P320 X-Five Legion (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)
P320 X-Five Legion (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)
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Reader J.R. writes . . .

I like your article on the self defense shotgun. Unfortunately I cannot use a pump. I lost my right arm in Iraq in 2006 so I’m now permanently left handed. I keep my M4 handy because I’m so used to it that, even left handed, I can operate it in the dark with one hand. But I like the idea of a shotgun better.

I keep my Mossberg turkey gun nearby with buckshot loaded, but the safety is so stiff that I can barely flip it off with my shrapnel-mangled left hand. That, and the barrel is way too long.

So what do you suggest? Stick with my M4 that I can operate in my sleep? Or do you recommend a certain semi-auto shotgun?

First and most importantly, thank you for your service. And if I may make a suggestion a pistol might be a better option for you.

The handgun is the perfect firearm for one-handed defensive shooting because that’s exactly what it was designed for. It’s a lightweight firearm that uses ammunition of a large diameter, but with relatively gentle recoil that can easily be fired using a single hand.

Many pistols have ambidextrous controls, but most at least have lefty-friendly controls available. The compact size and light weight ammunition also mean the handgun is easier to hold and maneuver around the house and won’t tire out your arm from holding up the gun as quicly as a rifle or shotgun would.

In terms of a specific type of handgun for one-handed shooting the best option would be a striker-fired handgun like a GLOCK, a S&W M&P, or SIG P320 that doesn’t have a safety, or a DA/SA pistol like the Beretta 92FS or SIG P226 where the pistol’s “safety” is a longer double action pull for the first shot.

Single action firearms like the 1911 are great for accurate shooting, but the need to disengage the safety first can get in the way of putting rounds on target quickly. And since you mentioned that disengaging the safety on your shotgun was an issue, it might be better just to take manual safeties out of the equation completely.

For you, depending on how much strength you have in your left hand a DA/SA might not be a good idea. GLOCK, SIG P320 or similar pistols will give you roughly the same trigger weight as a standard M4 but with a much lighter overall weight and no external safeties to deal with.

As for caliber, I’ve always been a huge fan of the 9mm round. Shot placement trumps all other considerations, and if you’re anticipating some stiff .45 ACP recoil then you’re more likely to jerk the shot under pressure. Especially when shooting one-handed, you’re less able to control the recoil of the handgun so a lighter round is a great idea. It also gives you more ammunition in the same space.

At the end of the day the best option is whatever you feel most comfortable using. If you can handle an M4 better than anything else, then stick with it, because under pressure you want to know that you can reliably put rounds on target when you need to. But if you’re looking for a better solution for self defense with only one hand then the pistol is probably your best bet.

If you really, really want a shotgun then my recommendation is the Mossberg 930 SPX. The safety is mounted on top of the tang and easy to disengage, the action is reliable and the weapon is lightweight. Plus, the factory-installed ghost rings and fiber optic front sight will make putting rounds on target a breeze. You can remove the magazine extension and cap the gun at 5 rounds for a little extra weight savings if you want.


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    • Pistol braces still a thing? But for serious one handed shooting probably the biggest pistol they can reasonably handle one handed and guessing the starting point is the compact to full size 380/9/40/357sig/10 depending on comfort and hand size.

      • Also a hater incapable of giving a fair shake and ignoring his own biases of anything not AyR in the rifle realm, as history here bears out.

        The real gems were his reviews of any Russian gunms. Giant measure of seethe and cope going on there.

      • I thought he was a rooster. What about Miss Prissy, Egghead Jr. and Barnyard Dawg? Are you seriously going to tell me with a straight face they were just ‘ideas’?

        • ‘I say. I say. That boy has more nerve than a bum tooth.’

          ‘Sharp, I say, sharp as a bowling ball.’

      • an underhook to counter balance the weight against the underside of the arm might help with that but I am so long away from even seeing a pistol brace I have no idea what is legal let alone available.

        • Ah, yes the venerable Spas hook. Except without that boat anchor of an awful gunm attached.

    • That’s what came to my mind also. There is a vet at our gun range missing most of his left arm and he shoots a left-side charging AR pistol with a brace .. he uses the charging handle to hook on anything handy to cock it, usually his left shoe. He is SCARY good with it.

  1. HK Mark 23, Lobos Ind rail adapter, Surefire X400 light/laser, 17rd mags, Rugged Obsidian suppressor.
    45 Super 185gr, 700 ft/lbs ME.

    Low recoil, and the length makes point shooting surprisingly accurate. Won’t blow eardrums out indoors.

    OHWS (Offensive Handgun Weapon System) for a reason.
    It’s the handgun to have when a rifle isn’t practical/available.

    • Great option but I would worry about cost/hand size for comfort. If neither of those are issues then sucks to be the bad guy.

  2. I’d suggest a 9mm pistol that’s impossible to limpwrist. So definitely not a Glock, they are notorious for failing with a weak grip. Test some out, find the best one and slap a light on it.

  3. Good advice. A handgun doesn’t quite have the stopping power of a good rifle but in my case, it’s much better for defense in a small apartment. Also less likely to over penetrate into the apartment next door. Almost any duty sized pistol will give you lots of ammo capacity although a quick mag change might be difficult one handed. Get what feels good in your hand & practice, practice, practice.

