Question of the Day: Do You Know When Not to Draw?


A number of readers have sent this picture in to TTAG central, obviously taken in the immediate aftermath of one of the explosions in Boston today. As one reader comments, “Although not related to website content directly, Boston cops apparently clear leather in reaction to blast. Good idea for CCWers to NOT do so in similar situations.” In other words, keep your powder dry until you know what’s going on. Good advice?


  1. avatar Nate says:

    I choose not to carry because of the risks, namely drawing at the wrong time and going to jail for it. I’d rather not have to explain myself and why I did what I did, or lose control of the weapon to an attacker.

    In Massachusetts, we don’t have Stand Your Ground so you need to be extremely careful with drawing/shooting in public.

    1. avatar Hinshelworld says:

      I’d rather not be killed for lack of shooting back.

      1. avatar Nate says:

        I’d rather be dead than spend 10+ years in prison, but that’s just me.

        1. avatar William Burke says:

          Having neither ever been dead or in prison (yet), I’m gonna go with “dead”. But revision is always an option, I suppose.

        2. avatar Ralph says:

          I’d rather be dead than spend 10+ years in prison, but that’s just me.

          You say that as if those are the only options. They’re not — which is why we choose to carry and you choose to be a victim.

        3. avatar Byte Stryke says:

          how about a situation like in Georgia, Unarmed woman robbed, shot in the leg and her sleeping infant shot in the face, killed in his sleep…

          I have to wonder how often she says:
          ‘If I only would have had a gun…’

          Sometimes, you are forced to live with your decisions… alone.

        4. avatar Nate says:

          Please explain how choosing not to carry makes me a victim when I’ve never needed a gun so far?

          I’m all for people carrying, you seem to be angry if people don’t. Why? That makes no sense, it’s a choice.

          Also, bringing up a home defense situation has no bearing considering I’m talking about carrying in public.

        5. avatar Chas says:

          Choosing NOT to take action is still a decision. You have the right to choose NOT to carry; I just hope you don’t expect someone to save you if and when it hits the fan. And exactly how is stating an opinion being “angry”?

          I’ve always loved the rationale that “I’ve never needed a gun, so I never will.”. It’s akin to “I only carry when I think I’ll need to.”. Where can I get one of those crystal balls?

      2. avatar Pwrserge says:

        +1 but step 1 should always be…

        Seek cover. Then asses the situation. Your first instinct should never be to slap leather.

    2. avatar Peter says:

      Am i missing something? Is Nate from the DU and just trollin’?

      1. avatar Nate says:

        Explain how stating my opinion about how I choose not to carry is trolling. Do you even know what trolling is?

        I forgot, having any opinion different than the hivemind is verboten. My bad.

        1. avatar OldBenturningingrave says:

          Guess the thread is past, but I for one won’t give you grief about your decision not to carry. As long as someone else doesn’t try to limit the self-defense options of others, they have a right to make their own choices in this regard. I hope you never need the weapon you don’t carry, but that is an individual choice as you say.

          As long as children are not involved. When an adult is responsible for protecting kids, it gets a bit more complicated. As in the case of the baby that was deliberately shot in the face because the mother didn’t have any money to give two scumbag murderers:

          That happened in broad daylight, on the street, in a peaceful neighborhood. I talked about this with my daughters. Both already shoot occasionally and are comfortable with guns. But after this incendent, both are determined that if something like this happens to them, they will not be powerless like poor Sherry West. I see their decision as the only sane response to this insane act.

    3. avatar Randy Drescher says:

      We don’t have stand your ground in Wis. either. We have a good DA though. George Z had stand your ground…. Randy

      1. avatar Nate says:

        Well yeah, but I also live in an anti-gun state. I sure don’t trust the DA to be on my side.

    4. avatar PavePusher says:

      Nate, I think what people are trying to say (admittedly quite badly) is that based on the available stats, your need to defend yourself (in public), while probably quite small, is still vastly larger than you doing it wrong and going jail. At the very least, take some firearms self-defense training before making such assumptions (if you haven’t already).

      Yeah, it’s a tough crowd here, and we’re all a little on edge lately, with a lot of justification. Please take that into consideration when evaluating the perceived tone here.

  2. avatar Veidt says:

    Clearly this is the most important aspect to be focused on at the moment.

  3. avatar Tim McNabb says:

    Excellent advice. You might want to get your gun-hand free, but one ought not draw until you have eyes on the threat.

