Leave Cross Draw To Lee Van Cleef, Unless You Can’t Help It

Leave Cross Draw To Lee Van Cleef, Unless You Can't Help It

Cross draw carry can work really well if done right. The problem is very few people do.Granted, it looks awesome when Lee Van Cleef does it in the movies. But the thing is he was paid to, and when he’s paid…he always saw the job through.

There’s a reason why strong-side and appendix carry are the default carry positions for a fighting handgun. Concealment is easier, draw speed is faster and the mechanics of the draw itself are more ergonomic.

So if you’re a total newbie, looking to start concealed carry, leave cross draw to the movies.

Why Would Anyone Use A Cross Draw Holster?

Cross draw carry has little advantage over strong-side or appendix carry, but one of the few it does have is easier access in a seated position in a chair or certainly in a car.

Granted, this is for cross draw as a primary carry method; some people carry their auxiliary or backup gun in this position, which we’ll set aside for the moment.

However, let us also acknowledge that there are some exceptions. For some people, a cross draw holster may be the best or possibly only concealed carry position that works for them.

People with shoulder injuries and/or chronic shoulder issues – rotator cuff issues are a common cause of this – may find a strong-side or appendix draw uncomfortable or impossible if the range of motion is impaired.

It is also the case that people in wheelchairs can’t use a typical hip holster for rather obvious reasons.

There are also some instances in which a cross draw or something like it is necessary.

For instance wearing a chest holster or tanker holster while carrying a pack, which is common for backcountry hunters and hikers whose waist is occupied by the waist belt of a large backpack.

Some people also see enough TV or movies and get the idea that they’ll use a shoulder holster. They tend to be quickly disabused of the notion, which we’ll get to momentarily.

So, while it obviously bears mentioning that there are exceptions, the supposed benefits largely don’t outweigh the costs. However, if you think that you want to deviate from the norm (ie strongside or appendix carry) we’ll get to how to cross draw carry correctly.

In other words, this train will still stop at Tucumcari, but we have a detour to make.

The Downsides To Cross Draw Carry

The main benefit, as mentioned, is mostly easier access while seated or when driving…but offers few others unless done correctly.

In terms of speed, appendix carry is just as fast if not actually faster. If a gun is carried cross-draw on the weak side hip, it will also be slower than drawing from the strong side hip.

Another inherent problem is ergonomics. The farther you have to reach across the abdomen, the more difficult it becomes to be able to draw the gun without straining to get to it.

You shouldn’t feel a stretch when you reach for the handle; you should be able to reach your gun without straining to get to it. Cross draw often positions the gun in a position where you have to.

This is especially true for shoulder holsters, which – as mentioned – are often abandoned or only used sporadically partially for this reason. Some models are adjustable, so you can set the gun to ride in a more ergonomic location, but that won’t cure the issue for some people.

Another issue, especially if carrying outside the waistband, is the possibility of a gun grab. The grip is right there for an opponent to grasp.

There’s also a potential safety issue.

When drawing from across the body, the weak-side arm can be flagged with the muzzle, unless raised, pulled back, or otherwise taken out of the way. The inside-out cowboy draw stroke – where the gun is carried butt-forward – flags the body with the muzzle.

Flagging is also an issue when using a shoulder holster. Carried horizontally, the gun flags everyone behind you. Carried vertically, the muzzle can flag the abdomen and the legs.

When drawing the pistol, the muzzle will flag the torso or weak side arm from a horizontally oriented holster and can flag the weak-side arm from a vertical shoulder holster.

Obviously, a gun is always pointed at something but flagging a person or a body part with a loaded gun is an unsafe practice.

However, let’s say for the sake of discussion that a person wants to cross draw anyway. There is a right way to do it if you’re going to.

Appendix Cross Draw, However, Works Wonderfully Well

Credit: PersonalDefenseWorld.com

If a person has it in their head to have their gun on the weak side, whether due to rotator cuff issues or just because, the way to do it is cross-draw appendix carry.

Massad Ayoob recommends just such a practice to reduce the ergonomic complications that cross-draw carry on the weak side hip presents.

He also recommends the old “cavalry draw” – carrying the gun butt-forward, and drawing straight up with the weak side hand and turning the gun toward the target after clearing leather – though some people may find the wrist contortions uncomfortable.

It has all of the advantages of cross-draw – easier access while sitting, less strain on the shoulder – as well as all the advantages of appendix carry. The appendix position is the fastest to draw from when concealed, and concealment is incredibly easy.

So long as you have the body shape that is compatible with appendix carry – and that doesn’t mean if you have a spare tire; what seems to be the case is a high natural waist – it’s a great carry position if cross-draw is your preference, and ultimately the best or arguably only way to do so.

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Sam Hoober is Contributing Editor for Alien Gear Holsters, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. He also contributes a bi-weekly column for Daily Caller. In his free time, Sam enjoys camping, hunting and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.
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When I was younger, I lived next to a national forest–all I had to do to go shooting was to walk over a hill, which would block all sounds in and out. I would carry (openly) a Western-style revolver in .22. (And yes, I practiced my quick draw).

The holster I had was cowboy-style, with cartridge loops around the back. They got in the way when sitting, and were inaccessible, so I took to wearing the holster backwards, with the gun on the left, butt forwards. I could access the cartridge loops (filled upside down, so I could push the bullets down against the belt on the hips to get them out, instead of pulling the whole belt up when they stuck. They were held firmly, so they didn’t tend to fall out.)

