By Tom Givens, The Shooting Channel
New students of the handgun have to learn a number of critical skills. One of the most important of these skills is the “presentation,” or drawing the handgun from the holster for use. Defensive shooters must be able to execute a swift, safe, and efficient presentation. Once the need for the gun has passed, the shooter must be able to re-holster the handgun safely. This entire process of drawing and re-holstering the handgun is the most hazardous process involved in using the pistol, unless one learns to do these things properly.
I have often read on internet discussion boards that a fast draw is seldom needed, and if trouble is brewing, one should have a gun in hand. This approach overlooks a couple of very real circumstances that we face in actual defensive gun uses. First, police officers often enter potentially dangerous situations with gun in hand. They are usually, however, responding to a radio call that forewarned them of a hazardous situation.
The police are often already aware of the threat and have weapon in hand.
The private citizen, on the other hand, is usually reacting to an immediate threat stimulus from an attacker, quite a different situation. Also, if the cop turns out not to need his gun, he holsters it and that’s the end of it. In many jurisdictions, a permit holder can be in serious trouble for drawing prematurely, or if it turns out the situation does not call for lethal force. Third, if firing is called for, the more time it takes you to get your gun out, the less time you have to make sound decisions and fire accurately. The ability to safely, quickly, and efficiently produce your handgun can be a life saving skill, and it’s one that requires some effort to master.
With full purchase on the weapon, the shooter now has control over his/her weapon.
Let’s look at the requirements I mentioned. Presenting the handgun “safely” means getting the gun out without endangering the shooter, or any other innocent party in the process. Improper draw technique often muzzle sweeps the shooter’s own body or other persons in the immediate vicinity, and trigger finger discipline has to be ingrained as part of the draw-stroke. Presenting “quickly” means getting the gun on target in the least amount of time possible.
An “efficient” presentation is one that gets the gun into a stable firing platform with minimal steps and motions, ready to deliver accurate fire.
Once the weapon is presented, trigger control becomes the next step.
A safe presentation depends on several factors. First and foremost is trigger finger discipline. All properly designed holsters will completely cover the handgun’s trigger guard, keeping a finger or other object from entering the trigger guard while the gun is holstered. Once the student starts the gun moving upward, though, the trigger will be exposed. Thus, the shooter’s trigger finger must be straight, and indexed above the trigger guard, alongside the pistol’s frame, where it remains until the gun is on target.
The initial draw requires practice.
Second, the motions involved in drawing the gun and moving it to the shooting position should not allow the muzzle to sweep over parts of the shooter’s body, or other persons. This is a real and constant problem with shoulder holsters, for instance. Third, the support hand must be positioned so that it is not in front of the muzzle at any time during the process. I suggest placing the support hand flat on the chest, at sternum height, thumb up, fingers together. Teaching the presentation in a “one step at a time” process at first helps to ingrain these proper hand positions and prevent accidents.
An “efficient” presentation requires as little motion as possible. Speed does not come from “hustle”, it comes from smoothness and economy of motion. Every unnecessary motion just adds time to the whole process. Ideally, the handgun will move through only two planes: straight up and straight out. To use a strong side belt holster as an example: the handgun is drawn straight up the shooter’s side until the thumb touches the pectoral muscle, at which point the muzzle is rotated toward the target, the support hand joins the gun hand, and the gun is thrust into the eye-target line and extended toward the target. This simple set of motions gets the gun on target as quickly as possible, in the line of sight, so visually indexed fire can be delivered immediately.
Here is the typical strong side belt holster presentation, broken down into four simple steps. As mentioned, learning these steps as “building blocks” helps the shooter absorb and replicate the correct motions.
Step One- The gun hand obtains a full firing grip on the gun, in the holster. This is critical. If you miss your master grip, re-grip the gun first , then draw it. Once the gun is out of the holster, trying to shift your grip will eat up time and create the possibility of dropping the gun, so get your master grip in the holster. At the same time, the support hand moves to the sternum, thumb up, fingers flat on your chest. Both hands move simultaneously.
Next, the critically important Step Two, Three & Four