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Improving your draw

An efficient draw focused on repeatable economy of motion can do much more than improve your weapon-handling skills, it could save your life

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We should condition ourselves to draw our handgun like we mean it every single time.

Todd Fletcher

By Todd Fletcher

Whether it’s during firearms qualification or in the middle of a fight for your life, if you want more time to shoot well, improving the efficiency of your draw will do just that.

An efficient draw focused on repeatable economy of motion can do much more than improve your weapon-handling skills, it could save your life.

Unfortunately, there are too many officers who draw their handguns as if a threat will give them all the time and space in the world. Generally, I don’t blame these officers for the lackadaisical handgun presentation. I blame their firearm instructors. There is no reason instructors should allow this type of draw and presentation during training. Allowing this laziness conditions officers to slowly present their handguns even when confronted with a threat.

Be intentional

We should condition ourselves to draw our handgun like we mean it every single time. Let me repeat. Every. Single. Time. If this isn’t clear to you, give me a call and I will speak more slowly.

The reason for getting the handgun out of the holster is to confront a threat. Do this like you mean it. The faster the handgun is drawn from the holster, the more time you have to assess and shoot accurately if needed. End of story.

So how do you get the handgun from the holster and on target quickly, smoothly and with utmost efficiency? I’m glad you asked. Long ago, we moved away from teaching the draw using the four- or five-step draw. We found even experienced shooters and instructors looked like robots drawing their handguns. Each portion of the draw was a herky-jerky mess of movement. While each step was executed, the shooter stopped momentarily between every step. Think I’m exaggerating this point? Look around the range at your next in-service training and pay attention to how people move while drawing from their holsters.

Instead of teaching step 1, step 2, step 3 and so forth, we demonstrate each portion of the draw while explaining them as one continuous movement of the handgun from the holster to the eye-target line (for clarification, the eye-target line is the final position of the handgun while held in front of the shooter with extended arms). This approach has proven that students who practice the proper sequence draw their handgun from the holster much smoother, with more efficiency and with less effort.

The draw

The draw starts with releasing the retention devices of the holster and obtaining a high grip on the backstrap of the handgun with your strong side hand while your support side hand moves to the upper centerline of your body. Traditionally, the support hand goes to the centerline of the body around the belt buckle. However, especially with more officers using pistol-mounted optics, we teach that the support hand goes to the centerline of the body high on the chest. The reason for this will become more obvious in a moment.

A quick note about gripping the handgun while it’s still in the holster. Once you remove the handgun from the holster, whatever grip you have is what you have in the fight. It won’t get any better. So, when your strong hand obtains a grip high on the backstrap of the handgun, take a split second to make sure you have established a good grip. Again, once the handgun is removed from the holster, whatever grip you have is the grip you’re going to fight with, even if it’s terrible. Make it good and don’t settle for less.

Once you have established your master grip, the middle finger of your strong side hand should be putting forward pressure on the bottom of the trigger guard as the handgun is lifted up and out of the holster. This is a tip and trick we have been teaching for over 10 years because it results in a more consistent and faster draw stroke. By putting pressure on the trigger guard with the middle finger of your strong side hand, the handgun will self-level once it clears the holster. You no longer need to lift and level. The handgun will automatically level. Think how much faster you can get the handgun oriented toward the threat, especially in a close quarter fight, if the handgun comes out of the holster already leveled and pointed at the threat.

As the handgun self-levels, continue moving the handgun in one continuous motion as if you’re drawing up and over a tall table. Your hands come together at the top of the tall table and press the handgun straight out into the eye-target line. If your support side hand is high on your chest waiting for the handgun, you won’t have any problem bringing your hands together and building your two-handed grip. If your support side hand waits around your beltline, it won’t catch up until your handgun is at full extension, which is too late for building a good two-handed shooting grip.

As you continue moving the gun to extension, your eyes should begin to transition to the sights if you’re using iron sights. If you’re using a pistol-mounted optic, the optic window should be moving into your eye-target line with the reticle becoming visible prior to arm extension. A consistent and smooth draw will bring your sighting system to your eyes without needing to search for the dot or sights.

Another trick to building a good draw: Start slowing the handgun down once you get two hands on the gun. When trying to be too quick, shooters tend to “spear” the gun towards their target. This causes the handgun to bounce like it’s on a spring. Instead, start slowing the handgun down so that it stops smoothly just short of being at full arm extension. This will shorten the “dwell” time before an accurate shot is broken. We define dwell time as the time it takes to settle the sights and press the trigger once the handgun is at the shooter’s extension.

Holster reluctantly

We use the term holster reluctantly because there are many reasons to be quick drawing from the holster, but there are very few reasons to practice speed holstering. Yes, there are times when we need to get the handgun holstered quickly, but they are few and far between. Instead, practice holstering reluctantly. Too many officers are injured during an accidental discharge because they were in a hurry to holster.

To holster reluctantly, simply bring the handgun straight back into the chest and place your support hand against the upper part of your chest as you direct the muzzle straight down toward your holster. Once the muzzle is aligned straight into the holster, place the muzzle of your handgun into your holster ensuring there are no obstructions like a shirt, jacket, or any other foreign debris. Insert the handgun into the holster, secure all retention devices, and check a second time to make sure your holster is clear of your shirt, jacket, or any other items.

This is a good time to discuss looking the handgun back into the holster versus holstering without looking. Should you be able to holster without looking? Yes. Should you holster without looking every time you do it? Absolutely not. If you can make sure your holster is clear and unobstructed, then you should make sure your holster is clear and unobstructed. I don’t understand why there are firearm instructors who insist on putting students in a position to get jackets or other items caught in their holsters by forcing them to holster without looking, then accuse those same students of a “negligent” discharge.

The bottom line is drawing from the holster in a smooth, efficient manner maximizes economy of motion and gives you more time for threat assessment and making good shots. The more you work on your draw, the better you will shoot because you have given yourself time to shoot well. Draw fast and shoot well. We look forward to seeing you on the range soon!

About the author

Todd Fletcher is the owner and lead instructor for Combative Firearms Training, LLC providing training for law enforcement firearms instructors from coast to coast. He has over 25 years of training experience as a firearms and defensive tactics instructor. He retired after more than 25 years as a full-time police officer and over 31 years of law enforcement experience.