Saturday, October 11, 2014

Having a Gun isn't enough: If You Are Not Practicing Weapon Retention, You Are Wrong.

We are an evolved species.  For the most part, the days of brutal close quarters combat with bare hands and swords/spears is over.  We have guns now, and they have come a long way since the matchlock rifle and the ridiculous pants that came with it.  But having guns has not hampered our celebration of those men that fought with sword and shield; we absolutely love the Spartans, we will put that helmet on anything and molon labe the everlovingshit out of any sentence where the phrase fits.  Now, if we suddenly found ourselves required to fight as the Spartans did, I think its safe to say a number of us would gladly accept the ridiculous outfit of a Musketeer if it meant we could have a primitive matchlock.

We evolved though, right?  So the idea of such combat in the face of the modern semi-automatic or select fire weapon is foolish.  I most completely agree.  Given the option between Gladius or Glock, im going Glock because bullets and comfortable distance.  Also, I know the Spartans used the Xiphos and not the Gladius but Gladius sounds better next to Glock so bear with me.  We have little need to learn the mortal arts of pre-firearm combat when firearms are most certainly the best solution to someone attacking you with a sword.  I am as Lanconphilic as the next guy (no, seriously, click that link, I bet you didn't know that was a thing, did you?) but I understand that romanticism is not often reality.

Because we evolved to the gun, some things have been given less precedence and physical ability is certainly one of them.  There is no day-to-day expectation of unarmed combat in the CCW world. Those who practice one martial art or another are in the minority and courses designed specifically for hand-to-hand fighting around the gun are very, very few.  Law Enforcement receives more training on hand-to-hand (weapon retention) around the gun, the quality varies of course from state to state and some officers get the training once in the academy and never see it again.  I would be willing to say that officers end up in fights for their gun more than anyone else and the data supports this.  Most cops "open carry"  The weapon is right there, and to a felon who finds himself without a weapon when interacting with the police, all he has to do is fight for it and its his.  The desire to not go to prison right then may be motivation enough to go for the gun.  That isnt to say that a citizen cant find themselves in such a situation, because it does happen but there is very little reliable data to say how often.  The point being that if it can happen, we should probably be prepared for it in some way.  If you would be willing to nod your head at that last sentence then I have to ask you, have you had any training on weapon retention?  Fighting to the gun?  The answer is probably no for some readers, maybe a majority of readers.  And lets be honest, having a plan in case it happens and actually being capable of exercising that plan can be two very different things. 

We have people who open carry on the citizen side and just like those who choose to conceal their weapon, their skill level, dedication to training and practice and common sense varies.  The stark difference of course is that an exposed weapon and little attention to retention is a formula for life altering regret.  For anyone popping their knuckles in anticipation of an open carry rant, I must disappoint you.  The remainder of this is directed at everyone, those who open carry should just pay closer attention.  I have now laid the groundwork to ask one simple question.

Are you prepared to fight for your gun?

If you own this, the answer is probably "no."
Be Batman, or as Batman as you can be.
Most men are born thinking they know how to fight.  I myself mastered the wrapping paper tube Nunchaku  and infinity magazine Crossman pellet gun before I hit puberty.  On a more serious note, my first school yard fight was a win, most of my school yard fights were a win...while my grade level was still in the single digits anyway.  The first fight I lost was a painful reminder that I had no formal training in fighting of any sort.  I'm sure there are people who can relate.  But those were just silly childhood fights, right?  Yep.  Obviously an adult confrontation is going to be a bit more important, especially if its you defending yourself and/or your weapon or fighting empty handed until you can get to your gun.  A solid understanding of empty handed techniques is important.  So is being in good enough shape to use them.  The general consensus is that in a physical altercation you have around 30 seconds of optimal performance before you begin to fatigue and any strikes or exertions of strength begin to weaken.  30 seconds is an eternity and no time at all depending on the fight.  Even though it shouldn't have to be said, Im going to say it; optimal is going to be different for everyone.  Optimal for a guy who gets winded opening a bag of chips (even if he is wearing a Tap Out shirt) is not the same as a guy who does MMA as a hobby.

