Gun-Grab Counterstrikes

Six street-proven tactics to retain your sidearm during an ambush!

You might find this hard to believe, but there was a time when weapon-retention training did not exist in American law enforcement. This is not one of those “good old days” articles; it was a serious deficit in police training and needed to be addressed. Four times during my law enforcement career I had to fight to retain my gun, and the first two incidents occurred before I received organized, structured training in the skill set. Interestingly, both went fairly well for me, so I was fortunate.

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  • Basic Counterstrikes1_phatch
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    While many handgun-retention techniques emphasize striking the arm that is reaching for the weapon, it can be more effective to go straight for the attacker’s face and upper body.
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    If an attack comes from the rear, secure your gun with one hand and use your free elbow—a powerful tool—to strike the attacker’s head or eyes. Another option is to backpedal and land on the suspect. Do the unexpected to assert control
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    If an attack comes from the rear, secure your gun with one hand and use your free elbow—a powerful tool—to strike the attacker’s head or eyes. Another option is to backpedal and land on the suspect. Do the unexpected to assert control

When I was in the basic police academy in 1976, I had the opportunity to sit with a veteran of the trench warfare of World War I and talk about the extreme forms of close-quarters combat. Theirs was a no-holds-barred type of fighting in which anything from a knife to a trenching tool could be used to fight, and when I asked him if there was a single tip he could offer based on his experiences, he said, “Affect their ability to see and/or breathe, and you shall win the day!” I never forgot this excellent piece of advice.

The first time a suspect tried to snatch my gun, I was carrying a Smith & Wesson Model 19 in a high-ride, thumb-break holster. Compared to today’s threat-level holsters, this rig would have been a “minus one,” but it was common for the time, and many officers used them. They rode well in daily carry, drew fairly clean, were consistent with off-duty carry and, when using a revolver with a 6-inch barrel, were comfortable when seated in a car.

The first attack came while guarding a prisoner on a routine court appearance. He was expecting to get out on bail, but when the judge set it higher than expected, he went into a deep funk. Just prior to entering a tunnel that went under the street from the court to the jail, he lunged out and tried to grab my revolver. Having no training in how to handle this, I reverted to what I knew, learned from my many years of playing sandlot tackle football, where a straight arm to the face was common. He moved, and I shot out my arm, with my palm landing squarely on top of his nose. It broke, I stepped back and looked around for other threats (something I had not been taught yet, either).


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