It’s quite often I get asked, “How do I make my first shot from the holster faster?” or “What should my draw time be at X distance,” and my response is usually the same, it depends. There are a lot of factors that go into both of these questions. What type of holster are you using i.e. Retention, concealment, or open top? How good is the eyesight of the person shooting? What type of sights are you using? What’s the size of target?
The two elements to work on for faster draw times, is moving faster from the holster to presentation and reading the sights as soon as they are in front of you. I know that may seem like a big “Duh,” however it really is that simple. Oh yeah, and tons of repetitions. Remember, you can’t miss fast enough!!
When I first started actually using a timer to track how long it took me to get the first shot off from a holster, I was around 2.00 for an “A” zone hit at 10 yards. Now I could hit at faster times, but this was my every time, no miss hit. The reason for the last statement is because you need to know what your “repeatable” times are. Think of a baseball player, he can swing for the fence on every pitch and is more likely to hit foul balls or fly out because he is pushing his max ability all the time. Only on occasion will he connect for the homerun. However, if the player would perform at a more consistent level, and swing with a little more control, they maybe able to get a base hit more often therefore creating a higher batting average. Shooting a pistol can be related along the same lines. If you move so fast, throw the gun up with out seeing the sights and pull the trigger, you are swinging for the fence. The question to ask your self is, “Can I repeat that time with the same accuracy over and over again?
So how do we get the next level of performance? The first thing I would look at is your equipment. I believe equipment has a lot to do with performance. You don’t see bike riders riding the Tour De France on a Wal-Mart 10 speed. You don’t see professional chefs using the cheapest cooking utensils or Grade D meats. When I first started, I was using a factory Glock 17 with factory night sights. There is nothing wrong with that, however certain things needed to be changed to increase performance. I had trouble getting my first shot off at a time that I felt was solid. I could not see what I needed to see on the sights. For me, having three dots to look at and no space right and left of the front sight, caused me to hesitate too long at presentation.
So I was introduced to a set of sights from Warren Tactical and I have to say….WOW, what a difference. For me, it was like putting on a new set of glasses. Without hesitation I put Warren Tactical sights on all my guns. I prefer the all black rear with a fiber optic front sight. With having a red fiber optic, it stands out so much that my eyes are forced to go straight to the sight. So now I’m able to execute faster times without sacrificing fundamentals.
The next thing to look at is your holster. You have to understand that your draw times will change based on what you are drawing out of. A concealment draw or retention holster will generally be a few tenths slower than an open top. The times shouldn’t be drastically different but you should see some change. When I first came into Law Enforcement in 1998, we were using leather holsters with thumb breaks. Now the trend seems to be Kydex or molded plastic. I find that the Kydex or molded plastic holsters tend to be a little quicker. So I have switched all my holsters to Safariland Products.
For competition, I use the ELS Belt System with an open top holster for USPSA and the “Range Series” holster and magazine pouches for IDPA. I would recommend the ALS or SLS style holsters for guys who carry for a living. I have been running a SLS for over 10 years and love it. The retention saved my butt one night on the side of the road. So I believe I owe my life to Safariland !!
Now, once your equipment is set up the way you want it, it’s time to start learning how to move fast. If you are not familiar with drawing a gun from a holster, then the following may be a little advanced for you at this point in your training. I would suggest a little different approach until you are confident in drawing a loaded gun from a holster.
The first thing you want to do is get a baseline of where you are currently. If you don’t know what your average draw time is at 10 yards, go to the range and get that information first. Then you have something to base your progress on. One of the best drills I have found to get the gun out of the holster fast, is a drill called “beat the clock.” This is a very simple drill to increase speed of movement and speed of acquiring sight picture. Also, if you can’t make it to the range, this can also be done under dry-fire practice. I would suggest trying this dry a couple times first to make sure that safety is being followed and you don’t make a costly mistake during your training.
Here is how to set the drill up for dry practice. First make sure your gun and any magazines you have are UNLOADED, pick out a spot on the wall (Picture frame or light switch), and set a shot timer for a par time of .80. (If you don’t have a shot timer, go to this link or look up an app for it)
The idea is to react to the buzzer and have the gun out of the holster, sights aligned on your spot, with the front sight in focus, and the trigger prepped. At .80 this is very difficult to do, however you begin to move faster and faster to achieve success. Only 5 minutes a day and you will see improvement in your time.
Once you feel comfortable with the drill and feel you are safe while practicing, time to take it to the range. Start by standing 3 meters from the target. Being this close will give you a since of urgency when getting the gun out. When the buzzer sounds, draw the gun, present to full extension, and fire the round. Don’t aim!! We are just measuring the time it takes you to get the gun from the holster to presentation. This is also not a drill to teach point shooting. I’ll address point shooting in a later post. Rounds just need to hit the target somewhere. Start with a goal time that will push you. If you are at 1.25, shoot for 1.00. If you are at 1.00, shoot for .80. I try to be less than .75 with each draw. This includes retention holsters, concealment holsters and open top. Once you have done that about 25 times, go back to 10 yards and mentally prepare yourself for one shot from the holster. Once the buzzer sounds, move at the same speed as if you were at 3 yards, just hesitate on the sight to ensure an “A” zone hit. That’s hit. As your distances get further or your targets get smaller, the only time that’s added is the hesitation or aiming time. The actual draw speed is the same.
Try this drill the next time you are at the range and send me your results at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m curious to see how much time this drill can cut for you.