By Johannes P.

The story about Police Chief David Counceller’s negligent discharge due to a stray windbreaker drawstring in the trigger guard brought to my mind a recent article written by firearms trainer Pat Rogers (above), who tackles the issue of after-action holstering in the April 2014 issue of SWAT Magazine (pages 53-57).  Don’t waste time trying to look cool, the former Marine Chief Warrant Officer says: take a glance and make sure you’re not about to do something stupid . . .

To some, speed holstering looks cool. It shows mastery of man over machine, and style points are important in some endeavors. But herein lies the problem. Numerous negligent discharges occur when holstering. The main reason is of course a Rule 3 violation – finger on the trigger when sights are not on target. A secondary cause is when a piece of clothing or equipment insinuates itself into the trigger guard, causing the weapon to discharge—probably into your leg.

While some make an issue of teaching that you should holster while keeping your SA up, consider this: the pistol should only go away when the fight is truly over. Not when your opponent is down, but when he is incapacitated and handcuffed or otherwise restrained or covered by others. Once that happens—once you are positively sure the threat is no longer a threat—then you can reholster. Caveat: if you are a civilian or off-duty cop, it’s never a good idea to have your blaster in your paws when the police arrive.

I’m not advocating spending 30 seconds to put the firearm properly in your holster. What I am saying, though, is take the time to glance down, holster and prepare for the admin/legal issues that will follow in the aftermath of a shooting. Taking the time to glance down may spare you a lot of grief.

I have accumulated a little less than one hundred fifty hours of firearms training over the past few years, and many of the instructors I’ve worked with have thought that situational awareness is paramount, and that one should train to keep one’s head and eyes up, scanning for potential threats when holstering. Only one – Scott Reitz, of International Tactical – specifically advised that since holstering should only take place once the threats are down, glancing down to ensure that one is holstering safely is a good idea.

That said, I find it hard to disagree with either Chief Rogers or Mr. Reitz. I’m an ordinary citizen who happens to carry a concealed firearm. That means that my sidearm is either in an OWB holster under a jacket or shirt, or (for more formal occasions,) it’s in an IWB holster underneath a tucked shirt and suit jacket. If it’s been drawn in anger, when it comes to holstering, odds are good that it’ll need to go back in underneath some rather askew, possibly torn, clothing. Holstering when the gun is still hot, when the adrenaline is flowing, when the heart is pumping fast, when fine motor skills are at a low ebb, and when I may be injured is probably not when I want to be holstering a gun without looking. And dame fortune would doubtless be cruel enough to ensure that I would prevail over bloody-minded street thugs in combat, only to suffer a life-threatening wound from a negligent discharge because I wasn’t paying close enough attention while holstering afterward.

Practice doesn’t make perfect – it makes permanent. Whatever you do on the square range is probably what you’ll be doing when the balloon goes up. Seems to me that there’s less chance that a glance downward to make sure you know what’s going on when putting the iron away is less riskier than the alternative.

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51 Responses to When Holstering, Coolness is Overrated

  1. I preferred method of holstering.

    I toss my gun in the air in a way that it gets a nice spin going. It will then fall down and perfectly land in my holster.

    OTOH the ROs are not amused and typically send me to Dairy Queen.

  2. Logical advice. Would you attempt to put a fixed blade back in a belt sheath without looking to see what you’re doing? Could cut yourself.

    • Your point is null. True Operators ™ don’t use a sheath, they carry the knife with the blade clenched firmly between their teeth while rappelling down to meet the enemy, and from then out keep it safe and secure buried to the hilt in the chests of their foes.

    • You would if you were a Samurai.

      From what I remember from the Magpul videos there are only two times they said you should take your eyes off the target (outside of a failure), 1) Inserting a new magazine properly, 2) Re-holstering properly.

  3. I prefer to look, not just glance.

    Just a couple of days ago (after reading about, but not yet seeing the video of, the police chief’s windbreaker incident), I noticed a slight resistance when reholstering. I stopped immediately, looked closer, and saw that one corner of my shirt tail was indeed between the holster and the gun. I’m pretty sure it was not enough to get in the trigger guard, but it definitely gave me religion about rehostering carefully.

