The Cornered Cat
Holsters and danger

On a firearms discussion board, a new participant asked for instructions how to draw a gun. During the discussion that developed, one of the more clueful participants pointed out that a simple drawstroke, when done wrong, could result in shooting one’s own hand.

Skeptically, someone asked, “Did people shoot their hands off before [the drawstroke] began to be taught?”

Putting a hand in front of the muzzle during the drawstroke feels fast and natural. It's also very dangerous.

Putting a hand in front of the muzzle during the drawstroke feels fast and natural. It’s also very dangerous.

My answer: Yes. Many of the lessons taught at modern gun schools were written in the blood of good people who were teaching themselves what to do, figuring it out on their own because, “How hard could it be?”

The most common place that people shoot themselves is either in the right leg or the left hand. That would be because many right-handed shooters have no idea how to safely draw the gun, safely reholster it, or safely handle the firearm without getting their left hand in front of the muzzle. 1

As an instructor, I spend a lot of my time pointing these things out to good people who honestly don’t realize what they have just done dangerously. People put their hands in front of the freaking muzzle all the time without realizing it. When someone else points it out, they are often bewildered, and then grateful.

That’s one of the primary benefits of going to a good class: we learn how to not repeat the bad habits of people around us, and we get a trained set of eyes looking at what we¬† actually do. Our brains don’t always give us an accurate report from the inside, so having well-trained eyes looking at what we’re doing from the outside can become a hugely valuable resource.

The injuries from shooting a hand range from surprisingly mild — a simple through and through of the meat — to lifelong and crippling. “Degloving” is such a wonderfully descriptive word.

Claude Werner addressed this topic some time ago on his Tactical Professor blog. So did I, here and here. In one of those earlier posts, I wrote this:

Putting a loaded gun into a holster is the single most dangerous thing anyone ever does in a professional firearms training class.

It’s also the most dangerous thing most people ever do with their firearms, and all too many of them do it without any understanding of the dangers involved.

For information about this, one could Google for unpleasant images using these keywords:

  • shot myself in hand holster
  • shot myself in leg holster
  • shot myself handgun

Learning to use a holster is perfectly safe when done properly under the eye of a competent observer who knows how to correct problems before they become dangers. Although using a gun safely is not rocket science, a firearm can cause terrible injuries when used incorrectly. 2

Stay safe!


  1. The pattern for left handed shooters is reversed: they shoot themselves in the left leg or the right hand. But those injuries are less common, because only around 5% of shooters shoot lefty. Roughly 12% of people are lefties, but more than half of those choose to shoot right handed for various reasons.
  2. The firearm depicted in this post was disabled using a Training Barrel. It could neither hold a round of ammunition nor launch a bullet.

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