I’ve got a fair amount of experience behind a gun, and though I’m not a sharpshooter I can hit my target and maintain a tight group. I’ve even done some defensive simulations through IDPA matches, which is a lot of fun on top of being practical. In short, while I don’t anticipate ever finding myself in a gunfight, I can reasonably expect I’ll be able to handle myself.
None of that prepares you for being on the other side of the gun. If a mugger were to step out of an alley and put a gun to my head, all the shooting practice in the world wouldn’t do me a lick of good.
Let’s assume for a moment I did have a gun holstered at the small of my back. While IDPA match stages do start with a draw (or a similar retrieval, such as from a nightstand or glove compartment), it’s not quickdraw. Even if I did practice quickdraw, I find it hard to believe I’d get a shot off before the mugger. As such, I might as well not have the gun at all.
This, I feel, is a much more likely scenario than a gunfight. As such, when my karate school offered a gun defense seminar on Saturday, I signed up. I also thought it would be a lot of fun, like my Shuri-ryu instruction (truth be told, fun was the bigger motivator than self-defense concerns). That afternoon I handed over a check, bowed onto the mat, found a partner, and was issued an orange, rubber handgun.
The first thing we learned was the only defense if a shooter is twenty feet or so away: run like hell. The theory here is convicts don’t practice their shooting, so your chances of being hit are low. Unlike what you see in the movies, it’s actually fairly difficult to hit a moving target. In fact, if you’re not taking the time to aim, it’s difficult to hit a stationary target, and your neighborhood mugger probably isn’t going to take the time to line up his sights before squeezing the trigger.
With that covered, we got into the meat of the seminar. My second lesson came after watching my partner nearly get crippled: don’t volunteer for shit. (By the end of the night, if Shihan Walker asked “who’s got a gun?”, most people quickly dropped theirs on the mat and backed away.) We covered several methods, all dependent upon where the person put the gun. Face, back of the head, side, middle of the back, gut, it didn’t matter. The cool thing was there were only a few basic moves that covered all of the situations, so it was just a matter of applying them to the appropriate side if necessary. We even covered what if the mugger held the gun with two hands, what if he had your lapel in one hand and pressed the gun to the underside of your jaw, and what if the mugger had a hand around your shoulders/neck and the gun to your temple. Finally, he demonstrated a couple we didn’t practice, such as if the mugger held a hostage.
The moves we learned come from the Haganah and Mike Lee Kanarek’s F.I.G.H.T. system. Haganah is a compilation of Israeli fighting techniques borrowed from styles like Krav Maga. Shihan Walker also teaches Haganah at the Academy of Okinawan Karate, and my sensei, Trent Miller, gave me a taste in class once. I can tell you, the Israelis don’t screw around. I’d sign up in a heartbeat if it didn’t cost so much (in addition to what I’m paying for my karate lessons, that is — on its own it’s no more expensive than a martial arts course).
You can see one of the gun disarms in a video on the FIGHT website (or just click here). In that video, you see part of the first disarm (pushing the gun to the side), and then he finishes by demonstrating the disarm with the gun pointed to the face or forehead. Like many of the disarms we learned, they’re uncomfortable for the attacker and he may even end up shooting himself. We also saw what would happen if the mugger held his gun to the victim’s forehead in a gangsta grip; chances are he’d lose all the skin on his trigger finger.
I was skeptical at first, knowing what I do about guns and their operation. I’m not entirely confident even the strongest of grips will be able to prevent the slide on a semi-auto from rocking back if a shot were fired, and assuming you could keep a revolver’s cylinder from rotating in double-action, it wouldn’t matter if the hammer were already cocked back. There’s also the question of searing-hot gases escaping from an ejection port, around the cylinder, or through barrel vents.
The good news is I do think a victim could get out of the way of the shot if the disarms were executed properly. We tried to “shoot” Shihan and one another several times, and if there’s any real speed, the victim is out of the line of fire before the shot is fired. A semi-auto would jam because the spent case would not be able to eject through your hand. A revolver would be questionable, as I’m not sure how tough it would be to keep the cylinder from rotating. An empty revolver is easy enough to test, but testing an automatic would take a set of welding gloves and a giant pair of brass balls.
It may be a moot point, anyway. If the intended victim reacts fast enough, there won’t be a second shot. At least one disarm would result in the mugger shooting himself, and with the rest the gun would be in the victim’s hand before the second squeeze. There’s also a good chance the mugger is on the ground nursing a ruined finger, in a daze, or even unconscious.
Which leaves the final question of what to do with the gun now that it’s in your hands. Personally, I’d hold the perp there until the cops showed up. But what if he doesn’t think I can get the shot off? What if he assumes I won’t shoot him, or won’t have good aim?
Then I get to ask him a simple question:
Do you feel lucky, punk?