Personal Defense

Ambi ‘Lefty’ Shooting the Right Way

Drawing a revolver from a left hand holster

Everyone has a favorite sin they won’t give up, a favorite drill they are very good at, and a cherished belief that doesn’t go away easily. In personal defense training, you cannot play favorites and you must train not for what you hope will be the case but what reality tells you will be what the fight looks like. My most difficult drills are weak-side non-dominant drills.

About 1981, I fell into conflict with an animal and was seriously injured. The result was a trip to the ER — and later two surgeries to correct the injury as best the skilled doctor could. I probably went back to work too soon. The injury was to the left arm. A few months after the first surgery, while I still had a plate in my arm, I heard a loud crack as I was tightening flywheel bolts on a Chevy RAT motor. It scared me but apparently no injury was done.

Shooter is practicing left-hand fire with his SIG P210.
This shooter is practicing left-hand fire with his SIG P210.

Most of us have about 75% strength in the weak side compared to the ‘strong side.’ I darn sure widened this spread during my injury and recovery. The incident was not work related, so I had to make a living with one arm in a sling.

Home Defense

An injury of this type may be a constant source of frustration or motivation depending on the mindset. I have done my best in competetion and defense drills while recognizing I could do better. As an example, in a home defense scenario it is all well and good to practice arming ourselves and then taking a shielded firing position against the safe room or bedroom door framing. We unconsciously do this with the strong side and keep to one side of the braced firing position as much as possible.

In my case this would cover a front door entry. But what if they crash through the rear door? If this occurs, and they get past the Canidae, something is very wrong. She isn’t vicious or well-trained, simply loyal. She runs toward trouble and every knock on the door, usually FedEx, UPS, USPS, or the local constable looking for coffee and a conversation, perhaps advice on a case. (The grandchildren are met with a wet kiss to the mouth, a tug on the nose ponytail or shoelaces. But I am warned of every visitor.)

Occasionally, a neighbor child wanting to take Lucy for a walk shows up as she knows the kids in the neighborhood. If there were an emergency and she ran toward trouble I won’t follow her. I am ready for what gets past her. I rely heavily on this 60-pound roving surveillance system. However, fireworks and thunderheads render her ‘offline.’

If I am warned, and if the threat originates from the rear of the home, I am not going to be uncomfortable and un-schooled. I will not clumsily take a right-hand hold against a left-hand doorway and expose the largest part of the body to incoming fire.

Man shooting a pistol with a one-handed stance
Begin practice with a classic one-hand stance.

I will ram my support hand into the casing and be ready. The support hand is what is usually called the dominant hand. It becomes the non-dominant hand in this scenario. I can do this because I have practiced.

Support Hand

Humans are bilaterally symmetrical. These sides are mostly identical but don’t always share the same strength and ability. Eyesight is seldom exactly the same, and we all have a dominant eye. If I fire, I must be sure of my shot with either hand. While home defense doesn’t present a great marksmanship problem the liability of a missed shot could be severe.

The consequence of failing to neutralize a threat with a minimum of shots is also severe. Rather than refer to the hands as left and right or weak, dominant, and non-dominant, perhaps the alternate of forward and rear hand is better. One hand is on the forend of the long gun and that is the support hand. The firing hand is on the firing handle.

working the controls of an AR-15 rifle left handed
Grooving into the wrong side of the AR was simple enough.

With a handgun, the support hand either firms up the two-hand hold or braces on a supporting construct. A barricade, tree, Newell post, or door jamb are common supports. The hands trade position, however the case may be.

Our relation to the target and vector of fire combined with our best cover position determines which hand is the firing hand, and it should be chosen quickly. Don’t let a holster or sling set up make the firearm a one-side-only piece. You must be able to use the firearm quickly from either side. To achieve this type of ability requires a commitment in time training and ammunition.

Hopefully, you will be able to adopt full spectrum training with both sides of the body from the onset of training. This is much preferable to coming to the realization later and attempting to catch up. This late start isn’t impossible, simply less preferable. We are not training for hunting or competition, but personal defense and particularly for home defense.

Holding a SIG P210 pistol with the left hand
Sometimes learning the safety presents a difficulty if the firearm doesn’t feature an ambidextrous safety.

Shooting Stance

The foundation of shooting isn’t the firing grip. The foundation is the stance. The proper stance cushions recoil. Be firm and plant the feet without the toes or heel rising. The support side, whichever that becomes, should support about 70–75 percent of the body weight. This helps control recoil and remains comfortable in long firing strings.

