Draw Your Handgun Faster
Beau Doboszenski, Owner/Lead Instructor
Originally published February 15th, 2018
There are many methods of drawing a firearm. Different trainers subscribe to different methodologies, however each one has some pluses and minuses that are worth exploring as you determine which one is “best.” Some "gains" in speed or efficiency can actually harm your capability later in the draw stroke.
In this newsletter, we're going to look at four different methods of presenting the firearm and examine where "gains" in speed or efficiency early in the draw could actually be a loss in effectiveness and speed later in your draw.
There are four ways of bringing a firearm from the belt line to the sight line. They are Scooping, Cutting the Corner, Casting, and the Hockey Stick. And at first glance, techniques like Scooping and Cutting the Corner may seem the fastest. But upon closer examination, they are actually creating a serious glass ceiling for shooters because of terminal draw problems. Let's first go through each presentation method and its strengths and weaknesses.
This is a very common method of presentation, and with the rise in popularity of Appendix Carry, has become a common YouTube and Instagram gun ninja draw technique. The general gist is to imagine that when you bring the firearm from just above the holster to sight line, the muzzle scoops along the ground in the same motion that one might use to shovel and toss snow.
The benefit to this method is that it is very simple: the shooter just follows the upward swing of the shoulders to sight line.
The negative is that the shooter has the muzzle pointed toward the ground until the firearm is final firing position, meaning there is no useful way to place rounds down range until the last possible inches of the stroke. It also means that the shooter has no idea where the sights are in relation to the target until after the firearm has stopped moving. The end result is that shooters will quickly swing the firearm into place, take a necessary pause to find the sights, and then break the shot. In essence, any speed gained with the direct line of the Scoop draw quickly gets lost in locating sights for a flash sight picture. The allure of this stroke is that a new shooter can very quickly learn to get pretty fast first shots on target, but that allure gets tarnished when they realize the glass ceiling they've created.
CUTTING THE CORNER
This method is very commonly taught at tactical and law enforcement schools. Here the firearm is brought to the centerline of the chest and then quickly punched out to final firing position in as straight a line as possible, about a 45 degree angle, from chest to sight line.
The benefit here is that unlike with the Scoop, the shooter hits a retention position with every draw. This means if they are learning close contact shooting, they have a foundational position to work from, rather than having to develop an entirely separate draw stroke for retention versus full presentation. A second benefit is that the muzzle is pointed down range from a very early point in the stroke, theoretically allowing the shooter to begin returning fire from the moment they hit centerline position until the firearm is at full presentation.
The negative here is that similar to the Scoop, the shooter will not have sight alignment until the last possible second, meaning they have cut down draw stroke distance to save time, only to add it back on to find sight alignment later. Another negative is that human physiology doesn't support this draw.
The primary hand position will generally overpower the support hand position, cocking the muzzle of the firearm toward the support side of the body. ("Turret left, DMT Position 2 right) Therefore in the presentation from base or "turret" position to full presentation, often retention shots go heavily to the support side of the shooter, and are either misses or ineffective at stopping the threat.
This method has come a long way from the old days of the big downward swing that you'd see Farrah Fawcett or TJ Hooker perform on television. Yet this method can still be seen in television and movies with actors that don't spend much time learning modern pistol craft for their roles. With Casting, the muzzle will generally tip heavily upward from the hip/chest line and as the firearm is presenting out, will lower into place in the final seconds of the presentation. Overly exaggerated, the entire firearm will pass before the shooter's eyes before leveling out at the target. I see this presentation frequently with older shooters.
The benefit of this presentation, in it's most modern incarnation, is that the front sight post is given a prominent showing to the eyes during the stroke, giving the shooter an extended period of time to see that front sight post "fall" into position at final presentation.
On the negative, the muzzle is for a time directed entirely at the sky, which is completely ineffective for close range shooting. This necessitates learning a second draw stroke for retention, which is more work for the brain and body to consolidate deeply to deploy under lethal force stress. Also, the shooter again has only the final moment of presentation to align sights, usually eliciting a necessary pause at the end of the stroke.
THE HOCKEY STICK
In this method, the firearm begins at the chest level, rocked toward the threat. The firearm then runs up the body, in alignment with the primary arm, aided by the support arm directly into the sight alignment. From that point, the firearm presents flatly toward the target/threat, giving the shooter between 6 and 8 inches of travel with the sights already in alignment to shoot, or the ability to make micro adjustments to the alignment for precision.
There are multiple benefits to this presentation. The firearm is aligned to the threat early in the stroke, meaning both accurate and effective fire can be launched early in the engagement. Physically, this position is easier to maintain alignment on the threat, as the Shooting Platform (gun, wrist and elbow) are aligned from the moment the firearm clears the holster without any counter effort needed by the support hand to torque the wrist of the primary hand (which is what happens in Cutting the Corner). The differences between the rocked starting position of the Hockey Stick and retention shooting position is negligible, meaning every time the shooter does a proper draw, they're also conditioning a proper retention position. Finally, the Hockey Stick gets the firearm to sight alignment earlier in the stroke, meaning that the firearm can be shot while still in motion, as the shooter has had sight alignment for the last 6 to 8 inches of the presentation. No pause. No waisted time.
The negative to this position is that it takes time to condition it correctly. It's not a natural motion, like swinging up your arms or punching toward a target, so you'll need to practice this a lot to really make this skill function correctly.
At Defensive Mindset Training, we teach the Hockey Stick draw. Time and again I’ve compared technique with other shooters and found this draw to be the fastest and most accurate for defensive shooting. Learning the Hockey Stick will give you the ability to have a fast draw that is defendable at any range of the threat, from close contact to full presentation. This is a serious advantage to Defenders who are usually responding to threats, instead of launching the attack.
Take a look at your draw and see if you're limiting your ability to defend yourself from the second you take the firearm out of your holster.