A Helping Hand: Is it wise to switch hands to shoot from behind cover?

Some schools of thought dictate switching hands when shooting around corners that is, if you’re peeking around the right hand side of the barricade, you use your right hand and if you’re going to shoot around the left hand side of a barricade, you use your left hand. The school of philosophy extends to both handguns and long guns (a.k.a. bi-lateral shooting) but in this article, we’re going to examine the technique as it pertains to handguns.

Should I stay or should I go?

The idea or premise behind switching gun hands from one or the other is that an individual will expose less of his or her body when peeking out from behind the side of an obstacle like the corner of a wall. Exposing less of your body is good for two main reasons: first, it keeps you hidden from your adversary and doesn’t telegraph your movements; and secondly, by exposing less of your body you reduce your opponents target and so reduce your chances of getting shot.

Both of these are solid battle principles that each of us must seek to incorporate into our own battle tactics and there are a couple of different ways (techniques) to do this—either maintain the weapon in your dominate hand and do a proper “pie” (both from left and right hand sides of a barricade), or, as mentioned above, switch hands. There are pros and cons to both.

Easy as…

Shooting from behind cover with dominate hand.

Shooting from behind cover with dominate hand.

Pie-ing, or slicing the pie, refers to a method used to carve or work angles in a tactical situation. It is performed in order for you to maintain tactical advantages like cover, concealment and rapid target acquisition. With the correct technique, shooters can maintain the firearm in their dominant hand and have very good protection, keeping their body behind cover (or concealment, as the case may be). The key factor here though is having a good pie technique and that takes practice.

On the other hand…

Switching hands allows shooters to have the majority of their bodies hidden behind an obstacle or

Shooting with off-hand from behind cover.

Shooting with off-hand from behind cover.

barricade, like the corner of a wall. Learning and perfecting a proper pie technique can be a challenge, especially on the non-dominant side, so switching hands seems to be the easy answer.

In reality though, learning to shoot well with the non-dominant hand can be very difficult and takes more time to perfect than learning a proper pie technique. Besides, under stress cognitive skills rapidly erode. But by the same token, if you’re not constantly training with both hands, performing well in a tactical situation is highly unlikely. Lastly the difference between winning and losing a gunfight is speed and switching hands quickly will take time even with continuing training.

A helping hand

In my opinion the benefits of keeping the gun in the dominant hand when manipulating obstacles far outweighs switching hands. When a shooter changes hands, especially under the stress of a real or potential firefight as I mentioned above, cognitive skill is lost inevitably lost. To me, this translates into time wasted or in other words, speed and accuracy suffering.

I’m reminded of a soliloquy in Shakespeare’s Hamlet with a little variation: “To be, or not to be, that is the question: / Whether ‘tis Nobler…to suffer [Practicing a proper “Pie”…] / Or to [switch] Arms… / And…to die…”

Of course, there may be times when switching hands is needed and having some exposure to off-hand shooting is always helpful but realize performing well is an advanced technique. Be sure that you practice a proper pie technique before practicing switching hands to shoot from behind cover. Remember with tactics, as in life, there are bad, good, better and best options. The oft-said military axiom applies well here: situation and terrain determines tactics.

Alas, while it’s good to know how to shoot from both sides of cover using both hands — the left hand for the left side and the right hand for the right side — just be careful on relying too much on that particular technique.

Note, in the video I do not demonstrate a perfect pie. If I did, all you would see is my barrel my eye. I figured that wouldn’t make for a good speaking/instructional video hence the clarification here.

Until next time, continue to hone your skills and keep adding to your tactical toolbox.

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