Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fighting To The Gun

These last few months have been a flurry of learning and experiences for me. Shortly after completing my Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training, my husband and I enrolled in Krav Maga, an Israeli version of down and dirty self defense training. While going through that program our instructor learned we were firearms instructors and got his first ever private firearms lesson from me.

Our experiences are almost exactly opposite one another. He is a career martial artists who has dedicated decades of his life to hand-to-hand combat yet he knows next to nothing about firearms. He wants to get his concealed carry permit and so he wants to learn about guns but his mindset has not adapted to the gun yet. When given self defense scenarios he brilliantly comes up with unarmed responses and when given the option of a firearm it's an awkward afterthought he has to be reminded of.

I, on the other hand, have come from a very different background of ideals and training. I've spent almost seven years learning about guns. I have little doubt that I would be a formidable opponent with a firearm. But I have to get to the firearm first. As our Krav instructor amuses himself with his near inability to remember a gun as an option, I frustrate myself with my lack of options if a gun is not available.

He doesn't know how lucky he is and how irritated I am.

In my blog titled Gun Centric Much?? I talked about the carry community's dirty little secret and that is that the gun is way over pushed as a solution to every self defense problem. Just today I got a comment that said, "... my plan has always been not to FIGHT if I can just SHOOT!"

That statement, quite frankly, is terrifying. 

First, I'm going to touch a bit on legalities. Not every self defense situation out there warrants the use of a firearm or deadly/lethal force in general. Nor should anyone's goal be to use lethal force when they have a less-than-lethal option available to them. As Rory Miller put it in Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected the basic formula is this:
"You may use the minimum level of force that you reasonably believe is necessary to safely resolve the situation." 
If you want a further breakdown of what that means I strongly encourage you to pick up the book and read it for yourself. It's very enlightening and essential information for anyone who wants to understand the legalities of using lethal force.

In a nutshell, however, if you are going to have a lethal means of self defense on your person then you should understand when you can and cannot use it.

But, let's get past that. Let's say you are perfectly justified in using lethal force. In fact, you MUST use lethal force to defend yourself.

You've just been assaulted. A man twice your size with three times your strength has just attacked you. He's fighting to get his hands around your neck (or worse, he already has them there) and he's growling that he's going to kill you. 

Well, if polled, a vast majority of people would respond to this scenario with a hearty, "I'd shoot him!"

That sounds pretty simple, doesn't it?

But as your reach your hand back toward your gun your attacker recognizes the gesture, reaches down and grabs your gun hand, stopping your draw. He also begins to pull up his shirt and you see he also has a gun.. and he's reaching for it.

Now what?

"I'd shoot him!" doesn't seem to be so simple any more, does it?

What many people who carry guns fail to realize is that, in many cases, the hardest part of using a firearm in self defense is actually getting to the gun. 

I can feel the eye-rolling through the screen. 

"I carry my gun on my body in an easy-to-access location. It's in an open top holster with no retention device. I practice my draw stroke daily. I have a less-than-a-second draw. I ever wear tactical clothing with weighted corners so that it can be brushed aside easier. I never button my cover garment....."

Those are good things. And they mitigate some other problems with getting to your gun. But they no amount of ease of access is going to help you free your gun hand from your attacker's if that just happens to be the way the fight starts.

I once asked the members of a gun forum I moderate what they would do if their first indication of danger was that their gun hand was grabbed by an attacker.

I was shocked when a good number of members flat out said, "I don't know.

Most attacks happen at very close distances. Many of them within five feet and if anyone tells you they don't let strangers get that close to them they are lying or delusional. In many cases, the first indication of danger is a surprise attack, a sucker punch, a grab, a push. Yes, sometimes there is an interview stage where a potential attacker will ask for the time or money or a cigarette, but, again if escalation occurs you may well find yourself in a physical fight just to get to your gun. Then you still have to make effective shots, potentially while still in a physical struggle.

On Monday we did a bit of this in Krav. It was/is not easy to do. I have two bruised knees, a sore foot, scrapped ankle, bruised back and scratches on the front and back of both of my upper arms. I also have a nasty three-day-old headache from said head being bounced off the mat (Thank God there WAS a mat!).

There are three scenarios we worked.

1. Getting to the gun.
2. Keeping the gun when your attacker discovers you have one.
3. Keeping your gun and defending against an attackers gun.

Depending on the scenario, getting the gun can be hard enough.

Someone grabs your gun hand, you may have a smorgasbord or options depending on your training and the situation. Whether you punch him in the nose, kick him in the groin I don't care as long as it gets you free to get to your gun if it needs to escalate to that. It might not need to go there, but at least you have that option now.

The number one, absolute best way to keep your gun is to keep it in its holster. Correction: Keep it in its QUALITY holster. The little nylon one-size-fits-most piece of junk you bought for $5 on the sale rack that has two tears in the plastic that holds the firearm to your belt is NOT a quality holster. Now, I certainly understand that not everyone can carry in a quality belt holster. Some outfits and carry needs demand an array of holster options that may be less-than-ideal. However, whenever possible, I would hope (and assume) that you are carrying in the best holster you could find for your lifestyle and needs. And, dare I say, if your cell phone has a better holster than your gun than you may need to rethink some priorities.

Now, here is the problem with keeping that firearm in the holster. If the holster does not have an active retention device (and even if it does (depending on how much you trust that retention device)) it's going to take one of your hands. Which means that you are going to be fighting with one hand tied behind your back. Protect your head the best you know how (and if you don't know how I suggest you learn how) and get mean. Go nuts. Do whatever you can. If someone is trying to get your gun the likely outcome if they succeed is not going to be them smiling fondly and saying, "HA HA! I got it."