    I had glanced down, but was not actually looking. Any more, I actually try to look down the length of the holster (which is OWB and has an open bottom) until I hear or feel the retention click into place.

  4. I have stated as much ever since I started researching firearms and training videos a year ago. I have no military experience. No law enforcement experience. No firearms training. I rely on common sense which I believe I have more of than 90% of the population. I am not against enrolling in a “combat” or “tactical” firearms class. I plan to do it and I look forward to it, but for the past year, I have been training myself and I go over scenarios and think about how I would react. I use logic, which in my case is the same as common sense. In a stressful situation, I feel that I will default to my natural reaction to a situation rather than react in a way that I was taught in a class. This quick no peek holstering technique that EVERY instructor that I have seen on the net teaches has been a hot topic with me. Being brand new with a gun, I still am very cautious with it. I hope this never wears off. Part of that respect for the destructive nature of my pistol, compels me, naturally, to holster my gun slowly, deliberately, carefully and if I need to, take a peek down at my hip to ensure that I don’t put a hole in my leg. These people (everybody) that say “keep your eyes on the target when you holster your pistol” are just looking for another “thing” to teach. To me, if you are holstering then the fight is over. It doesn’t take any more time to glance at your holster than it does to do a slide lock mag change and in that case, you are assuming the fight is still ongoing.

    • There should be no hurry to reholster. Take the time needed when you do holster your weapon to do it safely and confidently seecure it in place. If you are unable to do that, then it is probably too soon to reholster.

      You are right to heed your own counsel and should have no negligence problems using the ‘common sense’ you discussed.

  5. With my CZ, I’ve developed a habbit of holding the bottom of the safety up with my thumb when reholstering, while also looking at the holster (If i can) and I do not let go until it is fully seated. It seems time consuming but it isn’t very much different at all and takes little to no effort to train into, really.. But of course, this only works with firearms that have that type of safety lol.

    • So true.

      I didn’t see any mention in the article of ensuring ones weapon is de-cocked or the safety returned to safe on those side arms that employ those features. And like you stated, a safety can be dislodged when being returned to some holsters, particularly the kind that have a tight retention snap strap that rides over the safety.

      SA includes ensuring ones weapon is returned to its ‘crib’ in a safe handling condition so you don’t become a casualty from a round in the hip or thigh.

    • I carry a cz 75 compact cocked and locked, and I prefer to place my thumb between the hammer and the back of the slide when I holster it. This way, the hammer will be blocked should the trigger be pulled (never happened so far) and I’ll be aware that something went wrong as well.

  6. How “up” is the SA following the adrenaline dump associated with a DGU?

    I’m not saying walk through life in Condition White, but I do tend to roll my eyes a bit at “keep your SA up” types.

    There are ALWAYS distractions and moments of focused awareness. Shoot, that moment of going Condition Red and thinking, “Holy Crap” and reaching for the firearm is the very definition of tunnel vision.

    I think a lot of “training” is geared toward sounding cool vice practical advice born of experience.

    Holstering is an acknowledged dangerous activity with gun handling. It can be done safely and should be practiced, but I’ve never understood the religious attachment to trying to do something like this without looking AND to expect to do so just after an armed encounter.

    • That is why I prefer to simply ask people who have been “there” or were in a shtf situation. I don’t mind the “tactical” classes but they rarely teach you something that a pro wouldn’t tell you.

  7. Not being an operator or tactical dude, what in the world is up with all that crap he’s got strapped to him? Is that some sort of BatPhone?

  8. Coolness(looking cool) is overrated and sometimes dangerous for lots of things gun related:

    -Blasting targets 10ft away with your AR; looks cool on your youtube channel, but not when I’m being showered with your F’ing brass.

    -For some reason people at the range like SLAMMING the magazines when loading their AR’s. Just load the weapon damnit…you hit that thing any harder, the upper receiver is gonna fly apart from the lower.

    -That speed reload drill? You know, the one where you flag everyone on the firing line and ends up with you accidently throwing your loaded pistol down range? Speed looks cool, but me having to dive for cover doesn’t. I dont appreciate that.

    -To the person that thinks its “Ok” to walk onto a “hot” range to retrieve their target: Stop. Looked cool on Blackhawk Down, but that was a movie and they used blanks, ’nuff said.

