Gun disarms / retention including handgun and long gun.

We’ve all seen it in the movies, where some hero is unarmed and easily takes away the firearm of an assailant.  Is it easy?  No.  Is it simple?  Yes.   Or at least it should be, and that is the point of this article.

What we want to do here is break this technique into a small handful of simple steps and then train those steps over and over until it becomes second nature, until doing it any other way seems unnatural.

However, before we dig any deeper into this topic, you should ask yourself “why” you would want to attempt a disarm on an assailant.  Just because you are held up or in that situation, doesn’t mean you should attempt a disarm, as you must weigh out the risk vs. reward.  In some instances, it might be the right decision to simply hand over your wallet, as opposed to attempt a disarm, especially from a bad position (i.e. they have you on your knees) or in a bad environment (they are holding you up in a dark alley with snow and ice on the ground).

There may be situations though, where a disarm might be more “advised”.  For example, if the assailant has already shot someone, the probability of them shooting someone else is higher.  If they seem to be on some kind of drug, the possibility may be more likely as well.  If they are not letting you go, even after giving them your valuables, that may be a sign that they may do more.  Finally, if you have loved ones with you, that may (or may not) motivate you to attempt a disarm, so working through all of these scenarios in advance (and through your training) will be very helpful.

The key is to make these disarms simple, but realistic, which is why you’re not going to see any spinning, flipping or cartwheels with these defensive tactics.  In addition, we’re going to make these techniques adaptable, because there is more than one way you can get assaulted with a weapon, and obviously there is more than one “type” of firearm.

This is why we must simplify the steps and attempt to make them adaptable to as many positions as possible.  For now, we’ll start with the basic frontal handgun position, but before we do, you need to realize one important point:  distance.  If you are not within an arms reach of the weapon, completing any disarm will either be impossible or one with a low success rate.  Once again, we want realistic and simple techniques with a high success rate.

If you are at a further distance, and want to close the gap, there are techniques you can use in order to do so.  Overall, they would include acting submissive (not being a threat), keeping your voice/tone down and ideally doing whatever they ask (move here, hands up, be quiet, etc.).  Or, if they ask/need something of you (wallet, car keys, etc.), you can move in to give them what they requested or put it at their feet.  Whatever you do, once again, do it submissively.

Assuming you are within arms reach, the first step is what is called “Clear”.  If you would imagine a laser beam shooting out of the barrel of the gun, realize that it is a line (i.e. line of fire), that can never be crossed, or have it cross anything you are not willing to have shot.  This would include your own body parts, but might also include others who are nearby.

Clearing the weapon is accomplished by using your right hand (assuming the assailant is holding the gun with their right hand) and pushing it away from you, while also using your body by turning to the side, minimizing the size of the target (which once again is your body).

After the “Clear” step is completed, the next step is to “Isolate”, which means to use your free hand to cup behind the receiver of the weapon.  The next step is to “Manipulate” the weapon out of the attacker’s hand, by using leverage and pulling the weapon out of their hand, over the webbing of their hand.  Delivering a groin kick right before or at the same time can help with this process greatly.

We want to assume that the assailant will not give this weapon up easily, and therefore, we’ll use the barrel of the taken away weapon as an impact tool, “Striking” the attacker right in the face.  After these steps have been completed, it is important to get into the habit of assuming the weapon might have discharged, and you will need to “unjam” the weapon using the common “smack-rack” level one malfunction solution, where you smack the weapon under the receiver/magazine, and rack the slide back to clear out any jammed round.

Finally, stepping back and gaining “Distance” is important in order to have more reaction time, fully secure the weapon and be at the proper distance to give the attacker orders, and not have them re-attack you in close quarters.

To sum things up the steps here are:

  1. Clear
  2. Isolate
  3. Manipulate
  4. Strike
  5. Smack-rack
  6. Distance

It seems like a lot, until you realize that everything happens in about 2-3 seconds.  Practice, practice, practice, and see your reaction and technique time go down.

*Step by step disarm*

As I stated before, there are different positions someone can hold you up by gun point.  What was just covered is the frontal disarm, but there are also basic side and rear positions.  Ideally, the steps are the same, if you simply remember the first three:  Clear, Isolate and Manipulate.  The follow up moves are similar too:  Strike, Smack-rack and Distance.  However, there are slight modifications, so let’s break these all down.

Being held up from either your right or left side, might easily be dealt with by directly facing your attacker, if at all possible.  Your balance, coordination and pressure will most likely be better.  But if you can’t, once again, assuming a right handed attacker, if they are on your right side, you complete the exact same moves as the frontal position, but your “Clear” might be done by stepping back at a slight angle before you square off.

*Step by step right side disarm*

If the attacker is on the left side, rotating around in order to manipulate to the much more successful outside angle is a longer stretch.  That is why varying up the Clear and then using a punch over the cleared hand will accomplish the same objective, just faster.  From there, the manipulation is done by pulling the back of the receiver under the hand as seen in the pictures.

During either of these side disarms, your follow up is the same, with striking, clearing the weapon of any malfunction and stepping back to gain distance.

*Step by step left side disarm*

The last basic position is the “Rear” position, where someone is holding you up from behind.  Get use to stealing a quick peek, in order to see what hand is holding the gun, while also securing as close of a distance as possible.  Assuming the attacker is holding the gun in their right hand, your “Clear” will consist of you turning around the inside the weapons hand, while also “shoulder locking” the attacker (see details in pictures, and reverse the side you turn to if they are holding the gun in their left hand).  If possible, just as a groin kick for the previous disarms worked well to soften up the attacker, using an elbow strike as you turn around works better in this scenario.

Once the lock is secured, place the outside hand on their neck, while stretching them out and extending the arm holding the weapon as long and as tight as you can.  From there, reach in front of your body, and manipulate the weapon out of their hand, following up as always with proper malfunction clearing and distance.

*Step by step rear disarm*

Along with your handgun disarms, you should be able to also do “long gun” disarms, which would equate to taking away a rifle (i.e. “AR”) or shotgun.  Although these may be more rare, once again learning the basics can help you deal with this bad scenario.

The steps are very similar to a handgun take away, such as the first step is Clearing, but as you can see in the pictures you are using your whole arm to bat away the line of fire.  After doing this with the right arm (assuming the attacker is holding the gun in their right hand), you are going to Isolate by wrapping the barrel of the firearm with your left arm.  An elbow Strike, punch or even head butt works well here as you need to expect resistance.

Lastly, you will Manipulate by “kayaking with anger”, which is a funny phase to help you remember this last step.  Although the video dives deeper into it, note that it is nothing more than leveraging the weapon’s stock and then using both ends to strike the opponent.

*Step by step long gun disarm*

Just like with the handgun disarms, you can guess that there are side and rear positions which follow a similar path.  My advice is to review both the pictures, captions and most importantly video which accompanies this article.  The point of this is to make sure you understand the consistencies of  these disarms, and over everything get reps in on them.

There are obviously other variations to the positions and other scenarios which come into play.  As stated before much more information will be covered in the accompanying instructional videos including details, tips and tricks we have not covered in this article.  However, these basics not only account for the most common ways to get assaulted, but principles which can adapt to many different situations and how to survive them.