Training in unconventional weapons retention

How to prepare for the nightmare scenario of an inmate on top of you, grabbing your holster

In my last column, I talked about gun grabs and weapon retention from the holster. This is where most attempts will be made to disarm the officer, and is also the area that we train for most. But what if the unfortunate day comes along when you are attacked in an unconventional way? What happens when the scenario you train for isn’t the one you’re dealt?

As officers, we are required to adapt to these different situations. We have to bank on the idea that we won’t get stuck in the techniques that will only work in the perfect situation.  As trainers, when we choose the skills to expose our students to, we need to realize that the techniques need to be somewhat open-ended. What I mean by that is they need to flow from one to another.

We have all been in a situation where the tool in our tool box isn’t working, so we need to get another tool. We don’t want to just provide a hammer when the task might require a screwdriver. We need to deliver a multi-tool system so that officers will be able to adapt when needed. Otherwise, we are setting our officers up to fail.

One potentially dangerous outcome is an officer increasing the level of force used, rather than switching tools, due to lack of knowledge. We all know this situation can bring bad things not only to the officer but also to the agency.

Now that I’m off my soapbox, I’m going to drill down to some skills to employ when we find ourselves in unconventional situations, specifically when it comes to weapon retention. The first scenario is probably the worst position an officer can be in: How do you handle an offender who is in the mount position when you are face down on the ground — and now that offender is grabbing for your weapon?

Ground defense face down
There are two things you need to do immediately: first, trap or cover the weapon. In this situation, you’ll have to do that with one hand by either pushing down on the gun in the holster or pulling the bottom of the holster upwards and trapping the weapon into your core.

The second thing that needs to happen is protecting your head with your other hand immediately. You should wrap your arm around your head, thus protecting as much of it as possible. With this piece in place, the next priority is to get off the stomach and on your back. It is much easier to fight from your back than with your face on the ground.

This is a difficult thing to accomplish when someone is putting weight on you, but it can be done using body mechanics to your advantage. Identify what side your weapon is on. Whichever side that is, it’s important to roll onto that side. At the same time, kick that same side’s leg out and forward. The leg on top (as you roll) should be kicked back. This motion breaks the positioning and balance of the offender and allows you to roll to your back.

Ground defense from your back
This next piece is a great defense tool for fighting from your back, whether the fight started out that way or if it is a transition from fighting on your face.

Now that you are on your back, the primary concern should be to trap the arm (or arms) that’s grabbing the weapon. Also use your legs to pull their hips closer to you; this robs them of leverage. This may be the point where is it appropriate to strike with elbows and a hammer fist. Look at specific targeting. Face, joints, throat; remember you are in a fight for your life now! There are many different technical skills to be done from here. The easiest one to teach and perform is just a simple buck and roll.

You can do this by trapping the offender’s head or arms and pulling them close to your core, while simultaneously trapping one of their legs with your ankle. Your next step is to post on the opposite side and roll, putting yourself in the dominant position. Again there are many different ways to get there but in my experience the roll is the easiest to train and the one you’ll remember. My suggestion is to practice rolling as a part of your regular workouts.

Outside of the holster weapon retention
Finally, what happens when you have drawn your weapon and now you’re fighting over it? The tough guy says, “Well, I’ll just shoot him.” I’m here to tell you that even though you may be justified in doing that, you may not have a shot. There may be many reasons why pulling the trigger at that point is a bad idea.  So here are a couple of things to remember when fighting over your weapon.

The first thing that needs to happen is to maintain leverage. Cover your weapon with your non-dominant hand so as to not taser yourself but also maximize control. Pull the weapon into your chest or, if your opponent is stronger, move your body into your weapon. Now that you have leverage on your side, use horizontal elbow strikes to break the offender’s grip. Once you’ve gotten the proper distance, then you can make the decision to take the shot or not.

These are all simple skills that are rarely practiced until it’s too late. Take the initiative and work some of these techniques in your agency or on your own. Be safe out there!

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