one-handed (not one-armed) rifle shooting


May 18, 2006, 05:24 PM
dear everybody,

i am a brit, almost complete newcomer to firearms, who has arranged to do one week of intensive handgun training in michigan in july (thanks in advance to rob for that).

in the long term, i would love to learn to use a rifle as well, but the catch is that i only have one hand, having lost my left in a car accident a couple of years ago. thankfully, i am right-handed.

i am confident that i can learn to shoot a handgun well given sufficient training and practice. the rifle's probably going to be a bit more difficult though. aiming, reloading, working the bolt on a bolt-action as necessary without being able to hold the rifle with my left-hand.

any experience of things like this? any ideas? it's not urgent, just thought i'd canvas opinions a little.



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May 18, 2006, 05:32 PM
Shouldn't be much of an issue with a .22LR (any action type--a leveraction or semi-auto would be easiest I'm thinking). A bolt-action centerfire might be a bit more of challenge, although if you are able to sling the rifle (run your left arm through the loop in the sling), I'm guessing you could get the support at the forend that you'd need to fire and work the bolt.


May 18, 2006, 05:34 PM
yeah, i suppose a semi-auto is the obvious choice. what about accuracy. do you think i'd be able to hold the barrel steady enough with my arm? that's a difficult question to answer if you've never had to do it, i imagine...

May 18, 2006, 05:51 PM
From a bench or bipod you shouldn't have an issue at all, atleast in my mind.


May 18, 2006, 05:55 PM
Not to get too personal, but do use any sort of prosthetic limb? If you could get a frim grip on the forearm of the rifle, or even provide a base to rest it on, you might be able to hold the rifle steadier than those of us with two hands. The key is to provide a stable support for the front of the rifle, there is no need to grip the rifle with your off hand when using small calibers. Many small bore rifle shooters leave their hands open and rest the rifle on the heel of the palm so that the muscles in their hand do not move the rifle involuntarily.

May 18, 2006, 05:59 PM
As the Fabfink pointed out, the non-trigger hand is pretty much just a passive stand to plop the rifle down on--especially if you're shooting with a sling. A lot of target shooters shoot offhand with the rifle sitting atop their fist or resting on fingertips.

May 18, 2006, 06:22 PM
If you can rig your artificial arm into a secure slot in the forearm of the rifle, you might actually be looking at substantially superior stability over those of us with ordinary wiggly arms and wrists. Some customization might need to be done, but the results would be very interesting. Generally speaking the non-shooting arm is one of the greatest hinderances to good accuracy because it moves and shifts constantly. This is why it is replaced by a bench rest when checking loads and sighting in the rifle.

May 18, 2006, 07:07 PM
I wonder if a bipod and a sling is just the thing here. I know that when I'm slung up and prone, I can remove my trigger hand from the rifle and it just stays there. The support hand is only keeping the forearm off the ground, and a bipod would do that just as well.

May 18, 2006, 08:12 PM
Homer in "The Best Years Of Our Lives" lost both arms in the war, he would shoot a bolt action out in the wood shed.

May 18, 2006, 10:00 PM
I would be willing to go to the range with you, and give it a try. You can use my AR. Email me if interested. If you are in town the second Sat of the month, you can also shoot at the competition, I do.

Where at in Mi will you be?

May 18, 2006, 10:19 PM
Ok, I tried it out, and you can cup the mag well with your left elbow, and pull the gun in real tight. I think it would be pretty easy for you to do.

May 18, 2006, 10:47 PM
I would think that you need only outfit the rifle with something on the forearm in which you could secure the residual limb-some kind of pliable socket with moderate suction, much like the ones used to secure a prosthesis. Generally speaking. you will not lower the rifle from your shoulder to chamber the next round, so as long as you can keep some pressure pulling the stock into your shoulder, you should be fine. Reloading can also be done from firing position, albeit a tad awkward.

Good luck!

May 19, 2006, 12:30 AM

Last year I attended an advanced tactical rifle class where I had to practice one-armed(not just one-handed) "wounded shooter" drills, so now you get the benefit of my (limited) experience:

- The lighter the rifle, the better. I used a 7-lb. Armalite AR180B, with NO extra widgets mounted, and it still felt pretty heavy after the first few drills.

- Pistol grips help a LOT when shooting one-handed, straight-wrist stocks are harder but not impossible. Semi-auto rifles are easiest, lever-actions are almost as easy, bolt-actions are tough to shoot one-handed.

