Switching shoulders with a carbine | Page 3 | Primary & Secondary

Switching shoulders with a carbine

Discussion in 'Intermediate Discussion' started by Riafdnal, Mar 1, 2015.

  1. K.O.A.M.

    K.O.A.M. Amateur

    We train it at my agency and incorporate it into our qualification course. The only time I have used it in the field was when I was given an area where the best cover was something that required me to work from my support side. I would set up to monitor a door where I could get most of my body behind my cover and shoot with my left side if required. I'm cross eye dominant, so it's never been that big of a drop off until it's time to reload.
    PM07 likes this.
  2. So, I'm going through a crisis of faith regarding switching shoulders for support side "barricade" shooting, lately.
    In 2008, I was introduced to the idea of switching, to minimize exposure, and enhance stability (rear knee support) during barricade shooting. I attended several national level schools where they trained this (TigerSwan, Vtac, Magpul) as well as being taught it, at an Air Force course, by a former member of the AF's JSOC unit.
    Since then, I have practiced it extensively, taught it in my courses, and to the members of my unit, advocated the benefits of it, and seen it in other courses I've attended.
    In short, I became a convert, and preached the gospel of shoulder transitions. I am super comfortable switching sides, and find that my speed and accuracy on par with strong side, when I shoot left handed/left side barricade. I've used the technique under stress (in training) but to be clear, I've not used it in a firefight (in all honesty, because I've never been in a firefight).
    This year, however, I started to hear that the technique is not valid, and is not used in actual combat. Normally this kind of Poo-Pooing does not affect me, except the source is the Cadre from Northern Red. With their resumes (Delta, SF, CIF), and their excellent POI, I decided that I shouldn't disregard their words, and I should take a hard look at what I'm doing/teaching.
    After hearing this, from them at two separate courses this year, I've been trying to look around the industry and see what others are teaching. What I've found, so far, is it's still a mix. Even guys who also did extensive direct action don't agree on this.
    The argument against switching shoulders is that it is not how we normally shoot, and that you'll get shots on target faster (relying on your accuracy, not his, to end the fight).
    We've all heard the arguments for switching (less exposure, stability on the barricade).
    Where I stand now (and I'm not done debating this with myself), is that I can see not switching shoulders for unsupported and standing supported barricade shooting, but in the kneeling position (left side) I find not switching to put me at a huge disadvantage, stability wise. Not being able to use my rear knee to lock in the position is no bueno.
    I'm working very hard to not get married to any technique (lest I become stuck in time), but I'm struggling with this one. I want to give my students the best product possible, and with that in mind, I usually look fo consensus (in the shooting world), regarding what I am putting out. This seems to be one of those things that I will just need to decide what I teach, and then drive on.
  3. PM07

    PM07 Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    I ask this in response. Are you hurting your students by teaching them and encouraging them to train with opposite sides where needed? If it doesn't take away a lot of class time, why stop. To me, not teaching offhand, pistol or rifle, and not encouraging them to train with it is doing them a disservice. It doesn't have to be a major part of your POI but off hand manipulations and shooting should be taught IMHO.
  4. Joe R.

    Joe R. Newbie

    Glenn, I also attended a Northern Red course this year where they suggested that support side shooting was almost never done during combat. While I certainly can not argue with their time in combat and experience I have heard from others of a similar background that being able to shoot bilaterally is in fact important. One of the gentlemen was involved in the Battle of the Black Sea (Blackhwawk Down) and the other was on the raid of Uday and Qusay Hussein. It all comes down to your experience in a given situation.

    Having said that I see no reason to not teach bilateral shooting with a long gun. It certainly doesn't hurt anything and offers options. Like PM07 said, you don't need to spend a large percentage of your training time on it, but it should be taught.
    Bourneshooter likes this.
  5. Arete

    Arete Member

    I teach and train shoulder transitions because:
    - may have to be shield cover on the R or L side, I don't always get to choose, the situation can choose for me
    -may have to use R or L side of cover/concealment, ditto.
    -may get injured
    -to be able to teach LH shooters

    Case in point:

    Our team served a high risk arrest warrant (nationwide extradition, for carjacking) on quad-plex apt building (2 up, 2 down, exterior stairwell in the middle), during which I held the bottom of the exterior stairwell during the surround and callout.

    Suspect was in 2nd story apt, up and to the left.

    Due to the way the stairs were configured, the only angle to see the door to the apt was to be on the right side of the doorway at the bottom of the stairwell, which meant I had to pie a wall around the left side, which is my non-dominant side. This went on for awhile.

