Ambidexterity in Handguns

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posted on October 28, 2014
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Southpaws are a vocal lot. Some 12 to 13 percent of the population is said to be left-handed. Since the population is almost 319 million (as of the day I am writing this) that means that there may be upward of 41 million left-handed Americans. Obviously, some significant number of these people are active shooters that must deal with firearms that are designed for right-handed use. In the sporting long-arms field, many guns are essentially ambidextrous (pumps, levers and autos) and left-handled bolt rifles are fairly common. It is a different situation in the handgun world. Aside from a very few left-handed pistols and revolvers (usually 1911s) made by specialty makers, there’s no readily available left-handed pistol or revolver. There is a need for such a thing.

We are beginning to see more makers offering automatic pistols that are ambidextrous. Many of these are what I call “tactically ambidextrous” in the sense that they refer to controls necessary for running the pistol in a combat situation. They’re true right-handed guns in the sense that they eject the fired case right and forward. Controls are typically arranged along the left side, positioned to be manipulated by the thumb of the right hand.  Many newer models use some form of magazine catch that can be worked from right or left side. Many guns in common use have either a decocker or safety—or some combination of the two. This needs to be repeated on the right side of the gun.  Increasingly, that is happening. But just as often, we are seeing autos that have some form of DAO trigger for every shot and that means no lever at all. A few newer models have slide locks on both sides and the ones I’ve reviewed are pretty slick. In my view, the slide lock is not a tactical control, except when it is needed in the clearing of some types of feeding malfunctions.

So the latest and best in the way of automatic pistols have the requisite light polymer receiver, double-column magazine, DAO trigger, accessory rail on the dust cover and ambidextrous controls. As much as the southpaws might want to believe this was all for their benefit, the truth is somewhat different. Today’s tactical trainers have long since recognized that many situations can arise where a right-handed shooter is forced to shoot with his left hand and the gun that lets him do it is ideal for the southpaw. Win-Win.

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