The first to get shots on target in a gunfight usually wins. Here are some tips on how to improve your draw time. (Hint: the key is practice)

Thanks to Instagram and other social media, the firearms community is full of videos of people showing off their crazy fast draw times. People love to show off their impressive times on their shot timer, and for good reason. In competitive shooting and in the firearms self-defense world, getting the first shot on target is quite important. A good draw time from concealment is about 1.5 seconds. A great draw time from concealment is under one second.

The only way to obtain that level of proficiency is through countless hours of practice. But these hours of practice can’t be just any practice, it has to be deliberate practice of good technique. Practicing bad technique only makes things worse. Practicing without purpose won’t help shooters obtain mastery.

Here’s the breakdown of a good draw stroke and tips on how to improve it.

Break down the entire draw

Slapping on a holster and pulling the gun out a thousand times won’t magically make someone a better shooter. It’s critical to break down an entire draw stroke into individual steps and focus on each individual skill. Start slowly, and make sure to build good habits. If the firing grip is sloppy, it doesn’t matter if you get sights on target quickly. If the draw stroke is fast an efficient, poor sight alignment will nullify the speed of the draw stroke.

Improve general reaction time

Check out The Human Benchmark and test your reaction time. Mine is right around 220ms while the average is right around 260ms. If you’re above average, awesome, you’re off to a great start. If you’re below the 260ms average, you might want to work on this a little bit.

I wouldn’t dedicate an entire training day to improving reaction time, but making an extra effort to improve reaction time would certainly help. The incorporation of a shot timer into a training regimen is a great way to improve reaction time while training other skills.

Get a consistent firing grip

The first step of a draw stroke is obtaining a firing grip. A poor firing grip will invalidate all other steps of the draw stroke done well. The handgun should be put in a consistent place on a strong gunbelt – the last thing anyone wants is to have to seek around to find the gun.

When grabbing the gun, make sure to get as high of a grip as possible on the pistol – a grip that doesn’t require any adjustment after the pistol leaves the holster. Grabbing the gun in the holster is an excellent drill in of itself. No need to even draw the gun. Simply grab the gun, over and over.

If you’re drawing from concealment as a CCW holder, practice clearing your garment while you’re at it. If you’re drawing from an open carry position with a retention holster for law enforcement, activate the retention.

Jerry Michulek Drawing a Pistol

Build an efficient draw stroke

After obtaining a solid grip on the pistol, then comes the fun part that looks so good on social media: the draw stroke. An efficient draw stroke must have no extraneous movements. Every extra movement increases the margin of error and slows down the draw stroke.

John Lovell has some excellent tips on an efficient draw stroke. Jerry Miculek also has an excellent video reviewing all of the steps of a fast draw stroke. Both videos are well worth watching.

Follow the advice of either of these excellent shooters and you’ll do great.

Obtain habitual sight acquisition

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and the same goes for shooting technique. Pulling a handgun out of its holster quickly for those Instagram likes means nothing if shooters can’t actually hit what they’re aiming at. Obtaining a good sight acquisition must be instinctual.

It’s been shown that most shooters don’t actually see their handgun sights in force on force situations. So if proper sight alignment becomes instinctual, then the sights will be on target or close to on target without even realizing it.

Shooters need to acquire their sights so many times they can close their eyes, draw the handgun from a holster, and have the sights be aligned after opening their eyes. It’s easier than many people would think – it simply takes lots repetition.

Measure progress

If you’re serious about being fast out of the gate with a pistol, I strongly recommend getting a dedicated shot timer. The phone app shot timers aren’t very accurate. A dedicated shot timer will help test part times and provide quantifiable data on progress. The Pocket Pro 2 is the shot timer I use.

Build a training plan

Build out a training plan and focus on each individual skill set. One day focus on a good firing grip while another focus on sight alignment. If you’re struggling with one area, repeat those drills the next day.

Remember, shooting skills are perishable, just like any other skill. Practicing every day for a month and then not practicing for the rest of the year will result in losing much of that proficiency.

All of the skills reviewed in this article can be practiced at home through dry fire. That means no cost of ammo, no range fees, and all you need is 15 minutes of spare time.