Drawing, re-holstering, and reloading skills are sadly under-emphasized in CCW circles, but for reasons that are easy to understand. We’re shooters and we love to practice shooting, whether for self-defense or competition. In the enjoyment and focus of a good range day, we acquire a feel of deep satisfaction with a job well done and the personal progress made. Basking in that afterglow, it’s really easy to forget that there are other mission-critical skills that we need to develop.
However, practicing drawing, re-holstering, re-loading, and magazine swaps/retention are fairly easy to do in the privacy of your own home. Additionally—and unlike so much in the world of CCW—they cost somewhere between “very little” and “nothing at all” to get started. So—where to begin?
We’ve talked before about how to draw your holster/re-holster effectively from a concealed position, and the importance of learning how to re-load effectively under tactical conditions. These approaches are intended for the range, and practicing ad home has some additional considerations.
First, the gear. If you’re on a budget, your everyday CCW and a magazine/chamber loaded with snap caps or the like is all you really need. Well, that and a safe place to practice, as we covered in our article on dry firing. Take a moment and make sure that there are no loaded firearms, magazines, or even live ammunition in your practice space: it’s simply not worth the risk.
During practice, wear clothing you’d typically be in during everyday life, and use the same carry system you would with your CCW. We’re not training for a three gun competition here, but rather a self-defense situation that has caught you unawares.
Use a verbal cue to start practice. “This is practice time. I’m practicing dry-fire/drawing and re-holstering/reloading/etc. The weapon is dry. Practice starts now.” Do something similar “Practice time is over. The weapon is going hot, etc” at the end of your session. Say these things out loud.
As with any practice for any skill, start with the fundamentals. Rehearse them slowly, one step at a time, and make sure you’ve got a thorough understanding of what you’re doing at each stage of the game and why. You won’t have time to think about all that consciously in the moment, but the knowledge needs to be there.
Once you’ve mastered each step in the sequence, put them together in sequence and try to build flow, i.e. a seamless transition from one motion to the next. Remember the old firearms mantra: “Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.” Don’t push for speed right away, but let it develop naturally over time.
Once you’ve started to build speed—and this could take weeks or months, so don’t get down on yourself for not progressing fast enough—it’s time to keep practicing at speed. When you can do the sequence perfectly, first time every time, then you can start to incorporate other drills: doing it on the run, from various sitting/standing/kneeling/prone positions, incorporating a turn toward the target, A fun one involves executing the motion when triggered by an outside stimulus: a friend with an air horn or cap gun makes this good noisy fun.
One final issue: how often should you practice? I recommend a minimum of three times a week at first, for at least half an hour at a time. When you’ve really mastered the skill set (meaning you can’t do it wrong), you might then scale back to once a week. Again, your life may depend on your ability to perform, so don’t slack off.