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.