Gun Grab

Gun disarms are more art than science. They need a fair amount of skill to accomplish reliably. One must learn approaches to disarming an assailant and techniques for retaining your gun.

Hands off my Glock! Appendix carry keeps the gun out of harm’s way.

Over the past month or so, there has been a fairly active thread on the forum about gun disarms and grabs. The initial post by forum member “jasonjbaer” appears below.

Scenario: You are attacked by a BG and he is able to wrestle your gun away from you. Can you grab the gun by the barrel (auto) and inhibit it from cycling to stop a discharge? On a revolver, can you grab it so that the wheel stops spinning and causes it not to discharge? Thanks for the help on this one.

CCW Training: Grabbing the cylinder can keep the revolver from firing.

Grabbing the cylinder can keep the revolver from firing.

The short answer is: yes, you can. But are you willing to bet your life on it? Gun disarms are more art than science. They need a fair amount of skill to accomplish reliably. I am by no means an expert in gun disarms or retention, but I have been trained in some techniques by William Aprill, a presenter at several of the Warrior Talk symposiums I have attended. William is an accomplished martial artist, firearms trainer, and has an extensive law enforcement background. He taught the attendees a few no-nonsense approaches to disarming an assailant and a few good techniques for retaining your own gun. I’ll be using some of his techniques as well as “making it up as I go along” when dealing with the various situations we chose to examine.

A few of the readers posted videos and a couple of them deserve comment. One in particular shows obvious flaws in the training portrayed. The man holding the gun never inserts his finger inside the trigger guard as the unarmed man executes the disarm technique. If you have a red or blue gun, try this with a friend slowly, at half speed or less. With the finger outside of the guard, “peel“ the gun out of the hand from left to right for right-handed shooters or reverse it for a left-handed shooter. Observe how easily the gun is removed from the hand.

CCW Training: Once out of battery, a Glock will not fire.

Once out of battery, a Glock will not fire.

Now bring the trigger finger into play. You should notice a marked difference in the effort required. Also, you will most likely bind up the trigger finger. With the right pressure. you will break the index finger of the assailant’s hand. So be careful when practicing with a friend. It’s also apparent that the trigger may very well be pressed and the gun fired during the disarm attempt. Which brings us to the first rule of a disarm. Get the muzzle pointed somewhere other than at our bodies. Why this is important should be obvious but it became very apparent with the drills we chose to run. It was time to gas up the airsoft guns and run some drills.

Drill One was simply a stick-up situation with the gun pointed at my midsection. My opponent was taller and heavier, which added a couple other problems to the scenario. I simply slapped the gun aside with my left hand as I bladed my body. I grabbed on with my right to control the gun. With my opponent using a one-handed grip, I was able to easily get the gun away by peeling left to right. The only issue was each time I went hands on, the gun fired. The only thing that saved me was the muzzle being averted and my bladed posture.

CCW Training: Simple techniques keep the gun out of reach.

Simple techniques keep the gun out of reach.

We tried it the William Aprill way. His technique is similar but rather than peeling the gun out immediately, he is a proponent of empty hand techniques to soften up your opponent. He taught us to avert the muzzle with our left for a right-handed assailant and with all our power, to drive a right hand through the head of our opponent. I may be misquoting him slightly but he said something to the effect of “mustering up your righteous indignation that this person dared to pull a gun on you” and hitting them with all your might. That would seem to do the trick within the constraints of our drills.

During some of the iterations, my opponent also brought his support hand into play to aid in his retention of the handgun. This is where I had to “make stuff up,” but stay 100% fight focused. With my opponent having two hands on the pistol, I found I couldn’t get the gun out of his hands easily. I used a series of flowing elbow strikes to soften up my opponent. As I grabbed the gun, I turned, allowing my left elbow to naturally flow over his trapped arms, smashing him in the head. I then brought the same elbow down onto his arm while dropping my weight, flowing to another backhand elbow strike to the other side of his head.

CCW Training: A gun grab is a fight for your life. Use every tool available like an elbow strike.

A gun grab is a fight for your life. Use every tool available like an elbow strike.

These were executed very carefully to not injure my partner in the drill, but he commented on how he could see that much punishment would evoke a change in him. Again, every time he was touched by my support hand, he was able to fire the airsoft gun. Each time, I had successfully averted the muzzle, saving my life. It is also worth noting that once I had my hands on the gun, it did not function past that first shot.

