If you own a handgun, you need to know how to draw from a holster. Even if you don’t plan on carrying your handgun concealed, you’ll need a holster if you ever plan to attend a training class. You're planning on that, right? A good holster is also a handy, and safe, accessory that you can use at many outdoor shooting ranges. If you do plan to carry a handgun for defensive use, then it’s imperative to know and practice proper holster use.
Be sure to read How to Improve Your Handgun Accuracy in One Easy Step and follow the safe dry-fire practice steps outlined there before you start.
Before we get into the step-by-step components of a safe draw from your holster, consider the following:
- We're going to present the complete sequence as a series of steps. However, once you get the steps down, the process will be one smooth and continuous motion.
- Practicing your holster draws should be a safe "how slow can you go" process. Safety is paramount. If you go for speed, you're more likely to point the muzzle of your gun at one of your body parts or at someone else nearby. Take your time.
- You'll get faster the slower you practice. Here's why. If you go slow and focus on performing the draw steps exactly the same way each and every time, you'll "burn" the routine into your brain and body. The concept called "muscle memory" is a real thing. How much do you have to think about stepping on the brake pedal of your car or brushing your teeth? It's the same idea. You've done those motions thousands of times, so they’re now fast, efficient, and completely automatic. If you do your holster draw identically and perfectly in practice, the speed will take care of itself.
- There is a never a need to "speed re-holster." Even in real life, whether on the range, at a competition, or after a self-defense encounter, take your time. Depending on the type of handgun you have, you may need to decock it first, and you want to be positive that our finger is out of the trigger area.
The correct steps to draw from a holster
- Keeping your firing side elbow close, get a proper firing grip, nice and high, with your shooting hand. Try to grasp the gun grip perfectly on the first try so you don't have to adjust it later. Your elbow will extend backward and close to your side. Also as part of the first step, bring your support hand up and to your chest, placing it right at the base of your sternum. This brings your support hand in close to the body to eliminate the risk of it ending up in front of the muzzle. It also positions your support hand in the perfect place to grip the handgun as you bring it up into a firing position.
- Draw the gun straight up, keeping your trigger finger along the side of the gun. Only bring it as high as needed to clear the holster. Keep your support hand right where it is on your chest.
- Rotate the gun forward until it's pointed down range to your target. Rather than thinking of pulling the gun's muzzle up to the target, think in terms of pushing your firing arm elbow down — that will rotate the handgun. At this point, the gun is pointed down range but close to your body. It will also be right near your support hand. If you have to, you can shoot from this position single-handed or using both hands.
- Bring your support hand to the grip to get a two-handed grip while driving the gun forward. Keep the muzzle at or below the line of the target. What you don’t want to do is raise the muzzle above the target so that you have to lower the sight back down when your arms are fully extended. Think of the front sight as rising into view until you have a perfect sight picture.
If your gun has a safety, like the 92 series/M9 or Px4 Storm, be sure you don't disengage it until your gun is pointed down range — never operate the safety while your gun is coming out of the holster!
When it's time to reholster your gun, take your time! There is never a good reason to speed-reholster your pistol and trying to do so introduced unnecessary risk. Consider these steps as you practice putting your gun back in the holster.
- Be sure the pistol is de-cocked if yours is a double-action pistol or a revolver.
- If your handgun has a manual safety, be sure that is engaged.
- Make absolutely sure that your finger is out of the trigger guard area. If your finger is in the guard, the edge of your holster will push that finger into the trigger and cause a discharge. This is one of the main reasons you want to be slow, steady, and thoughtful when reholstering.
- Make sure that all clothing is out of the way. Use your support hand to clear your cover garment if necessary. You don’t want anything interfering with the gun going smoothly into the holster.
- I also like to put my firing hand thumb on the back of the handgun. For pistols, this is a tactile verification that the slide is closed and the hammer decocted (if applicable). Pressing on the back of the slide makes sure that it stays closed and the hammer remains down in case you catch the muzzle end of the slide on the holster edge. For revolvers, it is a double check that the hammer is down.
When practicing drawing and reholstering, going slow is always beneficial. Slow and perfect draw practice actually makes you faster. Slow and deliberate reholstering keeps you safe.