There are several common places to carry a concealed firearm and just as many different types of holsters to use. Despite your own chosen configuration the core elements of a functional and quality draw are the same. We will explore how to draw a concealed handgun in detail, below.
RESOURCE: If you prefer video to pictures and text, scroll down to the bottom where we have the full video.
In this article, I use the terms Strong Side, Appendix Carry, and Traditional IWB. To learn more about concealed carry positions check out our free CCW positions infographic.
Why Your Draw Matters
As a gun owner and concealed carrier, you have a ton of different things to think about and ways to train. I can think of nothing more foundational or important to train than your draw from your daily concealed carry holster.
Of all the common and core elements of firearm defense, the draw is the most likely to be neglected during regular training and is the critical first piece of muscle memory that leads you to a successful outcome. Put differently, you need to start out on the right foot.
Training The Draw Safely
A real easy way to end up on the local news broadcast tonight would be to attempt to draw your loaded firearm at full speed a few times in your living room. We recommend using either a laser simulated gun or dummy gun at first and even as you progress in your skills you may choose to use snap caps or dummy ammunition for a while. If you want to use your actual firearm we recommend using BarrelBlok.
Remember that there is really no difference at all, in terms of building strong firearm draw skills, between practicing with a live gun on a gun range or an unloaded gun in a “dry fire” environment. Further, many gun ranges prohibit drawing the firearm from the holster due to safety concerns. All skilled shooters will tell you they get 98% of their draw practice in at home in dry fire practice sessions.
Consistency of Concealed Carry Position
Training your concealed carry draw is very difficult if you carry the gun in a different position each day or week. Iron down a consistent and predictable carry configuration. Some things will change when, for example, you are wearing a jacket or coat in cold weather. But, as much as possible, you want to create a consistent and predictable configuration.
This is more difficult and even more important when considering off-body concealed carry systems like purses or backpacks which you may tend to carry in slightly different positions throughout the day.
If you do change positions be sure to get a few clean (and safe) repetitions daily so the correct muscle memory is fresh.
It is also fair to assume that at some point you may change the holster you are using or the carry position. When those changes are made it becomes immensely critical that you focus on putting in a lot of new hours, starting from the beginning and training that new configuration.
Dealing with Clothes, Jackets, or Any “Garment”
In a concealed carry gun draw, both the strong hand and the support hand have their own jobs to do.
Dealing With OUTER Garments: Sweep your strong arm back across the body to move or displace any jacket, coat, or any unbuttoned/unzipped outer garment. This is generally most effectively done by creating the habit of sticking out the strong hand thumb as you sweep it back toward your firearm. If you are carrying in front (appendix carry) this motion doesn't need to be complete and may not be necessary at all. If drawing cross draw, the support hand will have to perform this motion in addition to step 2.
Step 1 Remove Any Concealment Garment & Acquire A Strong Grip On The Gun
Use the support hand to pull up the shirt, jacket, coat, or anything else that covers the firearm. This motion should be “strong” and exaggerated to ensure the firearm is fully clear for the draw and won't be tangled in clothing. Pull the garment(s) up high away from the waistline and ideally your support hand (with the garment in fingers/fist) will be resting over your chest / pectoral.
You want that support hand over the chest because when you begin to draw the firearm in the next steps the support hand will be in the ideal position to enter the proper grip as you extend the firearm on target.
Getting A Proper Grip Before You Draw Your Gun
As a part of that step 1, you need to train at disengaging any retention systems that are built into your holster and acquiring the best grip you can before you even begin to remove the firearm from the holster. You may need to unsnap a snap, push a button, twist the gun to release, or something else entirely, depending on your concealed carry holster. Since each gun holster is different we can't address that step of the draw but it is worth noting as something you need to work on.
The first step to getting a proper grip is to drive the thumb of your strong hand down between your body and the firearm so as to position the thumb where it will actually be in your final grip. (*Disclaimer: I'm assuming you are using a right-handed holster if you are right-handed and a left-handed holster if you are left-handed. If you are using a reverse configuration then: Consider changing it … or just Drive the fingers down between the gun and the body instead of the thumb).
Rest your trigger finger straight across what would be the trigger guard and frame so as the firearm clears the holster the finger will naturally sit outside the trigger guard against the frame of the gun.
The other three fingers should wrap around the grip in this same motion. Depending on the holster and configuration you are using you may need to begin to draw the firearm in order to get the other three fingers fully around the grip.
