Left Handers Day Pro Tip: If You’re a Lefty, Learn to Shoot Right-Handed

left handed gun

Reader Curtis in IL writes:

While today may be Left Handers Day, if you’re a southpaw like me, you know the burdens we bear. Besides the being smarter and better looking than everyone else, we’re constantly struggling to use tools designed for the other 90% of the population, from measuring cups to musical instruments. Everything is built backwards.

My mother, also a southpaw, was wise enough to teach me that it’s easier to learn to use right-handed tools than rely on specialty products designed for lefties. For example, she knew that left-handed scissors wouldn’t always be available when I needed them, so she taught me to use right-handed scissors, among other things. I’m forever grateful to her for that.

Of course I have a lefty softball mitt and golf clubs. But back when I bought my first Windows computer, I made the decision to set the mouse up on the right side of the keyboard like everyone else. I knew I could change the settings to work with the left hand, but then what happens when I need to use someone else’s computer, or when someone else wants to use mine? That decision to become a right-handed mouse operator has served me well over the years.

When I got my first BB gun as a youngster, I learned to shoot right-handed. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s just the way my Dad taught me. I’m glad he did, because when I decided to buy my first pistol some forty years later, it was obvious that I would have many more choices if I wasn’t limited to “ambidextrous” models.

Now, even though I write, swing a hammer and wield a chef’s knife left-handed, pulling the trigger on a firearm with my right index finger feels just as natural. If you think that would be difficult for a lefty, consider that there are about a hundred switch-hitters in Major League Baseball, many of whom hit better left-handed.

Also remember that with a long gun, your left hand grips the forestock and is primarily responsible for stabilizing and aiming the gun, which require fine motor skills.

The practical implications of this strategy go far beyond just having more choices in pistols and holsters (not to mention semi-auto rifles, shotguns with a cross-bolt safety, etc.). In a home defense situation, my wife and I have more-or-less equal proficiency with whatever tools are available.

We both train with the same guns, even though we both have our preferences. Think about this: when the thugs come a-callin’, wouldn’t you rather have your dominant hand free to dial 911, point a flashlight or hold a child? Finally, during fun times at the range, I can shoot anyone’s gun, and they can shoot mine.

If you’ve been shooting left-handed for many years, you’ve already learned to deal with the inconveniences that go along with it. And if you aren’t inclined to switch gears at this point, I understand. But if you’re a lefty who’s new to the world of firearms, I highly recommend that you learn to shoot right-handed from day one. In the end, you’ll be as grateful to me as I am to my mother.

comments

  1. avatar Don from CT says:

    This is incredibly stupid.

    Besides, you should hold your handgun in front of your dominant EYE, not with your dominant hand.

    Doing otherwise either requires you to hold the gun “cross eyed” or to shoot using the non-dominant eye. Both of which put you at a disadvantage.

    My wife and one of my children are right handed but left eye dominant. They both shoot handguns left handed where being able to shoot instinctively with both eyes open is important.

    When it comes to rifles, one shoots lefty, the other righty.

    1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

      Funny you should bring that up.

      A few weeks ago, I took a younger newbie .22LR plinking for the first time in his life. No matter how much I tried to coach him otherwise, he kept tucking the rifle’s buttstock into his right shoulder with a right-handed grip/stance, while trying to line up his left-hand vision thru the iron sights. He said he’s right-handed, but left-eyed (I know that’s not the correct term, but hey) and cannot operate any other way. He can write, focus, and operate equipment that way just fine. But it’s a problem when it comes to sighting in a gun.

      I told him he’d need to learn to swap one of them (vision or grip) to the other side for shooting, but it was just too much for him, as his brain is cross-wired.

    2. avatar HandyDan says:

      Lots of people are cross eye dominant. Any way someone learns to compensate for a world not designed for them is a good thing.

    3. avatar Lefty McLefter says:

      Thanks @Don, you are 100% on target in your response to this “Pro” tip.

      1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

        You forgot the “son” at the end of your name. I mean, nobody wants to look stoo-pid. 🙂

        Lefty McLefterson

    4. avatar Wiregrass says:

      I’m left handed and right eye dominant. So I learned to shoot BB guns and rifles right handed ( yes my father checked for eye dominance). When I took up pistols, following the same eye dominance thinking, I shot pistols right handed as well. I can now shoot with either hand but when shooting precision pistol (one handed competition) I prefer holding the pistol left handed lining up my sights or dot using my right. It’s not difficult and I get better results. Chapman stance works well for cross dominant shooters.

