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Massad Ayoob: The Mirror Image Match

Massad  Ayoob posted a piece on shooting a complete IDPA match (along with several of his buddies) using the non-dominant hand.  Maybe next time when they do it they could also have an even number of stages with half the courses of fire and target placements be a mirror image to the other half.  That way they could notice some of the (unintentional) ‘bias’ of stage design too.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a Southpaw; thus, speaking as a member of the minority of next-evolutionary-step hominids: Good for Mr. Ayoob.  I know Mr. Ayoob’s purpose for his ‘mirror match’ was done for ‘tactical’ reasons (imprinting skills, overcoming the injury of the dominant hand, etc.) but as the only thing made for the ‘Sinistre’ are toll booths, I say, “Welcome to my world.”

Not to say that I disagree with the premise, I’ve shot complete matches right-handed before.  Actually, I did it for about three or four months, (unsupported even – Cowboys call it ‘Duelist’ style) about 10 years ago following the injury of my left hand.  While it was braced and healing, I continued to shoot matches  just about every weekend with lots of dry fire practice during the weekdays. I remember how odd it felt at first, but also how quickly I adapted to shooting with my right hand.  Then it felt odd that felt so natural.  The Man Upstairs did a fine job of designing the human body.  Not only do we have an amazing ability to heal but an outstanding ability to adapt.

In the years since then I’ve tried to make a habit of training ‘to both sides’.  I didn’t retain the ‘natural feel’ when shooting right handed but doing so now doesn’t feel unfamiliar either.  I partially accredit this to being left handed to start.  Being forced to adapt on a daily basis to a right handed world may have given me an advantage in this regard.  That’s the way I choose to interpret the experience anyway.  I’d like to say I have an advantage in something for having to deal with single sided safeties, can openers, scissors, cork screws, books, pie servers, ice cream scoops, and nearly ever other darn tool I’ve ever had to use.

Holster Mutilation 101 – The Bianchi 7 Shadow II

A while back, I was rooting through the close-out bin at a gun shop and happened across a new-in-the-package left-handed Bianchi Model 7 ‘Shadow II’  for a 1911.   Being a lefty (and thankfully right eye dominant) is at times a blessing: pistol magazine release buttons work better using using the trigger finger, single action revolver loading gates are easier for us too [both can be manipulated without changing the primary grip].  One down side of being a lefty is that in-stock holster selection is generally very poor.  So, it was a done deal when I stumbled on the Bianchi for a whopping $10.

As most shooters, I have a box of forgotten holsters.  All bought with great intention of fulfilling a need that somehow just didn’t quite get filled.  The Bianchi was such a holster and for a few years was relegated to the box.  No disrespect to Mr. John Bianchi meant.  I was fortunate to meet Mr. Bianchi back in the early nineties and he is due no small amount of respect for pioneering many of today’s holster standards.  He is also a gentleman.

Back to the holster: It’s beautifully constructed and flawlessly finished, my issue with the Shadow II is that its purpose doesn’t match my need.  It is designed for carry with thumb-snap secured over the 1911 with the hammer down.  I agree with Jeff Cooper’s statement “A firearm must be made ready with the least possible delay.”  As such, carrying ‘cocked-&-locked’ is really the only way I’ll carry a 1911.

Facotry configuration - designed for hammer-down carry

Factory configuration - designed for hammer-down carry

A few days ago, I came across the Bianchi 7 again and then soon after showed it to a friend, telling him that I was considering selling it.  When he asked why, I told him about the thumb snap issue.  His rather succinct and elegant response was so simple I wondered why it hadn’t occurred to me: “Why not just cut it off?”

Hmmm… yes.  Why not?  I am a fairly good hand with leather, even having sold my works for a time.  So, yes, I resolved to mutilate the Bianchi.

To do so I first looked at open top holsters of similar configuration from several manufacturers and took into account the existing lines of the Shadow II.  Then, using a pencil, I lightly sketched the line I would cut.  Before cutting I placed the holster over the corner of a polymer cutting board so that I would have a surface to bear against without risking the second layer of the holster and carefully cut the front layer snap off.

By then, I had decided to leave the back layer intact but remove the snap hardware from it.  That would allow for a raised ‘sweat guard’ for my comfort and protection of the gun’s finish.  Removing the snap (to prevent scratching the gun’s finish) was accomplished using a Dremel tool fitted with a cone-shaped grinding burr.  Slowly working the inside of the snap to remove the rivet flange, the snap soon fell off.  I made the mistake of trying to pick it up – ouch.  Note to self: next time let it cool off first.

With a quick switch of bits on the Dremel to the mini sanding drum, I then sanded the leather of the first layer (where I made my cut) to blend it with the existing finished edge.  Just for looks I used a stitching guide to match the embossed line just below the top edge of the holster.  After that it was quick work to bevel and burnish the freshly cut and sanded edge and paint it with matching brown Edge Coat.  [A big thank you to Terry Tucker of Tucker Gunleather who showed me many years ago (when he was still working out of his garage) how to properly burnish an edge.]

After the surgery - open top holster with improvised sweat guard

After the surgery - open top holster with improvised sweat guard

Another view:

Close up view of finished edge

Close up view of finished edge

With the gun:

Successful Snap-ectomy Patient

Successful Snap-ectomy Patient

Total time of the project: about 15 minutes (including stopping to take pictures).

So how does it function now?  Great!  And it’s comfortable too.