You hear the sickening pop as your passenger side window is smashed by a hoodlum using a small piece of porcelain that he has broken from a spark plug. You know there is trouble.
You see the bandana covering the identity of the "military-aged male," as we'd call them in the U. S. Army, and you feel the dump of adrenaline as he brings his nickel plated revolver into view. He cusses at you to get out of the vehicle as his pistol is moving in your direction. What should you do?
You can calmly place the vehicle in park, undo your seat belt, open the door and calmly walk away. But as you see the pistol beginning to point in your direction, you see the bad guy's finger go to the trigger. You flash back to the news feed in your area, "Local gang members shoot pedestrians and take their vehicles."
Now is the time you decide to shoot rather than be shot, and it's now a race to get to your legal, concealed carry pistol, and do what you have trained for years to do — protect yourself and defend your life.
At this point, you have to make the decision on how do you get the gun into the fight as quickly as possible.
Some trains of thought are to get the seat belt unbuckled at the same time you are drawing the pistol. I might buy this if there wasn't an immediate threat, in other words, a point at which I need my pistol in the fight. The gravity of this type of situation should start to sink in; you must train with techniques that can withstand the beginning of the fight, the actual fight, and the post-fight situation.
If you have decided that getting out of the car is your primary priority, then getting the seat belt out of the way is crucial. For some law enforcement (LE) officers and military men and women caught in an ambush, getting out of the vehicle may be priority numero uno. But for most of us not caught in the crosshairs of ISIS, simply targeted for the vehicle we drive or poor demeanor, there may be other options to explore.
Get the training right. If you have been to a shooting school or watched a self-defense video on the removal of the seat belt, you might be farther behind the power curve than the average gun owner. I say this because some of the mystical and magical seat belt undoing techniques can absolutely drive me crazy. The six-step process of removing the belt will only get you killed if you need your pistol in the fight right now. I am a simple man, therefore I teach simple techniques that work well for those who are overcome by events in a possible gunfight. Under stress, we will revert back to our training, so we need to get the training right to begin with.
Before I get to the meat of the matter, you must know when you can legally use your pistol to stop a threat, this is law that should have been taught to you during your concealed carry training. If it hasn't been, I would highly recommend reaching out to a qualified trainer on the use of deadly force.
If you decide you want the seat belt off first, the best technique I have seen is to simply take the seat belt off as you do every day. Do not overthink the process. Grabbing and tracing and this and that only clogs the decision making process. Reach for the buckle and disconnect the seat belt.
The only real seat belt advice I will give you is if you find yourself with your gun in hand and the seat belt around your firing arm, hand the pistol to the other hand, get out of the seat belt, then place the pistol back in your firing hand.
Accidents happen when we try to drag the pistol through the seat belt that is hooked around your arm, or worse, trying to flip the seat belt off the firing arm by flicking the pistol dangerously around. The worst that can happen is the pistol is jerked from your grip by the seat belt — not cool. Practice this hand-to-hand technique with an unloaded pistol or with a training pistol before attempting to negotiate live-fire training.
Testing the techniques. So, if you are like me, you have probably tried the different techniques to see what really works, and more importantly, which technique is faster. I tested both conditions using a shot timer. I had the shot clock set on delay, pushed the start button and waited for the indication that the fight was on.
Once the beeper sounded, I drew and fired one round onto a target 2 yards from the driver's side of the vehicle. I only conducted two draws from each position, starting with the "leaving the seat belt on" technique to keep anyone from saying that the times were skewed because of the order in which they were shot.
If anything, the seat belt removal times would have been worse if they were the first draws from that holster. Another note of importance, I carry an appendix rig daily so I should be more comfortable with that type of draw, presentation and shot. Another important fact is there were no mulligans or do-overs, every shot counted. I did set up my shirt as I would when driving, which is that I pull my pistol covering apparel out and over the seatbelt; this allows for ease of grabbing the shirt, clearing the gun, and making quick work of the draw and target engagement.
At the end of the day, I am not here to argue techniques. If you perceive the threat as not immediate, then go ahead and get the seat belt off and proceed as you see fit. However, if you feel the threat requires ballistic conversation, I would leave the seat belt in place and get busy with the draw. If you carry in such a manner that you must take the seat belt off to draw, I would relook at that carry option. Even with my ankle holster, I can retrieve the pistol with the seat belt in place.
At the end of the day's testing, every draw was significantly faster when the seat belt was left in place. As an average, the "seat belt in place" draws were 25 to 30 percent faster than "the removal of the seat belt" draws. If you could change a piece of gear that would make you 30 percent faster, you would change immediately, so the same should apply to techniques.
Last but not least, if this has to happen with only one hand, think carefully about not only how you draw but also where the pistol will go after engaging the threat and need to remove your seat belt. There's a lot of adrenaline rushing through your body. If an appendix rig is your choice, I wouldn't attempt to reholster it in a hurry. Same goes for a non-Kydex inside the waistband (IWB) holster that collapses after you draw.
So, get a timer, get training and make your hits count.