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Here’s something you never see on the firing line at your local gun range: someone holding their phone. A book (remember them?). A bag of groceries. Anything other than a gun or a gun magazine. They face the target, empty-handed, then draw their gun. Done. And yet . . . how many times do you walk down the street with empty hands? Show me a family man or woman ambling around town without some sort of shopping or baby bag or something and I’ll show you a parental unit that got out of the car less than ten minutes previous. Show me a twenty-something who isn’t yakking or texting with a smart phone and I’ll show you someone who needs to get a life. I mean, seriously. To be fully prepared to draw your weapon you need to be ready to drop whatever’s in your hands. As the rabbi (a.k.a., David Kenik) says .  . .

Letting go is hard to do. “It’s not instinctive,” the rabbi opines. “We’re taught our whole lives to hold onto things . . . Imagine someone driving with a drink who has to swerve or break suddenly. Do they drop the drink? No. They do not. But if you’re facing a deadly threat, you need to free your hands before you can draw your gun safely and effectively.”

If you take the “train as you mean to fight” mantra seriously, you need to take a bunch of beanbags to the range. Hold them in your hands, drop them (preferably on someone else’s command) and then draw your weapon and fire. Practice filling and emptying both left and right hands separately and at the same time.

Beanbags don’t roll around underfoot, scare other shooters on the line or require a lot of clean-up time. If, however, you have access to an understanding outdoor range, take an object that does break. Preferably something that’s at least somewhat valuable. That way you’ll train your brain to re-prioritize, so that the gun gets first dibs on your time and attention.

By the same token, take a glass or mug of something, as well. Drop it, let the liquid splash onto your pants (trousers for our UK friends), draw and fire (or, as yesterday, not). Again, you need to train your subconscious mind to “allow” you to do something it generally prohibits. Connecting dropping, splashing and drawing your gun in your mind will give you access to that pattern when you might really need it.

Op fam. Operational familiarity. When it comes to firearms training for real life self-defense scenarios, there’s nothing like it. We’ll get into Airsoft drills soon.

[NB: I know the milk in this video isn’t hot. But it might be warm. Or is that just wishful thinking by an old man?]

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  1. We can also begin training ourselves to carry or hold bags, items, briefcases, cell phones, coffee cups, etc in our non-dominant shooting hand. It might make things a bit easier and quicker to draw. I do lots of walking around Portland and often take public transportation. I usually carry a day pack/shoulder bag where I could easily stow a CC handgun. Either both hands and arms are always free or my dominant right side is non-restricted and free. I’m not paranoid, yet when sitting somewhere (trains, coffee shops, etc) I try to find a secure seat with my back to a barrier so no one can come up behind me. Recently, a 72 year old Boy Scout Leader was knifed in the back and killed by some nutcase.

  2. If you hold your cell phone in your strong hand, a mugger might kill you. If you hold you cell phone in your weak hand, a cop might kill you. They do that, y’know. My suggestion — put the effing cell phone in your effing pocket. Unless you’re expecting or your wife is, what the hell is so important?

  3. Don’t forget the mindset component – train yourself to NOT carry stuff with your “strong” / draw hand. Or… If you are, actively tell yourself “if it hits the fan, observe and orient to the threat, figure out what to do and where to go, drop the groceries, and DO it.

    Robert’s advice is sound, but you can also practice real-world what-if’sin a dry-fire setting, too.

    Ralph, cops do what? Kill left-handed people talking on the phone? I spend time with a fee of them and that’s new to me.

  4. The things people spend their time on…Although I’m not saying it’s a bad idea to practice what has been said above, you have to keep in mind that it’s not possible to get enough practice at actual shooting. Dropping bean bags will NOT save your life. Practicing proper draw strokes, sight alignment and trigger control WILL save your life. So would it be better to acquire muscle memory for dropping things, or acquire muscle memory for actually shooting and defending yourself?

    What people should pay attention to is keeping their dominant hand free at all times. The pistol was considered a one handed weapon for the majority of its existence, and it works well as such. I would much rather practice my drawing and firing one handed than waste my time playing with bean bags. Unless you’re someone who has so much ammo and free time that they can afford to waste a precious range visit on bean bag therapy, I think conventional practice has a better chance of paying off for you.

    I have actually had to draw (And thank god, not fire) with items in my left hand. By the time I drew from my holster and was bringing my left hand up to acquire a two handed firing grip, my brain had already caught up and told me to unclench my grasp on my grocery bag. And I had never practiced dropping things in my life. Does anyone else have similar experience? I would like to know if I am an exception to the rule, because this article raises some very interesting points, although I think practicing something like this needs to be very low on the totem pole of priority.

  5. I’ve been carrying a pistol since I came of age and live in a known to be bad neighborhood called East Cleveland. You rely on your natural threat radar to ascertain danger levels, walk in a balanced and dodge friendly fashion, as well as keep your primary weapon hand empty in public.

    I carry groceries one handed. I text on a touchscreen phone holding it in my weak hand. I manipulate the steering wheel with my weak hand. All because the next time I hear shots I move my head downwards, survey the area and find the butt of my pistol regardless what I’m doing. I never encumber my right hand. It is now at such a point that I’m nearly ambidextrous and anything I do right handed is easily done with my left simply to reserve that hand for my first line of defense. It is always empty, I always face the entrances with my back to a solid barrier if possible, and I walk while swinging my view freely in the 180 degrees displayed before me as though every six steps I cross a street.

    Hazards don’t wait to be observed and I’ve avoided more trouble using vigilance than I ever have with handguns. Someone with their right hand free has the air of readiness that does not make them appear as a plausible victim. That is a better weapon than a hand cannon every day. Knowing what is going on is more vital than being prepared to shoot. Being prepared to shoot is just the most powerful and pivotal option at our disposal and knowing where and what creates a threat before it endangers you is better than being Mr. Quickdraw.


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