The Cornered Cat
Just in Case

Several years ago, my friends and I went through a season that I privately thought of as “the summer of the broken bones.”

During that summer, two of my friends had shoulder surgery. Another friend had carpal tunnel syndrome. Surgeons operated first on one wrist and then on the other, putting her in wrist casts and braces for the better part of six months. Yet another friend rolled an ATV and shattered his forearm bones. That same person had broken his opposite elbow by falling off a bicycle the summer before. Add in a surprisingly large collection of people who suddenly developed tennis elbow, bursitis, stretched ligaments or torn muscles, broken fingers and sprained wrists… we were quite a mess!

Fortunately, for the most part, my injured friends were experienced shooters who were already up to speed on their one-handed shooting skills. In one case, the afternoon after my friend broke his arm, he asked me to go to the range with him. We quickly ran through all of the one-handed manipulations he already knew, while I watched to make sure he was able to do everything safely and efficiently despite his injuries. After that quick refresher, he was good to go. If my friend had needed to learn all of those manipulations for the first time under those conditions, it would have been much a much harder job for him – and quite possibly more unpleasant, as trial and error showed several incorrect ways to run the gun also resulted in painful bumps to his freshly injured arm. But since he had learned the basic skills already, the quick refresher was all he needed.

He wasn’t so fortunate with his holster, however. He wanted to go on with his normal concealed carry life without interruption, but – you guessed it! – he did not have a left-handed holster or any ambidextrous carry device. When he went online that night to order a holster, he was upset at the long waiting times from his favorite brand. He called and vented to me about it: “Good grief! By the time that holster arrives, I’ll be out of a cast and won’t need it anymore anyway!” Of course, I loaned him one of mine. And when his own arrived, he used it for at least several weeks longer than he’d anticipated. It turns out that removing a cast doesn’t immediately remove all traces of the injury that made the doctors decide to put the cast on in the first place.

(Undoubtedly, some folks are wondering why you’d want to continue to carry a gun while recovering from an injury. Here’s one compelling reason.)

My friend with carpal tunnel syndrome faced a bigger challenge. She was a new shooter, and hadn’t yet mastered one-handed shooting. She had no idea how to load the gun one-handed, or how to safely get it unloaded if she needed to do that. She had to learn those skills for the first time with her dominant hand already disabled. That wasn’t easy, but she was determined to do it – and she did. Then a few months later, she needed to do the same thing again with her other hand. Again, determination and raw grit saw her through (good for her!), but it was rough. She would have had a much easier time if she could have gone into her recouperation time already knowing those skills.

As I often tell my classes, many people have a gun they keep around for “just in case” they ever need it. It’s just as important to build some skills and gun handling habits we can keep on hand “just in case” we ever need them.

The traditional pep talk about one-handed gun manipulations or shooting one-handed usually mentions the risk of getting shot or injured during a criminal attack. And yes, that does happen. But you know what happens more often than that? Life does. People break bones, develop arthritis, tear a rotator cuff, sprain a finger. These annoying, simple challenges happen far more often than specific injuries happen in the midst of a violent crime. But regardless of how a hand or arm injury might happen, a little attention to one-handed gun manipulation skills ahead of time can put you ahead of the game.

The summer of the broken bones was a few years ago now, and I hope it never comes back. But if it does – we’re prepared. To avoid gear challenges, almost everyone in that circle of friends now owns holsters or carry devices that would work with their opposite hand. And all of us developed a new motivation for keeping our one-handed skills up to date.

Because life does happen.

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