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One Handed Defensive Shooting

You may see from time to time experienced or advanced shooters training with only their Support Hand or Primary Hand. They aren’t training to be a “gansta”, they are practicing what most trainers view as the next level of pistol expertise once you have mastered the two-handed technique.


When you shoot with both the Primary and Support hands employed in a crush grip, you are essentially training for the best case scenario: you have both hands available to shoot.

Unfortunately, in close quarters defensive encounters, which are the majority of attacks, we don’t have the luxury of both hands free. Typically one arm is shielding you from blows by the attacker. So we train to shoot single-handed.

Starting with the Primary Hand is a great way to begin this practice. Your Primary hand has the most experience with trigger manipulation, and will therefore not result in a wide variety of error and poor accuracy.

The grip however is a little different than a two-handed, full grip. You will need to ensure as you pull the trigger, starting very slowly at first, that you do not alter your aim. Shooting multiple rounds quickly and accurately using just your Primary hand is an acquired skill. Do it slowly.

Keep your Support arm against your chest, with a fist against your heart, this will stabilize your upper body during recoil. You can also simply rest your Support arm at your side, but this presents the opportunity for you to lose focus on it. Securing your Support arm against your chest keeps your mind active on holding it there. You can also place this arm above your head with your forearm across your forehead which is a common defensive response to an attacker.

Slightly pivot your body away from the target with your Primary side closest to the target. This will help you manage recoil. The energy will be transferred into your body instead of only your shoulder. We also recommend you lock your elbow or keep it slightly bent. Locking the elbow will transfer most of the recoil into your body, a slightly bent elbow will absorb into your arm. Figure-out what feels right and gives you good recoil control.

As you progress, add a full or partial draw stroke to the process. Remember this is slow practice. Don’t rush to miss. But do start to increase your speed as you become proficient. We recommend using our Accuracy Drill target for this practice.


Single-handed shooting with your Support Hand, the hand that does not typically perform your trigger pull, is a very different experience.

First of all the grip will feel strange. You hardly ever hold your pistol in just your Support hand, and for good reason. You should ALWAYS pick-up your pistol with your Primary hand, in a shooter ready grip, leaving no adjustment necessary to accurately aim and fire.

But your Support hand never gets any such practice. Even gripping the pistol will feel foreign. Practice picking-up your gun from a table with your Support hand enough that this weirdness disappears. It should feel natural after 50-100 reps. Do this daily until you don’t need to practice it any longer, but never forget, shooting is a diminishing skill, you may never be able to stop practicing to maintain a highly repeatable motion.

Trigger pull on the Secondary hand will be even more strange. Your Support trigger finger NEVER gets to work, it just grips. So imagine all of the pain you went through to become proficient with both hands and apply it to training your Support trigger finger. Embrace the suck!

Good thing is by this point you will likely also be able to identify and fix accuracy errors much more quickly. Are you pulling to a side? Are you anticipating recoil? Start with dry fire, focus on the sights. Does the muzzle dip or stray while you press the trigger? It certainly will with live fire.

Work through this skill with dry fire, slowly, until you have a solid baseline. Remember to keep your Primary arm against your chest with your fist against your heart or raised in a defensive position. Pivoting the body here is also key, recoil will be absorbed into your upper body instead of just your shoulder.

Again you can choose to lock your elbow or keep it slightly bent. Whatever feels right. But remember, firing multiple rounds accurately and quickly requires a lot of recoil management. The more bent your arm, the more your pistol may recoil off target.

We also recommend using our Accuracy Drill target for this drill.


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