YOU BROUGHT IT, YOU LEAVE WITH IT
IF YOU BRING A FIREARM into a situation you have a responsibility to maintain control of it at all times; you brought it, you leave with it. If you are going to carry a firearm for any reason, practice and continued training are important for ensuring your safety and the safety of those around you, but very few people consider training to retain their firearm during an aggressive conflict. This article will get you started on that path. But like anything, if you don’t practice it, it will not work for you when you need it. When I was an officer, firearm retention was a very important part of our training and I still practice and refine it to this day.
CONSIDERATIONS OF FIREARM RETENTION
If you are carrying a firearm you probably already know this, but it bears mentioning here, if someone is going for your firearm it has become a deadly force assault and your response needs to be aggressive and decisive enough to meet the given stimulus. As with any self-defense or combative techniques you learn and use, you need techniques that are easy to do, easy to remember and will produce maximum effect with minimal time and effort. This is not a movie, it doesn’t have to look good, it just needs to work.
AVOID HYPER FOCUS
In any kind of self-defense or combative scenario involving a weapon, whether it is your weapon or the attacker’s, we tend to focus on the weapon to the exclusion of all else. Focusing on the weapon is a good idea, it is what keeps us alive, but remember you have other weapons at your disposal; hands, elbows, feet, knees, head, etc. Do not become so hyperfocused on the weapon that you find yourself struggling and wrestling over it, go ahead and disrupt the attacker with an aggressive assault using your other weapons while he is focusing on the primary weapon. If you find yourself struggling over the weapon you have to consider the possibility that he may be stronger, mistakes can be made no matter how skilled you are, he may have a buddy or buddies, etc. Anything can happen during the struggle that can be counter-productive to your defensive plan. You need to end the struggle immediately and with extreme prejudice.
KEEP IT TIGHT TO YOUR BODY
When you are fighting to gain or maintain control over any weapon, keep it tight to your body. You maintain better control, better leverage and more strength when you utilize your body. Obviously, when doing this be careful to keep control of where the dangerous part of the weapon is oriented. You don’t want to point the firearm at yourself or put the sharp or pointy parts of a knife against yourself. You just want to pull your arms in tight to maintain maximum control and possession of the weapon. When your arms are away from your body you maintain no leverage and they can be moved around easily and therefore controlled, when they are tight against your body they are very hard to manipulate.
WHAT IF HE LETS GO BEFORE I CAN FINISH THE TECHNIQUE?
I have been asked before “what happens if he lets go? These techniques won’t work if he lets go.” My answer to this is simple, if he lets go then my technique worked just fine. The whole point is to ensure that he doesn’t get my firearm, if he let go then he didn’t get my firearm. Again, this isn’t a movie. I don’t care if I don’t get to finish a cool technique; I just want to go home safe and sound with my firearm still in my possession. Once he lets go, I step away and present my firearm and end the threat, ideally without incident. Success.
FIREARM RETENTION FROM THE FRONT
»It may be surprising to know there are people who actually practice taking a firearm out of someone else’s holster from the front. They even go as far as to practice taking firearms out of level three duty holsters and are quite good at it. Much like how you work hard every day to get better at your job, so do some criminals. For this reason it is important to constantly train to maintain a level playing field.
I am maintaining a defensive posture, letting the aggressor know that I don’t want any trouble. This will also demonstrate to witnesses that you are not the aggressor, which will show in the police report. I am also making sure to keep my firearm side away from him.
The aggressor suddenly rushes me and grabs my firearm to un-holster it.
I quickly and aggressively slam my hands down onto his hand and cover his hand with both of my hands; this will help maintain control of my firearm and potentially control of the aggressor. I want this to be very aggressive to foul his draw and disrupt his thought processes. From this stage on everything is very decisive, aggressive and fast. I do not want to give him a chance to recover his focus.
I am continuing to cover and maintain my firearm while holding his hand down against my side; with my support hand I am digging my fingers into his eyes, grabbing his face like a bowling ball. I want to dig my fingers deep into his eyes, I do not want him to be able to see or function; I want his entire focus to be on what is happening to his face.
I am going to aggressively drive his head straight down, forcing him to the ground. There is an old principle that where the head goes the body will follow, this is the case here.
Once he is down, I am going to back away and present my firearm, ordering him to stay down. At this point the next steps will be dictated by the aggressor. Ideally you will be able to have someone call the police or call them yourself while maintaining control of the situation. Remember, if he is down and no longer aggressive you need to de-escalate, it will be hard because you will be experiencing an adrenaline dump, but if you shoot him at this point then you are the aggressor and will be treated as such in the eyes of the law and public perception. If he gets up and runs, let him go! Just get a good description of him for the police.
