View Full Version : Use of a knife against an assailant in a gun grab maneveur.

October 6, 2006, 07:33 AM
I read an article this morning in BLACKHAWK! magazine that I thought would be worth sharing. Some of you may already know this, but i think it's good training anyway.


Handgun Retention's Cut-Off Zone! (written by:Michael Janich)

When you look at most of the guys who carry guns, you'll find the vast majority of them also carry some type of knife. When you ask them why, you'll get a variety of answers, but one of the most common is that they "carry a knife to keep their gun." In other words they carry a weapon retention tool.

First, let's look at the theory of the traditional approach:
1.You carry a tactical folder in your weak side pocket.
2.Bad guy grabs your gun.
3.You grab bad guy's wrist.
4.You draw and open your tactical folder with your weak hand.
5.You cut bad guy's hand off your gun.

In theory that sounds great. However, you need to remember that a gun grab is a violent,dynamic situation, that typically involves yanking,pulling,hitting, and lots of movement. You also need to understand that, once you latch onto the bad guy's wrist, you have committed yourself to a gross-motor-skill tug of war.

A better solution is a technique that i developed several years ago with some of my law enforcement students. It goes like this:
1.Use a holster that offers a superior combination of weapon retention and accessibility.
2.Carry a fixed blade (or open folder in a sheath like a fixed blade) in front of your body for a left-hand, reverse-grip draw.
3. Bad guy grabs your gun.
4.You grab the bad guy above the elbow to limit his mobility to one joint (the shoulder).Now, every time he pulls, you simply "ride" the pull with your whole body. The gun stays in the holster or, if it comes out, it stays trapped under your arm and pointed at something other than you.
5. You draw your knife in reverse grip with your left hand and raise it straight to his bicep. With full body weight, you pressure cut his bicep in half.
6. Bad guy stops pulling because he has no bicep.
7.If he still has a grip on the gun (the forearm muscles and flexor tendons may still act independently), you track your hand down to his wrist and cut a second time to sever his forearm muscles and eliminate his grip.
8.Bad guy's hand releases.
9.You create distance and draw a superior weapon to assume decisive control.


October 6, 2006, 07:40 AM
I believe that my approach offers a number of significant advantages.
These include:
1.All your motions are gross-motor-skill oriented.
2.You achieve better control over the attacker's arm and body-and your gun.
3.You are directly attacking the muscles that are causing the problem.
4.The motion of your knife arm also shields you against the bad guy's free-hand strikes.
5.The same body mechanics also work as an empty-hand technique against left-hand,right-hand,and two-hand grabs and also function as a preemptive defense.

In any real self-defense situation,theory isn't good enough. You need practical,versatile tactics that provide you with a workable, yet flexible,game plan.

I thought the above article would be quite useful and interesting, as I know several members here at TFL carry a "knife, gun combo". I know alot of states have laws prohibiting carry of certain types of knives, so in the event you can't carry a knife in a sheath, I would recommend a folding knife with loose tension so that the knife could by opened by flicking it out quickly with your weak hand. I hope you all enjoy the article.

Be safe, Chuck

I didn't write the article and claim no responsibility for it's contents.

October 6, 2006, 08:27 AM
I'm glad to see that someone else is thinking in this manner. I developed a similar strategy long ago that basically the same as the author's and have tried passing it on to my guys even though it's not part of any "certified" training doctrine that I'm aware of.

I carry a tactical folder weak-side for just such a contingency and have been debating whether a fixed blade would be better.

A couple minor detail differences though.......

1) For duty we use Level 3 retention holsters. I find that rather than grabbing the BG's wrist to control him, it probably easier, safer and more effective to grab the gun near the butt and keep it pushed into the locking device.

2) It seems to make more sense to move against the BG making his grip or pressure on your gun assist you in keeping it up against the locking device. (Know and understand how your holster retains the pistol)

3) An attempted gun snatch is deadly force. Hack, slash and stab at any target that presents itself and do so with the plan to slash through muscles and tendons in the forearm and upper arm that control arm and hand gripping movements. If you ain't scraping bone, you ain't cutting deep enough.
Keep your knife shaving sharp and don't use it for general cutting tasks.

