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When a hero carries a handgun, he or she will tend to wield it and sometimes fire it in one hand. Perfect for still photo opportunities where the shooter's arm is bent above and behind their head and the gun is brought down to aim and fire. Even more cool is firing a gun sideways.

The exception is if they are military or police officers, where they will use two hands. Unless they've gone rogue and/or are desperate.

And sometimes the hero will have a gun in each hand. Or a sword in the other.

Justified in most westerns, as the single action triggers used at the time made it more popular to fire with one hand and fan the hammer with the other. Although films depicting one-handed use of revolvers will often not show the hammer being fanned at all.

There's also a school of thought that says aiming one-handed whilst standing sideways-on to your opponent presents a narrower target and thus makes you harder to hit; whether this makes up for your own increased difficulty in hitting anything is a matter for opinion.

For really big melee weapons being used in one hand, see One-Handed Zweihander.

Has nothing to do with another one-handed activity.

Examples of Firing One-Handed include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Fate/Zero, Kiritsugu holds his Contender thus, despite the whole "firing magic rifle bullets" thing.
  • In Noir, Kirika does this frequently, and the directors even say that they specifically chose her weapon (a Beretta M1934) precisely so she could fire it with one hand.
    • It may also be something to do with the fact that James Bond used to carry one of those as well.
  • Madlax, a character from the same creators, does the same thing with her two SIGs. She also goes for Guns Akimbo on regular basis - a vast improvement in coolness since Kirika's lone Hong Kong stairway scene.
  • In Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz, Heero twirls a gun one-handed and later threatens to shoot someone, still going onehanded. He doesn't actually fire the gun, but it's still one-handed use.
  • In the booklet of StrikerS Sound Stage X, all art of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha's Teana with the Cross Mirage's Blazer Mode show her wielding it one-handed. A little weird since she usually uses her gun with two hands when she's not going Guns Akimbo or using her other hand for something else.
  • Darcia from Wolf's Rain wields a pistol in one hand against Quent even when Toboe intervenes and latches onto his gun holding arm. He shakes him off and shoots Quent anyway.
  • General Cross Marian from D.Gray-man uses a gun-like Innocence called Judgement. The cool thing about the bullets is that they won't stop moving until they reach their target, so if opponent deflects the bullets the first time, the bullet will come back and hit them again.
  • Subverted in DOGS Bullets and Carnage. Mihai chastises Ian to "stop trying to look cool" and hold his gun in two hands when he sees him practicing with a one-handed grip.

Comic Books

  • Invoked and subverted in Queen and Country: Russian gangsters hired to kill Tara Chace fire their guns one-handed; most of their bullets hit nothing, and one unlucky goon catches a stray bullet from his ally.


  • The T-800 from Terminator 2: Judgement Day does this multiple times due to being a super-strong robot. Examples include in the canal chase sequence (where he shoots and cocks a shotgun one-handed) and his firing of a grenade launcher at Cyberdyne Systems (to disable multiple police cars).
  • At one point in Tombstone, Wyatt Earp blows away a fleeing enemy with a double-barreled shotgun, one-handed, while riding on a horse at full gallop.
  • A military example is seen near the end of Saving Private Ryan, when Captain Miller is mortally wounded during the German siege of the bridge held by Ryan and company. As a Panzer Tiger inches ominously across the bridge, Miller can do nothing but fire his pistol in pure spite. The tank explodes...thanks to the American planes blasting through the sky.
  • James Bond frequently fires one-handed due to the fact that his preferred weapon for most of the films is a Walther PPK in .32ACP.
  • The Killer has Chow Yun Fat firing his Taurus handgun one-handed for most of the movie except when he picks up two guns.
  • None of the many Desert Eagles in the Charlie's Angels movies is ever fired two-handed. And yes, this does require the Rule of Cool to keep those Hand Cannons from ripping people's wrists off like they would do in Real Life.
  • All the characters in The Matrix fire all manner of weapons one-handed, sometimes while performing various acrobatics, including one character who at one point dual-wields a pair of drum-fed automatic shotguns. This is all possible because it's happening in the Matrix, where the characters can bend the laws of physics.
  • Dirty Harry fires his famous .44 Magnum one handed. He must be pretty strong, considering that it's "the most powerful handgun in the world."
  • The hitman in Machete fires his assault rifle with one hand, and seems to have better accuracy than the goons who hold their rifles with both.


