Before we begin, it’s important to note that disarming a shooter is incredibly difficult, dangerous, and requires both training and mental aptitude. Unless an attacker is untrained, unskilled, or inebriated, you must understand that they have the advantage. They have the weapon.
Even a professional will only have a small chance of disarming an armed attacker before it’s too late. Having said that, some chance is better than no chance, and proper preparation can save the lives of you, your family, and possibly dozens of innocent bystanders.
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The best way to stop an armed attacker is with a weapon of your own.
As the shooting in the West Freeway Church of Christ showed, the quickest and most effective way to stop an armed attacker is with your own weapon. It is obvious from the video that had the good guys not been armed, many more would have died that day.
The age of the parishioners, the layout of the room, and the shooter’s choice of initial targets meant very few people could have reacted to stop him without a firearm ready.
With that said, we can’t always be armed (what if your swimming, let’s say), and not every scenario will take place in the same way. Today’s article will be assuming that we don’t have a readily available firearm of our own on hand.
I’m not going to lie—when someone has a weapon and intends to do you harm, you are at a distinct disadvantage. But people survive similar circumstances all the time. This article is full of just such examples.
General Rules for Scenarios Where a Gun is Drawn on You:
This is a bit of a Tl;DR: If escape is a possibility, it will always be your best option for self-preservation. If escape is unlikely, you must fight back immediately. Just don’t expect to outrun a bullet. Run behind cover and keep moving. If you are in a car, keep driving as speed enhances the window’s ability to deflect rounds.
Now, if you can’t escape and you are unarmed, this then becomes similar to a mass shooting scenario (at least from your perspective). You need to close the distance quickly with the shooter and control the weapon.
“Always run away from a man with a knife and toward a man with a gun.” — Mafia hitman Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran
This quote is pretty accurate, though to be fair, I’d take my chances outrunning someone with a pistol past thirty yards or so. But, that might just be me hoping they are as bad a shot as I am. If you are unarmed and you are dealing with an opponent with a firearm, you better hope luck is on your side, and your opponent has little tactical knowledge.
In a mass shooting scenario where nobody is able to shoot back, then unless you or others are able to escape quickly, you need to rush the shooter and disable them. If you have to shove your pencil into his eye socket, so be it. I don’t want to get too graphic here, but the people who hid and cowered in the Paris nightclub shooting were tortured to death.
Conversely to that scenario, U.S. National Guardsmen rushed a shooter with the same weaponry on a French train and were able to neutralize him. In another incident, a student gave his life rushing the shooter with others, and they also prevented a mass killing. This man stopped a synagogue shooting by simply yelling and charging the shooter with extreme purpose.
In a Mass Shooting
- Recognizing the sound of gunshots
- Reacting quickly when gunshots are heard or a shooting is witnessed
- Evacuating the area if possible
- Hands up in case police arrive
- If not, hideout and acting against the shooter when found
- Turn off the lights
- Barricade the room
- Take active defensive positions/weapons
- Act against the shooter if they are aware of you and escape is not reasonable or possible
Of course, the scenario and your relative positioning will dictate your best life-saving actions.
The less time you give a shooter to aim and the more pressure you put on them, the less likely you are to take a lethal shot. Distraction by charging them, throwing objects at them, or anything that can stop them from taking controlled shots will preserve life.
It is crazy to consider, but kids in classrooms are being taught to all throw their heavy textbooks at the shooter while charging him—at a certain point, it’s your only option.
- Space out and create distance, so you aren’t all one target.
- Position yourself to ambush the attacker
- Anything can be used as a weapon.
If you want to learn more about this topic, then I recommend the ALICE Training Institute which specializes in training schools and businesses in mass shooting prevention.
In a Mugging
If you are being mugged, you don’t want to risk your life unnecessarily; your wallet and your watch aren’t worth it. At the same time, you don’t know someone’s intention, and if you wait for the other person drawing a gun on you to state their intention, you may have missed your opportunity to react.
You need to stay aware of what is going on and who is around you. Try to detect possible threats before they occur. Hopefully, this will allow you to better judge a situation and how you can best reply to it. If you can determine if the person means to harm you or others or to simply rob you, you can maximize your chances of surviving the confrontation.
There is no right answer, but the wrong one will get you killed.
There are multiple valid options when the gun is put to your face or chest. Here is a video of some quick forward-facing disarms. Generally, they involve twisting the weapon against the turn of the wrist or up.
If you can get the opponent’s gun arm into your armpit and you don’t know any techniques, just drop your weight and twist, and you will likely break their wrist or fingers. Keep twisting their wrist while holding the gun pointed away from you until the weapon is yours.
There really are a few reliable and practical disarms from these positions (if the gunman is dumb enough to get that close), but you need to get a friend and practice them or take a class before you expect it to work. What works in one stance and angle often will not work from another angle or position.
Spend some time on Youtube and find a few disarms, get a buddy and a rubber training gun and go at it. You will be surprised at how effective these can be when you can surprise a gunman with them.
Long Gun Specifics
Not much changes from your perspective if the weapon is a rifle or shotgun versus a handgun other than whether or not you should run from the distance you are at. You will need to get hundreds of yards away from a rifle to be safe, while getting 50 yards from a shotgun gives you a decent chance.
Neutralizing the weapon, if you can grab it, is generally more manageable since they have more space for you to grab and leverage the barrel in a safe direction. Twist the barrel (don’t point it at your own head in the process) back into the shooter, smash it into them and try and rip it from their hands — nothing too scientific here.
This is a solid video showing some unarmed techniques to use against an attacker with a shotgun or rifle. In the video, he punches, but I’d say grab the weapon with both hands immediately.
If you can get a good grip with one hand, then use your other hand/thumb to attack his eyes (rather than a sport punch). People have a natural reaction to bring a hand up to defend their eyes.
A man at a waffle house was able to disarm a shooter with an AR using violence and surprise. This is another example of something you should train for yourself so you can begin to understand how the body moves and reacts in those sorts of struggles.
- 2018 FBi Crime Report
- ALICE Training Institute
- Academy of Jeet Kune Do Sciences
- Marine Corps Martial Arts Program
- DHS Publication Active Shooter How To Respond
- Run. Hide. Fight. By Ready Houston
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