  2. avatar Tim McCormick says:

    I lost vision in my right eye and now shoot riffles and shotguns left handed and off the left shoulder but pistol shooting, hammering, and computer mouse are all done right hand.
    Took some work to shoot left eyed but with practice it works ok.

    1. avatar Don from CT says:

      Rifle shooting is not an instinctive activity, normally. So its easier to shoot with your weak eye by squinting your strong eye.

      In contrast, shooting a shotgun is the most instinctive activity and handguns come next.

      1. avatar Mark H says:

        For years I watched my Dad shoot shotgun right handed off his left shoulder. (he’s cross dominant). He finally just shoots left handed and hits more birds now.

  3. avatar Don from CT says:

    One more thing. Running a right handed handgun as a lefty does not put you at any significant disadvantage.

    In come cases its easier. Butmost of the time its just different.

    If you do shoot left handed DO NOT swap your guns over to run left handed. (mag release and slide release). If you do this, then you don’t know that you will be able to instinctively run any gun you pick up.

    Rather learn to use your strong side index or middle finger to drop the mag. Its no harder. Just different.

    And when it comes to dropping the slide, just do it right with an overhand slingshot anyway.

    Don

    1. avatar Cloudbuster says:

      If you do shoot left handed DO NOT swap your guns over to run left handed. (mag release and slide release). If you do this, then you don’t know that you will be able to instinctively run any gun you pick up.

      I very much agree with this. However, a lot of handguns have thumb safeties in positions that really aren’t easily manipulated by lefties. Some can be swiped without too much awkwardness by the trigger finger and others can’t.

      I tend to avoid handguns with manual safeties unless they’re ambidextrous by default. Or I shoot them right-handed.

      Cross-bolt rifle/shotgun safeties are a bit of a pain, but I am just so used to wrapping my hand around to push the safety I don’t think much about it.

      1. avatar Don from CT says:

        I agree with you about the manual safeties.

        That’s why I don’t own any defensive guns that even have manual safeties, much less ones only on one side.

        I say this as a 1911 and Glock bigot.

        I like to compete with both a 1911 and a Glock. Nothing impressive, just local club matches. And about once per year, I draw the 1911 and forget to sweep the safety off under the pressure of competition. (I also occasionally will sweep the nonexistant safety off my Glock) It takes me roughly 1 second to figure out what is happening. Then another half second to swipe the safety off and fire.

        Because of this failure, I won’t carry a gun with a manual safety. Even though I practice with a manual safety PROPERLY, I still screw up about once per year because I also shoot striker fired guns without a manual safety.

        And all my 1911s have ambi safeties. My one case of modifying the gun to fit me.

        Also, this is why my defensive shotguns are Mossbergs with a tang safety.

    2. avatar Wiregrass says:

      Actually I find it instinctively easier to the use my index finger for a mag release than using a thumb anyway. I use an overhand slingshot to release the slide. The only thing that really bothers me about right handed controls is having to switch hands to lock the slide back on an unloaded pistol.

      On revolvers, there a whole different discipline for lefties involving both hands when doing reloads.

    3. avatar Damcowboy says:

      Uhm, ….. no. If you are a lefty, switch the mag release, run the gun left handed and shoot better. Why in God’s green earth would you conform to a tool rather than make a tool conform to you.

  4. avatar Gotscha says:

    This is REALLY bad advice. The only way it makes sense for a left-hander to shoot right handed is if he’s right-eye dominant.
    Fellow left-handers – DO NOT FOLLOW THIS ADVICE!!!

    1. avatar Don from CT says:

      Yup. Shoot handguns behind your dominant eye if you are starting out.

      When I teach people to shoot informally or run a NRA Basic Pistol class, I do a dominant eye test on every attendee. Always without them knowing what we are checking. It works better that way.

    2. avatar BLAMMO!! says:

      Not necessarily. I’ve always been right-handed in most things (sports, writing, playing guitar, etc.), but I discovered in my early 20s that I was left-eyed. That’s why I always shot guns left-handed. Actually, I discovered it while taking up photography. 35 mm cameras are not designed for left-eyed people, unless you want to smush your nose against the back of the camera.

      Once I understood this, I made a conscious decision to transition to shooting righty. And it wasn’t that hard at all. Of course, I was in my 20s.

