How often do you keep your gun hand empty? If your answer is “never,” you better read this post and hopefully, you'll not give me that response again!
In this article:
- Empty Gun Hand: A Habit Borne of Years of Training
- Gun Hand and Support Hand
- Cops Getting It Wrong
- Tips for Empty Gun Hand Training
- Making Your Gun Hand Empty a Habit
An Empty Gun Hand Is a Prepared Hand
Empty Gun Hand: A Habit Borne of Years of Training
If you sat across the street from my house and watched me unload groceries from the trunk of my car, you’d notice I do it using my left or non-gun hand only.
First, I believe I would have already spotted you and assessed any possible threat. Second, I don’t have an injury preventing me from using my right hand to lift things so I just choose to do it.
Additionally, I use my non-gun, or support hand, to hold or carry most objects, based on being screamed at to do so over 30 years ago.
In my police academy, holding anything in your gun hand was a sin punishable first by a 500-word essay, and next by 500 pushups for a repeat offense. You don’t want to know what happened after your third time.
If you believe, as I do, the “fastest drawn gun is the one already in your hand,” then you don’t ever want anything in your gun hand which would slow you down should you need to draw.
This includes your car keys, cell phone, a soda, your briefcase, purse, or backpack, or even the hand of your child or loved one. Keep your gun hand empty, always.
Gun Hand and Support Hand
I agree with the gun tactics experts who prefer the positive phrases: “gun hand and support hand,” as opposed to the less appealing “strong hand and weak hand.” Most of us have a dominant hand and a non-dominant one, but referring to one as weak and the other as strong is a negative approach.
Under stress, we revert to how we have been trained. If you have developed the bad habit of carrying things in your gun hand, during a moment of life-or-death stress, you want every advantage.
You also don’t want to find yourself looking at some object in your gun hand and spending precious time wondering what to do with it.
You don't want to be in the position where you're thinking, “Hmm. I need to draw my gun, but I’m holding the bag with my lunch. Do I drop it, set it gently on the ground, or reach in and see how much I can eat before I need to shoot?”
Cops Getting It Wrong
You would think cops would know of the tactical need for the Empty Gun Hand better than the rest of us. You’d often be wrong.
As a few episodes of the long-running eye-over-their-shoulder TV program “Cops” will show you, lots of officers have developed the bad habit of holding things in their gun hands. This includes their ticket books, flashlights, radios, car keys, and coffee cups.
And for officers who still use handheld radios and not lapel mics, they continue this sin by looking at their radios when they talk, not at the bad guys. Even officers with lapel mics will look at their shoulder patches as they talk, instead of keeping their eyes downrange.
I know cops get trained and told not to carry things in their gun hands, but I believe they get away from the concept out of either laziness. Or, because “nothing bad has ever happened when I was holding something in my gun hand.”
In my Perfect Police World, officers should be able to fight with either hand, use their Tasers, chemical sprays, or impact weapons, and handcuff suspects with equal speed and skill, using either hand. The reason for their need for double-digit dexterity is the same for us.
You must be able to protect and defend yourself if your gun hand is injured (shot, cut, or fingers were broken). Or if your gun hand side is incapacitated in the fight (due to a broken collarbone, a broken wrist, or a torn shoulder).
Tips for Empty Gun Hand Training
In a fight, bad things can happen to your equipment, your body, your eyesight, and your grip. Over-relying only on one side over the other means you have to hope those things never occur to you.
For me, hope is not a tactical strength. In the usual boxing stance, if you’re right-handed, your left hand and foot are forward and your right hand and foot are to the rear.
If you’re left-handed, the positions are reversed. But just as every skilled martial artist can fight with both hands (and both feet), you should be able to defend yourself using your firearm with either hand.
Switching hands doesn’t mean you have to change eyes for your sight portrait. The majority of us have a dominant eye, so stick with it.
The middle of a gunfight is not the time to discover which one is which, or change eyeball views midshot. While some of you are gifted with the rare skill of firearms ambidexterity, able to draw and shoot with either hand, most of us are not so oriented.
It will take practice, both with safe dry fire at home and at the range, to get smooth and fast at gun drawing from your holster, switching hands quickly but carefully (I’ve seen anxious people drop their guns as they make the transition), and shooting with your support hand.
Start strengthening your grip for your support hand with gels from PowerPutty.com or hand grippers you can use to squeeze out dozens of reps. Practice your gun hand changes at home during your safe dry fire sessions.
Next range trip, put double the number of rounds through with your support hand.
Making Your Gun Hand Empty a Habit
Keeping your gun hand empty at all times is a critical habit to develop. Learn to roll your suitcase at the airport with your support hand.
I’m not saying you need to teach yourself to eat with your support hand. I’m sure I’d constantly poke myself in the jaw with my fork.
But, everything else is fair game to change to your non-gun support hand. Make two trips to the car if you have to.
Get a soda tray from the restaurant people. Have the grocery kid triple-bag your food so you can carry it all with one hand.
In worst cases wherein your gun hand is not empty, show off some skills using your support hand! Watch this video from Sage Dynamics to find out how!
In situations where you may possibly need to draw your gun, give yourself every advantage for speed to getting on target. Catch yourself every time you violate this rule and stop doing it.
Carry what you need in your non-gun support hand so it becomes second-nature, ingrained, and something you never even have to think about.
Do you practice keeping your gun hand empty all the time? Share your experiences in the comments below!
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- Lessons On Gunfighting From Wyatt Earp
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on November 1, 2017, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.