Speeding Up your Draw: Everything to Know about Draw Speed

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At some point in your firearms journey, you begin to incorporate the use of a holster and learn to draw a pistol, this opens all sorts of doors like outdoor shooting, classes, competition, and of course concealed carry.  However, along with that holster comes an expectation of speed.  We have long been enamored with guns being used at speed, especially first shot out of the holster,  whether it be old school cowboys or John Wick we see it and we want it.  But is that lightning-fast draw in the cards for all of us?  Probably not, but with some effort and know-how anyone can get faster.

Alex Zedra Using MantisX

Why Does Your Draw Speed Matter?

The obvious answer is self-defense scenarios, as a concealed carry permit (CCW) holder you want to be prepared for any potential ambush and while speed may or may not be a component in your defense, knowing you have it gives you the confidence to solve the problem you’ve been presented with.  

Competitions also come to mind, where your score is a mix of accuracy and speed, or a shooting qualification which is also scored for accuracy and speed with a minimum to pass.  

Regardless of why you want to improve your draw speed you need to have a good grasp on the fundamentals and proper draw technique before chasing speed.  Draw speed definitely matters so how do we know how fast we need to be or what a good standard is?


Draw Speed Standards

The elusive sub second draw is what many people are after, but no one just shows up with that speed, they have to whittle it down over time with lots of hard work.  Your draw also doesn’t just stick at that speed forever, it is perishable, so consistency is key but don’t forget some days it just isn’t in the cards.  

So what are the standards, or rather expectations, of drawing from holster?  There are of course different opinions if you look around but our friends over at Active Self Protection actually have some calculated data on this.  ASP breaks down how much time you have in an encounter based on the bad guy's behavior but also gives some average draw speed from concealment standards to work towards.

Draw Time Standards

Private Citizens should work to obtain a draw from concealment in 2 seconds flat, the professional standard is 1.5 or better, and experts are expected to do it in 1 second.  

Do you really need a sub second then? No, but it sure is cool and buys you more time that can be spent on your shot placement.  Really what people should do is measure themselves against their times from last month.  Are you safe?  Is it effective?  Are you in control? Go as fast as you can while still answering yes to each of those questions, from there you decide how many tenths you want to shave off.


Considerations When Speeding Up Your Draw

Before we go over how to speed up your draw, also known as presentation, there are a few things that are helpful to keep in mind.

Speed Zone vs Control Zone

Speed Zone Controlled Zone

In the presentation we have several steps but those steps can be divided into two zones.  The speed zone, the first 90%, where you want to go fast and the control zone, the last 10%, where you want to ease off the gas and coast in for accurate shot placement.  That last 10% coast in means you don’t have the wobble in the muzzle at the end of extension from a forceful punch out so you can verify your sights quicker and press off the shot.  Don’t let your need for speed continue into the control zone when chasing a fast draw.


Permission to Miss

If you are striving for improvement you are going to mess up and miss, that is just part of the learning curve, and if you aren’t then you are only maintaining not improving.  When you want to improve your average pistol draw speed it is important to challenge yourself but not at the expense of safety and that challenge zone can be found by giving yourself permission to miss.  You should strive to have 80% of your hits on target, this is the zone where improvements can be made and inch your way up till that speed is 100% hits on target and move your draw time goal.  If you miss more than 80% back off a bit and find where that challenge zone is.  

Use a Shot Timer and Track Your Times

Humans are not a very good judge of time, you can’t say that look or felt faster than any other repetition you’ve done.  Use a shot timer to measure your draw speed, this can be a dedicated piece of equipment or an app.  A shot timer gives you a go signal and then

Shot Timer for Shootig

records the time of the first shot, this can also be done dry with some training products.  Record each time, note if it was from open or concealment and any equipment specs that impact speed, average each session and compare over time to see if you are improving.  What gets measured gets managed.




The old shooting adage of slow is smooth, smooth is fast can be applied to holster draw with the use of a shot timer.  

 

 Use this speed up by slowing down drill, live or dry, with a shot timer to get started.

How To Improve Your Draw Speed

For most shooters improving draw speed is a never ending quest, so how do we accomplish this?  Repetition is the easy answer, do it a lot and you’ll eventually get faster.  While true, why not give yourself every boost you can to get to your goal faster.

Equipment

There is plenty of gear out there that will help improve your draw time but much of that revolves around the competition world.  You can’t exactly wear your race setup around town for self defense.  

Your gear should enable you to be quick and not have unnecessary obstacles but that is trial and error for many people and takes some creative thinking in CCW.  However, regardless of the equipment you choose you should set it up to be optimal for your body.  Make the equipment easy to access, don’t put it in a place you have limited mobility to get to instead place it somewhere your hands like to naturally fall. 

