Being confronted by perpetrator holding a gun can be extremely scary. Having a “gun pulled” on you is sure to get your adrenaline going!
Guns Represent a Serious Threat
Before delving into the specifics of how to defend yourself against a gun-toting assailant, a word of caution. Even for the highly trained, a gun presents a very high level of risk. I highly recommend “checking your ego at the door” and assessing what you are willing to give to avoid the chance that you or your loved one will get shot or die in a confrontation involving a gun. In my opinion, it is well worth giving away your wallet, car keys, cell phone, and any other physical belonging, to avoid this risk (yes, it may hurt your ego, but that’s better than fumbling a gun takeaway and getting shot). There are, however, situations that warrant actions – for example, when you truly believe that the gun holder will shoot regardless of your cooperation. If you have not done so already, take a minute to think and establish your “red lines” now, and decide when you are willing to fight and when you should fold. (Trust me — you want to know your red lined before you are staring into a gun barrel.)
Gun Anatomy and Mechanics
If you are confronted by an armed assailant, the weapon the perpetrator will be carrying will most likely be a semi-automatic pistol (long guns and revolvers are far less common in a street confrontation). Let’s first understand the mechanics of the handgun. A semi-automatic pistol is a type of handgun which harnesses power from one shot to load a fresh cartridge from the magazine into the chamber, to be ready to fire again. The pistol fires one shot every time the trigger is pulled. The important thing to realize is that if the slide of the gun is forcefully jammed in place, the self-loading mechanism will not be able to operate, thereby temporarily turning the semi-automatic pistol into a single shot weapon, requiring cocking before being able to fire again.
The process of disarming the assailant is called a “guy takeaway” (gun take away). Here are the key principals of a successful gun takeaway:
1. Assess distance. For a takeaway to be successful, you must be close enough to the assailant to be able to reach and manipulate the weapon, all before the assailant is able to fire at you or your loved ones. The closer you are to your assailant the better. As the initiator, you have an inherent advantage, as action is faster than reaction. Studies conducted with police officers holding their finger on a trigger, and waiting for a command to fire showed a reaction time of between 0.576 and 1.26 second. With the gun lowered, with the finger off the trigger, or without a clear intent to fire, reaction time increases significantly. For a real-world assessment of distance and reaction time, take a look at this video from police officer training. See how quickly the distance is closed, with the person taking the initiative able to close the gap and attack the armed officer:
2. Buy reaction time. You can “buy” yourself extra reaction time by use of a distraction. For example, when a person is talking, their reaction time significantly increases (hence why you should avoid talking on your cell phone while driving). By getting the assailant to talk, you are buying yourself time. We learn other ways to create distraction and “buy time” in class.
3. Control the direction of the weapon at all times. Once you move in, you want to control where the gun is pointing, and make sure it is pointed in a safe direction – never toward you or your loved ones. Up, directly down or, best, toward the assailant, are all good choices.
4. Once you have successfully removed the weapon, immediately create space. A gun works well at a distance. If you are very close to the assailant, they can take the gun back, or charging you, forcing you to fire. (In the photo above, the shot was captured as the defender is stepping back. Ideally, you would want to have at least 10 to 15 feet between you and the assailant.)
How quickly can all of this be done? If you invest time in self defense and martial arts training – pretty fast. See Victor Marx, the (self?) titled “world’s fastest gun disarm / take away”, claiming 0.08 seconds:
Keep training, and stay safe!