Gun Grabs From Behind.
According to FBI statistics, firearms were used in 63 of the 72 felonious deaths of law enforcement officers in 2011. Four of these officers, or approximately 6 percent of those killed by gunfire, were killed with their own weapons.
Although there are no detailed statistics on criminal attempts to grab officers’ guns, it is by no means an uncommon event. And while the increasing use of retention holsters has helped make officers safer, criminals are devious. Many of them are very familiar with the mechanisms of the most popular retention holsters and have developed methods to defeat them.
Retention holsters are most effective against front and side grabs because the ergonomics of the retention mechanism is made to conform to the user’s hand. Someone grabbing the gun from a different angle will have a very different grip, making it difficult if not impossible to release the mechanism.
Logically, the closer a perpetrator can get to replicating an officer’s normal grip on the holstered gun, the easier it will be for him to operate the release mechanism and get control of the weapon. For this reason, the most dangerous and potentially successful gun grabs are those coming from behind the officer. This is also why a good system of weapon-retention tactics must include sound techniques for defending against gun grabs from behind.
Weapon-retention tactics, by nature, involve close-quarter, gross-motor-skill struggles. The most effective weapon-grab counters are those that are simple, logical and make the best use of your body’s structural strength instead of muscular strength. Structural strength uses the body’s skeletal system, weight, leverage and stabilized limb structures to do all the work. It’s much more efficient than pure muscle and is critical to enabling officers to defend effectively against larger attackers. Proper structure also allows you to maintain decisive control of the attacker’s arm — even if the gun comes out of the holster.
To understand how good structure works, let’s first define our “problem.” For the sake of simplicity — and relevance to the broadest audience — let’s assume you’re right-handed and carry your pistol on your strong side. Your assailant approaches you from the rear and manages to grab your gun in a conventional grip with his right hand. For all practical purposes, he’s now in a position to draw your gun almost as easily as you can.
Faced with this situation, most of the commonly taught weapon retention techniques focus on “clamping down” on the attacker’s hand to keep the gun in the holster. This is typically done with either the right elbow or with a reflexive grab using both hands. Unfortunately, the mechanical leverage of your assailant’s grip, coupled with his ability to push with his left hand as he pulls with his right, is usually much stronger than the structure offered by either of your tactics. If you don’t believe me, get a training partner and a red gun, and give it a try.
Once you’re frustrated enough, try this: Turn your body slightly to the right and grab your partner’s right wrist with your left hand, laying your left forearm across your belly, and maintain your grip as he pulls. Because you’ve eliminated the joints from your structure, you’ll find you can hang on much more easily and keep your gun in the holster with minimal effort. This action not only helps you understand structural strength, it’s also the first step of your defense.
The second step is to strike your assailant with your right elbow. While maintaining your grip on his wrist with your left hand, turn quickly to your right and strike toward his head with the back of your right elbow. With a little practice, you’ll be able to increase the power of your strike by using the pull on his wrist to accelerate the rotation of your body.
If you land one or more solid hits, you may feel his grip on your weapon loosen. If so, pull his hand away from the gun with your left hand, pivot to face him, and be prepared to follow up as appropriate. If your hits are not solid or he just doesn’t let go, strike hard with your elbow one more time. At the completion of your strike, wrap your right arm over his right arm above the elbow and place your right palm tightly against your solar plexus. Done properly, this anchors your arm on the back of his triceps muscle above his elbow and limits the mobility of his arm to one joint — the shoulder. This gives you more structural strength. Now no matter how hard he tries, he cannot draw your gun because he can’t raise his elbow.
Now, grasp your own left wrist with your right hand to lock the structure of your arms together. Bend your knees and sink your body weight onto your right armpit, which is resting on his right shoulder. Maintaining the pressure of your body weight, step your right foot behind your left and turn to your right to face your assailant. As you do, you will naturally raise your hands — both still locked in a strong structure around his wrist — to your shoulder level. Combining these actions simultaneously will peel his hand off your gun and create a powerful shoulder lock.
