Safety and Training

The Sinistral Shooter

Shooter with a gun next to a barricade

Recently, while reading one of my favorite books, I came across a passage that made me feel pretty good about being left handed:

“And Ehud put forth his left hand and took the dagger from his right thigh and thrust it into his (Eglon’s) belly.

Sounds pretty tactical to me. A left-handed warrior used a crossdraw to take out a bad guy. Impressive!

Ehud used his natural ability to his advantage.

Man's hand holding the , ready to shoot at a target with a wooded area in the background
A left-handed shooter can handle any handgun as well as a right-handed shooter.

Yet throughout history most of us have been viewed with suspicion (by “us” I mean lefties, of course). The root word of sinestra, which means left handed in Latin, is sinister. Dexter is right in Latin, with the root word dexterous. Even today the most right-minded people have to admit that left-handed people live in a right-handed world. After all who wishes to cater to one-fifth of the populace? Well 20 percent is a pretty big market share, so they should pay attention.

Lefties must become masters of adaptation. And most of us do.

There are few modern handguns that cannot be manipulated by lefties; we simply have to work at to attain real efficiency. Let’s look at some of the advantages and disadvantages. Realize that all humans are bilaterally symmetrical and have two sides. One side reflects the other with sympathetic motions and this mirror image construction helps in training.

The Cowboy Way

Person holding a black single-action revolver in their left hand with a gray background
Right hand or wrong hand? Left hand use isn’t a drawback! The single-action revolver is probably the best-designed handgun in the world for left hand use.

If you are a single-action shooter and right handed, you are at a disadvantage! Folks used to joke that Sam Colt was left handed, yet he was long dead by the time the Single Action Army was invented.

If you are firing with the left hand…

  1. Pull the hammer to half-cock.
  2. Open the loading gate.
  3. Begin unloading and reloading with the right hand.

The right-handed shooter must…

  1. Transfer the single action to the left hand.
  2. Load.

The Other Revolver

On the other hand, the double-action revolver is much less lefty friendly. You have no problem drawing and firing the revolver as well as anyone, although actuating the cylinder release and reloading can be a chore.

The best drill is to…

  1. Transfer the revolver to the right hand.
  2. Use the right thumb to open the cylinder.
  3. Hit the ejector rod with the left palm.
  4. Grasp the speed loader.
  5. Reload.
  6. Transfer to the firing hand.

Since the right hand speed load also involves transferring to the non-dominant hand, we are not much slower, if at all, once the proper drill is learned.


Black KH barrel pointed to the left on a light gray background
The HK is fully ambidextrous, including the magazine release.

Modern GLOCK and Smith and Wesson Military and Police handguns are ambidextrous, except for those few Smiths with a manual safety—simply draw, press the trigger and fire.

  • Beretta handguns have an ambidextrous safety.
  • The remarkable, and unavailable, HK P7M8 is among the all time great ambidextrous handguns, with an ambi magazine release and universal cocking lever.
  • Then there is a strong favorite of mine, the CZ 85. This handgun features dual controls and is well worth its modest price.

How about changing the Browning push button magazine release? Some handguns offer a reversible magazine release. I would not be so quick to change that button. Most left-handed shooters may easily use their forefinger to operate the magazine release. When changed to the opposite side, the magazine release may be subject to inadvertent deployment.

The ejector and the extractor works for the right-handed person, barring the Walther P5. This handgun ejected to the left, much to the consternation of gun writers of the day.

When a left-handed shooter fires from the barricade in the natural position with the left shoulder against the barricade, the case is ejected away from the barricade.

The right-handed shooter with his or her strong-side shoulder against the barricade sometimes finds the case bounces off the barricade and into the ejection port.

Take the more advantageous shot when you can.

Some handguns have both pros and cons for left hand use. As an example, the SIG P series is noted for shooters riding their thumb on the slide lock. As a result, the slide doesn’t lock open on the last shot. The left-handed shooter does not suffer this problem. The left-handed shooter is able to quickly manipulate the magazine release and decocker.

Hmmm—left-handed operation may not be the drawback some thought it was!

