On The Other Hand

I sprained my left wrist last week and can’t even remember what happened, but the experience has given me some food for thought and reinforced some things I’ve done and taught through the years.

All my life I’ve been ambidextrous, able to do most things with either hand, but since we live in a world with mostly right hand dominant people, most things are set up and more convenient to do with the right hand. This, of course, is a problem for people with a true left hand dominance, but usually not much concern to me.

But I did notice right away that I was having trouble because I would reach for things or, especially, try to lift things with that left hand and even dropped a few of them. Not good. I hadn’t really considered how much I count on having both hands to work with until it became very painful to use the left one.

Then I went to the range and discovered I could not shoot with the left hand as I always do. Of course, I could have done so if my life depended on it, but what if it were broken and in a cast, or damaged severely some other way that prevented me from drawing and firing the gun?

That’s easy for me, I can just use the other hand. Sure, but what if I had never practiced shooting with the right hand? What if I were left hand dominant and believed I couldn’t do anything much with my right hand? What if I broke my right arm, was right hand dominant, and had never trained to use the left?

In the course of many years giving the handgun and self defense classes, I’ve only encountered a few people who insist that they “can’t” use the non-dominant hand to do anything, and most of them are hard to convince to even try shooting that way. For those who are left dominant, I suspect it’s at least partly due to the extreme pressure so many of them encountered in childhood about their left handedness, especially older folks. It used to be treated almost like a minor crime, or at least a character defect.

I don’t find quite so much resistance among the naturally right handed, but it can still be difficult to convince them to even attempt to shoot with the left hand, and a great deal of persuasion is sometimes required to get them to consider shooting with either hand alone.

But it is important to learn to do so, and to practice it consistently. The reason seems self evident, but I’ll repeat it. What happens if you hurt your dominant hand and can’t draw or fire then, even if you use both hands? If you’ve got a cast or sling or brace on your hand/arm, you will also be seen as even more vulnerable than ordinarily, I suspect.

Seems to me to be important to at least consider learning to shoot with either hand, and either hand alone. You can’t pick and choose the time or place you will be attacked, so you have to be ready for whatever comes. If you’ve never fired your gun with your non-dominant hand, or never practiced shooting with either hand alone, you are due for another trip to your friendly firearms instructor and need to add a few more things to your regular dry fire and range sessions.

I Am NOT A Victim… even with only one hand available.

Are you?


  1. Susan P says:

    As a former LEO I was required to train with a 2 handed grip, but also a single hand grip with each hand. During qualification time each year I had to prove I could hit the target all 3 ways. Most folks who claim they cannot use the non-dominant hand for anything probably never have used it and it is weak. When encouraging folks to attempt shooting with the non-dominant hand, also encourage them to do something to strengthen that hand and forearm. Lifting weights will do nicely for the forearm (and bicep) but the hand needs grip strength. I had a pair of “hand grippers” that I could carry in my briefcase in the squad car and could work my non-dominant hand during patrol when my partner was driving the car. The non-dominant hand needs to be at least close to the strength of the dominant hand if you are to be successful in shooting with it.

    • Thanks for dropping by!

      Lots of ways to strengthen muscles. They all require the desire to do so and time to make it happen. Only those students who understand the reason for doing so will invest the time and effort, of course. It’s just amazing to me how many people never have even thought about the consequences of injuring their dominant hand, especially if that’s all they have to work with.

      A ball of stiff clay, or medium hard rubber, is also good for strengthening one’s hands. Most of my students don’t have much strength in either hand to start with, so I encourage them to work on that in any slack time they have, such as when they’re watching TV or a movie.

      Life, let alone shooting, is just too limited if you can only use one hand. 🙂

      • Susan P says:

        AMEN! Without the desire nothing happens. I mentioned the hand grippers because they are very inexpensive and easy to carry with you. But, you have to want to increase strength or it isn’t going to happen. While watching TV is a perfect time to do those strengthening exercises.


  1. […] reader posted an excellent suggestion in the comments to “On The Other Hand” for strengthening hands. I thought of several others, and continued to look into it, so it […]

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