ADVANCED HANDGUN SKILLS EVERY OWNER NEEDS TO HAVE
In this final chapter, we’re taking a look at some of the more advanced handgun skills every gun owner needs to have, know, and practice regularly. These skills are ambidextrous shooting, one-handed shooting, and shooting with both eyes open.
Ambidextrous shooting is a skill that will benefit you in multiple ways – and it works hand-in-hand (pardon the pun) with one-handed shooting.
There isn’t really any proven method for becoming an ambidextrous shooter. However, what we do know is if you can teach yourself to become ambidextrous and then practice using your firearm as both a right-handed and a left-handed person would, you’re in the clear.
We’ll cover the 10 most common steps used to become ambidextrous to help you along the way.
Why Would You Want to Become an Ambidextrous Shooter?
You might be asking yourself how becoming an ambidextrous shooter could possibly benefit you. After all, expertise with one dominant hand is surely better than being mediocre with both hands. Right?
While this is true for the most part, there are also many situations where being an ambidextrous shooter will give you the upper hand. In a self- or home-defense situation especially, you don’t always have a choice in the angle you need to shoot from.
You could find yourself cornered in a space where the easiest way to get a clear shot without compromising the amount of cover protecting you is to use your non-dominant hand.
The same applies if your dominant hand is injured. There’s no reason for you to not continue shooting – especially if you trained yourself to be an ambidextrous shooter. Once again, this can be a literal lifesaver in defensive situations.
Consider this: between 70% and 90% of the world’s population are right-handed. About 10% to 30% are left-handed. Only 1% are ambidextrous, whether by nature or by training.
So if you train yourself to “become” ambidextrous with your handgun, you’ll have an advantage of a significant portion of the population.
HOW TO “BECOME” AMBIDEXTROUS
Here are the 10 steps you should follow to teach yourself ambidexterity:
1. Exercise your non-dominant hand and fingers with strength training. Grip exercises are very effective here, though don’t neglect weight training.
2. Move your computer mouse so you’re forced to use it with your non-dominant hand and keep it there. You can get an ambidextrous computer mouse, but it’s going to be more beneficial (and cheaper) to use your regular mouse. This also trains you to use right-handed tools with your left hand (or vice versa if you’re left-handed).
3. Start performing small tasks with your non-dominant hand, like brushing your teeth, cleaning, or even opening doors. It’ll feel awkward at first, but the more you practice the more natural it becomes.
4. After a few days following step 3, start cooking and eating with your non-dominant hand, performing the same tasks as your dominant hand normally would. Start slowly – there’s a greater risk of injury here than in step 3!
5. When it’s safe and convenient to do so, tie your dominant hand behind your back. This forces you to start relying on your non-dominant hand more often, removing the temptation (or the natural inclination) to use your dominant hand.
6. Start practicing writing with your non-dominant hand. It helps if you watch yourself in the mirror while using your dominant hand, as it gets your brain used to the visual of holding the tool in your non-dominant hand and reduces the mental block.
7. Following on from step 6, get one of those kids’ books for tracing the alphabet. This helps your non-dominant hand get more familiar with the shapes.
8. Once you’re reasonably happy with the results, start writing free-hand and drawing simple shapes with your non-dominant hand.
9. Move on to writing words and sentences. A good place to start is to write a paragraph of 3 to 5 sentences every day, starting with your name and address.
10. Keep practicing! It can take a little over a month to become truly comfortable using your non-dominant hand as well as your dominant hand. Perseverance breeds results.
And remember to make slow forays into ambidextrous shooting.
It’s technically easier with long-barrel firearms (like rifles and shotguns), but the sooner you start training yourself to use your handgun with your non-dominant hand, the easier it is to be at least very nearly as proficient an ambidextrous shooter as you are with your dominant hand.
The concept might seem strange to you – after all, if the adage about cupping your handgun with your second hand to make your shooting more stable and secure is true, why bother learning how to shoot one-handed?
But as already mentioned, one-handed shooting dovetails nicely with defensive shooting (remember the tactical torch?) and ambidextrous shooting (assume one hand is injured).
It’s actually as simple as holding your gun properly and locking it in place.
Okay, to be fair, it’s easier said than done.
