When it comes to drawing a handgun that is carried in a concealed format, a friend of mine has a saying: “The fastest draw stroke in the world is a gun that’s in your hand when the fight starts.”
This of course leads us to the heart of the matter, which is, "How exactly do we get the pistol out of our concealed holster and onto the target?"
The Five-Count Sequence
Historically, the draw stroke has been taught on a five-count sequence, and the concealed draw is really no different. The variable that a concealment garment adds is simply the requirement to "clear" the clothing in order to gain access to the holstered pistol. For reference, the aforementioned five-count draw stroke is as follows:
- Acquire a firing grip on the pistol with the strong hand. Bring the support-side hand to your center line so that it is in a position to receive the shooting hand at a later point in the draw stroke.
- Draw the pistol from the holster and rotate the muzzle 90 degrees or so the muzzle is pointed toward the target/downrange. Keep your finger out of the trigger guard until your sights are on target and you’re ready to shoot.
- With the muzzle still pointed downrange, bring your hands together. As your support-side hand indexes the pistol, finalize your two-handed shooting grip. For a reference point, as the hands come together, the inside of the arms will likely be touching the trunk of your body.
- Drive the gun straight to the target.
- Shoot (if required) once you have an acceptable sight picture.
The Concealment Factor
Adding a layer of concealment simply adds another facet by changing what our shooting hand or our support side hand does during count "1" of the drawing sequence.
For the purposes of this article, let's assume we’re drawing a gun that is covered by a t-shirt, polo shirt or some other type of closed, front-covering garment. Living in Arizona, this is a very typical mode of concealment and one that I easily use 95 percent of the time. That said, the region you live in, your clothing and concealment requirements and your mode of carry, as well as other variables, may require a slight modification to the draw stroke as it is explained here.
The Two-Hand Draw
Drawing the gun from a closed front garment using two hands requires a modification to what the support-side hand does during count "1" of the draw stroke. Whereas the support-side hand would normally move to the center line of the body (in order to be in a safe and ready position), it is now going to be used to move the covering garment out of the way so that the shooting hand can acquire a firing grip.
Keep it simple - it’s not rocket science.
5-Count Draw Step 1 (Modification): Move your support-side hand across the center line of your body, grab the bottom of the shirt and pull it up as high as possible. Once the shirt has cleared the holstered pistol, proceed with the draw stroke as normal.
During the draw stroke, as with all firearm-related activities, all of the firearm safety rules are still in place, so be mindful not to position your support-side hand in an area where it may be covered or swept by the muzzle as you proceed through the draw stroke.
Once you’re done shooting, you’ll need a way to safely return the pistol to the holster. We should assume that our covering garment has fallen back to what we will call its "ready" position, once again covering the holster.
With your finger straight and the safety on, keep the muzzle pointed downrange and the gun extended out and away from your body. Remove your support-side hand from the pistol, and once again use it to lift your covering garment out of the way to clear the path back to the holster.
Here too it is important not to move your support-side hand into a position where it may be covered/swept by the muzzle as you’re returning the pistol to the holster.
Once the shirt is out of the way, bring the pistol straight back and into the holster.
The One-Hand Draw
It’s easy to figure out that using our support-side hand to clear a closed-front covering garment is, in most instances, going to be a faster and more efficient way of gaining access to the pistol and presenting it to the target. However, we still need a way to access the pistol in the event that our support-side hand is occupied or otherwise not available to "clear" the covering garment.
Similar to the two-hand draw, the only modification to the standard draw stroke is on count "1." This time, the modified movement is done with the shooting hand and requires that it move the covering garment in order to access the pistol.
5-Count Draw Step 1 (Modification): The support-side hand remains the same; move to the center line of the body (if possible). With the shooting hand, lift the covering garment up to expose the holstered pistol. Once the covering garment has cleared the pistol, move the shooting hand straight down on the pistol and acquire a firing grip.
Clearing the Cover Garment
There are a couple of techniques for lifting the covering garment out of the way.
One method is to grab the bottom of the shirt where it sits in line with the pistol and lift it out of the way to expose the holstered pistol.
Another approach, and my preferred technique, is to use your thumb/fingers to hook the bottom of the shirt at the front and lift the shirt out of the way, while also moving your hand around your torso in a sort of sweeping motion.
I have found this method to clear a closed-front covering garment to be a more efficient movement.
By sweeping the covering garment at the same time that I am lifting it up, I am reducing the chance of it falling straight down and covering the pistol (thus fouling the draw stroke) before I even get my hand on it, at least in theory.
In either case, the technique for returning the pistol to the holster using only one hand is the same. With your finger straight and the safety on, simply rotate the butt of the pistol outward and away from your body while also extending the thumb of the shooting hand. Keep the muzzle pointed downrange and away from your body and use the thumb to hook the bottom of the shirt to lift it up, exposing the holster. Once the shirt has cleared the holster, rotate the muzzle down and return the pistol to the holster.
With both the two-handed draw and the one-handed draw, it is paramount to not cover yourself with the muzzle when drawing or returning the pistol to the holster. There is also generally no need to holster the pistol quickly or for the sake of speed, so take your time and be very guarded against being in a hurry to put the pistol away. Remember, you got the gun out for a reason - even though you may have been in a hurry to get it out of the holster, take your time to be safe and secure before putting it back.