Friday, February 27, 2009

Grabbing A Gun

By Matthew Schafer

Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved

Hands down my favorite area of self-defense is handgun disarmament. I enjoy practicing it, I enjoy teaching it, and I've even done it in real life. I'm not exactly sure why that is but for as long as I can remember I wanted to not only know how to take guns away from people but to also understand exactly what goes on during that altercation from both a physical and psychological standpoint. Over the last 22 years I've made a point to go to every firearm disarmament seminar, read every book, and watch every video I could get my hands on...and looking back I have to say that there is some real crap being taught out there.

Over the years I've seen a lot of gun disarming techniques and most of them look pretty good at first glance. However, most of them share a few flaws and the interesting thing is that most of these flaws actually come from the fact that people are just trying to be safe. No one wants to practice with a real loaded gun so we practice with a wooden or rubber one, and if we feel like spending a little money we practice with an airsoft pistol.

The problem with practicing with a non-firing weapon is that after awhile we start to forget about the things that actually occur when the gun goes off. Sure, we all know that when a gun fires a bullet flies out of the muzzle but because we practice with toy guns we forget about things like the movement of the slide, recoil, and muzzle flash. What this all results in is techniques that work when done with either a rubber gun or a real gun that doesn't go off, but if done with a real gun that does go off they fail miserably.

What I'm going to do in this article is talk about what actually occurs when a gun goes off, how that applies to gun disarming techniques, and the four big problems that most techniques have in this context.

Problem #1: Most gun disarming techniques don't have you immediately get behind the muzzle.

Something I've noticed about people, even people who teach gun disarming, is that they know that when a gun fires a bullet flies out but they don't seem to understand that the gun has parts that move and that a controlled explosion is taking place. When the trigger gets pulled it sends the firing pin forewords and that hits the "primer" (the butt of the bullet cartridge) and that primer causes the gunpowder in the cartridge to explode. The explosion on its own isn't all that powerful but in a gun it gets channeled through a small pipe with only one way out and that causes the force of the explosion to become focused. The force of the explosion causes the bullet to shoot out the barrel but then the bullet is followed by the other repercussions of the explosion: muzzle flash, sound, shockwave, hot gas, and unburned gunpowder.

It is very important to remember that the bullet isn't the only thing that comes out of the muzzle. I see a lot of people just slap the gun to the side or even just move it an inch or two one way while they lean their body to the other and this just makes me roll my eyes. If you just move the muzzle to the side then the bullet won't hit you but everything else spraying out of the muzzle will. Chances are that when you clear the gun it will go off and if you're not behind the muzzle then you will most likely get a face full of hot gas and an eyeful of unburned gunpowder. The hot gas being blown into your face isn't going to feel very good but the small grains of gunpowder being blown into your eyes can very well be immediately debilitating. There is a good chance that if your initial move doesn't get you behind the muzzle then when the gun goes off you'll go blind and then you'll be shot.

It should also be mentioned then when startled the natural reaction is to inhale. So if you clear the gun and it goes off you could very well inhale the hot gas and gunpowder into your lungs and find yourself in pain and unable to breathe properly.

Problem #2: The magazine

Just in case anyone reading this doesn't know, the magazine (often incorrectly called the "clip") is the small metal thing that you put the bullets into. Once the magazine is full you stick it in the handle of the gun, then when you pull back on the slide and let it come forewords it picks the top bullet out of the magazine and puts it in the firing chamber. When the gun is fired the explosion forces the slide back and opens the top of the "ejection port" which allows the recently fired bullet cartridge to fly out, then a spring forces the slide back to the front and it then picks up the next bullet in the magazine.

The thing about the magazine that people who train with training guns don't seem to remember is that the magazine falls out very easily and when it does it takes your bullets with it. There is a small button by the trigger called the "magazine release" and when you press it, it allows the magazine to fall out; the problem is that it is very easy to hit that button.

When I teach a class on handgun disarmament and I'm walking around while people practice techniques every few minutes I usually hear a "plop". That "plop" is a magazine hitting the mat. When two people are touching a gun it is very easy for one of them to hit the magazine release and then suddenly you’re either handling a gun with only one bullet in it (in the firing chamber ready to go off) or with zero bullets in it. You could very easily clear the gun, grab it and cause the magazine to fall on the floor, cause the gun to fire, and then take it away and turn an empty gun on your attacker.

