Lead Farmer

December 21, 2016

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Can a small, almost effortless addition to your draw stroke save your life?  Odds are it can.  Let’s talk briefly about your draw stroke and how it can improve your survivability in a gun fight.  Shooters know the “draw stroke” as the process by which a weapon is removed from its holster and brought to bear on a target.  The draw stroke itself can be the subject of a complete article, as can any one of a number of details related to effective pistol shooting.  However, we’re going to assume that you are familiar enough with the draw to get your pistol of choice out of its holster and pointed toward a threat.  Some tacticians teach a four-point draw stroke; the first of these four points is what we’re going to amend to improve your odds of survival in an armed encounter.

The first point in the four-point draw is simply gripping your pistol with your shooting hand, releasing the retention mechanism, and pulling the pistol clear of the holster.  If you add a simple parallel function to point one of the draw stroke, your chances of surviving an armed encounter go up exponentially.  Try this: as your strong hand comes into contact with your pistol, take a ten-inch side step to your left.  If you regularly practice your draw, this step will be complete by the time your weapon clears the holster and you will be back in your combat/shooting stance before your gun is indexed on your target.  With practice, this ten-inch side step to the left will be fully ingrained in your unconscious muscle memory.

Here’s why that can be important:

In a real-world, self-defense encounter involving firearms, you will be dealing almost exclusively with adult men.  92% of adult men are right-handed, when you factor in cross-dominance.

The vast majority of these men are untrained with firearms in general, and handguns in particular.  To be consistently accurate with a handgun takes time, discipline, study, practice, and eventually, maintenance.  The average bad actor has not made that kind of investment in combat skills.  His assumption of his own ability is your tactical advantage.  Where do most street-level bad guys “learn” to shoot?  Happily for you and me, most take their mental cues from TV and movies.  Under stress, the mind reverts to what it knows and, if it knows nothing, it reverts to what it has seen.  Second-hand visual stimulus is the only tactical input many of today’s criminals have ever had.  This is evident in the devastation caused by those very few who HAVE been trained (Charles WhitmanMicah Xavier JohnsonGavin Long); they tend to be dedicated ideological attackers rather than common criminals.  Compare their outcomes with the average weekend in Chicago where barely one in ten shootings by typical street thugs result in a fatality.

Street crime features lots of one-handed, sideways shooting, by guys who wouldn’t know a sight picture from the Mona Lisa.  This is where our ten-inch step to the left comes in handy.

When a right-handed man pulls a gun on you two things are going to happen to him.  He is going to experience an adrenaline dump that dulls his fine motor skill function, and he is going to manipulate his weapon like he has seen Samuel Jackson, Ice Cube, and a dozen other actors do a thousand times.  He’s going to do everything too fast and too hard and he’s going to miss – but he’s going to miss predictably.  He’s going to pull the trigger with the index finger of his right hand.  He’s going to apply triple the pressure needed to drop the hammer, and he’s going to miss, low and to his left (your right).  That’s because he’s got too much finger on the trigger, he’s pulling too hard, and he’s anticipating his shot.  His exaggerated trigger pull moves the gun to his left.  His anticipation of the shot pushes the gun forward and down.  If he employs a movie star cant, this effect will be even greater.  And while he’s doing that, you and I are stepping to our left, out of the line of his poorly aimed shots which will be moving past us on our right.  By the time that ten-inch step to the left is complete, our draw stroke is finished, our target and sight picture have been acquired, and we are thinking only about maintaining that sight picture as our trigger finger automatically applies pressure to the trigger, releases to trigger reset, and repeats.

By employing a ten-inch step to the left immediately upon engagement, you are moving farther out of the way of an assailant’s rounds, increasing your chances of survival, and giving yourself a tactical advantage.  He shoots to your right, you step to your left, you win.  Even if his shooting is reasonably accurate, it will be difficult for an attacker to track you as you step left, due to his adrenaline dump and the resulting loss of fine motor skill and visual field.  (Overcoming our own adrenaline dump is another article.)  In the rare case of a trained attacker, the ten-inch step to the left can turn fatal shots into survivable wounds.

Of course, there are no guarantees in a gun fight, but by preparation, problem solving, and using an enemy’s weaknesses against him we can substantially increase our survivability.


1. Start with your feet facing the assailant (note the white rock next to right foot)


2: With your left foot, take a ten-inch step to your left (note that the right foot is still next to the white rock)


3: Move your right foot over to reassume a proper stance and engage your target (note the right foot is now ten inches from the white rock)