Countering Gun Grabs on the Ground

Even a well-trained officer can find him- or herself on the ground when initiating an arrest. Things happen quickly and things can get ugly quickly. Be sure that you are ready to counter any grabs for your weapons.

Photo courtesy of Michael SchlosserPhoto courtesy of Michael Schlosser

Taking a hostile arrestee to the ground can be very dangerous. As an officer, your strategy should be to control the arrestee in an upright position, if possible. This is especially important if you don't have backup.

Of course sometimes initiating a takedown is necessary. But before you decide to take an arrestee to the ground, be sure you the have proper training in ground-control to stay safe.

As in all arrest situations, the principle of mass is very important in any takedown, meaning that there should be two officers per arrestee whenever possible. It's also important to remember, you probably have other options. If you cannot control an arrestee in the upright position, you can disengage and retrieve a tool such as O.C. spray or a TASER.

Even a well-trained officer can find him- or herself on the ground when initiating an arrest. Things happen quickly and things can get ugly quickly. Unfortunately, once you are wrestling with an arrestee on the ground, all the tools on your belt, including your duty pistol, become available to the arrestee. Be sure that you are ready to counter any grabs for your weapons.

Bad Position

One of the worst scenarios in which to find yourself is on your back with an assailant on top, attempting to disarm you. There are many possible circumstances that can lead to this situation, and if an assailant takes you down, then it is possible that he or she will end up in your "guard," positioned between your legs.

With a little practice, you can counter this move using one of two very effective jujitsu techniques to gain submission from the arrestee: the kimura or the guillotine choke. Jujitsu practitioners refer to such moves as "submissions."

When learning counters to moves that suspects may use on you on the street, it is always important to keep things as simple as possible and to learn only a few techniques well and thoroughly, as opposed to sort of learning many techniques. Few and simple is a great philosophy when it comes to law enforcement defensive tactics.

Once on the ground, if the assailant is trying to disarm you, it becomes an obvious deadly force situation, defined as one in which the assailant is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to you or someone else. Always assume that if someone is trying to disarm you, his or her intent is to use that weapon against you. Therefore if someone grabs for your gun, you are entitled to do anything in your power to stop the threat, including accessing and using a backup weapon or an edged tool. But two simple jujitsu submissions can save your life and prevent an arrestee from accessing one of your weapons during a ground fight.

Imagine you are on the ground with the assailant on top, in your guard, and with his or her hand on your weapon. The first priority is to keep your weapon in its holster. Your mindset should be, "You are not taking my firearm!" Therefore, the first thought you should have is to secure your weapon. If you feel contact on it, your weapon-side hand should immediately go to the weapon and/or the assailant's hand on the weapon. All effort should be made to keep the weapon in the holster. Submission is the second priority.


The first submission I will discuss is a basic jujitsu technique called the kimura. This technique will take some practice, but it is not rocket science.

To perform the kimura, tightly grab the assailant by the wrist of the hand that he or she is using to attempt to take your weapon, while simultaneously pushing downward to prevent the assailant from pulling the weapon out. Now, sit up and turn toward your weapon side, using your opposite arm to reach over and then under the assailant's arm, grabbing his or her wrist in a figure-four lock.

After a good grip is confirmed, remove the assailant's hand from your weapon. This may be accomplished by quickly jerking the suspect's hand in an outward motion, away from your weapon. Once the suspect's hand is free, attempt to position that hand behind his or her back by bending the arm. At the same time, you should move onto the opposite side of your body. By quickly and aggressively forcing the assailant's arm behind his or her back and toward the head, you can disable the assailant by causing damage to the shoulder and/or elbow.

You may choose to keep the suspect in this position until backup arrives, or instead disengage and access your firearm. Serious damage can be caused to the suspect, which is acceptable in this deadly force situation. However, the assailant may comply if you disengage, retrieve your handgun, and give orders. Therefore, you must transition from a deadly force situation to a compliant situation, even if that compliance comes as the result of a firearm pointed at the suspect.

Guillotine Choke

Another option is jujitsu's guillotine choke, which can be used as a first move or as a backup option if the kimura move fails to remove the assailant's hand from your weapon.

As before, your first priority is to keep your firearm in its holster, and so use your same-side hand to grab the weapon and/or the assailant's wrist or hand and force it downward to keep the weapon in its holster.

Once you've trapped the attacker's hand to prevent him or her from drawing your gun, you can transition into the guillotine choke. To perform the guillotine choke, simply sit up and use your opposite arm to encircle the assailant's neck. This is a choke hold that can easily incapacitate the assailant, and it is very likely that the suspect will quickly become unconscious, depending on the application and force of the choke. To make this technique most effective, you should reach as far around the assailant's neck as possible. In fact, if your hand is able to reach all the way around the neck to your side, this application provides a more effective choke. Also, the closer your forearm is to the assailant's body, the better.

Once your hand is around the assailant's neck and you secure the best grab possible, close your guard by locking your ankles around the assailant and straighten your body to stretch him out. The combination of a good choke hold and stretching the assailant will make for the most effective choke. Depending on arm placement, you will either be executing a tracheal compression restraint (wind choke) that cuts off the suspect's air or a blood choke that prevents blood flow.

You may choose to remain in this position until backup arrives. However, if you are sure that the assailant is unconscious, then the threat has been eliminated, and you should release the suspect and secure him or her in handcuffs. As with any unconscious subject, radio for medical assistance.

Don't go to the ground in an arrest situation, unless absolutely necessary. Doing so makes you vulnerable to any number of strikes and chokes, as well as weapon grabs.

But despite your best efforts, you will sometimes end up on the ground in arrest situations, and if you find yourself in such a position, particularly when the suspect is in your guard and trying to disarm you, then you should do anything and everything you can to stop the threat. The kimura and the guillotine choke are two jujitsu submissions that could save your life.

Dr. Michael Schlosser is a retired lieutenant with the Rantoul (Ill.) Police Department, director of the University of Illinois Police Training Institute, and the Institute's lead control and arrest tactics instructor.

Jack McVicker is a world-renowned jujitsu practitioner and instructor. He is the owner of and lead instructor for McVicker's Martial Arts.

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