Take a moment and think about your personal nightmare. It might take place in a parking garage, grocery store, your home or a dark alley near your place of business. Such scenarios involve a threat to you or someone you care about—that threat is probably armed and certainly dangerous. Hopefully, you have a gun close at hand and can access it quickly. But what if you can’t? If you have never practiced drawing your gun from concealment, then it is quite possible you will not be able to bring your concealed firearm into the fight in time.
Garment removal is the difference between a concealed and unconcealed draw, but some never give it much thought. It’s more than just flinging a jacket out of the way: It’s taking into consideration all of the things that can go wrong while doing so! It’s fine to practice garment removal with your favorite vest or jacket on a nice, sunny day at the range, but have you practiced with that sweatshirt you sometimes wear? How about that light summer shirt or T-shirt while carrying in the appendix position? Do you change your concealment locations and holsters often? Do you think this could affect your performance in a life-threatening conflict? How about weather? Do you think pouring rain, snow or a strong wind can foul your draw? If you have never contemplated such things, it’s obvious you have not thought through the lifestyle that is concealed carry.
There are several street-proven methods for garment removal for both closed- and open-front garments when carrying at belt level. Admittedly, I prefer this location of carry as it places the holstered handgun closest to the shooting hand throughout a normal day. Consider where your shooting hand is as you walk, drive, type, talk, eat or do any number of routine activities. If your gun is located somewhere on your primary shooting side, your hand will never be more than 12 to 18 inches away from the gun unless your hands are straight up in the air (in what is called a “surrender” position) because you did not see the threat coming. I once found myself in such a position, and I can attest that it is a very hopeless feeling—don’t let it happen to you.
The methods discussed here are for open- and closed-front garments. Open-front garments, for our purposes, are coats or jackets that have buttons or a zipper on the front that are left unattached, while a closed-front garment includes sweatshirts, T-shirts or loose button-ups that are worn closed. While it is impossible to always wear the same covering garment, it is wise to try and be consistent so that the actions ingrained in your mind and muscles work. If you carry your weapon concealed under a jacket that is closed one day and open the next, a certain “muscle confusion” might occur, delaying your response to a threat and increasing your chances of getting hurt or even killed. It’s important to know, too, that if the weather is such that the outer garment must be kept closed to guard against the elements (winter snow, sleet, rain), the best concealment location may be in an outside pocket with your hand resting on the gun.
The movement to the holstered sidearm will be similar for each open-front of the techniques mentioned below. What changes is how the hand interacts with the garment to move it out of the way. Start with your hands in front of your body. Even if your hands are hanging at your sides, they must move up when the threat presents itself in order to sweep the garment away and clear your holstered gun.
Open-Hand Impact: Your shooting hand is spread open to its fullest extent and used to impact the garment and move it out of the way. Once the garment is pushed back, your hand turns into the gun and secures a firing grip. Keep in mind that, once you acquire your grip, your hand no longer controls the garment and it may fall back over your hand or pistol. If this happens, just “punch through” to clear the gun, even if there’s a snag. Not every draw will “break clean,” so expect nothing to work as planned.
Gaylord Technique: Named for holster-maker Chic Gaylord, this technique comes directly from his book The Handgunner’s Guide. When using this technique, your hand is stiffened like a karate chop and inserted between your torso and garment. Your lower forearm pushes the garment out of the way as your hand travels to the gun. A bit of lateral hip movement can help position the garment for removal.
Lapel Slide: Advocated by Kelly McCann and his staff at Crucible, this starts with your hand traveling high up on the open garment and hooking behind the lapel or where the lapel would be on a suit coat. Your hand then slides down to the holstered handgun, pulling the garment back as it travels downward.
Hook Technique: Use your four fingers to make your hand into a hook and grab the open jacket at about the same level as the gun’s grip. Your elbow bending to the rear then pulls the jacket out of the way. Once your hand is even with the gun, turn into the gun and secure a firing grip.
The HK Technique: Your hand lays flat against your torso in the open space of the garment. Without losing contact with your torso, slide your hand back until it rests on the gun’s grip. I originally saw this taught by Tom Marx, who is a retired Chicago cop, a Smith & Wesson Academy instructor and a holster designer for Uncle Mike’s and BlackHawk. The technique was later adopted by the former Heckler & Koch International Training Division and taught as part of its doctrine.
Some of these techniques offer greater garment control but take more time to execute. Those methods that are fast provide very little control over the garment as it moves to the rear. This is a compromise, but like everything in life, the choice is yours to make.
The Hackathorn Rip: This technique was invented by master weaponcraft instructor Ken Hackathorn. Your support hand reaches across your body and lifts the garment vigorously over the holstered pistol. Your shooting hand then acquires a strong shooting grip and draws the pistol clear of its holster.
The Bowie Sweep: Created by Tactical Defense Institute instructor and custom gunsmith David Bowie, this technique can be used when either the support hand is occupied (fending, pushing, injured) or when a double layer of clothing is worn (a coat over a sweater). Your shooting hand grasps the covering garment at the belt buckle and vigorously pulls the garments up and back over the holstered handgun, taking all layers of clothing with it. Once the gun is clear, your hand instantly shifts to the gun’s grip and secures it before the garments can fall. Then draw your gun and align your sights on target.
While no draw method is perfect for all situations, practice the techniques mentioned above so you can execute them all properly—they’ll work for most situations. Pick the one or two methods that work best for you in the real world of work and play. And stay alert.