At a recent meeting, another attendee commented to me that she is currently unable to shoot due to an injury to her dominant-side right arm. (I specifically avoid the terms “strong side” and “weak side” as I don’t think it’s beneficial to worry that you’re using your weak hand when you’re in a fight for your life or those of your loved ones.)

When I asked her if she could not shoot with her non-dominant left hand, I could not tell who was more surprised – she, that I should suggest that concept, or I, that my question should surprise her.

Aside from the legal issues surrounding the use of deadly force, one of the most important concepts that I took from my earliest training from Massad Ayoob was the need to be able to shoot a handgun – reliably – with either hand. (By extension, that also includes being able to shoot a long gun off either shoulder.)

There are two components to this concept so I’ll start with the simpler one: If your dominant hand or arm is incapacitated by surgery or by an injury incurred outside the context of a fight for survival, your transition will be much easier if you already have available the skills and equipment for using the non-dominant hand. Are you able to work all the controls on your handgun, one-handed, with your secondary hand? Do you own a holster and related equipment, such as carriers for spare ammo, suitable for that operation? If you intend to use a pistol, are you able to charge the magazines with only one hand?

Turning to the uglier scenario, if your dominant hand or arm is incapacitated during a fight, do you have the skills and equipment to finish the fight with your non-dominant hand? For several years, I taught a couple of drills – designed around police duty holsters – involving drawing firing and reloading, first with only the dominant hand, then with only the non-dominant hand. These are worthwhile skills to build but I came to realize two things about those drills. First, they involve enough added time that they ought not to be taught without at least the simulated use of cover – a principle that I actually favor for any reloading. Second, they are not always practical with holsters designed for discrete carry. In the latter regard, I came increasingly to advise my students and readers to carry a minimum of two handguns, with one readily accessible to either hand.

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