Firearms

Southpaw Shooting Solutions: Choosing a Lefty Gun

hand holding the FNX-40 to show the ambidextrous controls for left handed shooters

I am not left-handed. However, because of a strongly dominant left eye, I shoot long guns from my left shoulder. More on that in a bit. As a handgun instructor, and during my time as a gun store owner, I’ve encountered many left-handed people looking for a gun that would work for them. These experiences have allowed me to form some opinions based on a variety of experiences when it comes to shooting southpaw and owning southpaw guns.

Left-Handed Options

Operating the controls on a semi-automatic handgun is tough when the slide lock, magazine release, and thumb safety are not on the side of the gun where the thumb of your dominant hand is at when holding the gun with a proper grip. I’ve never seen a handgun that is completely left-handed, but I do keep my eye out for ones that have the pertinent controls on both sides of the gun. We refer to those controls as being ambidextrous, which is a keyword to watch for, if you’re a left-handed shooter looking for a pistol.

Ruger American handgun showing ambidextrous controls
For a left-handed person it’s not always enough just to have a reversible magazine release and an ambidextrous safety. Having a slide release on the right-hand side, like the one on this Ruger American, is crucial.

Several manufacturers build left-handed versions of their rifles or shotguns, but it’s tough to find those on gun store racks. Large stores may have a few in stock and smaller stores can usually get them by special order, but don’t go in the day before hunting season expecting to find your chosen make and model rifle or shotgun sitting there in a left-handed version waiting for you. It happens, but it’s not an everyday occurrence.

I am going to put on my instructor hat to explain a couple of things before we proceed further. The first is the concept of a cross-dominant eye. It would be natural to think if you have one eye stronger than the other, i.e., dominant, it would match your dominant hand. However, for some, that’s not the case. For cross-dominant eye shooters, understanding the concept of a cross-dominant eye can make a huge difference in your shooting accuracy.

Indulge me a minute and let’s go through a short, simple test just to confirm whether this applies to you. From where you’re sitting, look around the room and locate a small object on the wall at least 10 or 12 feet away from you — something like a light switch or a doorknob. Point at it using your index finger, with both eyes open. Now, close your right eye. Then, open your right eye and close your left eye. For most of you, when you closed one eye or the other, your finger appeared to move off the target.

For me, when I close my left eye, my finger appears to slide 7–10 inches to the left. Whichever eye the finger appears to move on when you close it, that’s your dominant eye. Before you start thinking that doesn’t make sense, stop and think about it. Your vision should be the same when looking with just your dominant eye as when looking with both eyes. But when you take your dominant eye out of the picture, your vision will be different.

Once I discovered my left eye was dominant, I needed to learn how to deal with it. For a handgun, it was simple. I still shoot it right-handed, but I move the gun to ensure the sights line up in front of my left eye. Sometimes, I need to close my right eye to get a good sight picture.

Ruger GP100 revolver 10mm right profile
If you are left-handed, you may be more comfortable carrying a revolver such as this 10mm Ruger GP100.

The next thing we need to discuss is the proper grip for a handgun. You’re probably doing it correctly, but just in case, let’s walk through it. Pick the gun up in your strong hand with the web of the hand between your thumb and first finger as high up on the grip as possible. Your index finger (trigger finger) should be along the frame of the gun. Put the heel of your other hand, (support hand), in the open space on the grip and wrap your fingers around the outside of the fingers on your strong side hand.

Both thumbs should lie one on top of the other, along the side of the gun that’s opposite your trigger finger. Whether you extend your arms straight out or with your strong side elbow bent, hold it where the sights are aligned with each other and your dominant eye. This should put your hand in a position in which the thumb of your strong side or shooting side can reach all the controls on the side of the pistol opposite your trigger finger. If you’re left-handed and holding the gun with your left hand, your thumb and those controls are on the opposite sides from each other unless you have a gun with ambidextrous controls.

WI Masada handgun sitting atop an IDPA cardboard target
The IWI Masada is another choice for discriminating left- or right-hand shooters.

