The Quest for the Sub-Second Draw: Part Deux

Quick Draw McGraw

I must confess that I was pleasantly surprised by the reception we received from my first article on this topic.  Having top-tier instructors like Cecil Burch and Spencer Keepers comment right here on the blog, and also having the article shared by other top instructors like Karl Rehn and Greg Ellifritz, meant a lot to me.  I also received a few comments offline about it, including one by a former CSAT instructor.   Hopefully this is all evidence that it was not a click-bait article but, rather, something with more substance to it.  By and large, the commentary was favorable.  Not surprisingly, those of the been-there, done-that (BTDT) crowd were exclusively in agreement on the article.

To others, however, the reception was mixed.  One of those in particular who was not in overall agreement was the aforementioned Spencer Keepers of Keepers Concealment.  While his comment after my article seemed at least lukewarm, he chose a podcast to vent a bit against my article and others who seem to be of the same opinion as myself.  The podcast in question was the Evolution Security podcast.  I have been a regular listener of the podcast since I learned of its existence about 9 months ago.  Spencer appeared on the podcast as a guest on Episode 52, which aired on September 4, 2021. 

Let me preface everything that follows by saying that this is another in a long line of excellent episodes of the EvoSec podcast.  There is truly a lot of great information presented by Spencer in this episode.  However, there are two parts of the episode that I would like to reference here. 

First, starting at around the 21:00 minute mark, Spencer very obviously references my article.  I transcribed most of what he said here (removing a few “ya knows”, etc., to make it easier to read):

“I saw another guy that wrote a deal about the sub-second draw and how that it’s not needed….His deal was he spent 10 minutes a day doing dry practice and he said ‘I’m happy at one and a half or one point seven and I’d rather learn how to put a tourniquet on’ and all this.  That’s fine, but how many times do you have to put a tourniquet on and how relevant is one skill versus another?  And then his leading of that was a force-on-force scenario where had the dude had a sub-second draw, he would have won the evolution.  Which to me was so ironic because he put a video out there that literally shows–that reinforces to me–I need to be faster to the gun.”

Spencer commented on my article on August 18.  I guess in the space of two weeks between his comment and his appearance on the podcast, he forgot that I did not post any videos in my article.  Another reader posted a comment that included a video of a force-on-force scenario (since taken down by the commenter), but I did not.  Indeed, in my response to Spencer’s comment, I agreed that we’ll never know if having a faster draw would have solved the problem for the guy in the video scenario. 

Also, I must say that I find his commentary about the relevance of practicing tourniquet application strange.  I mean, I have never had to draw my gun on someone nor put on a tourniquet.  So, at this point, they would seem to be equally relevant (or irrelevant, if you prefer).  In fact, since I have had to perform CPR before, it would seem that, so far in my life, medical skills have been much more important than my draw speed.  And, as I learned when I took the Dark Angel Medical course back in 2013, getting a tourniquet applied RAPIDLY can be life-saving.  So yeah, I practice tourniquet application from time to time.

The other aspect of this podcast that I found “interesting” was Spencer’s definition of a sub-second draw.  In my article, I defined it as follows:

“For most, it would seem that this is defined as a draw of the handgun on a beep, from concealment, with a hit on a USPSA A-zone, at 7 yards, all in less than 1.0 seconds.”

Well, at the 15:30 mark of the podcast, Spencer gives his definition of the sub-second draw:

“For my definition, it’s going to be 3 to 5 yards, and I’m gonna put a good hit inside the bottle silhouette of an FBI target.  Okay.  I’m not talking about I’m gonna do a sub-second draw to a three by five card at seven yards.”

Hmm.  Okay.  So, first of all, is it 3 or 5 yards?  Those are very different.  Secondly, the bottle silhouette is at least twice the area of a USPSA A-zone.  So the distance is about half of 7 yards, and the target more than twice as large.  Suddenly, the idea of the sub-second draw, by Spencer’s definition, did not seem so hard at all.  So, I put it to the test.

