Like most folks, I’m right handed. Like many serious shooters, I don’t like the idea of referring to my left hand as my weak hand because I don’t want to get comfortable with the idea or even the label of weakness. So for shooting, and like a lot of folks, I refer to my left hand as my support hand. It is a fact that I’m more competent with my right hand for most things, but responsibility requires that I work to develop and maintain left-handed skills; in shooting and in other things.
Support-hand shooting is something that not many gun owners practice. From what I’ve seen, even those who are serious about training devote precious little time and effort to developing support-hand skills. This is especially true with regard to manipulation skills, like malfunction clearing and in-fight reloads.
That said, support-hand shooting competence is something every responsible citizen should continually work to develop. Among the reasons for this is the fact that if you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in a gunfight in defense of your life or family or home, it is not unlikely that you yourself will be wounded by gunfire. If one of those wounds is to your primary hand or arm (which is highly likely since it will probably be in front of your body), without support-hand competence you are no longer capable of defending life or home. As a result you will be defeated. In a gunfight, this means you and perhaps others will die.
Therefore, support-hand training is not something that should be relegated to the military or LEOs or competitive shooters. It’s fundamental and should be a part of each week’s training, in both live-fire and dry-fire practice. If one is not capable of support-hand manipulations and marksmanship, one is 50% incapable.
While support-hand live-fire and dry-fire drills are important, there is yet more one can do to improve support-hand competence. If you get into the habit of using your support hand in mundane tasks in your daily life, your body will grow new neural pathways and establish more confidence and a more holistic physical competence.
A Holistic Approach
What follows here are anecdotes from my own life and approach, but I share them as an illustration of ideas and methods you might adopt in your approach to become more competent in your left-handed activities, shooting or others.
I’ll admit right now that I’m a bit of an odd character because since childhood I have been uncomfortable with the idea of “handedness”—right or left—and so I have struggled against it in various ways. I can remember in high school I once turned in a 3-page essay I wrote with my left hand and in mirror-image cursive, which required my teacher hold it up to a mirror to read and grade (I got an A). While that was mostly a prank, it was also a test for me to see if I could actually do it and write legibly. Though I don’t practice it, to this day I can write near perfect cursive in mirror image at speed with my left hand. I’m strange that way.
I later adopted other practices that exercised my left hand and left-side competence. In the late 1980s I took up martial arts practice, which has a built-in doctrine of all techniques being practiced lefty and righty. I’ve since spent almost 30 years in several-days-a-week left-hand defensive training. In order to gain more competence with my left-handed defensive techniques early on, I changed conventions in my life outside of martial arts training. For instance, I took up eating exclusively with my left hand. I had to learn to not decorate my face with my food or perform clumsily on the plate with a fork or spoon. I also began brushing my teeth left handed. After decades, these are practices that I maintain today.
It is no fluke then that when I took up shooting I was eager to explore left-handed pistol technique and switch-handed rifle manipulations. The latter is especially useful for left-side barricade/cover shooting, as it allows you to conceal as much of your body as possible when defending from a left-side wall opening or corner. There are many drills one can do to practice support-hand competence, but I’ll show a few fundamental ones.
Here (below) is an example of a left-hand pistol drill, where my primary hand is out of the fight before I go to my pistol (the reload is just an opportunity to practice this component in a left-hand drill). Therefore I have to draw and reholster with my left hand only:
Here (below) is an example of a drill that simulates a primary-arm injury mid fight, where I have to switch to my support hand to finish and prevail:
And for rifle…
Here (below) is an example of right and left-handed rifle manipulations around a barricade:
These are just some practical drills, but there are many more drills one can do to practice support-hand competence. A good place to start is to do with your support hand anything/everything you do with both or just right hand during a training session. Just add left-hand sequences as a matter of course.
The biggest obstacle to support-hand training, and the reason almost no one does it, is because we typically suck at it, and it is hard and galling to spend time doing what you’re terrible at. This is especially true where there are other people at the range who will see you sucking at stuff. In this respect, we allow our egos to perhaps one day get us killed.
That said, this ego obstacle must be overcome if one is to become a competent shooter and gun handler. The alternative is that one lives as a secret incompetent; never publicly shamed until that fateful day when one gets killed by a punk because of an inability to draw a concealed pistol or clear a malfunction with the untrained hand.
Bite the bullet and resolve to be clumsy and inaccurate in front of other people. It doesn’t matter and most folks are ignoring you at the range anyway. An easy way to approach your training is to run every drill or shoot every string three ways: both hands, right hand, and left hand. In time that incompetence will turn into semi-competence and then actual competence. But that will never happen if you never work on what you’re now terrible at doing.
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