The Reactive Draw Stroke
by Dave Sauer, Suarez International Tier One Instructor
Like many of you, I spent years perfecting my “combat draw” in the static world of the Modern Technique. I prided myself on being able to perform a perfect Five Step Presentation and hit the head box from seven yards in under a second. Front sight, compressed surprise break, fluidly fast with no wasted movement. Text book. I shot 500 rounds a day five days a week. Starting with my hand on the gun I could do it in under a half second! (twice as slow as Bob Munden). I practiced so much I got tennis elbow in both elbows. I was a perfect example of “You don’t know what you don’t know.” I thought I was preparing myself for the fight. But I was wrong. Now I know. At least, I know more now than then, and now I think about the draw stroke from an entirely different perspective.
Let’s review a few foundational concepts from the Combative Technique. There are two types of gunfights: Proactive and Reactive. The tactical principle which determines where on the spectrum between these two your fight falls is Initiative. There are two priorities in a gunfight: Not getting shot, and stopping the threat with effective hits. Which of these two priorities is most important depends on how much initiative is in your favor. For the sniper whose presence is unknown by his target, initiative is fully in his favor. When he decides to take the shot all his focus is on making the hit, as he has little worry of being shot. On the other end of the spectrum, if you look up to see a drawn gun pointed at you with sinister intention, and your hand is not even on your gun, initiative is with your enemy and all your focus in that moment needs to be on not getting shot. How does one keep from getting shot? MOVE!
With the above concepts in mind, in what type of fight is speed of the draw a critical factor? By definition, in a Proactive fight, you will have your gun out before the fight starts because you are the one starting it. Clearly, it is the Reactive fight, when we are behind in the OODA race, that speed is of the essence. Yet, the first priority of a Reactive fight is to not get shot, which we do by moving, FAST! Based on these fight proven concepts, may I share a fundamental shift in thinking that I now understand and teach: Any fight based gunfighting training that does not teach dynamic, explosive movement as part of the draw is not preparing the student for the reality of the reactive fight. Stated another way: Any training that teaches the student to stand still while drawing under a time constraint is engraining a training scar that could get you killed when the reality of the fight demands movement to save your life.
Based on the realization of these realities, I now teach the take-off as part of count one of the draw stroke. Instead of the support hand coming to a position of interception at the midline for a two handed presentation, the support hand is used to athletically help propel one into the take-off and joins the grip if and when a two hand hold is available and appropriate for the situation; otherwise, one hand on the gun allows for the kind of movement needed when not getting shot is the priority. The training goal for teaching the reactive draw stroke this way is to engrain moving as the subconscious, default reaction to a threat requiring a draw. I want to engrain it so deep that one has to consciously override the body’s desire to explode off the X. Instructors do not reach this training goal by talking about it or showing it on a DVD. We engrain it through effectively coached repetition and an unwaivering insistence on adhereing to the proven process. This is what we do in our Close Range and Advanced Close Range Gunfighitng courses. Most schools teach a static, two handed draw then add movement almost as an after thought in their "advanced classes", and even then it isn’t dynamic, explosive movement. It is “controlled” contrived and inconsistent with the reality of the fight.
With a winning default programmed in, it is a small thing to substitute accessing another weapon choice with the movement: knife, stick, empty hand strike. The principle is the same, MOVE! Fix ‘em, Flank ‘em and F ‘em up with ferociously forward dynamic diagonals. And don’t stop ‘till they get enough.