  • The Dark Tower: Roland specifically lampshades this; real gunslingers are so awesome they don't need to use the other hand to steady themselves.
    • Not to mention that they are old west-style revolvers, which were made for one-handed use.
    • And, in the beginning of the second book, Roland loses several fingers from his right hand, which would make it difficult to use a two-handed grip.
    • This goes so far, in that Roland uses a revolver per hand before above happens. It goes so far that he draws, shoots, (probably) cocks the gun, and even reloads with one hand per gun, one bullet at a time.
  • Rainbow 6 has the main characters using a two handed stance, but at one point their pilot hits the pistol range to blow off steam and uses a one handed side-on stance. It's realistically portrayed as being a lot less accurate, but he's older than the other shooters and apparently that's how he was trained back in the day (whether this matches with actual historical training practices I have no idea).
  • Fontaine, from All Tomorrow's Parties does target shooting with a small calibre revolver, holding in it one hand.
  • Discussed in the Tom Clancy novel Teeth Of The Tiger, in which one of the protagonists expresses a preference for firing one-handed whilst standing side-on to the target, on the grounds that this presents a narrower profile and makes him harder to hit. Whether this makes up for the reduced accuracy (his preferred sidearm is a .45ACP weapon) is a matter for opinion.

Live Action TV

  • Blakes Seven, justified most of the time by the fact they're using directed-energy weapons.
  • In Torchwood, Captain Jack Harkness teaches WPC Gwen Cooper to shoot this way rather than the modern two-handed technique, though it may just have been an excuse to feel her behind.
  • In the Green Beret vs Spetsnaz episode of Deadliest Warrior, the Spetsnaz representative is shown using the Makarov pistol one-handed while navigating a nighttime target course with night vision goggles on.
  • This was tested on Myth Busters, and found to be reasonably accurate in comparison to the classic two-handed "Weaver" technique, and far more accurate than shooting from the hip or using Gangsta Style.
  • The Walking Dead, Rick tends to fire his revolver this way.

Tabletop Games

  • Most tabletop role-playing games featuring them consider pistols, revolvers, and possible futuristic equivalents thereof one-handed weapons as a matter of course. Two hands are for rifles, shotguns, and most automatic weapons.
  • GURPS assumes that characters fire all small arms one handed by default; using a second hand braces the gun, giving a small bonus to hit.
  • The World of Darkness games assume characters are firing pistols two-handed and has a higher Strength requirement for one-handed use.

Video Games

  • Fallout: 1 and 2 both had a trait that allowed you to use one-handed weapons better with an accuracy penalty to two-handed ones.
    • Fallout 3 plays with it. By default, handguns are held one-handed and fired from the hip but using careful aiming (right mouse button in the PC version) makes the wielder hold the gun with both hands at eye-level as well as zooming in slightly. Also, the Gunslinger perk increases one-handed weapon accuracy.
  • The Spy's Revolver in Team Fortress 2. The Engineer also holds his pistol one-handed, but the Scout (who wields an identical pistol, albeit with less ammo in reserve) uses two.
    • The Spy actually needs to fire one handed, otherwise he wouldn't be able to see how much charge his Invisibility watch has left or hold the Dead Ringer.
  • Ashelin from Jak and Daxter usually wields her handgun single-handedly, as does Veger.
  • In Boktai, both Django and Aaron fire their smaller Solar Guns one-handed during normal gameplay. During the cutscene where Aaron fires his first shot, he uses both hands; the resulting shot is so powerful that it goes through the skeleton he was firing at... wait, change that. The shot was big enough to annihilate the skeleton and keep on going!
  • Ellis in Left 4 Dead 2 holds single pistols one-handed.
  • Shepard in Mass Effect uses two hands in combat, but only one when s/he wants to look cool (like at a photo op) or is threatening someone.
  • In Marathon, the main character holds the pistol and the fusion pistol in one hand.
  • Soldier of Fortune's Desert Eagle-lookalike Hand Cannon is fired one-handed.
  • In Half Life, Gordon Freeman holds his trusty low-powered, low-recoil Glock 17/Beretta M9 two-handed, but somehow fires the high-power, high recoil Colt Python revolver with one hand. In Half-Life 2 it's reversed, with the USP Match held one-handed and the Python held two-handed. It just goes to show that Revolvers Are Just Better.
    • But he is wearing his HEV suit, which is essentially Powered Armor.
  • Nero in Devil May Cry 4 fires a double-barrel revolver in which the caliber is almost that of a Smith & Wesson Model 500 revolver with one hand. Revolvers of that size are normally shot with TWO hands to brace for recoil. Can be justified by him being a quarter-demon with superhuman strength, much like Dante.
  • Saika Magoichi from Sengoku Basara fires her flintlock pistols one-handed at all times and has impeccable aim. Thankfully all her other guns she holds with two.
  • The first-person models for some pistols in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and 3 suggest that the player character holds and fires them in this manner, though this is not the case in third-person.

