Anatomy of the Competition Draw: The Race Holster

Posted by Kyle Schmidt

May 2, 2016 12:08:02 PM


In competition mode, speed and accuracy in every aspect are paramount.  

The competition holster undeniably provides the shooter with the best opportunity for drawing the gun out of the holster and onto the target in the least amount of time. Essentially, the single most important benefit of using a competition holster is consistency. And also speed. And then there's the flexibility. Well... you get the idea. There are a lot of benefits.

Selecting Your Approach

For competition shooters, the type of holster used is dictated by the type of competition and the divisions in which they are shooting. For example, the holster I use for the NRA Bianchi Cup in Open Division with my Springfield Custom™ 1911 is a Safariland® Model 014. Many refer to this type of holster as a "Race" holster.  Think cars... again, it's all about speed. The 014 is legal for both the Open and Metallic divisions, but it isn't legal in Production Division.

That same race holster is legal in United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) matches in Open, Limited, Limited 10 and Revolver divisions. It isn't Single-Stack, Production or carry optics division legal. Each shooting sport has rules that relate not only to the type of holster you can wear, but also the position of the holster on your body.

Position is Paramount

The ability to customize positioning can be one of the biggest draws of a competition holster. Positioning the holster properly will have a substantial impact on how quickly you can draw the gun. When the holster is set up correctly, it should be positioned so that the gun can be retrieved effortlessly every time by the shooting hand. This will provide the foundation for a consistent draw.


Retrieving the gun from the holster quickly is another advantage of the competition holster. By design, the competition holster requires only a minimal amount of gun movement to release the gun from the holster. Because only minimal gun movement is required, this provides greater speed and allows some flexibility as to how the shooter can retrieve the gun from the holster.

getting the gun out

There are three common approaches in which the shooter can get the gun out of a competition holster. All three of these methods can produce an extremely fast draw if completed correctly.

  • The Sideways Approach
  • The Top-Down Approach
  • The Bottom-Up Approach

The Sideways Approach

The sideways approach can be used from virtually any starting hand position. As soon as the decision has been made to draw:

  1. Quickly move your shooting hand to the height of the grip of the gun in the holster
  2. Move your hand inward toward the gun
  3. Pass your thumb over the back of the gun and wrap it around to the inside of the gun
  4. At the same time, wrap your fingers around the front strap
  5. Begin to lift the gun from the holster

The Top-Down Approach

This approach is best suited for when your hands start above the gun. The “surrender position” is a good example of when this approach can be most advantageous. Let's break this draw down: 

  1. Move your hand toward the gun
  2. Guide the web of your hand to the highest point on the grip (in my case, on top of the grip safety)
  3. Position your thumb on the inside of the gun
  4. Position the rest of your fingers around the outside of the gun, wrapping around the front strap
  5. Begin lifting the gun from the holster

My Take:

This method is one of the safest and most secure draw techniques, as it virtually forces the shooter to completely establish the firing grip on the gun before his or her fingers can begin to lift up on the front strap and release the gun from the holster.

Admittedly, I use this technique for most of my draws, as I like the extra security of establishing the complete grip prior to moving the gun. I generally push down on the back strap of the gun with the web of my hand (between the thumb and index finger) with a lot of force. This helps me to ensure a good, solid grip on the gun.

As a police officer, the majority of duty holsters from which I have drawn have some kind of retention device that keeps the gun in the holster. Most retention devices are on the top of the holster and are operated by the thumb. This top-down approach allows me to seamlessly de-activate the retention device as I move my hand onto the gun and establish my grip. By using the top-down approach, I can easily transition from the competition holster to the retention duty holster.

The Bottom-Up Approach

This technique is best used when the shooter starts with his or her hands below the height of the gun (relaxed at his or her sides, for example). The draw proceeds as follows:

  1. Cup your hand so your middle, ring and pinky fingertips are pointing toward the center of the body; Keep your trigger finger straight
  2. Bring your hand straight up just behind the back of the holster
  3. Make contact between your fingers and the front strap of the gun
  4. Position the heel of your hand on the outside of the grip
  5. Curl your fingertips around the front strap to the inside of the gun
  6. In one fluid motion, lift the gun out of the holster as soon as the fingers contact the front strap
  7. At the same time, bring your thumb around the back strap of the gun and complete your grip

My Take:

Although there are many top shooters who are extremely proficient with this method, it can be a little riskier and requires a lot of practice and perfect timing. The risk comes with raising the gun out of the holster by the front strap of the gun prior to obtaining a completely secure grip. It's always a good idea to dry-fire practice this technique many times, due to the ever-present potential of dropping the gun while drawing. This is an advanced technique, so only the most accomplished, well-practiced competitive shooters should attempt it.

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Practice Makes Perfect

An accomplished competition shooter will have practiced and mastered all three of these techniques so he or she can use the appropriate draw based on the circumstance. Remember one of the benefits of using a competition holster is that very little gun movement is required to release the gun from the holster. The sooner you can get the gun out of the holster, the sooner you can start shooting and the faster your times will be.

Continue to build your drawing skills by practicing all of the competition drawing techniques. Once proficient, you will be better prepared to win your next stage with the draw technique that is most beneficial based on the circumstances.

Topics: Shooting Tips, Competitive Shooting

Springfield Armory® recommends you seek qualified and competent training from a certified instructor prior to handling any firearm and be sure to read your owner’s manual.  These articles are considered to be suggestions and not recommendations from Springfield Armory®.