Enhancing the draw, part 1: access: a step by step approach to a swifter and cleaner draw
The draw of the handgun breaks down into multiple elements, though experts debate just how many elements there are. The object is to achieve as close to a single, fluid movement as we can, but in the course of that long movement, several things must happen, and each must be addressed at some point. I've seen four-step and five-step teaching systems. For our purposes here, we'll break it down into two or three.
First, there is access or getting the hand onto the bolstered sidearm. Next, there is presentation, the act of getting the gun out of the holster and into play. Finally, one could argue, there is completion. It could be firing the shot, perhaps taking a suspect at gunpoint or going forward with the exact task for the handgun as yet unknown. This month, we'll address the first step. Access
This is the most complicated step, because there are so many different ways to carry the gun and so many different ways to get at it. The first question is, do we come up under the gun in the old-time but still very fast "scoop" draw, in which the initial hand contact is the fingers touching the front strap of the frame, or down from above, making initial contact with the web of the hand on the back strap?
For a universal technique, come down from above. The scoop draw won't work with many holsters, such as the bellyband, most shoulder figs, a pocket holster, or some low-mounted tactical thigh scabbards. Nor is it well adapted to security holsters, which require multiple release movements. Coming down from above works better in these situations, and is also better adapted to drawing from concealment.
Each hoister style requires its own technique. For simplicity, we'll focus on the strong-side hip bolster, worn beneath an open front garment such as a coat or vest. Penetrating Concealment
What is hidden from the eyes of strangers is hidden from the hand of the wearer. To get inside the concealment, every instructor seems to offer a subtly different method. I would go on the assumption that the free hand may be otherwise occupied during an emergency, and focus on a technique that allows the drawing hand to do all the work.
With an open front garment, I recommend bringing the fingertips of the gun hand to the centerline of the torso, just below the sternum, keeping them in contact with the body. Now, with the elbow to the rear and those fingertips maintaining contact, bring the hand back rapidly toward the pistol. The fingers will sweep the coat back and clear, even if you can't turn your hips to help give the garment momentum to swing away. As this movement approaches its completion, you'll feel the fingertips brushing across the holstered handgun. Now ... Lock On
Let the web of the hand come down onto its contact point on the backstrap of the handgun. This will be high into the tang of a semiautomatic pistol's grip, or at the top edge of the recurve on the frame of a revolver. This in turn will index the rest of the hand to its proper position. The trigger finger stays straight, "disarticulated'" and working separately from the other digits, as the other three fingers lock onto the gun in a very firm grasp. We're going to have to exert some force in a moment to draw, and you want a hard hold to overcome any resistance, particularly if clothing fouls the gun or something else interferes with the game plan.
It is at this point that we release any safety devices that secure the gun in the holster. The thumb releases the thumb-break of a conventional safety strap. The middle finger unlocks a Bianchi Carry-Lok or a Safariland concealable security holster. The pad of the index finger trips the paddle of the SERPA from Blackhawk. On some police security holsters, both thumb and middle finger will release locking elements simultaneously. Some holsters may require a little "rock" in a certain direction to clear internal niches that secure on the rear of a cylinder or on an ejection port.
If the free hand hasn't been fighting off close-range assailants, shoving innocents out of the line of fire, or holding a flashlight, it should have been brought to midline of the body. I like to keep the fingertips pointed forward, better poising this hand to engage in a two-hand hold or to ward off a last-instant physical assault.
The access stage of the draw is now complete, and we're ready for the presentation stage, which we'll address next time. If you're new to working a pistol from the holster at speed, it wouldn't hurt at all to practice the access movement (with a triple-checked unloaded handgun, or a dummy gun) for a month until the next issue of GUNS comes out.