A two-hand freestyle grip is the most effective way to run a handgun through an action pistol course of fire, and no experienced shooter would willingly choose to use something else.
Unfortunately, Match Directors occasionally decide differently.
Whether IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association), USPSA (U.S. Practical Shooting Association) or ICORE (International Confederation of Revolver Enthusiasts), there will be stages where some (or all) of the shooting must be with the weak- or strong-hand only. Strong hand refers to the dominant hand on the side the holster is located on, while the weak hand is the support hand. Regardless of which hand the Match Director specifies, one-hand shooting can cause problems for those who haven’t practiced it.
A freestyle stance is upright with feet evenly spaced and relies significantly upon the support hand for gun control. Without the support hand, the upright stance is less able to deal with recoil. Rapid one-hand shooting is best done with a stance that allows the body to compensate for the lack of the supporting hand.
An effective one-hand stance has the shooter aggressively driving their gun hand foot forward about 15 inches, thrusting the gun arm fully to the target and pushing that shoulder into the target. It’s little different than throwing a straight hard punch.
That leaves the non-gun arm dangling free and can create body wobble. Many shooters find that clenching that hand and bringing the fist to the center of their chest solidifies the stance, and can also improve the trigger control of the gun hand. Additionally, when shooting weak hand, some competitors find that canting the gun slightly towards the dominant eye aids in quicker sight alignment.
This power-forward stance lowers the shooters center of gravity, tightens the body to better handle recoil and centers gun focus onto the target. Given that weak- and strong-hand shooting is seldom required beyond 10 yards, it has proven effective when the MDs decide to get creative.
One factor this stance doesn’t address is how to get the gun into the weak hand to start with. And if necessary, get it back into the strong hand.
Unless the course of fire start is non-holstered (table, box or other) the gun will be in the holster at the BEEP. And the only legal holster position for the above organizations is on the strong-side hip. That means the gun has to be drawn by the strong hand and smoothly shifted to the weak hand. And then sometimes back to the strong hand. Given that a loaded handgun is involved, this is not a casual affair.
There is a simple technique that can accomplish that quickly, positively and safely.
From the holster, draw to a freestyle grip with the trigger finger outside the trigger guard. Once the grip is achieved, pop both thumbs straight up. The gun is now held by both sets of fingers and the palms of the hands. The weak-hand thumb then quickly curls around the back of the gun to assume the normal one-hand grip, while the strong-hand fingers smoothly withdraw to the rear with the support-hand fingers rolling in behind them to secure the grip and lock the gun in. Shifting the gun back is merely the reverse. Finger in the register position, two-hand grip, pop the thumbs, and the thumb on the hand which will receive the gun curls around into the grip, while the fingers exchange occurs.
It’s a quick and simple movement that works equally well for revolvers or semi-automatics, and it’s best learned with an empty gun. However, if the empty gun is a semi-automatic, it should be cocked. Activating the trigger during the shift is “seriously frowned upon.” Should that happen during empty gun practice, the “click” will let the shooter know they need to refine their technique.
It takes little time to master the gun shift. And in live fire, it can be a faster and safer than many might think. With an IDPA target at seven yards, drawing and firing one round from a freestyle grip, then shifting the gun to my weak hand and firing one more round produces an average split time of 1.34 seconds between shots. But more than half that time is spent getting the weak-hand sights onto the eight-inch O-zone. Speed does little good if the hits are horrible. This is an excellent drill to begin incorporating the gun shift into live-fire practice.
To address more realistic match conditions, set up two targets appropriate for the discipline at seven to 10 yards and spaced 10 feet apart. From the holster, fire one round at each target freestyle, then shift the gun to the weak hand and double tap each, before shifting the gun back to freestyle to fire one round at each. The important aspect of this drill is the gun shift back and forth, while delivering accurate hits from each grip. Any round out of the A- or O-zone is a drill failure.
To focus on one-hand shooting only, use the same two targets and spacing. From the holster, fire one round at each strong hand, shift to weak and double tap each, then shift to strong hand for one round each. Any hit out of the A- or O-zone is a drill failure.
Making the gun shift back and forth during a course of fire may sound a bit unusual, but there are times when that skill can be advantageous. A recent IDPA match had shooters engage three targets from the left side of a barricade as the start position. Two targets were open to right-hand shooters, but the third was tucked well back behind the barricade. It was almost impossible for a right-hand shooter to reach with a freestyle grip without earning a three-second foot fault penalty. Most tried and failed.
I avoided that by shooting the first two targets freestyle, made a quick shift to my left hand on the way to the third, poked it around the barricade and double tapped the target with my weak hand. Then, I made a quick shift back to strong-hand freestyle and was on to the next position. I won that stage.
Ambidextrous skills won’t be frequently called upon. But action pistol shooters can count on needing them at some point. Having them can boost their scores.
Read more: How To Clear 4 Common Semi-Automatic Malfunctions