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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.