Web Original

  • Arguably common in Survival of the Fittest; while it's rarely, if ever, outright said how a character with a handgun is actually holding it, handlers tend to assume the character is doing this instead of the proper two handed grip unless the post says otherwise or if it's a handgun such as a Wildey pistol or Desert Eagle that would be completely absurd to fire off one handed. This is, however, justified with guns like revolvers or the aforementioned Beretta M1934, which were designed to be able to be used one handed.

Truth in Television

  • Many handgun shooting events require the shooter to use only one hand.
  • A common misconception is that the only "proper" method of firing a handgun is using two hands. However, professional use of one-handed firing is not unheard of, moreso in the past than now. In fact, it used to be how many militaries trained their men to shoot since it developed from the shooting styles used for the earliest military pistols, which were designed to be fired one-handed.
    • A professional is also trained to hold a handgun in one hand when his other hand is holding something else, such as a flashlight. One of the more famous holds on mainstream media is the Harries Hold.
  • Almost all single-actions revolvers are made to be fired with one hand and become very awkward when using the modern two handed setup. It also doesn't help that if that second hand isn't placed properly, you can lose fingers.
  • If someone was badly injured, silly or desperate, some muskets could be fired one handed, mainly because the accuracy of a musket was so poor anyway.
  • Generally, almost any handgun (up to and including hand cannons like the Desert Eagle) can be accurately fired one handed with proper training and practice, the hard part is holding the gun steady with your arm extended and not so much the recoil, that's why you see people in westerns using their off arm to support their shooting arm.

And then there are cases when someone is using a longarm one-handed. These weapons were never even meant for one-handed use, but it happens for some reason. Submachine guns are popularly shown this way, as they often look good in one hand, but they are still intended for two-handed use. This is the only way rifles and such can be used Guns Akimbo, but doesn't exactly look realistic.


Anime and Manga

  • In El Cazador de la Bruja, from essentially the same creative minds as Noir and Madlax, L.A. wields an M249 machine gun one-handed towards the end of the series. The lead girl-with-gun Nadie, on the other hand, usually prefers to hold her M1911 with two hands, as she doesn't possess the mad gunslinging skillz of her spiritual predecessors.
  • In Hayate the Combat Butler, the titular butler shows that he is perfectly capable of this by showing up to rescue Nagi early in the series from an enormous robot with a wrapped bundle on his back. He reveals this to be an HK-MG 3, which is normally a turret-mounted machine gun and simply tears through the robot's armor. Hayate is also apparently strong enough to easily wield it with one hand. Mysteriously, he also claims to have already been very familiar with the weapon somehow and seemed to have access to it before/without Sanzen'in resources.
  • In one of the later episodes of the first season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Motoko fires Saito's anti-tank rifle single handed. Admittedly she's a fully body cyborg (effectively a human brain in a robot body) and she only does it single handed because her other arm had been torn off, but still. Keep in mind the first time we see this rifle is when it's being bolted down before firing to keep Saito from being blown away by the recoil.
  • In Zettai Karen Children, Black Phantom agent 'Beretta' wields a sniper-rifle one-handed during his first appearance. He justifies it by having Telekinesis, allowing him to absorb the recoil AND mentally control the bullets. And even then, he probably only did it since he was caught up in close combat - in a later appearance, when he's assassinating a target from a distance of several city blocks, he dutifully uses both hands and a tripod...
  • Mami from Puella Magi Madoka Magica has, amongst other things, wielded muskets one-handed and dual-wielded rifles!


