Can You Run Your Rifle with One Hand?

By GunSpot
Posted in #Skills
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Can You Run Your Rifle with One Hand?

April 30th, 2021

10:39 runtime

Editor’s Note: This is the second part in a two-part series by GunSpot on running your guns while wounded. Part I covered shooting a pistol with one hand. Also, do not practice any of these drills with live ammunition, but rather with an empty gun.

Remember when I said the worst day of your life would be when you had to defend yourself in a gunfight one-handed, with your support hand only using a pistol? Well, the actual worst day would be when you had to do the same thing with a rifle. Using a gun intended for two-handed operation with only your weak-handed side would be pretty awful. But, it’s always a good idea to prepare for the worst situation, and keeping a rifle running in a gunfight can mean the difference between winning and losing. But believe me, shooting a rifle one-handed is going to be a challenge!

Shooting an AR-15 with one hand
Shooting a rifle one-handed includes skills like reloading and clearing the weapon.

The Details

For most of this project, I’m going to assume you have the use of both arms, but have lost the use of your dominant hand. I’m also writing this assuming you are right-handed. So, in this situation your dominant hand would be injured beyond use.

Shooting a rifle like this is easier with the use of the dominant arm (but not hand) for sure, as you can aim and steady the rifle by using your elbow to control it. The biggest issue with this is going to be your eye dominance. Usually, your dominant hand and eye are on the same side, so you will be using your non-dominant hand with your non-dominant eye.

Running an AR-15 rifle with weak hand only
The author demonstrates how to use a second arm even if the hand is wounded.

Unlike a pistol, with a rifle you cannot use your dominant eye as you can’t get it over far enough to effectively use it with your rifle. This is a real obstacle that we will only overcome with practice.

One-handed reloads on an AR-15 are a pretty ugly affair. AR platform guns do not generally come with fully ambidextrous controls. If that is the case, releasing your magazine will be a challenge. The best way is to cradle the rifle in the bend of your elbow right in front of the magwell, then reach up, hit the mag release button and jerk the mag out with your good hand. With the rifle held in this position, it might not drop easily, so practice actively pulling that magazine out and getting rid of it.

Training to shoot AR-15 with one hand
As with any firearms skill, practice is a key to performance. Make sure you train in a safe manner.

Stay in the Fight

Now comes time for the reload. Just insert your mag and then firmly hit the bottom of it to make sure it seats. Then close the bolt, or charge your gun if the bolt didn’t stay open.

Next would be clearing malfunctions, such as coming across a bad round. For this you’d have to hold it the same way by cradling the rifle with your elbow and then smacking the bottom of the magazine firmly, and then charge the gun. Then, you’d be ready to fire.


These are some of the basics to familiarize yourself with when it comes to shooting a rifle one-handed. This obviously gets harder when your entire arm is out of the fight, leaving you only one with which to work. At that point, all of this would get messier and might require you to lay the gun in the dirt to complete some of these functions.

If you do plan to train this way, using your weak hand at first can be a safety concern, so work with an empty gun and dry-firing. Then, practice, practice, practice!

Editor’s Note: Please be sure to check out The Armory Life Forum, where you can comment about our daily articles, as well as just talk guns and gear. Click the “Go To Forum Thread” link below to jump in and discuss this article and much more!

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