Hopefully you carry a firearm off-duty. You can legally do so nationwide, thanks to President Bush signing the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act a couple years ago. (Yes, the politicians - including, unfortunately, some of the police brass - in a few cites such as New York and Chicago may still give you a hassle for so doing, but think about it. Why should anyone know that you are carrying a concealed handgun at all? The only good reason is that you had to challenge someone with it or use it, at which point the extra hassle is a small thing, in context.) But just because you carry a gun off duty doesn't mean that you can use it effectively, should you need to. To paraphrase the late Colonel Jeff Cooper: "Just owning a guitar doesn't make someone a musician."
"What do you mean?" I can hear some of you saying, "I'm on the department SWAT team. I shoot every week. I'm a tactical stud!" I'm sure you are. And if you ever have to - off duty - draw your service pistol from your duty holster to defend yourself, then my bets are on you. But if you have to draw a less used, less fired gun from somewhere you don't carry a pistol during most of your armed hours, then... well, I'll need more information to know on whom to place my bets. Because if - under extreme stress - you have to draw on off-duty gun from a place that you don't have thousands of draw stroke repetitions from, then I can probably safely give you even odds of the draw being flubbed to a significant degree.
Don't get me wrong - it's not like I'm perfect here. In fact, this lesson was driven home to me just this last summer. I was filming a DVD series on armed self defense, and as part of the section on different carry methods, I was demonstrating a full-speed draw from each one. Well, it took me several takes to demonstrate a good draw from a couple of these carry methods (such as from the shoulder holster) because I simply never use them. Not that there's anything wrong with, for example a shoulder holster, but because I just don't happen to use one. I could draw just fine from them at ¾ speed and even at 7/8 speed, but when I had to go full throttle for the camera, I flubbed it. Lesson learned: don't assume that you can carry your gun somewhere that you have little practice drawing from - including the use of your ordinary concealing garments - and get to the gun in a hurry. Practice counts; in fact it's necessary!
This lesson applies to something as simple as slipping a small gun into your pocket - either a pants pocket or a coat pocket. If you haven't practiced drawing from there - full speed, and preferably also under some stress - then it's virtually a sure thing that you won't have a reliable draw when you need it. Again, I learned this myself this last summer when performing back-up gun (BUG) transitions for the camera. I simply hadn't practiced enough getting to my BUG in a hurry in some of the places I carry a BUG, or even sometimes my primary gun while off-duty. Yes, we all probably shoot our BUGs or off-duty gun(s) (if they are different from our usual service gun) at the range. But we usually do it wrong.
During a session, we probably train with our primary gun the majority of the time, and then if we think of it we put the primary gun down, pick up and load the smaller gun, and shoot that some. With BUGs, what we should do is to run our primary gun dry or to a malfunction (that we'll probably have to induce or simulate), and at that point practice finding cover or moving while drawing our BUG and continuing to fire with it as soon as possible. Similarly with off-duty guns: practice drawing and shooting them with actual concealment clothing and under stress. You will be surprised just how fumble-prone these seemingly simple little exercises can be. Yes, anyone can draw a gun from anywhere easily without stress. But even under as little stress as the clock adds, it ain't so easy if we don't practice it often! Don't 'diss it until you've tried it.