explain all that had changed, but I’d be typing all night! But I do know how you feel!

  17. Carry a Five-Seven left handed. The easy recoil should making re-training your mind a bit easier and the high capacity ought to negate any need for reloading.

    For the rest of us, this is a reminder to practice training with your weak hand for such a life changing events like an arm injury.

    • I hadn’t considered a FiveSeven, but it fits the concept: lightweight, easy-to-rack slide, and the added benefit of 20rd mags. I’ve been looking for as excuse to get one.

  18. One site had the instructor saying there’s no reason to train with your off hand, as none of the LEOs he’s delt with have ever used their off hand during a gun fight. If you train with off hand he doesn’t even want you in his class.
    As a shooter with a recent rotator cuff injury, I realized how silly this guy sounds. Fortunately as a lefty living in a right hand world, I’m already partially ambidextrous.
    Sticky holster is a friend of mine. As far as my EDC knife, Kershaw Shield, open and close, is almost as easy for me right handed as it is left handed.
    Right eye dominant means my Beretta px4 compact is just as accurate, but less stamina holding on target. My Sig sauer p938 has a different issue. Soft hold or limp wristing causes a malfunction. Working on that through training. Surgery in 4 days, so 1 more trip to the range beforehand.

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