Friday, September 5, 2014

Steps of the draw

One of the most basic skills for the armed citizen (other than the fundamentals of marksmanship) is the draw.  In my time teaching, I've seen many different variations on the draw, some of them unsafe, but most of them simply inefficient.  Even though an individual's draw may be completely safe - ie, the firearm is never pointed in an unsafe direction, their finger remains outside the trigger guard, and the safety (if equipped) remains on - if proper technique isn't practiced, they could easily introduce inefficiencies in their stroke.  The danger in these inefficiencies should be readily apparent - when the time comes to draw your firearm, you want it in action as quickly as possible because you're drawing in reaction to, (or anticipation of) a threat.  As my Green Team Chief said, "You have the rest of your life to get that gun out."

Position 1 - Accessing the gun
Fortunately, the draw is a very simple four-step process.  Once you grasp the fundamentals, the rest is practice, which doesn't have to be done on a range.  In fact, you can practice the entire draw dry in the comfort of your own home.  So let's go through the four steps, referred to here as Positions 1-4.  For the purposes of this discussion, we'll assume we're drawing from concealment:

Position 1 - Acquiring the grip
Position 1: The first priority in Position 1 is accessing the gun.  Since we assume we're drawing from concealment, this means moving your cover garment aside (whether sweeping a jacket or lifting a shirt hem/pant leg) or breaking the entrance to a purse/man-bag.  Once you have accessed the gun, you acquire a proper grip with your firing hand.  This is critical, as you may or may not get a chance to adjust your grip.  My money's on may not.  As you are acquiring your firing hand grip, you are also releasing any retention device your holster may have, such as a thumb snap, hood, automatic locking system, etc.

Position 2: In Position 2, the firearm is drawn and rotated to face the threat.  The rotation allows you to engage the threat if you are in a close quarters situation and don't have the room to push all the way to Position 4.  If your firearm comes equipped with a manual safety, it should still be on in this position unless you are actively engaging a threat. In Position 2, your support (non-firing) hand should be indexed somewhere out of the way of your draw.  I personally prefer placing it in the center of my chest once I am done moving my cover garment.
Position 2 - Drawing the gun

Position 3: In Position 3, your support hand meets up with your firing hand and your full firing grip begins to take shape.  Your muzzle should be pointed straight in the direction of your target or a little lower.  I don't recommend having the muzzle pointed upward.  Position 3 is also referred to as the "retention position" and you can fire from this position if necessary.  As in Position 2, shooting from this position is only recommended for close quarters situations.  Your finger should still be indexed alongside the frame, and any manual safeties engaged.

Position 2 - Rotating the gun
Position 4: The term Position 4 also encompasses the movement from Position 3 to Position 4.  As your pistol moves outward from Position 3 to Position 4, you are acquiring your final firing grip, and establishing your sight alignment and sight picture.  The movement from 3 to 4 is a straight push - like extending your arms directly outward.  The reason that you are acquiring grip, sight alignment, and sight picture during the movement is that once you have made the decision to fire, your trigger press should break right as the pistol arrives at full extension.  If you have a manual safety, it should be taken off as you extend.  Position 4 also encompasses the follow-through to your shot and any further shots that are needed to remove the threat.

Position 3 - Support hand meets for firing grip
Once you have removed the threat, you must assess the situation to determine if any other threats exist.  This can be done from either Position 3 or Position 4.  If done from Position 4, the pistol is only lowered enough to see over the firearm, a maximum of 2-3 inches.  Assessing from Position 4 has the advantage of being able to re-engage faster if necessary, but Position 3 allows a greater degree of mobility, in my opinion.  No matter which way you choose to assess, you need to asses 360 degrees - front, left, right, and behind.  I don't recommend turning your back on the original threat unless absolutely necessary (ie, another threat is present), as the original threat may be feigning the severity of the injury in hopes of lowering your guard.

Position 4 - Full extension
If you need to re-holster, simply perform the steps of the draw in reverse.  It is critical that you are familiar enough with your equipment to re-holster without looking at the holster.  Looking down at your holster distracts from any threats present, and should only be done in cases of extreme necessity.

I highly recommend practicing the draw and re-holster with a dry pistol.  Start by practicing step by step, but be sure to focus on smoothing out the steps into a fluid motion to maximize efficiency.  Avoid "bowling" the draw - moving in a bowling motion from Position 1 to 4, skipping Positions 2 and 3.  "Bowling"  eliminates the possibility of close quarters firing, and presents your firearm to the threat with only your firing hand gripping the gun, leaving it vulnerable to a grab.

It takes a lot of dry practice to build solid habits, but by focusing on your technique each and every draw, you will see improvement.


X Echo 1 is a 10 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served at various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team. He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer. He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US. In addition to his Coast Guard credentials, he is also an NRA Certified Instructor, focusing his attention on civilians looking for professional instruction for their defensive needs.