The Triad of Handgun Retention

The problem is real, each year in this country officers are killed with their own guns. Learn the foundation of handgun retention and keep control of your duty sidearm.


Rolling around on the asphalt at zero dark thirty with some scumbag who just punched you in the face and now has both hands on your pistol trying to desperately rip it from your holster and kill you with it, is not the first time to think about handgun retention. That is the time for action, when all your preplanning and training to prepare for the possibility of defeating an attempted takeaway comes into action. No one thing will allow you to defeat that deadly threat. It will take several different components coming together for you to win the fight for your life and make it home at the end of the shift. Plan and prepare now for what may one day come. That is the essence of officer survival and the task at hand.

The Threat

In 2005, the latest year for which stats are available through the FBI, of the 50 officers killed feloniously with firearms, six law enforcement officers were killed with their own sidearms. Over the last ten years more than ten percent of officers killed in the line of duty by firearms were killed with their own duty pistols (the high year was 2003, in which eleven of the 45 officers were killed with their own pistols, totaling 24%). Numbers only tell part of the story and are cold and impersonal. These incidents include

  • Officer James Prince from North Carolina, killed with his own pistol during a traffic stop
  • Sgt. Hoyt Teasley from Georgia, killed after a suspect assaulted another deputy and obtained a duty pistol while in a correctional facility
  • Detective Sergeant James Allen from Rhode Island, disarmed and killed while interviewing a suspect inside police headquarters; and
  • Lt. James Weaver from Virginia, killed by a juvenile suspect during a prisoner transport.

May God bless their souls! And let us endeavor to learn from these tragedies so that their deaths will not be forgotten! Each officer was killed during a different type of call or assignment in different parts of this country while working for agencies large and small, and all were killed with their service pistol or a handgun of a coworker. When talking about officers killed, these numbers have names and each officer killed leaves family, friends and coworkers wondering what, if anything could have been done to prevent these tragedies.

The Handgun Retention Triad--Mind, Holster, Skills

The Mind - Mental Awareness & Commitment

Mental awareness is first and foremost the best way to prevent attempted takeaways. You should maintain, whenever possible, a safe reactionary gap but when inside this distance (where the vast majority of police shootings actually take place and where all takeaways occur) be prepared for resistance and ever cognizant of your pistol. Try to keep your gun hand free whenever you can. As I recall, G. Gordon Liddy wrote about this in his book, Will. At the start of his FBI career, a wizened agent told him that carrying a gun made him a gunslinger, and gunslingers don't tie up their gun hand. Although we frisk and cuff with our gun hand you must be constantly ready to defend an attempted takeaway of your pistol. Don't get so caught up in the business of a call that you fail to see the warning signs and body language that indicate a suspect's preparation to attack. When that good old cop "street sense" tells you something's wrong with the situation or suspect, listen to it!

If someone attacks and attempts to disarm you, more important than any other component is your will to win. Despite possible injuries, possibly being smaller, not as physically strong or even being outnumbered, you can and must win the fight for your life and retain your pistol. Other officers who have been hurt worse and in more dire situations and have fought their way out, and you can too! Most times an intense will to win can overcome even the most vicious of attacks. You must not relinquish control of your pistol. Bite, claw, stab with your police knife, whatever and however long it takes, you can and must do it! Stoke your soul; there is not a suspect alive that can overcome the will and intent of a well-trained, hard-core street cop! There may be a day to die, but not here and not now, and not at the hands of this scum!

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