I am right-handed, but I am left-eye dominant. Although I shoot handguns right-handed, I shoot long guns left-handed. I figure that being cross-eye dominate is better than being dominantly cross-eyed.
Being a right-handed handgun shooter, the right side is also the strongest side. Like most, I favor the strong side, but I also realize that there may be times when I need to shoot a handgun with the weaker hand and this usually involves swapping the handgun from the strong hand to the weak hand. I don’t practice this strong-side-to-weak-side exchange often enough at home or when I ma at the range; the concentration is primarily strong-side draw to strong-side shooting stance.
I find that we like to challenge ourselves, even with little things, although shooting a firearm would not be considered a little thing as it is a serious matter. My challenge to myself was not only to better my weak-side shooting skills, but to totally immerse myself into weak-side training. Now, weak-side gun handling is more than simply going to the range and shooting weak-side for each shooting session. If I carry strong-side, which I do, I am not really committing myself to weak-side gun handling. To be fully effective as a weak-side handgun operator, I also needed to carry the handgun on the weak side. Moreover, this also meant practicing the draw stroke from the weak side, presenting the pistol, acclimating to the grip, acclimating to the trigger, and putting rounds downrange effectively. In short, I am trying to undue a plethora of years practice, handling, and packing a pistol on my strong side to become an effective weak-side gun handler. The ultimate goal is to become as comfortable operating from my weak side as I am operating from the strong side. Some folks are naturally ambidextrous; I am not one of those folks. Aside from the fact that my right side is older than my left side, and has experienced most things from the right side, I felt that it was time for the left side to play catch-up.
One of the first things that I had to consider for this endeavor was what firearm to consider for this transition. Although, the 1911-based pistol is my first love, it was discounted. Although discounted for several reasons, the primary reason was safety.
I would be operating the 1911 from my non-dominant side. While I have done so, it was usually through transitioning the firearm from one hand to the other and not carrying or performing a draw-stroke from the left side with the weak-side hand. Additionally, there is the locating of the 1911’s thumb safety, which is on the left side of the pistol. While advantageous to the right-handed shooter, its location is not friendly to the left-handed shooter even though many left-handed shooters do just fine with the 1911, but they operate the pistol with their strong hand and it becomes more natural to them. I am transitioning to the left hand (my weak hand) and htat is not natural to me.
There is also the case of the left-side thumb safety being located on, now what would be, the outside of the pistol. The thumb safety of the 1911, when carried on the right side, is somewhat protected from things. Unless the 1911 is equipped with an ambidextrous thumb safety, the chances for the thumb safety being knocked “off safe” is relatively low. With a left-side thumb safety 1911 being carried on the left side; however, that odds of the thumb safety being knocked off safe is the same as with a 1911 that is equipped with an ambidextrous thumb safety, which are a little higher than normal. I like odds to be a little more in my favor when it comes to safety, and since I am learning a new skill. I need those odds to be way more in my favor. The 1911-based pistol was out as my “learning” tool.
What was needed was a pistol that was “lefty” friendly and what that meant was a pistol with no left-side safety lever, or a minimally-sized one. Lefty-friendly also meant an ambidextrous magazine release button was in order. Luckily, I did not have to go far to find a pistol that fit the bill – it was sitting on my right hip nestled nicely in the Black Arch ACE-1 GEN2 IWB holster – the Springfield XDM 4.5 that I have been carrying for a while now. While not without an external safety, the grip safety would provide a measure of safety while I got the hang of things left handed. This all leads to the fact that it is extremely difficult to draw a pistol with the left hand from a right-handed holster; a left-handed IWB holster would have to be ordered. Once again, Black Arch Holsters got the call and a left-hand ACE-1 GEN2 IWB holster for the Springfield XDM 4.5 was ordered. The holster, when received, will receive the same “cant” treatment as my right hand holsters. There was also another method to my madness. Since the new holster will also work with Springfield XDM 3.8, either the right-hand or left-hand holster could serve as a place to house a back-up firearm; the XDM 3.8 (which can use the magazines from the XDM 4.5) or another XDM 4.5. The mind is always clicking.
