Working from the Holster: Essentials of Handgun Handling While Carrying on Your Person

IN THE PREVIOUS ISSUE, we discussed the essentials of handling a pistol or revolver for purposes of personal protection: how to put it into operation as well as how to visually and physically verify it as clear and empty. Learning proper handgun nomenclature augments safe handling procedures and provides the student with an excellent foundation upon which to build as he or she continues his or her progression in the use of firearms. Working from the holster is the next step for anyone considering carrying a handgun for personal defense, competition or any other use beyond just shooting from a table or bench.

For those new to handguns, it is recommended that a good starting place is a dominant-side, belt-mounted or paddle-style holster accompanied by a similarly mounted source for spare ammunition. Magazine or speedloader pouches can be mounted in several locations, but some places are definitely better for beginners than others. When working with a semi-automatic pistol, a good location is on the belt, centered on the opposite hip from where the holster is mounted.

For a revolver, speedloaders can be mounted on the belt just in front of the holster. For the widest variety of applications, the pouch should be configured to carry two magazines or two speedloaders and, in all cases, a sturdy belt sufficient to stabilize the holstered gun and spare ammunition is highly recommended.

Learning to draw from the holster to the target and to recover to the holster from the shooting position can be as simple as one, two, three. Initially this procedure should be done without ammunition so as to keep matters simple and give proper attention to the necessary details. The movement of the gun to the target from the holster can best be done in three simple steps: grip, draw and drive.

The Grip

The grip is the foundation of the process, particularly if the gun fits the hand sufficiently that it will extend naturally toward the target, just as you would point with your finger. The shooting grip should be attained when the hand is seated on the gun while it is still in the holster. Any straps, snaps, buttons or other retention devices should be released at this point. The trigger finger should be kept on the frame of the pistol or cylinder of the revolver through the draw. Equally importantly, the trigger finger should never enter the trigger guard (let alone touch the trigger) until the muzzle of the gun is pointed at the target and the decision to shoot that target has been confirmed.

The Draw

The draw is nothing more than lifting the gun straight up and out of the holster as high as possible while rotating the muzzle toward the target. This may tax the shooter’s range of motion to a small degree, but it positions the gun in the most efficient manner to engage the target.

The Drive

The third step — drive — refers to moving the muzzle in the most direct manner to the target as if one were to drive his or her fist into the target while throwing a punch. Speed is essentially economy of motion, so it is important to minimize any unnecessary movement of the gun when moving it from the holster to the target.

Raising Questions

In discussing this process, the question always arises, “When can I put my finger on the trigger?” The answer is, “When you know the muzzle is pointing at the target by way of your sights — or, in close-proximity conditions, eye/hand coordination — and you’ve decided to fire.” The trigger finger can then leave the side of the frame and deliberately contact the trigger with enough force to fire the gun.

The next most important question is when, exactly, during this process does the grip go from one-handed, as the gun leaves the holster, to two-handed, as you get ready to send a shot? A good starting point is to pre-position the support hand at the center of the body, ready to receive the dominant hand holding the gun as it drives to the target, thus forming your firm two-handed grip.

Always ensure the muzzle of the gun never covers any part of the body at any time when drawing or recovering to the holster, and, as in all other areas of safe gun-handling, make sure that trigger finger stays out of the trigger guard and up on the frame until you’ve made the conscious decision to shoot.

If everyone’s paying attention, sooner or later, someone will ask, “When should I see the sights?” The most succinct answer is, “As soon as possible, as the gun is being driven to the target.” There is no solid answer for any number of reasons, but sight awareness in relation to the target should come before the arms are fully extended into a solid shooting platform.

Safety Precautions

After the target has been successfully engaged and the shooter is ready to return the gun to the holster, a few simple steps will maintain safety and lay a good foundation for additional training in the future when tactics are integrated into his or her marksmanship skills.

When shooting is complete, the trigger finger leaves the trigger and resumes its position extended along the frame. The gun is lowered slightly to allow the shooter to admire his or her work and look around for any reason not to holster the gun. This is referred to as “scanning” and takes on additional meaning as tactics are added to the skillset.

An intermediate step on the way back to the holster is referred to as the “ready position.” This is nothing more than dropping the elbows to the sides with the forearms parallel to the ground while maintaining a two-handed grip on the gun. From the ready position, the shooter can extend the arms naturally back into the shooting position or continue to the holster. Holstering the firearm should be done with the dominant hand only, properly seating the gun and securing any safety or retention devices peculiar to the holster.

Wrapping It Up

These are by no means the ONLY ways to draw and reholster a handgun. Each individual is physically unique and may need to deviate slightly to find what is best for him or her. Regardless of the selected method, apart from safety, the most important points for instructors and students to keep forefront in their minds are smooth fluid movement from start to finish and practicing proper economy of motion. Everything else will come naturally.

You'd do anything to protect your family.But did you know... You're still vulnerable to criminal charges and financial ruin…even if you did everything right? Your USCCA Membership arms you with the self-defense education, training, and legal protection you need to protect your family with confidence. Because, after all, doing the right thing shouldn't cost you everything...

New This Week