The Incredible Importance of Re-Holstering

I am always amazed at the number of people I encounter at gun ranges who practice their draw. Excluding law enforcement officers, the current count stands at one. One young, Army-bound kid who’d been given a Level III retention holster for Christmas. His draw sucked. His ability to re-holster was worse. It was like my first sexual experience: fumble, look, fumble some more, look some more, success. When it comes to self-defense, knowing when and how to draw, and when and how to reholster, is more important that marksmanship (which is important just not that important). If nothing else, if you don’t reholster your gun at the appropriate time, you are in very real danger of being shot by the police . . .

Every day I surf stories where cops shoot people holding guns; they’re so frequent I don’t bother blogging them. (Click here for today’s armed encounter, where a cop honored a woman’s last request.) While the media is usually sympathetic to the police point of view—assuming that anyone holding a gun near or at a cop is fair game—careful reading often indicates that the Boys in Blue are a bit, how do I put this delicately, trigger happy. Man with gun. Shoot. Done.

Let’s say you shoot someone who needs shooting. I hope and pray that you and I never find ourselves in this situation, but if you’ve got a firearm, then the possibility exists. Given the cops’ proven predilection for targeting the guy with the gun, you need to re-holster that bad boy ASAP. BUT—it’s not a good idea to immediately re-holster your weapon. You need to know that A) the threat is over and B) the threat is over. The bad guy is no longer a danger and there are no more bad guys.

Problem: how do you know that? You have to put your head on a swivel and look—without losing track of the downed perp. Scanning is a vital part of your self-defense training. I blogged an incident where a self-defense shooter killed a man. Emptied his gun. Another man walked up to him and asked our guy if he was the shooter. And then the bystander shot him. Killed him dead. Damn.

The first thing you need to do after a shooting: reload. (Even if you have a thirty round magazine.) Oh wait, you didn’t bring spare ammo? OK then, heads-up times two. You are now defenseless in a highly dangerous situation. Well, almost defenseless. You’re holding a gun. And the people around you may not know it’s empty. So that’s something. But not much.

The second thing you need to do: scan for threats. The third thing you MAY need to do: leave. If your life is in danger, get the hell out of Dodge. As soon as it’s safe to do so, re-holster your gun and find a safe place to shelter. Call 911. Tell the cops what happened, what you look like and where you are. If it is safe to do so, put the gun on the ground nearby and wait. When they arrive, put your hands up and don’t move.

If you’re OK to stay, reload if you can and need to. But don’t immediately re-holster your gun. Get some distance from the bad guy (while looking for other threats). Get to cover if you think it prudent. Keep your weapon at a low ready, finger off the trigger. If the BG becomes a lethal threat again, shoot him again.

As soon as you’re 100 percent certain that you and your friendlies are safe, both from the perp and any potential perpettes, either re-holster your gun. Either way, dial 911. Even if someone else has already done it. You must call 911 to establish yourself as a victim.

[There is a school of thought that says you should place your gun on the ground nearby—if it is safe to do so. Some believe this is the best way to avoid death by cop. I don’t hold that view. I reckon a post-self-defense shooting shooter lacks enough mental clarity to adequately assess the safety of their immediate environment. They may need their gun again at a moment’s notice.]

If the cops arrive before you re-holster, DO NOT RE-HOLSTER. Drop it like it’s hot. That’s right: let your pristine, expensive gun fall onto the pavement like a cheap toy. Every second that gun stays in your hand is another second where you might die from friendly fire. Remember: one bullet can ruin your whole day.

In any event, or no event at all, practice unholstering and re-holstering. It’s not easy. It’s ten times as hard when you’re shaking with adrenalin. As there’s no guarantee your finger won’t be on the trigger (the Suarez syndrome), you need a safe re-holstering technique. You must learn to avoid lasering yourself (pointing the muzzle at your body). If you can’t re-holster without fumbling, ditch it and buy something else. Yes, it’s that important.

The more I train for self-defense with the rabbi and others, the more I realize that standing still and shooting at static targets is not it. Instead of blasting through thousands of rounds Steven Seagal style, I practice my draw and re-holstering for ten minutes a day and visit the gun range once a week. Where I practice my draw. ‘Cause unlike punching holes in paper, holstering and re-holstering is a matter of life and death.