If you’ve spent any amount of time reading the latest gun magazines (…paid advertisements), online blogs, or attended any tactical training in the last decade or so, you’ve no doubt heard the terms: off-hand, weak hand, support hand, or non-dominant hand. Generally when we consider them in a fighting environment, we primarily relate them to firearms first, and maybe combatives second. For the latter, the term “weak side” might be more prevalent. Regardless, they all generally mean the same thing: it’s that hand that you don’t primarily write or shoot with. For me, I’m a righty who’s right eye dominant, so my “weak side” or hand is my left side.
In the frame work of firearms and combatives, being ambidextrous is often considered a gold standard to achieve. Ideally, we would train to the standard that anything we could do from our strong side we could do equally as well from our weak side. Shooting unsupported, reloading, weapon manipulations, and various strikes, holds, and submissions would all be equally as easy and natural to do from both sides of the body. But the reality is very few of us can actually do that. I sure can’t. It would take an immense amount of training and repetition to actually achieve this, and frankly, the there may be a significant amount of opportunity cost to actually achieve true ambidexterity.
So if we recognize that we might not ever achieve true ambidexterity, but we still train certain combative tasks to some certain degree of success, then what else do we need to know about using our weak sides? Well… quite a bit actually. Today let’s take a look at a few tasks, outside of the combatives realm, that might require us to use our off hand for whatever reason – and that you may have not yet considered.
There’s a million and one reasons that you might have to render self aid or buddy aid without the use of your primary hand. Perhaps you’ve been injured or you’re using your primary hand to apply pressure or hold gauze. Maybe you’re just using your stronger side to hold the patient down who is panicking and flailing around. Whatever the reason, you need to have the ability to conduct at least basic trauma interventions with only your off hand. At the very minimum, I would suggest you be comfortable using your off hand for applying tourniquets, wound packing, applying direct pressure, manually clearing an airway, and maybe even applying self-adhesive chest seals.
With that in mind, I’d strongly recommend the CAT Gen 7 Tourniquet from North American Rescue. Consider that a direct endorsement. They’re a bit bulkier than the SOFTT-W, but it’s much easier to apply with one hand. The CAT tends to stick to clothing or skin better for whatever reason, whereas the SOFTT-W likes to spin around the limb a little more. Both are TCCC “certified” but my preference goes to the CAT. Take that to the bank.
When was the last time you practiced driving your vehicle while using only your off hand/arm? I’ll be honest, I hadn’t even considered this until just recently I had to drive my truck for a very brief period of time with only my left hand.
If you take a look above, the first picture is a pretty typical representation of a column mounter shifter, where as the second picture is representative of my F-150’s interior – a center mounted “sport” shifter.
The column shifter is much easier to use when having to drive with only one hand, because it doesn’t force you to cross your entire body to get the vehicle into drive. And under more serious circumstances, the ability to move or stop quickly might be life and death if you’re already one hand down.
Have you ever been holding your kid (or pint of beer) in your primary hand and had to answer your phone with your other hand? If you don’t take the split second to think about it, you’ll probably frustrate yourself by either entering the wrong password or pressing the wrong buttons.
Under more severe circumstances, you might lock your phone with you really need to be getting that 9-1-1 call made. Sure, there’s an emergency call button, but make sure you know how to access that with both hands as well.
If you’re running a PTT radio or similar communications set up, make sure you can release channels, scan, and select channels/groups using only your weak hand, wherever that comms is attached to your body. Uh oh… can’t reach it? Guess you’re going to have to make some adjustments.
So as you can see, in different contexts, off hand skills apply to more than just shooting or punching. Hell, they could really apply to just about anything. Make sure that that as you go through your day you’re giving the use of your weak side some consideration – your life might depend on it.