Highway to the Danger Zone, AKA Re-holstering
Eve Flanigan 12.09.19
Re-holstering is a crucial component to safely carrying a sidearm. With the holiday season is upon us, many people will unbox a new handgun as a gift or slightly selfish Black Friday purchase. Many more will unwrap the holster they’ve had their eye on for weeks.
Most of these happy consumers already know the rules of firearm safety—specifically for this article I’m talking about never allow the muzzle to cover anything you’re not willing to destroy and its equally important hangar-mate, keep your finger(s) off the trigger until the sights are on target and you’ve decided to fire. The problem is, few people – especially those who’ve never availed themselves of formal training in handgun manipulation – remember that those rules apply to the re-holstering process.
The act of re-holstering is the most dangerous thing most people do with a handgun. As an instructor, I’ve heard too many stories about rounds going through thighs, calves, or fingers due to negligent re-holstering. Any of those injuries is at minimum a scar for life; at worst the end of life. Especially where concealment holsters are considered, a shooter’s focus often shifts away from safety and centers around getting the weapon back into its holster. Here’s how not to get Goosed – all kidding aside – when re-holstering.
Keep a firing grip on the gun until it’s completely holstered.
A firing grip means the web of the dominant hand is up high on the backstrap, the pinky, ring, and middle fingers are wrapped firmly around the grip, and the trigger finger is up high along the frame or slide. As renowned instructor Kyle Defoor is fond of saying “feel the steel,” referring to placing the trigger finger high enough that it’s in contact wit the slide on a polymer-lower gun.
I often see people splay their non-trigger fingers around the trigger guard while re-holstering, and inevitably some digit winds up inside the trigger guard as they attempt to feel their way back into a snug-fitting holster located on or behind their mid-line. This is known as asking for it! Practice drawing and re-holstering with an unloaded gun and, if necessary, a mirror at first with any new holster.
The same goes for drawing, though it’s a less likely time to encounter a problem as the gun is being pulled in a direction opposite of how the trigger operates.
A word on holsters: some do not permit the firing grip to stay in place as the gun is settled completely into the holster. If you have a choice, pick a holster with a cut-away area for the middle finger to grasp the grip correctly until the gun is all the way “home.” Bravo Concealment holsters are one example of a brand that’s had the wisdom to allow room for a grip when the gun is correctly encased.
Soft-sided holsters that collapse when the gun is removed should be removed from the body for re-holstering. Using the support hand to hold the sheath above and in front of the gun, carefully insert the gun into it, creating a gun/holster package that can then be placed back into a waistband, cargo pocket, or vehicle console.
Only when the firearm is securely inside any holster that prevents penetration of the trigger guard from the outside, does the firing grip requirement not apply.
Pay attention to the support hand in relation to the muzzle while re-holstering.
This sounds like common sense, and it is. It’s just not common. Weekly, I see shooters trying to help themselves get the gun into the holster somehow with the support hand. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, until the muzzle passes over a precious hand!
It’s fine and good to use the support hand to clear retention straps that dangle annoyingly over the mouth of the holster, or clear a baggy shirt out of the way. Again, with an unloaded gun and a mirror, observe yourself re-holstering and figure out how to accomplish that task without “flagging” your own hand with the muzzle. For baggy shirts, placing the support hand on the torso just above the holster and smoothing the fabric toward the shooter’s front-and-center, with the hand pressed flat and tight against the body, is the best and safest practice.
The sad truth is, most people forget that muzzle safety applies to their own body, even as they are diligent to not “point” the gun in a so-called unsafe direction away from them. Even if you’re wearing Ray-Bans, it’s never cool to muzzle yourself. Eject that habit.
Be aware of holster obstructions Drawstrings and toggles
I’ve already mentioned keeping the holster clear of clothing and straps. Particularly concerning are toggle-adjusted drawstrings on jackets. Even when carrying open, perhaps especially then, these little gadgets can become real hazards. Develop the habit of sweeping an open jacket away and clear of the holster, or using the previously mentioned flat hand-smoothing technique on a closed jacket to keep toggles and other obstructions out of the way. If at any time you feel resistance while holstering, STOP and examine.
Don’t be a Maverick when it comes to safety
Even if you shoot at what seems like mach-speed, make sure to slow down during the re-holstering process. Putting a round through your own body falls far short of ‘Top Gun’ status.