It’s kind of funny that during class I've seen some people do just that and then freak out. The cleaver ones quickly push their attacker out of the way, grab the magazine off the ground, and then reload the gun. In any case I'm usually standing there chuckling.

Problem #3: Trying to step back and shoot them with the gun.

Nearly every single gun disarming technique that I've seen has you grab the gun, take it away, and then step back and turn the gun on your attacker thus ending the situation. Personally I fail to see how holding a violent criminal at gunpoint is the end of the situation. Come on people...REALLY?? Do I have to say anything about this? Do you think that you can just take some strange gun away from some criminal and then immediately use it on them? The gun could very easily be unloaded, non-functional, or even be a toy and then you're standing there trying to shoot a violent criminal as he laughs and then attacks you again.

If I was going to rob someone I'd use a toy gun. Chances are that my victim wouldn't know the difference and if I was caught I couldn't be charged with "assault with a deadly weapon". In the legal system there is a big difference between threatening someone with a real gun and threatening them with a toy.

Even if the gun is functional and loaded, if I pick up some strange gun I don't know where all the safeties are or if it has been given additional safety features. I've been in the military and had quite a bit of firearms training but I don't think for a second that I could just pick up some strange gun and use it, especially in just a few seconds while under extreme duress.

Problem #4: Grabbing the gun

For years I thought that I had firearm disarmament figured out. I had some great instructors, paid lots of money to attend seminars, and had police officers write me thank you letters because what I taught them had worked. If you wanted to learn firearm disarmament from me there was a waiting list and it would cost you at least $375. Then awhile back I worked with a combat shooting instructor and came to the realization that everything I had been teaching over the years on the subject was garbage.

The problem is, and what he showed me was, that you can't reliably grab a gun and hold onto it while it goes off. Most every disarming technique consists of redirecting the gun so that you're off the line of fire, then grabbing the gun and using it as a lever to twist it out of your attacker's grip. This works great with toy guns, rubber guns, airsoft guns, other types of training guns, and unloaded guns but if that gun that you're holding onto goes off the chance of you being able to hold onto it is slim to none.

If the gun is a semi-automatic then when it fires the slide will move back and forth and cut your hand. Some people say that you can pin the slide down so the gun won't fire but that is basically b.s. The movement of the slide is powered by a focused explosion and your hand isn't strong enough to resist that. Even if it were, what happens if you're tired, sweaty, the gun was just cleaned and it's oily, it's raining, really cold, or you're wearing gloves? If you're grabbing a gun and it goes off the slide will move in your hand and the sides might cut your hand but the front site definitely will. If you're grabbing their hand around the thumb then the slide will give you a particularly nasty cut when it flies back.

In addition to the movement of the slide, when the ejection port opens hot gas and unburned gunpowder will come shooting out into your brand new cuts. Consider also that when the gun fires the recoil will jerk the gun up and to the right and the result is an extremely small chance that you'll be able to hold onto it. Add to all of this the possibility that the gun might go off multiple times and the likely hood is that when it goes off you'll end up jerking your hand off of it.

It your attacker pulls a revolver on you then you're really screwed if you plan on grabbing the gun. In a semi-automatic the explosion is contained in the barrel but in a revolver the cylinder is open and the explosion is shot out the sides as well. If you grab a revolver that hot gas and unburned gunpowder will be shot directly into your hand, the shockwave has been described as "rattling the bone", and the recoil will nearly give your wrist whiplash. Because a revolver directly exposes your hand to the explosion there is about a 0% chance that you can hold onto a revolver when it goes off. That particular instructor said that in the past he had given a demonstration of this to some police department and when he grabbed a .38 as it went off he said it was "ungodly painful" and when he grabbed a .357 he said it nearly tore his hand off.

Not only can you not hold onto a revolver when it goes off but most criminal attacks in the US that involve guns happen with revolvers. Revolvers are cheaper, easier to maintain, and easier to use than semi-automatics so they are preferred by the criminal element. Chances are that if you are attacked by a gun-wielding criminal in the US they will have a revolver and if you are planning on grabbing a hold of that revolver and using it as a lever to twist it out of their grip you'd better hope it doesn't go off because if it does you'll end up jerking your hand off of it

Now at this point some people say, "Well, if I can't grab it then how am I supposed to take it away?" The answer it just don't grab it. While the elimination of actually grabbing the gun eliminates a large number of techniques a lot of others can be modified to work fine. All you can't do is wrap your hand around the gun, so just take that part out of your technique.

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