Drill Two was simply the same stick-up situation but the gun was aimed at my head. William also taught a technique for dealing with this. You would assume a compliant posture with your hands about mid torso. Shrug your shoulders and calm your assailant by saying something like, “Easy, buddy. Easy, easy.” As soon as your hands are as high as you can get them by shrugging your shoulders, you shoot up both hands, making a V with your thumbs, catching the gun in the V you made. You simultaneously drop your body out of the way. The instant you reach the bottom of your drop, you explode through your opponent, forcing the gun back and over your opponent’s hands.

One of two things happens at this point. He lets go and you have the gun, or it ends up pointed at his own head or body. At this point, you may want to continue to attack your opponent with empty hands. Once you have the gun, you can create distance, fix the malfunction, and continue the fight. We tried this a few times, each time the gun fired over my head and then malfunctioned. It was fairly evenly split between getting the gun and it ending up covering his head or body. Both outcomes are worse for him than they are for you. If he happens to shoot himself in the process, bonus. Go to the corner store and get a lottery ticket. It’s your lucky day.

CCW Training: Gaining distance as the gun is brought back into Close Contact position.

Gaining distance as the gun is brought back into Close Contact position.

We then worked a few common retention drills. The most common method of carry is strong-side hip for most gun owners that choose to carry open or concealed. The retention method I used (courtesy of Mr. Aprill) to combat a gun grab from this position was to jam my hand down onto his hand as he grabbed my pistol. This forces the pistol back into the holster and keeps it there. While holding his hand in place I turned rapidly and forcefully so that I was turning into the back of his hand. This bound him up and got me out of the way of his other hand. As I turn, he will be likely to let go to relieve the stresses I can place on the wrist and hand. If he does not let go, hopefully he will be nursing a nasty sprain or fracture.

Once you have shed your attacker, simply create distance, and get your pistol into play. We then moved the gun to the appendix position and worked the same drill. This time I was able to fend off all the attempts to grab my airsoft pistol, draw to close contact position and start working the trigger. I was able to reliably place shots into my assailant every time. Just one more reason to consider in-the-waistband appendix carry for your primary carry method.

CCW Training: Turning to the back of the grabbing hand peels it of nicely.

Turning to the back of the grabbing hand peels it of nicely.

We worked on the gun grab from the front. Your opponent attempts to grab your drawn pistol as they charge into you. There is one very simple method to solve this problem. Pull the trigger. Anyone attempting to relieve you of your pistol does not have your best interests in mind and you should respond appropriately.

If by chance your adversary does get the gun in his hands and out of battery, you want to pull and twist the gun. You will be pulling with the large muscles of your upper back, not your bicep. You will be doing something similar to a dumbbell row while rotating the gun clockwise. You will be using your leverage against your opponent. This should get the gun free.

At this point you may have to go hand-to-hand to gain distance and time to get the pistol working and into the fight. An interesting thing to note is that the shorter the slide on the pistol, the harder it is to get a good grip on the slide. You will be able to easily extract your Glock 27 sub-compact pistol out of the grasp of your adversary as opposed to trying to pull your full-size 1911 out of his hands. Short slides have much less to grab onto. The same works in reverse.

CCW Training: Another angle, jamming the gun into the holster.

Another angle, jamming the gun into the holster.

When attempting disarms on an assailant armed with a small pistol, you will need to control the hands as well as avert the muzzle of the pistol. You may have nothing else to hold on to.

We learned a few very important things during the drills. One point is that if you get into a gun grab situation, a lot of other things have had to have gone wrong to put you in that situation.

In all likelihood, the gun will go off when you attempt a disarm. Averting the muzzle is your first priority. Be prepared for the noise, muzzle flash, and the hot gasses you will be exposed to when the gun goes off in very close proximity.

During the drills we induced a high percentage of malfunctions. Be prepared to deal with this fact during the fight.

CCW Training: Grab from the rear? Jam the hand and spin!

Grab from the rear? Jam the hand and spin!

In this situation you will be in a fight for your life so FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE. All bets are off. Poke out eyes, rip cheeks, crush noses, break bones, do whatever it takes to prevail. Be fight focused, not gun focused. If your gun is in the fight, shoot them to the ground.

Train these techniques with an expert. With just a few hours of training, I managed to pick up a few very useful tools to perform disarms and counter gun grabs. With a two-day class you can be very effective performing these techniques on demand.

Re-evaluate your preferred method of carry. Appendix carry protects your firearm much better than strong side hip. If you can carry this way, I recommend you do so. At least try appendix carry on for size.

I hope this month’s notebook answered a few questions the readers had. I know I had fun running through the drills. See you next month with a new scenario and with any luck, no little red welts.

William Aprill can be contacted here:

William Aprill
Fight Concepts


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