Why We Don’t Teach the “Bootleg” Ready Position
by John Tate

The “bootleg” ready position has the handgun is drawn, pointed down and slightly behind the leg with the arm extended. This position has been in use for ages when officers were attempting to gain a tactical advantage with their handgun in “hinky” situations, particularly traffic stops, without displaying the weapon. When situations indicate violence, officers of course knew to present the weapon, but when they just were not sure, it had been practice to “hide” the gun behind their leg, out of view from the subject, but also out of view from the watchful and critical eye of the public. The thinking was, “I’m nervous about this, but I might get complained on if someone sees me with my gun out.” Others thought, “I’m nervous about this, but I might escalate things if the subject sees me with my gun out.” Both figured, “If things get bad, at least my gun is already out of the holster.”

There are many reasons why we do not teach the “Bootleg” ready position. Most importantly, if you are nervous enough to want to draw your weapon, trust your senses and take action. Something is wrong. Next, and a very close second, we do not practice speed re-holstering under stress. You have also just brought an un-holstered weapon into a situation that may not justify deadly force and weapon retention from this position is extremely difficult at best. Third, we do not train from this position. Under stress, the body resorts to practiced actions. Fourth, this position is not significantly faster than a PRACTICED draw from a level 2 or 3 retention holster. Take a look at your practice regimen. Do you have one?

I was challenged to provide some back-up to these assertions. The references and excerpts are below:

From the research paper “Biomechanics of Deadly Force Encounters” and phone interview with Use of Force Expert Dr. Bill Lewinski of Force Science, “Study of 20 Officer Motions. Bootleg is no faster than a practiced draw from a level 2 or 3 retention holster but compromises options and safety. When you bring a hammer, every problem is a nail. Nobody practices rapid re-holstering.”

By phone interview with use of force expert John Delgado, “Finding the information on this position is like looking for comparisons to cross draw holsters. It is so outdated that you won’t find much.”

From “The Modern Day Gunslinger,” widely considered to be a must have training manual by Don Mann, “Whenever a weapon is drawn keep it out in front of you and in a safe direction where you can always see it. If you can’t see your own weapon, you are not in control of it.”

If something is dangerous, do not be afraid to display your weapon in one of the ready positions that you have been trained in. You will be able to explain your reason, which is far better than not being able to explain why you didn’t.

So, what do we do when we feel like something is suspicious but for whatever reason, we don’t want to display our weapon? Assuming these events are occurring at a traffic stop, first move to a safer position. At a minimum, moving further back provides distance, increasing your time available to react to a subject exiting the vehicle and making it more difficult for them to hit you with a firearm from the passenger compartment. Request back-up. An additional officer will provide a second set of eyes from a different vantage point, and a visual deterrent against assault. Finally, federal case law allows us to order the driver and passengers from and to the vehicle. Making the subject come to you takes them out of a familiar environment with access to unknown threats and allows you to observe their entire person. If they choose to flee on foot, it is may be less dangerous than fleeing in a vehicle.

Full disclosure: I’ve used this multiple times when approaching a suspect car. Improved readiness and, when executed properly, the driver (or your subject) cannot see the gun and therefore cannot rightfully claim any sort of intimidation. A winter alternative is to move your pistol to a jacket pocket and hold it there. Just beware of jams if you decide to shoot an automatic with the gun in your pocket.

Practice these scenarios, acceptable ready positions and drawing your weapon from your security holster.