The first rule of gunfighting is to have a gun! It’s hard to argue rock solid logic like that, but having a gun with us at all times is a lifestyle commitment. Whether you are a uniformed law or military officer, plainclothes investigator or off-duty cop, carrying a gun requires a commitment to the task, which I will be the first to admit, can be quite inconvenient at times. Even though carrying a gun is a real pain, no one has the ability to predict the future, so no one knows when you will need your gun.
The “best” small arm is the rifle or shotgun due to their increased power, sight radius, and multiple points of contact, but they are not acceptable to society at large. If you don’t think so, just walk into your local shopping mall with a rifle slung over your shoulder and see what happens. Thus, we will be using a handgun for daily personal defense and this is okay, but handguns are not that powerful. They are hard to shoot accurately, especially in a crisis or with one hand, thus their accuracy is less than desirable.
They are portable, so they are far easier to carry and conceal with the smaller the gun, the better. Of course, a small gun offers less power or a level of felt recoil that can be brutal, so we need to select our carry gun wisely. My feeling is that the gun should be .38 Special +P, 9mm or larger (.380 is good for back-up or special purpose carry) and the frame should be large enough to fill the whole hand. Think about sitting with your family in a restaurant and seeing an armed man walk in. Is this the time for a cute little gun that is easy to carry or do you want a handful of gun with enough ammo to handle the problem? The choice is yours.
A fast draw or reload comes from lack of unnecessary motion, not from spastic movement. The phrase “smooth is fast” is true and it is wise for everyone to try and develop a smooth draw. If draw speed comes from lack of unnecessary motion, then we need to look at where on the body a gun can be carried that requires the least amount of travel by the shooting hand. The problem with this comes from the fact that the shooting hand is seldom in the same place, so we need to consider where it will travel from.
As a general rule, the strong side hand will be in three locales: down at the side (walking, talking, at rest, etc.), in front of our navel (working on something, hands folded, at rest, making a point, etc.) and up by our head (reaching for something, startle, blocking, etc.). While it is possible that our hands can be behind our torso, it is not as likely as the locations mentioned. With this is mind, it is easy to see that having the gun mounted on the belt (the middle of the hand location spectrum) on our strong side requires the least travel. The cross draw has been used successfully, thus I would never change someone who uses it well, but I don’t believe that it is as physiologically efficient as strong side carry.
For side or appendix carry, the holster must have a neutral or slight grip to the rear cant as a forward cant requires the body to lean forward in order to get a solid shooting grip. At the same time, a forward canted holster is fastest above the hip as it places the grip in the optimum location when the hand must reach around to grasp.
An inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster can be used in any of these locations and will offer a higher level of concealment, but like all things, this comes at a price. The tighter the gun is pulled to the body, the harder it is to get a fast and solid grip on the gun. This is not an insurmountable task, but it will require additional attention in order to accomplish a smooth draw. Like all things in life, there are pluses and minuses with selecting the right concealment holster.
While smoothness comes from lack of unnecessary motion, consistency will create smoothness. To create a consistent draw, the hand must travel to the gun in a consistent path. If you take a moment and examine how the arm “folds” you will notice that the elbow can only bend in two ways: out or back. When trying to be physiologically efficient, taking the elbow out does not really get the hand where you want it to go, which is to the holster.
In the case of the appendix or hip carry, taking the elbow out actually pulls the hand away from the belt line, but by driving the elbow to the rear, the hand can sweep the entire belt line stopping anywhere along the way. Look at what happens when we use the elbow to direct the hand when it is in different locations.
Let your hands hang at your side and drive your elbow back. Notice how the hand “goes along for the ride” and follows a consistent path? Now try the same thing with the hands in front of the body and up by the head. It’s the same thing! The hand follows a consistent path that can be used to get the hand to a holstered pistol the same way each and every time.
Taking the elbow to the rear also helps conserve the space needed to complete the draw. What do I mean? For example, you are seated in a car or restaurant and something happens, requiring you to draw your gun. What available space will you have to accomplish this task? It depends on where and how you are seated, but the one thing you can count on is the space that you create by leaning forward. Whether seated in a car, desk chair or restaurant booth, you can create enough space to draw the gun by leaning forward and taking the elbow to the rear.
Garment removal is something that should be accomplished as the hand travels to the handgun, don’t make a big deal out of it. Keep it simple and effective. When wearing an open front garment, I like to engage the forward edge of the garment at grip level and then bring it back far enough to where I can turn my hand and acquire a solid grip. Once my hand is on the gun, I do not worry about the garment. I just draw through it even if it falls back on the gun.
I quit “flinging” the garment years ago when I realized that there will be situations where there isn’t room to “fling.” I keep my movements simple and minimal…just enough to accomplish the task. If I have a closed front garment, I have found that lifting it with the shooting hand as my elbow travels to the rear (a “sweep” action, as it were) lifting it up and off the grip, and gives me enough space to acquire the grip.
It is also similar to the open front draw action. This also leaves my support hand free to fend an attack, open a door, push a non-hostile out of the way or any other needed task that must be accomplished while I draw my gun. Otherwise, I bring my support hand in front of my chest so that I can “collect” my support hand as soon as possible as the gun travels to the target. The support hand makes a wonderful “windage adjustment” when trying to direct your pistol towards a hostile opponent.
A consistent draw does not just happen! It requires work. Start out slow concentrating on performing its correctly and consistently and let speed develop on it own. How fast should a concealed draw be? Don’t let the IPSC (International Pistol Shooting Confederation) Grandmasters give you an ill-advised sense of speed, these guys and gals shoot for a living. In a fight, if you can draw from a concealed holster and hit an 8-inch plate at 20 feet while taking a lateral step in two seconds or less, you are in good shape.
This being said, 1.5 seconds would be even better, but don’t let speed be your primary concern. Only go as fast as you can hit each and every time. Oh yeah, the draw stroke is the same whether you are standing, sitting or kneeling as it happens from the waist up. Practice the draw in various positions including those that are “unconventional.”
The first rule of gunfighting is to have a gun! It’s hard to argue…
by Tom Beckstrand / Sep 3, 2009