Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Just the Basics – The Draw


There is certainly no drought of “hot topics” to pick on in the “Just the Basics”. And, “The Draw” certainly gets its fair share of attention. So let’s talk a bit about “The Draw” – beginning with the Stance.

I teach what I call a modified-Weaver stance;

  • Feet shoulder width apart.
  • Front toe of your Dominant side even with the heel of your Support side.
  • Knees slightly bent.
  • Firm, two-handed grip – arms fully extended – body slightly forward in an aggressive position

clip_image002     clip_image004


There’s nothing tricky here, just a nice, stable platform to allow you to engage your threat accurately. This exact stance easily adapts to a rifle or shotgun as well. It allows you to find a single “home” for your stance that works well with multiple weapons platforms.

This position is also, for most defensive pistol situations, pure crap. Now, why do I say that? Honestly, if you have enough time to put these elements in place for a nice, consistent, well-rehearsed stance – you should either have already left the scene, should have long since engaged the threat – or you are already dead and simply waiting for the bag man.

I have long preached the “Rule of Threes” with gunfights:

  • Three Rounds
  • Three Seconds
  • Three Meters

Your time is just so compressed. A gunfight isn’t going to be pretty, your stance won’t be perfect – yet to save yourself, you need to be the first to get off the first of three rounds, make a couple of critical hits and be ready should follow-up shots be required.

“So, that means I should abandon any type of stance altogether – right??”

No, not at all. I teach this stance and I’ll continue to teach it. It’s a good starting point. It provides a very stable platform, can be used with other weapons and it allows the student to begin to learn the fundamentals of grip, sight alignment, sight picture and trigger press and controlling the weapon in their hand. I simply want a new shooter to be aware that this is an optimal shooting position – not a typical one in an actual fire fight.

There are just a ton of “by the numbers” draws out there in the shooting universe. From 4 steps to 7 steps or more. I have a different take on it – a task oriented approach. These “tasks” must be accomplished between the time your mind tells you to “DRAW” and the time you press off that first round. In general, you must:

  • Clear the crap away from the holster
  • Grip your weapon
  • Withdraw it from its holster
  • Point it at the threat and press the trigger

How you accomplish these things are of little importance. That you point and press quickly and accurately – well, that’s the difference between a human sized Ziploc and hugging your kids at the end of the day. For our purposes here, I am just going to go through the draw from concealment as we talk about these different tasks in more detail. If you are in a state with Open Carry, and you are – indeed – carrying openly, cover garments will have no part in the equation at all; just skip over the “clear the crap away from the holster” process.

Clear the Crap Away From the Holster.

Again - reality vs. ideal.

Most shooting schools and competitive pistol sports grant you the luxury of “sweeping your garment back” or “sliding your palm and fingers along your body to push your garment back” or some such thing. Fine for most cases, especially in competition or on the range – yet what if it’s January, -20F, you have a leather coat over a sweater over your holster and gun. Then what? It just got more complicated than “sweeping the garment” away.

My preferred alternative is “Grasp and Clear”. You grasp the single garment or pile of garments under their hem(s) with the fingers on your dominant hand and yank them up, well clear of your weapon. Leave your thumb out and above the outer garment.


Once you have lifted ALL garments well above the grip of your weapon, you lock them in place by jamming your thumb into your side.


Grip Your Weapon

You then fully extend your fingers. Firmly push the “V” of your hand (the area between your thumb and index finger) down onto your grip. Your thumb will slide down along your body and go under your grip. Your fingers will go over your grip and wrap around the front strap of the grip. YOUR TRIGGER FINGER IS NEVER PART OF YOUR GRIP – EVER. At this point you have a firm grip, your trigger finger is well away from the trigger, and all layers of clothing is trapped between your forearm and your body.


Draw it from the holster

You then draw your weapon straight up until it fully clears your holster. Please note the trigger finger is not just outside the trigger guard – it is on the side of the slide. This digit, this little piece of bone and flesh, is what makes your weapon go BLAMMMM!!! Keep the damn thing away from the trigger.


Once the weapon is clear of the holster you begin to rotate it.


Point it at the threat and press the trigger

Once rotated – you are ready to engage. “What??? What was that??”

