That’s What She said: Strong Hand or Super-Strong Hand?

| February 24, 2016 | 1 Comments

We hosted a trauma class two weeks ago. One of my favorite moments was a story the instructor (Robert Schoening of LHGK – he’s fantastic – take his class if you get the opportunity) told about how some students bristled at the term “weak side” and asserted that “they only had strong sides…but one side was super-strong.” About an hour after that my “super-strong” side hand was injured.

One week later the hand had greatly improved. Nothing was broken or sprained, and the bruise was finally starting to fade. But the experience got me thinking. What if it was broken? I’ve never drawn from my bag with my left hand. I had no idea if I could. The drills I’ve done with my off hand were done drawing from a proper holster. There’s a pretty big difference between practicing some off-hand drills at the range and running an entire class injured.

What better place to find out than a force-on-force class with QSI?

I wrapped my hand on the way to class. My intention was to spend the entire day using my off hand, not just the scenarios I was involved in. I would draw only from my bag since reholstering in compression shorts (my second daily carry choice) requires two hands. And I would try to get through my scenarios using less than lethal force only.

Before class had even started I had to re-think how I:

  • Carried my gear into the facility
  • Oriented my bag holster
  • Would access the gun in the Vertx bag (which can only be worn on the left shoulder)
  • Would draw, unload and clear the chamber of my firearm

The Vertx Sling I carry has Velcro on both sides of the holster pocket. It was simple to move the holster to the other side. No need for a special left draw oriented rig. The knife I carry at my body mid-line is already oriented to my left hand, and I gave the safety on my OC spray a few lefty flicks to make sure I could deploy it if needed.

I was ready for class to start.

I’ve worked with this group of instructors for almost five years. They knew I meant it when I told them not to go easy on me for the day. As far as they knew, my hand was seriously injured, but they took me at my word and didn’t water anything down.

They also noticed that I was trying to get through the scenarios without shooting. Because they are good instructors, they started putting me in complex situations that would force me to shoot. They didn’t do this because shooting is always the answer. – they wanted me to get me out of my comfort zone. I’ve been using my OC spray more through the last two classes. We train to use the appropriate level of force, and sometimes that means going beyond a less than lethal option.

Knowing what level of force to apply and when to pivot to another is difficult. Shooting someone is always an option, but a justifiable shooting in MN is determined by these four criteria:

1. You must reasonably be in immediate fear of great bodily harm or death to yourself or another.
2. You must be a reluctant participant.
3. You must have no reasonable means of retreat.
4. No lesser force would suffice, lethal force was a last resort

It’s an important distinction because processing available information and applying context to determine if shooting is justifiable takes time. It is also what keeps us off of the evening news for making a mistake.

The added stress of drawing my gun with an unfamiliar hand from an unfamiliar place slowed the process down and affected how I reacted to what was happening around me.

I was the witness of a shooting in one scenario. Due to the gunfire, it would have been reasonable for me to draw my weapon as I retreated to safety. I didn’t do that. Because all of my muscle memory is built around drawing and moving with my super-strong hand, I couldn’t process how to get my gun out and move at the same time.

Another scenario involved buying groceries, and taking them to my “car.” Luckily (I thought) the nice boy from the store had offered to carry my bags for me. As we made our way to the car a mugger appeared. My helper dropped the bags and ran, so I presented my OC spray and began to retreat. The mugger decided I was more appealing than the groceries, and he didn’t give two shits about my spray. He chased.

Justified shooting criteria met, I would have drawn while I ran and shot as I moved if needed. But that’s not what I did.

I ran, ducked around a corner, drew, presented, challenged, and waited just a beat too long before pulling the trigger. I shot my attacker, but because he charged at me and I did not move while I shot him his momentum would have carried him right into me. Would the shots have stopped him? Maybe. But what if they didn’t? A close range struggle with a big, pissed off, knife-wielding dude is not how I want to die. Especially if I know better.

I learned a lot. If my super-strong hand is ever injured, I will not carry in a bag. Thinking about getting to my gun slowed my ability to defend myself, and make accurate assessments of the situations I was in. It was like when you move something very familiar to another place – like your garbage can from one side of your desk to the other. You know it’s on the other side, but because the change isn’t set in your mind you still have to pause to remember.

In the end, I had the kind of class that is most instructive. I failed magnificently. That’s when we learn. That’s why we continue to take classes and push our boundaries.

 

About the Author:

The She-Shepherd The She-Shepherd is a defensive firearms student, mother and advocate for pushing the boundaries of how we train. She believes that defensive training must balance context, mindset, and skill to be most effective. Her specialty has become testing alternative modes of firearms carry and best practices of less than lethal force options through rigorous force-on-force scenario based training.
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1 Comment on "That’s What She said: Strong Hand or Super-Strong Hand?"

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  1. CR Williams says:

    Marc ‘Crafty Dog’ Denny (Dog Brothers Martial Arts) speaks of the dangers of using the term ‘weak hand’. You end up programming yourself to have one. I prefer to use terms like support hand or non-shooting hand in reference to the one that’s not got the trigger finger on it. And it’s another reason I stress training both sides up as far as you can go with them.

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