A problem with shooting an AR15 left handed while gripping the magazine well

| September 1, 2014 | 3 Comments

When shooting rifles, I’ve been trained to extend my supporting / non-shooting hand as far along the handguard as possible. This results in more support for the barrel of the rifle, and helps to even out the weight distribution of the firearm.

However, in training with very short barreled rifles / PDW for a few years I have noticed that people naturally grab the magazine well instead of the handguard.

I think this is partially due to the balance of these weapons, and also a subconscious reluctance to put one’s hand close to the muzzle of the weapon.


As you can see here, there isn’t much room beyond the free-float handguard on my AR15 .300 Blackout pistol and the muzzle. I could put a handstop on here (which I’ve done with my vSBR AK47) but when most people’s hand went to the magazine well, the handstop was just one more thing I had mounted on a firearm that was supposed to be light and portable.

When I shoot an AK47 with either hand on the magwell everything’s fine. What didn’t occur to me is that an AR15 pattern firearm’s ejection port is much lower and situated in a manner that my right thumb may cause a malfunction.

left side ar15 ejection port problem-0


I am glad that I figured out why I’m having problems when shooting left-handed, but I now am faced with a series of problems:

  • Do I adjust how I shoot all of my vSBRs so that I have a consistent grip on the handguard instead of the magazine well?
  • Do I adjust how I shoot my AR15 pistol, especially when left-handed? I don’t like having specific techniques for specific weapons.
  • Do I re-train myself to shoot thumbs down with rifles?

Record and Practice

Situations like this are exactly why I tell people repeatedly they need to practice, practice, practice. Buying a tool, especially a specialized one like a very short barrel rifle or very short barrel PDW, and then leaving it in your backpack, safe, or corner of your bedroom would not reveal this issue. I only encountered these malfunctions after training with my AR15 pistol repeatedly this year.

Even with training, I highly recommend filming your sessions. Due to the dynamic nature of fight-focused training, your instructors and range officers may not be able to see everything at every moment in time. Their job is to look for safety situations and gross mistakes. There is also a certain amount of physical distance between the instructors and the students, particularly in more movement-oriented drills.

Luckily my primary instructor Erik Pakieser from QSI Training was able to review the footage I took and pointed out the problem with my thumb. It would have been more difficult to discover my issue during the fast-paced moments of doing this drills in class.


About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.

3 Comments on "A problem with shooting an AR15 left handed while gripping the magazine well"

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  1. Mike says:

    You could run a rail on the forend at the 4:30 position just ahead of the magwell and then mount something to it running above your grip, and below the ejection port. This would give you a surface to have your thumb bump up against, and make it so you’d have to twist your hand into an anatomically improbable position to block the port.

  2. Peter Idsinga says:

    What handguard is on the above posted ar pistol?

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