Safe Holstering

You Gotta Focus!

By Massad Ayoob

When I started teaching cops in 1972, they weren’t actually bad at quick draw. But Lord! Some of them looked like Barney Fife when they went to re-holster. The culprit seemed to be one of purpose and focus. They knew getting the gun out on target fast could save their lives, but putting it back in its scabbard seemed to be an afterthought.

Current Trends

In the early ’70s, the typical police holster was the Border Patrol style, leaving the triggerguard exposed where the finger could reach it before the draw even began. If the gun snagged on something on the draw, the finger on the trigger would clutch, and bang — Quick-Draw McGraw would suffer a leg shot. Holster designers tried to solve the problem by covering the triggerguard. Unfortunately, this merely revised the nature of in-holster discharges. Now, instead of being fired prematurely on the draw, the gun would discharge unintentionally upon holstering.

What happened was something would make contact with the trigger as the gun was thrust into the holster. It could be an adjustment cord on a jacket, a fold of soft leather from a cheap worn-out holster, or a safety strap narrow enough to fit inside the triggerguard. The warning here is obvious: Don’t use any such gear! Most often, the culprit was the shooter’s own finger carelessly left in contact with the trigger. The finger would hit the high ridge of the holster intended to protectively cover the triggerguard and stop. The trigger would keep going downward, and … bang. Often this involved someone trying to holster as quickly as they drew.

Feet together, shoulders slightly toward the weak hand side, eyes “looking” the GLOCK into the holster.
Range holstering doesn’t get much safer than this. Note Mas’ thumb on back of slide.

Lessons Learned

Holster carefully and, if at all possible, slowly. Back in the ’70s I figured out if my thumb was on the hammer when the gun was holstered, it would hold down the hammer of a double-action handgun so it couldn’t rise or fall, or hold back the hammer of a cocked and (maybe, maybe not) locked single-action auto. I depicted the technique in my early 1980s book StressFire. A lot of people caught on, though some didn’t.

The late, great Todd Louis Green adopted this procedure and did much to promote it with a striker-fired pistol having no external hammer. On the Springfield XD with its grip safety, it will lock and prevent a shot when the web of the hand comes off it, thanks to the thumb on the back. Todd and his colleague Tom Brown came up with the Striker Control Device from Tau Development Group replacing the back-plate on a GLOCK, preventing the gun from firing as long as pressure is being applied by the thumb at the rear of the slide.

Garment clearing: Mas’ support hand pulls his vest away as his gun hand re-holsters. While sacrificing
one level of safety, being able to holster by feel is a critical tactical skill in darkness.

Use Your Eyes

Every parent tells their kids, “Watch what you’re doing!” We need to get in touch with our own inner child and practice the same mantra. As much as possible, “look the gun into the holster.” This will help you catch things like a snagged garment adjustment cord in time. Also, “the eyes teach the hand” how to re-holster by feel. That’s not as contradictory as it sounds. How do you “look” into the holster in the dark, for example? You want to be able to holster one-handed by feel as a tactical skill, but the eye on the gun gives you one more safety net whenever it’s possible.

In concealed carry, re-holstering can cause your gun to foul on clothing — especially heavy winter garb. In the 1950s, quick-draw expert and concealed carry holster pioneer Chic Gaylord came up with a draw technique in which the support hand pulls the concealing garment out away from the weak side of the body, exposing the holstered gun to the drawing hand. The late Chicago PD instructor Jack Manfre resurrected this method in the early 21st Century. It turns out to be a great way to get all the fabric out of the way for re-holstering as well. It’s as if you were open carrying.

The “draw” is the glamor move, everyone concentrates and practices a smooth move there. But re-holstering
is often just an afterthought. Mas says “look” the gun back into the holster.

Watch Those Body Parts!

Critics of appendix carry point out if the gun is negligently discharged, your private parts and femoral artery are in the line of fire. Wise appendix carriers learn to rock their upper body back from the hips when they holster a loaded pistol, to keep the trajectory from the muzzle away from those vital areas.

Those of us with hip holsters have to remember — particularly in a wide-straddle combat stance — even a hip-holstered gun’s muzzle can cross our own leg. My colleague David Maglio popularized the “pedestal holstering” technique — feet together and legs straight to keep the lower limbs out of the line of fire. Tilting the upper body away from the holster side helps a bit with that, too.

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