Training to draw from a new concealed carry setup

You just got a new CCW holster or CCW garment. How many times do you have to draw and shoot from that new carry position in order to achieve the level of proficiency — and comfort — you’d had with the setup you’re replacing? 

This is not an academic question — the problem presents itself on every so often and in some cases with tragic consequences. It’s called a slip and capture error, and it’s an officer safety issue we need to regularly revisit. 

The incident that always comes to mind for me when talking about slip-and-capture errors is one I’d seen presented several years ago at an officer safety training seminar — the heartbreaking death of Officer Ronald Ryan Jr. in 1994. As it was explained in the presentation, the assailant murdered Officer Ryan as he tried to withdraw his sidearm from his holster — a holster with different (and higher) retention he’d previously carried on duty. 

The instructor who recounted Officer Ryan’s story is long lost to memory, but Ryan’s face and the telling of his story have stuck with me for years — and will stay with me forever I’m certain. He is one of the reasons I do as many Blue Gun repetitions as I do. He is also one of the reasons my setup for carrying concealed is the IWB version of my OWB holster, canted exactly the same, and worn in exactly the same place on the hip.

I’ve had this same setup for a long time and I like it — it works for me. It’s I’ve practiced drawing and firing thousands of times with it. I have absolutely no intention of changing from what I’m comfortable with to something I have to get comfortable with, but new and innovative products do hit the market every so often, and when they do, I look at them with curiosity. 

Making a Change
Companies often send me stuff in the mail in hopes that I’ll write about it. For example, several have sent me CCW undershirts. Sadly for most of them, I typically return their products with a polite “No, thank you, I don’t see me ever using it, so I’m not the guy to review your shirt.” 

A couple companies have replied, “No, thank you, we don’t want a shirt that’s already been pulled from the packaging and inspected.” 

So, I have a couple CCW undershirts I’ll almost certainly never use — or so I thought. 

I recently received a pretty slick dress shirt featuring all magnetic buttons from a company called MagnaReady. The company’s founder — Maura Horton — initially designed these shirts when her husband was diagnosed at an early age with Parkinsons disease. 

Horton’s line of products is primarily targeted to people who have medical conditions which preclude them from fastening traditional buttons without some assistance, but there may be an interest among off-duty officers who’d want to carry under a dress shirt with buttons that open lightning quick.

In conjunction with a Holster Shirt from 5.11 they didn’t want back, I’ve been using my Blue Gun to practice my draws from this shirt. 

PoliceOne Editor in Chief Doug Wyllie in MagnaReady and 5.11 CCW garments.I’m nowhere near where I’d consider myself comfortable with the new setup, but after doing about 500 repetitions in the past several weeks, I’m measurably better than when I started. Progress has been made, and perhaps the next time I go to the range I’ll do some live fire draws. 

The point here is to offer the reminder to think long and hard about changing your setup. Don’t just change to a new style holster because it’s shiny and new. 

If you do come to the conclusion that you’re going to make a change in your CCW setup, you’ve got to commit to erasing the neural pathways you’d developed with your old gear, and do a great many repetitions to develop the neural pathways you’ll need with the new stuff. 

How many repetitions will that take? The number I hear batted around a lot is 1,000. I believe that the number is probably higher than that, but maybe that’s basically accurate for most people. 

Don’t get hung up on the number. 

The better answer is: “It depends. It depends on the baseline abilities of the individual as well as how ‘different’ the new gear is from the old gear.” 

No matter what, keep training with your tools — continually and ongoing. Use inert training devices as often as possible. Get out to the range. Above all else, stay safe out there my friends. 

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