      Life is much better for right-handed shooters. No looking for lefty rifles, even if they are available and better, no problems finding a buyer if I want to sell one.

      The biggest bonus – I’m equally comfortable shouldering a long gun either side. I don’t shoot 3-gun but I can see where THAT would be an advantage. Less comfortable firing a pistol lefty but never had reason or opportunity to practice it much.

  5. avatar Junior says:

    Everything mentioned above, plus I’d rather have my dominant hand shooting the gun and secondary stuff with my non dominant hand.
    I’ve never run into a gun that didn’t work for me because of my left handedness. Heck, I can run a bolt gun fine left handed.
    Of course everyone should be able to shoot with both hands.
    Finally, why does the author consider it a pro tip? If fact the only reason shooting right handed seems natural is because that how he was always done it

  6. avatar Jimmy Beam says:

    “… you know the burdens we bear. ”

    I feel the same way about how everything is built for short people: aircraft seats, cars, clothes, chairs, etc.

    1. avatar possum says:

      Have u tried elevator shoes

  7. avatar CentralVirginian says:

    Yeah! Tell all them 10 percenters to get right! /sarc

  8. avatar jwm says:

    My brother is left handed. We’re of the generation where teachers and the military tried to beat that ‘wrongness’ out of him.

    Fuckers.

    1. avatar former water walker says:

      My wife is naturally left-handed(she’s 60). Her wonderful mom didn’t beat her but gently guided her into “right-headedness”. As a result she is truly ambidextrous. She can wield a hammer,a pen or a gun with either hand. I’m a righty but my whole left side has profoundly degraded. I do remember lefties being vilified in grade school by my slew of old lady teachers!

    2. avatar BLAMMO!! says:

      I remember that. Keeping the lefties after school to exorcise the daemons.

      It amazes me that Liberals have come to prefer the term “progressive”. What will they change it to if people actually begin to study the history of the progressive movement of the late 19th and early 20th century? Even fascism was not always a pejorative term. Mousselini and Franco were self-described fascists.

    3. avatar KenW says:

      I’m also of that era. Never was beaten for it was belittled a few times and had one teacher tie my left hand to my side when she caught me using it to write. End result, I write with my right hand and do everything else with my left. I can use my right just as well but feel more comfortable using the one I was wired to use I guess.

  9. avatar Cloudbuster says:

    My oldest son and middle daughter are right-handed and left-eye dominant, so they shoot handguns right-handed and rifles left-handed.

    Me, I mostly shoot both left-handed because I’m left-leaning ambidextrous and left-eye dominant, but I always practice with my 1911 right-handed, because in its traditional configuration it’s a very right-handed pistol — that big safety paddle wants to be under your right thumb — and it’s good practice for the old right side muscles.

  10. avatar possum says:

    I carry two gunms, shoot both at the same time, I use the left one for my right eye and the right one for my left eye by crossing my arms in front of me at the elbows. X marks the spot.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      Possums gotz elbows? Shudder.

  11. avatar jakee308 says:

    And conversely, right handers learn to shoot with the left.

    I got to remember to do this and the range next time. Too easy to burn thru some bullets and look good on paper but what happens trying to load reload? And can I hold the guns tight enough for consistent cycling?

    Yeah questions I better answer before there’s trouble.

    Good point to remind everyone about.

    1. avatar HandyDan says:

      I was going to say the same thing. I practice shooting with both hands, never know when one of my hands is going to be injured.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Very much this. I’m fairly bad with just my left hand. But I try. And I figure it beats harsh language and an angry glare.

      2. avatar LKB says:

        +2. If you are seriously practicing practical/combat shooting (as opposed to bullseye, IDPA, etc.), you need to be practicing shooting with *each* hand (as well as, e.g., drawing with your weak hand from your strong side holster, one-hand tap-rack drills, etc.).
        My practical shooting instructor (a former SAS Sgt-Major) referred to these as immobilization drills, and they were a big part of his Level II course.

        1. avatar Damcowboy says:

          “As apposed to IDPA ..”. Nope!
          In USPSA and IDPA you have to be able to shoot strong and weak hand if you want to win. Many stages and classifieds require weak hand shooting. Of course you can always not practice weak hand drills, and then you’ll suck, and you’ll slink away at the horror of how useless you are

    2. avatar don from ct says:

      As a lefty, I practice shooting right handed almost every time I shoot.

