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When it comes to practicing and learning self-defense, there’s a few classic drills everyone likes, and there’s often a new drill that’s popular whenever a big defensive shooting hits the news (ex. the “Dickens Drill”). While all of these drills are useful to prepare for real-life defensive possibilities, there’s one drill that many shooters don’t do: shooting from retention.

Rather than just explain it in words, I’ll start by sharing a YouTube video that gives us a good explanation of what it is and how it works.

The truth is that most of the time, a defensive shooting is going to be at close range. There are notable exceptions that are worth preparing for, of course, but they’re a lot less common than a criminal attacker whose already practically on top of you. When that happens, extending the gun and taking aim means that you’re making it a lot easier for the attacker to take the gun from you, so you need to keep it closer to you for leverage.

In other words, it’s all about retention!

To fire this way, you’ll start the same way you’d draw from the holster in any other situation. With a good grip on the gun, draw it up and out of the holster. But, instead of joining with the other hand and extending it, you’ll simply drop your elbow and rock the gun forward, aiming it downrange. Then, without taking aim, point shoot at the best parts of the body you can get to, given the situation.

As the video points out, higher torso hits are a lot better for vital damage, but if you don’t have time to get a perfectly set up retention shot, you should also train to pick up any shot you can. You’d be far better off to hit an attacker in the guts or in the pelvic area than to not hit them at all in the course of a fight. If nothing else, it can slow them down while you use other techniques.

Related Skills You Need To Practice

To get the most out of shooting at close ranges from retention, there are two related skills that need to accompany it.

First off, you need to be ready to deal with someone who gets their hands on your gun. While it’s always good to get in-person training for getting it loose without it ending up in their hands, one simple thing I can convey in this article is the “twist and pull.” if someone gets the gun by the barrel, the sight is going to be near the palm of their hand. Twisting the gun both breaks their grip temporarily and often injures the palm more with the front sight the tighter they squeeze. This gives you a chance to pull it back in close to yourself.

There’s a good chance that the gun malfunctions in the course of this kind of close-in fighting. So, clearing malfunctions is another vital skill. One thing you can practice when doing the “twist and pull” is to rack the slide after the pull. This clears most malfunctions and keeps the gun ready to fire afterward.

So, really, it’s more of a “twist, pull, rack” maneuver/drill.

While I’ve written a number of articles about the importance of also training for longer shots with your pistol, the fact is that you’re more likely to need this skill than you are to need to deliver good hits from 40-plus yards. So, be sure to at least practice retention shooting on some range trips between other drills to hone your fundamentals.

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52 COMMENTS

  1. But, but what if the bad guy grabs your Glock, rips the slide off, and stabs you dead with it? I saw this many times in movies, so I knows it can be easily done. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Ouch!
    I stopped at the 1:40 mark when he tells that lower extremity shots are not good.
    โ€œI reject your reality and substitute my own.โ€- Adam from Mythbusters

    Iโ€™m an instructor, and a soft tissue rehab therapist that teaches A&P.
    The pelvic girdle is a very target rich zone; third to cranium, then center mass chest.
    Shattering the pelvis, proximal femoral head, or the sacrum is going to stop mobility.
    Severing/nicking any of the four iliac blood vessels will cause immediate drop in BP, and they most likely bleed out <90 seconds.
    Yes, 90 seconds is long timeโ€ฆ thatโ€™s why we donโ€™t stop shooting until the threat stops, voluntarily or not.

      • I prefer Black Jack or more commonly known as 21. 2 to the body 1 to the head. Rag Doll and then go home.

        • This kind of tripe will get you tried and possibly convicted of murder.

          Objective of any defensive action is to stop the threat. If 2 to the body stop the threat but you still shoot 1 to the head, you are guilty of murder.

          Get some proper training from a reputable resource.

          • If you take the time to assess the effectiveness of each shot you could very well end up dead. The Mozambique drill is a technique commonly used in self-defense training worldwide. The time for thinking stops when you decide you must shoot your attacker to survive, from there it is all about muscle memory from training. No, that is not murder, it is self-defense.

  3. Good article. I always perform up close drills when at the range, within 3 yards of a target.

    Use a revolver, and any malfunctions suffered from your attacker grabbing your firearm are minimized. Plus, if you’re lucky, when you pull the trigger the flame emanating from the cylinder gap will torch your attacker’s hand. I’ve seen such injuries; the cylinder gap flame will cut fingers to the bone.

    Contrary to current belief, stopping power is a thing. A Remington .357 magnum 125 grain semi-jacketed hollow point has over 510 foot pounds coming out of a 3″ barrel, about twice the energy of a 9mm out of a 3″ barrel, and you don’t have to worry about the slide going out of battery. 510 foot pounds concentrated in the pelvis, as the commentor For Real mentioned above, will disable your attacker and will “stop” him, as “stopping power” indicates.

  4. The first drill on our qualification course was two rounds from the close retention at one yard. Chuck Taylor called it the “speed rock.” The muzzle blast from a defensive caliber handgun 18″ underneath your chin is disconcerting for some. Often exacerbated by a muzzle brake. Just say no to muzzle brakes.

