The best way to defend against a gun-armed threat is with a comparable or more capable gun. As obvious as that may seem, in today’s world, it’s not always possible. Depending upon where you live, where you work and where you travel, carrying a firearm 100 percent of the time won’t always be an option.

When you do find yourself playing by the rules and not carrying in a non-permissive environment, there’s no guarantee that everyone else will be as accommodating. It’s a well-known fact that criminals, mass murderers and terrorists purposely target “gun-free” zones to maximize the chances of success. To enhance your chance of survival, it therefore makes sense to have solid, unarmed counter-gun skills in your personal-defense arsenal.

Curiously, peeling someone’s hands off of an object works far better than prying the object out of his hands. Knowing this will make your techniques more effective.

Counter-Gun Concepts (CGC)

There are many different ways to approach counter-gun tactics, and most martial arts and self-defense systems teach them in some form. However, very few of them do it particularly well or bother to consider the full scope of modern gun violence. My approach to gun disarms — Counter-Gun Concepts (CGC) — was developed to address the broad and often terrifying scope of all of today’s threats.

It also focuses on understanding the details of how guns function and how subtle but important changes to a technique can compromise that function and keep you safer. Most importantly, CGC emphasizes doing more with less and achieving the greatest possible defensive capability with the least amount of training time.

The Logic Of CGC to Disarm a Shooter

To be a viable self-defense option for average citizens, a counter-gun system should satisfy a number of basic criteria:

  • It must be easy for average people to learn.
  • It must allow you to achieve functional proficiency with minimal training.
  • It must be easy to remember and retain.
  • It should work against all types and sizes of guns.
  • It should work equally well against right-handed, left-handed and two-handed grips.
  • It should have no more techniques than necessary.
  • It should have maximum commonality among techniques.
  • Its techniques should allow positive control over the gun.
  • Its techniques should work in both first-person and third-person contexts.

Based on these guidelines, it won’t matter whether a mugger has a derringer or a 1911. It also shouldn’t matter whether the gun is pointed directly at you or at someone else. Your tactics should be simple, versatile and practical enough to solve the problem without an overly complicated decision-making process.

(1) GET READY, GET SET… Get close to the gunman and take in everything you can about the pistol. Get your hands up and moving as you speak and divert his attention.

Counter-Gun Concepts Order Of Operations

Every self-defense situation is dynamic, so you must be able to adapt the skills and principles you learn in training to realistic environmental contexts. The most effective way to do that is by following a logical “order of operations” — a prioritized list of outcome-based objectives that will maximize your survivability. CGC’s order of operations is as follows:

Try to see the gun, its condition and the hand that is holding it, if possible. A sound understanding of gun mechanics will help you assess your attacker’s ability to fire instantly.

Get close enough to touch the attacker’s gun hand. If you can’t touch his gun hand, you cannot disarm him.

(2) GO (BUT STAY OUT OF THE WAY)! Move your hand to get a solid hold on the attacker’s wrist and turn your body to minimize your own exposure. Do not let the muzzle sweep you. (3) MAINTAIN CONTROL Hold onto the gun, but control and move the attacker’s hand more than anything else. If you do not intend to disarm him, limit his range of motion to movement from his shoulder, but be prepared for the gun to fire.

Get your hands up and get them moving. Action initiated from movement is faster and harder to perceive than action that starts from a static position.

Position your hands so that they will move efficiently based on your natural range of motion.

Talk to the attacker and ask him a question. Creating a “mental pause” will slow his reaction time.

Move your hand and turn your body to move the gun off target. “Blading” your body as you move will minimize your chances of being shot if the gun discharges.

(4) TAKE THAT GUN If you intend to execute a disarm, peel the attacker’s hand off of his gun rather than trying to wrest the gun from his grip. Do not let the muzzle sweep you. (5) STAY IN CONTROL While disarming an attacker, strikes to the eyes are extremely effective.

Deflect and control the gun hand, not the gun itself. Grabbing the gun may work well for full-framed handguns but not for pocket pistols, derringers or short-barreled revolvers.

If possible, use eye strikes to blind your attacker, at least momentarily. Eye strikes are extremely disabling and may cause a spontaneous disarm. They also make it difficult for the attacker to see well enough to effectively target you.

If you opt to disarm the attacker, use two hands against one whenever possible. This makes your technique more reliable and gives you superior strength.

