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Hands down, my favorite subject at the MAG 80 course: Handgun Retention 101. Do not confuse this with the implication that I am any good at the skills required. It’s a matter of public record that I dance with all the poise and grace of the late Herman Munster. Fortunately, stomping on your “Partners” feet might net you some bonus points in this discipline . . .

As is the custom, all weapons are removed from the classroom environment, including knives, batons, pepper spray, guns, backup guns, and yes, even the backup-backup guns. In essence, we turned the place into the PRK. (People’s Republic of Kalifornia.) Pre-existing injuries and sensitive areas were marked with bright orange tape and gloves were recommended for people with soft hands.

The basis of these techniques is leverage rather than strength. This means using your whole body against a single, sensitive part of your adversary, such as their thumb, wrist, or elbow. Your goal: gain compliance and force them to let go of the weapon. Great care must be taken in replicating the speed and forces involved, so as to avoid seriously injuring your training buddy.

We started off with Marty Hayes teaching us how to defend grabs to your drawn gun using techniques affectionately named “The Nutcracker”(not what I thought) and “The Can Opener.” Later in the week, we covered attacks to the holstered gun from the front and rear. I actually gained a bit of confidence in my simple thumbreak holster; it did a fair job at retaining the pistol even against “Attackers” that were familiar with the system.

We closed out the week with Mas teaching us how to get FREE GUNS! Oops, sorry, rather, how to take control of guns that are shoved in your face or the back of your head, culminating with the “Triple Wax” (Wax On, Wax Off, and if necessary, Wax Him), and “Rescue Disarm” for when the gun is pointed at someone else.

As cool as gun takeaways are, it was emphasized that they are last-ditch, emergency, high-risk maneuvers. It is very likely that the gun will discharge at some point. If executed well, this occurs when the gun is pointed at the universal “Safe” backstop.

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  1. This video brings to mind a pet peeve of mine. If you have a gun, why place it as close as possible to the person you are trying to hold in place? Why put it in reaching distance? Especially close to one of the fastest moving appendages and hardest/smallest targets located on the human body – the head. I wonder how many actual trained individuals do this. When I did self defense we trained with the mentality that if they had the superior weapon, you closed the distance on them and vice versa. This especially came into play with the wooden gun. If we had it, we distanced and ‘fired’. If they had it, we did the above. How much of what is thought and seems to be common practice actually is?

  2. Hey, I figured Mel Gibson would be the one to hit the girl? Seriously, I wish I was there -it sounds like great training and I always loved good training. Retention is never covered enough. I remember old academy training where they kept wanting us to readily offer our “weak” hand in knife defense(?) and skirted over weapon retention. It was all as out of date as departments that wouldn’t allow back up weapons to be carried. When I did government contract security they spent more time on us being maced than even covering a proper draw or retention. Just fighting for your life, alone, for 15 minutes will wear your ass out. Keeping and or recovering your weapon is a vital self defense skill that I feel is vital. Excellent point, Buuurr, closing in with your weapon can be a deadly mistake.

  3. Doesn’t matter whether you’re confronting gang bangers or any other threat, if you’re a good shot, distance is your friend. It’s up to you to become a good shot. Like the old joke about “how do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Practice, practice, practice. If you can’t get to a range regularly, practice with an airsoft gun in your basement or garage.

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