Readers of this blog are most likely familiar with the term “the other strong hand”. Many firearms instructors use this terminology (Bill Rapier used this term in this class) in lieu of “weak hand”. Words have meaning, and the idea is to use positive words (“other strong”) versus words with more of a negative tone (“weak hand”).
Instructors also use the term “other strong hand” as a not-so-subtle reminder that we should be as proficient with that hand as with our strong hand. Of course, every instructor under whom I have studied recognizes that only a handful of professionals—and even fewer citizens—will ever reach that level of proficiency. Nevertheless, the terminology serves as a reminder that we should be devoting at least some practice to our “other strong hand”.
Of course, the question then becomes: how much of our valuable time and ammunition should we devote to our “other strong hand” (hereafter, OSH) practice? Ten percent? Twenty? More? Looking at some standards and drills I have practiced in the past might be at least loosely suggestive for us. For example, Tom Givens’ Core Pistol Standards requires only 5 shots out of 40 made with the OSH. Paul Howe’s CSAT Pistol Standards requires only 2 shots with the OSH (out of 25 rounds). Dot Torture, a drill I shoot regularly as a pure accuracy drill that can be shot even at crappy public indoor ranges, requires only 5 out of 50 rounds fired with the OSH.
I think most of our readers can recognize the utility of practicing with the OSH. The typical reason cited is to have options if the strong hand or arm is injured during a fight. Of course, an injury can happen at any time that might have your strong hand/arm out of action for an extended period of time. I have dislocated both shoulders and broken one wrist during different (un)athletic endeavors. In my case, these injuries all occurred before I had embraced the concealed carry, armed citizen lifestyle. But if your strong hand/arm is to spend 4-8 weeks in a sling, brace, or cast, you might be happy that you devoted some practice time to work with your OSH. Along those lines, it might be useful to carry with a holster that can be set up for ambidextrous use (the F3 Foxtrot comes to mind), or else have a second holster for your OSH draw in a box at home. You would not want to get home from the emergency room in a cast and have to order a holster from your favorite maker…..who happens to have an 8 week lead time on new orders!
I thought a brief anecdote might further help to illustrate the need to practice with the OSH. Just a week or so ago, I was awakened by my son calling out to me from his room. I cannot recall if he had had a nightmare or just felt the need to share with me the fact that he needed to pee. What I DO recall is that I had apparently been sleeping in a strange position with my right (strong) arm somehow pinned beneath my body. When I awoke, my entire right arm was beyond “asleep”; it was “dead”. It took over one minute for the “pins and needles” to appear, and even longer for the full use of my arm, hand, and fingers. Had I been awakened not by my son, but by the sound of breaking glass, I would have had to open my quick-access safe and handle my pistol entirely with my OSH.
The above situation doesn’t often happen to me, and Karim Manassa of EDC Pistol Training in Florida suggested to me during a recent chat that a sleep number bed might eliminate this issue. That, however, is a separate topic! This event illustrated to me the importance of maintaining at least a reasonable level of proficiency with the OSH. Even though I sometimes feel like I cannot shoot straight with TWO hands, I plan to begin to dedicate a greater percentage of my practice time to OSH work.
It might be of interest to our readers that there has been significant research that suggests that doing activities with both hands can strengthen cognitive functioning in our brains. Some research indicates that performing tasks with our non-dominant hand can even improve our functioning when we use only our dominant hands. I did a few quick Google searches and came up with more articles than I could count which outline these benefits. I’ll leave it to the reader to determine the veracity and efficacy of such studies; I feel like there is probably at least something to it.
In addition, while we are discussing OSH handgun shooting, keep in mind that there are other skills that you should be practicing with the OSH as well. I am not even going to delve into whether or not we should switch shoulders for shooting around cover with long guns, but there could be situations where OSH practice with long guns might be worthwhile (certain specific injuries). Also, it would definitely be a good idea to practice with the OSH with edged weapons as well as with all medical gear, particularly tourniquets! Finally, if you are going to practice shooting with your OSH because you recognize you may suffer an injury to the strong hand/arm, then you should be practicing reloads and malfunction drills using only your OSH.
How much time do you devote to OSH practice? How much do you think you should? Feel free to comment below or on our Facebook page, as we welcome civil discourse. As always, thanks for reading.