How to Practice Drawing from a Holster

When it comes to self-defense, carrying a sidearm is only half the battle.

When you are in a situation where you need to draw your gun from its holster, muscle memory and speed are important.  Drawing your gun on someone is stressful.  You might be fearing for your life and it’s the first time you have ever pointed a gun at someone.  Odds are you’ll be a bit shaky handed.

Think of it like eating healthy and exercising: people know they should do it, but it’s just easier not to.  However, when something bad happens, you instantly know where you should have put your efforts.

I Immediately Regret This Decision Ron Burgundy Meme
Don’t Be That Guy.

The tips below may seem a little on the basic side, but they are fundamental to being a responsible gun owner.  Training is important, but people often slack on it.

Why Should You Practice Your Draw?  

The old adage “practice makes perfect” really applies here.  The more you practice your draw, the better you will get at it.  When you have done the same movement a hundred times, you’ll feel a bit more comfortable.  

When you have the same move 100 times each wearing different clothing combinations, you will feel a lot more comfortable.  

What Exactly Do You Need to Practice Your Draw?

The list of items you need to practice your draw is pretty short.  You need your gun (obviously!) and the holster you wear when you conceal carry.  If you carry or plan to carry an extra magazine, you can use the spare mag and pouch when you’re training too.  I would also recommend starting simple. Wear something that you would normally wear such as a t-shirt.

Something you don’t need is ammunition.  In fact, unload your gun and magazines and move to a different room so there is a zero percent chance you will have an accidental discharge.  Aside from scaring the hell out of you, it is extremely dangerous.

In place of real ammo, use dummy ammo.  

at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Dummy ammo or “snap caps” lets you train for different scenarios without the worry of an accidental discharge (better safe than sorry).  In the case of your draw, you can make sure your trigger safety is on point. You can also draw, pull the trigger, drop the magazine, load another, rack, and pull the trigger again, without worry and without potentially damaging your firing pin, or at least with less strain on it. 

Seasonal and Obstacle Training

There are a lot of obstacles that could throw everything you practiced out the door.  Seasonal clothing, for instance. That includes your big ugly Christmas sweater, as well as a jacket or sweatshirt.  Even a dress shirt instead of a t-shirt can make a big difference in your shooting.  

Shooting in Ugly Christmas Sweaters
These Guys Know What’s Up.

Keep in mind that you won’t always have both hands free when you need to draw your gun.  You might be loading groceries in your car, playing on your phone at the gas pump, sitting at a stop light in your car, or have an umbrella in your hand.  How do you know how to handle these situations?

You practice them.  

Fill up some paper bags with something to simulate groceries and practice dropping or tossing the bag and drawing your gun.  

Have an umbrella in your hand?  Toss the umbrella forward to give yourself a second to draw your gun.  

Where Can You Practice Your Draw?

Drawing from an OTW Holster
Drawing from an OTW Holster

While you can practice your draw just about anywhere, I would recommend somewhere in your house where people aren’t going to panic when you draw and aim your weapon.  That means not in front of a window at night.  A passerby might think you are trying to commit a crime if they see a silhouette of a person drawing their gun and pointing it.  

Another thing to remember is no ammo in the room.  Everyone who has had an accidental discharge says they didn’t think it would happen to them because they were always careful… except, of course, the one time the gun went off.

As you get more comfortable with the draw, aim, and trigger squeeze, you can practice at a range.  This will let you get more comfortable with the process as a whole, but be aware that some ranges, particularly indoor ranges, don’t allow drawing from a holster. 

Practicing at the Range
Practicing at the Range

What Should You Do to Practice Drawing Your Gun?

There are a few steps that you need to be sure to include in your practice: 

  • Move any clothing out of the way,
  • Grasp the gun’s grip,
  • Keep your finger off the trigger,
  • Remove the gun from the holster,
  • Point it toward the target,
  • Pull the trigger.

How You Should Draw Your Gun

There are two primary types of draws.

Draw 1

Think about the old Westerns.  When the two guys are on the main street in town at high noon in front of the saloon (it’s always in front of a saloon) and they draw their gun and shoot, it’s a short draw: they keep their gun close to their body and fire.  

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Draw
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Draw 2

The other draw is the same as draw 1, except you are extending your arms more toward the target before you shoot.

Molly Smith Shooting
Molly Smith Shooting

Which one you use in a real-world situation will depend on the situation.  Most of the time, you need a quick initial shot.  The added time it takes to bring your weapon all the way up to your eye level might be too long for your initial shot.  

