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Departments : The Winning Edge

Stopping Gun Grabs

Good weapon retention begins at first contact and requires you to use solid tactics.

January 11, 2011  |  by Mike "Ziggy" Siegfried

You will have a better field of view and more time to react to any threat posed by a dangerous suspect, if you keep the suspect at a distance. Although every situation is different, a good rule of thumb for a minimum distance is five feet. Greater distance is better; however, at five feet you can deploy most of the common weapons on your duty belt, including your TASER, baton, chemical agents, and firearms. Space equals time. Time equals better decision making. Better decision making increases your chance for victory.

One under taught aspect of weapon retention is angles. When talking with a suspect, it is a good idea to angle to his blind spot.

Tell the suspect to look forward and stand in his blind spot in a field interrogation position (balanced stance with your firearm back). The suspect will be forced to move to engage you, if he is intent on an assault. This movement will give you valuable reaction time that you would not have if you were standing in front of the suspect. With so many people training in mixed martial arts, wresting, and jiu-jitsu, you may be surprised by the speed with which you can be taken to the ground and controlled, especially if you are in front of the suspect.

Defending with Legs

Legs are longer and stronger than arms and are also closer to the suspect. By using your front foot, you can keep your gun side back and away from an aggressor.

One effective technique for using the leg is the front foot push. Target the suspect's pelvic region, including the lower stomach, hips, groin, quadriceps, and knees.

Raise your front foot as high as it comfortably goes, then push down as if you are stepping on the gas pedal of a car. By using less of a kicking motion and more of a downward push, you can deliver great force while remaining balanced.

Defending with Arms

By simply pushing the suspect away, you can keep the suspect away from your weapon.

Place your hands under the suspect's chin and force the aggressor's head back, directing the suspect's eyes away from you. An added benefit to this technique is that the suspect will be forced onto his heels and will be less mobile. This pushing motion can be combined with moving off line in a circle step motion to force the suspect to turn to engage you.

The Classic Approach

Sometimes the oldies are the goodies. In the case of weapon retention, the classic two-handed weapon retention technique still saves lives.

This simple move starts by placing the palm of your dominant hand on the top of the holster trapping the firearm inside the holster and keeping the suspect from removing the firearm. Almost simultaneously, bend your knees and drop your weight. Next, place your off hand palm quickly on top of the dominant hand so that both hands work in unison to keep the firearm in the holster. Move your hips violently away from the suspect using leverage to strip the suspect's hands off of the holster.

A common error many officers make when doing this technique is to not protect their entire duty belt. They lift up their non-dominant elbow giving the suspect access to other weapons on the duty belt such as a TASER, baton, or chemical agents.

When doing this technique, keep both of your elbows close to your body. This will make it difficult for the suspect to take any weapons from your belt.

None of these techniques are complicated; all are based on gross motors skills that can be performed under critical stress incidents.

Far more important is to remember the concept of creating tactical distance using the gross motor skills of pushing.

Put more simply, push the crook away from you as soon and as fast as you can using any part of your body you can do it with. Once you have done that, use the appropriate force option to win the confrontation. Don't let them get their hands on your weapons. It is all about going home at the end of your watch alive.

Mike "Ziggy" Siegfried is a detective, academy instructor, and use-of-force subject matter expert with the San Bernardino County (Calif.) Sheriff's Department.

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Comments (6)

Displaying 1 - 6 of 6

bluedagger @ 1/15/2011 12:55 PM

Good reminder!!!!!

Little Pebbles Academy @ 1/20/2011 11:41 AM

My husband works as security. He is very professional & ready to react to any assult,,,but,,, this statement of the attacker taking the officers weapon is a true fact. One that constantly stays on his mind.

Det. Sgt. M.C. Williams @ 2/7/2011 8:30 PM

I attended Dep. Sam Brownlee's funeral and direct your attention to the after-action investigation report released today. Direct application to this article and a great source of training and discussion. See

motorcop407 @ 2/21/2011 1:56 PM


For some reason or another I cannot access the PDF document. They may have taken the document off the www. Do you have a copy of the document you can e-mail me? If so, i'll give you my email add.


Alan @ 3/7/2011 8:14 PM

I also believe that the best defense is a decisive offense. Many modern retention holsters, while not gun snatch proof, are designed to slow down the abilty to snatch a gun. In fact, many are secure enough to allow the officer to fight by striking with either one or both hands. Rear break holsters such as the Safariland 070 and several others naturally lock when confronted from the front and the officer takes a natural bladed stance or moves away from the assailant. Likewise, front breaks can put the gun in the bad guy's hand when the officer blades. These should be considerations in holster selection and gun retention.

Chilly Willy @ 3/12/2011 10:24 AM

The first thing to remember is to always maintain and create space,
as well as distance from the suspect/ subject. Learn how to read "body language" as well. This is not something you were born with, it is an acquired skill. You can look at a subject in the eyes but still watch their hands at the same time, but remember the attack will always come from the hands! If you can extend your arm out and touch the suspect/ subject, generally speaking he or she is to close to you! As "Ziggy" stated Five to six feet is considered a leveraged distance. Rear break holsters (Safari-land) are far superior than front break holsters; However it is difficult to quickly and efficiently draw your weapon from a seated position in your vehicle. It is even more difficult to draw your weapon if you are over powered and wind up on the ground facing up, not impossible; just difficult... Further if the suspect/ subject manages to get his or her hand on your weapon I would rather use the "peel the onion", or "can opener" method to get their hand off my weapon rather than thrashing... This method is basically the same technique only that your going to step in toward the subject plant your right foot in, lower your center of gravity, and spin 180 degrees opposite from the subject's open palm. Then you could go into a reverse arm bar/ take down, or push the subject away creating space, and distance once again, and showing him or her the door!
I know... all of sounds great, and looks on paper doesn't it...
Well guess what... it really works!!! I can attest to it, and I'm sure there are quite of few other officers out there that can attest to it as well!
In the end nothing beats real live simulated practice, and repetition which creates muscle memory and enhances reaction time!

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