Draw From Holster

With club elections now behind me, a new system to manage prospective members in place and seemingly working, I’ll have some more time now. I’m interested in bringing a Steel Challenge match to my club. The only problem is we don’t allow drawing from holster. Maybe I could get an exception for the match, but I think that’ll be a tough climb. The fact is there are some risks associated with letting any yahoo draw and fire from holster, and I’ve seen enough sloppy gun handling there to be wary of it even myself. But I’m also finding people will rise to the competence that’s expected of them… in other words, as I’ve been running matches, I’m seeing gun handling practices get better.

If I were to run a Steel Challenge-like match, I’d probably need to get people’s gun handling skills up before we could do anything like draw-from-holster. I’m curious what other people might have done in this situation, and how other clubs that allow draw from holster or allow limited draw from holster manage it. If you run a Steel Challenge match, which means it’s an open match, how do you know the shooter showing up actually knows how to do a safe draw? Is there ever any safety check? Pre-qualification? Do you police equipment? I’ve looked at other clubs in the area, and some allow it, but only for qualified people.

19 thoughts on “Draw From Holster”

  1. I can’t speak to this issue directly, as I don’t participate in those kinds of matches, but as a general rule, the more “lawyer-inspired” rules a match has, the less I’m likely to participate.

    I compete in primitive biathlons. It’s sort of like the modern biathlon, but instead of cross-country skis we wear wooden snowshoes, and instead of modern target rifles, we shoot single-shot muzzleloaders. It started as a commemoration of the 1758 “Battle on Snowshoes” fought in the French and Indian War not far from where I live. It’s a timed event: Your score is your time, and you get (generally) 5 minutes off your time for every hit you make, and there are 9 targets at 4 shooting stations. So accuracy and speed are both important.

    There is a particular primitive biathlon that has a very challenging course, but I don’t go to it anymore because the rules are, to my mind, asinine. First of all, you have to have your gun inspected for safety issues. Now, mind you, this is a competition for single-shot muzzleloaders, and the only time you’re allowed to load the gun is at the shooting station, and you’re not allowed on the course itself with a loaded gun (you get to a shooting station, load, shoot, load, shoot, then go to the next shooting station a ways down the trail with your unloaded gun).

    Why they need to inspect your gun is beyond me. Generally the only safety on guns like that is the half-cock notch, but since you’re not carrying it around loaded, it actually doesn’t matter if it works or not from a practical standpoint. You’re going to shoot it immediately after loading it anyway.

    They put a sticker on your gun so they know it’s been inspected. On the carefully finished curly maple stock of my flintlock longrifle. Arrrgh!

    But far worse than that, is this course has a requirement that you remove your snowshoes before you can shoot. No other primitive biathlon that I’ve attended requires this, and the only reason I can think of the requirement is that they aren’t all that far from NYC, and their insurance company requires it.

    Every other competition lets you keep your snowshoes on. After all, you’re standing still at the shooting station. You aren’t moving around, so you’re not likely to trip over them like I’ve seen on the trail (where the guns are unloaded).

    So I don’t go to that competition anymore, much as I’d really like to. The rules are onerous and seem to have been designed by lawyers who don’t understand the shooting sports. And as a result, they only get a fraction of the competitors that the other primitive biathlon competitions get.

    I guess the general point I’m getting at is that rules for safety are necessary and a good thing, but when they go too far, to the point where they don’t make any sense, they’ll drive people away. Just something to think about.

  2. My club allows holster draw as long as you’re certified by one of their trusted instructors. The certification class consists of the contest rules, a “don’t be stupid” review, and a trip out to the range where you demonstrate draw, presentation, re-holster, and a couple of malfunction drills. If they’re not happy with the performance, they credit the $20 cost of the certification towards a $60 holster fundamentals class where you can learn and get your qualification.