    He didn't respond, so we masked up, and the gas team introduced gas via 2nd story window, while I'm holding this position, carbine on non-dominant shoulder, promask on. And of course the filter is on the left side of the promask.

    At one point suspect opened the door did a quick-peek, but did not present a threat.

    Had he presented a threat, I would have engaged him with my carbine using vis laser, non-dominant shoulder, and in doing so, provide less of my anatomy for one of his bullets to hit.
  6. Great input, folks. Thank you. I'm 98% certain that I will continue to teach shoulder transitions.
  7. I have been training to shoot bilaterally with a rifle for many years. It is not something that I have had to use in the real world yet. However, I can visualize situations where it would be beneficial and where I would utilize it. I still believe that even though the likelihood of me needing to shoot bilaterally is low, it is still a skill that needs to be practiced. I look at it like this; is there any possible time that I might need to do X? If the answer is yes, then I train it. Much like clearing type three malfunctions with my left hand only (I am right handed). Is that something that I am going to have to do in the real world? Most likely that will never be something that I have to accomplish in a fight. However, I want to know how to do it and do it well.

    Like Bill stated above, bilateral shooting is part of my department's qualification course. So much so that exactly half of the shots fired in the qual (day and night) is shot off the non-dominant shoulder. Our qualification is 100yds and in. I have never had an issue scoring a 100 on quals with my department. I also have never had an issue getting hits at my range shooting bilaterally.

    The notion that it is a less accurate scenario to shoot from, with an RDS at least doesn't make much sense to me. It is still about sights and trigger. If you apply the fundamentals correctly you will place your shots where you want them to go; what shoulder being used in my experience at least does not matter.
  8. Yondering

    Yondering Amateur

    That's been my experience as well, in training anyway. I often have better trigger control with my left hand, (I think of my left hand as my right hand's retarded brother) because I have to think about it more.
    I was taught to practice shooting from both shoulders and both hand positions; the hardest part for me is just getting my head in the right position for left handed shooting, since I'm so strongly right hand dominant.

    I want to clarify that I'm not an operator of any type nor do I pretend to be one; I've just taken a few training courses and grew up shooting guns.

    Like someone else posted earlier in the thread though, I have used my left shoulder in some hunting situations, and been in others where I should have but didn't know any better. I shot a nice buck from a tree stand about 10 years ago that was to my 5:00 behind me; at the time I didn't really practice rifle shooting left handed, so I used my pistol to shoot the buck. That worked fine, but could have been better with the rifle in my left shoulder.
    Then a few years ago, after learning to practice left handed, I had several situations where deer came from my right unexpectedly, and a left shoulder mount worked great. Since I'd practiced it, I felt totally confident and didn't have any issues.
  9. DPapale

    DPapale Newbie

    So I think it's important to discuss context when talking about bilateral shooting. It would seem to be self explanatory that maximizing cover is an inherently good thing to do, but that also needs to be measured against the detriments of (real or perceived) loss of skill and the time it requires to transition sides. In some contexts I believe the benefit strongly favors transitioning to your support side, in others it does not.

    As has been mentioned at least on the LE side, we find ourselves not necessarily assaulting a position but rather holding it from distance quite often. Be it a high risk vehicle stop, or a barricade operation the duty of an awful lot of coppers is to stand in one place and point a shooty thing at an area. In this respect, if we are found on an inopportune corner, being able to suck in that extra third of our body while using the hard cover to stabilize our weapon makes a lot of sense since the trade offs are of little consequence.

    Change that around to clearing a structure and the balance becomes a little more gray area. Although we as a profession have generally slowed down our tactics, I still wouldn't call a lot of what we do truly slow and deliberate. In this context sometimes it makes sense and sometimes it doesn't. Keeping in mind that every transition still leaves me with an amount of dick in hand time albeit a short one (period of time, although the other interpretation is also accurate). If I'm doing an entry and in the course of clearing my areas of responsibility happen to take 3 strong side angles and 3 support side angles that's potentially 6 transitions depending on the order they come up in. 6 opportunities for something to happen in the middle of that transition.

    It was mentioned that FoF tends to support that transitioning is beneficial in getting less shot. I agree, and this has been my experience with sims as well. What I don't know is if this is a product of the artificiality of the tool or not. By that I mean, Drywall and plywood are great barriers for Sims and not so hot for the real thing. While it works in FoF would a genuine badguy have either intentionally or accidentally got hits on the goodguy through the barrier? I have seen a number of instances where people haven't fired through concealment but don't really know how reliable I'd trust that to be.

