The most famous practitioner of the crossdraw was Wild Bill Hickock. His normal carry method for his Navy Colt pistols was to have them in a sash around his waist, with the pistol butts pointing forward. From all accounts, he was an expert marksman, but this still didn’t stop him from being caught in Condition White in a saloon in Deadwood in 1876, where he was shot in the back.
Some law enforcement agencies used to have their patrolmen carry their sidearms in crossdraw holsters, some of them with a military-style flap-top fastening, which were suspended from a military-style Sam Browne belt. This must have made for some very slow draws in emergencies! Nowadays however, with all the equipment carried on the belt, a crossdraw rig like that would be unnecessarily cumbersome.
For civilians wanting to carry their handguns concealed, crossdraw can be an extremely valid carry method, which was brought to mind recently, when I was running an advanced class. One of my students showed up with a crossdraw holster. His reason for this was that he was from one of the northern states, where the winters are extremely cold. Consequently, when he carried concealed, he carried the gun, a Glock 19, where he could access it quickly from under his jacket, rather than having to sweep the jacket aside on the draw for a normal, strong side holster.
As a resident of Arizona, where summer temperatures rarely dip under the hundred-degree mark, few people wear a jacket, unless their job calls for it. Concealed carry here is simply a matter of letting your shirt hang outside your pants, to cover the holstered handgun, which is usually carried on the strong side, with the holster mounted just behind the hip bone.
The student had brought his cold weather jacket with him, and he demonstrated his draw method while wearing it. The jacket was a zip-fastened parka, and his draw was made by unzipping it with his left hand, while at the same time, his right would reach in and grab the gun. This seemed to work well for him.
Right now, I can sense dedicated Concealed Carry Magazine readers mentally composing letters, telling me that having a crossdraw means that the gun is within reach of your opponent. To this, I have an answer. One of the first rules of self-defense is create distance between you and your attacker. If he gets too close, you have two choices: step back and make the draw, or “stick one on him.”—a British term used when one uses a fist, or the point of the elbow to the face!
With crossdraw in mind, I went back to the range and worked out a few simple moves. As I no longer own a crossdraw holster, I used the old favorite, ‘Mexican Carry,’ with the gun simply stuffed inside the waistband of my pants.
A crossdraw also works well for women, as their body shape generally works against a strong side holster, which, unless specifically designed for women, will force the butt of the gun into the body.
With a target set out at ten feet, I found that the best way to draw the gun was by taking a step back with my right foot (I’m right-handed), which brought the gun more into line with the target. Left-handers should reverse this. From there, it was a simple move to draw the gun, and hits could be made at any time, even one-handed just after the gun had cleared leather. I tried this method when wearing a jacket and it still worked well, with the weak (left) hand dragging the jacket aside to enable the strong hand to grip the gun.
Another time I tried the crossdraw using a technique I learned long ago, back in the UK. I balanced a one-gallon milk container (half-filled with water, to give it some mass) on top of the target. Then, I stood facing the target and pressed the button of my shot timer. At the sound of the timer’s ‘beep,’ I hit the milk container with the heel (never use the fist) of my left hand, knocking it off the target, and at the same time, I stepped back and drew the gun and fired, with the trigger being pressed just as it cleared leather. Apart from getting splashed when the lid came off the container, I found this technique really worked, and that good center hits were easily made, in reasonably fast times.
This technique was designed for cases when your opponent has managed to get close to you, and could be in a position to snatch the gun. By striking him in the face (NEVER use your fist!), you are achieving three things. First, you are using force with your left hand to keep him away from you. Second, while your hand is in his face, you’ll have blocked his vision. Third, you can draw and shoot with no danger of getting your hand in the way of your bullet.
I found that for me at least, the crossdraw position worked best with the gun placed just to the left of the navel. I’m not a big guy, and there’s not too much room between the mid-line of my body and the hip bone, so placing the gun further away from the navel didn’t work. Wider people than me, with more flesh on their bones may find that the gun can be moved closer to the hip bone.
A crossdraw also works well for women, as their body shape generally works against a strong side holster, which, unless specifically designed for women, will force the butt of the gun into the body. This has the unfortunate result, which I often see on the courses Irun, of them doing a “Quasimodo lurch”; leaning away from the gun to allow their hand to make the draw.
Another plus point for crossdraw carry is that it makes carrying in a car so much easier. The gun is right there where you want it and making a draw from a seated position is a far simpler proposition than trying to get a gun from a holster behind the hip. Of course, with U.S. cars having the driver’s side on the left, it’s difficult to shoot out of the window, unless you’re left-handed!
There is a downside to crossdraw carry. You should make sure that the holster doesn’t have too much of a rake, with the muzzle of the gun facing too far towards the hip. This can make the gun’s butt come too near to the waistband of the pants, which could interfere with the draw.
Most holster manufacturers have at least one crossdraw holster in their range, and some of their products will be reviewed in a future article. In the meantime, here are a few companies whose products are well worth a look:
|Horseshoe Holsters (UK)
Finally, this story is true, and shows that words really do have wings. A friend of mine had worked in Hollywood as a stunt double for a well-known Western movie star. He decided that he would like to learn how to shoot from a crossdraw rig, using his customized Colt Officers ACP pistol. He bought a holster, and worked hard at his draw, until he was regularly achieving sub-one second draws.
Some wit in the class named him ‘Johnny Crossdraw,’ and the next time I saw him, he told me that he had bought another Officers ACP, with a matching left-handed holster, and was practicing his double crossdraws with it. I later saw him in action, and I can honestly say that he was a true inheritor of Wild Bill’s legacy. I only hope he stays away from saloons in Deadwood!
[ Tony Walker is President of SAS Training, Inc., in Scottsdale, Arizona. He teaches regular defensive handgun classes with his wife, Vannessa, and he is the author of numerous magazine articles, which have been published in the US, Australia, South Africa, and the UK.
Tony is also the author of the action thriller, Snides. He has recently completed a sequel, Pilgrim’s Banner, which will be published later this year. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out his website at www.johnpilgrimbooks.com to learn about his novels, which feature the hard-hitting John Pilgrim and his swift-shooting wife Sally. In addition to his novels, Tony has also recently completed How to Win a Gunfight, which will be available soon. ]
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