  4. avatar ORGO says:

    It depends on your state laws.

    Typically not unless your life (and in some states the life of another) is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm.

    Police operate under a different set of laws. Don’t go by what they are allowed to do or what you see on cops.

    Check your state laws.

    1. avatar Nate says:


    2. avatar Pat says:

      Yup. Dont pull until absolutely sure. You dont have to pull at all, if you dont want to.

  5. avatar David W. says:

    It was one guy.

    The simple fact that he ran towards an explosion instead of away from it shows he is probably the guy you want to come and help you if you were hurt, even if he is carrying a gun.

    1. avatar Veidt says:

      No no, don’t try to dissuade the cop-hating circle jerk that we enjoy so much here at TTAG.

      1. avatar William Burke says:

        We actually LOVE cops here… I think you’re confused about another group. What did you have for dinner last night?

      2. avatar Bill says:

        I love cops who remember they are public SERVANTS and beholden to the CONSTITUTION. If you’re a cop and don’t do this, then you can FOAD

    2. avatar Doug says:

      He’s actually running away from the blasts in this pic, just FYI.

      1. avatar Joke & Dagger says:

        I’m just happy he is not wearing cameo head-to-toe.

  6. avatar Rich Schlittler says:

    Looks like a radio to me.

    1. avatar ChuckN says:

      The guy on the left not the one centered.

    2. avatar JAS says:

      It’s a garden hose nozzle…..

      1. avatar ChrisMcLain says:

        I thought it was a newspaper….

    3. avatar Mark N. says:

      The “guy” on the left is a gal. I saw here elsewhere in another pic just before this one was shot (same photog). You can see her long hair on the right side of her face.

      1. avatar Mark N. says:

        And she wears earrings.

  7. Any way to zoom in on the photo to see if he had his finger on the trigger?

    There were no reason for the gun to be upholstered in public. There was no identifiable threat at that second.

    1. avatar Veidt says:

      I agree completely. You should never be applying fabric to your firearms in public.

    2. avatar C says:

      His finger is off the trigger

    3. avatar William Burke says:

      I’m not seeing a handle where I think there should be one. Plus, it’s a bit too squared-off to be a Glock or anything I can think of, firearms-“wise”.

      It’s certainly possible I’m seeing it wrong; what else could it be? It doesn’t look like a radio.

      1. avatar C says:

        I zoomed in. Guy in center most definitely has a radio in hand. I was wondering why he was carrying cross draw.

      2. avatar Charles5 says:

        The Officer on the left most definitely has his gun drawn.

        1. avatar Moonshine says:


      3. avatar Chip says:

        Officer on the left… gun drawn.

        Officer in the center… radio or cell phone. Not a gun.

        Officer on the right… gun drawn, or at least hand on gun.

        The three officers in the back of the shot are obscured from view but best guess is none of them have drawn yet.

  8. avatar Jeff says:

    I agree with Tim McNabb

    1. avatar Tim McNabb says:

      +1 You are obviously wise, and probably handsome

  9. avatar JDub says:

    Poor old guy I’m the red vest on the ground it’s lucky he didn’t get shot.

    1. avatar plizkin says:

      “Poor old guy I’m the red vest on the ground it’s lucky he didn’t get shot.”

      YOU… are the ‘red vest’ ?

    2. avatar C says:

      Never wear a red shirt on an away mission. Rookie mistake.

      1. avatar Matt in NC says:

        Gotta love a well done Star Trek reference. Well played, Sir!

        1. avatar Mina says:

          no kidding. excellent.

  10. avatar plizkin says:

    “Good advice?”

  11. avatar mountocean says:

    I wouldn’t say the cop was wrong to unholster, but the photo illustrates why I embrace the CONCEALED part of concealed. In a crazy situation like this anyone with a gun will be treated suspiciously at the very least.

  12. avatar miserylovescompany says:

    Never draw until you have identified a real and tangible threat. Of course, in everyday life, that’s what being aware of your surroundings is all about. Obviously an explosion is something totally unexpected, and takes you that much time to process and identify it as such. The cop on the other hand is acting out of his training without thinking. While it probably was not necessary, it was what it was.

    1. avatar csmallo says:

      Sounds like he needs to be trained to think then. No reason at all for him to have even touched his/her weapon, much less taken it out of the holster.

      1. avatar Buuurr says:

        haha… you’d know. Tell us more.

