Switching hands

When would anyone switch their firearm from dominant hand to non-dominant hand?


Wanted for burglary, they were seen leaving the scene of a residential neighborhood where two daytime burglaries just occurred. Officer Blakely spotted the car only a few blocks away. He called it in, reporting three suspects in the vehicle.

From behind their vehicle, Blakely saw the heads of both passengers snap around suddenly. The driver "leg bailed" just as other units pulled into a cul-de-sac. Blakely and another officer took off running after the driver.

The driver sprinted over the first fence with Blakely close behind. He attacked the fence while maintaining visual contact with the driver and ripped his palm on an exposed nail — rendering his right hand useless.

At the next fence, the driver stopped, turned and reached into his jacket. Blakely already had his firearm in his hands.

Blakely realized the wound on his hand, quickly swapped hands and felt the wetness of his blood on the beavertail of the gun. After the arrest, Blakely realized he had instinctively switched hands when he acknowledged his right hand was out of commission.

When would anyone switch their firearm from dominant hand to non-dominant hand? Only when the primary hand is incapacitated? Using the non-primary hand is less reliable. Anyone who has practiced using the "weak" hand knows that accuracy scores are generally worse and movements lack the advantage of muscle memory. However, the officer who uses his primary personal weapon (his fist) to fend off a sudden violent attack will be more equipped when he breaks a knuckle on the suspect's jaw.

Prioritize

Although every shooting situation is unique, a tactical emergency is more likely to happen within 7 yards with fewer than three rounds fired. This does not mean officers should not practice aimed fire and reloading during support-hand firing, just that officers should prioritize their practice.

During an on-duty shooting situation, survivability is significantly improved if finding cover is the highest priority over any other reaction. If the primary hand has been affected or neutralized, find cover first. While changing hands, keep eyes on the most likely location of the imminent and dangerous threat.

Officers should prioritize their actions in this order: find cover; communicate; eyes on threat; swap hands; then engage.

From cover, bring the firearm close to the centerline of the body, elbows in. Most weapon manipulation skills should be as close to the body as possible, as opposed to using outstretched arms. The closer one works to the centerline of the body, the easier one can perform tasks like work the slide and swap magazines.

Swapping should be done with the receiving hand on top. (See image on Page 126.) That is, if the firearm is going from left to right, the web of the left hand goes over the top of the web of the right hand. As the support hand makes contact, the shooting hand relaxes. Slide the web of the receiving hand over the other, beginning from the wrist. Wedge the web under the beavertail of the gun. Once the grip is achieved, the retiring hand is removed altogether.

Although it sounds like a shooter can simply slap the gun into the other hand and be done with it, swapping back and forth like a Hollywood knife fighter uses fine motor skills. This will work in practice but not with a rush of adrenaline and in the confusion of battle.

It is critical that the shooter gets the web of the hand in the correct place. Shooters should practice swapping hands with eyes closed or while looking at a distant target. After swapping, look at the gun. The line of the slide should bisect the web of the hand and align with the radius. Whenever possible, rewrap the other hand. One-and-a-half hands is better than one-hand shooting any day.

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