No, not the kind of gun grab that resides in the orgiastic fantasies of folks like plutocrat Mike Bloomberg, I’m talking about a straightforward attempt by someone to grab your firearm from you, either from a holster or from your hand. Renata Birkenbuel of the Missoula (Montana) Standard reports that a middle-aged woman found herself in just that situation around 5:00AM this past Sunday when allegedly accosted by two men while trying to leave a house party . . .

[T]he woman, age 47, was attempting to leave a private house party in Butte when she brandished a .45 pistol after she reported feeling threatened by the two men who live at the undisclosed residence.

“She was in her vehicle attempting to leave, just going home,” said [Captain Mark] St. Pierre [a police officer from Butte-Silver Bow, Montana]. “She thought the two men had other intentions to harm her.”

At that point, one of the men grabbed the pistol from her, then it discharged. The bullet went into the ground…but the slide from the pistol caused a “slight injury” and “some slight bleeding” to his hand.

No one was seriously injured…and the injured man refused medical treatment….

[P]olice escorted the woman home. The two men, both in their 40s, were intoxicated, but the woman was not, [St. Pierre] added.

Obviously, we don’t know the full details of the incident, including whether or not the woman was justified in drawing in the first place. Assuming that it was justified for the woman to draw and potentially use her firearm (being outnumbered by two drunk dudes at 5:00AM) she almost lost the situation entirely because she was within gun-grabbing distance of an (alleged) aggressor who was throwing caution to the wind.

Fortunately, it sounds as though the trigger pull and a little slide bite restored a modicum of sanity and sobriety, but that isn’t something you can count on. When it comes to armed self-defense, merely punching holes in a flat piece of paper at 25 yards shouldn’t be the end-all, be-all of your training. That should also include a hefty dose of mindset plus training in physical movement and hand-to-hand combat.

While pulling a heater will often end the interaction, that won’t always be the case and sometimes those situations take place at bad-breath distance, where grabbing for the gun would be a more effective counter-move for the aggressor(s) than trying to draw and present any weapons that they might have on hand.

Firearms instructor Bruce Eimer, writing for U.S. Concealed Carry, suggests four components to any good firearms-retention program:

(1) attitude and mental preparedness,

(2) physical preparedness,

(3) good equipment, and

(4) well rehearsed psychomotor skills for protecting your weapon against a gun grab.

He elaborates on the last point thusly:

Well rehearsed psychomotor weapon retention skills: It should be obvious that proper training is critical to success in whatever we do. That training should consist of the acquisition of necessary survival skills and the proper exercise and practice of the techniques learned on a repetitive, regular basis, for skills reinforcement and maintenance. Attend a good class given by a reputable instructor. Then watch training videos to reinforce what you learned, as well as to expand your skills repertoire…

Certain criteria must be met for retention and disarming to be effective:

The psychomotor skills have to be simple to learn and retain.
The techniques have to work against a larger, stronger assailant. This is known as the “Bambi vs. Godzilla” criterion.
They must work with any duty or concealment holster….

Lindell’s methods focus on the use of leverage vs. brute strength. This is obviously important for female officers and older officers, as well as for civilians, and us old geezers like me….

In the past, retaining or regaining control of your weapon was simply thought about as a matter of brute strength. The strongest person won. However, all that changed after the 1970s and 80s when Jim Lindell, Chief of Unarmed Tactics with the Kansas City PD, was tasked with the goal of coming up with teachable techniques for preventing officers from being disarmed and shot with their own guns.

That last part is where I fall down on the job. One of the main reasons I don’t openly carry a firearm (apart from around the house and at the range,) is because at this point, I’m not yet comfortable with my level of preparation to resist a gun grab from the holster. I’ve not had any formal training in that, nor have I yet had the time to integrate anything into my regular training regimen. I hope to change that in the future, but for now? I’m keeping it under wraps while out beyond the wire.

Oh, and just as an aside — do you think that when lobbyists and intellectual mercenaries working for the anti-gun extremists refer to defensive gun use as a “myth”, they count incidents like the one detailed above?

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DISCLAIMER: The above is an opinion piece; it is not legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship in any sense. If you need legal advice in any matter, you are strongly urged to hire and consult your own counsel. This post is entirely my own, and does not represent the positions, opinions, or strategies of my firm or clients.

