By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2015, All Rights Reserved
In the realm of martial arts gun disarming is probably my favorite thing to practice. This being so I train a lot with disarms and I try to keep up with anything I can get my hands on; I read pretty much any article I can find, I watch a lot of instructional videos online, and I’ve spent a good deal of money to learn from experts. However, the more I look the less I tend to see.
When I look around I tend to see the same old information spouted by every expert and most all teach the same way. There is a lot of poor information out there and I want to touch on just a few of the things that I see as lacking during this type of instruction.
An important lesson that I learned many years ago came from a defensive shooting instructor who gave me some lessons in his backyard shooting range. As we shot I started looking at how the weapons operated when we fired them and I couldn’t help but think back to the disarming techniques I practiced. Finally, I brought the subject up and we discussed it at length. One thing I’m convinced of is that most instructors spend so much time training with plastic, rubber, wooden, or inert firearms that they forget that if the gun goes off when you’re disarming your attacker your hands are going to be right next to an explosion being contained in a moving weapon.
Ever since that day I teach all my students to never grab the gun. If someone shoves a semiautomatic handgun in your face and you manage to grab a hold of it then you might be able to pin the slide and keep it from firing, and if it does fire while your hand encircles it you may in fact be able to maintain your grip and control of the weapon. However, if they shove a revolver in your face and you grab around it and it goes off you won’t be able to hold onto it. The force of the blast and the gases escaping from the cylinder will blow your grip off, burn your hand, and could even blow the tips of your fingers off. We experimented with both a .38 and a .357 by placing gloves over the weapon and then grabbing around the gloves and it didn’t matter how we grabbed we could not hold onto the gun while it went off. We suffered burns and we both experienced pain in our hands for days. Since you need to react fast during a violent situation, you have to assume the gun will go off, and you won’t be able to maintain your grip on a revolver I believe it is best to make it a rule not to wrap your hands around any handgun.
Another important lesson I learned from a corrections officer who insisted I spend as much time as I could online watching security camera videos of real crimes being committed. As a result of that I no longer do my handgun training by just standing there with my arm stretched out and trying to shoot my partner before he moves. Sure, you have to do this king of static training to learn the techniques but once you have them down you have to train dynamically, which means you should reenact an actual assault.
I was training with another instructor years back and he wanted to show me his favorite disarming technique (the one where you slap the gun and his wrist to make the gun fly across the room). I held the gun out for him several times while he demonstrated and then he asked me to try to shoot him before he moved and sure enough he was so fast he disarmed me every time. I then asked him if we could go a turn where I acted like a real criminal; after he said he was ready I stepped in between his legs, grabbed him by the throat with my left hand, pressed the gun into his left temple, drove him backwards and screamed “GIVE ME YOUR…(you can probably guess)!”
Needless to say not only was he not able to do the technique but he nearly defecated himself. Static training where you just stand there is all fine and dandy but a criminal just doesn’t appear out of thin air ready to shoot you if you breathe wrong; something always leads up to it and happens after it. It also doesn’t teach you to deal with what I call the “Oh Shit Factor” where your brain suddenly falls out your butt when surprised with sudden violence.
Sure, the criminal may be standing there just holding out the gun and not moving, it happens all the time; but he also might be pushing, punching, choking, or grabbing you with his free hand while he screams and the gun could be held back, shoved right in your eyes, or who knows what else. The point is after you have the technique down you should simulate a real robbery while you have to do your disarming technique in that fast and dynamic situation.
The last thing I’ll touch on is the one that bothers me the most. I see this all the time; an instructor demonstrates a technique by having a partner point a gun at him and then then he takes the gun away, maybe he strikes the attacker or maybe not, and then he steps back and points the gun at the attacker…and then calls “scene!” I just don’t understand how taking the gun away and pointing it back at your attacker is where the scenario stops…you still have a perfectly good attacker who could have other weapons and you have no idea if the gun is even loaded.
The idea that you can take a gun away and turn it on your attacker is very dubious. 90% of people shot in their own homes are shot with their own guns, either because of negligence or because the intruder took the gun away and used it themselves. If you point his gun back at him and tell him to get down on this stomach maybe he’ll just walk over to you and take his gun back, or maybe he’ll pull out a knife or another gun.
What if the gun isn’t even loaded or functional? Unfortunately there really aren’t any wide studies done but from what I could find one study showed that out of 85 firearms one midwestern police department seized after they were used to commit a crime during a particular period:
-24 were not loaded
-2 were not loaded with the correct ammunition
-9 were broken and unable to fire
Astonishingly 41% of the weapons used in these crimes were not able to actually shoot anyone.
What about toy guns? Many criminals know that in certain areas committing a robbery with a toy gun carries far less severe charges if they were to be caught and they know as long as they act scary enough their victim will comply anyway out of fear.
Again, real numbers showing how many crimes are committed with toy, or imitation, guns is hard to come by because it is not information that police departments actively collect. In what little information I could find, the Bureau of Justice Statistics published a report in 1990 called: “Toy Guns Involvement in Crime Encounters with the Police.” This report concluded that as many as 20% of robberies are committed with “imitations guns” (toy guns, bb guns, etc.). This study is from 1990 and with more access today the numbers are most likely even higher.
To put everything together, if you disarm a criminal and point their gun back at them with the intention of using it against them, there is as much as a 20% chance that when you pull the trigger you’ll find out it is a squirt gun! Even if it is a real firearm there is perhaps as much as a 41% chance won’t fire because it is unloaded or broken!
The average criminal is not an expert in firearms. They have a gun which is often stolen and when they’re not using it to intimidate people it is stuffed down the front of their pants or in their sock drawer. People that are firearm experts often say, “that makes no sense…I would never put myself in the danger of robbing someone with a gun that won’t fire.” However, the problem is that they’re thinking like themselves and they’re not a criminal.
A firearm’s expert possesses firearms with the intent to shoot people should the need arise but a criminal possesses their firearm mainly to use to intimidate someone into doing what they want, and that is a big difference.
If I do a technique I don’t stop once I have the gun, rather I take the gun away and go right into the attacker and I only stop once I’m looking at my attacker on the ground and I’m satisfied that he cannot get up to come after me.
The way I teach, and it’s the best method I’ve found so far, is (and this is just one example) that I start a technique with my partner 10-15 feet away from me and he walks up like he is going to walk right by me but just before he passes he suddenly rushes me and grabs my shirt with his left hand and push me back as his right hand points the gun at my face. He is sudden, aggressive, using loud threatening language, and attempting to be physically dominating.
As all this is happening I move off the line, take the gun away, and then I step deep between his legs while I strike him in the throat with my forearm. Then I sweep out his foot to take him down, kick him in the groin, stomp on his solar plexus, and then evaluate the situation and scan for other attackers.