I tend to use escape drills often because it’s likely that my first response to real danger will be to try and get away. When/if I discover I cannot escape because of pursuit and/or being under fire, I may have to stop the threat from cover and/or while moving.
At the beep, run away from two bad guys toward cover
Draw from concealment and defend with two rounds on each while standing behind small/thin cover
Gun runs empty
Exchange magazines while running to better cover and defend against a third bad guy you didn’t see earlier
If you carry a concealed handgun, it means that you’re committing yourself to a few logical conclusions. In the event of a life-threatening event, carrying means you’re committed to:
drawing a live weapon from concealment in the heat and chaos of a terrifying moment,
doing so safely and competently, despite your adrenaline-compromised state of mind and physical mechanics, so as not to injure yourself or those nearby,
bringing the weapon to bear while avoiding physical or projectile attack upon yourself,
making the life-and-death decision to fire or not fire as the situation develops, moment to moment,
putting rounds accurately on your target, should you deliberately choose to fire, avoiding endangering innocents in the vicinity,
being able to properly decide when and if the threat has been stopped, and if there are other threats besides the initial one,
and, when the danger has passed, re-holstering your live weapon safely.
Now, how many times/week do you train to do those things, at least the mechanical things? How many times per day do you draw your live, chambered weapon from concealment with speed and deliberate intent and bring it to bear on a target, and then re-holster back into your concealed holster?
What about doing all this with the t-shirt that is longer than others you wear; the shirt that’s a bit more clingy than your others; with the jacket you wear zipped in cool weather; with the heavy coat you have on you during winter; with the gloves you wear while outdoors? How many times do you train to speedily and competently draw your live, ready-to-fire weapon from concealment under these garments…and safely re-holster? How many hundreds of times each month? Because hundreds of times each month is what is required for gaining any semblance of competence.
I wonder if most concealed carriers think about these things. Any of them.
In my experience most concealed carriers imagine that when they feel the need to defend themselves, some nonspecific things will “happen” wherein their weapon will move, safely and surely, from concealment into the perfectly formed grip of their outstretched hands…and, after some quick and easy decision, the threat “will be neutralized.”
I could be wrong. Perhaps I’m prejudiced by the fact that of the people I know who carry concealed, very few of them spend any time at the range training to do or handle or examine any of the things listed above. But they should because unless you have practiced unconsciously correct mechanics and habits, when you try and bring a loaded weapon into play from concealment while under duress—or while trying to perform quickly in a practical training class—you’re likely going to mess up in one or several ways. You might possibly even shoot yourself or someone else due to your negligence in training and resultant incompetence.
I believe this is what will likely happen because gun owners tend to shoot themselves when they “try something;” something they should try time and time again, every week of every month of every year of their lives. But they don’t, so they shoot themselves in the groin or the hip or the leg.
Instead of doing what is responsibly required of someone who carries a deadly weapon, I believe most concealed carriers merely practice drawing and re-holstering at home (when trying out a new holster), with an unloaded weapon, and I believe only a relative few of them visit a gun range to practice more than a couple times a year. And when they do they’re standing statically in a bay, slowly firing ball ammo rounds at a static target 7 yards away. This, anyway, is what my acquaintance, observation, and conversations with other shooters proves to me.
My tone here may seem a bit harsh, but, to take from a political aphorism, concealed carry ain’t beanbag. It’s deadly serious stuff that directly impacts people’s lives and fortunes in all sorts of ways. I therefore believe that those who aren’t prepared to meet their responsibilities with respect to carrying a concealed weapon should stay out of it.
Untrained and incompetent firearms owners seem to shoot themselves or others quite often. I say quite often because that sort of thing should never happen, given how easy it is to be safe with a firearm. Easy, yes, but safety and competence each require work. Lots of work and on a regular basis. It’s easy, but so many don’t seem to bother with it; the required training to forge competence and safe habits, I mean.
A Few Tips
The way to not shoot yourself while drawing your handgun is to do so with your index (trigger) finger ramrod straight along first the holster, then the frame of the handgun. You then keep your finger ramrod straight along the side of the frame until your sights are on your target. You need to do this thousands of times, perfectly, so as to make it automatic. You need to do this so many times that you become unconsciously incapable of putting your finger anywhere else.