If you’re a fan of mixed martial arts (MMA), you may recognize this lock as a “Kimura.” Technically known in jiu-jitsu as a gyaku ude-garami (reverse arm entanglement), it was used by judo expert Masahiko Kimura in 1951 to defeat one of the founders of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Hélio Gracie. It has since been known as a “Kimura” in honor of him.
Take Him Down
Once this lock is in place, you have a number of options to finish the job. If your attacker is still on his feet, you can use the lock to hold him in place as you drive knee strikes into his head to stun and disable him. You can then release him when appropriate, create distance, and control the situation.
If you prefer to go straight to restrain and control tactics, maintain the lock and simply continue to turn your body to your right. As you do, bend your knees to sink more body weight onto him. This combined action puts him into a “landing pattern,” which will ultimately leave him prone on the ground. With the lock still secure, follow him down and place your right knee on his head and your left knee on his back. His arm will end up between your legs with your left thigh wedged under it.
At this point, you can release the lock with your arms and continue pressure against his shoulder joint by bringing your knees together. Known as a “thigh master” (thank you, Suzanne Somers), this control position provides excellent control over the subject, yet frees your hands to access handcuffs, your radio or your weapons. It also flows seamlessly into most cuffing protocols.
Logically, if you want to prone out your assailant, but he’s not cooperating, mix and match the above tactics to achieve the desired result. A few knee strikes to the head will soften him up and make your efforts to prone him out much easier.
Work Your Plan
One of the greatest things about this technique is it works even if your gun comes out of the holster. If you don’t use a retention holster or your assailant is savvy enough to release the retention mechanism before you can apply the lock, you simply continue to “work your plan.” If the gun comes out, you’ll realize it as soon as you see his hand. By default, the gun will be pointing away from you, which is a very good thing. Turn your body as necessary to point the muzzle away from any innocent parties and toward a safe backstop, applying knee strikes as necessary to temper his resistance. Once he’s down and prone, restrain him with the “thigh master” and bend his wrist 90 degrees to open his hand and release the gun.
During recent years, I’ve taught this technique to countless law enforcement officers and it’s been incorporated into the weapon-retention tactics of a number of agencies. They’ve found it easy to learn and apply, and very useful in getting officers to understand the importance of structural strength — especially as it applies to dealing with larger, stronger assailants.
Throughout this process, the most common mistake I’ve seen involves the application of the shoulder lock to take the assailant down to the prone position. Many officers focus on raising the attacker’s hand to create the lock. This stabilizes the shoulder end of the arm and requires a long, slow arc of the hand to produce pain and compliance. It also makes the lock almost impossible for shorter officers to apply. Instead, remember to drop your body weight on the assailant’s shoulder at the same time you raise his hand. This rotates the entire arm around its center and produces a mechanical lock of the shoulder joint much quicker.
On Your Left
The advantage of this technique is it works equally well against a left-handed grab. Don’t think about changing gears; simply do what you already know how to do: secure the assailant’s wrist with your left hand, fire the back elbow(s), reach over his arm with your right arm, and grab your own left wrist with your right hand. Once the structure is secure, turn to your right to face your assailant as you sink your right shoulder and raise your hands to shoulder level. You’ll find these same actions produce a figure-four armlock on his left arm. Again, MMA practitioners (or adept UFC fans) will recognize this as a standard ude-garami or “paintbrush armlock” as it’s often known in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
What’s best about this approach is the same exact movements of your body, when applied against his other arm, still produce a highly effective technique. If you continue to rotate to your right, he will fall on his back. To get him prone, simply leave the lock in place and walk in a tight circle to your left, around his head. This will rotate the arm and roll him on his face without the need for any other manipulation of his arm.
Gun grabs from the rear are extremely dangerous. The best way to defeat them is with an easily learned, all-purpose tactic that makes the most of your structural strength.
By Michael Janich
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