FIREARM RETENTION FROM BEHIND
»We live in a 3D world, threats can come from any angle and it can be hard to always maintain a 360 degree view of our surroundings, especially when there is any kind of external stimuli that competes for our attention. Scenarios such as that are prime opportunities for an aggressor to come up from behind and try to steal your firearm.
I am currently distracted by some form of external stimuli when the aggressor sneaks up from behind.
When I feel him grab my firearm I take a quick step forward, which will assist in fouling his draw.
As in the first scenario, I slam my hands down onto his, ensuring that I have completely fouled his draw, gaining control of the situation and my firearm.
As in the first scenario, I maintain cover on my firearm and his hand while my support hand grabs his face, digging deep into his eyes and driving his head straight into the ground.
Once he is down, I am going to back away and present my firearm ordering him to stay down. As with the first scenario, at this point the next steps will be dictated by the aggressor. Ideally you will be able to have someone call the police or call them yourself while maintaining control of the situation. Remember, if he is down and no longer aggressive you need to de-escalate, it will be hard because you will be experiencing an adrenaline dump, but if you shoot him at this point then you are the aggressor and will be treated as such in the eyes of the law and public perception. If he gets up and runs, let him go! Just get a good description of him for the police.
“IF HE LETS GO OF YOUR FIREARM THEN YOUR TECHNIQUE HAS ALREADY WORKED. THE PURPOSE OF ANY FIREARM RETENTION TECHNIQUE IS TO ENSURE THAT HE DOESN’T GET YOUR FIREARM.”
RETAINING A PRESENTED FIREARM
»There are a ton of firearm disarm techniques out there, just about every martial art or selfdefense system has a series of them and you can bet that the same criminal element that practices taking your firearm out of your holster also practices how to take it out of your hands. The following technique is a principle that can be applied during many different types of disarms; the scenario does not have to be exactly like this, apply the principle itself to many different scenarios.
During an aggressive, close quarters conflict I present my firearm as a last ditch survival effort (maybe he is far bigger and I am afraid for my life or the lives of my family, maybe I am becoming surrounded, etc).
The aggressor grabs my firearm in an attempt to disarm me.
I quickly and aggressively step forward and simultaneously suck my firearm tight to my body. This will give me a greater level of leverage, control and strength.
You can see that when I pull the firearm in tight to my body I keep it oriented on him. I can shoot from this position if necessary; there is a shooting system developed by Paul Castle that utilizes this position called CAR (Center Axis Relock) that has been adopted by several top agencies.
Once I have regained complete control of my firearm, I am going to drop the barrel down slightly and swing it to the outside of his hands and then I am going to rotate it up and over the top of his wrist. This will place his wrist in a very unnatural and painful position. During this step a well-placed kick to the knee/shin or head butt will help to distract him while you manipulate the firearm. Remember you have other weapons in this fight, use them.
This is a view of what will be happening from the opposite side. You can see that his wrist has been turned over and placed in a very painful position. If I press down, it will lock his wrist and force him downward, he will be forced to either let go or follow the pain. It is very important to note that during this step I take my finger off the trigger so that I do not risk it getting broken if anything goes wrong, this will also prevent the firearm from discharging prematurely. Also, I have my thumb on the slide to help stabilize the firearm while using it to manipulate his wrist. Make sure that you move your thumb back down along the rail before firing; you do not want your thumb on the slide during discharge.
Using the firearm to apply the lock I force it straight into him and down, forcing him to the ground.
Once he is down, I am going to back away and present my firearm ordering him to stay down. As with the first and second scenario, at this point the next steps will be dictated by the aggressor. Ideally you will be able to have someone call the police or call them yourself while maintaining control of the situation. Remember, if he is down and no longer aggressive you need to de-escalate, it will be hard because you will be experiencing an adrenaline dump, but if you shoot him at this point then you are the aggressor and will be treated as such in the eyes of the law and public perception. If he gets up and runs, let him go! Just get a good description of him for the police.
Firearm retention is almost as important as being able to shoot accurately and safely, if you are going to carry a firearm you are responsible for that firearm at all times, which includes keeping it out of the hands of criminals. There are many different firearm retention techniques and I highly recommend researching and training in them to figure out which will work best for you.
Our ability to carry firearms in this country is a right, guaranteed to us under the second amendment. But make no mistake, there are those who are working diligently every day to exploit irresponsible gun ownership to garner public support for removing that right. In their eyes if you are carrying and a criminal disarms you and uses your firearm in the commission of a crime, you are as responsible as him, because if you weren’t carrying in the first place then he would have never got it. You brought it, you leave with it, at all costs. The last thing you want is to watch the news and find out that your firearm was used in a homicide.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the July 2015 print issue of American Survival Guide.