Imagine yourself in the process of issuing a traffic cite when you notice what appears to be a gun under the subject's jacket. The subject is a wanted felon, and he sees that look of recognition in your eyes and immediately draws his firearm. You go for yours too, but too late. He fires, striking your gunhand. You're now in a gunbattle with only one arm.
If you should ever find yourself in this situation and have to ask, "What do I do now?" you're likely not going to survive it.
When faced with life-threatening situations, we revert back to our training. Many gunfight survivors have referred to their conditioned response as simply "autopilot," while a number of police trainers technically refer to the autonomic response as executing preprogrammed muscle memory for crisis intervention.
Unfortunately, the opposite side of our survival coin also holds true. Police trainers agree that, when faced with an dire circumstance, any time an officer asks the question, "What do I do now?" he or she is searching conscious thought for a acceptable solution to the problem. And that will get you killed in a gunfight.
The human brain works much like a computer or, more properly, the inventors of the computer used the human brain as a model for its development. As we face life, we have our computer screen (or desktop) in front of us, and this desktop is filled with a multitude of "folders." Whether we realize it or not, we all have a folder on our desktop that is titled "Emergency."
Now if we double click on the Emergency folder, we should find a series of sub-folders that are titled with every conceivable problem, including injury, that we might experience.
The goal of this article is to help you fill the sub-folder titled, "I've Been Shot in My Gun Arm." Having this information immediately available will allow you to recover, regain control of the situation, and prevail during the attack.
Your Other Hand
When shot in your gun arm, the first thing you have to do is immediately transition your gun from your dominant hand to your non-dominant hand and return fire one-handed. And the best way of transferring a handgun from one hand to the other is called the Chapman Transition. Here's how it's done.
First, de-cock or on-safe your handgun. Then slide the thumb of your receiving hand up the lifeline of the relinquishing hand. Now, here comes the key to this technique. With your relinquishing hand, press the handgun handle back hard to firmly seat the handgun into your receiving hand before releasing control of the weapon.
A proper Chapman Transition is characterized by the handgun being firmly placed in the receiving hand, with the shooting hand high up on the grip tang. When this is executed properly you should not have to move the handgun around to finalize the seating position of the weapon.
Reloading with One Hand
It's one thing to return fire with one hand. Most of us have practiced shooting one-handed with both our strong and weak hands. But how do you reload?
Well, there are two options. The best is to have a backup gun. If you do have a backup gun, discard your primary handgun and draw the backup gun.
If you don't have a backup gun, reloading is your only other option. And it's tricky but not impossible.
The best one-hand reload technique that I have seen comes from the Lethal Force Institute (LFI). Here's how it's done.
Drop the empty magazine and place the weapon back into your holster. Now if the reload is being performed with the non-dominant hand, the handgun must go into the holster backwards.
Some holsters do not do a very good job of securing a pistol backwards. So the time to find out if your equipment will accommodate this technique is now and not when you need it. If your holster does not do a good job of securing your firearm backwards, a good solid workaround is to jam the gun into your waistband.
Once the gun is secure in your holster or waistband, retrieve the loaded magazine and insert it into the magazine well. The most important aspect of this technique is to not slam the magazine home. Slamming in the mag will cause the handgun (now loaded) to jump from either the holster or waistband and fall to the ground.
To insert the magazine, use your index and middle finger to firmly squeeze the handgun handle, as the thumb presses the magazine home. When doing this one-handed reload, think "squeeze and press," so you don't reflexively revert back to smacking the magazine home. Now, either depress the slide stop lever, or hook the rear sight to drop the slide and charge the weapon.
If the slide should slam home during any portion of the one-handed reload, simply roll the gun over, hook the rear sight on the edge of your duty belt, and briskly cycle the slide. Be sure to practice this one-handed reloading technique with both the dominant and non-dominant hand.[PAGEBREAK]
Your Weapon is Jammed
The most direct way to clear a "simple jam" when you only have one hand is to roll the gun over, hook the rear sight on the edge of your duty belt, and briskly cycle the slide.
If your weapon is equipped with an angled rear sight base that does not allow you to hook the rear sight edge on your belt, simply hook the edge of the ejection port on either your duty belt or the side of your holster when cycling the slide.
Two warnings here. Watch the muzzle of your gun, since it will be coming close to your leg. And remember, two-thirds of all police shootings occur in low-light or almost no-light conditions, so make sure you can cycle your slide by feel.
The above technique works for simple jams, but what about a double-feed? A double-feed jam is characterized by a round in the chamber and a loaded magazine in the gun with another round starting to enter the chamber and pressing against the chambered round.
This is probably the most difficult jam to clear, even with two hands. Brent Purucker of the Smith & Wesson Academy teaches a really good technique for clearing a double-feed.
Start with your gun canted slightly inward, and press and hold the magazine release button. Lock your wrist, drive the handgun down, and at the same time raise your knee quickly. As the forearm impacts the fleshy portion of your thigh, the magazine will literally jump out of the bottom of the handgun. Note: make sure the magazine well is clear of your leg.
With the mag clear, roll your pistol over, hook the rear sight, and cycle the slide briskly several times to ensure that the chamber is clear. Then perform a one-handed reload as described above and get back in the fight.
On the Ground
Most ranges are characterized by pristine surfaces, flat, clean, and usually marked with regulated concrete strips. But the street is everything that the range is not. Dirt, debris, snow, and mud all create substantial hazards to an officer returning fire from the ground.
The overpressure from the muzzle blast of a pistol fired inches off the ground can kick up debris, and literally blind you when you are already in a fight for your life. With that in mind, it behooves you to raise the muzzle of the firearm off the ground before discharging the weapon.
If you find yourself down on your dominant side, go to a Reverse Weaver shooting position to raise the gun muzzle off the ground. Or simply perform a Chapman Transition to raise the muzzle off the ground while returning fire.
When you find yourself down on your non-dominant side, immediately perform a Weaver shooting position, with the non-dominant arm sharply bent to raise the muzzle. Or once again, you can execute a Chapman Transition to raise the muzzle before firing one handed.
Now, you've just read about some specific techniques for surviving a debilitating condition, and I'm sure that you were mentally roleplaying the above injured officer scenarios to see how you would perform these techniques. Well, I'm here to tell you that just thinking about these life-saving techniques is not enough.
Just reading about these techniques will not imprint the understanding of each technique into your Emergency sub-folders. So the next time you go to the range, get clearance from your rangemaster and train with these techniques. Training will allow you to functionalize each technique, find out how your equipment (and carry methods for gun and ammunition) will lend themselves to these techniques, and most importantly, it will allow you to program your muscle memory for a crisis.
Mike Izumi is a reserve deputy who has worked for the San Bernardino County (Calif.) Sheriff's Office Force Options Training Center for 10 years. He is an instructor for the American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers (ASLET) and author of the book, "In Self Defense."