Western Rifle Shooters Association

Do not give in to Evil, but proceed ever more boldly against it

Monday, November 24, 2008

Suarez: Ambidextrous Gunfighting

A superb article from Gabe:


Go to any Force on Force class and watch the students. Invariably, you'll find the majority of them get shot in the hands. This is due to several factors. Primarily, the shooter is placing the gun midway between him and the adversary, thus any incoming rounds will likely impact the gun and hands. Secondly, the adversary may visually focus on the gun thus orienting his physical index toward the gun as he fires. And finally, it could just be pure chance. Nevertheless, if anything is going to be hit, its very likely to be the hands.

This brings up some interesting needs in training. The majority of shooters spend time training material they already know. Its an ego thing. The majority of shooters are also highly deficient in one handed shooting skills, or in shooting with their less dexterous hand. Let's remember that although firing a pistol with two hands generally yields better result, the weapon was intended to be a one-handed weapon. This leads us to an analysis of Ambidextrous Shooting (some call it Bi-Lateral Shooting). Specifically we need to address why its needed, when it may employed, and how to train the skill.

Other than the wounded shooter factor, are there any other situations where on-handed shooting would be required?

1). Movement Off Line Sometimes requires Firing On-Handed.

In our Close Range Gunfighting Series and its close cousin, the Interactive Gunfighting/Force on Force Classes, we establish early on that you must move off the line of attack. In fact, if you do not move, regardless of how fast your combat master draw is, you will get shot or stabbed by the other man. Remember that gunfights do not happen at ten yards, but rather ten feet and closer, thus the difference between a 1.0 second draw and a 1.5 second draw are not very great. As Lynn Thompson of Cold Steel pointed out a few years ago, "proximity negates skill". At ten feet even a neophyte with a rusty Raven .25 Auto can get lucky, and ten feet is a long distance in true gunfighting. Movement off line is key and mandatory to avoid being shot.

When we move off line, we prefer to move laterally (3:00 or 9:00) , or at angles such as the 5:00, 7:00, or 2:00 and 10:00. We prefer to walk as God designed us to walk, forward. The popular sideways "crab walk" will not move you off the line fast enough. Similarly, almost never do we want to move backwards. Again, this is shown in force on force drills when every backpedaler gets literally run over by his adversary.

When moving at these angles its sometimes impossible to maintain a traditional two-handed grip on the pistol. Your goal is always to keep the muzzle pointed at the adversary. You maintain that objective and move your body around that orientation. Sometimes keeping a two-handed grip will be easy, at other times it will not. Rather than give up the objective of keeping muzzle on contact, you may need to go one-handed.

As an example take a right handed shooter moving to his left. At some point, he will be unable to maintain both hands on the gun, and the gun oriented on the threat as he moves. As the angle between him and his adversary grows, so will the tension in the torso, requiring he let go with the support hand to keep the muzzle on target. One handed shooting.

2). The Use Of Back-up Guns As An Immediate Action Response

Many students are carrying secondary weapons as a true non-diagnostic immediate action response for a malfunctioning gun. You can certainly discard the malfunctioned gun and shoot the BUG (back up gun) two-handed, but perhaps in a dynamic environment it may be a better choice to transition the "jammed up" gun to one hand, and draw the BUG one handed.

3). Tactical Necessity in Moving/Clearing Operations

While not everyone will need to "clear" a house, the possibility of having to move tactically through a hostile environment may easily occur. Moving (or its tactical relative, "clearing") are all based on the study of cornering. There are right side corners and left side corners. It may be a wise option in many cases to transition the pistol to the opposite hand to carefully move through an uncomfortable corner such as a right handed shooter clearing a left handed corner.

4). Gunfights Are Close -

This may require firing from a weapon retention position, or in some cases, shooting at the close range envelop when the other hand is occupied in striking/deflecting a blow, responding from seated positions as in a vehicle, and of course, in the event you are injured.

5). Injured Shooter

Finally, as we mentioned earlier, there are situations when you may be injured and unable to maintain a two-handed hold due to injury. The idea that you "will be shot in any gunfight" is silly. However, there is always a possibility that you may be shot. But understand that nearly 80% of those shot with handguns survive, so even if you've been hit, keep fighting. Cultivate a spirit of never giving in. While you still have blood in your veins and breath in your lungs, keep fighting.

