Self defense-one hand or two?

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Jan 16, 2003
Help me out here, please.

I do most of my shooting with two hands. I recently purchased a snub nose .38 and have been practicing with one hand thinking the assailant will likely be almost on top of me and I have to be proficient with a one handed draw and fire.

The other day I was not happy with my groups and so I tried out a two handed grip. Boy did the group shrink!

I've read alot of articles and a couple of books on defensive shooting and they seem to contradict themselves on what is an effective hold. I've even talked with a couple of instructors, one says all the time you'll have is to pull it and fire, the other gave me a detailed demonstration of bringing your hands up and coming together on the handgun as you push it toward the threat.

I have to laugh when I watch a modern Western and they show the two hand hold on revolvers. I'm sorry, but nobody held their hoglegs like that in 1886! But, in modern movies everbody does. Watch a movie from the 40's, 50's, or 60's and you never see it. Except for that ridiculous left hand on the right wrist technique that Clint Eastwood used in Dirty Harry. I actually saw a guy at the range with a compact XD-9 doing just that! He must have seen that movie, he was ex-fighter pilot (1960's) and I'm sure he wasn't taught to shoot that way. Watch an opening scene from a James Bond movie as he whirls around and fires his Walther-one hand. No, I'm not saying I believe movies are good material for training.

So, here's my question: In real life, will you have time to draw and fire with two hands or not? How would you recommend I practice with a snubby? One book I have shows a guy with a knife and his intended victim bent back over a car fender. The snubnose is barely out of the pocket/holster! Is this how it really is? Or will an assault more likely occur at a distance where you would have time to get both hands on your piece?
A lot of video from cop car cameras, pics from events like NTI, and what-not show that when push comes to shove, and someone has to draw and fire in sequence (i.e. not previously holding the gun at low ready), a lot of ppl end up using use one hand only, and a lot of 2-handed firing is done from something approximating an isoceles "stance" regardless of what a person normally uses.
Work with both.

If you are bent over the hood of your car with a knife at your throat, group size will not be an issue. One hand will probably enable you to put the muzzle of the snubby up against the evil-doer somewhere and crank off a round.

If your attacker is out of slapping distance, you may want to go to two hands.

Be flexible.
I have tried some one handed shooting to mix things up a bit. I also worry about situations where my other arm is not functional. If you try shooting with one hand try shooting with your weak hand as well.
The world is not neat.
Shooting is not an either - or proposition, one hand or two, point or aim; to be READY, you have to be able to do it all. As Jim Higginbotham says, shooting at 10 feet is not easier than shooting at 10 yards, but it IS different. A good training course will get you started, but you have to practice. IDPA and IPSC are not gunfighting training but they are about the only legal way to test your gunhandling and shooting under some sort of stress.
There are ways of drawing where the off-hand comes "upwards" underneath the strong hand until the two meet, so that if you must fire before that "meet point" the off-hand is always clear of the muzzle during the draw.

Highly recommended.

Another trick: as the snubbie clears leather and moves upwards, and the off-hand is coming up under to meet for the two-handed hold, if the range is too close the off-hand needs to go grab something or other or push the other guy's gun/knife/club away.

There's two ways to do this:

1) The off-hand "passes" the gun off to one side, and then moves upwards while the gun barrel stays somewhat low (around the height of your lower sternum, max.

2) "Rotate and follow": the gun-hand rotates out in a circle between six inches and a foot in diameter, moving towards the strong-side direction while the off-hand goes in. The gun-hand then rotates back in and "follows" the off-hand up and in, barrel held horizontal so that the off-hand located higher and ahead of the gun isn't in the muzzle path. The short "rotation" of the gun makes it harder to grab while allowing "safe passage" of the off-hand past.

All of this is happening while you're sidestepping/circling! Don't plant your feet, MOVE, preferrably AWAY FROM HIS WEAPON-HAND. If you're doing number 2 above, this puts your muzzle into his chest more or less directly to his side, and right at his heart if both parties are right-handed.

If you're a lefty and he's a rightie: you have a bit of a problem here, as your off-hand isn't lined up to try and control his strong-hand for a sec while you plug him. My take: "blade" yourself off-side towards him, use your off-hand curved up and leftwards to deal with his weapon hand, while pumping rounds lower than your off-hand arm. You're also skewing around hard to your right, again AWAY from his weapon-hand. Direct chest contact wounds may not be available. But while this sounds non-optimal, he's even more screwed up, as your weapon-hand is completely unavailable to him and he's not prepared for this screwball crossed-up attack.

You're the righty, he's a southpaw: again, circle away from the weapon. Blade your body so the gun is back away from him, cross the off-hand up and do something to distract the weapon for a sec. Keep moving.

In all cases, the MOVEMENT while in a close grapple, which isn't a natural thing to do AT ALL, will buy you key time and hose his aim even at these ranges.


Also: at VERY close range, the absolute best thing you can do with a snubbie is shove it right into a guy's ribs at the instant of firing. Doing so is a "caliber multiplier" - your 38Spl just before a very hot 45ACP load, as the hot burning gasses from behind the round are "injected" into the assailant :eek:.

This is called "using a gun like a knife" and is a very good reason first to carry a revolver or one of the somewhat uncommon semi-auto types that do NOT go "out of battery" on muzzle contact, and second to have some passing familiarity with knife combative skills.
Mr. March, thank you, now I've got some new ideas to try out. I particularly like the part where your left hand (in my case as a right hander) is simultaneously coming up with the right where it can be used to stablize the weapon, if there is time, or do something else. Some new dry fire practice tonight!
I had the opposite problem where I shot Bullseye for a few years before I ever carried, and shot much better one handed than with two. Of course it wasn't hard to get used to two-handed fire, but you should be proficient both ways.

Also practice shooting with your off-hand. A bullet or knife wound to your right shoulder or arm may make you an instant lefty, and you'd better be able to shoot with it! :)
I had the opposite problem where I shot Bullseye for a few years before I ever carried, and shot much better one handed than with two. Of course it wasn't hard to get used to two-handed fire...

Maybe for you. This old bullseye shooter never has managed to get the hang of holding a gun in two hands. I'm physically able to do it, but my scores are significantly higher when I hold the gun—any gun—the way I always have.
I practice one-handed left-and-right and two-handed right-primary/left-primary. You never know if you're going to get drilled in the shoulder or the like and you have to mix things up a bit.
It is impossible to overstate the benefits of doing your unloaded-gun draw and dryfire practice while moving and stepping and dodging. The combination must become 2nd nature.

When you shoot somebody, they'll have a tendency to fire into the place where they first saw you and/or where you fired from. Even if there's no cover available, that spot is the "kill zone" where YOU can get killed.

Don't be there. Screw with his aim by moving.
Maybe for you. This old bullseye shooter never has managed to get the hang of holding a gun in two hands. I'm physically able to do it, but my scores are significantly higher when I hold the gun—any gun—the way I always have.

Isn't it weird? I shoot pretty well two-handed, and haven't shot Bullseye in 10 years, yet I can fall right into that one-handed stance. It feels comfortable, I guess, and once you get used to shooting from it it really seems natural.
Is there really anything WRONG with shooting exclusively one handed?

It seems to me that one of the greatest advantages of the pistol is the ablility to operate it with only one hand.
. train with your weapon completely, get proficient at it, develop your mindset and awareness and if / when the shtf, once you establish intention your body will do the rest.. research has shown you go into a crouch, tend to shoot one hand and if 2 hand, you tend to do the, or a variation of the, 'isosceles'.
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