Is it important to focus on it? If you don’t get the gun out, you might die. Is that important to you?
I wonder sometimes if we, instructors or students, give enough attention to the drawstroke.
Oh, sure, we practice it endlessly—I hope you do, anyway—but practice is not study, and study is what makes the technique sound when we practice it. And we need a very sound drawstroke, I think, just as soon as we can get it.
There are two seemingly-obvious questions I need to ask so that you can better understand how important it is to get this down:
Why, outside of practice and training, would you need to draw the gun to begin with?
Obvious question, obvious answer: You draw the gun because there’s a threat to your life or someone else’s life right there, right now. It’s a lethal-force threat, however you and/or the law defines that, and the only way you can stop it is to introduce your own capability to project lethal force if you have to. So, you draw the gun.
So: Given that you are only drawing the gun because you are responding to a right there, right now need to (probably) shoot somebody, what do you need the drawstroke to do?
Think about that a little before you answer.
Now that you’ve thought on it, see if you agree with this:
The drawstroke needs to get you from the holster to on-target shot(s) as quickly and surely as possible.
Think about what that answer does—and does not—cover.
It DOES cover getting the gun—not necessarily the sights, but the gun—on-target.
It DOES cover getting the gun ready to fire as soon as it’s clear of the holster, not some time later in the movement.
It DOES cover the need for the right grip, trigger control, and eye\hand coordination.
It DOES cover drawing to any direction, from any position you may be in, whether you are standing still or moving, on demand.
It DOES NOT require you to ‘get on the sights’ for every single shot no matter what.
It DOES NOT mean you need to end in the same exact position or posture or stance for every shot.
It DOES NOT require you, specifically, to face the target and square up.
It DOES NOT require you to be still when you draw and/or when you shoot.
Some things to consider about the drawstroke:
We hear and read about and see so much of the ‘X-count’ drawstroke that we may forget that it’s one continuous movement from in-the-holster to ready-to-shoot. The drawstroke is taught in counts and positions so that the student can learn it more easily and so that each part of the whole movement can be, as needed, examined and practiced and corrected separately. I break it down by steps in my own practice and recommend you do the same. Still, never forget that it’s all one continuous movement.
Work for efficiency and quickness before smoothness and speed. Everything should be kept close, movements should be only as large as necessary to get the weapon up and in line to fire, motion from holster to extension/final firing position should be continuous and without pause at any point. If you get efficient, you will most likely look and feel very smooth indeed. It is possible to be very smooth at an inefficient movement, though, so look at efficiency first.
The drawstroke has to set you up to get rounds on target from wherever you are and from whatever position you’re in when the fight starts even if you can’t ‘square up’ on the target. How many of you have looked at what it will take to get good shots on someone who’s at a 45-degree angle to you when you can’t even turn toward them? How about 90 degrees? 135? 180? 225? 270? You’ve got to get the gun ‘on’ and the eye/hand alignment right even when you don’t have the perfect whole-body index to work with.
Speaking of ‘drawing to the angles’, look at the drawstroke from these two perspectives: Most direct muzzle-to-target plane of draw/line of extension and muzzle-sweep potential. If you’re drawing to the side, for example, but the muzzle goes level first and then turns to the target as you extend, you have extended the possibility of some problems either getting the hits you need and surviving, or with the ‘third fight’, the one that may take place in court if a shot gets triggered before the muzzle is around on target. It’s not the most efficient way to orient, either. Look at all of that now.
Things that don’t change no matter what your position is, where you are or where your target is when the fight starts: The ‘Master’, or firing-hand, Grip (whether you use the other hand or not will change, and amount of tension in the firing grip will vary, but the shooting grip, the way you hold the gun in the firing hand, will not), trigger (control), and getting on target (eye/visual center to hand/weapon alignment, whether you’re going to sights or not). Make sure this is all consistent no matter where you’re drawing from or drawing to, every time.
Some things that will help you to refine your drawstroke are:
Working the parts of the drawstroke in isolation. I do this: I spend a couple of minutes just raising the cover and getting the grip on the gun. Or I work the release from holster and initial rotation. Or the extension, to either one-or-two-hand shooting position, out and back and out and back. I check for a level gun and whether the sights come up in the right spot. I will also check the alternative sighting positions such as metal-on-meat; did I bring the gun up so that it’s straight ‘on’ and straight in for the shot? I check the extension to the angles, looking at how the gun will best rotate to position so the muzzle stays in the target plane. I do these things in isolation as well as put them together.
Overspeed training. One caution: I would not even think about doing this live-fire, at all, period. Overspeed training is basically the performance of an action, in this case the drawstroke, as fast as you possibly can do it. It is a deliberate attempt to run past your normal performance limits. The goal here is pure quickness, a lightning-fast snatch of the gun from the holster into extension or other firing position. It will help you in more ways than just to accelerate your regular draw. Overspeed training has shown me snags in the movement and some problems with where I have put things on my belt, for example.
Record yourself. Until I started doing short demonstration and instructional videos for others, and now to put on my website, I didn’t know that I was ‘scooping’ on the extension to target. That’s just one thing that seeing myself on video has helped me with. All you need is a camera and a tripod and some way to run it back to see what and how you’re doing. I would recommend that you don’t run video very often. Run the camera, look and see what you need to be working on (or let someone else look at it; sometimes that outside view can be very helpful), work on the inefficiencies and mistakes you have seen for a while, then down the road re-record yourself and check for progress.
And get some training! What…you think I was going to leave that out?
Think about this: Most of the time, we’re starting from behind. Even police and military personnel are not allowed to have their guns ‘out’ and ready to go with as often as they might like to. The rest of us are even more restricted in when and whether we can get the gun in hand before the (physical) fight actually begins. So we’re starting from behind. Our drawstroke, combined with things like dynamic movement off the line of first attack, is one of the most important ways we have of getting from behind to even and then to ahead. In cases where our movement is restricted, it may be the only way. Because of that, it is important, perhaps vital, to make it as good as we can get it.
We may not ever need it, but if the time comes that we do, we will need it to be the best one we’ve ever made.
Be safe out there. And if you can’t be safe, be dangerous.