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No Look? No Way! Looking Your Pistol into the Holster

Why You Should Look Your Gun into Your Holster, And How to Do it Safely If You Ignore This Advice

As the great philosopher Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” That’s kind of the problem seen in some parts of the training community when it comes to the idea of holstering a firearm without looking at the holster: If you don’t know your mission, you won’t know either the correct equipment or the best tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs). And for the private citizen, carrying a concealed firearm, it makes no sense to try no-look holstering.

We’ll look at why you shouldn’t, as well as how to do it safely if the need ever arises. Even if it’s a pain in the ass to do properly.

You should definitely not ignore this issue just because you believe you have “enough experience.” Among the names on the long list of those who unintentionally gave themselves a new hole doing holster work are police officers at every level, multi-division USPSA Masters, and legitimate Special Forces operators. Experience doesn’t make up for haste.


The military mantra of “mission drives the gear train” is correct, but it also needs to be extended to TTPs. We start by considering our mission, and from there we choose the equipment that best suits our needs given the amount of training and competence we have. If we need to get more training, we should get more training to maximize our abilities — and then choose the equipment to best accomplish our mission. It’s a repeating cycle that we must keep firmly in mind when it comes to the idea of no-look holstering.


Let’s think about the mission of the private citizen self-defender as opposed to, say, a police officer or military member. While the military mission might be to close with and destroy the enemy, and the LEO mission is to stop criminal behavior and arrest law-breakers, the mission of private citizens is to protect themselves and their loved ones from criminal violence. If we fail to clarify our mission firmly in mind first, we’ll likely fail in our gear and TTP selection. The private citizen is on the defense, not offense, and that mission makes our gear choices pretty different than either of the others.

Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children don’t show up to the fight with subcompact handguns. They bring artillery, forward air support, and a ton of rifles and machineguns. A beat cop brings a full-size pistol, and it’s openly carried in a giant bucket of a retention holster for the same reason. A private citizen generally carries a smaller gun — and usually it’s concealed. That means their holster tightly hugs the body and is likely inside the waistband of their pants or in a similar hidden place.

That beat cop needs to pursue a scofflaw and take someone into custody and will chase after them if they attempt to escape. They’ll chase them until they surrender or can no longer fight, and they’ll always end their confrontation by going hands-on to slap some cuffs on them. The private citizen, on the contrary, seeks to break contact at the earliest opportunity. If some criminal junkie threatens someone with a box cutter for money for a fix, and if the defender draws a firearm and makes them regret their poor life choices, the offender will almost always runoff. Ideally, the private citizen will allow them to run off and be grateful to win the deadly force encounter. In analyzing over 30,000 defensive encounters, the offenders who are able to flee all universally runoff in an attempt to escape being shot. Then, you can call the local PD to determine where he ran off to and take him into custody.


Now that the mission and equipment are firmly in mind, the implications for no-look holstering become pretty clear. A cop may well need to keep eyes on a still fully capable suspect and holster their firearm to take that suspect into custody. Thankfully, the cop has a big, wide-open holster on their hip that’s carried at an offset, giving them an awful lot of margin to safely holster that gun while keeping eyes on target. Since it’s offset and not covered with a garment, it’s also not likely to be obstructed. Even so, for most situations a quick half-second glance at the holster to make sure it’s clear would be wise and safe.

But for the private citizen, if they have someone at gunpoint there’s absolutely no reason to put hands on the perp. The better TTP is to stay at distance, where your advantage with a firearm is at its best, and wait for the police to come take the guy so you can give your statement. That means keeping the gun in hand until the police arrive. For the private citizen, putting the gun away makes no sense if the perp is still around and functional. Of course, the preferable and far more common outcome is that the criminal scurries off, at which point you have all the time and attention in the world to look your gun into the holster.

When it’s finally time to holster once the police arrive, taking a second to look the gun into the holster isn’t dangerous at all — on the contrary, it’s smart. That holster has been covered by a garment, which might not be fully out of the way when you need to holster. Many CCW carriers wear undershirts that can ride up and cause an obstruction. The holster position or orientation may well have shifted in the fight for your life that you’ve just endured. For all these reasons, the holster mouth has a higher chance of being obstructed when it’s time to holster; therefore, more care is a smart choice.

Obstructions equal a greater potential for unintended discharge. Where? That depends on your holster position, but it can be anywhere from the ground through your feet and everything else in between.

If police have arrived to take control of the scene, you could also simply place the pistol on the ground if that seems more appropriate than holstering.

Given the difference in mission, equipment, TTPs, and risk factors, it makes the most sense to train ourselves as private citizens to slowly, deliberately, and reluctantly look our firearm into the holster on our body.


Someone will ask about a unicorn incident during which they have no choice but to holster a concealed firearm without looking. How can they do so without streaking a bullet through their bits and pieces? Yes, it’s possible with a great deal of care, but frankly most people won’t do it safely, so it’s not often taught to beginner and intermediate-level shooters.

The key is to carefully, slowly, deliberately, and reluctantly holster by using feel to replace your eyeballs:

1. With your support hand, first clear your cover garment, move your support hand to your sternum, and staple it there. It stays there so you don’t shoot your support hand. Don’t use it to find your holster — you’ll flag your hand every time.

2. Place the thumb of your dominant hand on the back plate of the slide for appendix carriers, or flagged high on the side of the slide for strong side carriers. Your thumb feels the way to the holster from here.
3. Touch the thumb to your body in a proprioceptive index. For AIWB, turn the gun so it’s parallel to the ground and touch your thumb to your belly button. For strong side carriers, place your thumb on the outside of your strong side pectoral muscle (Craig Douglas calls this a Thumb Pectoral Index).

4. For AIWB, step the strong side foot back a step and rotate the hips forward. For strong side, step in with the strong side foot and kick the hip slightly out where the holster is.
AIWB harry

5. Bring the gun straight down and tap the outside of the holster with the side of the slide to ensure you’re in the right spot.

6. Bring the gun up just until the muzzle clears the holster, let the muzzle settle into the holster, and slowly and carefully insert the gun into the holster.
7. If you feel any resistance whatsoever, immediately stop and reverse to clear the gun and figure out why there’s a problem.


Clearly, this whole process takes some time to accomplish safely. And since it literally takes just one extra second to actually look the gun into the holster, and since your mission and TTPs as a private citizen mean you almost certainly have the time and safety margins to look the gun into the holster, why not use it?

[This article originally appeared in CONCEALMENT 22]

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