- A single-point or three-point tactical sling is nearly indispensable when mounting the rifle to your shoulder in a standing position; the best way I found was to let the rifle dangle on the sling, then hunch your head/shoulders over as you pull the stock back into your shoulder with your shooting hand. Get a good cheek-to-stock weld with the rifle pointed at the ground, stabilize the rifle between your shoulder, head and shooting hand, then straighten up using your back muscles to raise the rifle on target. An extra-long conventional two-point rifle sling can also work if you suspend the rifle by letting the sling run over your support shoulder, behind your back, and under your shooting-side armpit. Many ranges will not allow you to do this on a firing line for safety reasons, if your range or instructor will let you try, BE VERY CAREFUL. DO NOT try to muscle the rifle up to shooting position using only your arm - much pain and soreness results, lasting for several days. :o

- Since you still have the use of your left arm, you can use the stump of your wrist to support a detachable-mag semi-auto rifle at the junction of the magazine/mag-well and receiver; I just tried this with my AR180B, and it's pretty stable(although I was using my fist and the side of my wrist to simulate a stump). It would be a good idea to wrap your stump in an elastic Ace bandage first, or maybe tape a work glove over your stump for added traction, comfort, and thermal protection(after several 30-rd. magazines have been fired :evil: ).

- Semi-auto rifles with starboard-side bolt handles will actually be the easiest for you to operate(i.e. AK, M1A, Mini-14, AR180B, SU-16); without a left hand, the FAL and G3-type rifles are nearly impossible to rapidly load/reload without help. With the AR-15/M-16-type rifles, you'll probably have to tuck the buttstock under your right arm to work the charging handle, and use your stump to hit the bolt-stop.

Hope this helps!

May 19, 2006, 11:00 AM
If I were you I'd be thinking about a semiauto or lever action like everyone else suggested.

If you have at least a simple hook you could rig on your left arm you could pull back a charging handle that is also located on the left side of the reciever, such as is found on an FAL or other. If the charging handle is on the right side of the reciever you could reach under the rifle to pull it back. I do this with my AK and it's actually faster than using the right. I don't think missing the hand would make a difference as long as you at least have the hook since the wrist doesn't really factor into the motion.

Changing mags would be the tricky part. A sling would help you hold the rifle but it seems to me you'd have to use your right hand for actually inserting the new magazine. It should work fine, though. You should be behind cover when you reload anyway.

Brian Williams
May 19, 2006, 11:22 AM
Hey, My youngest daughter was born without her lower left arm, I have been trying to come up with a good solution for her to use to shoot rifles. Some of these sound like great ideas.

White Horseradish
May 19, 2006, 12:29 PM
If you wouldn't mind a dedicated prosthesis for rifle shooting, something could be made up fairly easily. I can envision a Y rest from the top of a hiking staff screwed onto it as the simplest solution. I could probably cobble up somehting workable with a bit of surplus store trolling. Where are you located?

As far as charging, you would either have to find a rifle with the charge handle on the right or have another hook or loop (depending on handle design) mounted to the prosthesis.

Another solution (or in addition to others) could be to get something like this:

There aren't any truly insurmountable problems here. I remember watching a documentary about a WWII veteran in Russia who was missing both arms to the elbow. They showed him shooting clays with a shotgun with the use of special prostheses.

May 20, 2006, 05:37 PM

thanks for all the ideas, it doesn't look as if i should have any difficulty learning to use a rifle after all. i will have to turn down the kind offers of assistance of one sort or another for now due to my limited time in the states. in the not too distant future, perhaps next year, i should be able to put some of this stuff into practice.



August 5, 2013, 11:06 PM
I know that this thread is quite old but it still applies to what I want to say and ask. Last December I had to have surgery on my right arm at the elbow for cubital tunnel syndrome. The surgery went well at the time and I regained feeling in my index and ring fingers that I had not been able to feel for a long time and removed the massive pains I had in my forearm and elbow. Then a few months ago I started losing the use of my right hand. I was not able to grip very well and losing strength in my hand as well as the numbness spread from my pinky, that never regained feeling, to the outside of my hand from my pinky to my wrist. The muscles in the web part of my right hand is and part of my thumb has deteriorated to a point that there is none left in the web at all anymore. Now I have to undergo surgery again to try to repair the ulnar nerve and uncompress where it is damaged. To do this they have to cut the muscle in my arm lose and move the nerve under the muscle then reattach the muscle. If this works I will have full use of my hand again but, there it a chance I could lose use of my arm from the elbow down. I am preparing for the worst and hoping for the best here. What I want is ideas on ways to be able to shoot my bolt action right handed rifles like my M44 if I loose use of my right arm from the elbow down. If it was just my hand I could still shoot using the sling and using a crossover technique to work the bolt with my left hand and using it for the trigger as well. I just can't figure out a way to shoot it without using my right forearm at least. When I was in good health I could hold out and fire a full length bolt action 12 gauge shotgun with extra full choke and 3 inch mags with one hand. I am no longer in that kind of shape my back and upper body strength is not what it was then. So any ideas are welcome.

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