If you do not do this thousands of times, you will fail when your conscious mind is occupied by some immediate threat and your unconscious mind is screaming, “Find the trigger! Find the trigger! Shoooooot!” In that case, you’re likely to shoot yourself or the ground while drawing.
The way to not shoot yourself while re-holstering is to
Look your weapon back into the holster. The whole way.
Know the habits of your outer garments as they hang and behave while you’re holding them out of the way while re-holstering. Know this from your thousands of repetitions in training. Know this about all of the kinds of outer garments you wear; not just clothing types, but each of the specific individual shirts, jackets, coats, etc.
Know the habits of your pants and undershirt, if you wear one. Know, from thousands of repetitions in training, how they may try and interfere with the opening of your holster; especially an IWB holster.
Re-holster slowly and surely, and know (from thousands of repetitions in training) what it feels like when some unseen piece of fabric is in the way.
Keep your index finger ramrod straight along the frame of the weapon the entire time, and keep your thumb on the back of the slide, so that it won’t be pushed out of battery by the holster or anything else.
Replace your garments to their normal hang/position and know the feel (from thousands of repetitions in training) of something being a bit out of place.
Do all of these things perfectly for thousands of repetitions in training, all while obeying the 4 rules of firearm safety out of habit (developed through consistent, ongoing training around other people), and you will never shoot yourself. Fail to do things this way and you will eventually shoot yourself. I’d almost bet my mortgage on that.
Last year, firearms trainer Larry Vickers announced that he was banning AIWB (appendix-inside-the-waisband) carry from his classes. Why? Because most people don’t train enough and don’t train correctly. Given the fact that his classes are open to shooters of various skill levels, in his place I would likely do the same. Because unsafe people are unsafe.
In his announcement, Larry observed…
“I know of two different students in two different classes taught by two different instructors who have shot themselves reholstering – I don’t want my name added to that list.”
Indeed. And negligently shooting oneself in the groin area is perhaps more traumatic than shooting oneself in the hip or outer leg. However, what’s at issue here has nothing to do with carry position. Rather, as always, the only relevant issue is safety and competence. Unsafe people are unsafe and incompetent people are incompetent. You may know them by their repeated lack of training and practice.
How To Not Shoot Yourself: Train
The thing that separates safe and competent shooters from unsafe and incompetent shooters is ongoing, contextually appropriate training. By this, I mean training that involves (after sufficient, requisite safety and mechanics training) drills that require drawing a live weapon from concealment while moving off the X and engaging targets effectively…while around other people…and then safely re-holstering the live weapon. Then doing it all over again and again and again. Even better if drills involve moving to and/or using cover, and better still if they involve speed reloads from concealment (you do carry a spare mag, don’t you?).
In the absence of this training, a person lacks competence at every step, which is highly dangerous given that it all involves manipulating a deadly weapon while doing complex things. Drawing a live handgun from an inside-the-waistband holster is not in and of itself dangerous at all. But the fumbling, unsure hands of one whose conscious attention is occupied by an immediate threat or training objective, without benefit of automatic muscle memory and unconscious habits, turn that multi-step operation into a crap shoot (so to speak), fraught with deadly danger.
An Anecdote: My Training
I draw and re-holster my loaded and ready-to-fire pistol at least 480 times every month. At least 320 of those reps are done in live-fire training on the range, where I draw from my AIWB holster and engage one or more targets, then re-holster the still-loaded pistol (Note: it’s a bad idea to holster an empty firearm. If you deliberately or accidentally make a habit out of doing that, it may one day get you killed. Besides, since you MUST treat every firearm as though it is loaded, make damn sure it is always loaded. Any other habit sows the seeds of failure.).
Here’s an example (below) of a concealed-carry competence drill:
Every morning after arming myself, I perform at least two draws of my loaded, ready-to-fire weapon from concealment. Additionally, I perform at least two reps of drawing my replacement magazine. I do this so that, outside of any range training I’ve done, I have a practiced understanding of how these clothes are best manipulated in drawing from concealment, today. I then do the same thing at the end of the day when taking off my weapon. This regimen isn’t enough by itself, but it’s a daily reinforcement of what I’ve forged on the range. It’s like brushing teeth; you just do it.
