Look, Ma, One Hand! Why Shooting One-Handed Is Critical

Shooting one-handed may be your only option in a gunfight. Do you have the skills to make the shot?


We all love a good two-handed grip on our guns. It allows us to get a powerful grasp on your pistol and maximize control. In training, we use that good two-handed grip to maximize control, accuracy, and recoil management. While that’s great, it’s optimistic to assume that a two-handed grip will always be available. We aren’t in the business of optimism. We are in the business of preparedness, and in that realm, we gotta consider situations where you only have one hand.

Shooting with one hand isn’t easy, but training to do so is a must! Sharpening skills with one hand will make you a much better-prepared shooter. I don’t just mean the dominant hand, but the support hand as well. Why? Well, let’s dive into the why.

  • You might be holding a child or keeping one behind you.
  • Injuries to the hand in a violent situation are very likely.
  • You could be holding a threat back or holding yourself up with one hand.
  • You might not have time to assume a perfect shooting stance.

How to Train With One Hand

We know why, but how? Well, that’s easy. Go shoot with one hand. Done, alright, let’s pack it up! Okay, well, I’ll elaborate more since you asked nicely. First and foremost, start with dry fire and find what works best. This will save you ammo and range time in experimenting. Practice shooting with one hand with both your dominant and support arms.

Start with your dominant hand and do some basic dry fire with one hand. One technique I like is to slightly cant the gun inwards. To me, this makes it easier to see the sights and easier to control the weapon. Extend your arm and induce a little tension into the arm to help control recoil.

What do you do with your limp arm while you shoot with one hand? Well, that’s up to you. Some people just let it hang. Others might tuck it close to your body. I like taking the arm and forming a fist, and bringing it to my chest or rib cage. This seems to make it easy to balance and improve performance. With this in mind, it might not be the best solution for realistic one-handed shooting.

Sure, if you’re injured, then you can do this, but if you’re holding a child, this isn’t possible. There is certainly value in practicing keeping your ‘other’ arm in a multitude of positions. You should also practice drawing with one hand and going straight to the engagement. This includes the fun process of drawing with your support hand.

Depending on how you carry your gun, this can be more of a challenge than you anticipate. Either way, practice with hands and make your draw smooth and safe while being fast and efficient.

The One Hander

The One Hander is a drill I run to practice one-handed shooting. You’ll need a target with small circles on it. The classic Dot Torture target works. This drill starts at 3 yards, and range can be added as your skills increase. It starts simple enough: shoot five rounds with your dominant hand into the small circle targets as fast as you can. I aim to keep it under 8 seconds. Then switch hands and repeat with the support hand.

The One Hander takes shooting with one hand to the next level, and you can build on this drill to make it harder. Add range, shorten the shot timer. Start incorporating your draw with both hands and repeating the five rounds and switch method.

Here’s what I like to do. Start at 3 yards with your weapon holstered. In one hand, hold something heavy. I use a kettlebell, but a gallon of liquid works, as does a bucket with dirt in it. Hold it in the hand you are not shooting with. Draw and fire your five rounds. Then switch it up a bit and use the support hand. This can replicate your arm actually being out of commission and forces you to be accurate with one hand while drawing with one hand.

One Hand Rules

Shooting with one hand isn’t easy. It can be quite humbling, to be honest. Don’t give up, though. Sure your accuracy will suck at. First, you’ll feel like the gun is tough to handle, but it’s well worth the practice. Just remember how much you sucked the first time you picked a handgun up. You got better at it, right? Well, you’ll get better with one hand too. But you won’t do it without ammo and range time, so get after it.

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Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. Travis has trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army.

He serves as an NRA-certified pistol instructor and pursues a variety of firearms-based hobbies.


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