Strong-Side Pistol Draw Tactics from Closed Front Garments By: Massad Ayoob


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Not long ago in this space, I did an article on drawing a concealed handgun from a strong-side hip holster under an open-front cover garment (you can see that article here).

Strong side pistol draw tactics

This time around, let’s look at drawing from the same location but from beneath a closed-front cover garment.

Dummy Springfield 1911 for training
For the safety and peace of mind of the photographer, demos were done with an Odin Press dummy version of the Springfield Mil-Spec 1911A1 .45. Photo: Gail Pepin

In hot weather, that garment might be a tee-shirt or polo, a guyebara or a bowling shirt, or a Hawaiian “aloha” shirt. In cooler weather it might be a hoodie, a heavy sweater, or an anorak or whatever. 

The Difference

The first thing we have to face and accept is that if we’ve chosen this style of concealment, the draw is going to be slower and/or more complicated. The reason is, the open-front garment has by definition left an open pathway for the gun hand to get to the holstered sidearm, and that path is closed by a pullover-type garment. 

Reaction hand in pistol draw
There will be times when you need one hand to block or parry, and have only one hand with which to draw. Plan and train accordingly. Photo: Gail Pepin

Compared to open-front concealment, we have a much more distinct delineation between a draw to one-handed index and a draw to two-handed.

With Both Hands

We have to accept that for maximum speed, we’re going to need the support hand to take a more active part in the draw: It will now have to get the hem of the garment pulled upward to clear a path for the reaching hand that, when it reaches its destination, will become the drawing hand.

Hackathorn Rip draw sequence 1
Hackathorn Rip 1 of 3: Gun hand begins its reach, as support hand prepares to pull cover garment upward… Photo: Gail Pepin

The general consensus is that your best bet is to use the “Hackathorn Rip” technique, named after one of the great modern pioneers in defensive handgun shooting, Ken Hackathorn. It should be noted here that Ken himself never called it that: he simply demonstrated the technique as “here’s what’s recommended.” 

Hackathorn Rip draw sequence 2
Hackathorn Rip 2 of 3: …shirt over holster is pulled as high as possible by support hand, as firing hand takes drawing grasp… Photo: Gail Pepin

No one in the shooting game ever successfully named a technique after himself, and indeed, trying to do so is a fast route to being seen as an egotistical bozo. The “Hackathorn Rip” term came from Ken’s peers, who realized he was onto something and deserved recognition for creating and popularizing the technique.

Hackathorn Rip draw sequence 3
Hackathorn Rip 3 of 3: …some shooters prefer to pull the garment up with both hands: positive, but slower. Photo: Gail Pepin

With Ken’s technique, the support hand grasps the bottom edge of the closed-front cover garment (the hem) in front of the holster, and rips it upward toward the pectoral muscle/shoulder area on the gun-hand side, as high as you can get it.

Another version of the Hackathorn Draw
Alternative Hackathorn Rip (1 of 2): If you’re sure it will be “guns” not “hands” (distance is a factor here), you can draw faster if hands start low… Photo: Gail Pepin

You may not get that high, but trying to do so gives you the best chance of getting it high enough to clear a path for both access (getting the hand to the gun) and presentation (getting the gun from holster to “on target”). 

Another version of the Hackathorn Draw 2
Alternative Hackathorn Rip (2 of 2): … to get the Hackathorn Rip underway sooner. Photo: Gail Pepin

Once the draw is underway, the support hand has completed its garment-clearing job and is now free to move to complete the two-handed grasp, whether the situation demanded “draw to ready,” “draw to gunpoint,” or “draw to immediate defensive shot(s).”

With Gun Hand Only

In the real world, the situation which required us to draw may leave us with only one hand with which to do so. The support hand may be occupied with a communications device or illumination device. It may be pushing an innocent victim out of the line of fire, or holding off a vicious human or animal threat that is already within contact distance. 

One handed draw sequence
One Hand Draw (1 of 3): With support hand in block position, the gun hand has to do it all alone: thumb in “Y-hand configuration lifts garment, pegs thumb at ribcage… Photo: Gail Pepin

With a closed-front garment, that means you have only one hand with which to both raise the shirt/sweater/whatever to expose the gun and keep that fabric out of the way, while the same hand accesses and presents the firearm for its life-saving purpose.