Now, I mention these facts to present readers with an example of where competence comes from. It comes from training; lots of training on a regular basis. And in the absence of lots of training on a regular basis, the result in every case is an unsafe and incompetent individual. There are and never have been any exceptions to this fact.
So don’t shoot yourself. Train right, train often, and pay particular attention to the draw and re-holster operations. Pay attention to these things a few hundred times a month. Or else.
My everyday carry complement has changed over the year. As we are currently at war (and will likely be at war for centuries) I carry what will allow me to better respond to a wartime attack by a trained group. This means extra rounds, a larger firearm, and a tourniquet. More on this in my article here.
If you’re anything like me, you’re always looking for ways to use the range facilities at your disposal in the most productive ways possible. At my indoor range, for instance, I cannot draw from a holster and the narrow shooting lanes prohibit all but the smallest body dynamics. So there I work on mag-exchange drills, hand drills, and plain ol target practice.
When I get to my local outdoor practical range there is very little I cannot do, but I have a hard time settling on specific drills to work. Despite the fact that I’m a competitive shooter, I only ever use my concealed carry holster and pistols when working on pistol drills there (Since my daily carry setup is concealed, that’s how I train.). Even so, I find my pistol drills lack a bit of structure and I’ve not made of habit of measuring my results against any standard; personal or objective. I’ve decided to change that.
After today’s excellent discussion with the owner and one of his instructors at my local practical range, I’ll be using various military and law enforcement qualification courses of fire as training drills. The first one I’ll be using as a drill is the Federal Air Marshal Pistol Qualification.
The Federal Air Marshal Pistol Qualification
The drill is executed at 7 yards using the FBI UIT-CB target. Each string (except #3) is performed twice, using a competition shot timer to issue start signals and to log the string times (and, if you’re really keeping track of things: the time between multiple shots).
Drill – each is performed twice
Rhythm: fire 6 rounds at one target (1x only)
On shot, speed reload, one shot
One round each at 2 targets three yards apart
Pivot 180°: One round each at 3 targets three yards apart – 1x turn left, 1x turn right
One round, slide locks back, drop to one knee, reload, fire one round
By recording my hits/misses and times, I’ll be able to find my trouble spots and track progress against an objective pressure standard.
If you’d like to train with this drill and keep track of your performance, here are a couple things you might like:
This week’s practical-range drill is run from concealment, featuring and aerobic workout and multiple small targets from three different distances: 7 yards, 17 yards, and 25 yards.
The Drill: Five by Three
Targets: Three 8-inch steel plates (or paper equivalent), placed 3 yards apart
Course of Fire: 25-yard range needed. 3 shots from each position – run from concealment – will include speed reloads between positions
Par Time: 26 seconds.
Use a shot timer and measure your time. The par time is 26 seconds, but aim to improve on each run.
You can see from the drill schematic that you will be moving both away from and toward the targets. Pay particular attention to your muzzle discipline while moving away from the targets—keep your muzzle pointed at the berm (behind you)!
Note also that you will need either a double magazine holder or two magazine pouches or a single mag pouch with the #3 magazine in your pocket (OR both extra mags in your pockets – not recommended).
Set up three 8″ steel plates on stands—or three equivalent paper targets—three yards apart at 25 yards downrange. Place a barrel or some other conspicuous marker at 7 yards away from the targets and another at 17 yards away from the targets. Your main/furthest firing line should be at 25 yards away from the targets.
Put the 3-round mag in your gun and chamber a round. Re-holster your pistol in your concealed holster. Place the other magazines in your mag pouch(es) and/or in your pocket(s). Your pistol and magazines should all be concealed.
Start at the targets. Queue your shot timer. At the beep, sprint to position 1 (7 yards from the targets), turn, draw from concealment and fire 1 round at each target. Your gun should lock open, empty.
