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Massad Ayoob on Guns

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.



Massad Ayoob

MIRROR IMAGE SHOOTING

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

When I say “mirror image” shooting, I mean the right-handed shooter running the gun left-handed in every respect, and the southpaw shooter doing vice-versa.  It’s useful for a number of reasons.

  • An injury to anything from eye to hand may, someday down the road, force you to shoot this way. It would be nice to know how to do it beforehand, and not have to learn it while suffering through a recuperation period.
  • For defensive shooting, particularly with a rifle or shotgun, if vertical cover must be used mirror image shooting will give the practitioner minimum exposure from behind the cover.
  • For those of us who teach, how will we teach a student with opposite-side dominance to shoot if we can’t teach ourselves to do it?
  • Many professionals and serious users carry a backup gun on their non-dominant hand side, in case they ever have to shoot weak-hand only. One should be prepared to do so, no?
  • I ask my staff instructors to teach a class, compete in a match, or at least shoot a qualification once a year “mirror image.” It’s my insurance that they continue to master the techniques they teach, and aren’t overcoming bad technique with physical strength or constant repetition. (Either of the latter can eventually work for an individual, but they don’t lend themselves to transmission to students.)

In the latter vein, I got in my own mirror image run while shooting the pace-setter for my third MAG-40 class of August, and it being a “retro month” for me, I did it with a Smith & Wesson Model 19 revolver drawn from a left-handed High Noon thumb-break holster.

It brings you back to basics, the “conscious competence” level of performance where you are thinking about what you are doing.  Yes, we all seek the zen state of “unconscious competence” – perfect performance on auto pilot – but it’s not something any of us can achieve on demand 100% of the time.

Managed to finish with a 300 out of 300, on the ASAA (American Small Arms Academy) target used by our hosts in Connecticut, Defense Associates. The group measuring about five inches.  That’s a bit sloppier than last week’s, shot right-handed on an IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association) target in South Dakota, which tells me I could stand a bit more southpaw shooting time.

 

Southpaw Model 19 gave 300/300 in approx. 5″ group.

 

This pace-setter was author’s “mirror image” run for the year. Left-handed holster by High Noon.

 

The Connecticut MAG-40 class, August 2017.

 

28 Responses to “MIRROR IMAGE SHOOTING”

  1. Tom Walls Says:

    Recently I spent 8 weeks with my dominant arm in a sling.
    Nyet problemo.
    Having been trained and having regularly practiced shooting with either hand, it was really a simple matter of swapping holsters. Both took and taught classes that way.

  2. jack76590 Says:

    I am right eye dominate and right hand dominate. I find I really need the right dominate eye behind the sights to obtain any kind of decent sight picture. I gather this is not the case with everyone and some people can force/train their non dominate eye to cooperate. I seem to remember hearing Hickok 45 was one of these people. So I guess there may be varying degrees of dominance if you will.

    Also I recall Jim Circillo advocated always using dominate hand when going around barricade, even if had to cant the gun. This with handguns not shoulder weapons.

    I find I need to square off more to target and turn my head to left to get my right dominate eye behind sights when shooting with left non dominate hand. Not the best from control standpoint but does give me some type of sight picture. I sometimes even bend my wrist sightly backwards to get sights behind right dominate eye.

  3. Larry Cunningham Says:

    Did you drink a bottle of water between shots this time?
    Once again you have shown why so many of us look up to you and your teachings. I am glad to finally have been able to do so.

  4. Dennis Says:

    Born a lefty in a right handed world, I started shooting at a very young age, left handed. Later, in the military, I switched as a necessity to right hand. During my years as a police officer, I continued to shoot and carry, right handed due to the difficulty in finding left hand duty holsters. Our qualification required five shots from the 25yd left hand barricade position using your “weak hand”. Most officers suffered at this position, but not me. After I retired, I switched back to the natural left hand, but as a result of years of muscle memory and practice, switching hands feels natural for me.

  5. David Rodgers Says:

    I try to shoot a few IDPA matches, and one MAG 40 qualifier mirror image every year. Often times in a “right handed” match I find myself automatically switching to left handed in a stage, once the gun is drawn, if the barricades are set up to favor a left handed shooter. The usual result is better accuracy left handed. I’m a big believer in mirror image. And now, with Gen 5 Glocks…!

