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Cross-Draw Carry: El Paso Style

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Cross-draw carry, defined as wearing an angled belt holster on the weak side of the body with the gun butt canted forward, was a very popular method of carrying a defensive handgun for many years.

Cross-draw carry got its start in the Old West. No less a gunfighter than Wild Bill Hickok wore a matching set of ivory-handled Colt .36 Navy revolvers cross-draw style, butt forward, stuffed in a belt sash. While he could have used them in a “double cross-draw” format, as a former history teacher of mine described, it is also possible that he used the U.S. Cavalry’s twist-draw method. The U.S. Cavalry belt holster was a flap holster that was worn on the right side, butt forward. To draw, one undid the flap with the strong hand, reached in and twisted his or her hand around to gain a shooting grip and then withdrew the handgun, twisting his or her hand back around to bring the gun to bear on the target. Back then, no one cared about accommodating lefties, who had to make do one way or the other.

True cross-draw holsters came in vogue in the mid- to late-19th Century, persisting in popularity into the late 20th Century. Cross-draw duty rigs were fixtures in American law enforcement during the revolver era. I was reminded of that yesterday from the oddest source — a rerun of a very early Leave It to Beaver episode, which began with a narrator talking about adult authority figures in the lives of kids. As the narrator talked, there was an image of a 1950’s police officer, resplendent in his eight-point hat, wool blouse jacket, military style cross-strap Sam Brown gun belt and a double-action revolver in a cross-draw holster on his left side. Nice coincidence considering that I would be writing on this topic the day after I watched the rerun.

Cross-draw rigs fell out of favor as defensive tactics training for police officers evolved in the 1980s. Many felt that it was too easy for a suspect to approach an officer from the front and pull the officer’s gun out and use it against him or her. While there is some truth to that, in hindsight, cross-draw holsters are no more of a problem — and maybe less of one — when it comes to weapons retention than wearing a strong-side holster.

As a defensive tactics and firearms instructor, I fell in with the notion that carrying a handgun in the cross-draw position is just not a good idea. There are also safety concerns one has with cross-draw carry on a linear range during draw-from-holster drills (where the muzzle of the handgun will momentarily sweep across the person next to your holster side). It’s easy to see why cross-draw holsters lost their luster.

As I have had time to reflect over the years, I’ve come to the realization that there is still some life left in cross-draw carry, particularly with today’s concerns over not just carjacking but also attacks by Antifa mobs and other radical groups who may disagree with your political point of view.

Strong-side carry while driving a car slows your access to your handgun, even if you don’t have a seatbelt on. You pretty much have to twist around in your seat to draw a handgun carried on your strong side, particularly if your holster secures your handgun muzzle down. A properly worn cross-draw rig can be accessed even with your seatbelt still on or in the process of being removed.

In order to revisit the use of cross-draw holsters for concealed carry, I decided to contact the oldest continually operating holster maker in the U.S.: El Paso Saddlery.

El Paso is not just about Old-West-style holsters; although they do carry one of the best lineups of that genre, they also have an extensive lineup of concealment rigs. I selected the Cross Cover in plain black for a 1911 to revisit this carry method.

The Cross Cover is a dedicated cross-draw holster — not one that can be used for strong-side or cross-draw use. While those type of rigs do work for cross-draw, I prefer a holster dedicated for a specialized draw like this, and the Cross Cover seemed to be an ideal selection.

The plain Cross Cover is hand-boned for a fine fit. It is also available with stamped or floral patterns. It features a blocked sight channel to allow for easy sight passage of prominent sights — such as tritium night sights.

The Cross Cover is held to the belt in a proper draw angle with a leading-edge belt slot and then a flat belt loop on the back. Belt width is 1½ inches. (If you have not worked with a leather holster of this type with a custom hand-boned fit, realize that you may have to break it in a bit to achieve a smooth draw.) Since I was using a lined belt with the rig, I had to work with the slot and loop a bit to accommodate a belt of this thickness. A standard unlined 1½-inch gun belt should prove to slide through the slot and loop without any pre-stretching required.

I tried the Cross Cover with a full-sized WWII vintage 1911. Because I have to wear a cross-draw rig close to the front of my body due to range-of-motion issues in my shoulders, the butt of the gun protruded a bit more than I liked for ideal concealment under an outdoors vest. However, those without these limitations can wear the Cross Cover farther back over the weak-side hip bone and still have easy access. In retrospect, I should have ordered a Cross Cover for my Glock 27 or a snub revolver; the protrusion issue would have been eliminated.

After working with the Cross Cover, I think my security concerns were indeed overblown about cross-draw rigs. With a strong-side-carried handgun, I would have to use my strong hand to lock the gun in place and prevent its removal from the holster. Also, strong-side carry invites attacks from the rear, which is also more difficult to defend against. A handgun carried in the Cross Cover positions the handgun more in front, making rear grab attempts more difficult, as an attacker would have to approach you face-to-face. And because you are carrying the Cross Cover on your weak side, you will defend your gun in the holster with your weak hand, while your strong hand is available to begin inflicting damage by strikes to the face or throat or by accessing a defensive knife or backup handgun carried on your strong side. All told, it appears that cross-draw carry may not be such a bad idea, especially when you’re operating a motor vehicle.

The Cross Cover is designed for all-day carry comfort and is priced at $ 89. It is available for currently manufactured guns, as well as out-of-manufacture models like the Star PD .45. Make sure to practice with it extensively with an unloaded gun before carrying, and be aware of what your muzzle may sweep. Also, be aware that many ranges prohibit drawing from cross-draw holsters in range stalls.

Related: Mastering the Crossdraw of Your Pistol

More info at: www.elpasogunholsters.com

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