What is a word that means to remove from a holster as opposed to putting something back in a holster? I’ve searched deholster and unholster, each with no results found.

  • 8
    What search engine are you using? Google.com gives "about 120,000" results for unholster. Granted, this isn't a very big number by Google standards, but it's enough that I wouldn't dismiss all of these uses as errors. Plenty of them look perfectly credible to me.
    – John Y
    Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 19:53
  • 1
    I used dictionary.com I didn't use Google due to the potential for it to crawl a page where someone used an incorrect term for the lack of a more suitable word.
    – somehume
    Commented Nov 1, 2011 at 15:16
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    A better starting point is OneLook.com, which provides links to entries in many reputable references. (It's significant that OneLook.com found no reputable references to cite for unholster.)
    – MetaEd
    Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 19:27

5 Answers 5


You’re probably thinking of draw¹, which is certainly used with this meaning:

To pull out (as a gun from a holster, or a tooth).

For example, you might say “the gunslinger drew his pistol”.

  • 1
    Again, I don't like sounding like an ass, but "to draw a gun" has nothing to do with a holster. Have you ever seen anyone draw a shotgun from a holster? I doubt that. Being too technical I can safely claim that you're missing the point here.
    – Frantisek
    Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 17:30
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    I'm not sure I understand the objection. I can find many instances in COCA, for example, with gun or pistol and draw, and just a few where these are with unholster. I can't find instances where a shotgun is unholstered, and in a quick search, only a few examples of a shotgun, rifle, etc. with draw, which makes sense to me because these are carried differently. I think people tend to associate draw with removing a weapon - perhaps a canonical six-shooter - from a holster.
    – aedia λ
    Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 18:03
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    @Rimmer, I certainly have seen a shotgun get drawn from a holster. (It is a much larger holster and commonly is mounted on a horse in order to be convenient to the rider.) So I have to disagree with your objection; drawing a gun is most definitely a 'remove-from-holster' action. (Also I have to agree with aedia that it's rare to say "he drew a shotgun" because shotguns aren't normally kept in a holster; but it's also possible that someone could "draw a shotgun" simply by removing it from its normal stored position on a gunrack, for example.)
    – Hellion
    Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 18:48
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    While I agree with RiMMER that the most precise antonym of holster is unholster, I still think draw is a useful answer because it is a suitable antonym in most of the situations you'd find yourself using holster in the first place.
    – John Y
    Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 20:23

Actually, it is unholster. I’m sure of it, because I’ve heard it a lot in those thousands of movies I’ve seen in my life.

Check the “unholster” Wiktionary entry¹ for further info.


I would use the term draw, as in “He drew his gun to confront the robbers, then holstered it after they ran away.”

A dictionary entry and example from TheFreeDictionary:

To take or pull out: drew a gun from beneath the counter; drew out a fat wallet.¹

  • Actually, as you even quoted, "to draw a gun" means to take it from any place and prepare to fire. It's far from being an antonym to "holster."
    – Frantisek
    Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 17:19
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    Perhaps directly, but I would never use the term "unholster" in spoken English and I have never heard the term used. My body of watching westerns, however, has heard "draw" more times than I can remember :)
    – Brendon
    Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 17:21
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    Well, don't you think that you can unholster a gun to clean it? You don't necessarily draw it and shoot. You just unholster, clean it and holster it back :)
    – Frantisek
    Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 17:22
  • That's a fair point, but most of the time if you were discussing cleaning a gun, the removal from the holster would likely be omitted. More context is needed, however, from the original question.
    – Brendon
    Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 17:24
  • I think the video game Mass Effect used the term "unholster" (IIRC the "H" key could holster and unholster), I'd have to check the manual when I get home to be sure. Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 17:27

I'd suggest that draw and unholster are subtly different- to draw a firearm is to remove it from the holster with intent to use it (or at least threaten such use); unholster would be more commonly used when surrendering or relinquishing a weapon, either for reasons of military discipline or to return to stores when no longer required.

  • I think this is the key distinction, and it’s one of body language and intent. When I hear unholster, I infer the gunman’s finger is not on the trigger, and the safety may even be on. When I hear draw, I infer the gunman’s finger is on the trigger, the safety is off, and he may even be aiming. It’s similar to unsheathe versus draw for a sword or knife.
    – Jon Purdy
    Commented Feb 11, 2016 at 4:51

I was drawn here because I am writing a story where an officer is shot before he has a chance to "unholster" his gun. Dictionary.com does not recognize this word, and I don't want to use the word "draw" for purely artistic reasons. I thought I had heard the word "unholster" as well. What is a reasonable antonym, other than "draw?" Thanks!

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    Commented Feb 11, 2016 at 4:01

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