  6. the Northwestern Diamondback Says:

    Mas, as a southpaw I’ve personally developed the habit of shooting each section of a course-of-fire in a training session four times: first both hands (dominant as primary), second dominant-only, third off-hand only, last both hands again (off-hand as primary). If I have time and ammo budget I’ll add a second course of supported-dominant or strongside-only. (Personal quirk, I started training from square one with the assumption that I’d probably take the first hit and one or the other hand wouldn’t be able to keep its appointment.) Kind of combining mirroring with a Murphy’s Law assumption, I guess…

    Just a humble observation from a little fish in the big shooting pond that I thought might be worth sharing for others to consider.

  7. Long Island Mike Says:

    When training with your weak hand comes up, I always remind folks of Olympic pistol shooter Karoly Takacs. A Hungarian military shooter at world class level, who blew his right hand off in a grenade accident. If you have a chance catch Bud Greenspans rendition of his inspiring story. He trained shooting with left hand and won Olympic gold. Here is the link to wiki on him. Note the photo is him shooting with his left hand….

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%A1roly_Tak%C3%A1cs

  8. Two-gun Steve Says:

    Mas, do you usually or always shoot with both eyes open? I probably have nearly always used both eyes, even with an M60 machine gun, which seemed to put out a lot of light at night. I have heard of closing one eye to preserve night vision, though. How well does it work for most people, I wonder?

  9. Dave--VA Says:

    When I was a kid, I first learned to shoot with a lever action BB gun, which for whatever reason I just naturally did left handed, even though I am right handed. A few years later when I got my first bolt action .22LR, I began shooting it left handed before being told that it is much easier to shoot right handed in order to cycle the bolt with the right hand. So I learned to shoot it right handed as well. Ever since then, I have been completely ambidextrous when shooting rifles, handguns, or shotguns. I honestly don’t know if I was born ambidextrous or whether I learned to become ambidextrous while my brain was still developing at a young age, but I’ve always felt that since I have two hands, I should use them both. I’m still predominantly right handed (I write with my right hand), but there are many things that I do better or more naturally left handed.

    Whenever I go shooting at the range, I always practice shooting both right handed & left handed with each gun that I have with me. With handguns, I practice shooting both one handed & two handed, right & left. What’s interesting to me is that sometimes I’ll shoot better right handed & sometimes I’ll shoot better left handed, no matter what kind of gun I’m shooting (rifle, handgun, or shotgun) & no matter what shooting position I’m using. It’s always interesting & entertaining to me to see which way I’ll shoot best on any given day. I’ve done this enough, however, to feel confident when shooting around corners or barricades either right or left handed. I also feel confident that I could shoot one handed if I lose the use of one hand or arm for some reason.

    One thing I have noticed is that there is a difference in point of impact when I shoot a handgun left handed than when I shoot it right handed. (There is no difference when shooting long guns.) All of my handguns are sighted in for right handed shooting, dead on to the X-ring at 25 yards for both windage & elevation. However, when I shoot them left handed, they seem to shoot a couple of inches to the right most of the time. This may be due to the difference between a right handed grip & a left handed grip, or the difference between a right or left handed trigger pull, but I don’t know for sure. It has always seemed to me that when shooting a handgun right handed, it recoils a little more to the left away from the palm of the hand holding the gun. Likewise, when shooting it left handed, the gun seems to recoil a little more to the right. Thus, if the gun is sighted in to compensate for recoiling to the left when shooting right handed, it will shoot to the right when shooting left handed. Whatever the reason, it’s easy to correct for by holding a little left when shooting left handed. I do wonder if anyone else has had this experience, though, or if it’s just me. Any thoughts on this, Mas? It looks like you were shooting a little bit to the right on the pace-setter target in the first picture you posted above.

  10. Larry Cunningham Says:

    Jack76590, at a Mag 40 class this spring they had me cant? t the pistol to about a 15 degree angle so that I could use the dominant eye. It really worked well and I continue to do so. I even practice this shooting right handed with my left eye for the times I have dominant eye trouble.

  11. Mas Says:

    Two-gun Steve, I strongly recommend shooting with both eyes open if at all possible. It’s bad enough that we’re more likely than not to experience tunnel vision under stress, without conditioning ourselves to fire with one eye closed and half of our potential field of vision blocked.

