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Drawing Your Pistol While Seatbelted in a Vehicle: Click It or Ticket?

Ever thought about getting tangled up with your seatbelt when put into a self-defense position while in a car or truck? Here are some things to consider when making a decision on the right time to draw your pistol.

Drawing Your Pistol While Seatbelted in a Vehicle: Click It or Ticket?

(Lukas Lamb photo)

Should you draw and then take off your seatbelt? Or take off your seat belt and then draw? Decisions, decisions.

Make the decision now before you have a threat standing at your car door. As a tactical instructor, I intend to give sound advice, but at the end I sometimes wonder if I have made the right decision as to what I teach. My background is from an offensive mindset. So, what does this mean to a law-abiding citizen? I believe having an offensive nature allows us to keep the tide of success carrying us in the right direction. If you were always in a defensive posture, you’re behind the eight ball.

Being offensive doesn’t mean cruising the streets of small-­town America ready to shoot someone; it means being prepared for any situation that might present itself. If you are conducting your life in a righteous manner, being offensive is not only fine in my eyes, but it should also be the sought-­after mindset.

The term “combat mindset” is the way we think about preparedness. In order to be composed, we want to be efficient in our decision-­making processes. “Translate,” you say? Make as many hard decisions as possible now, before trouble finds you. Manufacturing those decisions now will help you be fast and efficient in a life-­or-­death situation.

One of the key decisions is “when” and “if” you are going to draw your gun. This is a decision you should make now before you find yourself under the pressure of an armed encounter. Allow me to set up a scenario, and then you decide how to react:

You are a resident of Tennessee, and you are driving through downtown Nashville with your wife and kids. Unbeknownst to you, there is an antagonistic rally crossing the public road you are driving on. Your vehicle fits the mold of who they hate. Perhaps you are driving a four-­door, four-­wheel drive and you have an NRA sticker on a window. Or maybe you are a Marine and have an eagle, globe and anchor emblem on your front license plate. Regardless, you have become a target. As you slow for pedestrians who are intent on blocking your path, you have to decide how to protect your family. From behind the crowd comes an instigator, and you lock eyes with the assailant. The attacker is dressed in all-­black, is wearing a black face mask, carrying a black backpack and has an aluminum baseball bat in hand. You can’t tell if this person is a man or woman, but they are headed your way. The vehicle to your front is stopped, so you are blocked in. The attacker is fixated on you. You can’t back up or go forward. What are you going to do? Your spider sense suggests that this isn’t going to end well. As you start the decision-­making process, you are startled by a frozen water bottle thumping off your front windshield. You catch movement to your left as another terrorist is moving in from your flank, and that person has a tire iron. As this individual raises the tire iron to break your window, you lay your body to the right slightly. What’s your next move? Will you draw your gun? Will you wait until the window is broken to draw? What is your plan if they attempt to pull you and your children from the vehicle? How will you treat the head injury to your wife or child as the mob overruns your vehicle?


Was that a grizzly scene? Of course. And it is actually playing out in America. Radicals have pounced on the opportunity to riot and burn our cities. They know there will be no consequences for their actions. My point here is not to scare you, but encourage you, the law-­abiding citizen, perhaps with a concealed firearm, to make sound decisions.

I used Tennessee to paint a picture, only because I live there. For this state, the Castle Doctrine applies to your vehicle as well as your domicile. I don’t write this column to offer legal advice, but I can offer some technical help once you have decided to draw your sidearm.

Back to the scenario, the decision has been made to draw your pistol. Now the question is, do you attempt to draw and then remove the seatbelt, or remove the seatbelt and then draw? There are really only two options.

Fellow instructor and former U.S. Army Special Forces veteran SGM Craig “Chili” Palmer prefers to release the seatbelt and then draw. I, on the other hand, prefer to draw and then release the seatbelt. We are both correct because this is an individual decision to make. You have to figure out what works for you. If you carry a handgun in such a manner that you can’t access it without releasing the belt, of course, you need to get the seatbelt clear immediately. I carry with an appendix holster, so there isn’t a need for me to get the belt off before drawing my gun.

Other Considerations It is important to be prepared before an incident, such as the one described, ever occurs. Step one: Have a prepared mindset at all times. This is especially important if you have your family with you. We are the guardians of those who can’t protect themselves, so get your mind right.

Next, I prep my clothing and holster for such a scenario. If I am wearing an overgarment, I ensure that it is clear of the seat belt and I can simply lift the clothing out of the way with my support hand to access the pistol. If I am carrying behind the hip, the same is true. Don’t let your clothing impede getting to the gun quickly. Put some thought into what you’re wearing.


As you work these scenarios also consider how you would draw with one hand. What if an attacker grabbed your support arm and is trying to pull you from the vehicle? Can you make the same draw with your support hand only? (This is another reason I prefer appendix carry; I have access with both hands.)

Now, practice! I used a shot timer to cement the fact that I was faster getting to the gun before taking the seatbelt off. Once a threat was recognized, I drew the pistol using each technique. Time and time again, I was faster with the draw if I left the seatbelt in place. Remember, I use appendix carry, so your technique may require a different step-­by-­step process to succeed. If I can get the pistol quickly into the fight, I should have more time to get the seatbelt released. If not, it’s a moot point.

Remember, you may need to get the seatbelt off after drawing, so work on your technique for getting the belt around your arm, as well as getting out of the vehicle. If your technique involves switching the pistol from hand to hand, I’d find a different technique. Grab the seatbelt in the non-­firing hand and pull it around your pistol without covering your hand with the pistol. Don’t get fancy, just remove your firing hand from the seatbelt. This is only going to affect you on the driver side if you are left-­handed, and passenger side if you are right-­handed. Practice your technique and don’t overthink the process.

You, and only you, can make the decision as to when your life or your loved ones are in imminent danger, but think about those decisions now while the world around you is calm. Don’t wait to figure out what your plan might be. After developing your course of action, practice and visualize what you will see and how you will react. Using your vehicle inside your garage or in your driveway with an airsoft pistol or in dryfire mode will help you to become comfortable. The first time you execute your plan shouldn’t be when rioting terrorists are approaching your vehicle.

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