Have no fear, I’m going to suggest some guns that should work for southpaw shooters. I don’t know about them all, but I own a few and have experience with others.

Ambidextrous (Southpaw) Options

Handguns

The Ruger American is built with the critical controls on both sides of the pistol. Almost all the pistols built by FN America have ambidextrous controls. This includes the FN High Power Series, FN 502 Series, FN 509 Series, FNX Series but does not include the FN 503 Series or the FN Five-seveN.

The new CSX from Smith & Wesson features ambidextrous controls. Heckler & Koch’s VP9 is fully ambidextrous. Some models of the Beretta PX-4 Storm — in particular, the Compact model — have an ambidextrous slide stop, and all have an ambidextrous safety and a reversible magazine release.

Ruger M77 left hand bolt-action rifle
The Ruger M77 is one example of a bolt-action rifle that is available in several different calibers.

Beretta’s APX Centurion, which was Beretta’s entry into the U.S. Army competition in which the SIG P320 was selected, have an ambidextrous slide stop and reversible magazine release. The Honor Defense Subcompact is fully ambidextrous. Glock’s new G19X has an ambidextrous slide stop and magazine release. Some of the Glock 19 Gen 5 models are also fully ambidextrous.

Revolvers can easily be a good choice for southpaw shooters. Other than loading and unloading, most of them have no controls that would make any difference. Almost all double-action revolvers have cylinders that pop out of the left side for loading and unloading and this puts the gun in your dominant hand while you’re loading. Single-action revolvers load from the right, so you can hold the gun in your left hand.

Rifles

When it comes to long guns, aligning the sights with my left eye while shooting from the right shoulder just doesn’t work — unless I want a busted nose from the recoil. The solution is to move the gun to my left shoulder.

<

I bought a left-handed Ruger M77 bolt-action rifle, thinking it would be easier to operate, but for me it wasn’t. I’m not left-handed; I just shoot from the left shoulder. But I can still operate bolt-action, lever-action, and semi-automatic rifles okay, without left-handed controls.

If you are left-handed, with a dominant left eye, you may find it more to your liking to get a bolt-action or semi-automatic rifle that was built specifically for left-handed shooters. However, if you’re left-handed and have a dominant right eye, you may find, as I did, that shooting from the shoulder and using your dominant eye to be fine. In this case, you will be fine with a rifle or shotgun made for right-handed shooters.

Christensen Arms must be owned by a southpaw. It advertises over 50 left-handed options available in its bolt-action rifle models. Savage builds left-hand versions of its 110, 220, Apex, Axis, Mark II, and Rascal models. Many of these are rimfires, but Savage has the deer hunting calibers covered as well. There are left-hand models of the Browning X-Bolt, Remington 700, Sako, Tikka, and others.

Benelli Super Black Eagle 3-inch 12 gauge shotgun left profile camo
Benelli’s Super Black Eagle 3-inch 12 gauge is just one of several shotguns Benelli offers in left-hand models.

Many of the smaller AR-style rifle builders offer left-hand models. Finding a good left-handed rifle in stock might be a challenge best accomplished by an internet search, followed by a phone call to check current availability.

Shotguns

When it comes to shotguns, side-by-side and over/under models accommodate lefties pretty well. When it comes to pump and semi-automatic shotguns, many makers for lefties go a step further by putting the ejection port on the left side of the gun. Some of these available in left-hand models include the Franchi Affinity 3, TriStar Viper G2, Benelli 828U, Benelli Super Black Eagle III, and Beretta A400 Xtreme. Browning’s BPS pump gun is ambidextrous, thanks to its bottom loading/ejecting design and tang-mounted safety.  

Sometimes, you must pay a little more or special order a rifle or shotgun built for lefties. Having one, should however, make your hunting and sport shooting more pleasurable. Maybe you know of examples I’ve not listed or have your own favorite southpaw-friendly guns. If so, share them in the comment section.