I set up an FBI Q-99 target at four yards, and set a par timer for 1.5 seconds.  I ran this drill twice and had no trouble getting hits in “the bottle”, just off-center.  I dropped the par time to 1.3, and then 1.1, and still had no trouble making the hits under time.  At 0.9, I tried it ten times, and I made my hits 90% of the time (flubbing the clearing of my cover garment once), and my hits, while still inside the bottle, were starting to spread out.  I also noticed that, at the speed I had to move to make the par time, I was starting to round off corners that I would rather not round.  More on that later.

I finished up at 0.8 seconds, and at that par time I made 70% percent of my hits in time.  I either threw a few shots just outside the bottle or was too slow.  Again, I had to round off some corners even more at 0.8 than at 0.9.

What did we learn?  Well, according to Spencer, it would seem that I have a sub-second draw.  Look at me!  Funny how the reduction in distance, the increased target size, and, of course, the absence of consequences allowed me to do so.

Of course, by my definition, I still do not.  While I did not have time to try my draw at a USPSA A-zone to see how I’d fare, I am pretty confident that I would not make the cut. 

What else did we learn?  Well, for one thing, I am not a fan of the “corners” that I had to round off in order to get down to 0.8.  What corners am I talking about?  Well, for me, there are certain “non-negotiables” when it comes to my draw, i.e. there are certain things I am not willing to give up in exchange for speed.  As the wheels came off the wagon at least some of the time at 0.8, what were the non-negotiables that I was starting to give up?

1.  The cover garment clear.  I am a “grab the hem” guy.  I know others with blazing drawspeed, like Scott Jedlinski, have their preferred technique.  Their techniques work great with a hoodie over bare skin or perhaps a snug Under Armor shirt, but not so well with my wardrobe.  I have found, for me, grabbing the hem of the shirt/cover garment and pulling it as high as possible is a more reliable way to clear.  However, as I move faster for that lower par time, I can miss it or not clear it as high or generally fumble with it.

2.  Grip.  On the draw, going at speed, what you get on the gun while it’s in the holster is what you get.  If I am going too quickly, my grip can be at least slightly compromised.

3.  Achieving at least a notional retention position on the draw.  In force-on-force last year, we had reviewed a proper draw stroke early on the second day, though we lacked any real time to practice it.  Lo and behold, later on that day, those students who did not have retention built in to their drawstroke had issues in one of the scenarios.  Which singular student did not have problems?  This guy.  Why?  Because retention is already built in to my drawstroke.  When I go too quickly, I would be lying if I said that I achieve this waystation on every draw.

4.  Getting the pistol high early.  Getting on the sights early means shooting sooner, not faster.  It is also a draw I can execute when seated at a table, standing close to a counter or other object, or sitting behind the wheel of a car.  When I rush I tend to begin pressing out before getting the gun up high.  Side note:  shooting at about 4 yards on the Q target, I found that many of my shots were indexed rather than truly sighted.  That was fine as I was still getting solid hits.  But following my own definition for a sub-second draw, I need at least a rough sight picture to get into that USPSA A-zone (which is why I prefer my definition, as it forces the shooter to do more things).

Are any of these non-negotiables necessary in the competitive arena?  No, not really.  But again, deferring to the BTDT crowd as well as my own (admittedly limited) experience, these are non-negotiable. 

Again, I am not saying (and have never said) that slower is better.  Of course not!  If I could execute 1-4 above at greater speed than I do now, that would be awesome.  However, at the present time, I can still achieve them all most of the time at 1.0 seconds and have no trouble doing so at 1.5 (on the Q target).  On the A-zone of a USPSA target, then history tells me I am just making them all at 1.5. 

Where does this leave things?  Well, I will continue to work on my drawstroke during dry practice, but it is clear to me that, by my definition of the sub-second draw, I would still have quite a bit of work to do.  Will I get there?  Who knows?  But it is not something I am going to spend an inordinate amount of time working on. 

As always, thanks for reading.  And again, thanks to all those regular readers and instructors out there who read the first article and shared it widely, as it is greatly appreciated.  If you have any questions or comments, please post them below, as we always welcome civil discourse. 

2 thoughts on “The Quest for the Sub-Second Draw: Part Deux

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