Some Thoughts on Holstering a Pistol…

Recently, Robert was kind enough to send me a spare copy of John Farnam’s “The Farnam Method of Defensive Handgunning.” While skimming through it, I was surprised to see a photo with a caption describing holstering the pistol without looking at the holster. Apparently, at least in the book (2005), Farnam advises to keep one’s eyes on a downed threat and to holster the gun without looking. I haven’t had the opportunity to train with Farnam, so I have no idea if he still advocates this. In fact, this is only the second time I’ve ever encountered an instructor that teaches this. The first was Bill Rapier, and I already expressed my disagreement with that in the brief AAR I wrote. (The above point is a minor quibble. Overall, I think Rapier offers fantastic training for the armed civilian, especially in the context of mindset. Indeed, my AAR was overwhelmingly positive.)

What’s notable about the example in Farnam’s book is that in the photo and text, he is demonstrating the technique with his thumb on the hammer of a double action pistol. In this context, I can’t really find fault, as any movement of the hammer would be felt and arrested by the thumb and hand during the holstering process. Similarly, I wouldn’t really have a problem with holstering a Glock without looking at the holster provided one has a Striker Control Device from Tau Development Group installed (stay tuned for my review of the SCD in the near future).

This brings me to the two points I wanted to make in this post. First, I remain committed to “looking the pistol into the holster.” If it’s not safe to look away from a potential threat, then why are you holstering your gun? I can understand the concern over the reactions of arriving law enforcement or other bystanders, but you can easily deflect the muzzle of your gun downward or even somewhat conceal the visual signature of your gun without looking away from a threat or necessarily holstering the gun. Excepting the caveat of a pistol that allows you to monitor the status of the hammer or striker and trigger with your thumb as you holster, I am of the firm opinion that you need to at least glance down at the holster as you insert your gun, both to guide the muzzle into place and to verify that there are no obstructions in the holster such as a drawstring tab or shell casing. This practice costs virtually nothing, and pays enormous dividends. One need not look far to find examples of people who have inadvertently shot themselves trying to holster their gun. I’ve heard it said that holstering a loaded pistol is the most dangerous thing that we do when handling a gun. If you really feel the need to holster without looking at the holster, then I think you need to choose the appropriate hardware and use the appropriate software!

The second point is more of a question than a statement. In looking at Farnam’s example, I almost immediately wondered if holstering a pistol without looking, as it’s taught today, is an example of a technique that’s a holdover from the days when revolvers and double action hammer fired pistols were the common sidearm? In essence, is holstering without looking being taught without the proper context and frame of reference? I’m going to veer completely into conjecture here, but bear with me. I mentioned that the only other place that I’d been exposed to holstering without looking was in Bill Rapier’s class. I have no idea where he first learned the technique, but I do suspect that he was issued a double action Sig Sauer P226 at one point early in his career as a SEAL. I should also point out that Rapier teaches a very methodical way of holstering a pistol or sheathing a knife without looking that relies on tactile verification of muzzle or blade tip position prior to a slow insertion while feeling for any resistance. This is somewhat dependent on specific holster and sheath designs (full sweat guard). For me, despite learning how to do it safely, I’m just not sure that the juice is worth the squeeze.

Or perhaps, as was suggested to me by Robert in discussion, both Farnam and Rapier are or were teaching the subject from the perspective of one tasked with approach and apprehension as opposed the to the civilian context of merely stopping a lethal threat. However, even this predominantly law enforcement practice has been debunked. By way of example, Gabe Suarez has written on the subject and makes the point that cops can, should, and probably will glance down at the holster. In his words, “The eyes want to see what the hands are doing.” This is true whether we are discussing holstering, reloading, or malfunction clearance. (I’m certainly no Suarez fanboy, but I do agree with him here on this matter.)

Now, there’s little doubt that the mission profile of a Tier 1 Operator is about as far removed from that of an armed civilian as possible, but I struggle to envision a scenario where glancing down to holster a sidearm would be a bad thing even for them. Hell, isn’t hyper focus on a single threat a bad thing when you’re trying to be fully aware of your surroundings? You should be looking around to combat tunnel vision, so why not quickly glance at your holster when you’ve deemed it safe to put your gun away? I get keeping your head up and staying in the fight, but I’m talking about a brief momentary glance down, not gratuitous ogling of the holster.

Let me take this entire argument a step further. In the real deal, every day carry life of armed civilians, how many may actually carry a J-Frame or a pocket pistol in a pocket holster? I’m sure someone can practice enough to holster a gun in a pocket holster without looking, but unless their proprioception is phenomenal, especially after a lethal use of force, I still don’t think it’s a good idea! (For those that have never used a pocket holster, you really should remove the empty holster from your pocket and first place the gun back into the holster and then place the holstered gun back into your pocket. If you carry your pocket gun strong side, this necessarily involves some juggling of gun and holster between hands.)

At the end of the day, I have enormous respect for Mr. Farnam and I really need to train with him someday before he retires. I simply found the picture of him holstering without looking to be an interesting contradiction to what I consider to be established doctrine. With a hammer fired gun or a SCD installed on a Glock, it’s safe, but is it necessary? In my opinion, better to go with what your body does naturally. We perceive much of our sensory input visually. This should include holstering a pistol.

What say our readers? What have you been taught, and what is your opinion? Please share any comments here on the blog or on our social media. FTC disclosure: the text above contains Amazon Affiliate links.

8 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Holstering a Pistol…

    1. I saw that just the other day. Would love to train with Spaulding before he retires, but I will definitely have to travel to make that happen. I think Spaulding may have really nailed it. The subject doesn’t deserve the controversy that surrounds it. Again, my post was meant more as a historical question of context rather than an argument to do one thing or another.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I’ve been taught both ways; I believe Farnham still advocates this technique and so do other trainers with law enforcement backgrounds. I’ve never served in the military or in law enforcement; I teach concealed carry and encourage my students to look the gun into the holster, slowly and carefully, because I think with most civilian concealed carriers the greater threat will be from an ND. They shouldn’t be reholstering if there’s still a threat. On the other hand, if you’ve been trained to reholster safely without looking, and practice it often, I won’t call you out on it if I’m your RSO that day.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think these do-dads for glocks are a piece of hardware looking to solve a software problem. Carrying a pistol as a civilian requires training and practice. Something most in the gun community don’t do. Most are enthralled with the hardware. And while the gear is certainly cool, I find learning to run that gear to a high level is what’s cool for me. I carry appendix, with a Glock. Yes with one in the chamber, for over 20 years. I see no reason to not look the pistol back into the holster. Spaulding said cops may have to go hands on taking a suspect into custody. That should happen while back up maintains a drawn weapon on the suspect, while you take the second to look your weapon back in the holster. I don’t understand the issue with this. It should take no more than a second to reholster. Yet people who detract from this act like you’re staring at your holster for 5 minutes to stow your pistol. It’s really not that complicated. If there is still a threat the weapon remains drawn. When the threat is neutralized and the situation is clear, take the second to look your weapon back to the holster.


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