Handguns to Hands-On

Drawing our hand guns can be a daily event depending on where you work. There are a variety of reasons why we draw are handguns; stopping a stolen car, dealing with a known violent felon, clearing a building during an alarm call, or in defense of our lives. As a result of these incidents, we spend a great deal of our training time on the range drawing and firing our weapons.

Another area we spend a large amount of training time is in controlling resistant or violent subjects. We need to be able to close distance, grab and control the subject and apply handcuffs while minimizing injuries to ourselves and the subjects. We need to also be able to control a violent subject while maintaining our weapons, not getting hurt, and following all of the rules.

The issue with the above statements is the gap between firearms and defensive tactics training. The firearms instructors focus on drawing and hitting the target, which is extremely important. At the same time, when the defensive tactics instructors train, the students have their weapons in the holsters. At some point we need to work on holstering while engaging a subject.

For example, you respond to an alarm where you find an open door. As you and your partner enter, you will most likely draw your firearms. While clearing, you come across a male, casually dressed, who states that he is the business owner. We have all probably already dealt with this scenario. Most of the time the owner will walk toward you stating everything is fine. Since this is not a deadly force situation, you will have to holster. If the male is walking toward you and you begin to holster, you may need to go hands on. This may be a simple stiff arm/palm heel to the chest or an arm grab that turns into a takedown.

While writing this article, one of my friends and students got involved in an incident that required him to holster while engaging a violent individual.

The incident involved a call for a domestic where the male was throwing his live-in girlfriend’s property out of the trailer. As the deputies pulled up to the area, my friend saw the male shove the female back into the residence. As she fell to the floor, the male went into the trailer after her. Fearing the male would continue to hit the female or possibly barricade them both into the trailer, the deputy went after him. As the deputy entered the trailer, he saw the male moving toward the female who was now in the kitchen. As the deputy was yelling at the male, he saw the male open a kitchen drawer and pull out a ten-inch knife. The deputy was approximately five feet from the male and moving in fast.

The deputy, seeing the knife, drew his firearm and prepared to fire. He told me that as he brought his weapon up, he saw the female, who was standing behind the male, moving toward the male. The deputy told me he did not want to take the chance of shooting her if she stepped in the way, so he decided to holster and control the male. As he holstered, he delivered a forearm brachial strike to the male. Although the deputy did not know it at the time, the strike stunned the male and he dropped the knife. The deputy was able to take the male down after several more strikes and vertical stuns, and was able to handcuff the male.

Once the scene was secure, the male was taken to the hospital for cuts he received as a result of hitting a window. At the hospital the male, age 67, told the deputy that he grabbed the knife to use on the woman, not the deputy. He thanked the deputy for not shooting him. Although we know it doesn’t matter, this male had no criminal history and has not had any run-ins with law enforcement before this incident.

I found out about this incident when the deputy involved called to tell me about it and thank me for the class he attended where I stressed holstering while engaging. As an instructor, being told that a technique I taught has worked when it really mattered is like hitting the lottery.

Teaching your students the importance of holstering properly starts with qualifications and basic skills. How many times do you or your students look to your holster when you re-holster? Do you look at your holster when you are drawing your firearm? Probably not. When I watch officers shoot weather it's qualifications or during a course, I see many officers looking to their holster when they re-holster. I think this is more from habit than anything else. Once I or other instructors address the issue, the student will usually stop looking for a while. This demonstrates that they can re-holster without looking, but often still look because they don't appreciate the dangers of their actions.

To train yourself or your students to not look at the holster, you must be diligent. Every time you re-holster, make sure you do it without looking. Once you can do this smoothly, start working on adding more stress. Just like adding stress when you are shooting; i.e. moving, walking, taking cover, or engaging a suspect; these same drills should be incorporated into re-holstering. You can begin by being on target with your firearm, then step offline while re-holstering. Once you are comfortable with one step off line, start adding a re-direction with the other hand while moving and re-holstering.

You can expand these drills to anything you can think of just like when shooting. One drill that should be added, probably with a non lethal munitions weapon, is: While stepping off line and re-holstering, you start moving forward to the subject. As you start securing your weapon, a threat appears, the subject reaches for a weapon, and you have to draw again and assess the situation. Any stimulus you can add to these drills will allow you to be better prepared on the street.

Please do not misunderstand the above, if you feel that you need to have your weapon out and on target then keep it out. Your safety should be your first consideration.