Letter Re: The Importance of “Weak Side” Firearms Practice

A recent shoulder injury has alerted me to the fact that my weak side drills were totally inadequate. Just tucking the strong side hand in and using the weak side does not equal the reality of having a useless and painful limb effecting balance, movement and concentration. This is a very humbling experience. I will try to use some sort of “handicap” rig to duplicate the effect at the range. Safety is the first rule.
Long gun drills will be a real challenge. Sincerely in your debt for the great blog, – Spud

JWR Replies: Al of the major training organizations (such as Front Sight, Gunsite, and Thunder Ranch) have weak-side shooting in their curricula, but I’ve noticed that because of time constraints it typically doesn’t get the emphasis that it deserves, especially in two-day courses. (Weak-side drills are covered much better in the four-day courses.)

In my personal experience, I’ve found that weak side gets subconsciously ignored in self-directed practice because: A.) It doesn’t qualify as what most folks consider “fun” training, B.) The awkwardness of drawing and holstering, and C.) the subtle fear of looking inadequate/clumsy/inaccurate in front of family and friends. All that I can say is: Get over it, folks! Weak-side, by its very nature is going to look awkward, especially vis-a-vis drawing and holstering. To minimize embarrassment, have everyone in your shooting party practice shooting weak side at the same time. To make these drills more enjoyable, you can bake a batch of brownies to award to the “most improved weak-side shooter of the day.” You can also mix up the training. Shoot and practice reloading pistols belonging to other shooters. If you have one or two left-handers in your party or family, occasionally have them switch holsters with other shooters. Try wearing someone else’s rig. Try draping your own or someone else’s rig over your left or right shoulder. (As you might hastily do with a battlefield pick-up.) These provide variety, and such variety can be a good thing. Also don’t overlook the possibility of eye injuries in defensive shooting situations as well as hand/arm/shoulder injuries. You can put patches over alternating eyes, to provide four different drill variations: 1.) Strong side, strong eye, 2.) Strong side, weak eye, 3.) Weak side, strong eye, and 4.) Weak side, weak eye.

OBTW, do you want a real challenge? If you are right-handed, try shooting a right-hand bolt action from your left shoulder. While you are at it, also try shooting a left-hand bolt action from your left shoulder. You will feel like you stepped into an alternate universe–the universe where you can’t shoot worth beans. (It will also give you some compassion for what lefties endure, all through life.)

Not everyone has the advantage of living in the boonies and having a place to shoot right at home. Many public shooting ranges won’t allow any “from the holster” shooting drills, and some of those that do won’t allow weak hand or other unconventional shooting positions or drills. If that is the case where you normally shoot then either talk with the range management to convince them to change their policies (or set aside special times/days for holster drills), or, failing that, find a different place to shoot. This is yet another reason why you should live at your retreat year-round.

Note: Needless to say, unusual shooting techniques require extra attention to safety. Do considerable dry practice before trying any unusual shooting positions/drills at a live fire range (You will probably find that the first time that you try weak side gun handling, your muzzle will end up in unanticipated directions.) Mind your muzzle and never, ever diverge from following the Four Safety Rules. Perfect practice make perfect.