DEFENSIVE SHOOTING AND QUICK DRAWING - American Pistol Shooting (2015)

American Pistol Shooting (2015)

Chapter XI


IN THIS country, in this day and age one might logically think that the necessity for using a pistol for personal protection or for the protection of homes and property would be absolutely unnecessary. We might with similar reasoning believe that in our large cities there would be less necessity for other means of protection than the well organized police departments that are there maintained. To be perfectly honest, there is no necessity, or we might more accurately say there is little necessity, for citizens who live in well ordered communities to practice preparedness against crime to the extent of buying and learning to shoot a pistol, if there is adequate police protection provided by the municipality in which they reside. Unfortunately however, police protection does not keep pace with the demands upon it and a study of the records of police stations in any of our medium or larger sized cities will show that hold-ups, robberies, burglaries, thievery and malicious vandalism are as rampant today as they probably ever were, if not more so. My sympathy is all with the police, too, in this matter, for I know something of their problem and the efforts they make to solve it. It is a great deal like trying to maintain an adequate military establishment for national defense with inadequate funds and detrimental outside influences that prevent efficient, honest service. Let us grant for the sake of limiting discussion that there are many thousands of our civilian population who live where they have no need to fire a shot for personal protection any more than they have need for a practical knowledge of how to swim. Then stop and think of the thousands of communities where there is little or no active protection against the rougher elements of society. Think of the country stores and banks, of the isolated farmhouses and country homes, of the innumerable miles of automobile highways through forests, mountains and deserts where hold-ups are practical and help is absent. So vulnerable have small communities become to the depredations of organized bandits that “Vigilance Committees” have again been formed in certain sections of the country to combat banditry. Bankers’ Associations of many states have offered large rewards for the capture or killing of these menaces to progress. Along the lanes of migration of that horde of undesirables who do not believe in working, the country is always subject to domestic unrest and depredations, as the changing seasons cause these vagrants to seek the more comfortable climates where they may exist as human parasites with greater ease and less exertion. The citizen who lives in the thickly populated sections of the country where, figuratively speaking, he is seldom out of hailing distance of a policeman, constable or sheriff, does not realize the conditions and situations that confront the hundreds of thousands who live in the vast, thinly settled areas of our land.

There are, in addition to this great class of our people who have occasional need for a pistol for protection, many others whose daily or nightly occupations require them to go armed and to be prepared to meet emergencies that threaten their lives and the treasure and property for which they may be responsible. I refer now to the guardians of the laws, though they be municipal ordinances, or state or federal statutes. County sheriffs and their deputies are responsible for the enforcement of laws in wide sections of our western states. These are quite different to the duties imposed on the city patrolman and there is a small army of men engaged in this work who have frequent need for skill in the handling of pistols. Even in our large cities where crime of the most flagrant type has flourished there are many who depend for protection on their skill in the use of weapons. If bank messengers, tellers, express and mail guards, special railway police, and night watchmen in general, were proficient in the use of pistols the effect on organized crime would be startling and quite adequate in stopping much of the robbery we read of daily.

The following paragraphs are intended for the two classes of our citizenry who may have need of instruction in the use of pistols for defensive purposes. For those good citizens who believe in preparedness for home and self defense and who are the possessors of that popular hand gun known as the “Bureau Drawer Model Assorted” which they may have occasion to use against the infrequent human night prowler, the second-story-worker, or the sneak thief, a brief course in the fundamentals of shooting is necessary. This should be followed by practice in quick and rapid firing against silhouette targets under conditions simulating those in which firing might be done. The scope of such a course could be covered in a few lessons and a very limited amount of practice, if the pupils would concentrate on the work for a short period and then occasionally practice position, aiming and trigger squeeze exercises to keep themselves acquainted with the technique of the game.

That group of men whose daily work assures the probable use of pistols frequently for the protection of their lives or of valuable property should learn the details of defensive shooting thoroughly and practice them regularly or they will be in the same predicament as deep-sea fishermen who cannot swim. The following instructions are intended primarily for them and for those pistol enthusiasts who wish to amuse themselves by learning methods of practical pistol practice. The essentials of quick drawing and shooting are:

(a) Suitable pistols.

