I don’t give a hoot about my “open carry” draw.
To clarify, drawing from an outside the waistband holster without a cover garment isn’t relevant in my chosen universe. Indeed, if I were passionate about competing in action shooting sports like USPSA or Steel Challenge, then an “open” draw would be crucial to me.
I like to compete, but I view competition as an opportunity to test and improve my skills with my everyday carry gear, sans “cheating.” That means I use my carry gun with no lightweight trigger modifications. It means I use my every day inside the waistband holster with an actual shirt or jacket that I wear when out and about. I don’t "game" my carry configuration to shave some fractions of seconds from the clock just because it’s a competition. If my setup puts me at a competitive disadvantage, so be it. My purpose, after all, is to get better with what I carry and use.
Also See: What Makes a Perfect Carry Pistol
With that said, one thing I’ve done is modify my draw stroke routine. The necessary steps are all the same; I’ve just worked out a method and mnemonic that supports the elements I want to emphasize for defensive gun use. I'll share it here as maybe it will inspire some (safe!) customization ideas for your routine.
First, let’s outline the traditional and generic handgun draw steps.
- Bring your support hand to your chest to get it out of the way.
- Reach for the handgun grip with your firing hand and assume a solid firing grip before extracting the gun.
- Raise the pistol from the holster.
- Rotate the handgun towards the target.
- Bring your support hand into position on the gun.
- Push the gun, using a two-handed grip towards the target.
- Acquire a sight picture.
- If warranted, place your finger on the trigger and shoot.
These steps are often simplified in training routines, but all of them happen at some point.
For a concealed carry draw, there are some different factors to consider. For starters, you’ll need to move your cover garment out of the way, so it doesn’t get tangled up as you extract your handgun. You might need to fire from that low position, right after you rotate the gun towards the target. That means that you might need to reconsider when you place your finger on the trigger. In this event, you'll need to be very aware of the position of your support hand.
Having worked on the traditional draw for years, I’ve pretty well automated the safety procedure of making sure my support hand is out of the way and clear of the muzzle whether I’m drawing from a concealed or exposed holster placement. What I wanted to work on next was becoming very deliberate, and equally “automatic” about getting my finger ready to fire at precisely the right moment and not a moment too soon for safety reasons. Too early and you risk a negligent discharge into your own body and/or getting tangled up in the holster. Too late, and, well, who knows?
The other thing I wanted to “burn in” to my brain was a slow and deliberate re-holstering motion. There’s never an upside to fast re-holstering, but when practicing dozens of draws in one sitting, it’s far too easy to slip into the temptation of fast and potentially unsafe re-holstering habits.
With those goals in mind, I’ve been using two simplified mnemonics that guide my practice: Reach, Rotate, Finger, Fire and Hammer, Holster. Allow me to explain.
When drawing from concealment, the step of plastering your support hand against your chest becomes moot because that hand is generally used to lift the cover garment out of the way. Of course, if your everyday concealed wear involves an open jacket, then you have a different motion and can draw with one hand. However, I frequently wear t-shirts, polos, or untucked button-downs, all of which require the support hand to remove the shirt from the holster area. As a result, that hand is out of the way already, so the “Reach” motion covers multiple steps. The support hand lifts the shirt high while the firing hand grips and gun and raises it out of the holster. That high support hand grip keeps it well clear of the muzzle.
I chose to make “Rotate” a separate mental step because I wanted to emphasize that action before placing my finger on the trigger. In other words, I wanted to reinforce a habit of never touching the trigger until the muzzle was pointed down range. The smoothest way (for me) to do this is to drop my firing arm elbow as soon as the muzzle clears the holster mouth. Like a hinge, this motion raises the muzzle and aims it straight down range with no time-consuming wasted motion. When complete, you have a working, close-range firing position as soon as the rotation is complete.
Again, to reinforce keeping my finger along the slide and out of the trigger area until the muzzle is pointed safely down range, I inserted the finger step. In practice, I combine this with the motions of bringing my support hand to the grip and pushing the gun forward into firing position. If needed, the gun can be fired at any point in this sequence.
Fire (if appropriate)
The last step is to acquire a good sight picture and evaluate whether I am going to fire. Everything is ready physically, so it’s a mental check at this last stop. When I practice, I sometimes complete one or more dry fires at this stage and sometimes not because I don’t want to build a "training scar" habit of pressing the trigger every time I draw.
For slow, safe, and deliberate re-holstering, I use another short mnemonic consisting of "Hammer" and "Holster."
I shoot different types of guns on a regular basis, some of which are striker-fired models with no hammer and others like the PX4 or 92 that are double-action pistols with hammers. With either style of gun, I want my thumb resting (checking) the rear plate (or hammer) on the slide as I slowly re-holster the gun. I do that as a tactile checkpoint and reminder to check the safety or decocker status if there is one. It also keeps pistols without either of those features in battery in the event the holster pushes on the front of the slide. Yeah, I know. There’s not always a hammer, but the location for my thumb is the same, and I remember the double-H phrase easily. As I raise my thumb to the "hammer" position, I also "raise" my trigger finger to the slide. Always be sure your finger is well clear of the trigger before you re-holster.
Re-holstering should always be a tortoise and hare contest where you’re the turtle: make it slow and steady. The only things that can happen from re-holstering quickly are all terrible.
As I practice, mentally repeating these steps as I draw and re-holster help me focus on the specific elements on which I want to focus. You may have different goals, so feel free to develop your own training memory aids - just think very carefully about what habits you might be building. For example, you don't always want to holster after firing one shot, and you don't always want to fire when drawing your gun. Verbalizing what you are doing (even in your head) helps reinforce the steps that your brain and muscles perform.