  • Ruger American handgun showing ambidextrous controls
  • hand holding the FNX-40 to show the ambidextrous controls for left handed shooters
  • Benelli Super Black Eagle 3-inch 12 gauge shotgun left profile camo
  • Ruger M77 left hand bolt-action rifle
  • Safariland Model 295 Retention Duty Holster holding a Glock handgun
  • Ruger GP100 revolver 10mm right profile
  • WI Masada handgun sitting atop an IDPA cardboard target
  • Heckler & Koch’s popular VP-9 right profile showing the ambidextrous controls
  • This FN509 does not have a thumb safety, but the magazine release and slide lock are found on both sides of the gun.
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 (25)

  1. I had a very good drill sergeant at Ft. Benning, after 56 years I still remember his name Staff Sergeant Dadasco from the Phillippines. I didn’t know why I couldn’t see down the barrel any longer, I just couldn’t. The Sarge had seen this before and suggested I try it left-handed. It worked, I went on to shoot expert in basic training. This sergeant always carried a smoke lamp to smoke everyones sights on range day. On days of the physical training test he came around with a half gallon jar of honey to amp everyone in his platoon up. Things he taught served me well in the 14 months I served in Viet Nam. He was a damn good Drill Sergeant.

  2. Just an FYI for Lefty’s who would prefer an afordable AL-15 (Armalite Lefty), there is a company called RedXArms.com, who offers Left-hand (or as we like to refer to as Correct-Hand) uppers, either complete, or sub assemblies, for a build, which work with the respective calibre Mil Spec lowers. Basically an upper receiver with door and bolt assist included is like $140, also the respective Correct-hand Bolt Carrier is another like $150 for a 5.56 (other calibers also available), or basically $290 to convert your Mil Spec AR to an AL. These two assemblies can replace your standard mil spec upper using the rest of your parts, then you can sell the old Right hand parts to cut your cost. My dealings with them, I have had excellent customer service from them. As a lefty, I can attest to how nice it is to have both the blast in the face gone, and the brass going away from me as well worth the investment. So when your buddy steps up beside you on the left and sprays you with brass from his Mil Spec AR, well, paybacks are fun. LOL

  3. I appreciate the author’s perspective having retired from Law Enforcement in 89 when I started we carried S&W Model 10 38 specials and manipulated the cylinder release with the trigger finger pushing it out with the right thumb pressing the ejector rod with the right index finger and loading with the left hand. Became fairly proficient with practice faster than some right handed shooters slower than others. When we transitioned to the Berretta 92 I learned to manipulate the slide and magazine release in a similar manor with the left index finger an Ambi thumb safety is the one must have on a pistol. I have never owned a left handed firearm some are are more left hand friendly like my Ruger No. 1 if you look closely the right side is slightly lower to accommodate right handed loading. Being part of the left hand minority most of us have done different things to adapt to a right handed world.

  4. I’m left handed and right eye dominant. My first gun was a left handed Anschutz .22. It got sold off.
    I learned quickly to just shoot right handed. It’s the way of the world. Much easier that way.

  5. I’m left handed and like shooting right handed guns. Loading from the right side, the gun is already in my dominant hand.

  6. Being Left handed and left eye dominant, I’m unfortuently used to living in a right-handed world and mouse with my right hand so I have some dexterity with both hands. Right handed ARs are not a problem since they have the casing deflector that keeps the brass out of my face. Same goes for bolt actions rifles. I do prefer an ambidextrous safety on my 1911s though. I am also rather awkward dealing with pistol slide releases since my left hand is much stronger than my right hand. Where I had the most problem learning to shoot was establishing a proper grip on a handgun because nearly all the books and instructors are right handed so there is always that interpretation factor involved.