45 Responses to Self-Defense Tip: Be Ready for a Gun Grab

  1. Obviously, we don’t know the full details of the incident, including whether or not the woman was justified in drawing in the first place

    She felt threatened, therefore justified. Not anyone’s call to make but hers.

    • “I felt threatened” isn’t good enough unless it’s ‘objectively reasonable’. It’s not like the Southpark “It’s coming right for us!” gag where you can just say the phrase and that’s the end of it.

      I wonder if she was also intoxicated.

    • Yeah, but it’s clear she failed to create space, use the gun immediately to put the BGs down and retain the firearm, so tactically she would have been better off not deploying the gun at all. She could have been killed by her own gun. People should learn how to carry for actual self-defense, not just carry a gun they have shot a few holes in paper with.

      • Maybe another “I got it to scare BG’s off with” user. or “I’ll just wound them” user. Too much TV. She prob expected them to run away and piss themselves as soon as she whipped out her .45.

        They are lucky the black hole created when the round went into the dirt didn’t suck them all in! (caliber wars joke)

        My wife prior to marrying me had the same mindset. Now she’s the “empty the entire revolver into them and beat them with it” mindset and hope they arn’t prone when the last shot goes in.

      • “so tactically she would have been better off not deploying the gun at all. She could have been killed by her own gun”

        Since you were there why don’t you fill us in on why she felt threatened enough to deploy and what you believe she should have done in this situation, exactly?

        I mean, since you were there and all and know exactly what transpired.

        • Okay! Here ya go! She responded to their request for a hooker at 4:00 AM, spent some time collecting their money, then attempted to depart without delivering the goods. She knew quite well that they might take exception to this procedure, so was quick to draw a .45 and attempt to shoot them. The men survived by taking aggressive action to spoil her aim and disable her cannon. Once that noisemaker was triggered, and police responded, the men, of course, “forgot” the illegal transaction and allowed her to leave with their money, hopefully somewhat wiser for the experience.

          What she should have done was work a normal job for a living, so she would not need to attend “house parties” with multiple men and a gun at 5 AM.

          Stay tuned for chapter 2!

    • “She felt threatened, therefore justified. Not anyone’s call to make but hers” -Mack

      While I fully agree with the spirit of what you’re saying – armchair quarterbacks shouldn’t be the ones determining what she “should” have done – your actual statement is incorrect.

      The legal standard (for better or worse) is that a reasonable person would have felt threatened.

      IDK if you all remember that guy who tried to game the system and get away with murder in the late 90’s. He went over to his neighbor’s house with a video camera and a pistol, provoked an argument, and started shouting “I’m in fear for my life!” while he shot his neighbor.
      Thankfully it was an obvious farce, and the camera man was put away for attempted murder IIRC.

      That said, the scenario is possible. It can’t just be a “take the shooter’s word for it” standard when the person on the other end may not survive to tell their side of the story.

      • What I stated is an absolute.

        She has a right to self defense, and like all rights, they are not collective, they are individual. You can argue the legal justification all you want, its irrelevant to the discussion of a right. Her life, her call.

        • No, that’s some fantasy you’ve contrived.

          If you and I were having an argument and you raised your voice and in my mind you were a threat to my life, and I shoot you dead where you stand, does that make it justified?

          No.

          I don’t agree with a lot of things the .gov has done but the reasonable person standard is necessary.

        • Furthermore, if you are a paranoid schizophrenic psychopath, it is still not legal for you to shoot everyone you see because you are ALWAYS in fear for your life!

        • @ Tile Floor

          I have right to go about my life armed. The constitution enumerates that right specifically. In exercising that right, I may break the law. Are my actions just?

          Like many you confuse legal justification against moral justification. Remove the law and make your point if you can. Rights trump law.

        • So again, because I have the right to be armed now I can shoot whomever I please?

          When a killing is unjust then it is murder, which, newsflash, is a violation of the law.

          The reasonable person standard is fair, logical, and legal.

          You cant go waving your gun about whenever you feel like it

        • So, if she just happens to feel threatened by guys called Mack, she has the right to hunt you down and shoot you upon learning your name/nickname?