  13. avatar Jason says:

    The thought popped in my mind “The rules are different if you’re Sasquatch” which I know is a quote from Aqua Teen Hunger Force. But, then I remembered that there was a bomb scare in 2007 in Boston when placards advertising a movie based on this show were mistaken for improvised explosive devices.

    So, the local PD is all over blinking signs that look like a meatball but a Saudi with two backpacks doesn’t turn heads. Good thing we don’t profile.

    Anyhow, back to Sasquatch. I talked to a cop once that said he pulled his gun probably a couple times a week. I would have thought that you’d pull it maybe that many times in a career. They use is as a show of force which ,agree or disagree, is completely anathema to a CCWer.

    1. avatar William Burke says:

      +10 for dragging in Sasquatch in a totally incongruous manner!! It’s a mind-blower, and, because of that, BEST POST OF THE DAY!!!

    2. avatar DaveL says:

      So, the local PD is all over blinking signs that look like a meatball but a Saudi with two backpacks doesn’t turn heads. Good thing we don’t profile.

      There was another incident in Boston where an MIT electrical engineering student got arrested at the airport because she had rigged LEDs into her t-shirt.

      Hollywood is to blame for this. Protip: In the real world, LEDs are neither necessary for, nor indicative of, an explosive device.

  14. avatar Pwrserge says:

    To be fair to the officer, if I was carrying in the line of duty, my first thought would be to go to condition 1. There are a lot of situations where the bomb is just a distraction before the real threat shows up. It’s practically straight out of the IFNAH handbook.

    1. avatar Mr. Lighter says:

      Isn’t that what happened in Norway with Anders Breivik?

  15. avatar tdiinva says:

    Even if you hate cops if they are on the scene in your vicinity there absolute no reason for you to immediately draw your weapon. That is what we pay them for. And pwrserge is correct. Seek cover and get the hell out of the way. You only draw if a bad guy is coming toward your position.

    1. avatar Veidt says:

      Wrong. There is nothing wrong with a uniformed officer going into low ready until they determine the situation is safe.

      1. avatar tdiinva says:

        Methinks you misread. I was clearly referring to civilian concealed carrier not the police.

        1. avatar csmallo says:

          Cops are civilians. I am a CITIZEN.

        2. avatar tdiinva says:

          You entirely miss the point.

          I once saw a definition of a “buff.” A buff is someone who can tell you everything about the M-1 but didn’t have the foggiest idea what WWII was about.

          I expect that you take this literally further proving that you are clueless

        3. avatar Buuurr says:

          I don’t think anyone has misread anything but rather picked up on the anti-cop sentiment this site has. Yes, the texts reads CCWers but the photo shows police drawing after the explosion. It is misleading and states all it needs to in a thousand words as they say. Its a stupid post and frankly it insults the intelligence of many CCWers out there. Know when to draw? HUR! When you as the CCWer or someone you love or are close to (physically, literally even) is in immediate, life threatening danger. This is basic ‘I own a gun’ shit. The fact that there are not thousands a day arrested for brandishing states how pointless this post was.

  16. avatar great unknown says:

    For the police to draw as they approach an explosion site is SOP in places that deal with terror regularly.

    This attack seems to have followed classic doctrine. Set off one bomb, then after that herds the crowd in the right direction or first responders show up, set off a second, larger one.

    Another method is to wait for first responders to show up and then start shooting them. Which is why a tactical approach with weapons out is advisable. If you are LEO. Otherwise, get out of Dodge pronto: you are at risk from perps and friendlies alike.

  17. avatar user3369 says:

    Definitely best to assess the situation before you draw, but sometimes instinct and training takes over.

    In Afghanistan, an IED blast was often used to initiate a small arms ambush. Created a casualty, assault the distracted element, increase the chance of the casualty dying.

    Not as likely of a scenario on the streets of Boston, but sometimes training and experience take over. I won’t fault the cop for drawing at all, thats his training, and it is definitely the right thing to do. When shots fail to ring out, holster up and start applying tourniquets.

    As a civilian, you present less of a target. A complex assault will target uniformed first responders. Stay low, seek cover, assess the situation. When shots fail to ring out, start applying tourniquets.

    I carry a CAT tourniquet at all times just because of this shit. Being a responsible gun owner means being a responsible human too.