A 9mm handgun or .223 rifle may not have a great deal of recoil, but when real speed and control are needed, you would be surprised how much difference in control is exhibited in a solid firing stance. When you get into a firing position, you are not setting up to fire a single shot. Be prepared for as many shots as are needed for the duration of the fight.


The firearm must be held in the strongest crush grip. Maintain control. While the feet are planted, the upper body must remain flexible and capable of quickly moving to address a threat.

When training stresses cover, and it should, by extension this training should also work extensively with both sides of the body. Limited body exposure is the key. You must learn to assume cover in a manner that becomes instinctual and unprompted. Get with the program and be certain to be completely familiar with the controls of the firearm including the safety magazine release and bolt stop.

The obvious need is to take cover and deliver accurate fire. You should also learn to access spare magazines. The benefits are many including a situation in which one hand is injured and unable to deploy magazines as effectively.

Bob campbell shooting a rimfire semi-auto handgun
A quality rimfire is a big help when developing skill.

Long guns are easier to use well but less likely to be ambidextrous compared to handguns. The Mossberg 590 safety is available to either hand, and some (but not all) AR-15 rifles feature an ambidextrous safety. Life is short enough without limiting options, and you should deploy a capable firearm that is useful in the majority of scenarios. Even with an ambidextrous safety, the ejection port will be on one side of the receiver. Get into the habitude of quickly actuating the safety and bolt stop with each range session.


A slight concern that may be addressed in training is parallax with optics. Red dot sights are not completely parallax free. However, if the dot is on the target and not centered in the glass you still get a hit. Only range work confirms this. The unconscious competence of using both sides with confidence is what we strive for. Why not get started today?

Do you practice shooting offhand? What drills do you prefer for offhand practice? Share your answers in the Comment section.

  • Man shooting weak hand support for practice
  • Two shooters in an indoor firing range
  • Bob Campbell shooting an AR-15 rifle left handed
  • double holster leather shoulder holster
  • Bob campbell shooting a rimfire semi-auto handgun
  • Shooting an AR-15 rifle left-handed for training
  • Holding a SIG P210 pistol with the left hand
  • Shooting a handgun through a barricade
  • working the controls of an AR-15 rifle left handed
  • Man shooting a pistol with a one-handed stance
  • Shooter is practicing left-hand fire with his SIG P210.
  • Drawing a revolver from a left hand holster
  • Bob Campbell shooting an AR-15 rifle left handed, right profile

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (4)

  1. Not to argue, however I dang near lost my left middle finger. In the early 90s took a shot through the palm of left hand. Kirshner wire. I can still use my handguns, shotguns, carbines, rifles. No offense to anyone and don’t get me wrong, my hands hurt, arthritis, tendonitis, s*** sucks.

    Happy Veteran’s Day 🇺🇸

  2. I have found that using my left (non-dominant) hand for my computer mouse has greatly improved my left hand/eye coordination. My left handed shooting skills have really improved by doing this.

  3. Great Article, and exactly why firearm manufactures should re-think making Right-hand only firearms. It is no longer a debate about Correct-hand vs Right-hand, but rather ambidextrous, at least the controls, should be the goal. It is not a new idea, as old items like the Ruger P95, has 100% ambidextrous controls, with the only exception being the take down lever, which is probably never actually used in a fire-fight situation. When it comes to ambidextrous controls, the present AR platform is long over due for a re-make.

  4. For a qualification I do every year. There is Strong unsupported, Weak unsupported, the normal Strong supported by the Weak but then there is Weak supported. The only scenario I see is weak side barricade for Weak supported but we were not using that for weak side barricade just doing it at the three yard line straight up firing. I’m not bad Weak or Strong unsupported but Weak supported is a disaster for me and I just don’t see the point. I asked the instructor about it but the answer wasn’t satisfactory and it is relatively new to the qualification.

    Im also cross dominant. No problem whatsoever with sighted fire. But point shooting I’ve learned to adjust either by the SWAG method, canting the firearm counter clockwise( I’m left handed) or pushing the gun more towards right of center. Remembering which to use instantly is a problem so SWAG seems to come to bear naturally. I have several handguns which have SA safeties and are not ambi so I would never carry them. But range shooting is okay but not for defensive practice.

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