  2. If it’s time to draw, it’s time to shoot. Lucky woman. 5am on a sunday morning? Wow, party animals! You go girl!

  3. At that distance drawing a gun can’t be a plan in and of itself. There’s no reaction distance available. If you’re drawing you need to be ready to shoot immediately and have a line in your head- if he goes past that floorboard, I fire. If he’s already close enough to just grab you or the firearm then drawing a gun and holding it is probably a bad idea unless you’ve made the decision to shoot immediately.

  4. Although Arizona law allows me to brandish to warn of an assailant, once I reveal I carry, there is no playing around. Distance, cover, concealment, and the exit depending on what is appropriate. If someone goes for the gun, the fight it on. Because of my age, health, and size, I am not going to win a hand-to-hand brawl, so the gun is the only way I am likely to survive that kind of encounter. I do not know her situation. I praise her having the firearm, but if she had the means to get some distance or get an object, like the car, between her and the drunks, she should have taken it. Something tells me that because she carried, she felt that she could handle the drunks instead of jumping in the car. If my assumption is true, it goes against the saying that “the best way to win a gun fight is not to be in one.”

    • “…instead of jumping in the car.”

      Article says she was already in the car. That’s probably what gave the schmucks time to get a hand on her pistol – deploying a gun from a seated position in a car is generally a pretty awkward affair.

  5. They do a good bit of this sort of thing with knives and daggers in HEMA (historical European Martial Arts) classes. It is very interesting.

  6. “bad-breath distance,”

    I always carry concealed and I keep out of bad breath distance because the effectiveness of a firearm is not so hot at such close quarters and I’d always feel the presence of a bladed weapon at such a range.

    No, keep aware and stay away if possible, only defend if you absolutely have no choice otherwise or you must defend others.

    Aggressive people can bellow and insult all they want, I’m not getting into a fight unless they actually threaten me….which under the stated circumstances this woman was in….I’d say she had definite reason to feel threatened. She was no intoxicated, the two men were. I’m slightly puzzled that no arrests were made by the police.

    brendan

    • I find it difficult to keep such distance and I am quite willing to be obvious about it. I think “oh, damn, too close” a lot when I go into urban areas.

    • That confused me as well but they may not have had the legal ability to arrest anyone; in many states the police may not arrest someone who commits a crime outside of police presences unless it is a felony, with certain exceptions.

      So unless there was probable cause they were trying to rape her (and there probably wasn’t) the result might make sense.

      • You are correct about the misdemeanors not occurring in an officer’s presence.Brandishing and assault and battery tend to be two misdemeanors that are exceptions, at least in my state, though I would have to know more about what happened to know if those were even applicable.

        In VA, If probable cause did exist but the non-exception misdemeanor did not occur in the officer’s presence, he may attempt to obtain a misdemeanor warrant from a magistrate.

        In the case of a he said she said with no physical evidence, a report is completed and the individual parties are able to seek warrants against the other party.

  7. My brother and I practice retention using an airsoft pistol. Great training tool as you know if you finger the trigger unlike with a blue dummy gun

  8. Did you hear the one about the 2 drunk guys who try to disarm a woman at 5am?

    The punchline is “oh ** I’m shot. You are a crazy woman!”

    I dunno why people are questioning this. Two drunk guys, 5am, sober woman, and the drunk guys tried to grab the pistol. If she had been raped would people question whether she gave consent? Nothing says “no” like a loaded 45. Hopefully these two idiots will thank god and turn their life around. Next time they will not get so lucky.

    • I just think people want to know more about the circumstances leading up to the draw. If they tried to grab her then sure, draw away. If they were just being obnoxious but did not pose any immediate harm, maybe not.

      Just because she’s a woman at 5am with two drunk guys present doesn’t mean she is automatically cleared to draw down on them, it all depends on what their actions were

      • Why was she sober at a house party with two or more drunk men at 5 AM? If you don’t know, you’re not thinking.

  9. If Mr. Ayoob shows up and tries to grab my firearm, I’ll probably let him do so. He is a good man, and certainly intends me no harm.

        • Indeed it does. I am very familiar with Mr. Ayoob. For the most part he has great advice regarding firearm use and as well as how it relates in court. Again for the most part, he is not always correct even in his own field just like other humans. In any case none of his credentials or perception as a good man in any way should be the ticket for not resisting his attempt to take my firearm on those merits alone.

