Players can equip an item to the off-hand slot from the inventory, similarly to armor. Players can also select an item and press F to automatically equip it. The off-hand slot then appears beside the HUD opposite from the main hand. If the player is in first person view, then the off-hand appears in the screen along with the held item. Whichever hand should be the main hand is configurable in the Skin Customization menu.
The off-hand can use the item it holds when there are no usable items on the main hand (e.g. swords), or the item held on the main hand cannot be used directly (e.g. shovel or hoe with no grass nearby). Otherwise, the main hand takes priority over the off-hand. Players also cannot break blocks or attack with the off-hand, even if nothing is held in the main hand.
Arrows held in the off-hand are prioritized over other arrows in the hotbar and the inventory. Players can equip a specific arrow in their off-hand slot to fire it with a bow. If the bow is on the off-hand, then the arrow selected on the hotbar (with the main hand) is prioritized. Shields can be held in the off-hand as defense.
A player can also equip a bow, crossbow or trident in their off-hand. So far, these are the only weapons that can be used in this slot or in conjunction with another weapon. This allows for higher damage output as you no longer have to switch between a melee and distance weapon; however, it disables the use of a shield. You left-click to attack with your equipped melee weapon, and right click to attack with your ranged.
When a tool with a right-click function is held in the off-hand with another tool or weapon selected in the hotbar, right-clicking on a block that is relevant to the off-hand tool uses that off-hand tool unless the selected tool in the hotbar can also be used on the same block, in which case the hotbar tool has priority.
In Bedrock Edition, only a select few items can be placed in the off-hand slot and be dual-wielded. Some are related to combat, like shields, arrows, tipped arrows, firework rockets or the totem of undying, while others are for exploring, like filled maps or explorer maps, and for aesthetic such as sparklers and nautilus shells.
|Java Edition Beta|
|10 July 2011||Jeb states that "Notch is working on dual-wielding of items" during an interview.|
|1.6||Test Build 3||Added maps, which require both hands to hold.|
|1.9||May 28, 2015||Nathan Adams tweets a picture of dual-wielding fish.|
|June 4, 2015||Nathan Adams tweets a short guide explaining how the dual-wielding system works.|
|15w31a||Added dual wielding.|
|1.1.0||alpha 188.8.131.52||Added the off-hand slot, which can be used by totems of undying and arrows only.|
|1.2.0||beta 184.108.40.206||The player can now use maps in the off-hand slot.|
|1.4.0||beta 220.127.116.11||The player can now hold sparklers in the off-hand slot.|
|1.5.0||beta 18.104.22.168||The player can now hold the nautilus shell in the off-hand slot.|
|1.8.0||beta 22.214.171.124||The player can now hold firework rockets in the off-hand.|
|1.10.0||beta 126.96.36.199||The player can now hold shields in the off-hand slot.|
|Legacy Console Edition|
|TU53||CU43||1.49||Patch 23||1.0.3||Added the off-hand slot, which can be used by maps and arrows only. It currently does not use an inventory sprite.|
|TU54||CU44||1.52||Patch 24||1.0.4||The player can now hold the totem of undying and use firework rockets in the off-hand slot.|
|TU69||1.76||Patch 38||The player can now hold the nautilus shell in the off-hand slot.|
|1.90||The off-hand slot now uses the sprite in the inventory.|
|The player can now hold shields in the off-hand slot.|
Dinnerbone dual wielding two types of fish.