  18. avatar Ralph says:

    Bombs go off, people are killed, others are wounded, women are screaming in fear, cops are running around trying to figure out what’s happening –under those circumstances, the first LTC-er to pull leather is the first guy to get shot.

    tdiinva pretty much handed down the gospel. “Seek cover and get the hell out of the way. You only draw if a bad guy is coming toward your position.”

    1. avatar Tim McNabb says:

      Absolutely – if you are morally compelled to render aid, keep the gat where it is at unless you have eyes on a threat.

    2. avatar Nate says:

      Good to see you agreeing with my point while telling me I’m a “victim”.

  19. avatar Aharon says:

    Weird. I just made a comment yesterday about wondering if any CC holders drew their gun at a gun show after a display gun fired when someone picked it up and pulled the trigger.

  20. avatar Dave S says:

    wonder if the combat response to an IED overseas is to draw the weapon in case the ambush is followed up?

    If so, the reaction would indicate recent service.

    for the rest of us, seeking cover and identify any threat would be good. no point in drawing if there is no threat and you are under cover for the moment.

    1. avatar user3369 says:

      Yes, absolutely the training. Except you know, we never holster our M4s.

  21. avatar Regulus says:

    I’m pro gun all the way. But man this tread post is just poor taste. You make you such an expert? Everyone in the gun community acts like they are such tatical experts. It’s really turning me off. I really am thinking about a new hobby. Gonna put my EDC pistol on the shelve and taking my NRA sticker off my car and gonna replace it with a fishing sticker or something. I’m so tired of being around self-righteous tatical-cool biggots. You weren’t there, you don’t know if guys where gonna pop out of windows ad start shooting so there doesn’t need to be a debate of to pull or not to pull. Wow.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      Wow, are you FOS.

    2. avatar Moonshine says:

      Regulus, it sounds like you’d like to give a counterpoint to this story. In order to do so effectively, I’d suggest proofreading for spelling and grammar. Failing to do so makes it too easy for people to dismiss your post as that of a raving [FLAME DELETED].

      P.S.: Rob, that one’s on me. 😉

    3. avatar Ben says:

      Did you read the article? The question was not: should the cop have drawn his gun or not? It was: do you, as a CCP holder, know when to draw and when to keep it holstered? As a police officer, it’s okay for him to draw. A bomb followed by small arms fire is SOP for pretty much all terrorist organizations. However, CCP holders in the crowd would be stupid to draw, because they’d be the first ones shot by the police.

      That was the point of this article, to get people talking about when to draw or not. If you shoulder the responsibility of carrying a gun every day, then you should also be giving lots of thought to when you should or should not draw. Putting yourself in hypothetical scenarios such as this one will help if you are ever actually thrown into a chaotic situation where you need to start making life or death decisions.

  22. avatar Skyler says:

    I don’t like a lot of what cops do nowadays, but this isn’t one of them. When a series of bombs detonate in a crowded place causing maiming and death to scores of people, I expect the cops nearby to have their weapons drawn immediately until they determine that they might be okay to reholster. That’s their job and I expect them to do it.

  23. A much clearer picture of the officers from a slightly different vantage point.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      This is the pic I saw, in which you can see that the officer on the left is female, and that her finger is properly indexed. In a wide shot taken from the bridge, from this site, you can see that this photo was taken at the moment the second bomb went off. The guy in the red shirt is the old man across from the first explosion who stumbles and falls.

  24. avatar Lordcliff says:

    LEOs: Draw and look for further threats.
    Civilian: Look for further threats while attempting to GTFO. I’d only draw if someone started shooting and was in my immediate vicinity. The rationale for carrying diminishes in a highly LEO saturated area, but you still need to get there and get home.


  25. avatar Forrest says:

    I’m GLAD they draw in response to an explosion. The blasts could have been part of a larger terrorist plan.

    1. avatar Bob says:


      It’s a shame to all these comments condemning them for being ready. A drawn gun can react much faster than a holstered one.

      1. avatar mchad says:

        agreed, glad the arm chair commandos came out in full force today to really live up to the stereotype of gun owners that those of us who have a brain are trying to overcome.

  26. avatar Moonshine says:

    As the story above this one highlights: GTFO is job one, always and forever. Get you and yours out of danger ASAFP. Never lose sight of that goal, even when you are removing obstacles to said goal. If there are threats that must be dealt with, please do not forget that dealing with threats is not your job; getting yourself and your loved ones to safety is. Eliminate the immediate threats and avoid the others on your way out of Dodge.