Step 2 Draw Straight Up
In order to ensure a smooth and consistent draw, you should draw straight upward from the holster. If your concealed carry holster has a forward cant you should draw forward and up based on the angle of the cant.
Don't hesitate to draw FAR out of the holster in that upward motion. We want to avoid potentially leaving even the slightest part of the gun in the holster and we want to get the gun as close (in terms of height) as possible to the high center chest where we will later connect the hands and extend to target.
Ensure during this initial part of the draw stroke that the muzzle of your firearm stays clear of the body. Placing your thumb between the gun and the body, which should happen fairly naturally, can be a way to ensure that the angle of the firearm remains just slightly outward away from the body.
Step 3 Orient The Firearm Toward Target
As soon as your gun clears the holster your next objective is to position the firearm to be aligned with the target. You never know when you may have to fire your self-defense weapon before you can fully extend your firearm. More on this close combat position later.
If drawing from the strong side this means a true pivot as you drop your elbow down and the firearm rotates from the muzzle pointing down to it pointing forward toward the target.
If drawing from Appendix this orientation of the firearm to target is more subtle.
Step 4 The Hands Meet At Center of High Chest
Before we extend the firearm toward the target we want to bring it to the center of the chest. If you draw from Appendix position the firearm is already at the center of your chest. This is one of the proclaimed advantages of carrying the firearm in the appendix position. If you draw from the strong side or traditional IWB, you will need to bring the firearm across the chest from the armpit to the center.
Once the firearm is in the center it can connect with the hands and form the “master grip.” We use the term “master grip” to infer that this is your final shooting grip. You shouldn't have to make any additional changes to your grip before during the extension or before you shoot. The strong hand acquired the proper grip for that hand in Step 1. Now in this step, the support hand connects and builds the rest of the grip.
Step 5 Extend Gun Straight Toward the Target
With a two-handed grip on the firearm extend toward the target into your full stance. Because you built your grip and began your extension from the center of the chest you should be able to pick up your firearm sight picture very quickly on target before you even reach the full extension.
Throughout the draw but especially during the extension my knees bend slightly and I lean forward which brings my head down, ultimately bringing the sights of the firearm into line with my eye level.
Use the Body for Stability
Throughout the draw, you want to keep the gun hand close to your body moving it against the body. This will create greater stability, consistency, and be safer as it decreases the chances of muzzling an innocent person nearby.
Do This the Same Way Every Time
In order to draw your loaded firearm under pressure when your life is on the line, you will need to have developed great muscle memory so that you can do it as an instinctive reaction without any thought or awareness.
In order to build that muscle memory, you need to repeat the motions the same way every time and do it repeatedly.
Remember Slow is Fast
Another key to building the right muscle memory is to practice your draw from a concealed carry holster in slow motion at first and build speed over time. When your life is on the line you tend to move as fast as you are capable but in order to ensure that movement is good and safe, you need to build the muscle memory with slow and deliberate repetitions.
Drawing a firearm is a perishable skill. Each time you start a new training session “warm up” by doing slower reps.
Close Combat Position
There may be situations where it makes sense to fire the gun BEFORE we have the firearm at full extension. As soon as the firearm is oriented toward target (step 3) we can fire if necessary through step 4 and 5.
OR if know we need to shoot from a close combat position, either because it will be the fastest way to get shots on target or because your target is too close to safely extend the gun, then we can draw to that position and fire.
From the strong side or traditional IWB that is nothing more than getting the gun to Step 3 and then canting the gun slightly outward away from the body. This ensures the slide is free to cycle without becoming entangled with your clothing while also giving you a stable shooting platform as you rest the base of the grip against the bottom of the rib cage.
From appendix, you draw from the holster moving the firearm directly to the close combat position. Best to see this in the below video.
More of a video person? Here is the full explanation and demo:
Resources From This Article:
- This video is part of our Concealed Carry Fundamentals Course available via online video or DVD. Please consider purchasing for more great content.
- The holsters pictured are the Original Brave Response Holster and the Brave Response Appendix Holster
- The training firearms used are the SIRT Pocket Training Pistol and the SIRT 110 Glock Training Pistol
- Also recommended for training draw with your real firearm and holster is BarrelBlok
- Also, check out all the draw videos available in the member's area for our Guardian Nation members
What I want to know now, is how often do you practice your draw from your concealed carry holster? Let us know in the comments below!