Learn How to Draw a Pistol in 4 Easy Steps

how to draw a pistol

Can I get some love?


Knowing how to draw a pistol from a holster is like any other skill when it comes to shooting — it’s perishable. Meaning if you don’t incorporate properly drawing your weapon into your training regimen, you’re giving the tactical shooting advantage to your adversary.

Whether it’s drawing your firearm against an active shooter, someone with an edged weapon, or any other weapon of opportunity, the fundamentals and the end game should always be the sameyour eyes, weapon, and sights up on the threat and stopping the threat.

A lot of LE operators only incorporate drawing from the holster during their semi-annual live-fire qualifications. You’re only setting yourself up for failure and again giving the tactical advantage to your adversary.

The same goes for the civilian who carries a concealed firearm. They will buy a holster, usually a cheap one that’s poorly made, and they never dry-fire or live-fire from the holster. A word of advice in buying a holster: you spend a lot of money on your firearm and you should buy an equally acceptable holster. I’m not saying you have to buy the top of the line (read: most expensive) holster out there, but the holster should be able to take a beating on a regular basis, be comfortable, and operator friendly. Check out my guide on buying a holster.

And yes, everyone should have a holster of some sort, even for a “pocket pistol.” There are a few choice words I like to use for people who attempt to carry without a holster — gangsters, thugs, or simply idiots. Don’t be the guy to “Plaxico Burress” yourself because you decided to throw your 9mm pocket pistol in your pocket with no holster.

Well, I guess if you like living on the edge, then to each his own. Just buy a damn holster because not only will it keep you from shooting yourself with a negligent discharge (ND), but it’ll keep those around you safe as well. The last thing you want to do is accidentally shoot an innocent bystander. Enough said on that. Let's get back to the draw.

If you don’t incorporate proper drawing technique in your training, you’re giving the tactical shooting advantage to your adversary.

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Depending on where you look, you can find websites or trainers that teach various numbers of steps, ranging from one to ten, on how to draw from the holster and get your pistol up and into the fight. I prefer to train operators with four steps to draw your pistol.

Step one starts by moving into your shooting stance (The 1st Habit of Highly Effective Shooters), breaking the weapon retention system on the holster (thumb break, hammer hood, or other retention) along with establishing your grip (The 2nd Habit of Highly Effective Shooting).

Step two is drawing the pistol straight up so the muzzle clears the holster, driving your elbow down and shifting the muzzle from the down position to the down range position.

Step three is marrying your hands up, high in the center of your chest and establishing a good support-hand grip.

Step four is punching your arms forward as you begin to pick up the front sight and establish a good sight picture (The 4th Habit of Highly Effective Shooting).

Once you come up on target, you should begin to develop your sight alignment (The 3rdHabit of Highly Effective Shooting) and press back on the trigger as needed.

How to Draw a Pistol in 4 Easy Steps​

Step One: Flinch to Gun and Establish a Good Grip

As you begin this step, you should be moving to an effective shooting stance/body position. Your initial movement should be a flinch (body alarm response) to your gun while your eyes move to the threat. Different holsters have various types of retention systems, so I’m going to go over each one.

Step one is about disengaging those retention systems and establishing your grip with your weapons hand. This is why it’s important to train with your system as much as possible. It’s very difficult and time consuming to adjust your grip once the weapon is in your hand, so make sure you get it right out of the holster.

Step Two: Point Gun at Target

Once your retention systems are disengaged and grip has been established, you should draw your pistol straight up until the muzzle clears your holster. Your pistol should remain pointed straight down to the deck pointed right through the bottom of the holster. You should over exaggerate this movement so you ensure you fully clear your holster before you rotate. Once your muzzle is clear from the holster, drive your elbow down as you rotate your pistol to point downrange.

The end result of this step should be a ninety-degree bend in your elbow with your forearm perpendicular to the deck (that’s the ground for you land lovers) and close to your rib cage. Some agencies call this the Close Quarters Position and even teach officers to shoot from this position, if required).

If you do need to shoot from this position, make sure you rotate the top of your weapon away from your body by about forty-five degrees. This makes aiming easier and will help avoid possible malfunctions from the slide or hammer coming in contact with your clothing or gear. Also, it should go without saying, but before you need to use this technique when your life is on the line, how about a little dry-fire and a few drills on the range?

Of course, you should always try using your sights no matter what. Point shooting or threat-based shooting is a great learning technique, but in the LE environment or any shot outside of your immediate threat area, you need to get up on your sights. They’re there for a reason, so use them!

Step Three: Bring Hands Together

All you’re doing with this step is bringing your hands together where you naturally clap. To make this easier, faster and more efficient, start moving your reaction hand into position as you’re going for your weapon with your other hand. Move it to the center of your chest, thumb pointing forward and fingers pointed down at a forty-five-degree angle. Now your gun has a meeting place…isn't that nice.

Step Four: Press Straight Out and Pick Up Sights

When your hands meet, begin to punch the weapon out and establish that solid grip. If the decision to shoot has been made and you’re sure of your target and what’s beyond it, put your finger on the trigger here and put as much pressure on it as you feel comfortable with. You should see your front sight post come into your peripheral view when you’re about half way out.

Continue to push out until your arms are in their FFP (Final Firing Position), make final adjustments on sight alignment and sight picture, and then slap the hell out of that trigger! OK, just kidding about that last part, but damn if I don’t see that on the range every day! (Shooting fast comes from getting your gun on target quickly so you can take the time to make accurate shots.)

On a serious note, there are two sportsmen we don’t like to see on the range: Bowlers (guys who bring their muzzles up in an arcing motion) and fishermen (guys who extend their guns out in an arc starting from muzzle up, like it’s a fly-fishing tournament). Remember, from the time you rotate the gun out of your holster, you should be able to hit your target at any point during your draw stroke.

To Shoot or Not to Shoot…

The only thing left after this is making the decision to shoot or don’t shoot. You should practice each step slowly and continue to move quicker and quicker until the four steps literally become one smooth evolution. Just like anything else, it takes time and repetition to become confident and competent in drawing (mounting) your weapon. And don’t forget — it’s a perishable skill set, so it needs to be integrated with your regular training program, especially your daily dry-firing routine. Oh you’re not dry firing daily? Well then, I suggest you start now because that’s the foundation of any functional operator’s skill set. Now don your kit and do some work!

There you have it, that's how to draw a pistol.

Editors Note: This post was written by PJ and originally published on centermassgroup.com.