    Once qualified the membership card is replaced with a new one with a red dot laminated just under the picture. Every time you go to the range, they hand you a 8.5″x11″ laminated “Holster Qualified” sign to stick up in the bay. Anybody drawing without one gets an immediate talking-to by the RSOs, and that includes people that they know are qualified; in my case it was: “Dude, seriously. Bring the sign in with you or quit drawing.”

    The rules are stricter for the competitions: everybody’s card is checked while signing up for the match, and again in the bays when splitting into match groups. If you don’t have a card, you can sit in the waiting area. If you’re a visitor and were checked out prior to the match, you get a sign on a lanyard.

    It seems to work well.

  3. Look at Cowboy Action Shooting. 10s of thousands do it every weekend with every stage requiring 2 draws and reholstering from/to holsters. There’s very specific rules on when you load and how you draw. 10 year olds to 80 year olds handle it just fine. Also, you draw with no rounds in the chamber and only get a round in the chamber when the pistol is pointed downrange.

  4. I often read PawPaws house, a link from Lagniappes’ lair. I have met him, and he’s good people, I believe he may have met Dennis, the guy who blogs as PawPaw. He’s a Sheriffs deputy in Louisiana, and does indoor wax bullet shooting:


    Ya’ll might get together, he would have some insight, I’m sure.

    Thanks for the good work.

    1. To be honest, I think that picking a loaded gun up from a table is MUCH more dangerous than a holster draw.

      With the table you have to slide your fingers or thumb under the gun to get your hand around the grips. All the time you are doing that, your trigger finger is trying, almost with a mind of its own, to get into the trigger guard and onto the trigger.

      With a holster draw, the entire grip of the gun is exposed and waiting to be gripped, while the trigger is covered until the gun is drawn, preventing the trigger finger from encroaching into forbidden territory.

      Seriously, it’s not that hard – use a decent holster with some rigidity to ensure the holster mouth stays open, and INSIST that people use ONLY the gun hand to holster – keep the weak hand out of the process.

      With Steel Challenge, IIRC, there’s little to no movement with a loaded gun, so even less of an issue than with IPSC or USPSA.

      I’ve been the safety assessor for my local IPSC club for ten years, and have had only a handful of trainees/novices that haven’t been up to par in that time.

  5. I don’t know if this is to be an open event or limited to your club membership, but maybe run a NRA defensive pistol and NRA defensive pistol II qualification first to evaluate and bring up the skill levels. There is a lot of drawing from holster in Defensive Pistol II qualification. By the time they are done, they will be quite practiced.

  6. You need a better “club”.

    Rules like this discourage people from learning valuable self defense skills. It sort of sounds like gun snobbery. Now, sure every range has rules, and of course everyone needs to be on board with gun safety, because the penalty for a lapse can be far worse than a gig from an RSO.

    OTOH, you get to read about some place where folks might as well be doing needlepoint.

    As was previously stated, the more byzantine the rules, the more likely I take my money elsewhere, with the full realization that may have been the goal all along.

    1. I think both the club and the gun community in general would be better serviced finding a way to convince them to allow draw from holster, and keeping byzantine rules to a minimum.

      There may be practical considerations that may keep Sebastian attached to this particular club, too.

      1. The practical reason is that if we don’t bring these clubs from Gun Culture 1.0 to Gun Culture 2.0 we will irrevocably lose them. If you want a healthy gun culture, you need places to shoot. Losing places to shoot is a lot easier than making them.

  7. My club has free holster draw training, scheduled twice a month. Simple class to review range rules (only drawing in a way to prevent muzzle sweep, including how to twist if you do cross draw for Cowboy Action). only members can take the class and that is a perk of membership. Guests (except for open events that involve holster draw) cannot draw from holster. We host just about every form of shooting competition and a majority of the events are open to the public. Rules are reviewed before every event and the RSOs enforce range safety. They don’t make it complex.

