By Sam Hoober
If you really want to see where your deficiencies are, shoot one-handed.
Strong-hand only or weak-hand only shooting, even if it’s just target shooting rather than practical shooting (ie not coming out of the holster) is going to reveal how much your support hand is compensating.
If you haven’t done much SHO/WHO shooting you might be surprised by how much compensating goes on.
And the good news (or bad news, depending on your viewpoint) is that doing more of it is how you can work on correcting those deficiencies.
As we all know, the fundamentals of shooting a handgun are grip, sights and squeeze. Of those things, the sights are the most self-explanatory as well as being the most overemphasized in terms of their importance.
Proper sight alignment is important of course, especially the further away you get from the target. The further away you are, the greater the deviation from your intended point of impact when you actually send the shot.
However, sight alignment also has nothing to do with how many hands you use. But what is? Grip and trigger manipulation.
So, one of the reasons why you want to use two hands is to keep the gun as stable as possible. This is important as it keeps the gun more stable (important for shooting accurately!) but also for recoil mitigation.
But, what a lot of people don’t necessarily appreciate is the role the support hand plays or can play in overcoming deficiencies in your trigger manipulation and in your strong-hand grip.
One of the most common causes of misses is when the strong hand involuntarily and/or reflexively squeezes the pistol hard(er) just before the shot breaks. Preignition movement (aka a flinch) will drive the gun off-target, usually low-left for right-handed shooters and so on.
The firmer your shooting hand grip is, the less it’s able to further constrict the grip in case of a flinch and reflexive contraction.
In other words, one of the first things that single-handed shooting will reveal is any deficiencies in your firing hand grip in terms of pressure, but also in placement.
One thing to pay attention to is the path the pistol takes under recoil. Things tend to take the path of least resistance, so the direction the gun travels in as it recoils is where your grip is weakest.
If it’s straight up and back, that means your grip is solid. If not, that means you’ll need to make some changes in how you grip the pistol. Where most people tend to be deficient is the thumb, which should be in contact and applying pressure to the side of the frame.
Being able to press the trigger straight to the rear without moving the gun, at all, takes a very long time to master. Too much pressure and you can easily wind up moving the gun off-target prior to ignition.
If you actually are “jerking the trigger,” what you’ll often notice is missing the target to the right. That isn’t because there’s too much finger on the trigger; the reason is that the trigger finger is literally pulling the gun to the right instead of pressing the trigger straight backward.
Again, the support hand can mask deficiencies with the additional clamping force. If you want to see where you can improve in terms of those fundamentals of shooting a pistol, take the support hand out of the equation.
The best way to start is slow fire at an appropriate target at 10 yards. Because it gives you less feedback in terms of accuracy, a steel gong or other steel target (most people just want to hear the “ping” sound; admit it) an actual bullseye target is better.
An NRA B8 Repair Center target is perhaps the most ideal, or at least another bullseye target with similar dimensions. Most of the Birchwood Casey and related bullseye targets (such as the Dirty Bird) are pretty close, so those work just fine too.
A 4- or 6-inch paper plate works in a pinch, if that’s what you have to work with.
If you can repeatedly hit the 10 ring with a single hand at 10 yards, then it’s time to start moving further out and working in the shot timer.
It’s also a good idea to work it into your dry fire routine. Whatever deficiencies it reveals in live fire, it does in dry fire as well. Give it a try sometime and see for yourself.
Do you practice one-handed as well as with both hands? Sound off in the comments.
Sam Hoober is a hunter and shooter based in the Inland Northwest.