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Everyday Tactical: Keeping Your Hands Free

keep gun hand free

I would like to pass on a concept that was ingrained in my mind when I was in Marine Corps Bootcamp. While in uniform, we were not to carry anything in our right hand. Reason being, your right hand should be free to render the appropriate hand salute to an officer.

We were taught the same concept at the San Diego Regional Police Academy. Except for this time, the reason was different.

Recruits were drilled on not carrying things in their dominant hand. This may seem like an insignificant lesson. However, when it comes to a deadly force incident, you will already be in a reactionary mode.

Anything we can do to minimize the tasks we must perform is beneficial and frees our mind to focus on the other critical decisions.

Keep your dominant hand free:

One simple thing you can do is keep your gun hand free. If possible carry your bags or your keys in your off or support hand.

Obviously there are times when both hands are needed for a task. Nevertheless, try to free up your dominant hand whenever you can. If you are walking with a child, try to keep them on your non-dominant side. This makes it easier to move them out of the way and facilitate a one-handed draw and presentation if it is necessary.

Enlist the help of your significant other or friend to “call you out” when they see you with something in your gun hand. You would be amazed at how many times you have something occupying your gun hand. If it isn't necessary why would you want to hinder your ability to get to your firearm?

Sure, most draws that come from concealment involve two hands, so some would say ‘what's the point? I am not going to keep both hands free.'

It is possible to draw from concealment with one hand, and if you can't, it is either because you haven't practiced, or your set up is not ideal and should be changed. Be that the holster or the location you carry your firearm.

Which finally brings us to the last point —

Practice Dropping Things From Your Support Hand:

Another thing to consider, and is worth practicing, is the ability to drop what you're carrying. It sounds silly, but there have been instances where people have gotten hurt because they were so focused on the thing that they were carrying that they couldn't get their gun out properly.

It's a good idea to pretend you're holding your phone at the range. Then, when a shot timer beeps signifying a bad guy, you drop the simulated phone (an old flip phone or one you still have but no longer use), cup of coffee, etc., to practice getting your gun out.

Training like this will help strengthen the fact that when it's time for a deadly force encounter, you're actually ready to defend yourself. Understandably, dropping what you're holding may not ALWAYS be the best plan. Your phone is, of course, your fastest connection with law enforcement or EMS. The likelihood, however, of someone calling the police during a shooting in a crowded location is higher than if you're in a remote area by yourself. So you will have to decide which is best given your circumstances. Weighing the ability to make one-handed shots, vs dropping your phone, or stashing it in a pocket. It all is situationally dependent. But understanding how to operate and the realities of how quickly you can draw one-handed, or throw your phone in a pocket and then draw will help you react better if the situation presents itself.

Stay safe and keep training.

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6 Responses to Everyday Tactical: Keeping Your Hands Free

  1. Ron W October 5, 2015 at 4:37 pm #

    Sounds like good advice. Won’t work well for me though as I need a cane in my left hand to walk more than a few steps. So when I have anything to carry my only option is to use my right, dominate, hand. I just have to be ready to drop anything I might be carrying if need of my ccw is need.

    • Matthew May 2, 2016 at 12:29 pm #

      Hi Ron,
      Thank you for responding. I am happy you haven’t let the fact that you use a cane dissuade you from carrying and training with your firearm. The fact that you have thought about and trained the response of dropping your cane and transitioning to your firearm is building good muscle memory. Adapt and overcome. Thanks again and Stay safe Sir!

  2. greg shafer October 9, 2015 at 5:02 pm #

    I can tell you from police training, range was twice a year, about 300 rounds a day. One round from stationary positions , one round was moving from one spot to another,r taking cover, reloading, standing, kneeling and from the ground. During each round we where on the clock, inducing stress, to get all your rounds off. You wore your duty holster, this helps with muscle memory. When under stress you will do what you were trained, without a thought. So if you should use your conceal holster, your purse or however you carry when at the range. Every officer tries to think of every situation a shooting incident would occur. While that has some pluses, it always happens different then you expected and much faster. I was chasing a suspect on foot, back then I did a lot of running, most suspect are tired after the first minute. We had jumped fences went through back yards with clothes lines, and when we got back out to the street, I saw a large grassy area ahead and a street light right over it. I moved closer getting ready to tackle him, then he took a Buck knife off his belt, and I heard it click open, at this point I was well within his arm reach, that’s too close. As I pulled up to get out of reach, I slipped and went to one knee, he was now turned facing and moving towards me with the knife. With out a thought I drew my weapon and fired one shot, that dropped the suspect to his knees. I told him, put the knife down or I would shoot him again, and he threw the knife out onto the street. I told him to get on the ground and he laid down. I pulled out my radio and reported a shooting at that location and the suspect was down, I needed, an Ambulance and a Supervisor there. It took about one minute for the first 2 backup cars to arrive. That one minute seemed much longer. The suspect was in a stolen car, that had 2 stolen guns and a big bag of pills. The suspect was on parole, and decided he was not going back to prison, he was right, he died during surgery. Be careful out there. You just never know when……..

    • Matthew May 2, 2016 at 12:31 pm #

      Hi Greg,
      Thanks for sharing. the world is a dangerous and unpredictable place. Train as much as we can and rely on our instincts and training. Stay safe out there!

  3. Paul Thomas August 7, 2018 at 1:08 pm #

    Throughout my training and career I have been instructed to always use my support or off hand as much as possible, even my neurologists and surgeons, but Chris Caracci used to really drill this into our heads. Thank you for the reminder.
    Stay safe

    • Gene B July 19, 2019 at 2:13 pm #

      I learned the same thing in the service. And even being out since 1980, I find myself still doing the same thing. I never thought about it, or even realised I was still doing so, untill I read your article. CCW for daily for 15 years.
      Nice to know some training sticks with us, even if we dont realize it.

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