By Craig Boddington
Nobody knows the exact percentage of lefties. It isn’t large but, being both left-eye-dominant and left-handed, I believe that the incidence of left-eye dominance exceeds the number of actual southpaws. There are degrees of eye dominance, but there is sound argument for shooting on the dominant side, simply because most sighting systems rely heavily on use of one eye. Like most lefties, I grew up with right-handed firearms. However, for those who have left-handed family members, there is strong argument for left-handers using left-handed firearms.
One word: Safety. Most repeating firearms eject to the right, for the right-handed majority. In the event of a catastrophic failure, hot gases and shrapnel are directed to the right (and/or down), away from the shooter’s face. Such events are rare, but if a lefty is using a right-eject firearm and has one, the bad stuff is directed straight into the right side of the face.
Many firearms are (more or less) ambidextrous in operation, such as side-ejecting lever-actions, pump guns, and semiautos, but that rarely exercised safety margin remains absent if used from the wrong side. The only truly ambidextrous firearms, in both operation and safety, are revolvers, break-open guns, falling block single-shots, top-eject lever-actions, and bottom-eject slide-actions and semiautos.
Although the selection of guns for left-handed hunters is much better than when I was young, the selection is still not large, and rarely is the cartridge/gauge selection as robust as for the right-handed majority. The market is there, but, sales are often lackluster in production southpaw models. This leads to losses, and there have been many during the pandemic: Remington firearms all but disappeared; CZ discontinued their big 550 Mauser action, and Mossberg dropped their mirror-image slide-action shotgun. More losses we of the left-hand minority cannot afford! Fortunately, we still have choices. As we make purchasing decisions, we need to support the manufacturers who support us. Here are seven great left-handed production firearms you should consider!
Left-Handed Hunting Rifles
Christensen Arms Ridgeline and Mesa
Christensen Arms is expanding their line of Ridgeline and Mesa bolt-action rifles in 2023 to include left-handed versions of the Ridgeline and Mesa models. Available in both the standard and titanium formats, these lightweight hunting rifles are available in seven different chamberings. The LH Mesa has a sleek carbon-fiber stock and an overall weight of just 6.5 pounds, while the Mesa Titanium comes in at just a hair over 6 pounds. For the Ridgeline versions, you’re getting Christensen Arms’ Sub-MOA guarantee, with a carbon-fiber-wrapped barrel that puts the total weight at 6.3 pounds, with the Titanium version coming in at well under the 6-pound mark. These are sure to be highly accurate long-range hunting rifles that are worth a look for any left-handers this coming season. The LH Mesa starts at $1,349 and LH Ridgeline at $2,099.
You won’t find all of numerous variations of the X-Bolt in left-hand versions. But you can get the X-Bolt Hunter, a fine walnut-and-blue rifle, with the classic fit and finish we expect from Browning. And, you can have it in your choice of 13 chamberings, from .223 to .300 Winchester Magnum, and including .270 and .300 WSM.
Although appearance is similar, the X-Bolt is quite different from the older (and also excellent) A-Bolt, which was widely available in left-hand action. Like the A-Bolt, the X-Bolt has a three-lug bolt with sliding tang safety. Major differences include a heavier, more rigid action; smooth-feeding detachable rotary magazine; significantly different triggerguard/floorplate; and a bolt lock override on the root of the bolt handle. Different from virtually all sporting rifles is the scope-mounting system that gives the X-Bolt its name: Four screws in each base in a square or “X”, so that the bases are secured on each corner.
Ruger’s 10/22 is the world’s most popular .22 semiauto, more than 10 million produced. So, it’s appropriate that the Ruger 10/22 would be the first mirror-image left-hand .22 semiauto. Browning’s slick little bottom-eject SA-22 is exceptionally ambidextrous, but Ruger’s new 10/22 Model 31110 Left-Hand Competition Rifle is a major milestone for left-handed shooters.
The initial left-hand 10/22 is only available from the Ruger Custom Shop, so it starts life as a seriously upgraded .22: Heavy fluted barrel with muzzle brake; synthetic stock with adjustable cheek rest; semi-beavertail fore-end with finger grooves. No iron sights, instead it has a 30 MOA Picatinny rail strip provided. The magazine is the ingenious and long-familiar 10-shot rotary magazine. Except: The right-eject 10/22 feeds up and right so, for left ejection, the magazine rotation is reversed, thus not compatible. My test rifle shot like a dream, as a Ruger Custom Shop gun should. I wasted no time sending Ruger a check.
Ruger has been a good friend to we lefties, offering both the economical American and M77 bolt-action in mirror image versions. It’s worth noting that the Ruger M77 African in .375 Ruger is currently just about the only production big-bore available in left-hand action.
Introduced clear back in 1958, the Savage 110 is currently the longest-running bolt-action centerfire rifle. It was also one of the first production hunting rifles to be offered in a mirror-image left-hand version. Like many lefties, I grew up making do with right-hand guns.