As far as carrying spare magazines go – nothing changes. I carry spare magazines on my right appendix position normally. While carrying does not change, I would be handling the magazines with my strong hand, which is much less clumsy than my weak hand and that makes it better for me. Also, consider that I operate a long gun left-handed and that means that most operations are done with my strong hand; magazine reloads, pump operation, bolt-operation, magazine release and install, etc. In my mind, it is actually an advantage to shoot weak-side and let the strong hand do all the heavy work. It is all a matter of knowing what hand is supposed to do what.
I normally shoot handguns from a modified, right side Weaver shooting stance, but can transition pretty smoothly from a right-side modified Weaver to an Isosceles shooting stance to a left side modified Weaver shooting stance and back through the Isosceles to the right side again. The difficult part, until I am totally used to carrying on my weak side, is to remember that I am starting from the left side and not the right side. I see a lot of left-side drills in my future. However, there is an upside to all of this.
I am enough of a realist to know that if I encounter a sticky situation my natural inclination is to fall into the old habit of going to my right (strong) side for the firearm. Now this discussion is heading into the two-gun carry that is well beyond where I want to go at this time, but I have to say that it needs to be considered; I won’t unravel years of carry and shooting experience from one side of the body and expect it to go away just because I decide to carry and shoot from a different side of the body.
As I struggle through this concept of weak side carry and handgun operation, I’ll try to keep you abreast of the progress. I think that there are people, like me, that want to be as proficient with the handgun as possible and sometimes that takes removing ourselves from our comfort zone in order to expand our performance base. I know that it sometimes takes a while to learn something new. I just hope that this old dog can pick up some new tricks.
Since I started this article, several things have come to light. I had to make several adjustments to the holster and that the body is not created equal on both sides. Some would say that the latter was true and the former was a necessity due to the latter. The fact remains that I favor my right side, my strong side, and which comes natural to me. The carrying of the pistol on the left side, my weak side, revealed that certain injuries can indeed affect the spinal/hip alignment that can make the carrying of a pistol a not so pleasant experience, aside from the fact that drawing a pistol from the weak side can be performed with practice – lots of practice.
Initially, I had set the cant adjustment to the holster the same as it would be if carried strong side, which is a little greater than the 15-degree cant provided with the holster. By the second day of wear, the holster and the weight of the pistol were wearing on my left hip to the point that I had to shift the holster far more rearward than what I would consider a normal carry position. While the holster became tolerable when standing, sitting with it was another matter.
I returned the cant setting to its original position, but decided to drop the ride height of the holster further into the trousers. That did help a bit, but it also strengthened my belief that the human body was not intended to carry a pistol, because there is no area that is flat on the human body. The butt of the pistol dug into my side, and the front section of the holster dug into my thigh when I sat. I again shifted the holster slightly rearward to relieve the pressure on my thigh. At least sitting was a little bit more comfortable, until it wasn’t.
A driving test was in order. Surprisingly, the holster rode well but I soon realized just to what disadvantage I was at carrying on my left side while driving. If I were in a country where the steering wheels are on the right side of the vehicle, there would not be as much issue as I was experiencing. With the seat belt properly fastened, accessing the firearm is a venture worthy of a contortionist. The left arm must be able to clear the back of the driver’s seat and the inner part of the driver’s door. This could only be done if I leaned quite a bit to my right, which meant pulling against the shoulder strap of the safety belt. I found that if I pulled the shoulder strap with my right hand, and it did not lock into place, I could draw the pistol with my left hand relatively easy while contorting my body to the right – but there was no place for the muzzle of the pistol go except to sweep across my body at some point or points, and that was not good. Also, there was just not a good way to shoot out of the driver’s side window (if I had to) without also contorting the body, although shooting out of the passenger side window with my left hand could be done. With our American vehicles, a right hand draw has a definite advantage, from a right-to-left cross-draw holster, a right-side hip (or IWB) holster, or even a right-handed shoulder holster.
While you might say that a left-hand shoulder holster or a left-to-right cross draw holster might help things, consider that the left arm is still restricted in movement by the inner panel of the driver’s door. Now, if the steering wheel was centered in the vehicle…
More to come as I indulge in the quest for carrying left.