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Print Edition> Lifestyle
UPDATED: May 27, 2011 NO. 22 JUNE 2, 2011
A Military Gadget
The PLA modifies certain weapons to accommodate left-handed soldiers


The life of a left-handed person, while not necessarily more difficult for others in China, is marked with daily inconveniences. Tools or everyday household items designed for right-handers can present obstacles for the left-handed. Such is the case for left-handed soldiers.

In the past, left-handed soldiers would be forced to change their left hand-dominated habits during military exercises. These "corrections" were a bitter choice for left-handers.

Experts say that left-handers do not need any correction and actually have their own advantages. For example, left-handed athletes are hard to defend against in sports such as tennis, table tennis, basketball and fencing. An article from Beijing-based PLA Daily of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) said that half of male and one third of female athletes who made it to the quarterfinals of world fencing championships from 1979 to 1993 were left handed.

The article also said that scientists found that information sent out by the brain travels 0.015 seconds faster to the left side of the body than to the right. In the army, many sharpshooters are left handed. Overall, it is more useful if left-handed soldiers can operate weapons naturally instead of being forced to adapt to right-handed methods.

A military unit in Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei Province, is pioneering in modified weapons to resolve the left-handed soldiers' dilemma in shooting precisely with weapons designed mainly for right-handers.

"There's nothing wrong with the weapons we use now, but we want to make it more convenient for left-handed soldiers as well," said Xia Zailai, a member of staff of the military unit in Wuhan. "We also had to ask ourselves a series of questions about right-handed and left-handed weapons. What if the right-handed soldier's dominant hand gets injured? What if it's not convenient in some situations to shoot with the right hand? We thought it would be easier to change the gun instead of trying to change the soldiers' habits."

Following Xia's suggestion, the military unit began to redesign a type of weapon that is adaptable for both right- and left-handed use. The new type of weapon has its trigger moved from the right top in the front to the bottom in the rear, which could enable all soldiers to shoot and maneuver with ease.

Jiang Liangping, a soldier in the PLA, has benefited from the weapon modification.

"It used to be really hard," said Jiang. "All the standard weapons are designed for right-handers. We left-handers needed to practice more to achieve what our right-handed fellows can do easily."

"Using this new weapon was the first time that I was able to easily and comfortably maneuver a weapon since I became a soldier 10 years ago," Jiang said.

In the future, as further modifications and research are done on new weapons, a survey will be conducted among PLA soldiers to collect data from their trial use in order to perfect the design, said Lu Zhanguo, an officer of the military unit in Wuhan.

Related Figures:

The number of left-handed people in the world has increased by a large margin in the past century. The latest statistics show that the population of left-handers accounts for 11 percent of the world's total, while the number was only 3 percent a century ago.

In China, left-handed people occupy 6-7 percent of the country's total population, which is nearly 100 million.

(Sources: Guangzhou Daily, Hangzhou Daily)

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