  7. Both eyes open. The only way to shoot if you can master it. I learned from Carlos Haithcock and never went back.

  8. I’m a southpaw since birth but due to an injury (auto accident)to my shoulder (permanent dislocation) I am now trying to learn how to shoot right handed

  9. No mention of the Taurus 809 100% ambidextrous solid pistol no fails 100’s of different ammo put through it no fails

  10. LONG TIme SouthPaw here. But Right Eye Dominant.

    Still Shoot Pistols Lefty. Hands are big enough that I leave the Mag Release where it is. Which means the wife and I shouldn’t care what gun we pick up. Shooting Isosceles, I cant my head a little counter clockwise (to the left). That gets my Right Eye leading AND for Me works better than canting the pistol. With BOTH Eyes Open and at 7-10 yds my shots are slightly (1/4 – 3/8″) UP and LEFT. Close the Left – Bullseye. It’s the LEFT eye telling my brain something. SUGGEST EVERY CROSS DOMINANT TRY IT AND KNOW WHAT THE ERRORS ARE. MINE ARE CLOSE ENOUGH.

    RIFLES – Hunting Shoot Left with a Scope. AR’s with Red Dots, still shoot left, both eyes open still a work in progress. Mostly no big deal.

    AR CONFIGURATION — All AR’s are Right Hand ejection. Very seldom with a DEFLECTOR do I notice anything. Once in a blue moon, I get a WIFF. ALL AR’s have an AMBI-Safety, and ALL have an ENHANCED BOLT CATCH/RELASE. To lock the Bolt back, I reach under/around the Mag and have no issues finding it. Charging Handle – IMO more dependent on the Scope and amount of Eye Relief. I find the Badger style of enhanced (single paddle) is just as effective as those AMBI’s costing 3x as much.
    Even with the advent of more models of AMBI lowers on the market today, I am leery of having different configurations in my arsenal. I rely on “My Training” to run the guns. I don’t want to have to think about WHAT GUN DO I HAVE TODAY. I’d rather focus on the threat or target.

  11. Been shooting for 50 years; left handed.When you are left handed you learn early on to adapt and overcome!!! Just like you learn to recognize different trigger weights and let off.

    Quit whining about a perceived limitation. Every on is born right handed, only the gifted overcome it!

  12. Yes there was a real learning curve when I mandatorily switched from right to left handed after glaucoma and the now weaker right eye.I REALLY became a southpaw! Finances and non democrat state relocation permitting,I’d like to get the Israeli left hand ejection Tavor in 308.Single action revolvers are actually left hand friendly:the loading gate is on the right side.Whether that was because Samuel Colt was a southpaw,or whether the saber was the primary weapon of the [right handed] cavalries?

  13. Over the decades I’ve found Savage bolt actions friendlier[more available] than the others for southpaws;ditto the Savage 99F lever actions.Regardless of whether you’re left or right handed,a tang safety is inherently safer[esp with gloves]than the cross bolt safeties.For pump shotguns I’ve gone over to the Mossberg 500/590 s.

  14. Mike Wilmore is right (correct) about the Charter Arms Southpaw. I’ve never used one and would likely have trouble adapting to it at first, but it is a clever solution. While it can serve the needs of a lefty, like all other swing-out cylinder revolvers, it can only satisfy one hand, not both. Now watch somebody develop a revolver with a cylinder that can swing out of both sides. That would be an interesting firearm.

  15. As a lifelong lefty, I can relate to some of the author’s problems. Thankfully, I don’t experience cross-eye dominance, but I have had to adjust to a right handed world. When it involves shooting, I’ve made a few discoveries and decisions about what works for me. Some examples are:
    1) Handguns: I enjoy shooting revolvers and usually carry one every day. However, a double action revolver is easier to load right handed, so I transfer it to my right hand for loading. I usually use a double action only semi auto with no active safety. I activate the magazine release and the slide lock with my index or third fingers.
    2) Rifles: I prefer lever actions or semi autos that don’t eject the brass into my face. I’ve seen left handed AR’s but never had the money for one. Many years ago, I found a left handed bolt action that is my go-to hunting rifle.
    Shotguns: Mossberg pumps are the way to go! I love the tang mounted thumb safety. I’ve learned to work the lever on a double barreled, but it’s awkward and slow. I’ve never found any that rotate the other direction.
    This was lengthy, but it summarizes my experience. I don’t know if I would care for a truly left handed firearm. I’m so acclimated to life in a right handed world that I can’t even use left handed scissors!