4) It's gonna get bloody.

Non-security type holsters are a little more problematic, but basically you need to push down on the gun to keep it in the holster, move toward the BG to keep him off balance and from gaining any leverage and fight like hell.

October 6, 2006, 08:34 AM
It seems to make more sense to move against the BG making his grip or pressure on your gun assist you in keeping it up against the locking device. (Know and understand how your holster retains the pistol)

The author writes for Blackhawk and is using the CQC Serpa holster as an example. With the retention device on that specific holster he would have to get to the side of the holster and flip the retaining device.

You bring up some excellent points, especially the comment about a gun grab being deadly force.

October 6, 2006, 03:54 PM
Those of you who know me know that I'm VERY pro-knife. I have, at times in the past, taken the position that a knife (in the proper hands) is actually MORE deadly at close range than a gun. I still stand in that camp...


The above-referenced article describes about the WORST scenario I can think of to take one hand off of the gun and go for a knife! In this particular instance, a knife is NOT the proper tool to use to fend off the attacker.

When you're carrying a gun, and someone goes for the gun, weapon retention should be your ONLY thought. If someone is going for your gun, for all that is holy, KEEP BOTH HANDS ON IT!!!

Try an exercise at home for me. Drop your conceal-carry weapon of choice into a holster on your strong side. Then, find a buddy (of comparable size and strength) to stand behind you. Have the buddy gently reach up and place his hand on your gun. Place your hand on top of his. Then, on the count of three, you try to retain the gun (one-handed) and have him/her try to pull the gun.

Here's what you'll find, when you do this one-handed, the guy wearing the gun (pushing down on the gun) will almost ALWAYS lose the gun to the guy standing behind him (pulling the gun upward and toward himself). Simple biomechanics: The pulling motion is a stronger movement.

Then, try it with both hands. You hold with both hands, while he tries to pull the gun with one hand. You will find that it is MUCH easier to retain the weapon.

So, what do we do, then, when someone tries to grab our gun from the holster? When this happens, I want two phrases to be screaming in your head:

First phrase: "BOTH HANDS!" Use both hands to retain the weapon into the holster. You can NOT overpower the assailant with one hand, while you grab for a knife with the other hand. It'd be REALLY COOL if you could fillet his arm in response to this horrendous aggression. You can't. Sorry. Retain the weapon with both hands.

Second phrase: "SPIN TOWARD HIM!" While you retain the weapon with both hands, spin around to face the guy. Turn toward the weapon, such that the handle of the weapon is moving AWAY from the palm of his hand. (Turn to your right if he's standing behind you, the gun is on your right side, and he's grabbing with his right hand; turn to the left if he's in front of you, and he's grabbing with his left hand) This spinning movement will strip the gun out of his fingers, and put distance between your weapon and him. It will also line him up for you to draw the gun and shoot him.

Again, I say, this technique will STRIP the weapon out of the assailant's hand, leaving it safely in your holster.

Don't believe me? You shouldn't. I'm a rank amateur in marksmanship (but a martial arts efficianado), and the guy that writes for Blackhawk (for obvious reasons) knows MUCH more about guns than me... Tell you what: Try both options. Try retaining the gun with one hand while you try to access a folder or a fixed blade with the other. Also, try my drill, outlined above. I just bet that you'll agree with me that the two-hand retention method works best. ('Cause I've done this drill before...) And, you'll probably find that you have a very limited success with the one-hand retention and knife technique.

Stay safe!

October 6, 2006, 04:12 PM
The phrase "Distance is your friend" is echoing through my mind.

