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Forever hold your piece: prepare for a gun grab with a few simple techniques.

There are a couple of things you may not know about gunfighting. One, if you have to deploy your handgun in a defensive situation, it's likely to happen at arm's length (or less) from your adversary. Two, the vast majority of handgun wounds are survivable.

What does that mean? It means it's quite possible for you to shoot an assailant only to have him grab your gun and try to return the favor. Or you may be faced with an aggressive unarmed attack where you realize you're not justified in shooting your assailant--an assailant who may decide that being armed, with your gun, isn't such a bad idea. Either way, it's critical to be well-versed in handgun retention techniques.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard a police officer or legally armed citizen say, "I'll just shoot him" when discussing the topic of firearm retention. While shooting an assailant who grabs your handgun may be an effective technique in some instances, assuming that pulling the trigger is the Holy Grail of handgun retention is naive to say the least.

Keep in mind that during a deadly tug-of-war for possession of your handgun, there's a good chance the muzzle of your gun will point at areas other than the assailant. If your only handgun retention technique is to pull the trigger and your gun is not oriented to the assailant, you could inadvertently contribute to the injury or death of an innocent party.

Further, if you're carrying a revolver and the bad guy grabs it by the cylinder, his grip will in all likelihood prevent the cylinder from turning, which in turn would prevent the weapon from firing unless it's a single-action-capable revolver and the hammer is cocked. And if you pull the trigger on a semiauto during a gun grab, it's likely you're going to get only that one shot because the slide won't be able to cycle.

Do yourself a favor. Don't assume that the "end all, be all" handgun retention technique is to pull a trigger.

When a criminal grabs your gun, your retention technique simply has to work. Unfortunately, many handgun retention techniques that work like a charm in training against a practice gun grab fail miserably in the real world against a fully committed attack.

Some techniques are designed to work only against a very specific type of grab. For example, in the police academy I learned a technique that worked well when the assailant grabbed with their thumbs below gun, but when the grip was reversed (with thumbs on top) the technique was completely ineffective. [Editor's note: Don't miss Personal Defense on Sportsman Channel, where host Richard Nance goes over this topic.]

When someone grabs your gun, the last thing you need to worry about is whether their thumbs are facing up or down. Your gun retention techniques must work regardless of the manner in which the assailant grabs the gun.

While no technique is 100 percent effective, during a life-and-death struggle over your handgun, you want to give yourself every advantage by ensuring the techniques you employ are easy to remember, simple to execute and, most importantly, effective under real-world conditions.

The best gun retention technique is the one you never have to use. Common sense says the closer the assailant is to your gun, the easier it is for him to grab it. Therefore, as the distance between you and your adversary lessens, you should bring the gun closer to your body for optimal control.

For example, when the assailant is 10 feet away, there's no problem using a two-handed, sighted-fire position with your arms fully extended. However, that same shooting platform would not be appropriate when the assailant is within five feet because he would have an opportunity to either knock the gun aside to attack or grab the gun.

One of the best ways to safeguard your handgun is simply to bend your elbows and bring the gun toward your chest. Be sure to leave sufficient room between the gun and your body for the slide to reciprocate. Since the weapon is held close to your body, this position affords you tremendous leverage.

By anchoring your elbows to your sides, you can further lock in this position. Your elbows serve as a physical index, allowing you to aim using body alignment rather than your handgun's sights, which will be well below eye level from this position. The obvious drawback to this technique is that it requires you to maintain both hands on your gun, which can leave you vulnerable to incoming strikes.

Another way to keep your gun out of the wrong hands is to anchor it to your pectoral muscle. This position should be familiar because it is a component of an efficient draw stroke. The heel of your hand in contact with your body will serve as a physical index to ensure your muzzle is predictably oriented. Be sure to cant the slide away from your body slightly to prevent it from snagging on your clothing.

Although this position leaves you with only one hand on the gun, it enables you to use your free hand to fend or strike as the situation dictates. (Remember, your arm may cross in front of the muzzle of your gun during a violent struggle, so be sure to keep your finger out of the trigger guard until you've made a conscious decision to fire.)

Okay, but what if despite all this, your assailant still manages to get his hands on your gun? Now your job is to prevent him from taking it away. There are several ways to accomplish this.

The push/pull methodology is pretty simple and thus widely used. The underlying principle of push/pull-based techniques is that when you forcefully push the gun toward the assailant, he will instinctively push back--and at this point you pull the gun away. This enables you to use the assailant's own energy against him, significantly increasing your chance of success.

A subtlety to this technique is to twist the gun violently (counterclockwise for right-handed shooters) while pulling it away from the assailant. This causes the handgun to rotate in the bad guy's hand, which compromises his grip.

The push/pull methodology is heavily dependent on lower body mechanics. You should incorporate lunging steps when pushing the gun toward the assailant and while pulling it from his grasp. If the technique doesn't result in you fully extracting the gun, repeat the cycle, as each repetition is likely to further compromise the assailant's grip.

If the push/pull concept isn't working, try to pry the gun from the bad guy's hands. To execute the pry, step forward at about a 45-degree angle and (assuming you have both hands on the gun at this point) release the gun with your off hand.

Place your forearm against the assailant's wrist. Then pivot about 90 degrees from the direction you stepped initially and use your forearm like a pry bar, exerting pressure against the assailant's wrist as you pull the gun to your pectoral index. Pivoting not only affords you greater leverage, it also minimizes the likelihood of the muzzle of your gun crossing your off hand when extracting the gun.

I got the idea of applying the pry concept to handgun retention while watching a John Farnham video. While Farnham showed the pry as a stand-alone handgun retention technique, I felt it worked exceptionally well as a backup to the push/ pull methodology, so I've adopted a "push, pull and pry" concept.

Of course, no technique is 100 percent effective. When clinched with your assailant, there may not be enough room to execute the push, pull and pry technique. In such case, you can still adhere to the push/pull methodology by using your off hand to drive under the assailant's chin to force his head back as you pull the gun to your pectoral muscle.

To achieve a longer length of pull and increase your odds of fully extracting the gun from the assailant's grasp, you can rotate your hips slightly away from the assailant as you pull the gun to your body.

When an assailant is hell-bent on disarming you, there's a good chance things are going to get ugly. You could very well find yourself on your back, with the bad guy straddling you. From this extremely precarious position, bypass the push/pull component completely and move right to the pry.

From your back, thrust your handgun over either shoulder while pushing off the ground with your opposite foot. This is likely to place the assailant off balance and may prompt him to release his grip on the gun with one or both hands to keep from doing a face plant. If the assailant is still holding onto the gun, you can simply pry it from the assailant's grasp as per the standing version of the technique. Index the firearm to your pectoral muscle while controlling the assailant with your offhand. If warranted, shoot!

With semiautos it's imperative to perform the tap, rack and assess drill after extracting your handgun from the bad guy's grasp. There's a good chance the gun will have been rendered inoperable during the struggle. By tapping the magazine and racking the slide, your gun should be good to go. From there, assess the situation to determine whether you need to shoot.

Handgun retention is literally a matter of life and death. Make sure you add this component to your training curriculum. For safety, use an inert gun such as a "blue gun" and have your training partner wear appropriate safety gear, including gloves to prevent being cut. Start slowly and gradually pick up the pace until you can respond immediately and appropriately when your gun is grabbed.

Keep the push, pull and pry concept in mind. It's the most foolproof method of handgun retention I've found. But remember, the technique you use is not nearly as important as the degree of vigor with which you use it. When the bad guy grabs your gun, all bets are off.

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Author:Nance, Richard
Date:Feb 1, 2013
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