Centerline Carry

By Gabe Suarez

In force on force training drills, as well as on the street, we see a pressing urgent need to get the gun into the fight. This is affected dramatically by your perception of events and situational awareness. Are you being ambushed, or have you taken the initiative in the event (started the fight a little ahead of the “start signal”)? As the old saying goes, “the fastest draw is having the gun in your hand”. Regardless of this, and even if you have the requisite information to justify doing so, few good guys will preemptively start the fight… even when they know it is a tactically wise thing to do. And for those who have no conceptual problem with being “off sides” on the play, unless they have the clear perception of danger, they will not draw or preemptively grip the pistol. Remember, one party will take the initiative and the other party will respond. Most of the time, good guys will not take the initiative.

I strongly disagree with the notion that you will always be alert, or always be in condition yellow, or always have the initiative in the fight, or always anything. It won’t happen that way. The fight is just as likely to come when you are ready as when you are preoccupied with something else and do not see it coming.

I agree that if you can take the initiative, you should. But I think a large part of the training must involve developing a skill set to regain the initiative in the fight. Our studies and experience has shown that this is most easily done vis-a-vis sharp movement off the line of attack coupled with a quick draw to enable you to return fire immediately. In this study we will look at the draw.

A combat draw involves three different parts.

1). The hand moving to the gun.
2). The gun moving to the target.
3). And the shot being fired.

A good time for this is about 1.25 - 1.50. A really sharp hand can cut that down to well under a second from open carry. At close intervals (less than 5 yards) where most urban gunfights take place, the mechanics of actually firing the shot take minimal time.

Let’s look at the first two steps - hand to the gun and gun to the target. The hand moves to the gun. Where will your hands be when you need to draw? Impossible to say isn’t it. The only true measure of a starting point is arms and hands at rest hanging at your sides. The hand moving to the gun will be affected by starting position, but also by whatever is used as a concealment garment. This must be eventually factored in and tested because people do not go around with uncovered guns outside of the firing range. But one thing at a time.

There are three potential carry positions on the belt. These are from left to right, cross draw, appendix carry, and kidney carry (aka strong side hip). Of the three, which one can you get to the fastest? Look at how the body works. Look at the arms in particular. Notice how it is relatively easy to move the arms toward center line. A “hugging action” or crossing the arms, is far easier and more positive than a “spreading the wings action”, or opening the arms wide. It is easier to grab the belt buckle than to grab the belt at the small of your back.
For most people the arms tend to hang slightly forward of the shoulders. At a dead hang, measure the distance from your hand to the cross draw position, the appendix carry position, and the kidney carry position. Which is the shortest distance? For most people appendix carry is shortest, followed by cross draw and finally the longest distance for the hand to travel is the kidney or strong side carry position. If I am looking for the shortest arrangement of “hand to gun”, appendix is less distance, thus less time. The gun moves to the target. Once the hand is on the gun, the draw should take the shortest possible distance to the target regardless of starting point.

I am against any draw process that takes a round-about way to get on target. Get the tape measure out again. Clip or pin the end of the tape at the point the holster would be (cross draw, appendix carry or strong side kidney). Grab the other end and stretch the tape tight as you point your hand as if you were shooting. Which position places the holstered pistol closest to the target? Again, for most people it will be the appendix carry followed by the cross draw and finally the strong side kidney position. A cumulative foot (more or less) of less travel time means a savings of time and a faster draw.

Let’s look at two other contributing factors: body type and concealment garments. I have students that could give a sumo wrestler some concern in a push-and-shove. Because of waist girth, appendix carry may not be a comfortable option for them. Cross draw may simply be out of reach as these guys can’t readily reach across their chests. For them, the only available option is strong side kidney carry. Like Guro Innosanto said, via Marc Denny, “You can’t ignore nature”.

I also have students whose activities require business attire. They go about their day wearing designer suits. Its difficult to hide an appendix carry pistol, or a cross draw, in an Armani suit. Their choice must also be strong side kidney carry. But excluding those instances, anyone eses can profit tactically from either cross draw or appendix carry. While, with a little care, you can conceal a cross draw with an open front coat, an appendix carry position requires a closed front cover. You can use an over -sized t-shirt or sweat shirt, or a polo shirt, or simply a button down shirt worn tails out. You need to integrate the clearing of cover into the draw, but then again, that is how you should be practicing anyway.
Open carry, beyond the novice stage, is to be avoided.

Side benefits of appendix carry and cross draw are; It is far easier to protect the gun in a crowded environment because the gun is in front and not behind you. It is easier to draw from a seated position. It prevents “printing” or outlining the weapon under the clothing when moving, reaching, or stooping. It eliminates the intentional or unintentional “bump frisk”. It is easier to obtain and deploy the gun in a grapple situation or when the attacker has tangled up with you in the fight.

If appendix carry is so good, and cross draw almost as good, why isn’t it seen more? Simply because some competitive environments and some traditional training venues prohibit them. Because of this, those trainers coming from those places eschew anything but traditional strong side hip. These two dynamics also influence holster makers and appendix holsters are few and far between. They have their reasons. We are working on changing that. Excluding those artificial prohibitions, individuals whose life style, physical make up, and daily dress allow it, can use these carry modes to good benefit.

Gabe Suarez