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Can you draw your gun one-handed? Should you be able to?

Can you draw your gun one-handed? Should you be able to?


One of the overlooked aspects of getting the gun into play involves things we do that impede the draw process. Here’s why I think you need to pay closer attention to how you draw your handgun.

In my Threat-Centered™ courses I teach a block on one-handed (strong hand) shooting and the plausible reasons it might be necessary, but I’ve never really been as diligent about applying the same logic and analysis to the draw stroke. I realize that’s a shortcoming!

When I ask students for reasons that someone might choose to shoot one-handed, the most frequent response is “because you’ve injured the other hand/arm.” That’s true, but I’m more interested in the concept of shooting one-handed: “your other hand is busy doing something important relative to the incident.”

Being injured is certainly important, but more plausibly so is holding your child; sweeping your un-armed loved one behind you for protection; holding a flashlight to search/identify the threat; opening a door; calling 9-1-1; and you could no doubt come up with others. There are a lot of things that you would do (or need to do) in the incident that would result in your needing to shoot with one hand. (Read my article on plausibility to understand the difference between real reasons and fantasyland.)

I tell my students that they should dedicate a certain percentage of their practice time to shooting one-handed. How large a percentage? That’s going to depend on them and their lifestyle; someone who has small children or a spouse who doesn’t carry a defensive weapon will likely need to practice more often than someone who doesn’t, while someone who works as an executive protection specialist will need to do so far more than even the guy with the kids. For most people, 15-20% is probably a good number. If kids or spouses are involved, perhaps a little more. I don’t think 25-30% is out of line for those whose lifestyle suggests a higher likelihood of need.

So if we accept that there are times when we need to shoot one-handed, and that we need to practice that skill, we also need to accept that the same things which dictate our need to shoot with one hand will also dictate our need to draw with one hand. This would seem to be self-evident, but how many carry in a manner that essentially requires two hands to draw?

For instance, carrying a “tuckable” style holster, one which sits inside the waistband with the shirt tucked in over the holster, requires the shooter to pull the shirt out first before being able to get a hand on the gun. Most people practice pulling up the shirt with their off hand as they reach for the gun with their shooting (strong) hand. Why? Because it’s faster to do.

In reality, you may need to access that gun without the use of that off hand (because, again, it’s busy doing something important relative to the incident.) In that case you’d need to pull the shirt up with the shooting hand and then reach for the gun with that same hand. How many people practice that? From my observations, not very many!

“Ripping” the shirt out of the waistband with the same hand that’s drawing the gun is more awkward, and slower, than using the offhand. Since the proliferation of shot timers has made people morbidly concerned with the speed of their draw, most people “cheat” and use two hands to manage the task. If there are going to be a significant number of times when you won’t have that other hand to do that, shouldn’t you be practicing that draw one-handed? I sure think so!

The same is true for appendix carry, where the gun is carried to one side of the belly button and covered with a loose-fitting shirt. Most people pull the shirt up with their offhand, when they should probably be practicing getting under the shirt with their strong hand and lifting it up as the hand reaches for the gun’s grip.

Lots of us wear sweaters or sweatshirts during cold weather. Those heavy, loose garments make concealing large guns child’s play — but, again, need to be moved out of the way to access the firearm. Practicing that movement one-handed should be seen as an important part of being proficient with the gun.

Off-body carry is often quite hostile to one-handed access. The satchel or purse often wants to move away from the hand which is trying to get to the gun unless it’s restrained by the off hand; practicing ways (and perhaps carry positions) where you can get to the gun while the off hand is preoccupied needs to be part of your regimen.

There are carry methods that require the use of two hands and virtually can’t be done with one hand. Ankle carry is one that comes immediately to mind: the pants leg has to be pulled up considerably to access the gun, and because of the way it fits around the leg is exceedingly difficult to do unless the leg is bent significantly at the knee (which tends to pull the pant leg up all by itself.) If you’re standing on both feet and need that gun? You’re going to need both hands!

(This two-hand requirement is one reason I’m not a fan of ankle carry as a primary choice. For those who choose to carry a backup gun in that position, the nature of its expected use makes one-handed access an absolute necessity. Pull the knee up as far as you can, then access the gun. Don’t even bother trying to do this with a straight leg.)

Like the act of shooting, if you can use two hands to access the gun — great! For those situations where you can’t, however, you need to practice getting the gun out with only the shooting hand. Again, just like one-handed shooting 15-20% of time practicing one-hand draws from concealment would not be unreasonable for most — and you may very likely need to practice a little more than that.

Here’s an important point to ponder: your access to that gun is likely to be slowed significantly by the need to use just your shooting hand to retrieve your pistol or revolver! Before settling on a carry method, try drawing both two-handed and one-handed; if there’s a big difference in the time it takes, I submit that you need to think about what it means to your ability to respond to a sudden attack where lethal force is necessary.

Finally, don’t pick a primary carry method (or covering garment) that absolutely requires two hands to operate, or you may find yourself in a situation where you can’t!

-=[ Grant ]=-

  • Posted by Grant Cunningham
  • On September 18, 2014

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