Former CIA Officer Jason Hanson Reveals...

Spy Secrets That Can

Save Your Life

Get Out Alive

The Drill: Pistol Draw Practice

, / 5249 0

I’m sure I’m telling you something you already know, but your odds of winning a gunfight (or any other fracas where a lethal response from a firearm would be appropriate) drop dramatically if you fail to draw your gun and put accurate lead down range. I know, obvious and thanks for nothing, Steve.

A note on the title/name of this drill. I spent a lot of time writing exactly what to call this drill in my training log. Ominous sounding things like “The Master Sequence” and listing everything I was doing. It eventually ended up with its clever title after a few weeks of just writing “the drill” in my journal.

I do intend to extrapolate on that point and with a degree of significance. I routinely practice my presentation. Every firearms training session, in fact. Let’s look into this further.

What is presentation? Presentation is the act of drawing your weapon from its holster and orienting it into a position where it is capable of responding to the threat. Yes, that simply could be considered unholstering and that’s not inaccurate. But it’s the subtlety of that weapon in a position to return fire, not just clear the holster, that makes it different.

For the sake of this article I’m going to be referencing a draw from some form of waistband holster, i.e., on the hip, although with a minor modification appendix carry would apply also. Also, the drill is dedicated to a semiautomatic pistol.

Rifle Drill



The break down of the presentation is as follows: Upon deciding to act to utilize deadly force the firing hand will establish the grip on the gun and manipulate any retention features of the holster. Here’s a wrinkle; if you are authorized to carry concealed, this portion would include clearing any clothing away from the weapon as well. Gameday is not the time to find out that sweater/jacket/loose shirt/etc… messes with your draw.

Moving on, the weapon is clear from the holster. As soon as possible the muzzle should be rotated upwards, towards the threat. By way of example, you decided to act because the drongo you observed with a huge knife decided that you were his choice of target. That was when he was fifty feet away. While your mind was doing the calculations of what has happened and what you need to do he has considerably closed that gap. Before you knew it he was right on top of you. But that’s okay because you read this article and practiced diligently and your muzzle was threat oriented upon clearing the holster. Despite your inability to assume the combat shooting stance of your preference, you were able to successfully get off a round, perhaps two into the threat. All of this equals a bad situation, without a doubt. But at least this will give you some direction. You can’t neatly package a fight and training is the only thing that will prepare you for some of the variables. Be mindful in practice that holding an automatic too close to the body while firing could be enough to place your weapon out of battery rendering it inoperable.

Next up in the presentation: bring the weapon up to the center of your chest and bring your other hand into play to fully support the weapon with both hands.

Finally, punch the weapon out into your shooting stance and commence firing.

I am not going to dictate what your shooting stance should be, although I prefer a combat stance, similar to my unarmed fighting stance. My weapon side leg slightly back, knees bent, hips lowered and front towards the enemy. As a uniformed officer and a SWAT operator, I have the benefit of wearing some type of ballistic armor and being able to face my most protected portion of my anatomy dead center, up front, very similar to a traditional isosceles stance.

Holstering the weapon

Holstering the weapon should look just like the above-described procedure except in reverse.

With the presentation described, I’ll explain what to do with the rest of the drill.

First and foremost, it would be irresponsible of me not to reiterate that the safe use and training of firearms are paramount. So, a quick review of basic firearms safety.

  1. Treat all firearms as if they are loaded
  2. Never point the muzzle of your weapon at anything that you are unwilling to destroy
  3. Finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot
  4. Be sure of your backstop and beyond

As a law-abiding shooter, you and only you are responsible for every single round you fire. That can’t be stressed or reiterated enough.

Off the X

Upon target acquisition, draw and fire using the presentation described above. But we’re going to add an important element here. An essential element of all combat; get off the X. Do not stand in one spot. Do not root yourself and hope for the best. Move. I don’t care if it’s as you’re presenting or after you’ve shot, get off the X. Keep him guessing, make him look for you, make him constantly readjust. I’m being overly repetitive because I want to drive home the point that if you’re standing still you’re helping him win.

Assess the target: Upon engagement ask yourself the following questions, “Did I hit? Did it work?” How I do this is I will keep the muzzle on threat and scan back and forth in a small zigzag pattern across the threat. Simple small lines back and forth. With each change of direction, I inhale or exhale, forcing myself to take in a breath. This should also help with getting you back into the here and now, opening up the tunnel vision you’ll likely be experiencing from the traumatic incident you were just involved in. The questions are important for obvious reasons.

Did I hit? That was your primary objective. So- if you didn’t, try again, if the threat is still present.

Did it work? If the answer to the first question was yes, in what direction is the situation going? Is he down? Is he stopping? Should I apply more force?

Either way, target assessment, after contact, will guide you to your next course of action.