  • Averted and probably played straight at the same time in Aeon Entelechy Evangelion. Averted with Shinji, even when one of your Eva's arm is busted, firing a giant hypervelocity rifle one-handed is not a good idea. Implied to be played straight with Asuka, since she mentions that you need to reinforce your arm with the AT-field for one-handed firing mention above.


  • Near the end of Terminator 2, Sarah is doing this with a shotgun. Then again, her other arm didn't seem to be in any shape to help. The T-800 used a shotgun one-handed while riding a motorcycle.
  • Taxi Driver
  • In Welcome to the Jungle/The Rundown, the Rock uses what appears to be a very large sniper rifle one handed, as well as dual-wielded shotguns.
  • In The Crucible, one piece of evidence used to say Giles Corey is a witch was an ability to do this.
  • Ash from the Evil Dead trilogy famously uses a sawed-off shotgun one-handed, and in Army of Darkness uses a lever-action rifle one-handed as well.
  • The most recent film version of Last of the Mohicans features the most inexplicably skilled Hawkeye yet: two flintlock longarms, two shots, two kills (and with a friendly between his two targets to boot).


  • In the Halo EU novel 'First Strike' the SPARTAN Linda achieves this with a sniper rifle, one hand, hanging upside down in the middle of a vertical descent, her other hand clutching the rope used for said descent. With perfect accuracy. Not even SPARTAN-ness can justify that level of crazy.

Tabletop Games

  • Tabletop Games Spycraft actually has a character option that lets you do this, albeit at a penalty to hit.
  • Warhammer 40000's Bolters/Boltguns are fully automatic weapons that fire rocket-propelled, armor-penetrating, explosive rounds. They have a pistol grip, however, so sufficiently Badass characters have been known to shoot them one-handed, an old special rule called "True Grit." Only two examples come to mind: the Space Wolves, who are heroic Vikings in space, and Plague Marines of Nurgle, who are so bloated with disease that their bulk allows them to absorb the considerable recoil. Both are power-armored super soldiers, however, and even the most Badass Normal Imperial Guardsmen who try similar tricks usually end up breaking their wrist.
  • Possible in GURPS, with very high (but far from unattainable) strength. GURPS: Gun Fu adds a new character advantage that increases effective strength specifically for the purpose of one-handing a two-handed firearm in order to replicate this move in cinematic games.
  • In Star Wars Saga Edition, one can wield a weapon with a stock with one hand, for a sizable penalty, regardless of how big the weapon really is in relation to you. Thus, a pistol with a stock (equivalent to say, a Beretta 93R) would be just as cumbersome as a full-sized rifle (equivalent to an M 16 A 2) no matter what logic may say about size and weight.
  • Rifts has the Sharpshooter skill, which is only available to a select few classes (such as the Gunslinger). One of the trick shots available is the ability to fire a two-handed rifle in one hand.

