Anyone who has fired a handgun knows the gun is twice as stable when using two hands than when using one. Recoil control, shot-to-shot recovery, presentation to the target, weapon stability and a host of other skills work better with two hands. The problem: The likelihood of law enforcement officers needing to shoot with one hand remains quite high. Your support hand may be injured and disabled, or you may need it to open a door, hold a non-hostile person or fend off an attacker. Or maybe an attack comes so closely and quickly, you can't bring the support hand into play. Regardless, ability to shoot with one hand is an essential skill.
Pitfalls of the Fencer's Lunge
Because of the likely environment revolving around a one-handed shooting situation, you may need to fire your gun from positions other than fully extended in front of your eyes and body. If an attacker is right on top of you, extending the gun will place it within his reach and likely allow him to gain control of it. Not good. You may need to fire the gun from anywhere between just above the holster to a full arm extension. This necessity is one of the differences between marksmanship training, competition shooting and gunfights.
For many years, firearms instructors commonly taught one-handed shooting with an exaggerated forward lean with the strong-side foot forward, somewhat like a fencer's lunge. While this method does allow the shooter to hold the gun quite still with one hand, as well as get the body well forward for solid recoil control, I can't help but wonder how well it would work in a close-quarter fight. It works great during a competition involving paper targets, but how beneficial is it to step into an aggressive opponent with the strong foot forward? If this is the only one-handed shooting method you have been taught, and you suddenly, for whatever reason, need to shoot with one hand, what do you think you would do?
Let's take a look at a situation that happened to an officer in the Midwest. This female officer responded to a suspicious-persons call at a convenience store in an industrial area of a medium-sized city. As she pulled into the parking lot, she noticed two males loitering near a dumpster at the side of the store. She called in her location and a description of the situation and subjects and was told her backup was less than a minute off. She decided to approach the two suspects to make verbal contact and get a feel for the situation before her backup arrived. As she approached, the two became verbally abusive, and one approached her in an aggressive manner. Being a defensive tactics instructor but not a firearms instructor (the two must melt into one), she immediately went into a low, aggressive stance, and when one of the suspects tried to grab her, she struck him with a forearm to the brachial plexus region, which caused him to immediately do-the-chicken to the pavement. So far so good.
At the same time, she thought she heard the snapping sound of a knife opening (it turned out to be a stick breaking under the other suspect's foot), so she struck out with her support hand and drew her firearm. Using the one-handed technique she had been taught at the range, she stepped into the suspect, only to have the suspect try to grab her gun. She immediately pulled the gun back and discovered her feet were in the wrong position to fight back. The suspect pushed her, she fell due to her unbalanced position and he ran off. Fortunately, he didn't try to attack her while she was on the ground.
This young officer related this story during one of my Handgun Combatives courses, where I talk about the potential in-combat pitfalls of the fencer's lunge shooting position. Her story reinforced my belief we should teach shooting with one hand the same way as shooting with two hands. I know many instructors disagree with my viewpoint, and I understand their reasons. It's just that I don't care period. If we can shoot with the strong-side foot slightly back while using two hands, we can do it with one. In the event we are attacked and need to pull the pistol back into a close-retention shooting position, we can do it without taking ourselves off-balance.
Try This Method
Try this the next time you shoot at the range. Get into a solid shooting position with your shoulders above your toes. Extend your arms in your favorite shooting platform Weaver, isosceles, who cares? and then lock your support arm back against your upper torso. Make sure you lock the support arm back because this will help lock the extended arm, too. Note: It really doesn't feel all that different to shoot with one hand than with two. If you need a bit more recoil control, put a little more upper-body lean into the gun. If the gun seems to waver and move in front of the target, don't try to cant it inward. Rotate the shooting-arm elbow down toward the ground and straighten the shooting-hand thumb. You'll find this locks the arm all the way from the shoulder through the wrist. If you need to bring the gun back to the torso for a close retention shot, all you'll need to do is bend the elbow and draw the gun back. This is simple to execute, so don't over-complicate the process. With this method, you can fire the gun anywhere from just above the holster pouch to a full extension away from the body, which is a valuable skill to have.
Remember: The best shooting positions are the ones that don't require a lot of motion or thought to accomplish and master. If you feel as if you're hardly moving, you're probably doing it right. Check 360 often and always stay alert.