Shoot From the Ankle

Every year officers are disarmed and murdered with their own weapons.  It only makes sense to always carry while off duty and to always carry a back-up weapon while on duty.

With police officers in the majority of departments in this country now carrying semi-automatic handguns, it is often recommended that officers carry a second "back-up" weapon while on duty.   The possibility of a malfunction occurring is much more likely with the semi-auto pistol than it was with our old "wheel gun" revolvers.  A number of officers' lives have been saved over the years because they were carrying second guns.

If for whatever reason, you are not able to conceal a weapon on your waistband or in a shoulder holster, then I believe it's preferable to go with an ankle holster rather than one of those bulky fanny packs that scream, "Look at me.  I'm a cop!"

Limit Body Movement

With this being said, we need to practice drawing form an ankle holster to become familiar with the associated problems, the biggest one being that it takes a large body movement to be able to even reach the weapon.  Whereas you might be able to covertly draw a weapon from a waist or shoulder holster, covertly drawing a weapon from an ankle holster is nearly impossible.

To be the least conspicuous you need to limit the movement that is needed to draw the weapon.  In my experience, falling to your back and going for your weapon (a tactic taught by many) is not the best method.   This not only limits your ability to move once the shooting starts but you also draw immediate attention to yourself through a large body movement.

In order for you to be able to draw quickly, the movement or tactic needs to be simple.  With simplicity comes speed, and speed is essential when involved in an armed encounter.  The first one who is able to draw and come on target with his or her weapon and place an effective shot into his or her opponent wins the fight.  Speed and shot placement are critical.

To be able to draw your weapon quickly, you should always wear your ankle holster on the inside of your off-hand leg.  A right-handed shooter should wear his ankle holster on the inside of his left leg while a left-handed shooter would wear his weapon on the inside of his right leg.

The quickest method to draw from an ankle holster also involves the least amount of initial body movement.  While in a standing position raise your leg up approximately 8 to 12 inches off the ground.  The higher you raise your knee, the less you'll have to drop your shoulders-which means the less you'll be telegraphing your intentions to your opponent. (See photo 1.)

While raising your leg, reach down with both hands below your knee, grabbing your pants, and pull up on your pant leg.  While holding onto your pant leg either step forward or to the side.  The bending of your knee will keep the pant leg up.  At the same time that you start to step forward or to the side, release your pant leg from your gun hand and slide your gun hand down your leg to get a grip on your weapon.  This should all be done by feel so that you can keep your eyes on your adversary. (See photo 2.)

At the same time that you are getting your grip, release the thumb snap or Velcro that is holding the weapon in place and draw your weapon.  (See photo 3.)  From this position you can elect to go into a kneeling stance if cover is available or move to some cover while returning fire.

Identify Yourself

If you are wearing civilian clothes, there is one additional step that you must do to ensure your survivability.  Once you have neutralized the threat and it is safe to do so, get your badge out with your weapon.  You want arriving law enforcement personnel to recognize you as a police officer-not a suspect.  If at all possible, consider taking cover and reholstering your weapon just before the cavalry arrives to avoid any mistaken identity.

Although carrying your weapon in an ankle holster is not the best method, consider the alternatives.  Every year officers are disarmed and murdered with their own weapons.  According to FBI statistics from 1986 to 1995, one out of seven officers killed in the United States in the line of duty was off duty at the time of the incident.  Also, of the 762 law enforcement officers killed from 1981 through 1990, 14 percent (or 110) were killed with their own weapons.

When you look at these statistics it only makes sense to always carry while off duty and to always carry a back-up weapon while on duty.

Michael T. Rayburn has over 22 years of experience in the law enforcement field and is currently a 14-year veteran of the Saratoga Springs (N.Y.) Police Department.  A frequent contributor to POLICE, he is also the lead instructor for Rayburn Law Enforcement Training and can be reached at (518) 885-8594.

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