I recently picked up a copy of “Adaptive Handgun” by Travis Haley. Mr. Haley is a “veteran Force Reconnaissance Marine with 15 years of dedicated real world experience” (click the link for a more complete bio). A couple years back I was introduced to his work via a video series he did with Chris Costa when they were running the training group for Magpul. Travis has since moved on and started a “broader” training approach with his new firm – Haley Strategic Partners. He is, IMNSHO, a trainer worth paying attention to.
There was a very short phrase during the Adaptive Handgun video that really stuck with me. For all the emphasis placed on “the basics” – from stance, to grip, to sight alignment, to sight picture, to “metal on meat” point-of-aim . . . there is a starting point for your use of your sidearm in your defense; your very first – and ONLY – Grip on your weapon at the beginning of your draw.
“It’s the grip you will fight with!” It’s such an obvious statement – but something that, frankly, never stood alone in my mind’s eye as to its true importance. I teach the importance of a “firm” grip but I had not emphasized the importance of it separately.
I have also noticed that periodically I “reset” my hands when I am focused on the marksmanship portions of my range work. If my grip doesn’t feel just right, I just reseat everything prior to the next shot. (the camera I’ve mounted to the right side of my “ears” is a brutal coach . . . you all should consider one). THIS IS A VERY BAD HABIT. So I want to spend a bit of time on “GRIP” – that instant in time after you have moved your concealment garment, driven to the weapon’s grip and established your “grip”. This grip, acquired at this instant and in whatever particular situation you are in – is “the grip you will fight with”. For me, it typically looks like this . . .
What elements go into making this grip quick, consistent and firm? There are three primary elements – equipment, placement and practice.
The primary elements of equipment that come into play are a “sturdy” belt and a well-fitting holster that retains your weapon, keeps it in a consistent position and makes it easy to reholster one handed. In this particular photo I am wearing a 5.11 belt and using my daily carry holster – a leather IWB holster from Blackhawk. Both are “sturdy” as well as performing the important task of holding my pants up. They fill my requirements for equipment perfectly.
Your carry weapon needs to placed on your body where it can be quickly drawn and employed. The two most common positions for this to happen are “dominant side carry” and “IWB appendix carry”. The image presented is my “dominant side carry” position – my right side at 4 o’clock. In IWB Appendix carry, your holster and weapon are positioned slightly to the left or right of your belt buckle. Most agree your ability to draw slightly quicker is enhanced by this position. While I have little fear of shooting “the boys” by carrying in this position, let’s just say my “body type” does little to make this comfortable. For others, it may be a carry position worth experimenting with to see if it works for you.
Regardless of your final decision on placement, it needs to be consistent . . . ALWAYS . . . every day. Your hours/days/weeks of range work will be worthless if you go for your gun in the heat of the moment and . . . it’s not there because you decided that day to carry it somewhere else that particular day. Find a comfortable spot – and leave it the hell alone!
As with anything you want to do well – “practice makes perfect”. Acquiring your grip prior to actually drawing takes practice. Take some time during your dry fire practice to focus on “GRIP” – that part of the draw stroke when you drive your hand to your gun. It’s after clearing your garments and before actually drawing your weapon from its holster. How you place your hand, how you physically grip your weapon . . . will be the “grip you fight with” when the time comes. Spend some time on this . . . and the rest of the draw stroke to first round engagement will go much better.
While actual numbers are endlessly debated . . . in general . . . gunfights obey the “rule of three”. 3 rounds, 3 meters, 3 seconds. You will not have time for “adjustments” like you do on a square range. You will not be able to say “excuse me, just a sec . . . my grip isn’t quite right!” What you grabbed, how you grabbed, what it looked like when you drew your weapon from its holster . . . is what you will have to live with . . . or die by.
It is worth your time . . . worth your effort – to spend some time on that one single element of your draw stroke. Because the grip you first take is, indeed, the grip you will fight with.