  16. Left eye dominant, so best of both worlds, use long guns left handed, and handguns right handed, both aiming with the left eye, with both eyes open. Supposedly only 10-13% of the population is left-eye dominant, and thus left handed, at least with a long gun. That said: My local range must be requiring their employees be left eye dominant, as it seems all the ones I talk to, are left-handed with long guns. Even at the 10-13%, any manufacture that doesn’t make some attempt to please this group, deserves to loose their business. Unfortunately for Lefty’s, the latest new wiz-bang RIGHT-HAND ONLY AR, which to us looks like just another blah blah blah AR. When it comes to AR style frames, including bolt actions, and todays tactical training forcing off hand scenarios, it is no longer an issue of Left or Right handed, but which manufactures are just too cheap to include ambidextrous controls, even on their base models. The cost of ambidextrous safety, IS A SAFETY ISSUE (which I guess we need another law to get it done?), and an ambidextrous charging handle are minimal cost for a manufacture to include, to potentially access that 10-13% increase in business. Wake up! The AR lower is so overdue for an ambidextrous update, and in so doing eliminate the dumbest thing EVER incorporated into a firearm, the “Ping-Pong Paddle” with that ridiculously pointed minuscule short end to lock the bolt back. Fortunately there are a few AR manufactures out there that do a really nice job of updating the AR to be ambidextrous, albeit usually Right hand discharge. Fortunately most Left-eye dominant, living in a right-hand world, have become very good at being ambidextrous. For those, including our Uncle Sam, who believe EVERYONE should just be right-handed, I challenge you to switch to the Left, and see if you can live with it FOREVER! Funny, my Right-handed friends who try my AL (Armalite Lefty), complain about the BLAST in their face. Hum.

  17. I am a lefty, and appreciate the article. I get the feeling the author is a Ruger fan and there’s nothing wrong with that. Something they don’t realize, being right handed, is just how far down that rabbit hole it goes. Break action shotguns, such as over under and side by sides aren’t really lefty friendly, as the toggle is designed to move easiest for a right thumb, thus to the left. That means a complete shift of grip to break the action, which has never been as smooth as it could be.

  18. I’m a southpaw who has been shooting and instructing for more decades than I care to mention. Aside from having a properly designed and positioned ambidextrous safety, I have never found ambidextrous or reversible magazine releases and slide stops to offer any noticeable advantage. The same applies to left side ejection ports. It is possible to acquire a pistol that ejects brass back at the shooter, but this normally can be dealt with by adjusting the extractor and/or ejector or by switching ammo. If these techniques are not feasible or do not work, then a different handgun may be in order. With regard to swing-out cylinder revolvers, the problem of rapid reloading is insoluble. Switching hands has been my preferred tactic. I have never made a timed comparison with right-handed shooters, but they probably enjoy a slight speed advantage. Most bolt action rifles have safeties that I can easily manipulate with my left hand. Bolt operation is a bit awkward, but doable. Ejection is not a problem. I suppose, God forbid, if I ever had to use a bolt action rifle for combat or hunting dangerous game, I would prefer a left-handed action, but I would have to learn how to use it because my muscle memory is set for manipulating right-handed rifles. Pump and lever action rifles and shotguns tend to favor left-handed shooters unless they have one of those abominable cross-bolt safeties in them. This is where the late model Winchester lever guns and the Mossberg 464 shine with their tang mounted ambidextrous safeties. Ditto for the Mossberg 500/590 series and the Browning BPS. As for semi auto rifles, I have never found the magazine release, charging handle, or bolt release to present any real challenge. Those with cross-bolt safeties remain a menace and if I were dictator of the world I would ban them all. The only semi auto or full auto rifle that ever spit brass at me was the M16. The later addition of a built-in brass deflector solved this problem. I won’t discuss bullpup firearms because they have multiple issues that affect all shooters, regardless of which hand they favor.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.