Apr 8, 2016
Look for 'discomfort' and unpracticed techniques: when working left-handed on a project, a remote camera caught me fumbling around in an attempt to reholster a pistol. Details included clearing layers of clothing and having a crappy grip on the pistol while trying to keep the non-gun hand out of the way of the muzzle. The camera served the purpose of a coach and facilitated dry practice to clean it up.
In Jim Shepherd's Outdoor Wire feature from Wednesday, he discussed the industry's struggle in reaching people who were already firearms owners and users and getting them involved in various forms of shooting sports. At the NSSF's inaugural Fantasy Sports Shooting Camp – last weekend in Las Vegas – he found that a number of participants were fairly experienced shooters who'd never drawn a handgun from a holster. Often we set ourselves up for that. My primary firearms experience has been occupational and drawing -- along with reholstering -- were basic skills. Before that, in the late 1960s and early to mid-1970s, I was a hobbyist with little in the way of formal training. After joining the cops, I participated some in competition but they were local and state matches.
A basic skill, drawing a handgun from a holster is best learned in steps. Here, the non-gun hand moves back toward the body as the gun hand gets the firing grip in the holster. Note location of the trigger finger.
For decades, I was blissfully unaware that non-police types were actually prohibited from using holsters on some ranges. The State of Kansas slapped me into reality when I took their first official Concealed Handgun License Instructor training ca. 2006. Before that, there were few public or club ranges in the whole state, now there are many. In the training required, we were compelled to not allow use of holsters but to have sidearms on a table at the appropriate distance to the targets. I wasn't sure how that actually translated to "training," but in fairness to the state, the juice was likely not worth the squeeze. First, the training was heavy on very basic safety issues and the law. It wasn't "Gunfighting 101." Next, a number of ranges prohibited drawing from a holster. We began to see ranges open in 2006 due to the upcoming CHL law, but we do now and a good many have an absolute prohibition on holster use. The state had defused the whole issue by making it a non-issue. How appropriate is it to have a ban on holsters? Ask a range operator's insurance carrier and a few liability lawyers. As soon as someone carves a divot in his keister by holstering with a finger on the trigger – or getting a draw-string tab from outerwear caught in the trigger guard as in the case of that police chief in the gun shop – things begin to happen. First, your range is essentially closed while the scene is secured and medical first response is involved. Time is money. Consider paying a lane fee, maybe buying their ammunition (some places have had problems with people bringing in backstop-wrecking rounds), maybe the range's targets, plus the time and effort to get there --- all wasted because a duffer made a mistake. That customer will remember it next time and there are more ranges from which to choose all the time.
A better re-holster: Using the non-gun hand to clear outer garments, firing grip on the pistol with the trigger finger in register on the slide of the pistol. Placing a gun into a holster must be done deliberately, reluctantly and needs to look like a reverse drawing process.
Next, there's the potential that the injury is a life-threatening one. That can happen in a number of ways relating to holster use. Do you have combat trauma medics on your staff? Even if you do, the worst thing possible can happen. If it does, you're closed while people like me work the scene. That doesn't even begin to address the PR nightmare. So how do we move people from sterile, holster-banning environments to IDPA/USPSA/Cowboy Action/3-Gun competition among other shooting sports? Consider also that, while there may be a number of ranges – indoor and outdoor – in your area, perhaps organized competition hasn't yet moved into your area. Something to consider is reaching out to top flight instructors in your area for 'training in small packages.' This has been effective in some locales and helps not only by making safer, better shooters but opening the door to other shooting range activities . . . "in-reach." Getting with range owners and setting up 'club matches' is another possible method to get people on the range. Having a safety standard that people have to meet – like the "Safety Check" required before being allowed to participate in International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors activities – and the issuance of a certification card could help as well. Their safety check includes a demonstration of techniques and an individual check-off of each participant be a staffer. As soon as you pass, you get a card you can present at each activity so you don't have to re-do the check. The Safety Check is heavy on gun handling: load, unload, draw and re-holster, pivots and turns (likely not required unless you have matches in which someone starts while facing up range/facing to the right or left of the target line). They're looking for the main physical safety checks – muzzle discipline and finger off the trigger. It's something to consider. Anything to get people active in the shooting sports while practicing the best safety habits is good – and it pays dividends on gun handling in any environment. -- Rich Grassi