one-handed one hand shooting
Dan Z for TTAG
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It’s a handgun. Not a “handsgun.” As anyone who’s tried to get a two-handed grip on a small revolver will tell you, a pistol is designed to be used with one hand. Yes, there are any number of handguns that can be shot comfortably — and more accurately — with two hands. Well, more accurately more easily by most people, certainly. Provided you have two hands available with which to shoot your pistol. And therein lies the tale.

Other than concealment, the handgun’s greatest advantage over a long gun is the fact that you can operate it with one hand. During a defensive gun use (DGU), your “spare” hand gives your tremendous flexibility.

While holding your pistol in one hand you can turn on or off a light, open or close a door, dial 911, strike your attacker, deflect a blow, push people out of the way (for a clear shot or to protect them from an attack) and/or grab and move a friendly (e.g., a small child). Holding a pistol with one hand also makes it easier for you to run while shooting (as above), which is almost always a sensible strategy.

Due to the effects of tunnel vision during a DGU, attackers (and you, BTW) tend to focus on the weapon being aimed at them. This accounts for numerous examples of armed defenders being shot in their gun hand or shoulder. In that case, you want to be able to switch hands and shoot from your off or “weak” or “off” hand. One-handed.

By the same token, attackers often ambush defenders and knock them to the ground. Violently. It’s easier to shoot a pistol with one hand from an “unconventional” shooting position (i.e. flat on your ass or from your back). In fact, it may be impossible to shoot otherwise.

All of which means you should practice shooting your pistol with one hand. A lot. BOTH hands, one at a time (obvs.). I sometimes spend an entire range session shooting one-handed, right and left. I’ve discovered two things. First, turning the gun slightly (not full gangsta) improves accuracy. And second, if you can master shooting accurately with your off-hand, you can win a lot of bets at the range.

One bet you may lose in a DGU: that you will be able to shoot an attacker holding your handgun with both hands. A two-handed grip is preferable, but not inevitable. Be prepared.

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  1. The slight cant helps accuracy a lot, as does putting your non shooting hand in the pocket of your shoulder if it is not otherwise engaged, with the added benefit of making sure your non shooting hand is not in front of the muzzle.

  2. Good article.

    The one thing you left out as far as beginners shooting well is that one handed shooting will teach you about – and how to recognize – good trigger control faster than two hand shooting. By using the strength of both hands most people can muscle past shitty trigger control, at least at closer ranges. It shows up fast one handed.

  3. …and practice shooting with dominant and non-dominant hand. If you can’t shoot a pistol left handed, what will you do when your right hand is broken in the initial attack?

  4. I first learned how to shoot one handed with a 1911. I can still qualify one handed if it’s my strong hand and be pretty much on target at normal self defense distances shooting left handed. I have never tried it but I think I can pass the new Army qual with my off hand with a Hi Power.

  5. 1 handed is real world. I think that we need to stress that most dgu’s( not counting jihadis with ak’s in a theater) are knife fights. It will be that close and even taking time to bring your handgun to eye level might get you hurt.

    Decades ago in WV I worked at a gas station. We didn’t sit in booths then. We actually greeted the customer at their car. Twice during my employ there I was, or rather was attempted, to be robbed or attacked by guys with a crowbar and a tire iron. Both times I had to scramble away while digging my gun out of my pocket. One hand was all I got on the gun both time.

    No shots were fired. As soon as they realized I had a gun, they took off. One came back later( the police assume) and shot the station up after it was closed for the night.

      • I think the more than a dozen or so who live in Oregon would beg to differ. It’s state law that they must pump your gas for you. And after the second “click” they must stop, regardless if your tank is full. At least, that’s what I was told, I don’t love there, personally.

  6. Great advice. If you can’t shoot one handed, and if you can’t shoot weak hand only, you can’t shoot. A DGU isn’t target practice.

  7. First off, I totally agree with the post. Practice one handed shooting at LEAST 50% of your shooting at the range.

    That said, “Holding a pistol with one hand also makes it easier for you to run while shooting” I immediately had the image of Danny DeVito in ‘Romancing the Stone’ running down the hill while raising his right arm over his right shoulder shooting backwards at the guys in jeeps coming over the hill… LOL.

  8. My personal drill involves the Mozambique; two quick rounds one-handed on center mass, the last being with two hands.
    I purposely make the first with my feet unevenly placed, in an unsteady position & at waist/retention level, the second after dropping a foot back to provide a better platform and bringing the gun up to eye level, and the third by dropping my other foot back again and supporting the pistol with my weak-hand.

  9. Recovering from a serious accident which left me with a broken clavicle, broken scapular, 5 shattered ribs, and a punctured lung, all on my right (dominent) side. When I’m finally cleared to start normal activity again, shooting is going to be with my left hand; good thing thats always been part of my practice routine!


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