I'm thinking that the original post assumes your assailant is grabbing from the front, in which case attacking his arm may be a viable choice. Stepping back, you may trip over an unseen object. I've always found (I'm no expert, but I do have som emoderate experience with martial arts) that any grab from the front can be defeated with any number of blows to the grabbing arm, or with a specific counter to the grab. A sharp strike to the grabbing arm will knock it away from the holster long enough for you to step away. If you don't have a retention holster (and most of us non-LEO's don't) then resistance as described by Samurai will work. IMO, it is probably better than busying a free hand to try to get and open a knife. How many people have a fixed-blade knife as EDC?

If the attacker is grabbing from the rear, then a sharp blow still can knock the grabbing hand away long enough for you to turn your gun side away from your attacker as described, also. Above all, though, I think your first ptiority should be retaining your weapon, and second should be gaining enough distance to safely remove yourself from the immediate risk of a grab. All you need is a few steps in order to draw and shoot.

Blackwater OPS
October 6, 2006, 04:15 PM
I agree with Samurai and I would note a few other problems with Chuck's strategy.

4.You grab the bad guy above the elbow to limit his mobility to one joint (the shoulder).

So, instead od a wrist lock which is a proven technique, we are using a....bicep lock?!? The average person is going to find grabbing a muscular bicep very difficult.

This is how I train:

1. BG grabs gun. I assume he is standing behind me and retention has basically failed already(worst case scenario).

2. With my right (or strong) hand I grab the KNUCKLES of the hand on my gun. I am NOT pushing directly, but using the gun as leverage to pry the BGs hand of it.

3. (This occurs at the same time as 2.) I am pivoting on my strong foot toward my attacker) I am also drawing my "Weapon Retention Tool" (If for some reason I don't have one, I'm still in good position here)

3. I am now facing my attacker's flank, I have control of his strong hand, and I have retained my primary weapon and probably drawn my WRT.

4. I can cut forearm tendons, gain distance and draw my primary, or just use unarmed self defense and subdue the attacker.

October 6, 2006, 05:50 PM
I agree with Samurai and I would note a few other problems with Chuck's strategy.

Just to clear it up it's not MY strategy Blackwater lol. I just liked the article and decided to post it.

The article is also using that technique with a front facing gun grab, I.E you and your attacker are facing each other. There are several ways this could go right and wrong.

Samurai and Blackwater bring up some very good points and alternatives! Good training guys! Keep it up.:D

October 6, 2006, 06:58 PM
I'm no expert,
but I think that all this "pressure cut his biceps in half" stuff is overthinking.

If I were in a struggle for my gun, I would consider it a life-or-death situation that warrants me making deadly strikes against my attacker. That would mean, if I were able to get my hands on a fixed blade knife, I would just be slashing and stabbing any exposed part of that sonofabitch. Stab him in the neck, do you think he's still going for your gun? Stab out an eye, is he still going to be much of a threat?

Meanwhile, do you have to think about pressure-cutting his biceps if the attack comes from a guy wearing a biker leather jacket? A thick winter coat? You going to pressure-cut through that?

I'd just as soon have at him with the frenzied stabbing motions... :D


October 6, 2006, 07:06 PM
Stab him in the neck, do you think he's still going for your gun? Stab out an eye, is he still going to be much of a threat?

As with all martial arts and "theoretical self-defense" it's all theory, and while good to practice, doesn't mean it's gonna always work that way.
My martial arts instructor always said "If it's gonna be a fight for your life,fight like it is." He constantly preached how techniques and forms were good, but that they were only little parts of a broader scheme. As in, if you're fighting someone off they are not going to attack like people do in class and you have to be versatile and ruthless in your defense.

Good points Azurefly. One thing I noticed even as I was posting the article was that I would probably stab into the armpit and cut. That's gonna sever alot of muscle and tendons and reflex would be to let go of me and my gun.

October 6, 2006, 10:30 PM
Wow this is a good thread it gets you thinking. I too carry a knife but my thinking is that if this SOB is trying to grab my primary weapon to use on me I will introduce his head to the muzzle flash of my Kel Tec P32 bug. I carry it weakside. :D

October 7, 2006, 04:30 PM
The gun grab scenario is another good reason not to carry in a paddle holster, Fobus, or a number of other holsters sold.