One handed draw sequence 2
One Hand Draw (2 of 3): …takes drawing grasp… Photo: Gail Pepin

Ripping up on the “cover” then diving down onto the gun before Mr. Newton’s pesky “gravity thing” drops some clothing between hand and gun is now the problem. A “rip and grab” can work, but…ya gotta be quickAnd, don’t forget, the problem will be compounded if you are moving to get offline of the attack, bending forward to duck a punch or knife slash, etc.

One handed draw sequence 3
One Hand Draw (3 of 3): …and “clears leather.” If the support hand is not needed to fend off an attack, it can move to a two-hand firing hold, as shown. Photo: Gail Pepin

For that reason, I recommend the “Y-hand” and “pegged thumb” technique. The “Y-hand” has the thumb spread wide from the other four fingers, forming a letter “Y” with the forearm. Coming up from the seam of the trouser, the Y-hand catches the hem of the garment somewhere between thumb and index finger, guiding it to the center of the web of the hand. That hand sweeps up to as high on the rib cage as it can get.

Now comes the “peg.” Let the tip of the thumb press against the rib cage. Your palm, which will have been facing somewhat forward while lifting the garment, now points down toward the pistol — and dives down swiftly onto the grip tang, taking a firing grasp before fabric can fall and get between hand and gun. Because the bottom edge of the fabric is now above the thumb, you have minimized the chance of “fabric fouling firearm.”

Hip Throw

Because that garment is wanting to come back down during the draw, the potential for “fouling the draw” still exists, even if it is minimized. I found that as a right-handed shooter, dropping my hips down and to the left solved that problem.

Hip throw draw
Hip Throw Draw (1 of 3): With your arms at your sides, you can visualize where the hip-holstered gun is under the untucked polo shirt… Photo: Gail Pepin

In essence, the draw becomes partly the shooter’s hand withdrawing the pistol from the holster, and partly the hip movement pulling the holster down and to the side, out from around the gun.

Hip throw draw 2
Hip Throw Draw (2 of 3): …Y-hand thumb has lifted shirt while support hand is up to block. Right-handed shooter’s hips thrown to left has helped “pull holster from around gun,”… Photo: Gail Pepin

This, by the way, is also helpful for speeding up concealed carry hip draw even with an open-front garment, if the shooter carries the gun very high on the hip.

Hip throw draw 3
Hip Throw Draw (3 of 3): …and the gun is positively and expeditiously on target, whether the choice was two-hand hold as shown or one-handed hold. Photo: Gail Pepin

That’s a particular concern for females, for whom their torso will generally be relatively shorter and their pelvis relatively higher and more pronounced, than her twin brother the same height. But it is most obviously useful when drawing from under a closed-front garment, all the more so with the one-handed draw.

The Cover Garment Itself

The closed front garment clings more closely to the wearer’s body than the open-front vest, jacket or unbuttoned shirt. It is imperative that the garment be at least one size larger than one would wear if not concealing a gun under it! In the accompanying photos, you see a “size medium” guy wearing a “size large” polo shirt for “cover.”

Y hand for drawing a pistol
This is the “Y-hand,” useful for many things in martial arts, including the defensive firearm. Photo: Gail Pepin

If the cover garment is a button-front and worn with the closures fastened, leave the bottom button or two unfastened. This will allow more “flex,” or more spread of the lower garment as the hand reaches to the firearm and extracts it from the holster.

Earlier I mentioned the guyebara shirt. I first encountered these in the 1980s with the Cuban-American community in Miami, and in Caracas, Venezuela when I taught there. In an armed society, this was one of the few pieces of clothing that seemed to have been built to encourage concealed carry. Worn with flat hem outside the pants, their buttons stopped at around navel level, allowing great flex at the hem for drawing concealed handguns. The American “bowling shirt” in some iterations has the same features.


If you’re going to carry this way, practice…practice…PRACTICE! I would suggest 50% of your practice be one-handed as demonstrated here, the other half with the two-handed “Hackathorn Rip.” You’ll find that with less drape than you’d have with an open-front garment, inside the waistband carry will be much friendlier for concealment.

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