As anyone who has followed me here or on pistol-forum.com has to know, I’m a big fan of a technique called the press-out. So following up on last week’s “All or Nothing: Unsighted Fire” I thought turnabout is fair play and so I’ll examine the pros and cons of this technique and why it’s the right choice for some uses and the wrong choice for others.
The way I’ve historically taught a press-out involves bringing the gun from the holster up to eye level and then doing three things simultaneously:
- extending the gun
- aligning the sights
- pressing the trigger
It basically moves in an upside down “L” shape. The gun moves in a straight line from holster to in front of the face, and then in a straight line to the target.
This puts the sights between your eyes and your target as early as possible. It gives you a drawstroke that doesn’t rely on any practiced index and makes sure you don’t touch the trigger until you are absolutely certain that the sights are aligned exactly on the point of the target you want to hit. If you use a high ready position (as I do) it also moves the gun through that ready position, giving your practice a universal application whether you’re starting with the gun in or out of your holster.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is what I’ve frequently called the “index” draw. The index draw relies on a very simple principle: the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Here is Ron Avery explaining and demonstrating the technique:
The gun drives straight from the holster to a fully extended position at eye level. It’s arguably the absolute fastest way you can make an aimed shot. The most common objection to the straight line draw is that it won’t work if there’s a steering wheel or table or any other obstacle that you’d hit with the gun as you swing it forward.
There are two variants of that straight line draw. The first (which has been taught in defensive shooting classes since the beginning of defensive shooting classes) is to punch the gun out, then align the sights, and then make contact with the trigger to break the shot. Obviously, that’s a very slow process. Doing each of those things in sequence takes more time than doing them simultaneously (as in the press-out).
Making the straight line draw fast relies on a practiced index — meaning the gun goes precisely where you want it every time you draw, literally bisecting the line of sight without any visual reference before the gun is fully extended — and, more importantly, a willingness to get on the trigger before you see your sights. Advocates of this technique usually discuss it in a competition context when the entire down range area is safe. If you had to shoot over the heads of a crowd of children in, say, a school shooting you’d be pressing on the trigger as the gun was pointed at those children. And in a match, you have time to think in advance about what you’ll do if there is an obstacle blocking your draw.
The biggest challenge with the straight line draw is building up that perfect index. Plenty of people can do it to a big target like an IDPA or USPSA “A” zone at close range. Once you start applying the technique to lower probability targets (smaller, farther, or obscured targets) you see success requires a lot of practice. Otherwise, the gun is extended but not pointed exactly where it needs to be, taking time to get the gun and sights on target before the shot can be finished. Many of the people I see who can reliably hit the 3×5 card at 7yd during a F.A.S.T. run spend hours and hours every week practicing in dry fire on top of range practice. But if you can devote that effort to your skill building, and you can accept getting on the trigger before you see your sights, there’s simply no faster way to draw when you have the open space in front of you.
Somewhere between the L-shaped press-out and the straight line draw is a decades old technique first described in Brian Enos’s book Practical Shooting, Beyond Fundamentals. It is essentially a J-shaped draw that moves the gun in a more direct path than the first option but gets the sights in front of your eyes sooner than the second. I think of it as rounding the hard edge between the “up” and “out” phases of the L-shaped draw.
The Enos “J” draw gets the gun high enough to see the sights in your peripheral vision to verify that it’s pointed at the target before you start pressing the trigger, but doesn’t take the time to bring the sights right into the eye line. It gets the gun up high enough to avoid obstacles and allows you to judge if/when it’s safe to begin pressing the trigger. The “J” draw is still a press-out by my definition, but it’s one that literally cuts corners to deliver the gun at full extension faster. Because the shooter’s eyes aren’t looking through the sights as early as in the “L” draw, it benefits from the same index building practice as the straight line draw.
After teaching and using the L-shaped draw for more than a decade, I am coming around to the J-shaped Enos draw. As a shooter, it allows me to avoid a sharp stop/start in my drawstroke, saving time as long as my rough index is good enough to get the gun close to where I need it before I see the sights. It also requires less bend in the elbow which is easier for me right now.
As an instructor, it’s easier to teach because students don’t need to change the orientation of the gun from a muzzle up angle to flat and level. This saves not just time but also allows the student to skip over a conscious step that otherwise complicates the press-out technique.
So which is best? Examine the good and bad and decide which works best for you right now, and keep an open enough mind that you can examine it again in the future to see if something else works better for you down the road.
Train hard & stay safe! TPOG