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?

Of Skills Drills and Negligent Discharges

20130105-204706.jpgDon’t worry, the negligent discharge wasn’t mine…but it brought home a lesson I had underscored at the range today.

As those who follow my page on Facebook know, I shot the IDPA Classifier today for the first time. (Side note: If you aren’t following me on Facebook, I invite you to join the discussion there; I share lots of stuff that isn’t large enough to warrant its own blog post.) For those who don’t do IDPA, the Classifier is a standardized 90-round course of fire that tests many of the common skills needed to compete in IDPA: drawing and re-holstering, shooting on the move, shooting from behind cover, and reloading your firearm quickly. Whether IDPA skills translate to real-world lethal force defensive encounters is a subject of perennial debate, but in my view of things, anything that makes you more accurate and confident in your gun handling skills is a good thing.

In any event, I had a great time, and came home from the range with a bunch of lessons, both good and bad, bouncing around in my head.

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A Free eBook for MWAG Readers

1382561_47291255A friend and regular reader who calls herself MamaLiberty, made a generous offer in a comment to my post the other day about training and “unusual attitudes”. I wanted to call out her offer here for those who might have missed it.

Here’s what she wrote:

I want to make sure all of your readers know that they can have a free copy of the entire book just by sending an email to mamaliberty at rtconnect dot net – replace the at and dot with appropriate symbols and eliminate the spaces. Put “self defense” in the subject line to send it to the right filter for fastest reply.

The book, “I Am NOT A Victim” contains the story of the man I had to shoot to save my life, and all of the exercises I use to ensure that I am prepared as much as possible never to be a HELPLESS victim. :)

I’ve read MamaLiberty’s book. It’s a great primer and an easy, compelling read, and her story illustrates that trouble can, and does, find us anywhere, even in the places we think we’re safe. My heartfelt thanks to her for making this generous offer to my readers.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Firearms Practice “Fast Food”

20121106-200611.jpgLet me know if this sounds familiar. You go to your favorite range and pay your fee. You uncase your firearm and load up. Next you set a target out at a nice comfortable distance – say, seven yards or so. You square yourself up to the target get into a good shooting stance, and take aim. Slowly, carefully, you squeeze off your shots.

When you’ve fired your fifty rounds or whatever, you set the gun down and retrieve your target. You admire the nice tight grouping you landed, pat yourself on the back for your good shooting. Maybe your friends are at the range that day, and you pass your target around so they can compliment you on a job well done. Then you case your weapon, load it in your car and drive home.

Another successful practice day at the range. Right?

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Choosing The Right Gun for Women

20121104-150608.jpgI don’t know why I torture myself with the Internet gun forums. I really don’t, because the amount of misinformation and downright ignorance I find there is simply amazing. Take the discussion I read a couple of days ago, for example. Someone asked a question that seems to come up every other week or so: “What kind of gun should I buy for my girlfriend?”

Now, I have my own thoughts and issue with this question, but what provoked my ire wasn’t the question, but was one of the responses posted in the thread. “Buy her a .38 revolver,” the poster advised, “because with a semi-auto she might forget to chamber a round, and then what will she do? Throw the gun at the bad guy?”

In other words, in this individual’s view, women are simply too stupid to learn to shoot semi-automatic pistols.

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“Focus on the Front Sight” – But Why?

“Focus on the front sight!” It’s often one of the first pieces of advice new shooters get. Sometimes, they get it nicely, as a suggestion; other times, so I’m told, they get it screamed at them when they’re not doing it. (Side note: screaming at students rarely seems productive to me, the only possible exception being a firmer “STOP” command when something immediate and unsafe is happening.)

But few instructors, in my experience, take the time to explain precisely why you should focus on the front sight. So, I thought I’d take a stab at it. Please note: This is my understanding, and I freely admit the limits of my knowledge and experience when it comes to teaching this stuff. Feel free to chime in and expand on this or clarify nuances.

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Excitement, Delight, Total and Complete Exhaustion

I’d meant to write this post yesterday, but just didn’t quite have the energy left.

You see, we had another women’s shooting clinic Saturday at my local range, and (like last time) I was helping to instruct. This time, I was teaching basics (grip, stance, sight picture) with a blue gun as well as a .22 pistol, and also helping run some students on a .22 double-action revolver stage.

After the clinic wrapped up, we had just enough time to grab some lunch, and then we were back at the range for a Ladies Night shoot. The combination of the two events on the same day meant I was out of bed at 4:30am, and it was close to 11:00pm by the time I rolled out of the shower and into bed.

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Single Points of Failure

Kathy Jackson over at Cornered Cat had a reminder today about firearms safety and the consequences of complacency. She shared the tragic story of a small child seriously injured when he was able to get his hands on his father’s Glock.

Kathy writes:

It’s tempting to think that simply keeping the guns locked up will always be enough. But even responsible adults make mistakes sometimes. When there’s an unplanned failure in your lock-it-up system, the lessons you’ve taught your children can help avoid a tragedy.

I wanted to share Kathy’s post, both as a reminder that we can NEVER take safety for granted, and to talk about the larger issue of “single points of failure” and how that concept applies to our personal safety.

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Take a Friend to the Range

20121001-213423.jpgMassad Ayoob had a lovely blog post today about a GSSF match he and Gail shot in Salt Lake City over the weekend. Mas talked about the joy of taking someone shooting and seeing them do well and have a great time. He ends his post by encouraging us to “take someone shooting. On the practice range if they’re new, and to a match if they’re ready. You’ll feel as good about it as I do, today…”

Mas’s post was very timely for me, because I had a similar experience over the weekend. Having just written about the empowerment that comes from spreading our wings and trying new things and pushing our internal mental boundaries, Sunday was a great opportunity to reflect on that in action.

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Enthusiasm, Empowerment, and My First Teaching Experience

20120922-200430.jpg

As I write this, I’m sitting in my living room at the end of a 16-hour day, muscles aching, feeling at the same time physically weary and absolutely exhilarated and galvanized. Today, I was part of a group that taught a basic firearms safety and shooting workshop for women. The course, hosted by one of our local ranges and sponsored by a grant from the NRA, attracted close to 25 women, and it was a wonderful experience.

The class gave participants – about half of whom, I would guess, had never shot a firearm before – exposure to both .22 rifles and pistols, as well as a few larger-caliber handguns and revolvers in .38, 9mm, and even one 1911-pattern .45 ACP. Students got to shoot at Shoot-N-C paper targets, cardboard and steel, and even had a chance to try a mini-Steel Challenge stage.

I’m still processing the day’s experience, since this was my first time teaching, but I have a few experiences and observations to share.

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