      But I still like the gun lined up with my left eye. It would be quite a trick if I could learn to also shoot using my right eye. (with both eyes open)

    3. avatar SoCalJack says:

      Yes. I love practicing weak handshooting but need to practice weak hand drawing from appendix.
      I’m right handed, right eye dominant. But for pistol close range, I use CAR grip (with a less bladed stance), but use my left eye with great accuracy.

  12. avatar possum says:

    Being able to shoot left or right handed does come in handy for a tree stand hunter/ huntress

    1. avatar Montana Actual says:

      or someone with a wounded extremity trying to defend themselves. Also, learn to reload that way too. Using your leg, or your plate carrier to rack the slide, etc etc. You might not always have the option of using two hands.

      1. avatar possum says:

        Sometimes shooting aint about killing people. I doubt I’d have time for a reload if a bear attacked me?

        1. avatar jwm says:

          Bears eats possumns?

        2. avatar possum says:

          The thought of that is unbearable

        3. avatar Montana Actual says:

          Ok. I don’t get what that has to do with learning to reload during a situation other than you described, but ok. So for all the times you expect the chances of a bear attack, maybe just carry a bigger caliber? Still, plenty of what if’s that might leave your weak hand available to defend yourself, regardless of the situation. And who knows, maybe one of those situations involves a reload against a bear…. just sayin. Don’t limit your thought process of self defense to such a narrow point of view. From two legged, to 100 legged – those damned human sized centipedes, it can all be helpful because it certainly doesn’t hurt to know more.

  13. avatar Montana Actual says:

    Fricken weirdos. Leftists suck 😉

    1. avatar jwm says:

      They in league with the debbil! The debbil, I say!

      1. avatar Montana Actual says:

        You been playin that foosball again?

        Lefties and gingers…

  14. avatar CWT says:

    Made the effort to learn to use either hand for a lot of things starting with writing. Some things will never have any practical use. Shooting rifles it was fairly easy to switch eyes but handguns took a little more effort. Biggest thing was learning not to tilt my head in order to get my dominant right eye in line. Who’d have thunk taking Ballet classes in college would pay off in that respect ( I was the only guy in a class of twenty five the view was spectacular).

    1. avatar Don from CT says:

      Sounds like me riding horses when I was 12ish. I eventually had to decide between motorcycles and horses. The choice was easy.

      But oh did I miss the rich girls in tight pants.

      1. avatar possum says:

        Motorcycles use gas, horses produce gas. Horses are four traction on demand. One horse can out pull a 125 horse power motorcycle. A horse goes faster in the middle of a river. Horses like carrots.

  15. avatar possum says:

    gunms for ambidextrarity. The SA revolver, the 1984 Winchester,Model 10 Remington shotgunm and any double or single shot break open.I actually think the SA revolver is more for the left handed person then a right handed person, loading and ejecting with the weak hand.

  16. avatar Pg13 says:

    Um, what? I run my glocks, my 1911s, my bolt actions(I only have one left handed bolt), my ARs and my pump and semi-auto shotguns left handed while adapting to the right handed controls. Better lesson, if you’re left handed, adapt and keep going. The only thing I have that’s left handed instead of right is a guitar. I see the point he was trying to make but seriously, no.

  17. avatar UpInArms says:

    It’s getting on to 60 years since I first shot a pistol. Back then we didn’t know much about weaver stances or any of the others, so I was taught to shoot one-handed. And I still shoot one-handed. All the “stances” just feel awkward to me. Once I got reasonably skilled shooting right-handed, I began practicing with my left. I am naturally right-handed and right-eye dominant, but with all those years to practice, I can shoot very nearly as well with either hand.

    The real trick of it is getting the eyes to switch. It takes practice, constant practice, and more practice, but getting the eyes to switch over can be done, and with enough practice, you can learn to make the switch fairly quickly.

    When I take the pistols to the range I constantly switch off. One magazine with right hand, one magazine with the left. It’s just like anything else — you gotta do it to get good at it.

    So, take heart. It’s not impossible.

  18. avatar Juice says:

    Both my dad and sister are right handed and left eye dominant. They both shoot rifles left handed, and pistols right handed with their dominant eye. It has never given them much trouble.

  19. avatar afn29129_David says:

    Right-hand trigger finger was totally lost, and end to first knuckle of 2nd finger as well, in a work related accident so I was forced to learn to use the left hand

  20. avatar Arizona Free says:

    No one ever mentions chalkboards. The true curse of left handedness. Ink pens are a close second.