    Jack76590, for cross-dominant shooting the 15 to 45 degree tilt (“McMillan/Chapman”) strong hand only works. For two-hand pistol shooting, the cross-dominant can get opposite master eye behind dominant hand and sights by dropping side of head to shoulder in classic Weaver stance (both arms bent), and by keeping the head erect and swiveling chin to bicep of gun arm in Chapman variation of Weaver (gun arm locked, support arm bent. In the isosceles stance (both arms straight) gun comes to midline of head and it’s just as easy for left eye to accommodate as right.

  12. Doug Jones Says:

    I’ve been shooting right hand, right eye for years, but I had very good instructors who emphasized “weak hand, weak eye” as well. Which turned out to be critical when I developed arthritis in my right hand and wrist to the point that I cannot fire more than a couple of rounds “strong hand” anymore. I switched to left hand, left eye a couple of years ago and I’m shooting in the 90%+ range. Thanks to good instructors who got me there before I had to.

  13. Mark A Wammack Says:

    When I was a young Firearms Instructor for Dallas PD, one of the other instructors and my best bud, was left handed. He and I both wanted to get better at off hand shooting/instructing so we came up with a fun, easy solution. We switched rigs. We kept our pistols of course but he and I being close to the same size changed out duty rigs and we started competing against each other wrong handed. The end result was that not only did we get way better offhanded & have fun, we became better instructors. Now 40 years later, I can teach shotgun, handgun or rifle left or right handed. Sometimes hamburger bets lead to greater things!

    Mark

  14. Gerard Says:

    I dont have an experience mirror image shooting, but a dominant side shoulder injury is making learning it a necessity, not an option.

  15. Roger Willco Says:

    Amen! When I first tried left-handed shooting, I felt spastic. But I kept at it, and it almost feels natural. If I had more money, I might even buy some left-handed guns.

    Two-Gun Steve,

    I can’t shoot with both eyes open. I see two sights. When shooting right-handed, I close my left eye. When shooting left-handed, I close my right eye. Now I wear the modern equivalent of bi-focals. I used to look through the top of my glasses at the sight, but now it looks a bit fuzzy. I tilt my head back, and look through the bottom of my lens, and the sight is clear. What a pain! I’m sure I could get special shooting glasses, but I won’t have time to put them on in an emergency.

  16. Dennis Says:

    Mark A Wammack,

    Long time no see. Good to hear from you on this blog. I’m the old wore out motor jock. You have a lot to offer here. Don’t be a stranger.

  17. Spencer B. Says:

    I’m another guy who’s ambi. I used to write left and right hand when I first started, yet was aggressively dissuaded from doing so by what they call “teachers” at school. They really took offense to my switching the pencil hand mid page and forced righty.
    With any other learned skill, including firearms use I must train equally (muscle memory and learned skill do not automatically transfer and equate to equal familiarity and skill with the other hand/side) and frankly have not been able to train anywhere near as much as I should/wish I could with either hand.
    Funny thing about me though, haven’t met anyone else like this (as far as I know. It’s not like I am checking everyone I see or encounter in any way for eye dominance lol) – I can choose which eye will be dominate and switch over naturally. I seem to always know innately which eye is dominate at the time. Typically, most of my shooting is done right yet train both here and there. In general way of things, it’s right hand as that is what most firearms are designed for. Ambidextrous firearms are preferred but I don’t shy away from shooting left or right handed arms.

    Training to shoot both is great advice! Another interesting entry here Mas, Thanks.

  18. Ján Sabo Says:

    AYOOB’S STRESSFIRE VS ROGERS’ REACTIVE SHOOTING – Hi, Mas, I recall that you recently took a course with Bill Rogers at the Rogers Shooting School. From Bill’s Panteao Productions video on Reactive shooting and from his book, I understand that for him eye dominance is paramount, and he advocates subordinating dexterity to eye dominance – in other words, cross-eye dominant shooters should shoot mirror image as standard. By contrast, I know from your writings that dexterity is paramount in your technique, and your advocate various ways of compensating for dominance. Is this a correct understanding of the relative prioritization of dexterity vs. eye dominance in your and Bill’s teaching?

  19. WR Moore Says:

    This can go far beyond just firearms use. Sooner or later you’re going to bung up one hand/arm or the other. Learning how to use “the other” hand to brush your teeth, take care of personal sanitary needs and so forth before you have to is a good idea. I think it’s obvious how I learned this-and that was long after I’d mastered firearms with either hand.

