You are trying to take a DUI suspect into custody when he turns suddenly and makes a grab for your gun. The fight is now on. Unfortunately for this bad guy, you have practiced your weapon-retention skills and you regain control of your sidearm.
At this point, you could still try to place the drunk into handcuffs. But whether you realize it or not, this person has just tried to kill you, a police officer.
When the drunk in our scenario went for your gun, his intentions were to take it away from you and kill you.
Yes, I know, later in court the bad guy and his lawyer will come up with all kinds of reasons why he attempted to take your firearm away from you, but on the street, make no mistake, his intentions were to shoot you.
A lot of officers seem to think that we are not justified in drawing our handguns once we have beaten off a gun grab. But think about this for a minute. Was the bad guy trying to take your weapon away from you so he could scare you with it? So he could say, “Ha, Ha, I’ve got your gun”?
Of course not. His intentions in disarming you are not good ones. At this point you are justified in drawing your firearm and ordering the suspect to the ground. If he continues to be a threat to your life, you are justified in using deadly force against him.
The problem is, the fight may still be on. Even if you are able to regain control of your firearm and draw it while giving verbal commands to the suspect, he or she may still be trying to gain control of your gun. In this situation, the suspect may try to pull the gun out of your hand, while you push him back.
All physical encounters with suspects are of a push/pull nature. You don’t go toe to toe with a suspect to try to duke it out with him. He pushes you to try to escape, or you try to push him, or pull him down to the ground to gain control of him It’s always this push/pull action because one of the combatants, either you or the bad guy, is trying to get on top of the other and gain control.
Out of Battery
Let’s go back to our scenario. Let’s say you were able to gain control of your firearm through your weapon-retention skills, but you’re still under attack.
You draw your firearm to answer this deadly threat and give your attacker verbal commands to get on the ground. But he ignores your commands and goes for your gun again.
Realizing that your life is in danger, you pull the trigger on your weapon, expecting it to send a high-velocity projectile into your attacker and end the threat.
Only nothing happens. During the struggle your gun has been taken out of battery. The push/pull struggle for your semi-automatic pistol has moved the slide back just enough that it won’t fire.
It doesn’t take much to push the slide back and take your gun out of battery. If you don’t believe me, take your handgun out to the range and try it for yourself.
Place a round into the chamber. Then, keeping your firearm pointed downrange at all times, pull the slide back just a little bit on the gun and release it. You may have to experiment with it to see how far back the slide needs to go to take it out of battery, but you’ll find that it doesn’t take much movement on most guns.
Putting a semi-auto back into battery is an easy and quick operation when you’re standing on a range. You will find it much harder to accomplish when some dirtbag or drunk is trying to take your gun.
Break His Ribs
In a gun grab attack when your gun is out of battery, you are left with an impact weapon. Use it.
Forcefully jam the barrel of your gun into your opponent’s ribs. If this doesn’t get him off of you, jab him three or four more times as fast and as hard as you can. You’ll probably break a couple of his ribs.
To see for yourself how painful this is, get your training partner and a replica handgun. Note: Use a Blue Gun, a Red Gun, an Airsoft, or some other model weapon for this exercise. Do not use a functioning handgun.
Take the handgun replica (for simplification, we’ll call it a Blue Gun) and stand facing your training partner. Slowly and very gently push your Blue Gun into your partner’s ribs. It won’t take much pressure from you before your training partner cries uncle.
Now switch places and let him do it to you. Kind of hurts, doesn’t it? Now, imagine jabbing your gun barrel into someone’s ribs as hard as you can. Believe me, the barrel of an out-of-battery semi-auto makes an effective impact weapon.
After you jab your attacker in the ribs with the barrel of your gun, you should be able to break free from his grasp. Once you do this, push away from him to try to get some distance. As you quickly back away, hit the rear of your slide with the heel of your off hand, forcing the gun back into battery.
At this point, assess whether or not to shoot the suspect. If he’s doubled over writhing in pain, give him some verbal commands to get on the ground. If he continues with his attack, you’ll be forced to defend yourself and fire on the suspect.
On the Range
As with any firearms tactic, stepping back from an attacker and firing at him needs to be practiced on the range, with live fire. To practice this technique, try the following exercise, while observing all range safety directions from your rangemaster.
Step up to your target and place your off hand on the target up in the shoulder, simulating a struggle with a bad guy. Draw your handgun and index your forearm into your side in a weapon-retention hold. For this drill, you’ll jab your gun barrel into the target once, and then back away from the target, putting some distance between you and the bad guy.
As you’re backing away from the target, hit the rear of your slide with the heel of your off hand, as if the gun was out of battery, forcing the slide of the gun to go forward. Now, fire some rounds into the target.
Since out on the street you will not always be in a shoot situation, occasionally have your training partner who is standing safely behind you yell, “I give up,” as you back away from the target. When you hear this, instead of shooting, you’ll give some verbal commands.
You need to be prepared for the “what ifs” on the street. Every year officers are disarmed and killed with their own handguns. Practice the push/pull drill and you’ll be prepared to counter a gun grab attack in which your gun is taken out of battery.
Michael T. Rayburn is a 27-year veteran of law enforcement and is currently an adjunct instructor at the Smith & Wesson Academy. He is the author of three books: “Advanced Vehicle Stop Tactics,” “Advanced Patrol Tactics,” and “Basic Gunfighting 101.” His video, “Instinctive Point Shooting with Mike Rayburn” is available at www.pointshooting.org.
After Saginaw Township Officer Jeff Koenig was injured, he managed to radio for help. "I've been shot!" Koenig said. "I got shot in the face!"