View Full Version : Keep It From Firing

Gabriel Suarez
10-02-2003, 10:41 AM

We’ve all thought about it at some point. Some of us have even faced it. It is an operator’s (and a marital artist’s) worst nightmare. A pistol pointed right at you in the hands of a homicidal adversary.

While this situation is certainly unenviable, it is nonetheless survivable. Mas Oyama once said that a man who is helpless because his adversary has a gun is not a master of karate. I concur, and submit that even a neophyte with an understanding of human reaction time has a good chance provided the gunman is close, and that our hero is able to avert the muzzle from his body.

Even though the vast majority of victims shot with handguns survive, the idea is to not get shot. We’ve covered various concepts and techniques in previous articles. This piece focuses on the simple matter of how to keep the pistol from firing if your initial disarming attempt fails and the adversary still has some control of his weapon.

I want to point out that in such a case, you should not be solely focused on the weapon, but also on he who wields it. This is the time for those gritty eye gouging, throat-ripping techniques that make even a madman consider retreat and self-preservation.

Other than neutralizing the operator, the ability to prevent him from firing his weapon depends on having an understanding about the type of pistol you are facing.

These can be divided into four categories: (1) Semi-automatics that have no visible hammer - such as the Glock; (2) Semi-automatics designed to fire in single action mode such as the Colt 1911; (3) Semi-automatics designed to fire in double action mode such as the U. S. Military Beretta; and (4) Revolvers. Although they share some characteristics, they are different enough for our purposes, to require separate discussion.

First of all, however you’ve grabbed the weapon, hold on to it hard. The myth that your fingers will fly off your hand from the sheer concussion of the shot is just that, a myth. There are certain pistols with compensating vents cut into the barrell to diffuse recoil forces that will give a nasty injury to the hand under such circumstances, but even that is better than getting shot. Second of all, get that muzzle away from your body and keep it away at all costs. That may require some physical strength.

Category 1 – the Hammerless Semi-Auto Pistol, will not generally be prevented from firing its first shot since all its operation is internal. But a firm grasp by a defender will prevent the semi-automatic “extraction-ejection-chambering” process. In short, the gun is now little more than an impact weapon. Don’t underestimate neither weapon nor operator, but it’s a good chance that the snake has been “defanged”. You must also keep this in mind once you have possession of the pistol. Should the need arise to fire, you will have to physically cycle the weapon to load a round into the chamber. The same effect is seen with all semi-auto pistols.

Category 2 Weapons - Semi-autos (with external hammers) designed to be fired from single action mode, or from a cocked hammer position, can be prevented from firing by simply interspacing something between the cocked hammer and the rear of the slide. Thus, if the trigger is pressed, the hammer will not be able to impact the firing pin. This maneuver will also be successful against the next category - double action pistols - if they have been placed into single action mode by cocking the hammer.

Category 3 - Double Action Pistols – can be fired from a single-action mode as discussed, or from a double-action (uncocked hammer) mode. By grasping the weapon towards the rear of the slide, and preventing the hammer from moving to the rear (necessary to fire in the double-action mode), you will prevent the weapon from firing.

Some of these weapon-types are also equipped with levers near the rear portion of the slide which double as hammer decocking levers and mechanical safeties. By engaging these as you maintain contact with the weapon, you may be able to prevent firing.

Category 4 Weapons – Revolvers, are characterized by a revolving cylinder that rotates into position as the trigger is operated. These weapons may be disarmed by similar ways as category 3 weapons, such as interrupting the motion of the hammer. Additionally, grasping the cylinder itself, and preventing its motion will, in effect, prevent the weapon from working.

Its also important, from a technical perspective, to attack the pistol as close to the gun-bearing hand as possible. This will help insure success regardless of the length of the weapon itself.

There may be other methods than these but not any that allow you control of the gun’s muzzle area. After all is said and done, if you control the muzzle, you control the gun. With a little understanding of the mechanical operation of the various weapon systems, and a handful of simple weapon disarm techniques, you will have an important edge when suddenly facing the gun.

10-02-2003, 10:56 AM
Yet another thoughtful article, thanks Gabe.

I must say however, that it takes a tremendous amount of training to make the decision to act and then intepret/diagnose the type of firearm being employed. What happens when it is low light?

From the training perspective, we need methods that will work on all types of firearms.

I don't recall recognizing a double/single action firearm that was pointed at me, I just remember it's a semiauto ;)

10-02-2003, 11:52 AM

I'll chime in. Usually, when I'm watching movies or TV shows, I can instantly recognize any weapon, and point out any inconsistencies. "But he had a 1911, now it's a High-power. And it was cocked a second ago, why is the hammer down? That's not the right holster for that. They didn't have that gun back then" etc etc etc. I was working at a grocery store at night when it got robbed. There were 5 - 6 of them all around us, all brandishing weapons. To this day, I have no idea what the guns were. It's very disconcerting. My mind chose not to remember what the guns were and concentrated on not getting shot.