          Also, while I am sure many Statists are considered good men that is indeed what he is. Soft Statist at least.

          Just one example is he is on record of approving and defending the treatment of the guy that clinched his cheeks in New Mexico and endured:

          Eckert’s abdominal area was X-rayed; no narcotics were found.
          Doctors then performed an exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.
          Doctors performed a second exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.
          Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
          Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a second time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
          Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a third time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
          Doctors then X-rayed Eckert again; no narcotics were found.
          Doctors prepared Eckert for surgery, sedated him, and then performed a colonoscopy where a scope with a camera was inserted into Eckert’s anus, rectum, colon, and large intestines. No narcotics were found.

          Good men can have flaws but WTF? He is a great source of info and I haven’t written him off by a long shot but he really better not try to disarm me with his bare hands.

        • It was a joke.

          Perhaps not that funny.

          I would actually be a bit freaked out if Massad Ayoob suddenly showed up and tried to grab my 642 out of my pants front pocket.

          🙂

  10. Wow. There’s more Monday morning quarterbacking here than there is on ESPN.

    The woman won. Get over yourselves.

    And what the hell are “psychomotor weapon retention skills?” Psychobabble much?

    • Ralph,

      When Mr. Eimer says, “psychomotor” skills, I think he means what many people commonly call “muscle memory”.

      A common example is the skill to ride a bicycle. I am sure you have heard the maxim, “Once you learn how to ride a bicycle, you never forget.” The same principle applies to other motor skills like martial arts strikes or how to respond to a gun grab.

  11. I see three possible strategies:

    (1) If you are reasonably fit and strong, you should develop the skills to deliver two or three quick and nasty blows to an aggressor who is trying to grab your handgun. Various martial arts classes can teach basic blocks, strikes, and kicks that are pretty easy to learn and master in fairly short order. Note that several months of additional repetition is necessary to cement those skills in “muscle memory” for recall after years of no practice.

    (2) If you cannot deliver effective blows to an aggressor who is trying to grab your handgun, then you should focus on extremely keen situational awareness skills. You have to be so acutely aware of your surroundings and potential aggressors that you can “divine” their intentions and eliminate their ability to actually grab your handgun. In other words you have to be able to discern attackers and put enough obstacles and distance between you and your attackers such that they cannot disarm you before you have enough time to verbally challenge them and shoot them if they ignore your verbal challenge.

    (3) If you are so feeble that you can neither deliver effective blows to an aggressor nor implement situational awareness and move to a tactically superior position before a gun grab, the only tactic that I can imagine is to carry two handguns: an unloaded “decoy” and a loaded self-defense gun. If you are attacked, you could initially present the unloaded “decoy” handgun as a distraction. Your attacker goes for your unloaded handgun, takes it, and then proceeds to either threaten you with it (but you know that it is unloaded) or fool around with it when it doesn’t go bang. Either way, it buys you an opportunity to deploy your real self-defense handgun and get off at least one shot.

    • How much do you need to practice a strike so that you can do it successfully years later after no practice? I don’t know. When I was young, I practiced a martial art for about 18 months. About twenty years later, I started attending classes for the same martial art. Without any practice at all, I could not see any degradation of my skills/technique and was able to break boards with kicks and hand strikes on the first day.

      I don’t think we really lose much in the way of skill or technique when we fail to practice. What we might lose is strength or flexibility. Take that for what it is worth.

    • I was shocked that this woman, whilst leaving a party at 5:00 am, encountered intoxicated individuals. Who’da thunk?

  12. Is that massad ayyoob in the pic? I know he is a legend and I’m not sure what is going on in the pic, but in any real life scenario, that dude in the leather jacket would be about to take a hard left punch or elbow, I hope there isn’t some of that old martial arts “don’t question the sensei,” bullshit going on, cause it looks like the big guys left arms is playing dead and the dude in the leather is looking away from said left hand. Maybe he is explaining something, but from here it looks real cheesy, like the dude is letting his sensei grab the gun to show him a technique, but what good does a technique that is staged to work do anybody? Like I said, don’t know what’s going on, dude is a legend, but that Old Timer better watch that left side.

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