An "oops" moment. We've all had them and will likely have them again.

While shooting at stage at the Short Range Match, I was drawing my pistol from concealment. I normally carry with a loose-fitting shirt and the shirt tail out covering the pistol, so that is how I was shooting the match.

The proper way to draw the pistol concealed in such a fashion is to acquire a grip on the shirt with your hands positioned on either side of the pistol, lift outward and upward as high as the shirt will go (ripping shirt and buttons as necessary if you are drawing the pistol to defend yourself). Release the shirt with your primary hand while holding the shirt up with your other hand. Obtain a solid firing grip, and draw the pistol.

Note I said outward, and then upward — not straight up. Although I have drawn pistols carried this way literally thousands of times, this time I did not draw the pistol properly. I grabbed the shirt then vigorously pulled it upward (I was going for speed).

My analysis of the video (see image at right) of this somewhat less-than-stellar moment leads me to believe that the shirt cupped around the butt of the pistol and, as I pulled the shirt up, it drew the pistol upward as well. This pulled the pistol far enough out of the holster that it began to tilt forward, rotating as it fell to the ground. The pistol in question an S&W M&P is "drop-safe," and my carry pistol is mechanically sound so the pistol did not fire.

If it falls, let it drop

If you happen to lose control of your pistol while it is in your hand or if it falls out of your holster or your hand during a draw, let it drop. It is extremely dangerous to try and grab the weapon in the air. There is a chance you will get tangled up in the trigger and pull the trigger in the process causing the pistol to fire.

This is a training issue, as the natural response for most people is to try to catch something they fumble. Richard Evans did just that when he dropped his cellphone and a shotgun moments after confronting a thief on his property:

I mentioned that the S&W M&P is "drop-safe." The vast majority of modern handguns have this "safety," which prevents inertia from driving the firing pin or striker forward and slamming it into the primer. This helps prevent accidental discharges if the gun is dropped.

The picture below shows three pistol brands (from left, Glock, M&P and XD) and the drop safety for each. The devices on these pistols prevent the striker from hitting the primer unless the trigger is fully to the rear. The XD design on the right shows the drop safety in relation to the striker — in the picture it is engaged. Other pistol manufacturers have solved this problem in different ways.

Some pistols are not drop-safe. Many of the older mechanisms that John M. Browning designed are remarkably similar and are not drop-safe. The 1911 is sometimes drop-safe and sometimes not depending upon which variation of the design the manufacturer is using.

The Colt Series '80 and later Series '90 are mechanically drop-safe due to an internal firing pin lock that the trigger system actuates. The 1911 pistols from Para USA pistols use the same Colt safe system, Sig Sauer 1911 pistols use it as well. Kimber uses an internal firing pin safety for its 1911s that works off the grip safety.

Holsters — use one

According to Denny Hansen in the August 2009 issue of SWAT Magazine, "Longtime SWAT Magazine Contributing Editor Steve Malloy was killed in a tragic shooting accident at his home on April 16, 2009. As best as can be determined, Steve had a pistol in his waistband and when he bent over to tie his shoes, the pistol fell onto the floor and discharged — the bullet struck Steve in the chest. He was found in the garage, apparently trying to leave the home to summon aid."

When I dropped my pistol, I had it in a holster — this didn't stop it from falling to the ground. If you simply put the pistol in your waistband, you are all but guaranteeing you will drop it at some point, perhaps with tragic results. Use a good holster.

A quick word about belts

Just as a good house is built on a strong foundation, an effective carry system is built on the foundation of a strong belt.

I cannot count the number of times I've seen shooters in matches and students in classes trying to get by with wearing a handgun on a flimsy department store belt. This usually leads to discomfort and dissatisfaction with the holster's performance, when in fact the challenges the shooter is facing are the result of a flimsy belt. A department store may belt may be of good quality and hold your pants up perfectly; however, it is not designed to bear the weight of a handgun and spare ammunition.

Beyond creating (or magnifying) discomfort, a flimsy belt will not provide the stability necessary for the holster to function well. A weak belt will often allow the butt of the handgun to lean out away from the shooter's body, and under certain circumstances allow the pistol to drop free.


Consider it an unwritten addition to the four rules of gun safety: Never try to catch a dropped or falling gun.

If you drop a loaded pistol, you should just let it fall. If it is a modern design in mechanically sound condition, the odds of it firing as a result of the impact are infinitesimal compared to the odds of you accidentally pulling the trigger trying to catch it. If your pistol is not drop-safe, perhaps it is time to upgrade to a modern design.