If you are able to get your blade into play, I am thinking a sewing machine motion would be more appropriate than a slashing motion.

stevelyn- a fixed blade in a proper sheath is significantly better than a folder.

Para Bellum
October 7, 2006, 05:37 PM
1.You carry a tactical folder in your weak side pocket.
2.Bad guy grabs your gun.
3.You grab bad guy's wrist.
4.You draw and open your tactical folder with your weak hand.
5.You cut bad guy's hand off your gun.
after 20+ years of hand-to-hand training that sounds like pure nonsense to me. you can't focus on both hands with complicated moves while somebody is grabbing your gun. and btw that "idea" forgets the second hand of the gun grabber.

Grab his hand, kick his knees from the side and use your second hand to hurt him fast (eyes, throat, groin, or rip of his fingers and break them quick).

phew, what a mall-nija-idea. devastating.:barf:

October 7, 2006, 06:39 PM
1.You carry a tactical folder in your weak side pocket.
2.Bad guy grabs your gun.
3.You shoot him until the magazine runs dry.

October 7, 2006, 06:44 PM
Para bellum if you look back at the article the part you quoted is exactly what the author himself disagreed with. The second part is what the author recommends. It's from a police instructor so I think it's a bit more logical than "mall ninja" training, but take from it what you want.

1.You carry a tactical folder in your weak side pocket.
2.Bad guy grabs your gun.
3.You shoot him until the magazine runs dry.

Shoot him with what Cobray? Your holstered gun? Your back-up gun?

I realize everybody is gonna have differing views, but I posted this for the tactical applications of the use of a KNIFE against a gun grab. I really don't want this to deteriorate into a "WELL I'D JUST DO THIS!" Kinda thread.

Can we keep it to within the confines of this specific tactical application? Please? I'm begging here.

October 7, 2006, 06:51 PM
I guess I don't understand the scenario, I just assumed he grabbed the gun but it was pointed at him. So if the gun was not pointed at him I think I would try to try it to the center of my chest until I had a massive amount of leverage then point it at him and shoot him.

Or you could just shoot, which would almost certainly dislodge his hand and maybe jam the gun, then either shoot him or bash him over the head with the gun until hes no longer a threat and fix the jam.

October 7, 2006, 06:55 PM
As the article showed (which I couldn't post the pics here) the scenario is as if an assailant approached you attempting to rob you,sees your gun on your hip, and grabs for it.

When he grabs at your gun you lock his arm up underneath yours (pinning his arm between your rib cage and arm) this keeps the gun in a safe direction even if it clears the holster. During this time you bring your knife into play however you see fit to stab,slash,etc.

It's not the best application necessarily, but no training scenario is ever gonna play out textbook in a fight anyway. it's just to give you a well rounded idea of what you COULD do.

October 7, 2006, 07:16 PM
Ohhhh... In that case I really don't know. What I would probably do is pin his arm like you say, then draw a knife and stab him in the face a bunch of times.

October 7, 2006, 07:36 PM
What I would probably do is pin his arm like you say, then draw a knife and stab him in the face a bunch of times.


October 8, 2006, 07:55 AM
Luckily here in Fla, the Gunshine State, our permit is a Concealed Weapons License which authorizes fixed blade knifes. I carry a Gerber Boot Knife with a 3.5", double edged blade, on my weak side with my magazine holder.

Blackwater OPS
October 8, 2006, 12:58 PM
the scenario is as if an assailant approached you attempting to rob you,sees your gun on your hip, and grabs for it.

Why on earth would your strong side be TOWARDS the aggressor? If there is one thing LE training driled in over and over it's PROTECT YOUR GUN.

October 8, 2006, 02:10 PM
Why on earth would your strong side be TOWARDS the aggressor?

Not your strong side! Your front is facing the assailant as if you were talking to him and he suddenly goes for your gun. I'd like to thank my fiance' for being such a good sport lol.

Demonstrative pics below.... I hope this finally clears it up.


