TAC-TIP: Proper Handgun Draw Part 1

This post was originally published on 11 April 2013 on The Arms Guide.

In my last post, I talked about how practice makes proficient. One of the major points I brought up is that while it may get expensive to frequent the range often, it’s important to maintain proficiency with your weapon. The weapon is your lifeline in a time-is-life situation, and as a training adage goes, you will not rise to the occasion but rather fall to your level of proficiency. Absolutely nothing replaces trigger time, and even that is broken down into several categories (e.g. static shooting versus outdoor shooting versus shooting and moving versus nighttime shooting etc.). However, there are little things you can practice around the house that will also increase your level of proficiency with your handgun. One of those things is the handgun draw.

Safety First

handgun unload new
Proper handgun unloading technique.
handgun clear new
Proper handgun clearing technique.
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Always visually inspect the chamber to ensure it is clear of ammunition and other obstructions.

Before you practice this, ensure that your handgun is clear. Ensure the weapon is pointed in a safe direction (inside your house, this means that it’s not pointing at anybody, as if you do have a negligent discharge, there isn’t really a safe direction to point the weapon). Keeping your finger off the trigger, drop the magazine if there is one present and set it aside. Lock the slide to the rear, visually inspect the chamber for any signs of brass or live rounds, and shake the weapon to knock loose anything in the chamber. If there is anything in the chamber that will not shake loose, stop immediately, keep the weapon pointed in a safe direction, and perform remedial actions to correct the deficiency. Once you have ensured the weapon is cleared, allow the slide to go forward and dry-fire the weapon to depress the hammer. Now, you are ready to practice the draw.


First, let’s talk about holsters and holster placement. Given the condition that speed of the draw is as important as or greater in importance than concealment, you may want to invest in a hip holster. This can be inside the waistband or outside the waistband, depending on the weather, side of your handgun, and your body frame. Most times, you will want the holster to be placed somewhere that is natural for you. You don’t want it too far forward or too far back, as that will force you to exert excess energy during your draw. Keep in mind, this is a time-is-life situation, and even a split second wasted during a contact can cost you your life. I personally use my Disruptive Kydex Holster since I attach a light to my Glock, and I place it at about the halfway point between the front and back of my hip. That way, standing normally with my arms at my side, I can bring my arm straight up and have my hand on the handgun butt.


Disclaimer: There are several schools of thought regarding the “best practice” of drawing from a holster and preparing to fire in a self defense situation. The following description is one such manner (and my personal preference) of doing so.

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Relaxed, natural state.
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High grip on the pistol.
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Draw the handgun to chest level…
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…and service the target.

Now, for the actual draw. When you practice this, remain in a relaxed state until it is time to draw the weapon. This is to simulate having a threat present itself very suddenly, which is the case in the real world. You won’t be walking around with your hand on or near your weapon, so train like you fight. Once the threat is identified, move your shooting hand straight up and obtain a high grip on your handgun. Have your finger extended along the holster where your trigger finger is (this is important for other holsters. More on that in a bit). Bring the gun straight up to chest level and turn your hand so the muzzle is facing the threat (more on that in a bit as well). Then, push the handgun straight out, have your support hand meet your shooting hand to obtain a good Isosceles stance, and make target acquisition as you push the handgun out.


Let’s talk about the mechanics behind this. I have already explained why this practice drill is conducted from a relaxed position. You bring the weapon to your chest because this is the handgun equivalent of the low ready. This is due to close-quarter combat considerations. Will this come into effect if you’re out on a date with your significant other and a mugger confronts you on the street? Probably not. But if you’re inside your house and somebody breaks in, this will factor in. You keep your handgun close to your chest so if you enter another room, the perpetrator can’t knock your weapon away and disarm you. The reason you point it outward when you reach chest level is so if you don’t have time to extend all the way out before firing, you can fire as you extend and get rounds on target. Firing from the chest is a technique that requires trigger time for practice. For now, just file that information in the back of your mind and focus on the draw itself.

Also: if you use a SERPA holster, making sure your finger is in the right place is critical. The SERPA is a great platform but it’s one double-edged feature is that if your finger is not exactly in the right place, depressing the button in just the right fashion, you will not be able to draw that handgun. It just serves as good practice to keep that finger in the right place at all times, regardless of what holster you’re running.

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Relaxed state, concealment.
handgun concealment 2 new
Brush your jacket aside.
handgun concealment 3 new
Solid grip.
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Drive the handgun forward…
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…contact front!

So, let’s say that you don’t live in a jurisdiction that doesn’t allow open carry. Drawing from concealment with an OWB holster is not a problem. Stand in your normal, relaxed pose, and instead of bringing your hand directly to your gun, use your dominant hand to sweep your cover garment aside and simultaneously reach the handgun and obtain the solid grip. From there, draw as normal. This seems like such a simple step, but it is one that many people often fail to practice, and it causes them to fumble when they need their handgun in play. Again, remember: you don’t rise to the occasion, you fall to your level of training; time is life. The longer you take to draw that handgun, the more likely your assailant is to win.

Takeaways from this TAC-TIP:

  • Always lock and clear your handgun before engaging in this or any other drill, and place the ammunition at least out of arm’s reach while practicing.
  • Practice this without any clothing obstructions to get the technique down, then introduce concealment clothing to perfect the technique.
  • You will fall to your level of training in a time-is-life situation. Be proficient.

Keep your eyes peeled for Part 2…once I get the necessary kit, I’ll be covering how to draw from the waistband, which is another popular draw technique. For now, give this a try, and continue to look for more tips from The Arms Guide!

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