Do You Practice One-Handed Shooting?

by Drew Beatty

While at a live fire training class, one of the live fire drills was one-handed shooting at an IPSC torso target at 12 feet. I produced a reasonably tight fist-sized pattern on the target. The young man next to me in line asked, "Do you practice one handed?" My answer was, "Yes, of course I do."

One-handed shooting is a valuable and necessary skill that should be practiced by the concealed carrier and anyone who has a handgun for self-defense. There are many reasons you may need to deploy and operate a pistol using only one hand rather than the standard (and preferable) two-handed grip. Among those reasons:

  • A coyote has its jaws clenched on one of your arms.
  • You are fleeing for your life from a carload of criminals who caused you to have an accident, and one hand has been injured, yet you must use the pistol to save your life.
  • You may be shepherding a child or loved one to safety with one of your hands.
  • You had surgery or some medical procedure and your arm is in a sling for a few months.
  • Your arthritis is acting up.

I recommend regularly dedicating some range time to one-handed shooting practicing with both your primary and support hands. It doesn't even have to take a lot of time, maybe one or two magazines a month. As you can see from the possible scenarios cited above, this is a very important skillset to develop.

Try this technique at the range: when presenting the weapon to the target one-handed, push your gun arm out straight with the elbow either locked or almost locked. I find that I can manage recoil better with my elbow locked. I am also more comfortable stepping toward the target with my gun-side foot, so I step forward slightly when presenting the weapon. I use a "cheek weld" on my deltoid muscle as if my arm were a rifle.

Clench your support hand fist tightly, as the sympathetic reflexes gained from clenching your unused support hand will actually assist your gun hand grip (of course, if you have a coyote on this hand you can skip this part). You will need a tight grip when shooting with one hand, as recoil has far more impact on your shooting when you are firing the gun single-handed.

For one-handed shooting, the gun is not held straight up and down as with two handed shooting, but tilted at a 45-degree angle toward your body's centerline, as demonstrated in this photo. Try this: extend your clenched fist out straight in front of you right now with no gun in your hand. Now, relax your hand and arm muscles. Notice how your hand naturally tilts inward toward your body's centerline at 45 around degrees? That's how you want to hold the pistol, as it is the natural position of your extended hand.

For one-handed shooting, solid hits are rewarded, as follow-up shots are more difficult to deliver quickly. You will notice this right away when you practice. Also, it's far easier to pull the front sight off target while pulling the trigger only using one hand. You can experience this by the Wall Drill dry fire technique described in an earlier blog post. Physics misses the assistance of the support hand.

One handed shooting is a valuable skill that should be practiced deliberately by the shooter. Developing this skill will allow you to address a multitude of self-defense situations where using one hand might be your only option.

Drew Beatty is a 50 year old husband and father, and a lifetime resident of the great state of Colorado. He is an NRA Life-Member, and a long-time firearms enthusiast, as well as a strong advocate for The Second Amendment.