He was basically Abe mixed with Brad Pitt mixed with lots of drugs
Fight strength is about balance.  Just being Of Mice and Men strong wont cut it.  Strength needs endurance and cardio endurance is not built on the bench press.  Its also important to note that there is a difference between running cardio and fight cardio.  I discovered this difference during a work-study program called I Dont Want to Go to Jail put on by a wiry aspiring felon with the fighting abilities of a spider monkey on HGH and PCP.  This wasnt a gun struggle, but it almost was and it changed my mind about some things.  The biggest one being that I needed a better 30 seconds.  I can run and run and run at a decent pace in a straight line for some miles, but explosive power in close quarters requires a conditioning you cant get watching CNN on mute while you praddle away on the treadmill.

Expectations and reality being at odds have given us Greek Tragedy classics, Adam Sandler having a career and people paying to watch a dude smash fruit with a hammer.  While sad,  these are mostly benign in their lasting effects on your life.  Weapon retention can have a decidedly more permanent impression on your reality.  Consider that professional training for firearms is a huge market, but the training for weapon retention is quite small and not nearly as celebrated.  Instructors that teach "reality-based" self-defense with a firearm deserve the quotes around that term if they don't cover weapon retention.  I can only think of a small handful of trainers actually teaching legitimate skills for weapon retention (that number grows a bit if I include techniques that look good on a mat, or work awesome when choreographed but that's theater, not reality).  An honest instructor knows weapon retention is important, so why isnt it more of a focus?

Gun Kata doesnt count because its not an actual noun.

In case you needed a visual
Well, because its hard.  teaching it is hard.  Teaching it honestly with sound techniques is hard.  Also, if you are teaching any sort of physical skill and you are more Jigglypuff than Juggernaut, you will not be taken very seriously, if at all.  Strict martial arts is filled with a lot of choices.  Some of those choices can help with weapon retention, most cannot.  The martial art world and the firearms world are distant cousins that dont always talk at family reunions and dont agree on much when they do.  There are a few exceptions of course, but sometimes even those are more fad than fact.  If we had more of a demand for weapon retention training, we would have a greater access to it and instructors not able to address it would either have to educate themselves, or step outside of the "reality-based" line.  If you carry a firearm for self-defense, you should be seeking weapon retention training out.  Its that simple.

Oh but why?  What are the chances that you will end up in a fight for your gun?  Hmmm.  Well, its not just about struggling over your gun and suddenly wishing you didn't have a Fobus holster.  What about being knocked to the ground and having the shit kicked out of you?  Do you know how to fight back to your feet, or are you ready to wing it?  What about facing a bat, a knife, a 6 foot section of re-bar?  It really boils down to the fact that there is only one positive outcome but dozens of negative ones.  Is there anything at all to be gained from not having a firm understanding of techniques to protect your weapon and combat physical attacks?  I cant think of one.  I'm sure I can make some excuses, I can make biscuits too but they suck just as much (im a terrible cook because I never learned how).  Is weapon retention training too serious?  Is there such a thing as the causal self-defense CCW?  No, hurt feelings aside, either you are 100% or not.  

We don't need to be Spartans, but we damn sure need to be physically ready for the fight.  The time you put into this is worth it.  For long term health, better skill and confidence we need to win.  Your fight may never come, if it does you will be thankful for preparing.  The alternative doesn't even qualify as an excuse.  So if you find yourself in a fight for your life, how much fight will you have?  You will have the rest of your life.  How long that is, is entirely up to you.


  1. I agree and being in shape isn't good enough. In the real world there's no time to stretch or limber up. When carrying it's important to be physically ready to be fight with a holstered gun as there isn't always a perfect chance to pull and shoot. I'll be taking a retention course soon. Great fun write up here

    1. Agree with you 100%! And the last paragraph pretty much sums it all up! Studied martial arts for years, but I ain't young anymore. Now, off to find a good class.