Although drawing your gun in response to a perceived deadly threat is pretty darn important, so is the act of returning your gun safely to the holster. While holstering isn’t particularly exciting, it is critically important. Take it for granted and you’re courting a self-inflicted gunshot would.
If you carry a gun, you need to give careful consideration to when and how to safely holster it. Knowing when to holster is pretty straightforward. When there are no threats looming in your environment, it’s probably time to put your gun away. This is an especially good idea if you have used your gun in defense of yourself or another and the police are responding.
If you’re holding a gun when the police arrive, at best you’ll be dealing with justifiably uneasy cops. In the worst-case scenario, responding officers could mistake you for the perpetrator. This is a tragedy easily avoided by holstering once there is no imminent threat, but you better be certain the fight is over before holstering.
In the police academy, I can remember the firearms instructors cautioning me and my fellow classmates not to be in a hurry to holster. “No one ever won a gunfight by racing to the holster” was the mantra.
We can’t assume that a prescribed number of hits on our target will have the desired effect. Hurriedly holstering your gun when the assailant still poses a deadly threat could be a fatal error.
Hence, keeping your gun on target and being prepared both mentally and mechanically (with your gun loaded and functional) to deliver follow-up shots is a fundamental of marksmanship.
The bottom line is that before holstering, you should make sure the known threat has been nullified and you should scan your environment to be sure you didn’t miss any other threats. After all, it’s not uncommon for bad guys to travel in packs.
The Easy Part
Knowing when to holster is the easy part. To avoid putting a hole through your leg, you must also know how to holster. Recently, I spoke to a friend, a highly regarded firearms instructor, who’s trained law enforcement, military and civilian shooters at some of the most prestigious shooting academies in the country. He relayed to me an incident that occurred recently in which a shooter he was training shot himself in the leg.
During a private shooting lesson, the relatively new shooter altered his grip to holster. In doing so, his middle finger inadvertently found its way onto and actually pressed the trigger. All the while, his trigger finger remained properly indexed along the frame of the pistol. Fortunately, the wound to the student’s leg was superficial, and after a few stitches he was back on the range later that day.
I’ve witnessed this “altering of the grip to holster” phenomenon more lately than ever before. Most often, it occurs with shooters using leather inside-the-waist holsters worn behind their hip, in roughly the five o’clock position for a right-handed shooter.
Apparently, the combination of reaching behind the torso (where it’s difficult to see), canting the wrist and inserting the gun into a holster that’s slightly collapsed causes some shooters to allow their index and ring fingers to release from the natural shooting grip and hover dangerously close to the trigger in an attempt to more easily insert their gun into the holster. In this case, despite the trigger finger being indexed well away from the trigger guard, the other two fingers present a serious safety concern.
For obvious reasons, it’s important to maintain a proper shooting grip with your trigger finger indexed along the frame and your other three fingers on the grip below the trigger guard from the moment you grab your gun until it’s safely and securely stowed. This is conducive to better control of your gun when drawing, shooting and holstering.
If the holster you’re using doesn’t hold its shape when your gun is drawn, either glance at your holster prior to inserting your gun or remove the holster from your waistband. This is a must when using a pliable holster that relies on friction to remain in place and holsters that cover only the trigger guard of your handgun.
Some contend you should never look at your holster. I was of that opinion for years until I took a class from Phil Singleton of Singleton International, a renowned instructor formerly of the SAS. He said if you aren’t absolutely certain your world is safe, you shouldn’t even consider holstering.
When your world is safe, why not take a split second to “look your gun into the holster” to ensure it’s not obstructed by your concealing garment and to make sure your fingers are clear of the trigger?
Doing so could avert an unintended discharge—especially in the adrenaline-filled state you’re bound to be in after you have drawn your gun in response to a real or perceived deadly threat.