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Columns : In My Sights

Embracing My Sinister Side

Regardless of your naturally dominant side, make sure you can shoot with either hand.

April 01, 2009  |  by Dave Smith - Also by this author

Being a Southpaw is one of those things you don't quite understand until you start school. When I was little, people thought it cute I used the "wrong" hand with my crayons, but my teachers were frustrated that I never could adapt to writing with my right hand.

That was the '50s, when schools were still trying to convert left-handed people into right-handed ones, and I was one of their true failures. To my second-grade teacher I seemed like a bizarre alien child with strange powers of inability, since I did lots of things with my right hand but wrote with my left. She would constantly ask me what my problem was.

My problem was I was cross-dominant, an odd brain condition where I did power movement with my right side and all my fine motor skills on the left. I had all the classic symptoms such as difficulty learning to read, very poor handwriting, and a biting wit. Actually, the wit part isn't a symptom of cross-dominance but it sounds good. I have often thought it was because of the difficulties I had learning certain tasks that made me so curious about learning and performance and helped make me a pretty good coach and trainer.

As I grew older I got better and better at just using the best hand for whichever skill I was learning and thought it kinda cool that I used both hands, but my heart was still with the lefties. I'll never forget my high school English teacher, thinking herself quite clever, asking the class why I was sinister. Sinister? Me? Mr. Class Clown?

OK, fine, sinister also means on the left side, a term used in conjunction with us lefties; ah, but she didn't call the righties "dexter," even though dexter means on the right. Anyway, I did fine in English without further trauma and eventually found myself in the Academy.

While I used my right hand to strike, swing a bat, and shoot a rifle, I could shoot a pistol with either hand and had to pick a side…literally. Since my dominant shooting eye was on my right, I chose the right. I did find it amusing to watch others trying to shoot with their non-dominant side, since I had spent a lifetime changing hands while normal Southpaws and Righties had spent their lives neglecting their sad hand on the other side of the brain.

Then came the day I was looking into the eyes of mostly right-handed cadets and realized I had to get these folks to learn to shoot effectively with the other side of their body. I remembered when I had broken a finger in my left hand and had to write for the next few weeks with my right one. Good Lord was that frustrating! Even with my left hand my handwriting was terrible, but with my right it was not only nearly impossible to read but painstakingly slow to do as well. It was only with constant repetition that my right hand eventually wrote without me having to think about every letter and actually became more legible than with my left.

So I made the cadets do repetition after repetition until they learned to use both hands to shoot just as I had learned to write, and their scores soared. I only hoped they kept those skills up better than I did with my right-handed writing skills that went into immediate atrophy after my finger healed. The important thing for you is to make sure you can do your lifesaving skills with both hands…become cross-dominant on everything related to your firearms.

Learn to aim, fire, and reload your firearms with either hand and without having to think about every little step. It takes repetitions. How many it will take you will depend on many variables, but it doesn't matter; just do them! I know those of you who are cross-dominant will find this repetition boring, but we need to practice too. Dexter, sinister, or a combination, the world challenges us all…but I would like to gripe for a second about scissors…


Dave Smith is the creator of "Buck Savage" and a retired law enforcement officer from Arizona. Currently, he is the lead instructor for Calibre Press' "Street Survival" seminar.

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