    … and good to see you back again Nick. I’ve been keeping an eye on your other endeavors at Thirty-One Whiskey. (https://www.thirtyonewhiskey.com/) Lots of good stuff over there too.

    • No. 5.56 has been repeatedly shown in every test done on the matter (military, LEO or independent) to safer than 9mm in regards to over penetration. 5.56 loses stability when it hits a target, 9mm does not.

  4. benelli M4 tactical semi-auto shotgun was adopted by the Marines. part of its adoption was because it could be fired and operated with one hand in case of being wounded and is familar to the 5.56 M4 in its gas operated profile. I have one, can use it one handed just fine.

  5. Just my two cents, if he wants a long gun, I’d recommend a bullpup, specifically a tavor. I can run mine one handed, and if I have a sling I can reload it one handed as well. Otherwise I’d say the same as the author, striker fired handgun.

        • Really mushy trigger. A Chinese SKS is an improvement. Even nerf guns have better triggers.

        • Counter for that Aug trigger is the X95 with the Geissele. Dunno if the D60 will fit it offhand.

          Seems not according to the web.

        • Counter for that Aug trigger is the X95 with the Geissele. Dunno if the D60 will fit it offhand.

          Seems not according to the web. Also, nerf, lmao.

        • RatWorx has the 20/20 trigger upgrade, $100.
          Takes under 10 minutes to install without any gunsmithing skills required.

          It remove the mush and makes for a clean break and short reset AUG.

  6. “At the end of the day the best option is whatever you feel most comfortable using.”

    I see no reason to see it any other way regardless.

  7. A .357 magnum revolver with eight rounds in the cylinder, like a Ruger Redhawk or Smith and Wesson Model 627. Heavy, but no danger of limp-wristing.

  8. for a handgun I would suggest the FN 509. it’s truly ambidextrous with both the slide and magazine releases on both sides of the weapon. also has a large rear sight capable of being used to rack the weapon on a belt or shoe.

  9. My 300BLK pistol has a fixed brace and I have wrapped it around my arm to see how well it works. Let’s just say that there is a market for an auto tightening brace where when you push your arm forward to grasp the grip the brace grips your arm. In the meantime having plentiful ammo on board is the best way to go. So for any firearms manufacturer that wants to truly help the disabled instead of just getting around the SBR BS I just showed you how to do it…
    Push forward and a lever wraps your forearm tightly (by previous adjustment) so that you are ready to defend yourself and your family.

  10. For single handed shooting I’d recommend the one pistol that was specifically designed for single handed shooting (from horseback), the Colt Single Action Army, or it’s variants, clones, etc. Need faster reloads? Buy 2.

    • I totally agree, and have two in the bedside table. The other option is a revolver in .38 special, which does not have the power but doesn’t suffer from recoil like a .357 (esp a snubbie) does.

      • Yes, well just don’t bitch about the cavalry not showing up in your time of need if you’re not willing to stable their horses in your bedroom.

        • I suppose a horse in your bedroom would be okay. I wouldn’t want the miss’s to catch me playing with the mares leg though.
          And what about that Tennessee Stud?
          Nope, best just to keep the horses out of the bedroom

        • Never woulda made it through the Arkansas mud if I hadn’t been a-ridin’ on the Tennessee Stud.
          So there’s that.

  11. My landlord is one of the surviving polio afflicted population. His right side is fully withered. I taught him how to run a glock 19 with the only mod being an ambidextrous slide release. He was 67 when I taught him. He hasn’t raised my rent one time in 8 years. He and I go shoot every month give or take. Handguns every time for the mobility limited.

  12. If the M4 is preferred, I’d recommend a pistol, preferably lef5 handed or with ambi safety, mag, and bolt release. A Gearhead Tailhook brace, or similar cantilever design doesn’t need to be strapped on.

    Just about any semiauto handgun can be racked with one hand by pressing against something,, and mag changes can be done one handed. Again, lefty or ambi mag and slide release, such as 5th Gen Glock.

    Easiest could be a revolver. Colts would be easiest to manipulate since you can pull back on the cylinder release. Rugers had a button that’s pushed in. Either is easier, at least for me, than to try pushing the S&W style release forward with my left index finger

  13. That FosTech Tiger w binary trigger I USED to have would probably work well for this gentleman. Talk about putting lead in the air in a hurry! Easily stowed, very accuratw Sig Romeo shake awake and wml. Definitely a good “suppressive fire” option.


  15. Springfield XD or XDs in 9mm. It has a grip safety. And don’t start in on me with all that “treason” BS. The pistol is reliable, and the grip safety is ideal for a person with only one hand. My second choice would be a SP-101 in .357 magnum with a 3-inch barrel.

  16. If anyone has a Mossberg 500/590, you can get a replacement safety that extends over one side making it much easier to push off. Intended for 12 ga. but also fits the thinner 20 ga. receiver. Probably still not the best got single-handed defense, but an inexpensive improvement if one already has the gun.

  17. What’s the best caliber, what’s the best round, Hornady Critical…your dead, FMJ, .40 VS 10mm PAGE FILLER!

    It’s all inconsequential. The most effective device / weapon any one person may yield efficiently is going to be the best.

  18. He might consider an 8 shot Smith and Wesson in .357 mag. Just load it with some 158 grain .38 special hollow point. I believe that model also has a rail for mounting a light.


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