    • Coolness is way over-rated, especially when performing an inherently dangerous activity which if not conducted *safely* could lead to injury or death.

      Bleeding out on the ground could easily lead to a different kind of ‘cool’.

    • If this is really happening while you are shooting; why are you continuing to go there? If this happened at an actual range than why don’t you alert the RSO? If you’re out shooting on public land than why don’t you pack up and go somewhere else?

  9. I got an Alien Gear holster in the mail yesterday. It’s Crossbreed-style, with the leather base and the hard shell. Been looking forward to that sucker for weeks. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work for me. Once the thing is on my body, the leather curves into the shell opening, thereby blocking it. I can get my gun in there through some bodily contortions, but then it’s near impossible to pull it out again. This thing is a negligent discharge waiting to happen, yet thousands of people love the Crossbreed-style holsters and use them every day. What the hell am I missing?

    • You’re not missing anything, but the people running those half-floppy holsters might be if they don’t get a decent bucket for their pistol. That being said, some hybrid holsters are stiffer than others. The Comp-Tac MTAC has a couple layers of leather and is rather stiff.

      • Yeah, that’s the painful part. I got this one specifically because the shell is rigid and should really protect the trigger. T’was supposed to be the last IWB I’d ever need. Instead, I’m still using my $20 nylon holster which, to it’s credit, is pretty damn reliable. Nothing to flop, bend or protrude. I guess if it ain’t broke, I shouldn’t try to fix it. It’s just hard to ignore the siren song of the fancy ass holsters out there.

        • I have an AG holster and I am quite happy with it. It’s actually my second one.

          The leather that keeps the gun off your skin will lean over a little (if you have love handles), but mine don’t “flop”. Since I wear this so the gun is right under my back pocket, you have to look to make sure you are getting the gun in correctly.

          I agree with the other poster about the cant. I added a notch of cant to mine and it helps make it more comfortable.

          You are going back to your nylon holster? Those are definitely the ne plus ultra of holsters. Maybe you just don’t like IWB, or need an all kydex holster. I guarantee it won’t flop over on you, and you will have that comfy plastic against you all day long.

    • Are you missing visible ribs? Looking at the pic of AG vs. CB, the minimalist backing of the AG looks to make it prone to floppage if one has serious girth. My CB curves over from my spare tire, but not that much.

      • I’m pretty lean. It’s my hip bone that forces the leather into the shell, I suppose, but it happens no matter where I place it and no matter how loose my pantaloons. I’m mystified. Physically, it seems like these things should never work, but obviously they do.

        • Yeah, I tried that. Same problem. Even moved it all the way to the wallet position and it’s the same problem. I suppose I could try carrying it for a couple days with the LCP riding in the shell just to see what happens.

        • I’ve noticed that shorter pistols shift more in IWB positions. My full size M&P is more comfy IWB than my Shield.

        • I’ve noticed a similar problem with my SHTF crossbreed-style holster (courtesy of TTAG and SHTFGear) for my Sig p238. My DeSantis for a 1911 had no issue like this. I’m thinking it’s a small-gun thing. I have noticed practicing drawing from my holster and wearing it for a few days straight made a lot of difference. Still almost-too-good retention, but not nearly as bad as before. FWIW, SHTFGear recommends I think a minimum of 2 weeks everyday wear before it really “fits” your gun. Like I said, after that break-in period it’s been great.

    • Move it back a little farther and let it break in. I have a Galco Kingtuk for my lcp and commander 1911. I’m 6′ 180 lbs wearing a size 32 pant and have no problem wearing the 1911 under a tshirt. I also shoot IDPA with that setup.

    • I got a Crossbreed Supertuck recently and really like it so far. It’s a huge improvement over what I was using for IWB, which I will not mention out of fear of embarrassment. I carry a full size steel frame 9mm.

      I do find I’m pretty sensitive on positioning. I carry at about 3:30. 3:00 bugs me, as does 4:00.

      I also found, for me personally at least, cant is a MAJOR variable. I like a strong forward cant. Have you tried changing the cant?

      If a particular holster does not work for you, move on; try something else. One of the reasons there are so many is because we are all different and carry different guns.

      It really bugs me when folks say, “get a X…it’s the best | most comfortable | all you’ll ever need.” What crap advice that is. Sometimes you get lucky and really like your first or second try, but sometimes, it’s a real search.

