Shooting Technique: One Handed Shooting, Canted or Vertical?

This is a short post about pistol shooting technique. One of my readers noticed that I was using a traditional strict vertical one handed shooting technique. Like most things, it’s been a work in progress. Here’s my reasoning for using a more traditional vertical hold instead of a more canted ‘high speed’ one handed technique.

I was taught during my first firearms class (Fighting Pistol – Tactical Response) that a good way to shoot one handed (strong hand) was have the slide of the gun canted slightly inboard while shooting. Think of throwing a cross in boxing. The hand is unwinding and the fist is about 15 degrees from vertical. It definitely feels more natural and is more comfortable to do this. It also can be pretty repeatable as you ride the recoil between shots, though I feel like I have to steer the gun a bit to get it to return to my original point of aim. More so the larger the caliber gets (physics, duh). The shot impulse is absorbed in the shoulder and triceps.

Strong Side Canted

Within the last two years, based on recommendations from The Tactical Professor I started trying the more traditional ‘up and down’ slide when one handed shooting. It has definitely felt more stable and the gun cycles in a more predictable path, requiring less ‘muscling’ of the gun during recoil. It also is more congruent with my method of pressing the gun out after the retention position of my draw stroke. The muzzle comes horizontal and under the dominant eye early and rises up and out from there. The engineer in me was curious why this method seems to feel more stable.

Vertical one handed shooting.

I was reading Becoming a Supple Leopard which is a fantastic book about bio-mechanics as they relate to functional movement and sports. The part that grabbed my attention was regarding the shoulder and creating stability in the shoulder joint and I had sort of an epiphany.

Full vertical at Rogers Shooting School

The best way to tie the shoulder and humerus together is to externally rotate the humerus, thus winding up the ligaments of the shoulder. Kelly Starrett demos this by winding a rag around the end of a mop handle, which is a good visual. The more you rotate the broom, the tighter the rag gets. This is why we try to ‘bend the bar’ during bench press. This protects and stabilizes the shoulder. So my thinking is that the winding up of the shoulder ties the arm to the torso and stiffens that connection to remove degrees of freedom from the recoil impulse. This makes for a more repeatable recoil path.

It also happens to be a more traditional way to shoot one handed (as you probably know). I haven’t made my mind up on my favorite method. I tend to lean towards the vertical method, even though it bucks the current fashion of a ‘half gansta’ type hold. The true test is to put both on a timer and let the data speak for itself, which I admit I haven’t done. This is a subtle and probably trivial thing, but it’s the kind of thing that keeps me interested.

Your Grandfather shot Nazis like this.

Note: For weak handed shooting, a slight cant is needed to bring the sights across to the dominant eye.

Remember, this isn’t THE way, only A way. You get to make the decision for yourself, which is nice.

What’s your favorite technique?


I seriously am curious. Let me know what you do and why. Thanks for reading.

Protect the Brood,
Defensive Daddy

13 thoughts on “Shooting Technique: One Handed Shooting, Canted or Vertical?”

  1. I use a slight cant when shooting with one hand. If you make a fist and extend your arm straight out in front of you, it naturally wants to cant inboard. Rather than fight that natural tendency, I have found that for me, I get better results on target if I just let it happen.

  2. When shooing a defensive handgun, I also use a slight cant. Being cross eye dominant, I have to do this when shooting SHO, but I still do it when shooting WHO because, as others note, it’s a more natural position. If I’m shooting bullseyes, I use a vertical grip, since the POI will shift with .22LR at 25 yards.

  3. Reblogged this on disturbeddeputy and commented:
    I’ve shot both methods but have never done the timing test. Being mechanically inclined and previously having been a small bore rifle coach, the physical mechanics make sense. I guess whatever gets the rounds downrange and on target is the best choice.

  4. I had not heard about shooting with a slight cant (then again, I am not a student of shooting).

    Might just be getting used to, but drawing and aiming vertical gets me in a position where the rear and front sight is aligned.

    Drawing and going slightly canted, or just holding the gun and raising it to a cant position, gets my front sight higher than the rear sight.

    I can quickly get it back on-line, but I’m more aware of the sights than the target.

    Again, this could just be muscle memory, and if I practiced enough, it might resolve itself.

    I wonder, though about adding the other hand after drawing and aiming, or dropping the other hand after drawing and aiming. You are then going from cant to vertical, or vice versa when doing so, and there seems to be more muzzle movement than just having the gun vertical throughout. Again, maybe muscle memory.

    Also as an engineer, I wonder if the control of movement is easier if you only have to worry about one major axis (side to side). Holding the gun vertical dives you more latitude in the vertical direction, and you just have to worry about the lateral drift. Canting the gun diminishes that advantage. Probably not much, but depending on distance and a stressful situation, I wonder about the value of any advantage.

    Disclaimer; I don’t compete, probably don’t practice enough, so consider these comments as coming from a very much non-expert.

    One more comment/question(s). I know that, for instance, in golf I can change my swing and grip to what is technically a better setup, but that by doing so I am buying into some months of higher scores until I master it. Not a problem in golf.

    Applying that to changing how one handles a gun . . . is a potential loss of accuracy, fluidity, and screwing with muscle memory worth the additional slight benefit of better recoil control? How long does it take to gain that back if one has been shooting the same way for 30+ years?

    1. Thank you for leaving your thoughts. I agree that the cant puts you in an X-Y recoil path, instead of just a Y path. If you’ve ever boxed, that unwinding of the fist from the shoulder is sort of what that cant is about. The gun will sort of track up and in and you can ride it that way. It is very much a ‘flight time’ thing and the more you’ve done it one way, the more difficult it might be to ingrain a new method.

      The good thing about people that have been shooting for 30+ years is that they probably are doing things so incorrectly that if you show them a really efficient way to do it and they have an open mind, it will make so much sense, and they will feel such control and potential for speed (given more practice), they usually will make a switch. Given a few tweaks in grip, for instance, you can improve both recoil control, accuracy, and shooting speed. The difference can be felt within a few hours, and it sells itself. At least that’s my experience.

      Also, daily, or bi-weekly dryfire can quickly bring one up to speed on a new technique with manipulations or whatever. I would say 2-3 months of concentration on something new for 5 mins at a time could bring a 30+ year ‘shooter’ into a new technique.

      Thanks for writing.

  5. A little late to the party, but when I was originally introduced to defensive shooting, I was taught to can’t the pistol for all the reasons you explained.

    Later on I was introduced to keeping the gun verticals for one handed shooting. The gun tracks quicker, and visually it is easier to process information because that is how I typically see the sights. It took a little convincing before I converted, but I do the vertical thing now. I probably see a half to full tenth difference in my splits shooting vertical as opposed to canted.

  6. I shoot better with a cant right handed, but I’m right handed / left eye dominant if that matters. I can see how straight would be stronger.

    Pointing my finger naturally at something, I’m about “3/4 homey” with my right hand and “1/4 homey” with my left hand. Comparing ‘right hand only’ to ‘left hand only’ I generally do better left hand only. I’d attributed that to being left eye dominant, but it might have more to do with the strength and stability you mentioned. I need to give that some work.

    1. When shooting weak hand only, give full external rotation to your left shoulder. I do believe it’ll stabilize your recoil. The gun will naturally cant when there’s a cross eye dominance issue (obviously). Let me know after your experimenting.

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