(b) Accessible carrying positions.

(c) Properly made holsters.

(d) Skillful pistol manipulation.

(e) Natural accurate gunpointing.

(f) Coolness and self-control in action.

Defensive shooting presupposes the use of pistols at very close range and at comparatively large targets. Extreme accuracy of fire is not required but handiness in manipulating a gun, skill in gun-pointing, and rapid firing with weapons of good stopping power is most desirable. Weapons with long barrels, adjustable target sights and light trigger pulls are unnecessary and in fact disadvantageous for emergency shooting. Those with barrels of four inches or less, with circular blade front sights, rear sight notches cut in the frame and with trigger pulls of about four and one-half pounds are to be preferred because they aid in developing smoothness and rapidity in drawing, pointing and firing. Light triggers are treacherous when used for rapid work under excitement. Automatic pistols with awkwardly located safeties, revolvers with extremely heavy double actions, and either type of weapon if it be clumsy or poorly fitted and balanced is not well suited to the style of shooting under discussion here.

Large caliber belt guns with greater stopping power may be carried in belt holsters that are worn exposed, or under clothing that does not interfere with getting them into action quickly. If it is desired to conceal one’s weapons this can be done best by carrying the pocket type of gun either in a pocket, shoulder or belt holster. Carrying a pistol in a pocket can be done successfully provided all projections on the gun are such that they will not catch on the clothing when the gun is withdrawn from the pocket. Hammerless pistols have advantages in this respect. It should be unnecessary to state that if a pocket is used as the resting place of a pistol it should be an outside one. If the coat is worn or an overcoat is the outside garment the pistol should be in the side pocket. If no coat is worn then the side trouser pockets are much preferable to the hip pockets. They should be made large. If firing through the pocket of a coat is contemplated a revolver will be more practical than an automatic as the latter may jam.

For many years a standard type of pocket revolver has been on the market along with a miscellaneous assortment of nondescript weapons. Today automatic weapons of small caliber are competing with the revolver for popularity. At one time the old style single or double barreled derringers were the most convenient weapons for personal protection but the unreliability of the rim fire ammunition used in them, and the later developments in pocket pistols has about caused the discontinuance of the use and manufacture of these short guns. Caliber for caliber, the automatic pistol is the more compact and as far as size alone is concerned better suited to pocket use than the revolver, but the factors of safety, reliability and stopping power favor the latter. Recently a “Detective Model” pocket gun has been put on the market by one of our reputable firms. This is a standard type of pocket revolver with a two inch barrel. It is convenient for pocket use but not pleasant to fire with full loads. For drawing from an outside belt holster, a pistol with a barrel of not more than six inches will give good results in speed and accurate pointing. For drawing from concealed positions a four inch or shorter barrel is best.

For several years the writer was privileged to observe and study the fine points of defensive shooting as practiced by Mr. J. II. FitzGerald, Colt’s noted quick draw expert, who spent several days each summer with the service team of which the author was a member. At these times the latter did considerable experimenting with pocket guns and finally came to the conclusion that the Colt’s Police Positive Special was the best gun for pocket use or for use with a small belt holster. It might be added in this connection that considerable firing was done with two, three, and four inch barrels, and the three inch size selected as the best all-around length, considering balance, accuracy, and facility in handling. This particular revolver is light, compact and adapted to the powerful .38 Special revolver cartridge. It can be used either single or double action and is accurate enough for all practical purposes. The grip is somewhat small for the average hand and the light weight of the gun when using full loads causes considerable unpleasant recoil. These disadvantages may be overcome, however, by gripping the gun with the little finger under the butt. The lighter caliber pocket guns lack stopping power while the heavier ones with better grips are slower in handling and not so convenient to carry and conceal. The S. & W. Safety Hammerless is a favorite pocket gun with many. It is made in two sizes, namely, for the .32 S. & W. Short or the .38 S. & W. and .38 Colt New Police cartridges.