When you are in a situation where you are drawing your gun for your safety, you are likely going to surprise the person on the business end of your barrel.  If you take a long time to draw, aim, and fire, you are giving them more time to squeeze the trigger out of fear.  Since they probably have a gun pointed in your direction, milliseconds count. 

Holster Your Gun Just Like You Draw

A simple way to practice and keep your muscle memory is to holster your gun the same way as you would draw it.  Sure, it is backward from your draw, but the placement, grip, trigger control, and movements are the same.

When you are learning to play a sport, we’ll use baseball, it takes practice and confidence before you can hit the ball regularly.  The same goes for basketball, at first, you have to watch the ball when you dribble. After a while, you get a feel for it and can look at what’s around you.

Draw from Concealed Holster
Draw from Concealed Holster

Another thing to remember is to reholster slowly.  Even in a combat situation, you’re very rarely going to need to reholster in a hurry, and doing it slowly is the best way to avoid a self-inflicted hole in your leg.

The Position of Your Draw

The placement of your gun can affect how difficult it is to draw from your holster in a serious situation.  The small of your back (6 o’clock) with your shirt tucked in will be more difficult to draw that an appendix carries with your shirt tucked in.  

A lot of people carry at 3 o’clock, on your right hip, or 9 o’clock if you’re a left-handed shooter.  Another common place just around your hip by your kidney. You probably know where it’s comfortable to carry for you.  This is the spot you want to have your gun when you train.

Carrying Concealed
Carrying Concealed

Don’t wear your gun someplace that is easier to access than your normal carry location when you train.  You won’t have that muscle memory when you’re in a stressful situation.

Your draw won’t be an automatic movement to grab your gun.  You’ll have to think about it, and that takes time. Time you don’t have.

Secondary Gun and Magazine

Practicing the draw of your secondary gun is important too.  This training might be more inventive than drawing from your hip.  The motion will really depend on where you are carrying.  An ankle holster will have a different stance or reasons you might need it versus a backpack or purse carry.  

Ankle Holster from Uncle Mike
Carrying in an Ankle Holster

The same goes for your extra magazine.  Are you carrying a magazine pouch on your other hip?  Is the magazine carrier built into your main holster?  

These are all considerations you need to work into your practice sessions.  

Final Thoughts

While it may seem like all this training can be a huge hassle, it is necessary.  

How much time should you spend?  That depends on how comfortable you are with your draw.  Speed and fluidity are key. You can’t have your gun snag on your clothing at your time of need.  Practice your draw with different clothing and posture.

If you only practice your draw standing up with t-shirts and jeans, what happens when it’s cold outside and you have a jacket or sweatshirt on?  Or if you are sitting or kneeling?

The more comfortable you are with your draw, the better you’ll do under pressure without having to think about what you’re doing.

Now it’s your turn.  What do you do to practice your draw?  How often do you train?  Tell us in the comment section below!

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6 Leave a Reply

  • Jerry Hollombe

    No mention of what to do with your weak side hand. It is absolutely essential that it be kept out of the way of the muzzle when drawing and reholstering. When drawing from the hip, that means pulling it in to your waist as you grip the gun in the holster and leaving it there until the muzzle is pointed down range. That should be as automatic as keeping your finger off the trigger until ready to fire. There is no tactical advantage to shooting yourself in the hand.

    1 year ago
  • Ron Temis

    One thing I notice in the first picture and perhaps it's only an illustration, but shooting in a tine of danger or crisis does not allow time to aim. In Israel, they use what is called Instinctive Firing, where you bring the weapon up to your line of sight, cocking the weapon as you do so and fire based on line of sight and not the gun sights.

    2 years ago
  • Scott W

    You can get at least 1 practice draw in every day. At the end of the day, when it's time to take your gun off, instead of just taking your gun out of the holster, get in a practice draw.

    2 years ago
    • Chad

      Don't do this! Assuming you are carrying loaded, you are just asking for a negligent discharge.

      2 years ago
  • Joe L

    One day, after practicing my draw, it occurred to me how important it is to keep my right (strong-side) hand free and I started carrying groceries and umbrellas with my left hand whenever possible. I've done this long enough that it is second nature This allows my right hand to always be free should I need to draw my weapon.

    2 years ago
    • Sam

      I disagree, if you carry concealed you have to clear/sweep your cover garment before you can begin your actual draw so keeping your weak side free has always

      1 year ago
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