Why You Should Practice One-Hand Shooting

posted on January 4, 2021
woman shooting

Consistent practice with one hand will help maintain critical skills that can help you defend yourself should you—for any number of reasons—only be able to use one arm in a fight.

Might there be reasons to shoot a pistol with one hand only? It’s best if we can get two hands on the gun, but there may times when that’s not possible. If a scenario arose where you could only shoot with one hand, have you practiced it so you will be ready? It is a worthy training consideration and, if my experience is any example, there might be times when you will need to be ready to work with one hand only.

At close ranges, it’s a good idea to leave both eyes open when shooting, if you can, but in any case, it’s best to align the sights with your master eye. This helps avoid shooting in a cross-dominant fashion that generally causes you to shoot off to one side or another. So, for example, if you are left-handed and your dominant eye is your left eye, you want to align the sights with your left eye. When shooting with your right hand, the idea is to bring the pistol over a little past center to align the sights with your left eye. In similar fashion, this is how you can fix cross-dominance, such as a right-handed shooter who is left-eye dominant; simply move the sights to align with the left eye. Align the sights with the dominant eye.

Another issue to deal with when shooting one-handed is your shooting stance. We want to shoot from a powerful, balanced fighting stance when we can, and this usually means being squared up with the chest facing the target and one foot or the other slightly forward.

It’s harder to control a handgun, especially a powerful one, when you shoot with one hand, so I like to step forward and lean into the gun a little more than usual. If you’re used to pushing the gun straight out, you may find it helpful to bend the elbow a bit and cant the gun slightly inboard to lock up your wrist, elbow and shoulder.

Transferring the pistol from one hand to the other is tricky. Make sure your trigger fingers—both of them—stay away from the trigger until you’re ready to shoot. When you transfer the pistol to the opposite hand, bend the elbow and cant the gun the same way you did with the other hand. Align the sights with the dominant eye.

Here’s the drill

This one I stole from a fellow instructor and former Recon Marine, who tells me his unit practiced it.

You’ll need a single paper target or steel plate. If using steel, stay back at least 7 yards. With paper, try shooting from 3 yards back to 7 or 10.

With the pistol in your normal, strong-side shooting hand, point in and fire two rounds, transfer the pistol to the support hand and fire two rounds, transferring the pistol from hand to hand after every two rounds. Shoot until the pistol is empty. Check your target, reload, step back farther and repeat. Keep repeating this sequence until you see that your accuracy is falling off with either hand.

How fast should you shoot? As quickly as you can make the hits, quicker at close range and a bit slower as you move back. And remember, don’t focus on the target while shooting, focus on the front sight.


shooter at the range
shooter at the range

Skills Check: Present Arms

We refer to the draw stroke as the presentation at Gunsite. It’s a better explanation than simply “drawing” the pistol, because it describes the act of presenting the pistol from the holster to the target or threat. In our “basic,” five-day pistol class we expect students to present the pistol and make hits on targets from 3 to 7 yards away in 1.5 seconds. Most students can do this in two or three days of training.

First Look: Springfield Armory Hellcat Pro 9 mm Pistol with Shield Red-Dot Optic

Springfield Armory now offers its popular Hellcat Pro 9 mm pistol with a factory-installed Shield SMSc red-dot optic.

Henry Celebrates 25 Years of Gunmaking with Limited-Edition Rifles

Two limited-edition rifles celebrating 25 years for Henry are being released.

First Look: Elite Survival Systems Hip Gunner Pack

Carry your defensive firearm with you in a pack, without carrying off-body.

Mental Focus vs. Mental Awareness

Shooting at the very edge of your skills envelope requires tremendous mental focus and well-developed shooting awareness. However, some shooters believe that shooting awareness and mental focus are one in the same. They are not. Using pistol shooting (combat or competition) as an example, what is the difference between the two and how can it help you hone your shooting skills to a razor’s edge?

First Look: PHLster Holsters Modular Wedge Kit

Mix and match these soft and durable foam pieces for a perfect holster fit.


Get the best of Shooting Illustrated delivered to your inbox.