  8. I used to run a USPSA match. (USPSA now owns the SCSA). We used to safety check new competitors in an empty bay during set-up the morning of the match. Safety check consisted of an overview of the safety rules of the sport, special considerations such as right handed competitors reloading while moving right to left across the range (easy to point the muzzle up range, toward people, if it’s your first time), review of range commands and cold range policy, followed by a couple of rounds of having the competitor follow range commands to load, safely holster, draw, fire, reload, unload and show clear, safely reholster a cold gun etc. If people could remain calm, follow the direction fo the RO, and generally conduct themselves in a safe manner, then they passed.

    Established competitors could be vetted – either because they already possessed a USPSA classification, or an IDPA classification (where we’d still encourage the safety brief, but not necessarily the safety check). The briefing and check were conducted by NROI certified range officers who were also seasoned competitors. If I were to set up a club, I’d want to affiliate with SCSA, and arrange for a core group of organizers to attend RO class through the organization. That would get you access to vetted safety rules, and demonstrate that you took concrete steps to make the match as safe as possible. Good luck!

  9. I don’t know this particular event so comments will be general. Range safety is obviously important, especially with unknown shooters. However, holsters are only a small part of this. Drawing from a holster is usually safe especially in an event with a defined firing line-it is reholstering that is dangerous. The person you are most likely to shoot because of bad technique is yourself. The whole problem is made worse because so many ranges won’t allow it thus people never learn the proper technique.

    You see a lot more safety violations like finger in the trigger guard and muzzling people when the gun is out of the holster. Having nothing convenient to do with the gun when you are not shooting is a common problem.

    Couple of practical suggestions. First, a safety brief as others have suggested-both general and focused on the particular rules. Reholstering technique should be covered. Second a quick holster inspection to make sure it covers the trigger guard. Having a couple of extra holsters around to loan to people wouldn’t hurt either.

    Stay safe.

  10. Please consider adding a holster workout booth. I’ve only seen one of this setup in 25 years, so I don’t recall what they actually labeled it. It was a small outside safe area for working on drawing so one didn’t have to tie up a range to use a loaded gun and holster. It had at least 3 walls of heavy timber (railroad ties?). Probably all 4 walls, since I do recall it having some sort of entrance-way.

    Besides being a practice area, it gives the range a safe area for loading/unloading, swapping holsters, swapping guns, while a training class is ongoing. Useful for shotguns and pistol carbines also, but rifles would require thicker walls.

    I’m told the range has been gone for years due to encroaching development, so I can’t point you to it for details. I’ve really missed the utility of this when taking classes, but encountered it at a 3-gun competition.

  11. New shooters meeting, range officers trained by USPSA. Every month my club holds matches with 75+ competitors. If it’s your first time, you get a meeting telling you exactly what is expected. Failure means you don’t get to play anymore. There is a range officer standing over your shoulder and another one on your off side. Clubs do this every day all over the world.

    If your board is full of curmudgeons, they all think their gun handling is perfect. Everybody gets to go shoot a match. Once they’ve watched a ten year old shoot the match faster and just as safely as they do, it’s hard to argue that you can’t do it.

  12. My USPSA Club requires a safety briefing for any new shooters to the event. That covers rules, expectations and having them show they can actually draw and dry fire from the holster in a safe fashion. This is all under the supervision of a USPSA Certified Range Officer.

  13. In eastern PA there is the PA steel league. Ask them how many accidents they’ve had. Sorry, but, your club sounds like a Fudd club. Are black rifles banned too? Only 1 shot every two seconds?

    1. Lots of Fudd clubs out there, and if we don’t do the hard work to bring them in the 21st century those clubs will disappear forever and not be replaced by other places to shoot.

  14. My club in Phoenix limits drawing to practical shooting matches, practice in the practical bays, or for the supervised unloading of a carry gun when you arrive at the range (if you intent to shoot your carry gun).

    New shooters get a briefing and a match escort (usually an RO) to answer their questions and help them through the event.

    Holsters for practical/steel matches must comply with USPSA rules and the muzzle cannot break the 180 during the draw or holstering. The RO/SO usually checks the holster position and cant before the Load and Make Ready command. If the new shooter is unsafe they get DQ’d from the match and counseled on what they need before they come back to shoot with us.

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