    1. avatar Rightontheleftcoast says:

      Same lesson from Beslan, per Col Grossman:
      Get out fast, and don’t follow the crowd- in order to break thru a cordon herding them to a second blast, or a containment area.

      If CCW, don’t draw until positively ID threat, and that only after loved ones are clear. Until then, hands off weapon, or at best on grip only.
      High likelihood of blue on blue otherwise.

      1. avatar Moonshine says:

        Agreed, 100%. Wasn’t Beslan, for me. Same story, though.

  27. avatar Jason says:

    It looks like a civilian took down the Saudi suspect. Just saying.

  28. avatar Ralph says:

    The cop holding the gun at low ready is a she, not a he.

    1. avatar Moonshine says:

      Wow, Ralph! At your age you are still able to differentiate a guy from a gal? I hope I’m that lucky when I’m as long in the tooth! 😉

  29. avatar Buuurr says:

    While it may be good advise for the average CCWer I think the main point of this post is to yet again poke some fun at the police.

    Frankly if a bomb just went off and all the police around me didn’t clear leather I’d be terrified. It would indicate that they were in on it and knew something was going to happen – hence the uncanny calm, which these guys don’t have – Thank God.

    I’d also like to add that this site has lost a lot of ‘taste’ in the recent months. Both from the OPers and the commenters. And that doesn’t bode well for us level headed folk who like our rights.

  30. avatar Taco Ninja says:

    It was a bomb…not a gun shot…you can’t shoot an explosion. It was irresponsible for those cops to draw…and as a CCW holder, I wouldn’t draw at that type of situation until I knew their was a threat that drawing could be a step toward stopping the threat…no point in drawing if there is nothing that you can shoot to stop a threat.

    1. avatar Skyler says:

      Yeah, because bombs are never used to initiate attacks.


  31. avatar Roadrunner says:

    Stories out of the bombing of our Marine barracks in Lebanon included terrorists walking past after the explosion, lifting rifles out of their tunics, shooting at the wounded and those trying to help.

    Other scenarios involve things as simple as fire alarms to evacuate buildings and get lots of vulnerable targets out in the open.

    Situational awareness is everything, and these cops did it right. If you’re a CCW holder, you want to be very aware, and not do anything unnecessary to make the cops think you’re part of the problem.

  32. avatar Mina says:

    “not do anything unnecessary to make the cops think you’re part of the problem.'”

    during something like this, I would think this to be the #1 consideration above and beyond getting your family out of there.

  33. avatar Joe Grine says:

    Nothing to see here. I think you would be an idiot NOT to draw in a situation like that (if you are cop).

    1. avatar Buuurr says:

      Yeah, it is kind of a no brainer. Why this thread was posted is beyond me. That or someone thinks a lot less of our intelligence than we know.

      1. avatar mchad says:

        +1 glad there are a few people who feel that this post was pointless and irresponsible.

  34. avatar mchad says:

    Honestly, I read the initial post and it comes off in a tone that condemns the officers in the picture for drawing weapons I think it’s the “Boston cops apparently clear leather in reaction to blast.” That makes it sound like the officers acted inappropriately, which they most definitely did not. I don’t know if the post was meant to come across that way Mr. Zimmerman but I don’t think I am alone in being rubbed the wrong way by it.
    Unfortunately a lot of the internet “operators” seem to think they could have done a better job, and rather than focusing on the intended topic of “what should a concealed weapon carrier do” the focus in a lot of the comments from the peanut gallery has been “cops suck and are stupid for drawing a weapons in response to an explosion”.
    I would hope out of respect for those involved in the situation today this post and related comments get removed. The officers involved are going to have enough to try to deal with in the coming days, weeks, and years because of the crap storm they went through and saw today without being criticized by unintelligent contributors to this site.

    1. avatar Buuurr says:

      +1, Dead on. They have enough to deal with right now… All of it more important.

  35. avatar Brent says:

    Carry concealed and ignore any “law” that says you can’t. Should you be faced with the remote misfortune of being sent to prison (for a jury failing to exonerate you for wasting a bunch of cops that have violated your rights)…have your doctor get you all the “good” meds and a cozy hospital bed with special diet. It’s not vacationing at Staad, but close and your time will go by swimmingly. Stay out of general population.

  36. avatar mb says:

    dang, why are we all being jerks to one another?
    let’s just chillax and exchange ideas and opinions (no matter how conflicting) in a polite, civilized manner.

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