Shooting Factors

Shooter with a gun next to a barricade
Firing from the barricade it is best for the case to eject away from the board.

Depending upon the stance used, certain factors become clear.

  • It is more difficult to swing toward the strong side when you are locked into the Weaver firing stance.
  • Partners in competition or practicing for a worst-case scenario should place the left-handed person on the left side if possible. This allows sweeping from the outside to the inside with good coordination.
  • A tactical team might do the opposite—it would depend upon the situation and thinking ahead.

Remember, the left-handed shooter lives in a right-handed world and will be far more ambidextrous than a right-handed shooter. Lefties are great at adaptation but sometimes it is not necessary.

Long Guns

The pump shotgun is easy enough to use with the left hand. The controls are simple enough and the Mossberg offers a tang-mounted safety famous for its ergonomics. The Steyr AUG, on the other hand, is hopeless and cannot be used by a left-handed shooter. Sure, left-hand bolts are available for over $200.

Bolt rifle manipulated by left-hand person
Note speed with which the bolt may be operated with the left hand.

The new Beretta ARX 100 is a different animal though. The ejection port is open and simply pressing a cross bolt changes the dual extractor to left or right ejection. Plus, the safety and magazine release are provided with opposite numbers on each side. Good for Beretta. Bolt guns are also available in left hand.

As an aside, I haunt the pawnshops constantly, and cannot recall seeing a used left-hand bolt gun. It isn’t impossible to use a right-hand bolt gun with the left hand. You have to give up the notion of right and left hand and work with the front and rear hand.

  • A right-handed shooter holds the bolt action rifle with his left arm extended, fires, and works the bolt with the right hand after breaking the firing grip.
  • The left-handed shooter fires, does not move the firing hand, and does not break the firing grip. Rather the shooter uses the front hand and moves back and works the bolt with the right hand, then resumes firing. It can be done and done pretty smartly.

How did I learn this? Out of necessity.

When all is said and done where there is a will there is a way. And we are not where we should be, although we’re pretty close.

How about you? Are you a left-handed shooter ready to see more options? Have any tips for your fellow lefties? Shout it out in the comments section.



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 (32)

  1. I recently picked up a lefty Stag AR for my wife. Have been searching for a left side ejection pistol but they are either real pricey or nor available anymore. She loves the rifle. She was in the Army also but carried a revolver as her sidearm as an MP. Anyway, found this company, New Order Firearms, that say they offer a 9mm semi auto left side for about 650. Was just wondering if anyone had any experience with them.

  2. No. I haven’t used a left ejecting handgun or rifle but I would miss the brass going down the back of my shirt:) Although I am left handed I do many things right handed but shooting is not one of them. The other issue is that my right eye is dominant. I actually prefer my autos to have the mag releases on the left side like a righty and on the outside of the body using my index finger for releasing mags. When I was in the Army almost 50 years ago (holy smokes!) I must have coped as I carried a GI 45 and an M-16. Take care.

  3. Just came across a company called New Order Firearms out of PA. They say on their site that any of the 3 semi-auto pistols they offer are offered in right and left ejection port. Anyone out there seen this? Have purchased a lefty from them?

  4. As a police recruit in 1977 and left handed I was taught to reload the revolver by transferring the weapon to the right hand, pushing the cylinder release with the right thumb while simultaneously punching the cylinder open with the left index, middle and ring fingers and then holding the open cylinder and gun in my left hand and placing my left thumb on the ejector and extracting the spent cases to the right side of the body. There were no speed loaders or strips back then and we reloaded loose cartridges from a dump pouch. Once loaded transferred the gun back to the left hand to resume firing. My instructor at the FLETC was Jim Cirillo and later learned later how great he was. When we went to semi-autos in 1993 we were issued H&K P7 M 13’s. The almost perfect ambi pistol.

  5. I would like to purchase a 9mm pistol, my concern being left handed are the shells ejecting across my face. Anything I can do so I can purchase the gun I want?

    1. Tell that to my sister, she’s a Lefty and nearly killed herself try to use a Right Handed Coffee Pot.

  6. When things don’t go right, then go left.

    Everybody is born left handed. You become right handed after your first sin.