Blackwater OPS
October 8, 2006, 02:32 PM
Even if you are just talking, your stong side should be away from the person you are talking to, "bladed" at a 45 degree angle. The situation as described should never happen.

Oh, and I don't see any pics btw.

October 8, 2006, 04:06 PM
This thread is making me think of the best ways to minimize the possibility of a "from the front gun grab". I did see a post mention keeping some distance from an attacker, but how about other thigs to keep in mind, like where to position your holster, the type of holster best suited to avoid a gun grab, or other things one should keep in mind?

October 8, 2006, 04:29 PM
I don't know what happened to the pics. I'll try to fix it in a bit. Sorry about that.

October 9, 2006, 09:54 AM
Ahh! Nothing better than photographs of beautiful women engaging in open combat! ;) Nicely done, Marlboroman!

The problem with the arm lock in that picture is that your girlfriend has already got your gun. If you arm lock her and take her to the ground, all she has to do is go to the ground, collapse her arm, and start firing your gun at you.

The point I am making is, don't WORRY about hurting the other person until you've gotten control of your weapon back. Both hands to the gun, push the gun back into the holster, and twist and turn to shake the grip loose.

Once her grip is loose from your gun, THEN draw and fire repeatedly.

Oh, and FYI, yeah... Multiple stabbing motions are often better than a single slashing motion. The major blood sources in the torso are located about 3" below the skin. So, stabbing is a more reliable way to get to them.

(For a detailed rant about "structural" vs. "vascular" vs. "neurological" targets for knife fighting, please refer to YEARS of training in Samurai swords...)

Para Bellum
October 9, 2006, 01:32 PM
Try it: Get a toy gun (or a rubber-replica) and a rubber knife and make the assailant move and react. You'll find out that you can't control both knife and gun (and moving assailant) at once...

October 9, 2006, 01:50 PM
LICCW, a good start is a leather IWB, like a Kramer, Mcelvoy, or Sparks summer special @ 3-4 o'clock. You may be able to protect the gun with your strong side elbow, maybe clamping it to your side, compressing the holstered gun as well. But, there's a timeing component there also.

It seems like this scenario is set up with open carry in mind.

October 9, 2006, 01:57 PM
Try it: Get a toy gun (or a rubber-replica) and a rubber knife and make the assailant move and react. You'll find out that you can't control both knife and gun (and moving assailant) at once...

We often use rubber guns and rubber knives in martial arts for several different disarming scenarios and while it is hard with someone fighting back, it is not impossible. I've taken both away from guys twice my size, and I've held on to mine a few times as well. It's all about technique.

The thing you have to remember is this, if someone lunges for your gun, then they are off-balance. Grab their arm and twist it up as best you can,pinning it between you,twisting the wrist,etc. Then once their strong arm has limited mobility, you have to deploy your bladed weapon and do what you have to do. Slice,stab,poke,rip,etc.

If you are going to simply hold the attacker's arms or hand to keep him from getting your gun it puts you at a disadvantage, because of the angle. You are trying to keep something in a piece of leather,nylon,or kydex on the side of your hip while a BG is ripping at it with 2 hands at a much better angle of attack. You have to react quickly and violently to keep your gun in a safe position.

October 11, 2006, 08:31 AM
If you want an edged weapon to stop an attempted weapon strip... buy a Ka-Bar "TDI" knife... it hides behind your mag pouch on duty gear (works best for vertical mags pouches)... heck... i wear mine even for ccw... you can find them anywhere.... great tool... very concealed.... i highly recomend it.

October 11, 2006, 12:47 PM
I suggest you stab him in only one place...see number 4....a closer look on correct placement on picture 2. Have a nice day!

October 15, 2006, 06:24 PM
Mentioning the cutting of arms reminded me of kevlar safety sleeves.


Anyone have any experience with these, or know of how effective they are in defending against cuts? Obviously, a careless slip of a carving knife is different from a determined slasher, but it couldn't do anything but help, right?

As for weapon retention, a good idea I read elsewhere was to grab your holster from the bottom and pull it away from your body, causing the top part to angle inwards, making it impossible to pull the gun out.

