Whose responsibility is it to protect your gear?
The answer isn't "you"
Whose responsibility is it to protect your gear? By gear I mean TASER, OC, or handcuffs -- but most importantly, your firearm. I would argue that it’s not your responsibility to protect your weapon but your holster’s. It is, however, your responsibility to protect the holster or whatever pouch we’re talking about. I know this is semantics, but if you think about it, such a consideration can change how you fight and defend yourself.
Make no mistake, nearly every tool you have on your belt can be used as a weapon. This is important to remember for two reasons: first, if you ever get into a situation where an offender attempts to take control of any of your stuff (and we pray this never happens), you can articulate why you used the force that you did; secondly, we should always remind ourselves of what we have and how we can use it to our advantage. For example, something as simple as keys can turn out to be a great defensive tool when fighting over your gun.
Now I want to discuss the basics of belt tool retention. By belt tool again I’m talking your TASER, OC, and firearm. Any tool that you have on your belt. The first and obvious technique that needs to be employed is trapping. With my first statement out of the gate in mind, it’s important to trap the holster effectively with the hand you would normally draw the tool with. This is important because if you gain ground in the fight, you may need to be able to use that tool quickly. Trapping is an important part of retention but there are other key principals too.
When someone attempts to take one of these items, they will most likely take you off balance. Until you regain your balance, you can’t begin to fight back. The best and most common way to regain your balance in a fight is to widen your stance and lower your center (think guarding a player in basketball). Your legs and chest are stronger muscles than their arms so mechanically you will put them at the disadvantage.
Next, the natural reaction when someone makes a grab for your gun is to pull back. The problem with this is you will never win a fight when there is no skill involved. The offender is prepared for what he thinks you will do. The offender’s knowledge base is most often the cave man mentality and that is what they will prepare for. As officers, we have to do better. So along with balance control the next technique to train in is moving towards the attack. If an offender grabs your gun from behind, lower your center of gravity and back your butt up into the attacker. This reduces the attacker’s leverage and sets them off balance. The same is true from a front attack. If you move forward toward a front attack, all the offender can do is move backwards. We can move forwards way faster than they can move backwards.
The last key to this very basic breakdown of weapon/tool retention is breaking the grip. The most efficient movement to accomplish this task is pinning the weapon to their hip and spinning your body outwards. The goal here is to force the offender’s hand to lock backwards and possibly break at the wrist and at very least open their grip. Again this is most likely deadly force situation and if the offender leaves with just a broken wrist, they are lucky.
This series of techniques may help you but the one thing that trumps all of these skills is the will to stay in the fight. Never count on being able to reason with the offender if you just give up. It won’t happen. The ability to keep fighting until you have gained control is a mindset that needs to be established well in advance. I challenge you to consider the danger we all face in our profession and develop your own strategy to deal with it. The scope of weapon retention is very broad. In my next column I’ll put out some information regarding outside the holster retention and retention in ground fighting. Please refer to my earlier column on preventing attacks. This sheds some light on target glancing which is a huge pre attack indicator for weapon retention.
Defensive tactics is not something you can read about and then be able to immediately physically replicate. These techniques are learned with hours of training and to be effective it requires speed, balance, and the ability to recognize the offender’s body position. This is called tactile sensitivity. I encourage you to find a training partner and practice your DT. These are depreciable skills folks and training can make all the difference. Be safe out there.