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Ambidextrous Controls | Active Response Training

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*This is a guest post from my friend and fellow police officer Bryan McKean.  Bryan is an acccomplished shooter and an excellent instructor across a broad domain of tactical topics.  I think many of you will find his perspective valuable.


Firearms manufacturers are always looking for ways to improve upon their products. The latest craze seems to be adding ambidextrous controls. This trend is likely the result of military and law enforcement contracts requiring a single gun that will work for a diverse selection of end users. Initially these controls seem to only benefit  the 10% of the population who are left-handed.  There are some benefits you right-handed folks may not have considered.


For military and law enforcement, having a single pistol or rifle that can be used by everyone is certainly a benefit and if you are left handed, being able to operate the firearm as it was designed is a huge benefit. However, these controls can be a benefit to right handed shooters as well.


First, having the ability to run the gun, as it was designed (mirror image), when shooting with your left hand allows the user to standardize certain procedures. 


Consider locking the slide to the rear on a pistol. Right handed people you use their right thumb to keep upward pressure on the slide stop lever while manipulating the slide with the left hand.  When the gun is in your left hand, the same is not true and users must use their left hand index finger to provide upward pressure. When the firearm has the same or similar controls on each side, it allows both right-handed and left-handed shooters to lock the slide to the rear in the same manner regardless of which hand they are using.


Second, having the controls on both sides may allow right handed shooters alternatives to traditional methods for operating the weapon. Specifically when locking the slide to the rear, the right handed shooter can keep his firing grip and use his index finger to keep upward pressure on the slide stop lever while manipulating the slide. This eliminates the need to reestablish the firing grip after the manipulation. This may prove to be a more efficient means of manipulating the slide stop lever and functions the same way left or right handed.



Ambidextrous controls become really worthwhile is when a shooter has to manipulate the gun with a single hand in a comprised environment.  Having ambidextrous controls provides the shooter with two ways to accomplish each task.  Depending  on why the shooter is forced to operate the gun one handed, ambidextrous controls may make a critical difference. Having multiple response options provides a sense of security when one is injured and cannot physically perform a task according to tactical doctrine.


I have focused on pistols thus far, but the same holds true for rifles as well. Similar control advantages for an ambidextrous pistols are also present with rifles. The magazine release, safety, and the bolt catch lever can be placed on either side (or both sides) of the rifle. Because a rifle is significantly harder to manipulate one handed and malfunctions take some practice, ambidextrous controls simplify the process of keeping your gun in the fight. This control redundancy  will provide several options to run the gun from each side.


At first glance, ambidextrous pistols may seem like a gimmick for most users.  Upon closer examination, such controls can prove to be valuable for both right and left handed shooters. They provide left handed shooters with better ergonomics. They provide right handed shooters with great ability to use the weapon with their off hand. Even more beneficial is the fact that ambidextrous controls  provide shooters with exponentially easier reloading and malfunction clearing during single handed operation.


Don’t be quick to dismiss the idea of ambidextrous controls, even if you are right handed.

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