360 scan

Next up, the 360-degree scan. For the sake of the drill when you made contact with the threat you were successful in your justified use of force. The threat has been nullified and we’re moving on to the next phase of the encounter. Well, we just scanned the bad guy and he’s down, what are we looking for now? Great question. Allow me to answer that for you. What we’re looking for is somewhat situation specific but there’s enough cross over to provide a go-to explanation. The first things we’re looking for are associates. Whose? His? Yours? The answer is yes. His and yours. Because that is what may determine your next course of action. If it’s yours, that’s awesome. You’ve just increased your manpower by one hundred percent minimum. If it’s the bad guy’s associate your situation just took a dump because this day just got harder. If there’s more than one new bad guy then the day just got exponentially worse. And I didn’t become a cop to do math so I don’t know to what degree but you’ll just have to trust me on that.

The other things we’re looking for on our 360-scans are avenues of ingress or egress. Is there a place to bail out should you need to? Are there positions of greater tactical advantage available should you need them? These questions cannot be answered for the sake of this drill because of the myriad possibilities in a real-world situation, but I want the idea in your head should you find yourself in this situation.

A word of caution on your scan. Be cognizant of where your weapon is pointed. At this juncture, had this been a real situation, onlookers could be aware that a shooting has taken place. What they won’t know is your role in it. Yes, you just saved the day. But if you’re rotating in their general direction with your weapon extended, well, you’ll appear to be a shooter looking for additional targets. And whereas this is true, they likely won’t gauge the context accurately. Additionally, should there be another armed subject on location whose reaction time was behind yours you could find yourself in a similar situation to the threat that you just neutralized.

Pull your weapon close to your body. Depress the muzzle. This way if there is a subject near you who is intent on disarming you due to misjudging your actions, you’ve taken a modicum of precaution in not having to fight a fellow law abiding citizen for your weapon.

I don’t like the idea of taking the muzzle off potential threats but barring wearing a uniform I think the tradeoff is worth the risk.

Tactical reload

If you find your threat is neutralized, but you’re not sure this event is over, now’s the time for a tactical reload. Now, I’m not going to teach a tactical reload here, I’m just going to describe it. A tactical reload is a conscious decision to reload despite the fact that your weapon is not empty. What I recommend is another quick scan after the reload is complete. Keep in mind that this step presumes you carry at least one additional magazine. You do, right?


Again, the situation would dictate this. But for the sake of the drill, it comes up here. Now I know that there exists the possibility of imprinting the automatic holstering upon engaging. But the onus is on you to create training scenarios for yourself that would put variables into play to prevent that. And we’ll touch on that shortly. But, the fact of the matter is, at some point, you will have to holster your weapon. And as I stated above, the holstering of the weapon should look exactly like your presentation in reverse.

Identify yourself

This is the last part of the drill, and I throw this in for plain clothes or off duty law enforcement. This is the part of the scenario where you will pull out that badge you carry in your pocket or around your neck, As the onlookers start to come to their senses they can see that you’re there bringing order to chaos and that is one of your primary functions.

I’d love to say that it would also ensure that you won’t be attacked by anyone else but I’d be lying. You might’ve missed an associate of the perpetrator during your scan, or there wasn’t one there at the time. Or you could simply be the victim of misinformation or poorly processed information. Too many variables to say.

So- when it’s all said and done, what skills have you worked on with this drill? From top to bottom: your presentation, target identification, shooting fundamentals, threat assessment, tactical reloads, and holstering. That’s a lot. Maybe too much, you say? Okay then start off slow. Break down the drill into its individual components and drill them until you have them down pretty solid. Then, by virtue of progression, compile all of them into a seamless drill.

Other things to think about when doing this drill, you can do it dry fire, right in your living room. PLEASE, make sure there is no live ammo in the training area. I’ll repeat that: NO LIVE AMMO IN THE TRAINING AREA. And even though it’s dry fire the four basic safety rules still apply:

  1. Treat all firearms as if they are loaded
  2. Never point the muzzle of your weapon at anything that you are unwilling to destroy
  3. Finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot
  4. Be sure of your backstop and beyond

You can do it live on the range. Then you can also keep score of how well your shot placement was (an integral part, no doubt). When on a live fire range please be aware of the rules of your range. Some people may not take kindly to you do a 360 scan on their line. In that case, look left, then look right. Keep in mind, “scan and breathe”.

There are other training aids out there to do the drill with as well. A warrior’s greatest weapon is their imagination.

Some other things that you could add over time: Add that factor of during the scan a secondary threat is identified and has to be dealt with. Do the drill with the partner, have multiple possible targets established, have the partner call out the targets that you need to engage, you’ve just added the element of proper target identification. For trainers out there: using some type of marking rounds you can make the drill force on force.

I generally preach simplicity in training. Add what is useful, reject what is not. And while this drill seems complicated the fact that multiple skills that can be taught and polished with one drill is why I use it.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.