You have the right gun. Your cutting-edge holster is made with some lightweight, futuristic material. Your belt is even specially made to carry your defensive rig in a comfortable and sturdy fashion. You have then taken your shiny new handgun to the range and gleefully produced social-media-worthy groups. It looks like you are good to go for defensive carry. Quick question, though: How much time did you dedicate to a fast gun draw? This is where people often get quiet. Yet being able to quickly and smoothly get your gun into the fight is critical.
If something bad happens, you will need to get your weapon out of your holster and on target in a hurry—a skill that is oftentimes overlooked simply because it isn’t very sexy. It’s time to take a closer look at it, though. Let’s take a few minutes and break down a solid draw and in doing so, give you the tools to draw and fight back when needed.
Fred Mastison’s Tips for a Fast Gun Draw
Tip #1: Clear the Gun Smoothly
If you carry every day, you probably do so in a concealed fashion. So, we need to discuss a method to clear your outer garments in order to get your hand on your pistol. There are both on- and off-body carry methods, but we’ll focus on the former here.
If you are wearing a jacket or loose shirt, you need to sweep the cover away with your shooting hand. Place your support-side hand on your abdomen in preparation and then, with your fingers bent in towards your palm (like a hook), sweep the garment back with one fluid motion. Do this with gusto to make sure the garment moves far enough back so it won’t immediately rebound and interfere with the draw.
If you are carrying under a shirt, then use your support-side hand to draw the shirt up and expose the gun. Once again, do not try to take shortcuts by only lifting it slightly. Draw the shirt high and give yourself room to get a good grip.
Tip #2: Have a Strong Grip
Our next task is to get a strong grip on the gun—and your initial grip needs to be strong enough to actually hold the gun when you fire. Many people draw their gun and then make adjustments to their grip prior to shooting. However, this takes critical time and should be avoided.
To get a solid shooting grip, drive your strong hand down onto the pistol with your thumb going deep on the side of the gun. Make sure the web of your hand lands high on the grip, then close your hand and draw the weapon straight up. At this point, you should have a solid shooting grip on the gun.
Tip #3: Drop Your Elbow
Now that you have a good grip and the gun has been drawn out of the holster, it is time to get it pointed in at the threat. The easiest way to raise the muzzle onto the target is to simply drop your elbow to your side. This motion will raise the muzzle quickly and get the gun pointed in toward the threat. It is at this point that we place our finger on the trigger.
This “close-contact” position is more than a step in the draw stroke—it is also potentially a shooting position. The weapon should be pointed toward the threat with your forearm still in contact with your side. While not a super-accurate position, it is a solid position to shoot from in the event that you do not have time to fully extend your arms. A side note here is that we want to minimize any unnecessary motion. The only things moving are your support and shooting hands. Avoid crouching the body or adding any extra motions to this process. Make your draw simple and smooth.
Tip #4: Secure Your Grip
If time allows, try to get your support hand onto the grip for additional stability. Your support hand should still be on your abdomen, and now we are going to slide it onto the handgun as it moves forward. The support hand should melt onto the gun as you press it forward. The hand should settle in firmly on top of your strong hand, with your support-side thumb riding along the slide.
Make sure you have a complete grip that allows you to develop dynamic tension. The support hand pulls back as the strong hand pushes forward. This allows you to stabilize the gun and make better shots. It’s also important not to let your support hand float in space as you draw. There are countless cases of people shooting their fingers off or ventilating their palms because their support hand got in front of the muzzle as they pressed the trigger. At this stage, you should begin to take the extra travel out of the trigger and prepare to make your shots.
Tip #5: Press the Gun Forward
Now that our hands are welded to the gun, press forward to get the best shooting position. We have good dynamic tension and the slack is out of the trigger. We are 100 percent ready to fire a good shot now.
The last part of this formula is getting the gun into a fighting position. Your support hand can do more than just stabilize the grip. It can also help you raise the gun to your eye level. Press your support hand upward, under the trigger guard, to raise the pistol and shave time off of this step without losing your grip.
The firmness of your grip is crucial. We are looking for a very important balance between strength and subtlety. You must avoid crushing the grip because that will affect your accuracy. As a rule, I teach that 70 percent of the grip is based on the support hand wrapping around the strong hand. The remaining 30 percent of the grip is accomplished with the shooting hand. This allows the shooting hand to remain relaxed enough to execute a smooth pull with the trigger finger. Squeezing too hard makes it tough to move your trigger finger smoothly and in turn, negatively affects your accuracy.
Final Gun Drawing Tips
This “point in” motion should be as straightforward as possible with the muzzle always pointed at the target. You must avoid two major habits that some people develop. The first is called “bowling.” It is done when a person does not drop their elbow on the draw and still continues to bring the gun up. The muzzle then follows a slow arc from low to high as the shooter “bowls” the gun into the fight. Equally as problematic is when shooters raise the muzzle too high initially and create an “up and over” arc onto the target. As an instructor, I often dub this the “Charlie’s Angels” draw to help shooters prevent this sort of movement. So, if the shooter continues to make this mistake, I’ll give them one of the Angel’s names.
Lastly, we want to have a strong natural position behind the gun. Again, we want to avoid any extra motion if at all possible. The gun should come up to eye level and not vice versa. If you’re raising the gun while lowering your head, you’ll quickly turn into a “tactical turtle” with your shoulders bound up and tight at your ears. We must be able to shoot from a strong yet relaxed position.
Reholstering is really nothing more than a rewind of the initial presentation. Draw the gun back to your body and place your hand on your abdomen. Pause here a moment, then slowly and smoothly angle the muzzle back to your holster. Once in position, slowly and reluctantly slide the gun back into the holster. We go slowly in the event that something has gotten into the holster as an obstruction. Your shirt, spent casings, or other items can be dangerous if they make their way into the trigger guard of our handgun and possibly cause a negligent discharge. There is no need to rush reholstering. In fact, no one has ever won a gunfight by quickly reholstering their sidearm.
Drawing the handgun is a skill that any serious shooter must master. With time and repetition, it can become a smooth and instinctive motion. The smoother it becomes, the faster it will be. While it is helpful to practice and learn the draw in individual steps, you should focus on drawing as one motion as soon as possible. Range habits have a way of embedding themselves, and they’re tough to get rid of. I have dealt with countless students who learned the draw in a four- or five-step fashion. While they are mechanically sound, they unintentionally pause, even briefly, at each stage of the draw. This adds time to the draw, and time is something we have very little of in a gunfight.
Speed is a secondary component to gun drawing until you are able to do it right. With practice, the draw will be a natural and fast motion that allows you to get your gun into the fight. It is one of the skills we must master with the hopes of never having to use it.