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The Quick Draw

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In an opening scene of the old television show Gunsmoke, Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness) delivers fatally on his fast draw. That, of course, was fiction, though the Minnesota native apparently was handy with a six-shooter.

The fast draw has been an element in self-preservation through the years, but it is not simply the man who gets off the first or fastest shot who wins. Think of Wild Bill Hickok’s 1865 shoot-out in Jefferson City, Missouri, with Davis Tutt. Witnesses said the two men took sideways stances on the town square before drawing and firing their handguns. Tutt shot first and missed. Hickok then shot Tutt through the heart from about 75 yards. It was truly an amazing shot.

Then, there was the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, both New York politicians. On July 11, 1804, Hamilton and Burr met in Weehawken, New Jersey. Hamilton fired first and missed (his friends say he shot into the air and not at his opponent). Burr then shot Hamilton in the stomach. Hamilton died in agony the next day.

These are old stories, but it is easy to go to YouTube or Facebook and watch actual confrontations from dash cams, body cams and bystander phones. There, we see three parts to a gunfight: the decision, the draw and the shot.

Concealed Carry Magazine tends to focus on the decision-making element: what to do when and if. There are so many situations, so many possibilities and so many laws and outcomes. Defending oneself can get almost to the point of complete indecision.

You go to the range to practice the shot (conventional or one-handed). You can concentrate and imagine that you are Wild Bill Hickok firing at a tiny target 75 yards away (though most indoor ranges limit your shooting to about 25 yards). You must take your time; some ranges forbid the double-tap. And never ever draw from the hip and shoot. At an outdoor range, it can be different, but even there, you are often subject to a rangemaster and may be directed on when and how to shoot.

What’s missing from the above? The fact that one-third of the self-defense equation may be drawing your weapon, pulling it out of a holster and aiming it at an aggressor. I don’t know why this is neglected, but it is probably because of insurance companies. (This is the same reason you can’t dive in a pool, ride a bicycle without a helmet or climb a tree. Somebody somewhere is going to sue.)

But you’ve got to practice getting that gun out of your holster. You’ve got to get that down smooth and fast. An identified assailant (probably a young man and possibly juiced) can very literally be on top of you in seconds, and don’t expect that he will wait until you’ve drawn your weapon, taken a deep breath and composed your sight picture. If you can’t get your gun out in time to deploy it effectively, there is a good chance that he will wrestle it away and use it on you. If you can’t get it out in time, maybe you shouldn’t try so that you do not risk dropping it or shooting yourself in your panic. Maybe in that situation, you should look to a secondary defensive option, such as grabbing a broken bottle or kitchen knife. Anything is better than allowing yourself or your family to be victimized.

I recommend you practice the draw at home with an unloaded gun. I repeat: an unloaded gun. Don’t just stand in front of a mirror and pull. Have your spouse time you or set up a surprise scenario in which he or she pretends to attack you in the home or the garage.

Go to the range for shooting practice. Study Concealed Carry Magazine for tips, ideas, practical issues and suggestions. Then, train for your draw at home. Practice so that reaching into your purse doesn’t result in a, “Now, where is that dang gun,” or reaching into your pants pocket doesn’t result in your .380 hanging up on the coin pocket or belt loop. Practice like your life depends on it.

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