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Some Cant and Other’s Can’t

Shooting one-handed is often a skill that few train on and less practice regularly. In the “scenario’s” that we envision ourselves using our gun all to often there are 2 “known’s”;

1. We always use 2 hands
2. We are ALWAYS victorious

Be honest with yourself…only being able to use one hand rarely, to never, apply to your “scenarios” does it? I get it, I really do! However, in most real gunfights you see on YouTube and Facebook videos, our “hero” only uses 1 hand. The reason is they are typically moving. They are moving because they are reacting to a surprise deadly encounter. See, we envision ourselves consciously recognizing the threat before it materializes, devising a ruthless plan of counterviolence and enacting said plan before the bad guy has time to think. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

As I referenced earlier, moving because of reaction causes us to act intuitively and thus as the feet get to stepping our hand gets to drawing of the pistol. As our head locates the appropriate direction of travel our body naturally blades in that direction while the head moves back to the threat. Ok…here’s where I make my case! Because the body is bladed and moving it is nearly impossible to get both hands on the gun and still aim away from the direction of travel thus the intuitive use of a one-handed shooting technique.

I can’t think of one reputable shooting school/instructor that does not want you to move upon recognition of a threat. In the industry it is referred to as “Moving Off The X!” The most effective way to avoid getting shot is to not be there.Training to move when something scares you should seem counterintuitive but here is where 6th grade science pays off; remember the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) / “fight or flight”? Ok, without sounding smarter than I really am let me sum it up like this; some students freeze in the moment and some don’t. With that being said, instructors train you to move and get off the “x” so as to ingrain the psyche to recognize the threat and move regardless of your SNS predisposition.

Understanding why the call to action of “move” is in place we can further delve into why one-handed shooting is highly probable in a close quarters handgun battle. As you are moving away your hand will grasp your handgun and point it at the threat. It is here where you will make your decision to fire or not. Hopefully, you have identified possible innocent bystanders in front and behind your intended target and caught an angle if needed so as to avoid hitting them. In the moment, when the shot/s ring out, you will find yourself shooting from a dominant one-handed position. I have seen it time and time again with force on force training. Here’s the interesting part, most students never realized that they shot one-handed. When I ask them about it I get answers like; “I didn’t realize that I did that” and “You’re right, I guess I did shoot with only one hand”. So, I can stay with some certainty that training on one-handed shooting is pretty important!

Here is where the real debate takes place. In most cases the arm is at its strongest at full extension when it is formed as you throw a punch. It is here when the hand is balled into a fist and the wrist is slightly turned inward. This is the reason that most instructors teach a cant of the handgun when shooting. Now, I am the first to tell you that it goes against everything you have been taught on how to hold a handgun, from old uncle Joe to the 1st real training class you’ve taken. I get it! When you are able to place both hands on the gun then the optimal position is vertical. However, when you are only to get one hand on it the cant provides stability, much like how the whole arm can take the transfer of inertia back from the object you punched. We are also creatures of habit and we like consistency in our life and this breaks the mold of your consistent training (but remember your consistent training has been with 2 hands). I have heard it all, from “I just doesn’t feel right” to “I can’t do it” but trust me on this it is effective when used properly.

The debate stems from an accuracy perspective and uses the unorthodox technique as justification for perceived inaccuracy, as well as, relies heavily on perceived slower time to get the shot off. Now let me pose this question to you, if I told you to punch me with your fist perfectly vertical and timed it, do you think I would hear the same comments as mentioned earlier? You bet I would, I know, I’ve done it to students. The perceived “slower” time to get the shot off comes from the student actually having to think about making the cant and, add on to it, the unusual sight picture as the cant presents. This “slower” feeling they have will be eliminated when they stop thinking about the cant and just presses out like a punch, like you have done all your life. When pressing out run the gun out inline with your nose and you can pick up the sights really fast (military CQB training teaches this and also competition shooters are taught this). This presentation style needs no thinking yet we have been programmed in our training to think about everything so I am empathetic to their cause.

Perceived inaccuracy is totally subjective in nature. Most people who talk about it being an inaccurate technique are basing this judgment off of a strict standard of shot group tightness. The idea that 3 shots will make 1 hole is pretty far fetched in my opinion. Most of them who are making this statement are shooting from a standing only position and no movement is taking place. Why are we shooting one-handed? Because we are moving away and dealing with the immediate threat simultaneously. Accuracy is defined in a gunfight as “hits that make him stop what he is doing while not hitting anything you didn’t intend to hit”. After I have students perform this drill in class and we look at their target I ask them “Is he down?” and “Did you hit anything you didn’t intend to?” Shots are in the A and B zone of the target with no collateral damage and because of the cant they kept the bullets going to the target despite felt recoil.

If you are one who for some reason, whether it be an old injury or arthritis or whatever, can’t place the handgun in a cant then you have to go vertical. Here’s the deal with vertical, felt recoil in a one-handed vertical grip tends to allow follow-up shots to rise on the target in a trend that shows high right consistently for a right-handed shooter. Legendary instructor John Farnum, from whom I have an instructor certification in pistol, rifle and shotgun, teaches that when using a one-handed vertical grip to start your shots and the targets bellybutton and work up. He calls it the “zipper technique”. This allows for effective follow-up shots because they are rising into the large target of the chest. I don’t disagree with the technique but I will add that this is another thing you have to think about. If you train like you want to fight, and consistency is the key, then no matter what grip you use it will be effective.


The cant is great if you train on it and the vertical grip if you train on it…the common denominator is training. I encourage you that if you shoot with friends that you train on one-handed shooting and if you are really wanting to crank it up then train on it using your back up gun. Either grip is good and either grip is bad and you have to decide what works for you because nobody watches these gunfight videos and critiques stance and grip…they watch to see who survives. You must survive!

P.S. If you are wondering what that yellow barrel is here ya go!


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Gunfighting: a hostile encounter in which antagonists with guns shoot at each other
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