Video Games

  • Dante from Devil May Cry fires a Sawed-Off Shotgun one-handed. Some of the more demonic firearms (Nightmare-Beta and Artemis) justify this by literally wrapping to his hand.
  • In Jurassic Park: Trespasser, main character Anne uses all weapons one handed, due to her other arm being broken (read: not being programmed into the game). This includes rifles. And an extremely heavy metal mace.
  • In Golden Eye 1997 on the Nintendo 64, one bonus mission has Jaws coming at you with dual M-16s AR-33's, which you can use if you take him down. With the all weapons cheat, this extends to everything from submachineguns to rocket launchers.
    • Xenia Onatopp comes at you with a grenade launcher in her left hand and an RCP-90 in the other. You get to do this as well once she gets tied up.
    • There's also a glitch that can be done with the all weapons cheat that allows you to mix up weapons, resulting in such combinations as having an RCP-90 in one hand with a shotgun in the other, or somehow managing to use the Moonraker Laser in tandem with the Watch Laser (which altogether, would require three hands to operate).
  • In Team Fortress 2, the Heavy doesn't use his shotgun with one hand to fire, but he does twirl it around like a pistol in a taunt.
    • And thanks to a popular glitch, he's also able to spin his minigun in the same manner.
    • Also, the Demoman fires his Stickybomb Launcher one-handed in first-person view.
  • Subject Delta from Bio Shock 2 fires his weapons with one hand, and his plasmids with the other.
  • Saika Magoichi of Samurai Warriors wields his musket one-handed sometimes (specifically during his musou attack, when it inexplicably fires like a shotgun). Occasionally, he'll also fire one-handed, but with the gun braced against his body (mostly during his SMG-like spraying shots). Yeah, it's one of those.
  • In Resident Evil 5's
    • Wesker fires his sawed-off shotgun one-handed. With his arm fully extended. Enjoy that carpal tunnel, bitch.
    • Chris uses the triple-barreled 'Hydra' shotgun one-handed in the main game.
  • The first boss in Time Crisis 4 used an anti-tank rifle (probably Barrett M82) one-handed...just how is it possible anyway?
  • Shepard in Mass Effect fires his gun one handed when the target is standing very close by.
    • Many characters fire assault rifles one-handed, particularly in cutscenes, but are rarely shown hitting anything this way. Krogan, meanwhile, sometimes use shotguns singlehandedly (such as in "Eve"'s Establishing Character Moment, where she goes from an Ill Girl in a containment pod to One Hit Killing two Cerberus Mooks with Wrex's shotgun in a couple of seconds).
  • The Russians in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 manage to do this with American M240s. These are very heavy, very recoil-y weapons. Makarov at one point fires an M4 far longer than he should be able to one-handed, which somehow manages to make an entire room full of security personnel explode. Some Dummied Out content suggests that the Akimbo attachment would have been compatible with some assault rifles and the Thumper grenade launcher along with the pistols and SMG's it can be attached to in the released game.
  • Fallout games
    • Various pistols and SMGs are fired using only one hand, which affects game mechanics for characters who took the one-handed weapon trait.
    • Prior to Fallout 3, super mutants always carry and fire heavy weapons one-handed. Always. Not surprising given their immense size and strength.
  • In the cutscene that plays when launching Left 4 Dead, Francis does this with a shotgun while aiming out of the corner of his eye. Could be considered a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
  • Oda Nobunaga of Sengoku Basara wields a Sawn Off Shotgun one-handed, with a sword in the other.
  • In Red Dead Redemption, John Marston will fire any weapon one-handed if turned far enough to the side while on horseback. This includes a rifle intended to bring down full-grown buffalo.
  • Plenty of people use sawed-off shotguns in Umineko no Naku Koro ni, but Kyrie is the only one to wield it one-handed, which makes quite a sharp contrast among them. You can really tell that under her Cool Big Sis personality, she's not to be trifled with.
  • In X-COM, weapons that do not automatically take up both hand slots can be fired one-handed, but you get an accuracy bonus if you leave your other hand empty. The character models, however, will always show your characters firing them one-handed.


Truth In Television

  • In Real Life, one of Eliot Ness' Untouchables, an American Indian ex football player, used a shotgun one handed. The Untouchables: the G.I. Joe of their time.
  • Audie Murphy once, when surprised by an enemy, whirled around and fired his M1 Carbine one handed to lethal effect.
  • Certain bullpup weapons (such as the P90) are easier to use one-handed than conventional firearms, due to the ammunition and chamber (and therefore much of the weight) being behind the point where one grips it. While that doesn't mean they can be accurately fired one-handed, it's still more reasonable compared to using normal firearms one-handed.
  • Many ordinary assault rifles, such as the venerable M16, can be fired one-handed given sufficient training. This requires a bit more arm strength than the average human being can muster, but not by much; most trained soldiers would be able to accomplish such a feat, especially given that the recoil levers the barrel up and thus counteracts the front-heavy balance of the weapon. The real problem, of course, is that the lack of accuracy makes one-handed rifle shooting Awesome but Impractical. (Also, if you try that at the shooting range, you're likely to find yourself on guard duty for the rest of your military career.)
  • The inevitable culmination of this trope has to be shooting two 15-pound, belt fed squad automatic weapons, one in each hand, from the shoulder!
  • The SPAS-12 convertible (capable of firing semi-auto or pump-action) shotgun often came with a folding stock with a hook attached to the buttpad that (allegedly, the gun was too damn heavy for it to really be practical) allowed for one-handed shooting while using a riot shield.