    Lefties are in their right minds.

    Everyone is born right handed. It just takes a genius to overcome it.

    I’ve had do adapt to a right handed world all my life. Shooting with a right handed firearm is a breeze. Challenge right handed people to use a left handed weapon and see how long it takes them to adjust..

  7. Hi: As a lefty all my life, I have always had to adapt in a right-handed world. When it comes to semi-autos, I have found that the F&N FNX -9 or FNX-40 are great handling pistols and are completely ambidexterous in all respects. As far as rifles are concerned, Stag Arms has lefty AR platforms done right. See you on the range.

  8. I was born leftie but turned into a mutant…I bat right handed, kick with my left foot, shoot pistol with either hand accurately, rifle left handled only and am an ambi bow shooter. Go figure, we are adaptable.

  9. I am a leftie, my father (former U.S. Marine) taught me to shoot long guns right handed which stuck to this day. I shot pistols (M1911) right handed in the U.S. Army as an M60 gunner and always qualified expert. After my first four years in the Army, I became a Deputy Sheriff and upon firearms training the Firearms Instructor told me to shoot and carry left-handed. I became an even better pistol shot and am ambidextrous with pistols/revolvers. I can also shoot long guns either handed but am better and more comfortable firing right-handed.

    1. I’m the same way. I recently got a left handed bolt action, but I always want to move the bolt with my right hand because I’m right hand dominant.

  10. Bob,
    Great article. I am total leftie, aiming eye, coordination, strength, everything.
    Imagine my trying to snap in and learning to shoot my issue weapon of the US Marine Corps while at Parris Islamd, the United States caliber
    30. M1 Garand, clip fed, gas operated, semi automatic shoulder weapon.
    My four drill instructors demanded I snap in and shoot rightie, but I was l was somleftie, I could not even close my left eye to shoot rightie. I wore an eye patch, they just about killed me before they admitted that unless I could shoot lefty, I would not even qualify..
    They allowed me to shoot leftie, I wore my shooting jacket inside out and canned the eye patch. I qualified with no problem every time and carried the M1 for four years. Rifle number 4725870.
    On the firing line, I was always getting hit by ejected brass and in the sitting position, when the clip ejected, it would always pop out and drop on top of my helmet with a loud metallic ping. If I was wearing my utility cover, the ejected clip sometimes would land on my head and stay there. Also, none of us wore hearing protection in those days, and I have the classic “M1 ear” something I have lived with since 1955.
    Bernie Marvin
    Piermont, NH

  11. Throughout American history we hear things about Civil Rights, Women Suffrage, Workers Rights, Chicano Rights, American Indian Movement, Coal Miners Rights to Unionize, etc. But we never have heard anything about left handed folks being discriminated against in a right handed world. There aren’t laws protecting us. In fact, there really aren’t any movements to go to bat for us. Instead we must adapt in order to get along in today’s world. Guess that makes us stronger folks in the end. I’ve gotten along so far quite well for 62 years and I guess I’ll get along until the time comes when I start looking at the south side of daises. But, it would be nice to be accommodated for once without having adapt to a right hand world. And having a nice array of firearms for left handed folks would be really nice!!!

    Enuf of my rant! Hope all here are doing well! Happy Shooting!!!.

  12. Hello Bob, you’ve got the left handed revolver loading wrong, and are doing it the hard way.

    I’ve been shooting and loading colts and S&W revolvers for half a century, including single actions, and I can use my left-handedness to load faster than a righty. It may surprise you, but Sam Colt was accused of being a lefty when he designed the SAA.

    I’ll send anyone an instruction set and/or photos if interested.

    Oliver Harris

    1. Here is how a lefty does it :
      I use my right hand to push the cylinder release
      I use my left hand to open cylinder (push with left fingers to open cylinder to the left)
      I use my left 2nd digit(pointer finger) to push the ejector rod
      I use my left hand to load the cylinder
      I use my left hand to close the cylinder
      I transfer grip to left hand and hold right hand over left hand on grip and bring to battery , FIRE using left pointer finger TA DA !