      If you can’t find something that “fits” you and is comfortable enough to carry, you may try a different carry position, or, as a last resort, a different gun.

      My OWB holster is a Bianchi 7506, which I really like. Is going OWB (as another carry position) an option?

      Good luck. CB is working for me (so far), so I got lucky. That said, I’m going to also get a Remora Reinforced to give a try.

      • Good advice. I probably should have gone for the Crossbreed straight away. That’s the one that had always appealed to me and then Alien Gear came along at half the price. I don’t know if that’s the issue, but I probably will try the CB before I’m done.
        What’s funny is that the cheap holster I’ve been using is performing perfectly. I’ve fallen into that weird mindset where if you didn’t pay a lot for it, it can’t be any damn good. Kind of stupid, but there I am.

        • I can’t say if CB or what you have or any other brand is better (for me, for you …). I can just say “try it.”

          I did go back and noticed that you mentioned carrying an LCP. We are at different ends of the spectrum in terms of what we are trying to conceal, for whatever that means.

          LCP’s are pretty common; maybe you could find someone who has a CB (or other…try a lot of ’em would be my advice) that might consider a loan-before-you-buy?

          Also, keep in mind CB allows a trial period with return. I suspect the other major players do this as well?

        • Yeah, the LCPs are everywhere so choice isn’t a problem. Alien Gear does offer the 30 day buy back, so I’ll probably ship this one back to them. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I guess. Or something.

  10. Well, he’s clear, logical and a good communicator. The information is excellent. Am I the only one who noticed the outstanding example of police militarization he presents?
    How about some non-camo for a change?

  11. striker-fire? sure. DA/SA? meh. Sequence should de-cock, thumb-check, and holster, making it next to impossible to discharge inadvertently. I use the same sequence for a striker-fired pistol, even though the thumb check is meaningless, but with that type of action, I’ll for sure look to see what I’m doing.

    There are a few of us old farts who still train with and carry SA/DA heaters.

    • “There are a few of us old farts who still train with and carry SA/DA heaters.”

      Yeah. I cannot help but think a lot of this comes from the kind of “make the tool ‘smarter’ to protect the user” backwards progress that leads people to say stuff like “External Safety? Who needs that? The trigger IS the safety.”

      Not to start a brand war, because I don’t care about that, but that particular argument has always intrigued me.

      I choose to carry a full frame SA/DA semi-auto. I now carry with hammer down and safety on. I have, in the past, carried cocked and locked with safety on. Safety on either way…keeps the draw stroke consistent.

      Safety manipulation is so ingrained into muscle memory, it’s not the “extra step” people blather on about. With hammer down on a DA trigger is the safety, AND there’s a manual safety, AND my pistol has a firing pin safety as well.

      And with all that…holstering STILL remains a conscious act that I will not sacrifice to “look cool.”

  12. I would say that if the OP has had nearly 150 hours of training and has never been instructed to holster slowly and watch it back into the holster, he needs to find better instructors.

    • +1 – IMO, you should be able to pay attention and look at holstering because there shouldn’t be any threats in the area. I’ve never really been convinced why one should be able to holster quickly and without looking. Not to mention, when I learned, you always tip the muzzle slightly away from you/push the grip sligthly into you. If there’s an ND, the angle might help keep it from going to far into your leg.

      WRT eunich/appendix carry – man…..I just dunno about that one. Too risky for me.

      • I appendix carry an xds. No way in hell I would holster without looking. And I seat it by pushing on the back of the slide so as not to engage the grip safety. I’m pretty fond of my parts, and a severed femoral artery that high up is gonna kill be before I can scream for help. Even with a 4 o’clock carry, I wouldn’t want to shoot myself in the ass. Not putting your GAT back until the threat is truly gone is wise anyway, so I wouldn’t worry about looking down for 3 seconds.

    • For clarification: every instructor I’ve had *always* said to take time re-holstering. The difference was only that most urged keeping situational awareness up when doing so.

      In the right context, either way could be wrong. I just think that if I’m going to go all “Moose Cock” on the situation at that moment, it’ll be bc I wasn’t paying enough attention to reholstering, and not because I missed that there was one more bad guy with a gat hiding behind a dumpster.