  20. Mas Says:

    Jan, that’s how I understand it also.

  21. TN_MAN Says:

    I am a natural lefty. Both my left hand and left eye are dominate.

    Macular degeneration destroyed the center of vision in my right eye a few years ago. I have peripheral vision in my right eye but I can’t center-focus with it. This has a few consequences for my shooting:

    1) Shooting with both eyes open is no problem at all. The left eye provides the center target focus while the right eye only provides peripheral vision.

    2) Shooting a rifle or a shotgun from the right shoulder (with a good aim) is impossible. The right eye simply cannot focus on the sights. I suppose that, if the long gun was given a stock with enough cast off to bring my left eye behind the sights, I could do it but such a gun would then be useless for shooting from my strong side.

    3) I don’t have any problems shooting a handgun using my support (right) hand. For two-handed shooting, I simply use a weaver stance and cant my head down so as to be able to see the sights with my left eye. If using my right hand only, I simply cant my head to (again) put the left eye behind the sights.

    4) If I ever needed to shoot a long-gun from behind a barricade, I would need to fire it only from my left shoulder. Even if I was shooting around the right side and shooting from the left shoulder forces me to expose more of my body to counter-fire, I would still have no choice because I must see the sights in order to lay down accurate fire.

  22. Phippa Says:

    Mas – I realize now that I have not really understood correcting for eye dominance properly. I think I just learned I should be doing the correction for cross eye dominance shooting mirror you describe above & taught me versus what I am doing which is just using the the non-dominant eye when shooting left. I’ll go and do both and see what works better. Is there anything wrong with just switching to the other eye? Thanks

  23. Mas Says:

    Phippa, using the dominant eye with the opposite hand is the easiest and probably the most practical.

  24. Roger Willco Says:

    Spencer B.,

    I’m no expert concerning right- and left-handedness, but your post reminded me of something I heard a long time ago. Jimi Hendrix could play the guitar equally well right- or left-handed. He played left-handed, but used a right-handed guitar. He re-strung that guitar and played it upside down. I would love to be ambi-dextrous.

  25. Dennis Says:

    Roger Willco,

    I was born a lefty in a right handed world, as I said earlier. Not many allowances were made for lefties back in those days. Schools had no left handed desks, resulting in many lefties turning their paper at what is considered by right handed folks to be an odd angle to write.

    Same with baseball gloves. My Dad carried to several sporting goods stores to buy my first glove, only find no one stocked them. We gave up, resulting in me having to learn to throw a ball right handed. As I perfected that, it became comfortable batting right handed, so I grew up doing everything requiring strength, right handed.

    When I started shooting guns, alas, being left eye dominant made that endeavor much easier left handed. Was not a problem with rifles and shotguns (other than all the controls being set up for righties), but when pistols came into the picture, no retailers seemed to want to stock holsters for lefties.

    For years friends thought me to be ambidextrous, and I am to an extent, but it’s due to training (not totally by choice), but I don’t believe I am a true ambi.

    As an aside, I had many a career criminal make comment about my wearing my sidearm on the right side, but writing reports with my left hand. True bad guys notice such things.

  26. Roger Willco Says:

    Thanks for the info, Dennis. Isn’t it good for a baseball team’s first baseman to be left-handed? I remember left-handers almost always playing first base. It’s too bad there aren’t more choices for leftys. We have so much stuff (so many choices) in America, I would think you could buy more left-handed stuff, even if you had to pay more, or special order it.

  27. Dennis Says:

    Roger Willco,

    With the advent of Kydex holsters, availability of left hand holsters has increased.
    In my days as a police officer, leather was the order of the day. Not only leather, but my department also dictated certain manufacturers as acceptable for duty wear. The department furnished you with a left hand holster if you carried the departmental issued sidearm. If you purchased your own weapon from their list of approved sidearms, you had to purchase your own holster. The backorder was anywhere from 6 months to a year due to their shutting production down once a year to produce only the pre-ordered LH holsters for a week before going back into production of right hand holsters. In other words, a pain in the you know what.
    Has anyone ever seen an old full flap government issued leather holster for the 1911 Government Model made for lefties? I haven’t. I’m guessing nowadays the military holsters are ambidextrous.

  28. Marty Hayes Says:

    Recently, an FAS staff instructor, Belle McCormack injured her right hand at a match. She simply borrowed left handed gear and completed the match, not blinking an eye.

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