Last year Scott Conti at SPDtool brought Bruce Gray up to our local range for a three-day course. I could only make the first afternoon of shooting, but frankly by 5:00 my mind was full! I learned enough that afternoon to keep me busy practicing for the rest of the year. I had not taken a seminar from a competitive shooter before; no matter what you’re shooting focus, I highly recommend it.
One of the corrections that Bruce asked me to make was to re-holster slower. I wasn’t trying to be a dink, but he did have to ask me several times. I was trying to remember, but years of habit are hard to break.
All the time I was in law enforcement I was taught, and I taught, that blind (no looking) re-holstering, done quickly and surely, was a necessary street skill. I was terribly frustrated that so many cops couldn’t do it. And while I still believe that it is a necessary skill for cops, I do not believe it is for armed citizens. In fact, I’m joining the chorus of people that now say: re-holster slowly!
Why is fast/sure re-holstering a good skill for cops but not for armed citizens? It’s because cops often have to transition to a lower level of force in an instant: to OC, to a TASER, to hands-on, or to cuffing. That transition time is a window of opportunity for the bad guy to assault you, so it’s essential that it be done quickly, blind, and surely. Regular citizens don’t have to do this remotely as often because cops have an obligation to pursue, subdue, and handcuff a bad guy. Citizens, by contrast, are best advised to withdraw when the threat diminishes. Not to say that a quick de-escalation requiring a quick re-holstering is never required by armed citizens, just that it’s rare.
What’s wrong with a fast re-holstering? Two things. 1) It is dangerous in two ways. 1a) If your trigger finger lingers in the trigger guard as you re-holster you get a bullet exiting the muzzle, heading for parts dangerous**. 1b) If your clothes are clogging the holster mouth, the unexpected resistance can can also cause a an unintentional discharge followed by a trip to the ER (if you’re lucky). 2) Fast re-holstering encourages us to skip the stuff we really should be instilling in ourselves after a for-real shooting, namely a situation assessment. Also, if the bad thing really happens we’ll be so distracted and pumped up with adrenaline that the chances of an “oh shit” moment upon re-holstering is greatly increased.
All of this potential bad stuff is only amplified when we use an AIWB holster. Just the other day Larry Vickers banned AIWB in his classes after two other instructors had AIWB-carrying students shoot themselves on re-holstering. Todd Green, the guy who’s probably done more to popularize AIWB than anyone, has some very strong warnings about its risks here and here, along with good advice to minimize the dangers.
I may be late to the party, but I’m now jumping on the protocol (actually there are several variants out there) that requires 1) a hard break – a real, definite pause – before re-holstering, 2) a situation assessment (more than a “scan” – more on this in a later post), 3) looking at your holster before holstering, 4) keeping the muzzle pointed away from your body during the re-holstering, and5) putting the gun away slowly.
Hope I can remember to take my own advice!
** Decades ago we got away from the then-traditional holsters with uncovered triggers. They led to too many NDs on the draw. Now of course, with a covered trigger holster we risk an ND on the re-holstering stroke. Well, the holster either covers the trigger or it doesn’t, and I think that we’ve made the right choice. Drawing is a necessarily speedy process and prone to error; re-holstering does not need to be, and indeed should not be, a fast process.
Finally: I’ll hit this point often and hard: if you carry a gun for self-defense, you have to know the law. Invest the money you’d spend on shaving a tenth of a second off your splits with Andrew Branca’s book or seminars — it’ll pay far greater dividends. Visit this link to learn more, and use the discount code “streetstandards” for a 10% discount.