  13. I carry AIWB, so I am STRONGLY incented to holster slowly and carefully. I’m not in any hurry to find out if I can self-treat a femoral artery bleed with a tourniquet in time to call 911.

    Also, hammer-fired guns are a tremendous comfort when holstering. I thumb-ride that hammer all the way into the holster.

    It does not surprise me that Scotty was the one who got it right. His name comes up among folks who themselves are top-notch trainers as being one of the best in the business.

  14. The previous post about the Glock AD got some traction on another board with lots of “thats why I dont own a glock” comments. It occurred to me about 48hrs later that most revolvers do not have safeties either and there are a blue million of them in circulation as well as glocks with most owner operators of these weapons managing to not shoot themselves. Point taken on the previous article however as it also occurred to me that I took my CCW range practical wearing a garment with not 2 but 4 cord locks that could have found their way into my trigger guard. Yikes! Also in regard to this article, I just shot a local steel challenge match that required 25 holsterings of a loaded handgun as opposed to say 5 holstering of a loaded gandgun in the average IPSC/IDPA match. There was an AD in this match with unfortunately a minor gun shot injury. I think it would be very wise to slow down, look at what you are doing and be extra careful on the holstering of a loaded weapon.

    • Revolvers generally have a heavier and longer trigger pull than the Glocks.

      But nothing is ‘foolproof.’ Interesting word, that.

  15. “A secondary cause is when a piece of clothing or equipment insinuates itself into the trigger guard, causing the weapon to discharge—probably into your leg.”

    Unless you appendix carry, then you might be missing your “lil’ fren”…. major ouch…

  16. Police need to be able to holster without looking. Someone can present a threat sufficient to cause you to draw a firearm- like reaching in their pocket or pulling out a knife- but that threat may cease without the need to fire a weapon. The object may be a cell phone or the suspect may toss down the knife when ordered to at gunpoint (funny how that can work!). Then what? The suspect is still potentially violent but if he comes at you there’s no justification for deadly force and you’re gonna be in deep doo-doo if you shoot him (especially if he’s a different race). You have to transition to another weapon or open hands, but you’re in trouble if you’re dickin around with your leather and not keeping your eyes up. The solution, of course, is practice. At the range, in scenarios, or just when you get ready for work.

    Armed citizens defending themselves may have an easier time as they have no intermediate weapons and are not trying to take someone into custody.

  17. Just FYI: this portion was intended to be a block quote from Pat Rogers’ SWAT article – must’ve been a little garbled in the transmission.

    //////

    To some, speed holstering looks cool. It shows mastery of man over machine, and style points are important in some endeavors. But herein lies the problem. Numerous negligent discharges occur when holstering. The main reason is of course a Rule 3 violation – finger on the trigger when sights are not on target. A secondary cause is when a piece of clothing or equipment insinuates itself into the trigger guard, causing the weapon to discharge—probably into your leg.

    While some make an issue of teaching that you should holster while keeping your SA up, consider this: the pistol should only go away when the fight is truly over. Not when your opponent is down, but when he is incapacitated and handcuffed or otherwise restrained or covered by others. Once that happens—once you are positively sure the threat is no longer a threat—then you can reholster. Caveat: if you are a civilian or off-duty cop, it’s never a good idea to have your blaster in your paws when the police arrive.

    I’m not advocating spending 30 seconds to put the firearm properly in your holster. What I am saying, though, is take the time to glance down, holster and prepare for the admin/legal issues that will follow in the aftermath of a shooting. Taking the time to glance down may spare you a lot of grief.

  18. “Holster reluctantly” was the last piece of advice I received at a class. That kind of captures the spirit of it. The way I look at it, holstering involves pushing your handgun into a tight-fitting enclosure somewhere near to your body, where the resistance you encounter pushes on your gun in the very same direction that *you* do when you’re shooting.

    If you can’t give 100% of your attention to something this potentially dangerous, then maybe you shouldn’t be putting it away just yet. If you find that you can’t take your eyes off the current situation to safely holster, but you absolutely need to holster your gun because you need to do something with both your hands, then you need more people. Holstering quickly and without looking is not a “skill” or “ability.” It’s a risk and a gamble.

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