    1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

      Those of us lefties old enough to remember the “erasable” ball point pens from the late 1970’s remember our hands turning blue.

  21. avatar tmm says:

    Hmmm. Many lefties learn to be somewhat ambidextrous anyway, so shooting weak-handed comes more easily. Probably more important for righties to learn to manage left handed operation, in case it becomes an issue. Not for normal operation, but in case an issue with the right hand forces the issue… and you won’t be learning for the first time on the weak hand when it really counts.

    So get some weak hand work, not to necessarily become as proficient as your strong hand, just so you can say “I can if I have to.”

    1. avatar KenW says:

      What we were good for was tossing the ball. Right handers seemed to have a visual problem with us.

  22. avatar Phil LA says:

    Practice both. But I only use dominant eye for pistols.

    My range owner taught me the 5 dot pistol drill. He’s a lefty and can outshoot me with his unsupported weak hand vs my supported strong hand.

    Start at 5 yds.
    Target has 5 1” square dots spaced apart. Shoot 5 shots into each square as follows.
    Shoot the first square with dominant hand lead, weak hand support.
    Second with dominant hand only, unsupported.
    Third with weak hand unsupported.
    Fourth with weak hand lead, dominant hand support.
    Fifth with dominant hand lead, weak hand support.
    Slow fire, goal is all shots within each square.
    The last square will have a tighter group than the first as your hands improve their roles.
    Bonus for weak hand reloads.

  23. avatar Armorer94 says:

    Learning to shoot your weak hand is a good idea no matter what your dominant hand is. Learning to manipulate your firearm one handed is also a damn good idea.

  24. avatar oldgreyguy says:

    Since the right side of your brain controls the left side of your body, us southpaws are the only ones in our “RIGHT” minds. I tell people, right handed people can’t help it. They are born that way.

  25. avatar Chris. says:

    I’m pretty ambidextrous. I do typically use my right hand for most common tasks.

    I am left eye dominant. I shoot left handed. But can shoot right-handed just fine if the mood strikes.
    You should be able to adapt to your equipment regardless of whether it’s designed for a specific hand. (That said, I’m not a fan of the Sig p226 style decocker). There are many great ambidextrous firearms these days.

  26. avatar Curtis in IL says:

    Eye dominance is overrated and misunderstood, and we fret way too much about it. If you can learn to shoot with your non-dominant hand, you can learn to see with your non-dominant eye (actual visual impairment in one eye or the other is a different matter).

    I generally keep both eyes open when shooting – any kind of firearm and any kind of sights or optics. Both eyes see just as well, but I have learned to concentrate on what the right eye sees. I wasn’t born this way. I trained and practiced this way.

  27. avatar CNS says:

    As a dedicated lefty, allow me to respond to this with a polite “go to hell”. This is like saying we should learn how to get through our daily routine by walking backwards, or by driving with our feet. It’s not a reasonable thing to expect. While I’m all in favor to learning to shoot weak-handed (no matter which hand that is), telling someone not to use their dominant hand simply isn’t reasonable or practical.

    What the author really should be advocating is to stop making guns that aren’t made for both hands. There’s simply no excuse today for any 1911 or other gun that requires a manual safety to be manufactured with the safety switch on just one side the of the gun. It’s a little piece of metal. If it can go on one side, it can just as easily go on the other.

  28. avatar Ansel Hazen says:

    I just pick up the mouse and move it to the left side without swapping the buttons.

  29. avatar Guts says:

    This article is ad copy BS, I’m sure paid for by some gun maker too lazy to design and build full ambidextrous firearms. If a firearm is only able to convert to left-handed and are not fully ambidextrous, rates a B+ at best. In this day and age, there is zero excuse for not designing anything that is ambidextrous or left or right handed. It takes one click of a mouse, whether your click it left or right handed, to hit the mirror image button on your CADD program.

    I suppose the lame old argument could be use here; in case someone finds my fully Lefthand gun just lying around in a gun fight, they won’t be able to use it against me. For real, how many righthand guns do you find lying around in a gunfight, that on average last less than 2 seconds?

    After years of settling for B rated firearms and tools, I will now only own left-handed or ambidextrous firearms and other tools. I love watching right-handers struggle with everything from my lefthanded saws to rifles.

    Left-handers may only make up 13-15% of the population but we represent fully 1/3 of all combat sports. We are just better fighters.

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