(A side note here:  For those weapons with slide safeties – say a 1911, THIS is when the safety comes off. NOT during the draw, NOT after it clears the holster, NOT as it begins to rotate but ONLY AFTER IT IS POINTED AT THE THREAT!!!)

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Yep, you heard me – you are ready to engage. Notice a couple of things in this image. First, my support hand it up, covering my support side, my face, my head. I have a real problem with teaching shooters to make a fist and place it in the middle of their chest. What the hell for??? Is the guy going to punch me there?? Will it stop a bullet?? I know the argument that you want to make sure it is well out of the way so you don’t shoot yourself. Yet, is this truly the muscle memory you want when an attacker comes at you and you need to fend them off while drawing?? I don’t believe so. Get your support arm up, out of the way of the draw and into a position to defend your head and face.

Focus on the threat and their center mass. That is your target, that is where you want to hit first – and you want to do that quickly. When your weapon is horizontal, and you are focused on their center mass – shoot them!!! The numbers say your attacker will be close. The numbers say the first to hit wins the fight. YOU DO NOT NEED TO BE FULLY EXTENDED IN A TWO HANDED GRIP TO SHOOT THE BASTARD!

A solid hit or two will buy you time, force the attacker away and allow you to go into a fully extended shooting stance if need be. Continue to engage the threat the whole time you’re extending into a two-handed grip.  More hits – less of a threat, as simple as that.  But, if you wait to engage until you are here – in a full shooting stance – you have lost valuable time and . . . perhaps . . . your life as well. 


Once the threat is down keep your distance. Should they attempt to re-engage with their weapon, shoot them. Period. A threat with a weapon in their hand is a threat to your existence – treat them that way.

Once the threat has been neutralized – do not reholster immediately. If you are safe, near cover, assured that there are no other bad guys around – do a tactical reload. Drop your magazine and insert a fresh one then stow the dropped magazine. This prepares you for the next engagement if necessary.

Call police – or wait for their arrival while keeping your weapon on the threat. Make sure you describe yourself fully to the police prior to their arrival or you could end up on the wrong end of a friendly fire incident. When they arrive, lay your weapon down and put your hands behind your head. FOLLOW ALL DIRECTIONS.

You will be arrested, taken to jail, informed of your rights – and your very first call should be to your attorney. Your only comment?? “I thought I was going to die!”

That’s quite a journey – from holster draw to jail. Yet, it reinforces the seriousness of drawing your weapon. It should never leave your holster unless you truly believe your very existence is at risk. And, if you feel that way, if a threat is coming at you intent on ending your life – be the one to walk away . . . . period!

You can do 95% of the training required to learn this draw as part of your dry fire exercise each and every day. Use this method every time you take your weapon from your holster – whether to remove your weapon at the end of the day or to remove it from its holster to take a latrine break. Every time you draw from your holster, it’s a training experience.

Ideally your draw is simply a command your brain gives. Everything else is muscle memory. It is one of many steps required to save your life, your family’s lives or your friend’s lives should you encounter an existential threat. Learn it – practice it – use it . . . . and then hope that day never – ever comes.

UPDATE:  A quick thank you to OldNFO for his comments on this post and his suggestion to include a few words about those elastic cords that seem to be buried in virtually every jacket or heavy coat made today.  One of their “features” is an adjustment to these cords so the fit can be tightened against the cold and wind.  In general, they look a bit like this.

Cord Adjuster 2

These little guys can do real damage to you.  There have been any number of reports of them becoming lodged inside the trigger guard and wedging themselves in such a way to depress the trigger and fire off a round as the weapon is either being drawn or reholstered.  OldNFO advice – and it is very solid advice – cut all such devices off and completely remove the elastic cord.  This small step could save you from a very bad day!!


  1. Well said and a GOOD plan! Cannot disagree, and one more thing to point out with 'heavier' garments is the usual sets of pull strings to keep them 'tight to the body. I cut all those strings off, so there is nothing to hang the weapon up on.

  2. Damn, for got the strings . . . . will have to do an update tomorrow. Thank you sir!

  3. Thanks for this, the draw was really the missing link in my program...or rather, how to clear the clothing prior to the draw. One more thing to practice!

  4. Eia, no problem, glad I could help... And those damn spring clips are JUST the right size to slide into the trigger guard and go right into the holster (without hanging up) until the gun goes BANG!