Whether you are new to shooting or have been doing it for years, more than likely you shoot with both hands. Why wouldn’t you? It gives us great control, better recoil management, and makes shooting easier overall. It just makes sense. But think about your daily life, when you go to the store, are out with your family, or maybe enjoying a meal or drink out, chances are one of your hands is occupied. Sure you can drop your grocery bags or drink, let go of your spouse's hand but what if I want to retain what is in that hand? It could be wrangling my child, calling 911, or even be injured or restrained, so then what do you do? Are you confident you can stop the threat just the same as if you had two hands on the gun? Most people probably answered no to that, but out in the world one handed shooting is much more likely than at the range. So why don’t we value this skill higher, afterall, shouldn’t we be prepared for whatever scenario we find ourselves in?
Most people will be taught to shoot a gun with two hands from the start and if they are never prompted will likely not shoot one handed, let alone support hand only. It’s outside our comfort zone and we mostly avoid the skill. Almost every shooter will agree, when possible they want two hands in a master grip on the pistol, but we don’t always get what we want.
As someone who thinks about their personal safety, you know that if a situation occurs where you have to defend yourself, you are already behind the power curve and the only way to get back in control is to use your training and subsequent tools. We all have multiple defense tools with us at all times, our mind, voice, hands, feet, knees, and elbows, plus some items we just always have, maybe a knife, flashlight, or pen, a bag or water bottle to swing. However, if the situation warrants your concealed pistol to be used there is a whole host of skills you may need to tap into to come out the winner.
A few reasons have been touched on for why we might be one handed but let’s take a deeper look at each of them. While working through the mechanical process of shooting one handed there are mental choices you can rehearse at the same time.
The first category of items that occupy your hands are things you don’t care if you drop in order to get to your firearm. This is likely any shopping bag you have, a backpack, purse, water bottle, or food and drinks. Take a quick inventory of what you regularly carry and decide what is droppable. If it isn’t a resource or precious, let it go.
Keys may fall into the droppables or into the retained items depending on the situation. Think about when you would or wouldn’t drop them. Are you close enough for them to make a difference? Are the keys what they are after? Or are they literally the only item you have? While keys between the knuckles may be a last resort, keys on a lanyard aren't a bad improvised tool.
The second category to consider are the things you want to retain even if you are going to draw your gun. This could be a tool like a cell phone to call 911 or a flashlight, but it could also be another person or a child. Remember, if it isn’t a resource or precious, let it go.
Lastly, you have to consider that one hand is out of the game and cannot be used to operate the firearm. The two most likely times this occurs is if your hand has been injured somehow, or worse the assailant is in control of that limb. It could also happen because you are using it to control the assailant, while that is an advantage overall it still diminishes your ability to use your gun. This is a place you definitely don’t want to be but is entirely within the realm of possibilities.
Keeping this mental decision making process in mind while learning the mechanical process of shooting one handed means you don’t have to use your mental capacity to decide in the moment, you’ve already made that decision. You can prepare a little by always holding items in your support hand but if you never train what to do next, it won’t happen when you need it most.
Now that we have some idea of why we might need to shoot one handed, let's take a look at how that actually plays out, from just learning it, to applying the skill in a high stress situation.
The first time you try to shoot one handed it is going to feel awkward and your support hand even more so, but starting with dry fire is a great way to do this safely. While there is technique to shooting one handed, the first thing to keep in mind is safety. In this case it means you need to ensure you do not flag your other hand. Keep your non shooting hand safe by bringing it in close to your body and flat or fisted to your upper torso. For visual reference, it’s like you’re saying the Pledge of Allegiance. The shooting hand should be high up on the back strap and thumb either along the frame or flagged up and there is an acceptable amount of canting your wrist inwards for a natural wrist position. If you’re thinking this looks a lot like your regular grip just minus the support hand, that is exactly correct but you want it to be as perfect as you can get it.
It might hurt the ego a bit, but practice one handed with your primary and your support hand, it’s minimal effort for a maximum gain to do both. If you need a little more incentive to get that support hand into the practice then know that due to neuroplasticity shooting with your support hand will also improve your dominant and two handed shooting. Try it out, you’d be surprised at how well your support hand does. Plus, you may not have a choice and your support hand is the only option.
Applying the Skill
Once you have gained some experience and are confident you can shoot one handed safely, try it out at the range. As you level up and take more advanced classes this skill is going to show up more and more often, and build into other skills like shooting from retention. If you’ve been practicing on your own you will be way ahead of the curve, and that is an awesome feeling.
I recently took an advanced level class at Gunsite Academy, it was a Close Quarters Pistol class and we had an amazing group. Since it was advanced, the Range Master ran everyone through some warm up drills and accessed their skills knowing we were going to be building up to more and more difficult drills as we went. In one such drill my support hand fell into the Occupied category, it had to deal with an oncoming attack that happened so close and tangled up that my course of action was to defeat the attack, trap the assailants arms, and deliver hits. I was defending and attacking at the same time, I could only do this by dividing the tasks needed to win the fight between two hands. To my surprise not only was I able to deliver good hits, but so did each and every one of my classmates. We each did so well that the Range Master decided to skip the one handed shooting fundamentals block and allow us to do more full fledged reps.
Later on during break I asked everyone about their one handed practice and each and every one said they incorporate it into dry fire regularly and remember to do it for a mag or so each time they go to the range. We all agreed that it never felt as good or natural as two handed shooting but that we were confident that if we had to go to guns one handed we could. The class rolled into shooting from retention and more complex situations, stacking skill after skill but that was perfect. We all had our fundamentals down and got to really concentrate on the advanced skills we were there to learn and practice.
Are your one handed shooting skills up to par?
Now think about where you are in your firearms journey, is your one handed shooting satisfactory to you? Do you feel confident in the simple action of doing this on the range? What about in an advanced high stress class scenario? Or worse, a real life scenario? If you answered no to any of those then you have found your next skill to focus on and Mantis products can help get you there.
So how did myself and my classmates gain such proficiency in one handed shooting? The simple answer is practice but we all took that to a more extreme level.
For myself and a few others, we use the Mantis X10 Elite system to train each hand. MantisX has a Primary Hand Only and a Support Hand Only drill available, which is perfect for tracking my session history and seeing my skills trend up. When I filter my history to each drill I can see that consistent practice moved my one handed shooting from an average in the mid 70’s to the low 90’s, and for the record my support hand caught up real quick. All I do is incorporate 1, maybe 2, 10 shot sessions on each hand every time I dry fire. The feedback and analysis the MantisX gives cut down on the time needed to become confident in this skill. I knew exactly what I was doing incorrectly and was able to adapt my technique to get a good trigger press each time.
Other classmates used Laser Academy to train, starting incredibly close to the target with slow, methodical trigger presses. As they honed in the skill at each distance they moved back further and/or pressed the trigger a little faster, eventually incorporating their holster and working towards a good hit out of the holster one handed.Regardless of how you train, the key is to be consistent. Just like all firearms skills, if you don’t use it you lose it. So grab your Mantis product and test it out, how well do you shoot one handed!