The point is, I understand what you're saying about tailoring the disarm method to the weapon not always being feasible, but there are methods that work on most if not all handguns. I had a 1911 taken from me in a high speed disarm (by an instructor at a training class, thank God :)) and the way it was done will work with just about any handgun.

10-04-2003, 02:07 PM
Most semi autos encountered in US have magazine release on side. If you can do it without lossing your grip I might consider pushing mag release button. True in most cases they still have single shot weapon and holding slide while gun is fired should stop ejection/chambering. But if a Smith or other gun with magazine "safety" gun will not fire without magazine. Also in case of non magazine safety gun if shot fired and BG gets control of weapon he may rack slide- in this case no mag in gun is to your advantage.

John Silver
10-04-2003, 09:57 PM
If I may be so bold, I think that any time someone attacks with deadly force is "time for those gritty eye gouging, throat-ripping techniques that make even a madman consider retreat and self-preservation." No hesitation, take them out hard and fast. (Tough words for a keyboard commando, be careful, or I'll send a nasty email.)

Gabe, you are cutting edge and believe me I like what you say and teach. I think the Southern California cop side just may have just bled through a bit.

10-06-2003, 09:18 AM
I'll echo something that Gabe said in one of his articles. There's a REASON you're being held at gunpoint. If the BG wanted to kill, he'd have just done so. That opportunity to disarm your adversary comes between his presentation of the weapon, and your expected compliance.

The key thing that I became aware of was controlling body language. Not staring at the gun or tensing up, which will tell the gunman that you'll probably try to go for the gun and it's probably in his best interest to shoot you already. Also, assuming the proper surrender position, hands held palms forward, and a distracting phrase. "Don't shoot me." with the disarm somewhere in there. As communicating entities, we tend to wait until someone is finished talking before acting.

Like in one of the Road Warrior movies... "I'm going to pull the arrow out at the count of three....ready? One...*YANK*". Do it when they're not ready.

What is actually more troubling is the knowledge that prison inmates and seasoned felons try these very techniques on each other.

10-06-2003, 02:15 PM
People tend to not be able to do two things at once. Ask the BG a simple question that he has to think about, and as he responds, make your move. It slows his reaction down by him going through the process of thinking and then responding verbally. And when you do move, do it outside of his direct line of sight. Ex.--Make the move as you are bringing your hands up from below his sight line, it is harder to detect. If you already have your hands up in the "surrender" position, it is easier for him to see movement, but if you are fast and smooth, you can still pull it off if he is close enough. The #1 thing to remember is to redirect the muzzle at the same time you execute a body defense, thereby getting you out of the line of fire. Redirection to the side is much preferable to redirection up or down, because all you do by redirecting up or down is leave the muzzle covering your body for a longer period of time. I've seen many martial arts schools teach it this way, but it is just not the best way to do it.

Charles Rives
10-08-2003, 01:11 AM
Didn't Gerald Ford's Secret Service bodyguard manage to keep a woman from shootin him by jumping in and preventing her revolver from firing?
If I remember correctly, (I was only about ten years old at the time) the agent ended up with a crippled hand due to the hammer folling on the nerves in the web of his hand between his thumb and forefinger.
- Chuck

10-08-2003, 02:29 PM
Was that the Lynette "Squeaky" Frome (one of Charles Manson's "children") incident?

Wayne Dobbs
10-13-2003, 10:45 PM
I'll jump in here with a real life story that happened to me. On 12/31/81 at about 2250 hrs, I was the intended victim of a gun snatch and attempt to shoot me with my own blaster, a Colt 70 Series Gov't .45 ACP. The bad guy was a 20 something female, apparently paranoid schizophrenic, that snatched my pistol while I was trying to physically subdue her from stealing my squad.

When she shoved that gun in my face and pulled the trigger, all I could think was to grab that gun with both hands and redirect the muzzle, which was what I'd been taught to do during academy training three and a half years before. I pulled that move off but due to never having practiced that move post-academy, I didn't do the follow through move of ripping the gun away and just held on for dear life until my assist units arrived about 30 seconds (AKA 10 years) later! She fought us like a madman (woman?) and it took six of us to subdue her and cuff her. She subsequently hung herself in jail.

I was very fortunate that she didn't know how to get the safety off and shoot the pistol and she even raged that "the gun has a safety" while enroute to jail! I learned a lot of lessons that night as a young copper and later used that incident to get plugged into great training and to develop a warrior's attitude. That developed into a passion for teaching and training young (and old) cops and private citizens. The incident also was a catalyst in my department for many to switch over to 1911's from revolvers, which IMO was a mixed success.

Wayne Dobbs