Drawing A Pistol From Concealment, Part 1: The Draw

Article published on the NRA BLOG website.

Article published on the NRA BLOG website.

By Andy, Green Ops Instructor

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is part one in a two-part series. To learn how to re-holster your pistol safely and effectively draw with various styles of clothing. Part 2 is posted here

After you have mastered the fundamentals of shooting a pistol at a target on a range, you may start to wonder, “How do I use this leather or Kydex thingamajig?” Ultimately, you’ll need to know how to draw the gun from a concealed position, particularly for those who want to become effective concealed carriers. But before you start throwing on the Hawaiian open-front shirt ripping fabric out of the way, there are a few things you need to learn and practice before executing your concealment draw.  

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There is definitely more than one way to draw your pistol from its holster when concealed. Additionally, there is a huge variety of different styles of holsters for all sorts of applications and environments. Options include leather, plastic, Kydex and other composite materials, while styles include traditional outside-the-waistband, inside-the-waistband, hybrid holsters, drop-leg, and even pocket holsters. The most important thing is to find a solution that fits your needs and train with that set up. The following steps can be applied to most types of concealed holsters.

Any new student that comes to an instructor should progress from the simple to the complex. The simplest way to learn how to draw a gun from concealment is by learning it from an open-carry position first. Many trainers refer to this as “running slick,” and you’ll add layers as you go.    

First and foremost: all firearms training requires adamantly following the NRA Gun Safety Rules. While training, especially for novices, I recommend using an unloaded firearm on the range or other prescribed shooting area. Never practice drawing from concealment in a public space, even with an unloaded firearm. Also, always be aware of your surroundings, and never point the firearm in an unsafe manner. Keep your muzzle downrange at approved targets only, even if you’re not pulling the trigger. Before holstering, check to ensure your gun is unloaded, and keep it unloaded throughout the exercise.

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The first thing you should practice is getting to or “snapping” to the gun quickly. This training does not actually involve pulling the gun out of the holster. You’re practicing achieving a master grip on the gun, but during this exercise the firearm should remain in its holster. 

You should simulate this fast reaction to access your grip on your pistol, hence the “snapping” name. At the same time, you should be moving the other hand, known as the support-side hand, up the chest.   

U.S. Army Green Beret veteran Mike Green of Green Ops Training, who teaches various firearms training courses at the NRA Range in Fairfax, Virginia, explains: “Imagine a 12-inch string. When your gun-side hand moves to the pistol, your other hand is tied to it and lands on your chest.” 

While practicing this motion, you should also practice clearing your cover garment, as well. I do this every time I position a gun on my body, and will typically perform 10 to 20 repetitions. Your gun doesn’t need to leave the holster to build this skill. However, if you are wearing your firearm in a holster while simulating your draw, be cognizant of your surroundings and consider how this training will appear to bystanders. For that reason, I recommend performing this exercise at home, on the range or in private, as not to cause undue concern for those around you who may believe you are attempting to draw a concealed firearm.

(Photo courtesy/Green Ops Training. NOTE: This photo depicts a training pistol device and is performed in a controlled environment. Always adhere to the Gun Safety Rules, and only aim a firearm at approved targets.)

(Photo courtesy/Green Ops Training. NOTE: This photo depicts a training pistol device and is performed in a controlled environment. Always adhere to the Gun Safety Rules, and only aim a firearm at approved targets.)

Establishing a good grip at the holster is one of the most important things for a good, consistent presentation from the holster. The grip you achieve from the holster is typically what you’re using through the end of the presentation. How you grip the pistol determines whether your support hand joins properly to form a proper two-handed grip, and whether or not you create good tension in your grip. This also will determine if your trigger finger actually engages the trigger in the correct position. Gripping the pistol too low may be a contributing factor in causing the gun to malfunction.  

The second step involves pulling the gun out of the holster – remember to follow the Gun Safety Rules! Depending on the type of holster you have, you may have to disable or unlatch retention buttons first before you attempt to pull the gun from the holster. This is not only designed for safety, but also helps prevent you from fighting a tug-of-war with your holster and being unable to deploy the gun when it is needed quickly.  

Photo courtesy/Green Ops Training. NOTE: This photo depicts a training pistol device and is performed in a controlled environment. Always adhere to the Gun Safety Rules, and only aim a firearm at approved targets.)

Photo courtesy/Green Ops Training. NOTE: This photo depicts a training pistol device and is performed in a controlled environment. Always adhere to the Gun Safety Rules, and only aim a firearm at approved targets.)

You should pull the gun out of the holster until the muzzle of the gun clears the holster. From a gun mounted on the belt line, I typically will pull the gun as high as I can to the pectoral muscle and rotate the muzzle immediately towards my target or threat. This ensures the gun is clear from the holster and allows me to shoot quickly if the threat is too close for a full arm extension. 

It also allows me to place my finger on the trigger and start taking slack out of the trigger. All too often, users will draw their gun, go to full extension, then put their finger on the trigger. This results in a tremendous amount of motion at the muzzle, which equates to loss of time and accuracy. On the range, you may just be a quarter-second slower; however, in real-world scenarios, timing could mean your life. 

Once the pistol is rotated towards the target, the non-firing hand should come from underneath and join with the pistol. The pointer finger from the support hand should touch the bottom of the trigger guard and the thumbs should roll forward into a stacked position. Your hands should now be gripping the gun firmly. Unless you are using a very small gun and physically cannot get all your of your fingers around the grip, you should avoid placing your fingers in front of the trigger guard. 

(Photo courtesy/Green Ops Training. NOTE: This photo depicts a training pistol device and is performed in a controlled environment. Always adhere to the Gun Safety Rules, and only aim a firearm at approved targets.)

As you extend the gun out nearing a full presentation, you should begin to slow down. In the NRA Carry Guard program, this is known as the “three-quarter rule.” This will help you acquire the sights quicker and reduce muzzle movement. 

That covers the mechanics of how to draw your pistol successfully from concealment and get on target. In the forthcoming part two of this series, we’ll discuss how to safely re-holster your firearm after you’ve engaged your targets, as well as how to manipulate different styles of clothing to successfully draw your firearm.

If any of these concepts seem foreign or unfamiliar to you, or you feel you’re not ready to train on your own, consider enrolling in a training course! Find an NRA Training course taught by NRA Certified Instructors in your area by visiting www.nrainstructors.org. For those that have taken fundamental training or have baseline knowledge, consider training at the next level by enrolling in an NRA Personal Protection In or Outside the Home course. Lastly, for those ready to learn advanced concealed carry and self-defense principles, enroll in NRA Carry Guard Level 1 training. Good luck, and safe training!

Michael Green