The Left Hand

Students come in all shapes and sizes and some of them even come left handed. One of my kids is a lefty so it was a great experience to work with him when he became interested in shooting.

Jack of All Trades

As an instructor there are many hats you must wear, one of them is a left handed hat. Understanding the challenges of a lefty in a right handed world is something more instructors should strive for as part of their overall instructor capability. It does pose unique challenges, but none your students don’t have to experience. As adult learners you have to recognize most learn by observing and doing. These two groups make up the majority of the student body. It stresses the importance of maintaining a minimum skill level on your left side. You don’t have to be a grand master, but you need to make it look achieveable and that takes practice.

Student Needs

When I run an Instructor Selection Course the instructor candidates will have to demonstrate a minimum standard of performance on their left side. On the flip side, if the instructor is a lefty, they will have to demonstrate the standard of performance on their right side. It proves equally challenging, but the learning curve is less steep due to most firearm controls favoring the right side. When the instructor candidate reaches the instructor development portion of the course they will have to work on shooter diagnostics. I make it even more challenging by posing as a left handed shooter. This forces the instructor candidate to recognize the likelihood of teaching to a lefty and ensuring their skills can accommodate the student’s needs.

The Bare Minimum

I recommend at a minimum you are able to demonstrate how to safely load, unload and perform a safety check from the left side. It is not as easy as telling the student to do the opposite. As mentioned earlier the controls are located in different locations. My suggestion is to slow things down. Take time to brief what you will do, then walk through the task or activity verbally explaining your steps. One point of contention for me is a pistol with right hand controls being worked from the left side. It is customary to use the trigger finger to operate some of the controls. In my opinion, your trigger finger should be isolated to performing one duty only, the movement of the trigger. It makes it challenging to accommodate this request without moving the controls. One bonus for manually running the slide is it works when holding the gun in either hand. When it comes to locking the action open, I eject the live round first. Then reposition my hand to allow my right hand index finger to operate the slide stop lever.

The Same, but Different

When it comes to shooting or performing demonstrations on the left side, again I strongly suggest you have a minimum level of performance. Slowing things down allows you to think your way through the firing sequence; which is necessary due to lack of maintenance. One sticky point is focusing on the front sight. My suggestion is to close your right eye. Force your brain to see the front sight on the left side through the left eye. It doesn’t matter what eye is dominant at this point, the closed eye is out of the picture. The trigger movement is the same regardless of what hand is holding the gun. When it comes to trigger management, what matters is your ability to place your finger correctly followed by applying pressure smoothly. The take away is the heightened sense of attention you are placing on trigger mechanics that is often taken for granted.

Shooting off your left side will make you a better shooter, but more importantly it will enhance a left handed student’s experience. As an instructor, that should be your primary goal.

 

4 thoughts on “The Left Hand

  1. Rick Olson says:

    Jeff, kind words and good insights. As a left-handed shooter and instructor, I’m all out of my sense of humor for left-handed shooting jokes. I sincerely appreciate the manner in which you treated this topic. Good on you.

    • Jeff Gonzales says:

      Howdy Rick, thank you in return. I enjoy the challenges for sure. Keep up the great work.

  2. Jeffrey Sewell says:

    Thanx, Jeff. This was very helpful. I shoot with weak hand but never practiced shooting as a left handed. I still do not quite understand how to manipulate the controls on a right handed weapon. How do I position my RIGHT HAND? What finger does what? Do I approach controls from underneath the slide/frame?

    • Jeff Gonzales says:

      Howdy Jeff,

      Thanks for the message and I will try to answer your questions. The crush grip is virtually the same, what is different as you mention is access to the controls. As mentioned I try to discourage doing anything with the trigger finger other than pulling the trigger…and picking your nose 😉

      With that being said, if you can switch the controls or have ambidextrous controls it makes it pretty easy.

      The magazine release can be depressed with the trigger finger if that is the only option. Locking the slide is best accomplished by using the number of the trigger finger as it is kept straight. Or an alternative is to use the strong hand index finger. While grasping the slide with an overhand grip, eject the live round. Ensure the firearm is unloaded. Then slide your hand slightly forward so when you retract the slide you can reach the slide stop lever. Pull up and you it should lock to the rear.

      I hope this helps.

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