.I could access the gun with either hand, from any position, which was handy. To quick draw so I could be on target quickly, I would hold my right hand up on the target and pull the gun out with my left hand, bringing it up to my still, on-target right hand which would stop the gun right where I wanted it. To return the gun quickly without looking, I would hold my left hand cupped around the holster and bring the gun in my right hand back to it.

Because I used my left hand to draw, I never flagged my left arm when drawing. When I returned the gun to its holster, I kept the muzzle pointed away from any part of my body, though the barrel would scrape the left hand which stopped its motion.

It was the system which worked for me with that standard rig–I found it the fastest way to get the most accurate shot on target.

And no, I didn’t fan it (after trying it), but I did use the heel of my left hand to cock the single action for quick shots, while keeping my gun hand hold.

(I do want to say that I very, very strongly recommend wearing safety glasses, and ear protection–even with a .22.)

I have done stupid things with guns, but I don’t think the quick draw routine I worked out is one of them.

I would like to add that I made my best judgments about firearms when I was shooting all the time–not when I listened to others’ commentary. (No comment intended.)

Harold Hutchcraft

I have always used the cross draw. During the winter months when I wear a jacket I use a shoulder holster. In the spring when I wear a light jacket I use a belt holster on the left. In the summer I use a belt holster on the left with my shirt out. I am always reaching to my left so the muscle memory never changes. When I draw from the belt position or shoulder holster, I turn my body to the left making a somewhat upper body smaller target and use the body movement to go away from the barrel. This also gives me a way to easily move to the side instead of having to turn after I draw to find cover.

With the butt of the gun facing forward it makes someone coming up from behind at a disadvantage when trying to grab my gun. I can grab their hand and the grip turn to the left and the gun will be pointed at them not me. If I wear it on the right side and they try to take my gun, they will have a grip on the handle and when I try to take it back the muzzle will be pointed at me.

For someone like me with long arms the cross draw is faster and safer..When you practice with a cross draw and develop the muscle memory, drawing from the strong side doesn’t make sense. When you draw from the strong side you instinctively lift your right shoulder up, push your elbow behind you and lean to the left. Once you draw, you then have to lower your shoulder, straighten your arm back out and straighten your body while trying to aim at your target. That doesn’t happen with a cross draw. Watch people on video and you will see what I mean.. Video tape yourself and you will see the flaw. I have even seen some people start to stoop down when they draw from the strong side. All of those bad habits go away with the cross draw. A draw from the right side with a belt holster requires the elbow to be bent at a 90 degree angle or more. The elbow is facing behind you. Once your gun clears the holster you then have to move your arm forward, straighten your arm and then take aim. With a cross draw, your arm never reaches a 90 degree angle and never goes behind you. As you draw you turn your body to the left and swing your arm into the aiming position already locked at the elbow in one smooth motion.. If you practice the cross draw a few hours a week, you will not go back to drawing from the strong side. It will make you aware of just how awkward drawing from the strong side is.

One last note. If you look at the pictures of the old cowboys wearing their guns, they had their holster tied to their leg to keep it from raising up when they drew it. When you draw from the strong side, if your holster isn’t locked into that position it can rise up with the gun and make it even harder to get out of the holster. Most belt clip holsters are universal so they will fit wide and narrow belts. The narrower the belt the more the holster will rise. Pulling from the side in a cross draw eliminates that when clipped just behind the belt loop. It will only swivel towards the pull. Just my 2 cents, but almost everyone I have taught this to..now carry cross draw and would never go back.

Ralph H Thornburgh

I do use a cross-draw when I’m carrying my revolver. It could be considered to be an appendix carry. It works very well for when I’m in a vehicle or sitting down and is very fast. The full appendix carry didn’t work for me. My pistol kept getting stuck and I couldn’t get it out quickly. The cross-draw seems to be more free and simply works better for me.

Michael Patterson

Interesting read, not sure about your conclusions. I’ve taught adult defensive tactics for the last forty years, been shooting all my life. After realizing that my students, all have LTC’s we started training, both the armed and unarmed together. Oddly enough with all my experience, I never trained them together. That’s when we discovered most of what gun writers say is flat wrong, let’s face it, your more likely to be in a fist/wrestling type fight then a gun fight, but you need to be ready for whatever comes your way. As civilians were more likely to be waiting in some line, so any weapon carried on your hip at the three or four o’clock position, is there for the taking, and then if for some reason you fall down, and land on it, depending on how hard you land, you run the risk of a broken hip. In the end the only places we found safe to carry was between our hip bones up front. Depending on you build appendix works better for slimmer people, cross draw works better for heavier and older people both need to be carried close to your twelve o’clock position, cross draw works best with more rake depending on belly size, so your arms and hands can lay naturally crossed in front of you. The other thing we found is don’t count on passive retention to keep the bad guy from taking it, despite what experts tell you, both require some form of active retention if you want to keep it. Problem is most holsters for concealed carry, don’t have an active retention system except for maybe a thumb break, it better than nothing, but not much, we ended up making our own, not too hard to add a kydex hood, and it holds pretty well, long enough to employ counters. I wish I could go into greater detail, about our findings, but that would need to be an article’s worth of writing. There’s so much to learn, yet few teachers train it as one art, it would seem either your a gun person, or a Martial artist, never both. That’s the real problem.