Transitioning to a new holster: How many repetitions is enough?

The argument that you should perform X number of practice draws with a new holster only goes halfway to real proficiency — you need to incorporate real-world scenarios and positions into that training


You just got a new holster. Perhaps your agency moved from one model to another. Perhaps you have the latitude to choose your own holster and wanted something that more comfortably fit your frame. 

Whatever the reason, it is commonly accepted that before you don that new piece of duty gear for a shift on the streets, you have to do a number of practice draws to ensure that you are familiar enough with your new equipment that you can use it quickly and effectively should the need arise. 

The question is frequently asked, “How many repetitions is enough?”

Ideally, you have already purchased an inert replica of your handgun — either a Blue Gun or a SIRT Pistol from Next Level Training. If you don’t possess such a training tool, it’s advisable to unload and inspect your firearm to ensure that there is no possibility of an accidental (or negligent) discharge in your training environment. 
Ideally, you have already purchased an inert replica of your handgun — either a Blue Gun or a SIRT Pistol from Next Level Training. If you don’t possess such a training tool, it’s advisable to unload and inspect your firearm to ensure that there is no possibility of an accidental (or negligent) discharge in your training environment.  (PoliceOne Image)

The answer is more complicated that putting a number on it. For some people, doing five to ten practice draws per day for a period of time is sufficient for them to feel confident in the new gear. Others insist on doing hundreds of practice draws before they feel truly comfortable with their new rig.

I want to posit a different question about practice reps with a new holster. In how many different positions and scenarios have you practiced drawing from your new holster? Simply drawing from a standing position does not accurately replicate the various situations in which you may be forced to respond to a deadly threat. 

Here are a few suggestions on ways in which your practice draws can be made more realistic, and hopefully more effective, at preparing you for a deadly confrontation on the street.

Ideally, you have already purchased an inert replica of your handgun — either a Blue Gun or a SIRT Pistol from Next Level Training. If you don’t possess such a training tool, it’s advisable to unload and inspect your firearm to ensure that there is no possibility of an accidental (or negligent) discharge in your training environment. 

Scenario #1: Sitting in a vehicle 

The first situation/scenario I would choose to do some practice draws is my vehicle. The increasing number of ambush attacks on cops in their cars makes that space one of the most likely in which you might need to defend yourself with your sidearm. The cramped space makes a rapid draw difficult, but not impossible. In addition to drawing your weapon, you may want to add an element decision-making process — to unbuckle and exit the vehicle, or slamming the car into drive and exiting the area, for example. 

Scenario #2: Seated at a restaurant

Drawing from a seated position in a car is tricky, but doing so while seated at a restaurant is only slightly less difficult. Remember that three of the four officers killed at the Forza Coffee Shop in Lakewood (Washington) in November of 2009 were seated. A kitchen table and chair can realistically substitute for just about any restaurant you might find yourself dining. 

Scenario #3: Supine on the ground

Another position to consider is supine. Being in a knock-down, drag-out physical fight with an adversary who has gained an advantage over you is absolutely a foreseeable situation in which use of deadly force would be legally justifiable. Check out this video tactical tip, in which Don Gula demonstrates how an officer on the ground might defend against an armed assailant who is standing above, for an example of how this might look.

Scenario #4: Using your support-side hand

Consider also practicing drawing with your support-side hand. The possibility exists that your strong side hand (and/or arm) will be out of the fight before you can even return fire. Drawing, shooting, and reholstering with your off hand may one day be a life-saving skill. 

Scenario #5: Drawing on the move

It should go without saying that you should practice drawing while moving, but failing to include that in this article would border on negligent. Don’t limit your movement to simply “getting off the X” to the left or right. Practice draws while walking and even running. Remember the above admonition to use a cleared weapon or an inert replica? This becomes especially important during these types of exercises. 

Conclusion

Be sure to do regular and repeated draws on any/all of the holsters you carry. I have two primary CCW holsters — an IWB and an OWB of the same exact model from JM Custom Kydex. Both have exactly the same retention. Both have the same cant. Both are worn in exactly the same position on my body. I had already done literally thousands of draws (dry fire and live fire) with the OWB when I added the IWB to my locker. Regardless of how close to identical they are, with the new rig I spent many hours doing all the repetitions that I’d done with the OWB of the same design. 

Finally, take the time to get to the range and practice your draw with your loaded gun. Practice getting your sights downrange quickly and accurately, and delivering rounds that would stop any threat you might encounter on the street. If your agency won’t pay for your ammo, do it on your own — your life is worth every penny and every moment of time spent in training. Remember, when the time to perform arrives, the time to prepare has passed. 

Train hard, and give yourself the best opportunity stay in the fight when you find yourself facing a deadly threat. 

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