Drop your magazine, turn and sprint to position 2 (17 yards from the targets) while you retrieve your next magazine.
When you reach position 2, turn and reload and fire 1 shot at each target.
Turn and sprint to position 3 (the 25-yard line). Be sure to keep your muzzle pointed at the berm behind you!
At the 25-yard line, turn and fire 1 shot at each of the targets. Your slide will lock back as you run empty.
Drop your mag and sprint back to position 2 as you retrieve your last magazine.
Reload and fire 1 shot at each of the targets from position 2.
Sprint to position 1 and fire 1 shot at each of the targets.
Note and record your time. Retrieve your dropped magazines.
Do at least 10 repeats on this drill. The drill will give you a good aerobic workout and test your ability to engage in precision shooting while your heart rate is up and while you have the pressure of the clock.
This is a precision drill, with the target areas being only 8″ in diameter. This is an effective target area for incapacitation and it is the maximum you should ever train to hit no matter your drill. Smaller targets are a good motivation for you to focus when aiming & shooting. Always opt for the smaller target in training.
The par time I’ve set here is 26 seconds, but aim to get below 20 seconds with 100% hit rate. If you compare this to a real-life situation where you’re required to save your own life from 3 armed assailants, note that you have the rest of your life to make accurate hits. Take all the time you require, but know that your life hangs in the balance.
Keep training hard. Training works. Responsibility is a thing™.
Every weekend I’m at the practical range for one or two days working on technical accuracy and/or gun handling drills for pistol and carbine. For pistol, which is what I’ll talk about here, these drills usually involve multi-target drills, barricade drills, weak-hand / strong-hand shoot/reload drills, various mag-exchange drills, high-heart-rate-accuracy drills…or a combination of some or all of those. All are run from concealment.
I train 100% from concealment because that’s the only way I’ll ever deploy my pistol against any real threat. The result of my 2015 training has been 65+ practical-drill training sessions of no less than 200 rounds. Each training session averages 30-60 live-fire draws from concealment and 40-80 magazine exchanges from concealment. I tend to keep my magazine loads minimal for drills so as to maximize opportunities for mag exchange reps.
When I get an entire bay to myself I like to run multi-distance drills. I thought I’d start sharing some of my training drills so here’s the one I ran today, where I got in 10 repetitions. I call it Double Triangle.
It’s a drill for medium-range engagement. This drill allows you to practice:
sprinting to a position then steadying your platform for accurate shots
managing accuracy as your heart rate climbs
Done right, your heart rate should be pretty damn high for the last couple of positions’ shots.
For this drill you need a 25-yard bay and quite a bit of room side to side. You’ll put 2 hits on target (steel–so you can hear your hits/misses) each from six positions. Makeup any misses immediately and exchange magazines as needed. The total required hits is 12 and you’ll have 14 rounds total loaded, so you can’t miss more than twice in the drill. If you run dry or are otherwise unable to put 2 hits on target from each position, that run is a FAIL. I find it’s best if you use steel so that you can hear your hits.
Place one barrel at 18 yards in the middle and two barrels at 7 yards, each 8-12 yards left and right of the target. You will shoot from the 25 yard line and from behind each of the barrels.
Magazine loadout is: 4 rounds in the pistol (1 chambered + 3), and 5 rounds each in 2 mags on your belt or in your pocket.
Use a shot timer. At the beep, sprint to position 1. NOTE: beginners should draw from concealment at the beep and then sprint to position 1. Those experienced at live-fire drills from concealment should sprint to position 1 and then draw from concealment. Put 2 hits on target, then sprint to the next position, etc…
BE SURE TO KEEP YOUR MUZZLE POINTED DOWNRANGE AT ALL TIMES. Be especially careful of your muzzle when running from the 18-yard position back to the 25-yard position. Also KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF OF THE TRIGGER EXCEPT WHEN YOUR SIGHTS ARE ON TARGET.
Do 6 – 10 reps for your workout.
Add one second for each hit outside of the “A” zone.
30 seconds (or better)
Require left hand only for positions 1 & 2 and right hand only for positions 4 & 5
Add more difficulty by requiring 1-handed magazine exchanges