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
Step Two- The gun hand raises the pistol from the holster. Shooter should drag his thumb up his rib cage until it touches his pectoral muscle. This ensures that the gun is free from the holster and gets the gun closer to the eye-target line. When the shooter’s thumb touches his pec’, the muzzle is rotated up toward the target and the gun hand wrist locked. (In a bad breath distance confrontation, the gun can be fired from here. This is often referred to as a retention position, as a result.) Once the handgun is pointed toward the target in this position, the hands are only a few inches apart.
Step Three- Once the handgun is pointed toward the target in this position, the hands are only a few inches apart. The gun hand is moved toward the shooter’s centerline, at the same time the support hand slides over toward the gun hand. As the fingers of the support hand overlay the fingers of the gun hand, a two-handed firing grip is established. We want to get both hands on the gun as early in the process as possible.
Both hands are now on the gun, and the gun is just below the shooter’s line of sight. A straight line from the shooter’s eyes to his intended target is called the “eye-target line.” In Count Four, the gun is immediately brought up to the eye-target line and thrust toward the target.
Step Four- If the decision to fire has been made, as the gun moves to full extension the trigger finger contacts the trigger and the eyes visually verify that the gun is on target, by use of the sights or a rough gun silhouette on target, depending on the distance and the degree of precision called for by the circumstances. The first shot breaks just as the gun reaches full extension.
Sweeping your covering garment correctly.
This simple four step process gets the gun out of the holster, under control, and on target as quickly and efficiently as possible. If the support hand is otherwise occupied or unavailable, the same basic movement of the gun hand would still be used. Now, this was the process for the presentation from an exposed holster. When we add a cover garment, we have to add one step to the presentation. We’re not going to change the process just described, we’re only going to add one thing, which is getting the garment out of the way. How this is done depends on the type of garment worn to conceal the gear.
Garments that open down the front (jackets, vests, windbreakers, over-shirts) are swept out of the way with the gun hand on the way to the holstered pistol. The most efficient method seems to be to hold all the fingers of the gun hand as if holding a small ball in your fingertips. Stab the fingers into your chest on your vertical centerline. This ensures that we’ll catch the edge of the garment on the first try. Use these fingers, dragged across the chest, to aggressively throw the garment out of the way, to allow a full, unimpeded grasp on the handgun. Once the garment is out of the way, proceed with steps 1-4, as described previously.
If your cover garment has a pocket at the side, like most jackets, put a couple of loose cartridges, your car keys, or a similar object in the gun side pocket for a bit of weight. This will help throw the garment out of the way, and cause it to hesitate briefly, giving you time to draw the gun before the garment swings back into place. If there is no pocket, consider sewing a couple of stainless steel washers into the bottom hem, to serve this same purpose.
Pull-over garments require a slightly different technique. The support hand is used to pull the garment up sharply and hold it out of the way until the gun is free from the holster. You want to pull the garment upward hard, then toward your centerline, so that your support hand winds up in its proper place for Count Two of the draw-stroke. Again, once the gun is out of the holster, proceed with steps 1-4.
Holstering your handgun is the exact opposite of the presentation. First, be sure we don’t need the gun out any more. Beware the tendency to “speed holster”. Come down to the ready and look, then holster deliberately. First, be sure your trigger finger is indexed properly, then retract your support hand to your chest, to the same place it goes to on Count One. Then bring the gun back to your pectoral index, turn the muzzle down, and holster.
If you have an open front cover garment, the little finger of the gun hand can be used to move the garment out of the way as you holster. If using a pull-over, leave the gun out in front as you retract the support hand and pull up the garment. The gun is not brought back to the pectoral index until the support hand is back on the chest, holding the garment out of the way. Most accidental dis- charges involving working from the holster occur on re-holstering, not on the draw-stroke. So, take care and be conscious of trigger finger discipline and muzzle direction while holstering.
Thanks to our good friends at The Shooting Channel for this contribution. Take a moment and visit their site by clicking here.