Publishing on Wednesdays & Fridays

Re-holster Reluctantly

(Editor’s Note: This is Installment #27 of ‘Slicing the Pie.’ To read Ryan’s older columns please visit or

Two weeks ago, I discussed how to draw a pistol in the article entitled “Skin Your Smoke Wagon.” This week I’d like to discuss how to properly and safely re-holster your sidearm. As mentioned in the previous installment, you’re more likely to negligently shoot yourself when drawing or re- holstering your weapon than you are doing almost anything else with a handgun. During the seconds it takes to produce or put away one’s heater, the universal firearm safety rules are often overlooked – even by many who are otherwise diligent regarding gun safety. We can’t forget that the universal firearm safety rules always apply, and violating them at any time, even for an instant, can lead to devastating consequences.

If you follow this article, you’ve seen me quote the late James Yeager of Tactical Response, several times. Surprise! I’ve already quoted him this week too, as the very title of today’s column is something I heard from the “MFCEO” himself – “Re-holster reluctantly.” What’s different about today’s article is that I’m going to disagree with James (and many other firearm instructors) about one aspect of the re-holstering process. I believe that James’ training and the curriculums he implemented at Tactical Response encompass some of the best, most complete gunfighting education available to anyone in America – perhaps the world. However, I am an open-minded, free-thinking person who is capable of drawing my own conclusions and I think James would appreciate that – even though I’m certain his language would be rather colorful when telling me that my conclusion is wrong.

I fully agree with the premise of re-holstering reluctantly, but let’s dig into where my opinion differs from others. If you were to take a class at Tactical Response, train with law enforcement, or attend most any other tactical firearms training, you’d be taught to re-holster your weapon with your head up, maintaining visual awareness of your surroundings. In most training environments it’s
considered bad practice to look at your holster when putting your weapon back into its receptacle. Even glancing at your holster when stowing your pistol is considered a “training scar,” and is something most firearm instructors will warn against. Depending on the training environment, they might even chastise you on the range.

For clarification, I believe that being able to re-holster your weapon without looking it into the holster is a valuable skill. If you can re-holster in that manner, you should. Keeping your gun out until you’re CERTAIN that the initial threat has ended, and no other immediate threat exists is “life or death important.” However, I don’t believe that re-holstering blindly is an absolute – nor is it a function that must be so strictly adhered to that the task itself becomes a detriment to safety.

If you draw your gun in self-defense, be CERTAIN that the initial threat no longer exists, and thoroughly scan your surroundings to ensure that no additional threats are present before putting away your pistol. Once your gun is no longer needed, you will likely need your hands free for other tasks – for example medical treatment or evacuating a child. The best place for your gun when not in your hands is in its holster. If you’re already reluctant to put away your pistol, glancing down to verify the location and condition of your holster is okay with me. I even encourage it in my classes. Whether you glance at your holster or not, re-holstering quickly is rarely, if ever, necessary – so why not sneak a peek?

Holster designs vary and weird things can happen in a fight. Your holster can move – it can break – it can be obstructed by clothing or debris. Checking to make sure the holster is still in the same spot and that it can still function appropriately can be accomplished by looking at it once you’re sure it’s safe to momentarily shift your gaze.

During my first training experience at Tactical Response, I was performing a series of drills that required me to fire from the ground. After one of the iterations of fire, I stood and attempted to re- holster my pistol keeping my head up and scanning my surroundings – but the gun wouldn’t go into the holster. I moved slowly and deliberately – keeping my finger well away from the trigger, but my gun just wouldn’t fit. I motioned for one of the instructors and told him something was wrong. Together, we inspected my predicament and found two small rocks had made their way into my holster. The type of holster I was wearing had to be completely removed from my belt and emptied because my fingers wouldn’t fit far enough into the opening to retrieve the rocks. Looking at my holster wouldn’t have allowed me to clear the obstruction any faster in that situation, but had I been allowed to visually identify the problem, I would’ve known that attempting to re-holster in that moment was futile. From that day forward, I’ve only used holsters with open bottoms.

We know that responsible gun carriers carry their guns concealed, but cover garments can pose issues when re-holstering a firearm. Shirt tails, zippers, drawstrings, and even snaps on the holster itself will inevitably find their way into holster openings and if you’re not extremely careful, any of those things can get into the trigger guard of your pistol. If you force your gun into an obstructed holster, you’re going to send a round through your leg, hip, foot, or buttocks. Say it like Forrest Gump – you know you want to.

If you have to watch the gun into the holster in order to safely put it away, do that. Drawing and re-holstering our pistols properly, believe it or not, are two of the most “advanced” things we’ll ever learn to do with our handguns. The importance of becoming proficient at those tasks cannot be overstated. When mitigating the risk of being shot during a gunfight, you must consider the reality that you could be shot by any participant in the fight – including yourself. Whatever actions you perform, whatever skills you exhibit, whatever tactics you employ – do them all with a safety-first mentality.

Nobody “wins” a gunfight, but you certainly don’t want to beat yourself.

Re-holstering without looking at the holster is a skill – learn it. Practice it (with an empty weapon) and when doing so, as in any other time, abide by ALL FOUR universal firearm safety rules. Safety, however, is always more important than skill. Safety is a lifestyle – live it. If you don’t, you might not be living for long.

1.) Treat all guns as if they’re always loaded.
2.) Never point a gun at anything you’re not willing to destroy.
3.) Be sure of your target and what’s beyond it.
4.) Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target and you’ve made the
decision to fire.

Avoid what you can. Defeat what you can’t.

Please submit your questions to Ryan via email at

(Ryan Barnette is not a licensed attorney or a medical provider, and no information provided in “Slicing the Pie,” or any other publication authored by Ryan Barnette should be construed, in any way, as official legal or medical advice.)