For many years, Savage prided themselves for offering all versions of the 110 in both right and left-hand bolt. This is not exactly true today, but the Savage 110 is available in more variations and options than any other product left-handed firearm! The Savage 110 Apex Hunter XP LH is a “package” rifle, complete with 3-9x40mm Vortex scope, available in 13 chamberings, including .350 Legend. The 110 Elite Precision LH is the chassis rifle for long-range competition, with six chamberings including .300 PRC and .338 Lapua. The 110 Magpul LH is a target version, with upgraded Magpul stock, Cerakote finish, and heavy 18-inch barrel.
Rock River LEF-T AR
Among the 90-some firms that have manufactured rifles on the popular AR15 action, few have offered a left-hand-eject version. Rock River Arms was one of the first, and currently offers their LEF-T carbines and rifles in fully eight variants, plus one pistol! All are .223/5.56mm, with primary differences barrel lengths and weights, and stocks and handguards.
As with shotguns, a right-hand-eject semiautomatic centerfire rifle is one of the worst choices for a left-hander. With ARs there’s a special wrinkle: When a lefty shoots a right-hand AR, the hot brass tends to go right down the shirt collar. The Rock River LEF-T is a true mirror image, ejection port and bolt assist on the left; safety on the right side, easily accessible with the left thumb. The magazine release is ambidextrous (both sides). Mine is one of Rock River’s early southpaw rifles, 16-inch barrel with short forend. It’s been my primary “ranch rifle” for years, a go-to prairie dog gun, and occasionally pressed into service for deer.
Left-Handed Hunting Shotguns
CZ Bobwhite G2 Southpaw
CZ’s basic side-by-side shotgun is back as Generation 2 (G2), with CNC-machined receiver and redesigned internal parts. The Bobwhite is a boxlock, double-trigger shotgun with straight English-style grip, checkered walnut stock with black hard-chrome metal finish. The Southpaw version is available in 12 and 20 gauge, both with three-inch chambers. Barrels are 28 inches, with screw-inch chokes (five choke tubes supplied). So far, it’s a very complete side-by-side hunting shotgun, at an amazingly low price of about $750.
I’ve already said that break-open guns are ambidextrous, so what makes the Southpaw a southpaw? For the best shotgun fit, it’s ideal to have the buttstock bent or “cast” slightly away from the face. In shotgun parlance, a bend to the right, for a right-handed shooter, is “cast off.” To the left is “cast on.” You guessed it: The Bobwhite Southpaw has a cast-on stock for left-handed bird hunters. The center of the butt is about three-eighths of an inch left of the center of the barrels. Few lefties (me included), have ever handled a shotgun with proper cast. It makes a difference, shouldering smoothly, shooting eye looking right down the center of the tapered, stippled rib.
All lefties know that, when shooting a right-ejecting semiauto shotgun, sooner or later you’re bound to get debris in your right eye if you’re not wearing safety glasses. There have been several bottom-ejecting slide-actions (from Browning, Ithaca, and Remington), but only one bottom-ejecting semiauto, Remington’s short-lived 105 CTi 11. Fortunately, there have been several left-hand-ejecting semiautos. Beretta is the parent company for Benelli and Franchi. All three are highly respected names in semiauto shotguns, and all three are available in mirror-image left-hand versions, left-hand eject with left-to-right (safe to fire) safety.
The most economical of the three is the Franchi Affinity, a great shotgun. The left-hand version is 12-gauge with three-inch chamber and black synthetic stock. Barrels are 28-inches, with three choke tubes provided (all for both lead and steel). The inertia-driven action is extremely forgiving, functioning perfectly with light 2 ¾-inch target loads all the way up to the heaviest turkey and waterfowl loads.
All Affinity shotguns have the shock-absorbing TSA recoil pad. Couple that with the inertia action and, although the Affinity is slender and fairly light, recoil is mild. Ejection and loading port and operating handle are oversize, allowing easy operation with gloves. The left-hand version is sort of a “general purpose” configuration.
Winchester’s Super X series shotguns gained an enviable reputation for speed, in both handling and cycling. The new Super X4 goes a step farther, and is available in left-hand mirror image. The new shotgun is lighter, with slimmer pistol grip, and has oversize bolt handle, safety, and bolt release button, and a larger trigger guard. The Inflex Technology recoil pad directs recoil down and away from the face, reducing recovery time between shots. The gas-operated SX4 has a back-bored barrel with Invector Plus interchangeable choke tubes.
The left-hand version was introduced at the 2022 SHOT Show. Initial offerings are a walnut-stocked Field model in 12-gauge 3-inch, with either 26 or 28-inch barrel; and three SX4 Waterfowl Hunter models in Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Habitat, Mossy Oak Bottomland, and Realtree Max 7. The waterfowl models are also offered in 26 or 28-inch barrels – all with 3 ½-inch chambers. The SX4 left-hand is so new I haven’t had a chance to shoot one yet, but I look forward to fixing that soon.
The Essentials Gear Box.
Our editors have hand-picked these essential pieces of gear to make you a more successful hunter when you hit the game trails this season.