  5. Sensiba should give credit to whoever actually came up with the content for this article in addition to the YouTube video.

    • Cloud, after reading your comment I went back and watched the video. It was actually pretty good. He did leave out one very important point. In an arms length encounter you will probably be using that weak hand to fend off the attack while you draw and maneuver. If you have room to maneuver. Be aware. You may shoot yourself in the excitement.

  6. Watch it !!!!!, He’s got a knife.
    My son and I did an up close scenario, he had a knife and I had a gunm.
    He beat me every time.
    That’s like in your face close scenario.
    It is wise to learn more self defense techniques then just a gunm.

    • possum,

      A single stab/slash to the neck, inside upper arm (brachial artery), or inside upper leg (femoral artery) with a sharp knife can easily be fatal and cause unconsciousness (due to blood loss and low blood pressure) within 60 seconds or less.

      And it doesn’t take much force to reach those major arteries with a really sharp knife. Just this holiday weekend I was using my nearly-razor-sharp mini-ax to gently and super-carefully split tiny/thin pieces of cedar from an 8-inch log that was bone dry and crazy-easy to split. I did nothing more than gently tap (with no more velocity nor force than you would quietly knock on a family member’s bedroom door to see if they were sleeping) a piece of cedar that was already thin. That gentle tap was enough to split the cedar–and cut my support hand’s forefinger and thumb deep enough to require stitches.

      Really sharp edge weapons are no joke and you would be foolish to underestimate them.

  7. Something that complicates the point of the article and is becoming very common. Carjacking. Think about it.

    • Yup, and that’s why I’d like for a company like H&R to make a cheap break open shotgunm like a Shockwave.
      That Blaster Rossi made would be good but the rifled barrel sucks.
      I guess at close range it wouldn’t really matter about donut of death.
      .410 ain’t big enough though.
      12, 10 guage, oh hell yes.
      Damn the NFA
      Why not a Shockwave?, well in a high speed situation it just wouldn’t be as fast as a svelte break open. (LOL, H&R’s are svelte.)

      • Unfortunately, many States do not allow you to have a loaded gunm within reach while in your car. Fortunately MS is a State that encourages it. ๐Ÿ™‚

        • WTF it’s not like an open container.
          Seems to me if I’m in my car it shouldn’t matter about where my gunm is.
          I’ve got a holsteind gunm hanging on the E brake handle, nice and handy.
          A holstein on a pivot attached to the seat belt would be handy, specially if it was a short barreled shotgunm.

          • Your right, it shouldn’t matter. But it does in most blue States. And I like your idea of a holstein on a seat belt, although a nice fixed blade might be better. ๐Ÿ™‚ Btw, cup holders work for gats.

  8. First….the young man’s name is Elisjsha DICKEN (not “Dickens”), so it is called the “DICKEN DRILL”.

    Second…the “instructor” in the YouTube video needs to educate himself on human anatomy, because he obviously has zero clue WTF he is talking about when it comes to the pelvic region of the human body.

    Finally…Sensiba should stick to drawing cartoons.

  9. I would think your first move would be to gain some distance, if possible. A man with a blade can move really quick, so a pelvic shot or two could be an excellent target.

  10. I train with a similar technique with the difference being I don’t raise the firearm as high up on the body. More like what is done in old west fast draw competition. When done correctly center mass shots are easily accomplished and the time saved could well save your life.

    • I was practicing that recently with my cowboy gunm and conventional cowboy holstein. At 3feet it was easy, at 15 feet I had to line the front sight. By practicing I mean clear leather POW.
      Playing with gunms is fun, to bad there are so many criminal types that actually make it defensive practice.

  11. I always aim for groin. While the genitals are a small target (at least on most men), the area around the groin is home to the pelvis as well as thigh bones. Break any of these major bones and your attacker is going down. The spine is adjacent to the pelvis. Break the spine and your assailant is going down. The groin is also home to the femoral arteries. Rupture these arteries and your assailant is going to suffer a serious drop in blood pressure with prompt unconsciousness likely. The nerves that operate the legs also pass through the groin. Sever these nerves and your opponent is going down.

    Keep in mind that the above advantages of shots to the groin apply equally to biological women.

  12. “Shooting from retention” is a situation where having a laser would seem to be ideal; turn on the laser and make sure the dot is on the target. You wouldn’t even need to aim precisely.

    I’m pretty new at this stuff, so correct me if I’m miserably wrong.

    • Things happen real fast sometimes.
      If you’d have the time to turn on the lazer I don’t see why it wouldn’t work.
      I’ve been in two street shuteouts, things happen real fast. It’s not like we are cops and have the upper hand from the git go.
      Your talking then all of a sudden gunms are coming out and bullets start flying. Gotta move like a boxer, duck and cover, run and gun, that’s why I’m not a fan of that Weaver stance.
      I practice shuting with one hand.
      Front sight nothing more.

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