Ambidextrous shooting skill is one of those things we were led to believe was impossible or untrainable. Not true my friends. It not only possible, but as we discussed, necessary for a complete education of the gunfighter. Like any other martial skill, all it takes is judicious practice. Practice not only shooting one-handed, but also with the support (weak) hand, and with the support side two-handed grip. And get good at transferring the gun from one hand to the next as needed. Thus you can shoot right one-handed or left one-handed, and right two-handed or left two-handed. There is some skill transfer to the other side, but go slow at first until the other side catches up. Pay particular attention to trigger finger placement (on trigger or on index point). The strong side is generally well-trained in terms of trigger finger placement. Not so with the left so be careful.

One Handed Drawing

Drawing one handed, strong side is no big deal, but it makes for a slightly different draw stroke. Train it, because at bad breath range, you may need it. If you are wounded, you might experience dropping the weapon as you draw, so practice picking it up and fighting.

Also, remember the dynamics of the gunfighting (for some of you look at Force On Force). Will you have the time, or the ability to stand still and reach around the back for the gun as Mongo is closing in with his Bowie knife? I'm not saying yes or no, but rather simply offering it up for discussion.

Support side drawing with an open ended time frame while stationary on the range is one thing. Support side draw from under real concealment, on the move, under fire? Different thing altogether.

One Handed Gun Manipulations

Other things to study are keeping the gun loaded and fixing any malfunctions that come up. The only time you would ever need to do this is if you are wounded. All situations where the gun fails to fire (for any reason) are initially responded to with a "Knee/Rack/Point", reminiscent of the tap/rack. That is you knee the magazine bottom, hook the rear sight on your belt (or holster, or cover, or...) rack the slide, and point in. As you are conducting this maneuver and moving, you are analyzing the gun. (Did the clearance fix it? Is it still out of battery? Can I see brass?). If the Knee/Rack/Point didn't fix it, you have either a Feedway Stoppage (Fail To Extract), or an Empty Gun.

To keep the gun loaded you will do the reactive (empty gun) reload and the proactive (tactical) reload the same way. Keep it simple grasshopper. You are already wounded so why complicate matters. Secure the pistol in holster, waistband or under the arm - remove empty (or partially empty) magazine - replace with full magazine - rack the slide if needed by using the rear sight to hook onto your belt, holster or other item - keep fighting.

Notice I didn't say to secure the pistol between the knees. I know all about cover, but its rarely available in a reactive gunfight. Even if it was, you will still need to get to it. Don't do anything that would compromise your mobility. Got a holster on? Stick the gun in the holster right way or reversed. No holster? Stick the gun in the waistband. Can't do that? Then put the gun in your armpit, muzzle rear. Adapt and overcome!

To clear the Feedway Stoppage/Failure To Extract, you will use the same procedure, but add a series of "Racks", before reloading to clear out the chamber.

Developing ambidextrous (or Bilateral) skill with your weapons is not an easy thing, but it is important. Historically, the best warriors were the ones who could fight with either side as the situation demanded. David's Mighty Men, for example, could "shoot arrows and sling stones with either the right or the left hand" (1Ch 12:2). The day of being lop-sided gunmen is past.

Get good with both hands, and you will have doubled your combat survivability.

Gabe Suarez

One Source Tactical
Suarez International USA
Christian Warrior Ministries

Matthew 10:34:

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.


Blogger chris horton said...

I've been a drummer for 30+ years.

And shooting handguns with both hands almost as long. Ambidexterity has a LOT of positive attributes...

November 24, 2008 at 8:32 PM  
Blogger Phelps said...

The first thing I got when started playing paintball beyond the required safety equipment was gloves. Why? I kept getting hit in the hands.

Paintball players get hit in three main places -- the face (caught on a head-check), the feet (poor cover, and any hit counts) and the hands. It is virtually impossible to shoot effectively and not expose your head and hands from cover. That's what gets hit.

November 25, 2008 at 12:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

finger on the trigger barrel in the pants...

sweet photo choice

November 26, 2008 at 9:42 PM  
Anonymous Wild Deuce said...

Just saw this one, Anon. Based on his training DVDs, I'm going to have to say that he has his finger tip touching the frame directly above the trigger as opposed to the traditionl straight finger along the frame.

I have heard some instructors say this technique allows you to just drop the finger tip on to the trigger face and press without having to bend the last two joints. They have said that bending the joint(s) at the instant you've decided to shoot translates into a jerk on the trigger during high stress. So on and so forth ... I'm not the expert.

July 24, 2009 at 2:46 AM  

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