This means that even the Hulk can't pull your gun out, since he'd have to pull it out through your body, while you have the mechanical advantage of leverage.

(Well, OK, maybe the Hulk could pull it through your body, making gun retention moot, but normal humans couldn't. :D)

This assumes your belt and holster aren't P's.O.S. that'll break under the stress, in which case you'll get what you paid for.

As for the idea of grabbing the attackers arm to hold it...the pictures don't inspire confidence in the idea.

If your hands are wet/greasy, their arms are wet/greasy, or they're wearing loose sleeved shirts, what's to keep their arms from slipping right out of your grip?

October 15, 2006, 07:40 PM
marlboroman84: First off, I hope I'm lucky enough to have to "fight" that kind of assailant... ;)

Second: I like your strategy, but I think the time spent on drawing a knife from a sheath (weak-side or not) would be better spent using various blunt-force-trauma-inducing moves on the unprotected areas of said gun-grabber (who, BTW, has both hands on your gun, IIRC...) with your weak hand while maintaining a grip on your gun with your strong hand.

He grabs your gun....you grab his eyeball....see who lets go first.... :D

October 15, 2006, 07:53 PM
I'm with Samurai on this one. Take care of the problem at hand first, then when the opening exists introduce your weapon or another weapon you have. If someone is trying to take your gun, they are trying because they feel they have the advantage on you, be it size, speed, youth. They aren't making the attempt because they view you as equal or greater in skill, size or strength to themselves.

October 15, 2006, 07:57 PM
Good stuff guys! Like I said earlier on, I think tactics are important training tools, but when it comes down to "fight to live" you're gonna do whatever you can and not really go "oh yea ok let's see #2 on that list was..." I'm just glad everyone can introduce good advice into this!

October 16, 2006, 08:58 AM
I think the article had in general good advice. The point of grabbing the arm is not to overpower the attacker. Grabbing above the elbow is a good idea for the reasons the author mentioned it limits the movement of the attackers arm. Assuming the attacker is reaching across you to grab your gun on your strong side with his strong arm, you would be grab low on the attackers upper arm just above the elbow joint. You would be reaching over his arm with your hand turned up grabbing the bone in the upper arm on the bottom side of his arm. Try to get as far around the bone as possible (that means digging your fingers into his arm under his bicep to get a good grip). The thickness of the elbow joint just below your grip helps to keep your hand from slipping down the arm. You are not trying to overpower the attacker you are keeping yourself attached to him. If you are rigidly attached to his arm and he pulls his arm back you don’t stay still while his arm and the gun retract everything moves together. This keeps the arm attached to the gun, and the gun in the holster.
Then attack the arm. Attacking the arm I believe is good advice too. The attacker will probably be trying to pull back from you to draw the gun which will naturally distance him from you. You are holding his arm. Its position to you will be relatively constant. Would you rather be swing crazily at his head which is whipping around forward and back left and right and maybe even be out of reach, hoping to get lucky or attack the arm that is in your right hand constantly.
If the gun is grabbed from the rear I believe the advice to use both hands and to spin toward the attacker is probably the best advice I’ve seen here.

October 16, 2006, 09:36 AM

Ok. Now everyone at home please look at the close-up of the neck and shoulder diagram, above. Notice, all of the arteries are colored red. Find the two large arteries in this area. The one that runs vertically is called the "Corotid" artery. The one that runs horizontal (under the collarbone) is called the "Subclavian" artery.

When you are taking down an assailant with a blade, your PRIMARY target should be the intersection between these two arteries. A single stab at the intersection of the neck and shoulder, behind the collarbone, that severs both of these two arteries results in complete loss of consciousness within a few seconds (something like 3 or 4 seconds). Death is imminent and irreparable from such a strike.

Learn this point. Know this point. Be able to find this point on ANYONE, in the dark, in the rain, covered in mud, through thick clothing, while wearing heavy winter gloves, while tumbling off the Empire State Building. (I do not like green eggs and ham...)