When it comes to real world self-defense techniques and tactics, knowledge is power. If you understand the nature of the threat you’re facing you can formulate a practical defense — whether that’s compliance, fleeing or attacking. People who know little to nothing about firearms are at a severe disadvantage. If they’re assaulted by someone with a gun, they may well be too frightened or too ignorant to react properly.
My self-defense courses combine the Israeli method of unarmed combat known as Krav Maga with combat pistol instruction. I teach students how to disarm an attacker so they can create enough time and space to deploy their own gun against a threat of grievous bodily harm or death. But I also train people who choose not to carry a gun.
Throughout the years, I’ve seen dozens of instructors teach unarmed civilians how to defend against a pistol threat. All of them teach students to grab the gun, deflect the muzzle away from their body and rip it from their attacker’s hand. I’ve yet to find an instructor who talks about what will happen to a hand that grabs the slide if the gun fires.
“You will cut/burn/injure your hand if you grab the pistol while gun fires,” some of my students tell me. Until I show them, many don’t know the barrel is separate from the frame. I explain that a fired handgun’s internals will get hot after ignition, but the external parts likely be no more than warm.
I’ve tested this across many calibers and models of handguns. My students have also tested this theory first-hand (pun intended) at my Combat Pistol course, with NOTHING happening to their hands. In fact, a properly grabbed gun’s slide doesn’t move, the gun doesn’t cycle, and an empty casing is stuck in the barrel.
Firing a gun isn’t as easy as most people think; especially a handgun. Inexperienced/untrained shooters tend to “jerk” the trigger in anticipation of the bang. They pull the gun down and to the side. They tend to shoot low left if they’re right-handed, low right if they are left-handed.
Rapid muzzle redirection is the core of any close quarters combat firearms defense. An inch in a single direction can be the difference between life and death. If you redirect the firearm in the direction that the shooter’s likely to jerk the trigger, there’s a greater chance they’ll miss you if they fire. As they say, go with the flow.
Despite clear and repeated instructions and warnings, a few of my students have inadvertently pointed a pistol at me or other students. Without thinking, I’ve redirected their muzzle to a safe direction. That’s my goal: to give students an instinctive ability to deflect a firearm, even in the most frightening of all situations.
As I said at the beginning of this article, defenders without any real world experience of firearms, students who’ve only practiced disarming techniques against an inert or blue gun, lack sufficient first-hand understanding of guns to reduce their fear, and enable a rapid and efficient response.
The next time you hear someone talking about their self-defense class, ask them if they know how to shoot a gun. If not, take them shooting and, at the very least, show them how even the slightest movement of a shooter’s hand changes a bullet’s trajectory. As my good friend and tactical instructor Marcelo Esperandio says, “The more you know, the more luck you have!”