Safety and Training

The Sinistral Shooter

Shooter with a gun next to a barricade

Recently, while reading one of my favorite books, I came across a passage that made me feel pretty good about being left handed:

“And Ehud put forth his left hand and took the dagger from his right thigh and thrust it into his (Eglon’s) belly.

Sounds pretty tactical to me. A left-handed warrior used a crossdraw to take out a bad guy. Impressive!

Ehud used his natural ability to his advantage.

Man's hand holding the , ready to shoot at a target with a wooded area in the background
A left-handed shooter can handle any handgun as well as a right-handed shooter.

Yet throughout history most of us have been viewed with suspicion (by “us” I mean lefties, of course). The root word of sinestra, which means left handed in Latin, is sinister. Dexter is right in Latin, with the root word dexterous. Even today the most right-minded people have to admit that left-handed people live in a right-handed world. After all who wishes to cater to one-fifth of the populace? Well 20 percent is a pretty big market share, so they should pay attention.

Lefties must become masters of adaptation. And most of us do.

There are few modern handguns that cannot be manipulated by lefties; we simply have to work at to attain real efficiency. Let’s look at some of the advantages and disadvantages. Realize that all humans are bilaterally symmetrical and have two sides. One side reflects the other with sympathetic motions and this mirror image construction helps in training.

The Cowboy Way

Person holding a black single-action revolver in their left hand with a gray background
Right hand or wrong hand? Left hand use isn’t a drawback! The single-action revolver is probably the best-designed handgun in the world for left hand use.

If you are a single-action shooter and right handed, you are at a disadvantage! Folks used to joke that Sam Colt was left handed, yet he was long dead by the time the Single Action Army was invented.

If you are firing with the left hand…

  1. Pull the hammer to half-cock.
  2. Open the loading gate.
  3. Begin unloading and reloading with the right hand.

The right-handed shooter must…

  1. Transfer the single action to the left hand.
  2. Load.

The Other Revolver

On the other hand, the double-action revolver is much less lefty friendly. You have no problem drawing and firing the revolver as well as anyone, although actuating the cylinder release and reloading can be a chore.

The best drill is to…

  1. Transfer the revolver to the right hand.
  2. Use the right thumb to open the cylinder.
  3. Hit the ejector rod with the left palm.
  4. Grasp the speed loader.
  5. Reload.
  6. Transfer to the firing hand.

Since the right hand speed load also involves transferring to the non-dominant hand, we are not much slower, if at all, once the proper drill is learned.


Black KH barrel pointed to the left on a light gray background
The HK is fully ambidextrous, including the magazine release.

Modern GLOCK and Smith and Wesson Military and Police handguns are ambidextrous, except for those few Smiths with a manual safety—simply draw, press the trigger and fire.

  • Beretta handguns have an ambidextrous safety.
  • The remarkable, and unavailable, HK P7M8 is among the all time great ambidextrous handguns, with an ambi magazine release and universal cocking lever.
  • Then there is a strong favorite of mine, the CZ 85. This handgun features dual controls and is well worth its modest price.

How about changing the Browning push button magazine release? Some handguns offer a reversible magazine release. I would not be so quick to change that button. Most left-handed shooters may easily use their forefinger to operate the magazine release. When changed to the opposite side, the magazine release may be subject to inadvertent deployment.

The ejector and the extractor works for the right-handed person, barring the Walther P5. This handgun ejected to the left, much to the consternation of gun writers of the day.

When a left-handed shooter fires from the barricade in the natural position with the left shoulder against the barricade, the case is ejected away from the barricade.

The right-handed shooter with his or her strong-side shoulder against the barricade sometimes finds the case bounces off the barricade and into the ejection port.

Take the more advantageous shot when you can.

Some handguns have both pros and cons for left hand use. As an example, the SIG P series is noted for shooters riding their thumb on the slide lock. As a result, the slide doesn’t lock open on the last shot. The left-handed shooter does not suffer this problem. The left-handed shooter is able to quickly manipulate the magazine release and decocker.

Hmmm—left-handed operation may not be the drawback some thought it was!

Shooting Factors

Shooter with a gun next to a barricade
Firing from the barricade it is best for the case to eject away from the board.

Depending upon the stance used, certain factors become clear.

  • It is more difficult to swing toward the strong side when you are locked into the Weaver firing stance.
  • Partners in competition or practicing for a worst-case scenario should place the left-handed person on the left side if possible. This allows sweeping from the outside to the inside with good coordination.
  • A tactical team might do the opposite—it would depend upon the situation and thinking ahead.

Remember, the left-handed shooter lives in a right-handed world and will be far more ambidextrous than a right-handed shooter. Lefties are great at adaptation but sometimes it is not necessary.

Long Guns

The pump shotgun is easy enough to use with the left hand. The controls are simple enough and the Mossberg offers a tang-mounted safety famous for its ergonomics. The Steyr AUG, on the other hand, is hopeless and cannot be used by a left-handed shooter. Sure, left-hand bolts are available for over $200.

Bolt rifle manipulated by left-hand person
Note speed with which the bolt may be operated with the left hand.

The new Beretta ARX 100 is a different animal though. The ejection port is open and simply pressing a cross bolt changes the dual extractor to left or right ejection. Plus, the safety and magazine release are provided with opposite numbers on each side. Good for Beretta. Bolt guns are also available in left hand.

As an aside, I haunt the pawnshops constantly, and cannot recall seeing a used left-hand bolt gun. It isn’t impossible to use a right-hand bolt gun with the left hand. You have to give up the notion of right and left hand and work with the front and rear hand.

  • A right-handed shooter holds the bolt action rifle with his left arm extended, fires, and works the bolt with the right hand after breaking the firing grip.
  • The left-handed shooter fires, does not move the firing hand, and does not break the firing grip. Rather the shooter uses the front hand and moves back and works the bolt with the right hand, then resumes firing. It can be done and done pretty smartly.

How did I learn this? Out of necessity.

When all is said and done where there is a will there is a way. And we are not where we should be, although we’re pretty close.

How about you? Are you a left-handed shooter ready to see more options? Have any tips for your fellow lefties? Shout it out in the comments section.



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 decicions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (31)

  1. I recently picked up a lefty Stag AR for my wife. Have been searching for a left side ejection pistol but they are either real pricey or nor available anymore. She loves the rifle. She was in the Army also but carried a revolver as her sidearm as an MP. Anyway, found this company, New Order Firearms, that say they offer a 9mm semi auto left side for about 650. Was just wondering if anyone had any experience with them.

  2. No. I haven’t used a left ejecting handgun or rifle but I would miss the brass going down the back of my shirt:) Although I am left handed I do many things right handed but shooting is not one of them. The other issue is that my right eye is dominant. I actually prefer my autos to have the mag releases on the left side like a righty and on the outside of the body using my index finger for releasing mags. When I was in the Army almost 50 years ago (holy smokes!) I must have coped as I carried a GI 45 and an M-16. Take care.

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