This goes for both inside and outside the waistband holsters, getting that master grip as you draw should be easy so if your hand, elbow, or shoulder is uncomfortable adjust the placement.  An adjustment might mean moving it forward or backward but could also be the angle it is canted at.  Experiment and find what is most natural and comfortable for you.

Reaction Time

The typical reaction time is .25 milliseconds, but this can be improved over time and for many of us happens naturally when put up against a clock.  When you hear that go signal start your movement on the B not the P of BEEP, people who do this well are finished before the beep is.  

You can drill yourself, play other games, or use apps to improve this time for both visual and auditory cues.  

Lastly, remember you have two hands, move both of them at the beep, not just your primary. A slow support hand slows the entire draw process.

Efficient Movement

Many of us have test anxiety and the shot timer gives us the same feeling which causes us to tense up.  To be fast that tension must be released, otherwise you have to go from tense to relaxed back to tense all before you even begin the draw.  Starting relaxed allows you to easily generate the speed you are looking for, this is why many shooters are seen “shaking it out” before the shooter ready command is given.  Inoculate yourself to the beep, hear it often enough that it no longer gives you that same anxiety.

Another part of being efficient means only using the amount of effort that is required to accomplish the task.  Power and speed are often linked but they don’t have to occur together, so be conscious of how much effort is being put in.  Are you over exerting the force needed?  

Drawing from holster should be the same effort as putting your hand in your pocket, it doesn’t need to be a powerful and violent movement but rather just the right amount so you can control the momentum as you present.  Think of pushing a button, do you jam it with all your might or gingerly press it?  Same idea for both holster draw and trigger press, no more effort or force than necessary to get the job done, anything else is just inefficient.

Presentation Path

Technique efficiency is also required for speed, this means removing any movement that is unnecessary from the process.  The presentation path for each draw should be the same.  

We can use our body to guide us by staying connected to the torso and dragging that primary hand up the torso and the support hand across so you join in the same place each time.  Use index points in each step to make sure the path is being followed.  

Primary hand has an initial touch point which ensures a good master grip that is high and tight, support hand to the torso, as they join your support hand should index under the trigger guard and high and tight on the frame then roll out to full extension.  

If you are consistent then your firearm should end in the same mounted position each time with little clean up on the sights.  Reverse this path to get back to your holster, that way your muscle memory is on double duty and has one path backwards and forwards.

Dry drill this path in slow motion, talk yourself through each step and index point until you consistently present with the sights on target.  If you have a dot or night sights, go into a dark room and dry drill this, when the only thing you can see is your sights you will hone in on what that exact path and mount point is.

Shoot Sooner

Shooting as soon as you have verified your sights are on target, regardless of being at full extension, will speed up draw to first shot.  As our hands join we want to catch the front sight or dot in our peripheral vision and bring it into our line of sight and on target, this likely happens prior to your arms being fully extended and it is entirely acceptable to shoot from.  Having a draw that pulls up high will bring the sights into your vision earlier and as soon as the sight picture is verified, a shot can be taken.

This also applies once at full extension, many shooters will present all the way out and then start aiming and prepping the trigger.  This causes them to hang or have a delay between drawing and the first shot, eliminating this gap is a huge time gain for shooters who are at the beginning of their holster journey.  

When you’re drawing a handgun try to use natural point of aim and consistent technique to arrive on target with a good sight picture at the end of extension.  Ideally your trigger is prepped along the way and at the end of your extension the trigger breaks.

Isolation Drills

When going for consistent speed it can be helpful to practice the draw in the individual steps and then put it all together later.  This focuses your attention on one piece and allows you to find any inefficiencies and adjustments that can be made.  Using a mirror or video feedback can be helpful to spot any extra movement that can be cut out.  People do things without even knowing it and that extra effort costs time and energy to do.

Drill yourself for just the grip by reacting to a signal and establishing a proper grip, you don’t even need to pull the gun out of the holster, just work on getting a consistent index point that leads you right into your master grip.

The same drill can be applied for rotating to horizontal, joining and pressing out to the target.  Particularly on pressing out, shooters can work on the transition from speed zone to control zone to eliminate any wobble at the end which moves your sights off the target.


Conclusion

There are so many different factors that can influence the speed of your draw that it is important to critically think about what applies to you personally.  Sure there are plenty of drills that we can do for pure repetition but finding the ones that exponentially help is an experiment.  We may even find that it isn’t a drill that helps, it could be something as simple as moving your holster forward by an inch so pay attention and take notes on what works for you and your skill level.

If you need help with finding what your baseline average is, where in your presentation you can speed up, and what inefficiencies you have, take a look at the Holster Draw Analysis offered with the Mantis X10 Elite system.  It is the only system that breaks down your draw time step by step and shows the exact path that your presentation took.  It will help you find out what step is slowing you down the most and if your draw is consistent from shot to shot.

 

Holster Draw Timed Screenshot
Holster Draw Trace and Consistency

 




Kayla House
Kayla House

Author