How to Eat an Elephant – The Draw

In the motor skills required to be effective with a gun often people overlook the very minor skills that allow the best to do what they do.

Using a handgun in self-defense really boils down to the simple action of drawing the gun, placing it on target and moving the trigger without moving the gun. Sounds very simple, right? Well it can be but we often think of the draw stroke as one skill when the reality is it is a combination of several skills all done in the correct sequence which allows for an accurate, precisely placed shot, accomplished very fast.

I always tell my students if you want to shoot fast and accurate you must first be accomplished at shooting accurately. If you cannot make the finite precise shot you will never be able to do it fast.

That is the starting point in eating this elephant; break it down into its basic component parts, practice, and master each one, commit it to long term procedural memory and then let the mind run the gun. So, let’s start with the first bite, shooting accurately.

Good shooters can often achieve a 15 MOA degree of accuracy when shooting at a target 100 yards away. Basically, it means you can hit a 15” circle at 100 yards with your handgun, assuming you have developed the skills required to grip the gun correctly AND move the trigger without moving the gun. Now let’s move this up much closer, say 7 yards. At 7 yards a 15 MOA equates to an extreme group spread of 1.1”. Few students can do that and often the simple reason is they believe they are so close that the perfect trigger press is not required, but it is. Many instructors teach that defensive accuracy is all that is required, that you only need to hit a 10” circle at 7 yards and then the student shoots faster than they are capable of. I believe that you want to have that 15 MOA skill ingrained in long term procedural memory as during a violent encounter you are going to go as fast as possible and if your mind knows that precise shot your accuracy will be far better than if you only attained the ability to hit a 10” target at 7 yards.

Work on finite precision, it can save yours or another life. Imagine your loved one is being held at gun point at 7 yards and your only shot is the critical tee (CNS) to save that person’s life. Can you make that shot?

That is one skill of the seven needed to put an accurate fast on target from the holster. So, let’s work our way back to the start. To make that shot we must place the sights on target with the least amount of movement. If you bowl from the holster, meaning you roll the gun out like a bowling ball you have wasted an enormous amount of time because you will not have sights on target until you’ve fully extended the gun to the target. You need to be pressing that trigger at that point, not searching for your sights or the desired point of impact. This is where all your misses come from. That distance from your chest to full extend is your accuracy zone, it is where you get the sights on target before you extend.

To accomplish this the gun must be moving in a straight line from your chest area to the desired point of impact. This means that the gun is moving upward and forward coming into line with your line of sight. The gun starts about chest high under your dominant eye, your shooting elbow, arm, and wrist are all in line with the target and you have joined your hands on the gun. It would begin approximately three to four inches from your chest and then you accurately move the gun to the target making minute adjustments to ensure the sights are aligned at the full extend position. The slide must be parallel with your line of site, not pointing up or down. If you were to press the trigger at that point the bullet should impact very close to where you want it to. This is a learned skill, it does not happen by accident and it requires practice. Learn to point your gun accurately.

To get to this retention position in front of your chest you must pull the gun straight up from the holster to that position and rotate the muzzle on to the target. Consistent placement will greatly improve your accuracy. If you do not put the gun in the same place every time in the retention position you will be inconsistent in your accuracy.

To get the gun out of the holster consistently you must grip the gun correctly with the shooting hand before you pull it from the holster. When observing newer defensive shooters, I often see a weak shooting grip right out of the holster at which point they either must adjust their grip or shoot with a weak grip. The result of not having that perfect grip shows on the target in missed hits.

And we get there by dry practicing over and over

So here we are, where we start. Seven skills, linked together in an economy of motion, performed by the mind with subconscious, procedural memory. If you want to shoot fast and accurate it is far more than just aiming, in fact often for a good shooter there is no aiming, they see a ghost image of the sights in the correct place on the target and the trigger moves smoothly to the rear without imparting any movement in the gun.

To commit this sequence to long term memory you must practice the movements, slowly, perfectly, and frequently, daily is best. It does not require firing a cartridge and can be accomplished in the comfort of your home with an empty gun. This is practice. Going to the range and punching holes in paper is called playing, it is not practice if every round is not measured either in score or score and time. If you have already formed long term memories from you range practice, there is a good chance you are doing it wrong and it will take MANY repetitions doing to correctly to erase the bad habits you have developed.

Almost three years ago, I took a class from a competitive shooter I know. I learned I was doing most things correctly but I was manipulating the trigger in a way that was costing me time on follow up shots. It took 10,000 plus rounds to correct that bad ingrained habit. I would suggest you learn correctly in the beginning, practice daily and follow up with your instructor to ensure you do not ingrain bad habits because it is far easier to learn it correctly than to repair a bad habit that could get you killed.

Failing to train IS training to fail.
Liberty Firearms Training