The writer’s favorite pocket gun is shown in the illustration. It is altered as shown to facilitate drawing and firing with either hand from a belt holster, and is a copy of the one owned and used by FitzGerald. The method of drawing this handy weapon is also shown in the illustration and I believe originated with him. The holster was designed by the writer and made by that expert leather worker and revolver shot, Captain A. H. Hardy of Beverly Hills, California. I have yet to see a faster combination.

To obtain speed in drawing, pistols must be carried where they are most readily accessible to the shooting hand and in a receptacle that retards the execution of drawing the least. A holster is the best method of “packing” a gun but its location on the body has long been a subject of controversy. Some experts, and most movie shots, prefer to carry their gun in a holster hung low on the thigh from a sagging cartridge belt and sometimes secured to the leg with a thong or strap. This equipment is suitable for fast work but is uncomfortable and cumbersome to wear, especially when dismounted. The Army tried this method of carrying pistols but scon went back to the more efficient one of swinging the holster from the belt in its normal position about the waist. The Army holsters are, however, still provided with thongs fastened to the lower end. Another popular place for the holster is on the right hip somewhat higher than the thigh position. With a holster properly designed and hung, this position permits a fairly rapid draw with the right hand. Another excellent manner of carrying a pistol is from a shoulder holster swung under the left arm pit. The gun can be well concealed under the coat in a comfortable carrying position. If the holster is of the “Quick Draw” shoulder type, that is with a U-shaped retaining spring which permits the gun to be drawn from the side instead of the top, it can be drawn quite rapidly when one gets the knack. The height at which this holster is hung is also a factor in drawing. There is one type of shoulder holster that is equipped with a spring catch which locks the gun in place when it is seated in the holster and which must be pressed back by the index finger before the gun can be drawn. This type is not as suitable for fast work.


An excellent outfit for self-protection. The Author’s altered .38 Police Positive Special revolver in specially designed quick draw holster made by Hardy. It is designed to be worn on the waist belt on the left side of the body. It is fast, compact and easily concealed.


A Quick Draw holster for .38 caliber revolver with 6 inch barrel, in position for the draw-across-the-body. The holster may be worn further to the left if desired.


The thigh position. Good for quick drawing but inconvenient and cumbersome to wear.

In weighing the matter of the best location for a quick draw holster we must consider several things. The inconvenience of the thigh or leg holster is one of them. Another is the question of where our shooting hand may be when we want to draw. It may be in our pocket, or perhaps holding the wheel of an automobile. It may be busy lighting a pipe or cigarette or even on a table in front of us as we read or write, and it is not unlikely that both our hands may be over our head. Another important factor we are likely to overlook, especially when we consider only the advantages of the leg holster, is the fact that no matter where we carry our gun this weapon must be raised to a good position for firing after it is drawn. If we wish to conceal our weapon we cannot do it as well when it is hanging low on the thigh.

Everything considered, the best location for a quick draw holster is on the waist belt to the left of the center of the body, with the butt of the pistol to the right. It is believed that a pistol in this position may be drawn and fired more rapidly with the right hand than from any other position, if the holster is properly hung. This method is known as the “draw-across-the-body” and can be done rapidly with the hand starting from almost any position and the pistol fired from the hip, the instant it leaves the holster. A pocket revolver or automatic may be carried as just described and concealed by the coat which is pulled aside by the left hand as the right reaches for the gun. The rule to keep in mind is, that any carrying position which requires the hand to function in a cramped, awkward manner is not the best suited to quick draw work. If this test is applied to questionable positions it will be convincing.


Illustrating the draw-across-the-body starting with the revolver in the quick draw holster and the coat buttoned. Note the short distance the gun travels from the holster to firing position. The revolver used is the Author’s altered .38 Police Positive Special with 3 inch barrel.



The subject of suitable holsters for defensive work will be discussed more in detail in a later chapter and it is sufficient to state here that holsters for this work must be properly designed, fitted and hung in order to give every advantage in their use. Flaps, straps, or thongs on a holster for keeping a gun seated therein are about as useful and unnecessary as a safety on a single barrel trap gun and might better be left off. These adjuncts may do on holsters for general service but those designed for quick draw purposes should be free from them. It should never be necessary to tie down a properly made and fitted holster for quick draw work if it is worn on a correctly made waist belt of proper weight.

