Two-Handed vs. One-Handed

When you practice and work on sharpening up your handgun…

When you practice and work on sharpening up your handgun skills, a strong emphasis should be placed on the two-handed eye-level stance. Fifty years ago, when Jeff Cooper began promoting this technique he was ridiculed by many of the so-called “experts” of the day. Everyone steeped in the traditional use of the “one-hand gun” knew that when an up-close confrontation took place there was no time to use both hands and the sights. You had to rely on a one-hand point from a “combat crouch,” and with the handgun well below eye level. Because speed was of the essence, there was no time for anything else.

After pioneering the concept of unrestricted practical pistol competition to see what might work best, and where any technique could be used as long as it was safe, Cooper began to notice an interesting trend. A California deputy sheriff named Jack Weaver, shooting his trusty old S&W K-38 duty revolver, was winning a lot of the matches by bringing the weapon up to eye level and using the sights.

Slowly, in his writing and teaching, Cooper started to promote the concept of the eye-level two-hand shooting stance, which he dubbed the “Weaver Stance,” for most defensive handgun situations. Over the years this has been widely accepted as sound basic technique. Experience has shown that when properly understood, a two-hand eye-level stance is no slower than a one-hand point, and the percentage of good hits is much higher. Just focus on getting that front sight on the center of your target, without refining the alignment of the front and rear sights. At a distance out to 7 or 8 yards with practice, this technique will produce good hits without wasting time. As Cooper used to phrase it many years ago, “You’ve got to worship your front sight!” This is the best way to achieve good hits while under the severe stress of a life and death confrontation. This is especially true when we are talking about people who have a minimal amount of training, and don’t get out too often to practice. Most of your practice should be done using the Weaver technique.

One-Handed
This having been said, it would be a serious mistake to neglect practicing with the right and left hand individually. There are a lot of good reasons why you need to know how to shoot with one-hand only. As an example, let us look back in time. From the 15th century when handguns first became truly practical, up through the end of the 19th century, the handgun was an important weapon for the mounted soldier in close combat. Since it could be handled and fired with one hand, that left the other hand free to manage the horse. There will be times when only one hand will be available, for whatever reason, and you had better be ready to defend yourself with only one hand.

When you practice with either right or left hand most of the emphasis should be placed on getting that weapon up to eye level, and get that front sight on the center of your opponent without wasting time. Whether using one hand or both, get that handgun up to eye level for almost all shooting much beyond arm’s length. It is not slow, and the probability of getting good hits will be greatly increased. This is especially true for the non-shooter who nevertheless carries a handgun on a daily basis as a part of his job or a civilian who wants it for personal defense. Many of these people are not interested in shooting or don’t have much time for practice, and will only practice occasionally. For these folks this is the best way by far to get good quick hits. This is true also for the practiced and experienced pistoleer, but they already know this, from many hours of shooting both on and off the range.

Speed Rock
One other one-hand technique should also be given some consideration, for those situations where your attacker is right on top of you. You can call it close-quarters contact technique, which is fairly descriptive. In years past, the common term we used was the “Speed Rock.”

The idea is to keep the handgun well back and against the side so that your attacker cannot grab it or push it off to one side. As the pistol is brought into play, it is rocked up to a level position and pulled back in tight against the side of the body just as the shot is fired. 

This technique needs to be practiced repeatedly, because most people find it awkward and uncomfortable at first. In the midst of a sudden and violent attack, that is not the place to try this out. To work on this technique, first stand at arm’s length squarely in front of the silhouette target with the pistol in the right hand and down at a 45-degree angle. 

At signal, stiff-arm the head of the target with the left hand, while taking a step back with the right foot to gain some space. At the same time, bring the muzzle of the pistol up to a level position and pull it back in tight against the side, while getting the left hand back for safety as you fire two quick shots.

If you are a lefty, just reverse the technique. After you are comfortable with this, put in a little practice while drawing the handgun from a concealed start, first slowly, and then let the speed increase as you become  more and more comfortable with it. 

After observing many shooters working in this context over the years, it is obvious that very few people understand the dynamics of a sudden assault that starts at arm’s length. You must understand that your attacker will be coming at you, and not standing still. If possible, you’ve got to give some ground to gain some space and time, get your left hand up to fend off your attacker or deflect his weapon, and at the same time keep your own weapon back and out of his reach. This is a tall order under any circumstance, let alone a violent and explosive assault at arm’s length. What I usually observe, is a reflexive crouch with the handgun almost fully extended toward the target.

If you assume that your attacker is trying to overwhelm you, he will be coming at you, and not standing still, like the cardboard target. If you extend your arm towards the target, that’s where your real life attacker will already be. Don’t let him take that pistol away from you. 

Late in life when asked by a reporter if he ever “shot from the hip” in any of his many gunfights, famous Texas Ranger Captain Frank Hamer said, “Never, well almost never. Only when the other fellow was so close I couldn’t raise my pistol up to eye level!” You need to practice the close contact technique so that you will be comfortable with it if ever needed. For a lot of people this reality is hard to grasp, and that is why this is a valuable technique to master.

In closing, remember that getting the weapon up to eye level and using both hands is best for most situations, and that is where most of your practice should be done. But there might well be a time when only one hand must be used for a variety of reasons, and under a wide variety of circumstances or conditions. Every shooting day in our Paladin Program we try to get in one or two exercises shooting with only the right or left hand. You should do the same.

Load Comments
  • Good points, by Ray and this article.

    Two handed, eye level, aimed shooting by a fully trained marksman and gun handler is the fastest response.

    It is a MYTH that point shooting is faster, or that you don’t have time to see sights. With proper training, using the sights allows hits at the highest speed humanly possible.

    That said, as this article helps illustrate, there are situations where this best response isn’t possible. More important, very few gun owners or carriers (civilian, military, and police) are adequately trained. Point shooting technique may help in these situations.

    Fast X,
    John Buol
    FirearmUserNetwork.com

  • Ray Barry

    Way to many variables to cover everything here. I agree with what you say, except for the first sentence. Jeff Cooper did say and preach those things. Unfortunately, “Stand and Deliver” two hand shooting, in most if not all spontaneous handgun fights, is a recipe for disaster. As you should know, “most” people who might be involved in such a scenario will not have the necessary immersion to allow them to use sights. Secondly, since the good guys, again are almost always reactionary, the only way to catch up, or interupt the thought process of the “bad guy” is with dynamic movement, regardless of the environment. Going to a two hand technique, again in “most” cases is not conducive to balanced dynamic movement. Having said all this, it does not mean we cannot obtain a sight picture at some point after the initial rounds are fired. Again, as I’m sure you are aware, repetitive practice in a FOF environment is the only way to gain these skills. While it is my opinion anyone who carries a firearm for a living, or anyone who caries one for self protection, has the absolute obligation to train to their highest obtainable skill level regardless of whether their employer offers it or not. Again, “most” do not reach the maximum level of potential in their personal defense skills. Stay Safe and Fight to Win
    RB