Critical Tasks – “Ambi-Importance”

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.

Medical Treatment 

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.

Until Victory.


Tuesday Tac Tip

It’s Tuesday, and the start of a new weekly series for us called “Tuesday Tac-Tip”, where we deliver a quick tip for success in the tactical environment. Nothing too crazy, maybe a drill, adjustment, theory, or quick insight to help give you that extra little benefit that you might find useful someday. Maybe you’ve heard it before, or maybe it’ll make you think “how didn’t I think of that?”. Either way, it’s going to be simple and to the point – after all, it is just the tip. 

For today’s quick tip, we’re going to take a quick look at weapon light maintenance. If you shoot with a weapon mounted light (which you should), there’s a good chance you’ve noticed at the end of your training that you need to clean the light’s lens after. This is made even worse by shooting with a light that extends in front of the muzzle, like a Glock 19 and Surefire X300U.


(photo credit: On Duty Gear)

To prevent this, use a little bit of Chapstick or other lip balm and wipe it on the lens before shooting. Just keep a little tube of it in your shooting bag, and you can use it for light maintenance, lip care, and minor skin wounds that happen on the range all the time. When you’re done shooting, just wipe it off with a clean, cloth rag and the majority of your cleaning is done! And don’t try using straight Vasoline or your sex lube for this – it isn’t really think enough to hold up to the heat and makes a nasty mess.

Just make sure to use a cloth rag for wiping the lens. Don’t use paper towel or similar products, as the wood content in them can leave micro scratches in the lens and cause damage over time.

For really tough carbon build up that you need to scrub off: use a pencil eraser. A good ol’ fashioned #2 Ticonderoga pencil will serve you wonders on the range. It can clean your light, help you take waterproof notes, or improve your qualification score since it’s about 9mm in diameter.

Holidays PSA: Keep in touch with each other over the holidays. Get ahold of your peers and check in. NCOs and leadership – this is your time to practice troop welfare. I know there’s veterans out there reading this, and you owe it to yourselves and buddies to be around for each other these next few weeks.

Until Victory.


Move then Shoot vs. Move and Shoot

Today on the training ground, we’re going to take a quick look at an interesting fundamental split in the shooting community: moving then shooting vs. moving while shooting.

Move then Shoot – Upon recognizing a lethal threat, step out of the line of attack or “get off the X”, and begin to fire on the threat.

Move and Shoot – After recognizing and deciding to engage, step out of the of attack, and continue to move in a given direction while firing.

I recently spoke with a former Army Ranger who told me he struggled to adapt in some civilian training courses with standing still and shooting. He said he always “felt weird”, and felt like he should be engaging the targets while moving. I attribute this to two things: military training and military engagements. I can speak from experience that the military puts a weird amount of focus on shooting while moving, sometimes without the context of when or why to do it (moving to cover or advantage). Secondly, military engagements don’t often have the same level of accountability and legal responsibility compared to civilian or police engagements. Stray rounds in Fallujah are hardly given a second thought when your homie next to you is burning down belts from a 240G. But sling a stray one while CONUS, and be prepared for Ferguson 2.0 regardless of your justification or not.

In pretty much every regard, shooting while moving is less accurate than shooting from a stationary position. But staying fixed means you’re also a fixed target. Let’s take a look at this recent Police shooting in Alamogordo, NM.


At about the :40 second mark, the officer catches up to the shitbag, I mean suspect, after a pretty significant foot chase. For context, the subject was known to have outstanding warrants and believed to have been armed. Excellent control and verbal commands are displayed between :43 and nearly the 1:00 mark exactly.

In literally one second, at 1:03-1:04, the suspect draws a revolver and points it at the officer and his partner immediately behind him. The officer delivers two rounds, one of which hits the suspect in the hip, driving him to the ground. Note that the officer has both hands on his service weapon and is able to deliver precise, accurate fire.

At 1:05, the suspect then fires several rounds at the officers while on the ground, one of which ultimately strikes one of the officers in the arm/chest area; later killing him. During this volley of fire, the officer in the video can be seen firing with only his primary hand, while the camera angle seems to shift a little to the side. This is consistent with the officer blading his body towards the threat, in a subconscious attempt to both point the weapon at the threat and avoid incoming rounds. This one-handed, reflexive shooting is seen time and time again in law enforcement shootings. It’s the body’s natural response to an actual deadly threat: avoid it. The officer also takes several steps backward away from the suspect at a sort of oblique angle.

Between 1:10 and 1:14, the suspect flees and the officer steps toward him firing his service weapon. At approx. 1:15-1:18, the officer stops moving, and engages with a full, two-handed grip. This is when the officer delivers the finishing blow: one of his rounds strikes the suspect in the head; killing him. From the video, it seems that the range is at least 30+ yards.

So what can we learn? Despite your training, it might not be possible to completely overcome human nature. While shooting after moving is much more accurate, but with fire incoming your body might not allow you to actually do it. The solution is to train for both, but under realistic conditions. Simply walking around the range shooting isn’t going to improve your ability. Add some context: move quickly to cover or advantage while shooting or shoot on the move while simulating some sort of incoming threat. Better yet: Force on Force training. Seeing that gun come out and start pointing at you might elicit some surprising responses, despite whatever training you have. When I’ve had the opportunity to conduct Force on Force training, I’ve always been surprised at my body’s own natural response. I can still think and shoot, but I tend to move and twist in unusual ways when under a perceived lethal threat and find myself shooting primary hand only more often than not, particularly in close ranges and during surprise events. Be honest with yourself. Get exposure to more realistic training to gauge your body’s natural response vs your trained and conditioned response. If it’s not what you wanted, either get more training to fix it, or find a logical and efficient way to incorporate your natural response into your combat skill set.

Train hard and train with purpose. 

Until Victory.