And lastly, keep your eyes open and look for tell-tale signs that the attacker is going for a weapon of his own. Reaching to the hip or under a shirt are two big ones. They are universal signs announcing, "I have a gun."

So, here you are. You have one hand on your gun, trying to keep it in the holster because some guy is grabbing for it. You have your head buried in his chest and you're trying to defend it from his blows while also staying on your feet and trying to get him off of you. And you see him reach for his waistband. 

I wish I had an easy solution to this one. It's a crappy situation for sure. If the scenario doesn't open your eyes to the understanding that you might need a little more training than a day or two at the range than I don't know what will.

On Monday, my favored response seemed to be attempting to get to his gun before he could.

When you grab a gun from someone else's waistband it's likely going to come out of the holster like this:

Use it. Your pinky can just as effectively shoot a gun as your trigger finger can (I hope). You will have to fight the urge to just drive the muzzle into his flesh and pull the trigger. Why? Because you're going to push the slide out of battery and it won't fire. If it doesn't fire after that, oh well. At least you have a nice bludgeoning tool. Start bludgeoning.

But let's say he gets the gun first? I'll have to get back to you on that one because it just plain sucks. The gun-nut in me wants to say, "How well do you know your guns?" A wheel gun with a stopped up cylinder cannot fire. Grab that cylinder and hold on tight. Any semi-auto with a slide out of battery cannot fire. A gun also cannot fire to the side. Get "inside the gun" (meaning behind the muzzle vs in front of it) and try to stay there while you commence the fight of your life. It seemed to work okay for me on Monday but I can't say I got away without ever getting shot. Which is why I have Option C: Medical Supplies!!

Lastly, get used to firing from unnatural positions. On Monday, I "fired" twice from the ground (thank goodness for the training I've had that kept my legs and knees out of the way of my muzzle) , multiple times with my attackers gun held in my off hand upside down (as in the picture above), point blank. I believe that only once did I get a two-handed shooting grip and that was because I was able to get my attacker off of me, get some suitable distance and draw on him while he was still on the ground.

I found it interesting to watch our Krav instructor work. He's much more likely to take a gun away and beat the attacker with it than use it because he's still incorporating firearms into his mindset. Others were also reluctant to shoot because they were either unfamiliar with guns or perhaps even intimidated by them. My sparring partner was more than a little trigger happy, however, and would shoot me whenever he got the chance. My husband and I were also quick to pull the trigger given the opportunity (for better or worse). Our only real advantage was our willingness to fire from unconventional shooting positions whereas I saw others actually taking the time to try to transfer firearms to their dominant hands or turn them around to make a shot.

This post isn't so much about what to do in these situations (because I'm still learning that, too) but to make you aware that sometimes getting to the gun is a lot harder than you might imagine. And "I'd just shoot him" can mean a lot of exchanging blows before you even a gun out of a holster.

Learn to be ready to fight to your gun.


  1. I like to keep a weakside knife to cut the arm that is holding my strong arm.

  2. This is an excellent post. Do you mind if I share?

  3. I would love to share this also...I've been rattling a similar one around in my head for a couple of weeks now, and just haven't had time to write it! :)

  4. Hi,
    1. Thanks for welcoming me here, I loved your blog!
    2. I'm relatively new to guns and english is not my mother tongue, I'm trying to be as humble and polite as possible. Please forgive any apparent rudeness and/or grammar mistakes.
    3. If I may, the pinky grab and shoot will most probably make you drop the gun because of the slide action hitting/scraping your wrist. This scenario, from a purely theoretical point of view, should call for using the gun as a bludgeoning tool (your KM instructor may be right after all), and THEN firing it if possible/necessary, from a more appropriate hold.
    4. I'm sure you have actually fired a Glock with your pinky, but in a stress situation I'm curious if there's not a high change of hurting yourself. Please consider and comment.

    Thank you!

    1. Actually it's not all that bad. Because your pinky finger is shorter than your trigger finger your wrist will likely be cocked out to the side of the firearm and will not be impacted by the slide. I've seen many people shoot like this in demos without dropping the gun and I've shot like this as well. It's weird but it works and you won't necessarily drop the gun or hurt yourself. Most often what happens is a malfunction of some sorts.
      Go to youtube and search for "shooting Glock upside down" you'll see some examples.
      The only time this DEFINITELY won't work is if you are shooting a gun with a safety you can't disengage like a grip safety, etc... Like I said in the blog.. if you try to pull the trigger and it doesn't go Bang just start bludgeoning.

  5. Having been a "Big Guy" all my life converting my mindset to being a 60 year old who isn't going to win a wrestling match with a "Big Guy" half my age has been tough.

    Maintaining situational awareness, picking where I'm out of "public" areas with an eye to defense, and maintaining distance/control of encounters has worked so far...

    So far; though, is obviously not good enough... It's apparent that I'm going to have to return to my martial arts training, learn tactics more suited to my limitations, and work harder than ever to keep in condition...

    Guess I'll have to see if I can hit anything shooting with my pinky too...

    Great Post Lima!!! Thanks!

    1. I wouldn't be shooting like that on a regular basis or shooting for any kind of distance shots. I know some people who can and do do that but I'll save upside-down shooting for contact
      Good for you for keeping fit and keeping yourself in a fighting condition.

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