    I guess in the end, like most things, it has a time and place and understanding the why's of the technique allows the user to weigh those for themselves. I can't see why teaching that isn't an asset to a student even if it doesn't ever fit their specific circumstances.

    wilco423 and Bourneshooter like this.
  10. Jim Davis

    Jim Davis Newbie

    There have been a few mentions in this thread regarding FOF evolutions showing how valuable minimizing exposure was through the use of non-dominant hand shooting.

    My question though is this: just because you were behind something that stopped paint round, would it have stopped real bullets as well?

    Are you willing to perform this technique (switching hands around) during an interior building search where the walls are concealment and not cover, or are you considering the structural integrity of what you're maneuvering behind before doing this or not?
    Bourneshooter likes this.
  11. jmatt511

    jmatt511 Amateur

    You train with the tools and equipment on hand. You practice and hopefully master the technique. While searching building interiors, you anticipate how best to clear the room or corridor. You practice position changes so in the real world, they become easier and hopefully save your or your team-mates life. Trying to learn any technique during a search will likely result in your death. So yeah, practice behind the flimsy barrier at the range, because that might be the only do over you have.
    Bourneshooter likes this.
  12. DPapale

    DPapale Newbie


    I don't want to speak on behalf of Jim Davis but since I mentioned something similar I don't think he was suggesting that this technique shouldn't be practiced. Rather, that the results that seem to be validated in training may be a product of the limitations of the training tools used. In any training there is a certain amount of artificiality, that is a given. However we use training, and in particular force on force to validate TTPs before moving forward with them. Some ideas fail when looked at in theory, some fail in force on force trials, and some fail in practical application. Unfortunately, this field we are in makes it very difficult to do scientific field trials to test theory while controlling variables so we are forced to used simulations. When we do this, we have to try to account for any artificiality and take them into account when considering the outcome of the test. I, and I believe Jim Davis, suggested that in this case, the artificiality of barriers which would not normally stop gunfire, stopping simunitions, or at least the perceived inability to put rounds through the non-cover by the opfor, skews the results to look as though the technique of switching shoulders is more effective in keeping us from getting shot. Again, I don't have any data to support this or not, I am just looking at the data presented and suggesting a possible bias in the testing methodology. Hope this helps clarify my point.
    wilco423, Bourneshooter and Jim Davis like this.
  13. Jim Davis

    Jim Davis Newbie

    I believe you missed my point, perhaps I explained it poorly.

    My point is that more often than not, interior walls are not cover, they're concealment. Switching shoulders to minimize your exposure past this concealment doesn't do much to reduce your actual exposure to gunfire. SO, are people who subscribe to the concept of switching shoulders proactively considering the medium in which they're positioned behind first, or not?

    To switch sides almost always means a significant reduction in performance with the firearm. Even guys who train it hard still are not as good with one side as the other, and training resources being finite, that means something else isn't being trained.

    I don't see switching shoulders to be a wise decision in a team environment during interior movement. The overwhelming majority of structures that LE is called to clear are not going to stop bullets for you, so it's concealment not cover. Institutional buildings with block construction might be an exception to this, but when a team is clearing a school/hospital/etc then time is usually not on their side (active shooter or such).

    So if the walls aren't stopping the bullets, and your presence is already known... they why linger in a hallway in a compromised shooting position behind concealment, waiting to have a one on one gunfight?

    Now there are scenarios one could picture where an individual might be behind actual cover, and have the benefit of time on their side to switch shoulders with their long gun... but what percentage of time where LE has a long gun in their hands are we actually taking about here, and how much time does it require on the range to make an officer capable and confident enough to perform with their non-dominant side during such a situation?
    Bourneshooter and Fatboy like this.
  14. leozinho

    leozinho Amateur

    Yes "concealment ≠ cover", but most people won't shoot what they can't see.

    If during a deliberate clear you can switch shoulders and engage the bad guy before he sees you because you've exposed less of yourself to him than you would have otherwise, then switching shoulders was a good thing.

    If he sees you and engages you, but shoots at the center of visible mass and misses because you switched shoulders and therefore provided him with less visible mass, then switching was a good thing. (

    There are anecdotes out other of officers not being fired upon when behind a bush because the criminal's brain didn't register that cover ≠ concealment. That rarely gets mentioned when someone says "but but but cover ≠ concealment". Concealment is a heap lots better than being in the open.

    Northern Red says it isn't used in combat, but there are people equally accomplished and experienced that advocate training from both sides. Go figure.