Take the attacker’s hands off the gun or work toward the weakest part of the grip. Curiously, peeling someone’s hands off of an object works far better than prying the object out of his hands. Knowing this will make your techniques more effective.

(6) FEED IT TO HIM Firearms of all kinds make anywhere from passable to excellent impact weapons. Introduce him to this fact. (7) SHOOTER MAKE READY If you intend to use your attacker’s gun against him, execute a “tap, roll, rack” malfunction clearance to ensure it is ready to fire as you move away from the last place your attacker saw you. If you’re carrying your own gun, use it instead.

If you can’t disarm the person, control the arm. Twisting a tiny .25 auto out of someone’s hand isn’t always feasible. Instead, control the arm by limiting its mobility to one joint: the shoulder. This will also allow you to control the direction of the gun’s muzzle.

Be prepared for the gun to fire. If it does fire, proper control of the gun should allow only a single round.

Once you’ve disarmed the attacker, check the condition of the gun and be prepared to use it. If it’s the only gun in the fight, make sure it has a round chambered or is otherwise ready to fire in case you need to use it. If you’re carrying your own gun, draw that instead. You know that your firearm will work; you can have no such confidence in a random criminal’s pistol.

MOVE FROM THERE After the attacker is disarmed and you are firmly in control of the situation, you will have to decide whether he still poses a direct, unavoidable threat of death or great bodily harm and act accordingly.

Practical Applications of Counter-Gun Concepts

So, let’s consider a few likely types of gun threats and see how the same basic technique and the underlying concepts can effectively counter all of them. First, imagine someone in front of you holding a handgun in his right hand and pointing it at your head or chest. Make sure you are close enough to touch his gun hand. Then, raise your hands to suggest compliance and get them in subtle motion. As you’re moving, ask him a question such as, “I’ve got $50, is that enough?”

The moment he pauses to ponder your question, pivot quickly at the waist, “blading” your body to him as you deflect his gun hand with your left hand. If he does fire the gun, this will minimize your chances of being shot.

Hook the fingers of your left hand over the base of his thumb and pull his hand and the gun back into your waiting right hand, which should be positioned high in the center of your chest. Grip the top of the gun with your right hand. This will keep the cylinder of a double-action revolver from turning, the slide of a semi-auto from cycling and your fingers away from the muzzle.

Maintaining a firm two-handed grip with the gun tight to your chest, pivot at the waist. Use your body rotation to turn the muzzle toward the attacker. As you do this, peel his thumb off of the gun’s grip with the fingers of your left hand. This will disarm him, leaving the gun in your right hand, muzzle away from you.

Drive the fingers of your left hand into his eyes and then strike him in the head with the muzzle of the gun. Alternate left-hand and gun strikes several times to drive him back and create distance. Finally, switch the gun to a firing grip and tap-rack-ready to be prepared to use it against him.

Disarming a Left-Handed Shooter

This technique was described as a right-handed defender against a right-handed attacker. If the gun is in his left hand, you don’t want to have to think about having to change your technique to execute it on the “other” side. Instead, do the exact same series of movements. You’ll find that the only significant differences are that you hook the fingers of your left hand over the back of his hand instead of the base of his thumb. Also, when you twist your body to point the muzzle toward him, you will break his index finger in the trigger guard. The gun may also discharge toward him at that point. Otherwise, the technique works extremely well either right- or left-handed.

Third-Party Disarm

Now imagine an active shooter with a handgun aiming at someone else. You’re able to use cover, concealment and the element of surprise to quickly approach him from the right or right rear. As you get within range, drive both hands out — left hand to his hand and right hand to the gun — and deflect the muzzle away from his intended target. As you continue to move forward, pull both hands back to your chest and finish as you did in the first-person version.

As before, the third-party version of disarming works against guns held in either hand. It is also easily adapted if you are forced to approach the shooter from his left side. Although it is the “other side” of the technique, extending both hands together and following the core concepts of the technique make it surprisingly easy to learn.

Worst-Case Scenario

Attempting to disarm anyone with a firearm is a terrifying proposition. The best way to maximize your chances of survival is with a simple set of well-trained skills that enable you to use the minimum number of techniques to prevail against the broadest range of threats. After that, it’s the usual requirements: Train hard and stay alert.