  13. I probably was born right handed, since I am right eye dominant, but when I learned to shoot at age three, I apparently copied my Dad, and he was left handed. Most other sports I deal with right handed. In the 50s and 60s, I never heard of a left handed firearm, but I know now there were a few. Consequently, I found pump and lever action guns much easier to use, particularly those with tang safeties. Starting in the 80s, left handed guns have been much more available, although a bit more expensive than right handed models, so I started to pick them up and add them to the vault when an opportunity arose. In my neck of the woods, used left handed
    guns are a bit less than right handed because the demand is so low.
    I wish writers, particularly Craig Boddington, since he is left handed, would note whether a new model, or an old one if that is what they are writing about, is available in a left hand model. If some of them would carry the torch for us, we might see more manufacturers respond to our need.

  14. This article confirms that everyone is born right handed. It just takes a lefty genius to overcome the condition.

    I had to adapt to a right hand world all my life and this article provides some nice tips to more efficient shooting. Left handed firearms are in limited supply and the ones available are not the ones I want to buy. Consequently, I have to adapt using a right hand weapon that I purchase.

    Thanks for the nice article directed to lefties.

  15. Great article! I have been a Southpaw shooter and pistol competitor since age 14. I pride myself on not having a “weak hand” when it comes to handguns!
    Another possibility with the bolt-action that I, and I am certain many of your other leftie readers, use, is to bring the left hand up over the rear of the scope, lift the bolt handle with the left thumb, work the bolt, and put the left hand back on the weapon. Less than elegant, to be sure, but it works for me!
    Spot on about the HK P7…I own two and it is my EDC gun.
    Finally, you mentioned the single-action revolver being BETTER suited to lefties…I would assert I have found the same thing to be true of the AR15. Yes, my manual of arms looks different from the other 80% of you…but I’ll bet I pull S.P.O.R.T.S. just as fast!!!
    Thanks for a great article!

  16. I have to sympathize with Zmortis as I’m in the same boat. A lot of us started out as right handed shooters by virtue of being issued a weapon that ejected to the right and was only right had friendly. Eye dominance was never considered in the early sixties and I also happen to be one of pour souls who is left eye dominant and was trained to shoot right handed. I adapted because everyone was taught to shoot right handed period! The guys who couldn’t adapt looked as un-coordinated as a monkey trying to make love to a football.

    Now fast forward 55 years later to the present. After a serious right shoulder injury in ’13 and a sight dimming injury to my right eye before that here I am and everything I own is right handed. The pistols are not a problem but with my right handed rifles I feel and must look uncoordinated. I know there’s nothing smooth about it.

    There have been some very attractive rifle sales the past couple of years but not for lefties. and if you wanted the left handed version then you weren’t going to get the sale price. Recently I inquired about converting a couple of my rifles to left handed configurations but the barrel and chamber and stock would cost more than I paid for them originally, So I guess what I’m asking is this something I should really consider?

  17. If you think that is fun, try being a cross dominant shooter sometimes. I’m right handed, and left eye dominant. I’ve learned to shoot both right and left handed with most weapons in either pistol, rifle, or shotgun format. I generally shoot right handed with black powder muzzle loaders and semi-auto with right side ejects, and left handed with bolt guns and pump shotguns. With pistols I usually use the hand which can best manipulate the controls.

    1. I have the same problem zmortis, except due to stigmatism, my right eye does not line up to iron sights properly. On some of my bolt actions I have reshaped the bolt handle making it easier to reach across with my left hand. On others I tilt the rifle to the left and work the bolt with my right . Not the best method since it take the rifle off target but we do what we has to do. Not going to let anything get in the with of enjoying shooting.

    1. I have the same problem zmortis, except due to stigmatism, my right eye does not line up to iron sights properly. On some of my bolt actions I have reshaped the bolt handle making it easier to reach across with my left hand. On others I tilt the rifle to the left and work the bolt with my right . Not the best method since it take the rifle off target but we do what we has to do. Not going to let anything get in the with of enjoying shooting.

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