By Tom Givens, The Shooting Channel
You have drawn your holstered sidearm and fired shots. The fight appears to be over or the practice drill has been completed. What should we do next?
Ideally, in your practice routines you should be deeply ingraining habits that will carry over into proper performance in an emergency.
Anything you do in practice the same way, over and over, will tend to be what you do under high levels of stress.
This applies equally to good habits and bad habits. As an example of bad habits, there are documented cases of police officers in gunfights taking the time to place fired brass in their pants pockets before reloading an empty revolver, sometimes getting killed in the process.
This was what they did on the range, and it carried over to the street. An example of good habits is a shooter who brings a handgun to eye level, in both hands, and gets good hits in a fight, because that is the way he practices religiously.
We want to structure our practice in such a way that we constantly reinforce good habits, while avoiding the formation of bad habits.
For this article, we’ll concentrate on just one topic, that of what to do once we stop shooting.
If we develop a standard procedure and practice it every time we finish a drill on the range, we are building a sound tactical habit.
A side benefit of this approach is increased personal safety on the practice range. Many people think drawing a handgun from a holster quickly is dangerous.
Rapid draw can be safe if done properly.
It is, if done incorrectly, but with just a small amount of proper training in the modern four-count draw stroke we can just about eliminate the risk.
Oddly, most shooters who are injured while engaged in practicing working from the holster are not shot on the draw, but while attempting to re-holster the handgun at the completion of a drill.
Most of the major schools have had students who accidentally shot themselves during training, and darn near 100% of those shootings occurred while holstering.
This is typically caused by what we call “speed holstering.”
The student fires the last shot of the drill, and while brass is still in the air tries to quickly stuff the gun back into the holster.
Whether the trigger finger did not get clear of the trigger guard soon enough, or clothing or some other item entered the trigger guard, the shooter jams the gun into the holster and it goes “Bang.”
This usually results in a bullet burrowing down the leg lengthwise, exiting around the ankle. Ouch! That is the training risk created by “speed holstering.”
Speed holstering can put a bullet right down through your leg. Slow down.
The tactical risk this habit engenders is that of putting the gun away too soon, only to find someone still needs to be shot! In a real fight, we really don’t want to have to draw that gun but once.
To prevent this issue, I suggest you use a brief ritual each time you stop shooting, to prevent speed holstering and its attendant risks.
In its most elemental form, the sequence might go like this:
Come down to a “hard ready.” You simply lower the gun enough to be certain you can see the hands and waistline of anyone downrange.
The instant the gun breaks the eye/target line, the trigger finger goes out of the trigger guard to its “register” position along the pistol’s slide.
Look at the target(s) you just engaged, then scan to left and right for any additional targets/threats.
Bring your support hand off the gun and back to your chest, to avoid flagging that hand with the muzzle when you bring the gun back.
Bring the gun hand back to your body and holster the pistol, slowly and deliberately.
Different schools have different methods for teaching this skill to new students. The NRA Law Enforcement Training Division, for instance, has shooters come down to Ready and scan, then they give the command to “Holster, reluctantly.”
The word “reluctantly” rein- forces in the student’s mind that they do not want to put the gun away prematurely. Make sure the fight is over, then holster.
Andy Stanford has for years taught “The Wyatt Protocol”, named after California shooter Lyle Wyatt.
It was codified by Andy Stanford and has been taught, in some form or fashion, since the early 90s. It began as a series of steps following an encounter:
Fight! Do I need to Fight anymore?
Do I need to fight anyone else?
Get Ready to fight again! Trainers at Tactical Response took the Wyatt Protocol and evolved it into the acronym FAST, or “Fight, Assess, Scan, Top-off.”
Adding “top-off” indicated the need to reload your pistol, to return it to full capacity. Recently, Tactical Response added another T, making it FASTT, or “Fight, Assess, Scan, Top-off, Treat”, with “Treat” referring to treating injuries to self or companions.
As far back as the 1970’s, I was taught the same thing by the venerable Chuck Taylor, as a series of questions,” Did I hit him? Is he down? Is he out of the fight? Where are his friends?”
The main point is to get out of the mindset that you “fired a few shots, it’s all over, stuff the gun back in the holster.”
Whether in training or on the street, when you stop shooting, come to a solid ready position and evaluate the threat you just engaged.
Then look for other threats. If desirable, reload your pistol in case things go bad again. Only then, safely and deliberately holster your pistol.
This is one range habit that will serve you well on the street.
Tom Givens runs www.rangemaster.com and writes for The Shooting Channel – take a moment and visit their site by clicking here.