You’ll need to practice, practice, and practice some more to get it right with your dominant hand, let alone your non-dominant hand. But with that said, many professional competitive shooters say thanks to the rules and drills of many major competitions, they actually shoot better one-handed with their non-dominant hand than with their dominant one!
There are two simple techniques you can and should use to master one-handed shooting. Find the one that works best for you by practicing with dry-firing, building up your muscle memory, then hitting the range to hone your skills with live fire training.
Option 1: The Finger Point
With your pistol (or revolver), jut your hand out as if you’re pointing with your finger. This is the most natural way to hold a handgun in any case – you’re just keeping your second hand at your side or against your chest.
Your handgun will have a bit of a tilt to it when held in this position. That’s perfect – it brings the sights perfectly in line with your eyes.
Option 2: Vertical
Start in the finger point position described above, but then rotate your elbow toward your body so it points to the ground, rather than to the side. Then point your thumb and lock your wrist, using body posture to lock your arm into position to properly absorb recoil.
This doesn’t feel as natural as the first option – you might even find it uncomfortable. But either method works equally well with enough practice. And you might end up finding the vertical position becomes more comfortable than the finger point!
SHOOTING WITH BOTH EYES OPEN
This is another skill that might not make much sense right now. There’s no immediate benefit to shooting with both eyes open, after all, and it feels more natural to have your non-dominant eye closed to give you a clearer sight picture.
But when you’re using a handgun (or any other firearm) – and especially when in a self-defense situation – your body is pumping a lot of hormones and chemicals into your brain. Some of these cause your pupils to dilute, as your brain is trying to absorb as much information as possible.
Closing one eye limits your brain’s capacity to do so.
Not only that, but your body wants you to have both eyes open – trying to forcibly override that natural instinct is a distraction you can do without and one you shouldn’t subject yourself to. In a defensive situation especially, it can be detrimental to your survival.
The sooner you start learning to shoot with both eyes open, the easier it is. But even if you’re already a competent shooter, it’s still fairly easy to train yourself to shoot with both eyes open.
All you need to do is follow these steps.
1. Confirm Which Eye is Dominant Bring both hands up to form a triangle using your thumbs and index fingers. Frame an object about 15-feet in front of you so it’s in full view while both eyes are open. Now close one of your eyes – either one will do. If the object is still in full view, then your open eye is your dominant eye. Chances are you already have a good idea which of your eyes is dominant, so you might get it right in the first attempt.
2. Practise Focusing With Your Dominant Eye Doesn’t think you can simply jump straight into shooting with both eyes open just because you know which eye is dominant. This will lead to some serious issues while trying to line up your sights. You first need to train your brain to focus on your dominant eye while your non-dominant eye provides peripheral vision (which helps with situational awareness). To do so, you can smear some chapstick over your non-dominant eye’s lens on your shooting glasses. This blurs that eye’s vision enough to force your brain to focus using your dominant eye. If you prefer not to keep cleaning your shooting glasses, or you don’t want to get a second pair to switch between the two, you can use the open-shut method instead. This is actually a better way to train your focus, though it’s also more involved. Line your shot up as normal, with your non-dominant eye shut. Squeeze the trigger just enough so you’ve taken the slack out, then open your non-dominant eye. If your focus habit is to use the front sight, you’ll see two targets. The target on the side of your dominant eye will be the correct one. Conversely, if you’re focused on the target rather than your front-sight, then the handgun on your non-dominant eye’s side is the correct one. Either way, close your non-dominant eye again to confirm your target, then re-open it before taking your shot.
3. Practice, Practice, Practice Using the open-shut method (which we recommend over the chapstick method), take your first 50 shots. Then take your next 50 shots with both eyes open the entire time, so you don’t become overly reliant on checking and re-checking your aim. Remember, in an active situation where seconds count and the police are only minutes away, you don’t have time to do so. If you’re taking more than 100 shots during your live-fire session, then keep switching between the open-shut method and keeping both eyes open the entire time. But be sure to still use the 50/50 rule for your first 100 shots! You’re not going to master shooting with both eyes open in a single session, or even in a week where you visit the range every day. It’s going to take time and dedication – just like any other skill worth having.