Is it quicker to present from your holster than from low ready?

We’ve got a shooting study group that meets once a month to force us to get out of our comfort zone.  It’s all guys who are serious about shooting and can be trusted to move and shoot safely on a hot range in poor conditions.

A lot of times, we end up shooting when it’s cold, wet, and after dark.  Guns fail.  Gear fails.  Fingers and joints stop cooperating and old injuries remind us of past choices and events.  Technique gets refined, stripped down, and technique that fails is mercilessly kicked into the ditch.

We ran a couple of insightful tests/drills awhile back that I want to share with you so that you can try them yourself.

The first one was inspired by a couple of comments that I’d heard…the latest from Col. Dave Grossman…claiming that your times for reacting and getting your first shot on target will be almost identical if your gun is in the low-ready position vs. in your holster with your hand on the grip and retention released.

So we tested it.

Our group of 8 ranged from about .25 seconds faster from low ready to .25 seconds faster from the holster.  We didn’t count the time to the first shot.  We counted time to the first hit on a reduced silhouette steel target at about 7 yards in the dark with flares on the ground providing light.

There were some neat takeaways from this little experiment.

  1. In almost all cases, a holstered gun will expose you to less liability than an unholstered gun.
  2. You’re less likely to get shot by responding officers with a holstered gun than with an unholstered gun.
  3. In most locals, unholstering a pistol is considered brandishing. In many locals, gripping your pistol is not brandishing.  These definitions change from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so you need to know your local laws.
  4. Negligent discharges from sympathetic reactions, inter-limb reflexes, etc. are less likely if the pistol is holstered vs. unholstered.
  5. Drawing from the holster requires more movement and coordination than if you start from low ready, but the guys who frequently dry fire practice their drawstroke and not engaging from low ready tended to be faster from the holster than from low ready.  It’s always fascinating to me when a shooter or athlete can perform a complex movement that they’ve created neural pathways for faster and more precisely than a much simpler movement.

This last point is really important.  When you practice a complex sequence of movements enough times, the process in the brain (muscle memory or neural pathway) gets insulated (myelinated).

Think about going through a bank drive through.  In the middle lane, there’s a runner taking paperwork and money back and forth between the car and the teller.  But in the far lane, there’s one of those snazzy pneumatic tubes.

In a race, the tube is faster every time.

A myelinated neural pathway is like that tube.  And it’s why it’s not uncommon for people to be faster engaging a target from the holster than from low ready…even though the movement is more complex and the gun has to travel a longer distance.

So, how can this help you?

One thing you can do is try this so that you know YOUR performance envelope.  If speed is an issue, which is better for YOU…low ready, or in the holster?

You can try this out with dry fire.

Start with an inert training platform or an empty pistol and a blocked chamber (There are several options, including Dry Fire Cord, an airsoft or CO2 pistol with no projectiles, or a SIRT Dry Fire Pistol) and a target with a safe backstop that’s capable of safely stopping any negligent discharges if you’re using a gun capable of firing live rounds.  Make sure you remove all live ammo from the training area and have no distractions.  Remember, you and only you are responsible for your actions.

Next, get your shot timer or get a shot timer app for your phone (I use “Free Shot Timer” for the iPhone)

Pick a distance to stand from the target.  10 feet is fine.

Set your timer so that it has a 2 second delay and a 2 second par time.

Start with your shooting hand gripping your holstered pistol, aiming at the target.  Hit the button on your shot timer, then, after the 2 second delay, present your pistol and dry fire engage the target.

Play around with the par time setting until you are consistently getting your dry fire shot off just as the beeper is going off.  Write down your time.

Set the par time back to 2 seconds, hold your pistol at low ready with your shooting hand, hit the button on your timer with your support hand, and get a support hand grip before the beeper beeps.  When the timer beeps, present your pistol and dry fire engage the target.

Again, play around with the par time setting until you are consistently getting your dry fire shot off just as the beeper is going off.

If you’re willing, share your times by commenting below…or just which was faster for you.

It’s worth mentioning that low ready COULD be a point in your drawstroke.  As an example, low ready could be the point in your drawstroke where your muzzle is horizontal, in line directly under your dominant eye, and where you’ve made support hand contact.  If you did this, instead of having low ready be some novel position that you don’t normally practice, then you could get double-duty out of your reps and be quicker from low ready without necessarily having to practice a bunch of reps from low ready.

This is one of the big benefits of the drawstroke taught in both the 21 Day Alpha Shooter training AND Concealed Carry Masters Course.  The drawstroke is designed and trained from the ground up to give you the most benefit from your training time and training dollar.  Done correctly, the same drawstroke will take you through low ready, retention shooting, compressed positions for cornering, and full extension.  Now, you can either practice all of those individually OR you can practice one drawstroke that will let you practice all of them with each rep.  I don’t know about you, but I like getting 4x the training benefit from each rep.

Did the light just switch on?  That’s just a taste of why our totally different approach can give people totally different results than what are possible with traditional live fire range training.  And I want to encourage you to learn more now by clicking here:21 Day Alpha Shooter or here: Concealed Carry Masters Course.

Questions?  Comments?  Fire away by commenting below

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  • Dano

    Reply Reply June 6, 2018

    Excellent strategy for understanding what is your preferred method for being rapid and on target. Thanks

  • L&N nut

    Reply Reply June 6, 2018

    How do you avoid training scars when training off videos and not having an instructor to catch a person’s mistakes in short order?

    • Ox

      Reply Reply June 6, 2018

      Good question. First off, when you deliberately watch someone demonstrate a skill with the intent of replicating it, it activates mirror neurons in the brain. It’s kind of a watered down version of the Vulcan mind-meld. Then, when you watch and go through the motions at the same time, your brain will naturally pull your technique towards what your eyes are seeing on the screen.

      Take it one step further, you can practice with a mirror next to the screen so that you can see you executing the technique right along side the technique being demonstrated on the screen.

      One step further still, you can run through the drills in front of a video camera and identify your own mistakes.

      In many ways, this is BETTER than being on a line with an instructor and 10 or 20 students where there isn’t time to catch or fix mistakes.

      For those who want to go even further, I have a private video coaching program ( where I analyze your technique on video and give you back a personalized video analysis showing your biggest opportunities for improvement.

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