    I don't do it for dynamic room entry but it's a useful skill for deliberate clearing and for shooting from barricades. I found there's very little loss of speed or accuracy on my off side when using a 1x optic. I am slower with a 4x optic because it takes a second for my non-dominant eye to pick up the dot.

    I had one instructor try to advocate changing hands with a pistol. I didn't like it. I found more degradation in performance for very little reduction in exposure.
    afi1 and treehopr like this.
  15. fce

    fce Newbie

    From what I recall Northern Red says its less than 1%, you should know how to do it but don't waste anymore time on it after that. CSAT also teaches to stay with your strong side.
  16. Jim Davis

    Jim Davis Newbie

    That's fine, but hoping that the bad actor won't fire through the drywall at me doesn't warrant me taking a reduction in my shooting ability. YMMV.

    When you measure your performance with your non-dominate side, how are you doing it? Are you comparing times/scores on exercises that test target tracking/transitions? I know that if I were to shoot a "2x2x2" drill LH with a carbine, it'd be embarrassing relative to my score on the same drill RH. I'm personally not willing to take that reduction in performance due to the hope that someone won't sling a round through wallboard at me.
  17. leozinho

    leozinho Amateur

    It's not just hoping that someone won't fire through the drywall. It's me engaging the bad guy before he physically can see me, because in the deliberate clear I can get line of sight on him as I clear to the left with the carbine on my left before he can see me. Because as I pie around the first thing that is exposed is my knuckles, then the barrel and my left eye. Try it. Take a buddy, put him in a room, and clear deliberately and you'll see you often pick up his shoulder, leg, part of his head, etc before he can see you. It works.

    As far as performance, I use the same metrics as anyone else. If you are that much slower on your off side, maybe you should invest the time and practice more. Or don't. I don't care.
    PM07, treehopr and Bourneshooter like this.
  18. treehopr

    treehopr Newbie

    I'm firmly on the side of switching shoulders as needed, others have already made excellent points so no need for me to be redundant.

    With respect to Northern Red, and I've known some of the instructors there since they were still on active duty, I think what's applicable to Tier 1/2 units doing DA missions overseas in a team environment doesn't completely transfer over to LEO's in the US who may be working alone or in smaller elements.

    Additionally, the .mil units typically are set up and even optimized for missions at night or in low light, so having darkness as an added layer of concealment along with gear set up for NVG's and lasers both reduces the need to switch shoulders as well as making it more difficult (light, laser switch placement)

    Typically when folks start discussing switching shoulders it's from a room clearing or deliberate search POV where the shooter is standing or upright but what I've found is it really shines if working from kneeling positions, especially around vehicles.
    PM07 and Citpitch like this.
  19. Dan'l

    Dan'l Newbie

    My mental mantra - turning left around corner, weapon in right hand/shoulder, turning right around corner, weapon in left hand/shoulder. It helped me immensely that I was a left-handed firearms instructor in a right handed world.

    The slice described in the post above was one of the demos I used to spend a lot of time on in building search classes, then as I did more training and being trained, I eventually emphasized it less.

    I found that if you make it a practice to place the muzzle inside the corner a couple inches, lean outside your pelvic girdle, drive your elbow into the side, and try to get the appropriate eye as far out over the shoulder as possible while keeping your head upright, you always see the guy before he sees you. That's cool, if it works, if it doesn't you've got a guy zeroed in on you when you roll out. Plus everyone seems to think we are fighting in a black box, there are generally shadows and squeaks, and breathing to give you away.

    A big problem is that in most building interiors you are working in, that corner is just concealment, as has been mentioned. There has been a lot of talk of folks deliberately shooting through concealment, in actuality if you read the LEOKA summaries, there are generally situation each year where officers are shot through door, or walls adjacent to doors. Most of those have seemed to be intentional acts on their face. Even if the bad guy doesn't have enough acumen to shoot through concealment, his misses are equally problematic as a shot does not have to be aimed to penetrate concealment being used as cover.

    Don't get me wrong, you need to know how to slice and do bilateral manipulations, they just have to be trained enough to be used in the proper situational context.
    Bourneshooter likes this.
  20. Darth Tater

    Darth Tater Regular Member

    This is an interesting take away. I'm going to go back over LEOKA again with that in mind.

    I believe the info from Northern Red was referring to some stats from AWG. If memory serves, AWG was looking at pre-deployment training events and evaluating which of those things were actually relevant based on post-deployment feedback. The focus on strong-side shooting was just one element to make best use of limited pre-deployment training cycle time. If there's someone with better knowledge or recollection on that, I'd like a refresher as well.

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