A constant theme to be found among the population at large that carries guns, or at least keeps firearms for defensive purposes, is a failure to train with the gear and in the tactics that apply to self-preservation. A glaring example, and the one I most often witness at public ranges, is a failure to train from the holster. The majority of people at any given public range do not practice with their handgun from a holster. Among the minority that do use a holster, most are utilizing strong-side outside-the-waistband holsters, which makes such practice easier, but is unlikely the holster that is used for concealed carry. The single most important handgun skill for the concealed carrier to practice is a safe and efficient draw to a first-round hit. Yet, this is a skill that is rarely practiced among the majority of gun carriers.
Among the minority of concealed carriers that do practice from a holster, a further breakdown can be consistently observed; even in classes, which are typically attended by shooters who are significantly above average (demonstrated by their drive to at least seek out professional training), most participants use holsters that are not relevant to their actual method of carry. Most students in any given shooting class will utilize an on-the-waistband strong side holster with no concealment garment. How many individuals actually carry a defensive handgun this way? Granted, there are those that practice open carry, but how relevant is training from an open holster for the average concealed carrier?
The reason for the lack of training done from realistic concealment is quite simple; it is much more challenging to become competent in drawing a gun from true concealment than it is from an open holster. Some firearms instructors even mandate that students wear outside-the-waistband holsters during their classes. There is, frankly, a higher danger of negligent discharge for an inexperienced person working from concealment as the cover garment adds a significant level of complexity to the draw process. However, with proper training and a safe approach to practice, the draw from concealment is every bit as safe as drawing from an open holster.
There is a small segment of the gun culture that does focus on such training, and a select few instructors focus on teaching a high level of skill from concealment. The masses, however, are not inclined to do so. The problem should be self-evident; practicing from an open holster does not provide the full spectrum of skill necessary to draw a gun from concealment the way it is carried in the real world. Many repetitions spent drawing a gun from an open holster is engraining a method of drawing the gun that is not relevant to concealed carry. Granted, if you are a serious competitive shooter that works from an open holster, such training is relevant to your craft. If you wear a uniform and carry an open holster for your job, then it may be relevant, though such training should be done from a retention holster. For the majority of people with a concealed carry permit, however, there is almost no relevancy at all in training from an open holster.
Start in Dry Practice
For safety, start practicing your concealed draw in dry practice, being sure that the gun is unloaded and that you are presenting only to a safe backstop. If you are new to carrying and drawing a gun from a holster, I urge you to seek training from a competent instructor. Practicing a safe and efficient technique from the beginning is beneficial, and it prevents engraining bad habits from the start. Once learning the process, you can develop a solid draw stroke almost entirely in dry practice without expending ammunition.
The clearing of the cover garment is the additional element that makes the concealed carry draw stroke more complex than simply drawing a gun from an openly worn holster. The complication added to the process by the cover garment makes the need to practice the concealed draw vitally important. Training with an open holster does not transfer over to being able to draw a concealed gun. Therefore, for most civilian concealed carriers, training from an open holster has little to do with your needs unless you are a competitive shooter, so spending time working from an open holster is counter-intuitive. If attending a class that does not allow concealment, or if shooting at a range that only allows open holsters, then certainly such practice is better than not practicing. However, at any time possible, the focus of the civilian self-defender should be on the concealed carry draw.
Prioritize the Real Draw Stroke
Since the draw from concealment proves so vitally important to the defensive pistol skillset, it should prove a priority in all of your practice. Through dry practice at home, you can hone the draw. When attending professional training classes, certainly train from your concealed holster, with your carry gun, if permitted by the instructor. Also, if you do compete, consider competing with your carry gun from concealment. USPSA and IDPA shooting sports both allow concealment to be used. While you may not win matches without using dedicated race gear, consider your priorities. If competing to aid in your defensive shooting development, then use the gear and carry mode that you walk the streets with.
The concealed draw is likely the most challenging part of the defensive handgun skillset, and this is the reason that few people practice it. However, a pistol does you no good if you can’t safely and quickly bring it to bear. Prioritize the difficult yet essential draw stroke.