Schemes for carrying concealed pistols are numerous and many amusing stories have been written about them. Criminals who are always expecting to be searched have been known to carry a pistol in the coat sleeve suspended by a cord passing across the shoulders and fastened to the opposite forearm. Carrying a gun in a newspaper, paper bag, or in an innocent appearing package in the hand has been known to give the possessor the drop on a surprised thug. Men who travel in places where human life is cheap, and there is always personal danger to prosperous appearing individuals, are not content with one gun but prefer to carry a battery composed of a convenient belt gun and a less accessible but carefully concealed pocket pistol.

Skillful manipulation of a pistol comes only with practice, a practice which requires training along the lines of juggling to attain real cleverness. The speed with which a gun can be drawn depends on: (a) the starting position of the hand, (b) the position and accessibility of the gun, (c) the skill and precision with which the operation is performed. While the right hand is drawing the gun the movement may be camouflaged by a feint with the other hand or by a twist of the body. The more complicated these movements are the more difficult it will be to attain smoothness and precision in their execution. It is as necessary in this form of practice to assume an efficient firing position as it is in standardized practice. Just what this position will be rests with the individual. He may draw and fire across the body with the left side toward the opponent, or he may step forward with his right foot as he draws, extend his arm and fire with either the right side or the front of the body exposed. Turning the body is a means of concealing the first movement of drawing. The beginner must be slow and precise in his movements. They must be carefully timed and exactly executed until they become smooth and natural. In drawing a single action revolver place the tip or fleshy part of the thumb firmly on the hammer cocking spur at the same time the hand grasps the butt. Cock the gun as the draw begins, letting the thumb drop to the left when the hammer is fully back. This also applies to a double action used as single action. Sufficient accuracy and greater speed will be obtained by using a double action as such. As a general rule automatics should be carried cocked, and with the safety on “Safe,” although there is always some danger of it being shoved off. Certain automatics like the .45 Service gun may be carried with the hammer lowered and a cartridge in the chamber. If this is done the gun may be cocked as it is drawn, in the manner just described. For automatics on “Safe,” the thumb should be placed on the safety as the gun is gripped or drawn, and the safety shoved off as the muzzle clears the holster. The index finger should fall across the trigger as the gun starts out of the holster. It is not essential that the leather be cut entirely away from the trigger in order to place the finger on it before it moves or as the gun is gripped. Some shooters like to have holsters made so this can be done but it is not necessary for fast work.


These pictures illustrate the reverse draw with the left hand. Note trigger guard. This draw may be executed when the right hand how the second finger falls across the trigger through the cut away is held or is otherwise out of action.


The next step in defensive shooting is training in gun pointing. For those who are not reasonably proficient in aiming, holding and squeezing the trigger, sufficient of such preparatory work should be done to demonstrate the principles of shooting and to show the inaccuracy that will result if a pistol trigger is jerked or any form of flinching is done. Thereafter, practice should be done at silhouette targets at very close range, preferably under fifteen feet. Gun pointing without aligning the sights should be the practice now. If the target is placed in front of a hill or bank of dirt, one’s errors will be quickly seen and the necessity for firing with a steady gun and trigger squeeze will be quickly shown and emphasized. Gun pointing practice should begin with single shots fired carefully after the gun has been drawn slowly and pointed without jerkiness. The trigger should be pressed decisively the instant the gun stops in the firing position. The pointing should be done with the arm fully extended at first and then with the elbow bent until finally one will be able to hit, without difficulty, a man sized silhouette, by firing from the hip. Experience and practice will teach, however, that better results will be obtained by firing with the arm extended. In extending the arm do not attempt to aim, but train yourself in gun pointing.

The last, and after all the most important essentials in defensive shooting, are coolness and self control. Without these attributes all the skill in the world will be of little value. Your draw may be phenomenally fast, your gun pointing extremely accurate and your rate of fire a maximum, but if you lose your head and become excited in an emergency you will bungle your efforts and your training and practice will all be wasted because of a lack of will power to concentrate on the problem before you.