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How The Deadly Cavalry Draw Will Hurt You

Posted by Rob Longenecker on June 14th, 2006

The infamous “Cavalry Draw” is one of the most dangerous draws on record.

What’s a “Cavalry Draw” you ask?

Remember in the old westerns when cowboys would carry their pistol with the butt facing forward on the strong side of their body? In the old 50’s TV series, “Wild Bill Hickok,” Guy Madison carried two guns that way.

Bill Elliot did the same thing before him. The Cavalry Draw requires gripping the pistol with the back of your hand toward your waist and twisting the gun “right way around” as you draw and bring the gun toward the target.

With their single action Colts, they could cock the hammer while drawing the pistol.

It’s a little different today. Like everything else, while it may look good on TV and in the movies – it just isn’t practical in real life.

Where the Cavalry Draw shows up today is when a right-handed shooter finds it feels comfortable to carry in the small of the back using a left-handed holster with the butt of their gun canted toward their strong side. 

They draw with the back of their hand toward their body during the draw and inadvertently sweep the muzzle across their body as they bring the gun to bear on their target. 

Look, we all know you just can’t afford to point the gun at yourself during the draw, especially during the stress of defending yourself for real. 

Time after time, police officers and civilians have pulled the trigger early and fired a shot in their holster, into their leg, their foot, the floor in front of them.  The mind is screaming “Shoot! Shoot!” and the trigger finger wants to obey. 

It’s not unusual to see bullet holes in the floor or carpet walking up to the target when examining the scene of the shooting afterwards. I’ve seen it myself. 

If you pull the trigger early while inadvertently sweeping your body with the muzzle, it’ll just ruin your whole day.

Bottom line?  Avoid unintended injury by carrying your pistol in a way that eliminates an accident while drawing.

Do this instead: if you want to carry near the small of your back, offset it slightly toward the strong side (away from your spine) and use a holster that requires a normal draw – a draw with your palm facing your body instead of away from it. 

One Response to “How The Deadly Cavalry Draw Will Hurt You”

  1. David Grasse Says:

    The cavalry (or twist or plains or reverse draw) is only practical with a single-action revolver (especially with a barrel over 6 inches).
    The plus side of the cavalry draw are these:
    1. The gun cannot be slipped out of the holster from behind by another (the holster is also canted slightly forward)
    2. If your strong arm is disabled, it may be used as a cross draw with the off-hand.
    3. With longer barrel lengths, standard draws are impractical
    4. Easy to draw in a seated position (especially in a chair with a back)
    Contrary to popular opinion, though you do sweep the gun (single-action revolver) across the body in drawing, it is not cocked until it is forward of the body, making it a perfectly safe draw. And, with practice, one can become fairly proficient and fast in this motion.
    Of course, the most famous cavalry/twist draw was James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickock, who carried to Navy Colts (7.5 inch barrels) in this fashion. As he is considered one of the best of the Old West shootist, I am inclined to think he knew what he was doing carrying them in this manner.

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