PRINCIPLES OF SHOOTING FROM THE RETENTION POSITION
The term “shooting from the retention position” simply means that the concealed carrier is shooting from a retracted position in order to protect the handgun from being seized by an attacker that is close enough to readily reach out and grab it. Concealed carriers might be sorely disappointed to discover that “too close” is farther away than they think.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniformed Crime Report, 692 people were killed with just hands and feet in 2017. This does not count the untold numbers of Aggravated Assaults in which the victims survived thanks to the advanced state of emergency medicine. However, many of these same victims will likely plagued by emotional, mental, and physical health issues for the rest of their lives. In literally every incident, the attackers obviously got “too close” and were likely in a position where they would have had a good opportunity to get their hands on the civilian defender’s drawn handgun. Concealed carriers should give some thought to what might be going on in the criminal offender’s mind if they suddenly see their intended target start drawing a handgun. If the criminal offender is able to strip the handgun from his victim he or she may very well shoot that person and later protest that they were only acting in self-defense.
A video was recently forwarded to me that showed a pretty young woman being taught how to perform retention shooting by a firearms trainer. I was disappointed to see her being taught to extend her non-dominant hand and grab the rubber humanoid target behind the neck, pin her strongside forearm horizontally against her torso, and fire several rounds. I suspect that there are probably highly trained military special operators out there that could have (and may have) pulled this move off, but I am not a fan of this technique for concealed carriers. The reason that I cite this particular video is that the inherent weaknesses of this technique are obvious. One, anytime one willingly projects any part of their body such as an arm or hand in front of the muzzle it may get shot. Two, if the attacker is applying forward momentum the concealed carrier is likely to get knocked to the ground. And three, unless the concealed carrier has some control over the attacker’s hands there is a good chance that he or she will attempt to seize the concealed carrier’s handgun (and likely succeed).
I am actually going to insert my disclaimer here, and not at the close of this article. The rest of this article is no substitute for training, or at least further research by the reader. Instead, it should be considered as merely a notice that there may be a better way to tackle the problem of using a defensive handgun at “too close” distance.
I am fan of the retention shooting method taught by Craig Douglas, Cecil Burch, Paul Sharp, and handgun instructors who have studied under any or all of these gentlemen. This method is based upon a strong forward-leaning athletic base whereby the concealed carrier lowers his or her center of gravity and positions the majority of their weight on the balls of the feet. Students learn how to position the support arm so that it remains clear of the muzzle at all times, as well as how to use the same arm to protect their head from strikes or to help prevent the drawn handgun from being grabbed. The same index points with the dominant arm is used every time (forearm pressed against the ribs, wrist straight, and elbow elevated). By doing so the concealed carrier should know where the muzzle of the handgun is at all times. This is especially important because the concealed carrier should always know if one of his or her own body parts may be in the line of fire, whether forward or behind the attacker. There are multiple benefits to adopting this method, including the following:
- It allows the concealed carrier to better withstand forward pressure exerted by an attacker.
- The concealed carrier is less likely to shoot him or herself with their own handgun if they become entangled with an attacker.
- A handgun held in a proper retracted position is less vulnerable to being grabbed than one in a more conventional extended position.
I recently did a CCW Safe podcast with Don West and Shawn Vincent in which we talked about the Andrew Weiss shooting of Muhammed Rahim. Several lines taken from a highly informative article that Shawn wrote on the event caught my attention:
They backed him (Weiss) up far enough that they blocked Weiss’ access to his car. Weiss displayed his pistol. According to his testimony, they didn’t believe the gun was real. Rahim spat at him and reached for the gun. When Weiss raised his firearm and then chambered a round, Rahim said “do it then.” Weiss did, he fired one fatal round.
It is relatively easy to look at all of the actions that led up to the shooting and then point out that plenty of mistakes were made by all participants and that the shooting was avoidable. However, there are multiple scenarios in which concealed carriers might find themselves in which one variable is always the same: the concealed carrier is in fear of his or her life and displays their handgun, and the other party does not only back off but moves into “too close” distance.
Weiss apparently believed that his only option at that time was to fire his pistol at Rahim. The prosecutor believed otherwise, and Weiss was charged with murder. It is possible that had Weiss felt confident in his ability to shoot from a retention position that he would have not felt compelled to fire that fatal shot when he did.
Many, many, many decades ago when I was in Cub Scouts, one of the Den Mothers told us that the sharper our knives were the less likely that we were to cut ourselves. The same is likely true of concealed carriers. The sharper our knowledge and skills are the less likely we are to use lethal force at an exact point in time when it may not be seen as justified. I believe the ability to shoot competently from retention is one of those important skills.
Steve is a long-time defensive weapons instructor based out of Texas who has trained hundreds of men and women of all ages for more than two decades on how to better prepare to defend themselves and their loved ones. Steve has completed over 80 private-sector and law enforcement-only defensive weapons and tactics classes, and has trained civilian and law-enforcement officers in six states. Moses is a reserve deputy, former member of a multi-precinct Special Response Team, competitive shooter, and martial artist. Steve has written numerous articles for SWAT Magazine and other publications. Steve is a licensed Texas Level 4 Personal Security Officer and Instructor who was Shift Lead on a mega-church security detail for seven years, and has provided close protection for several former foreign Heads of State. He is currently an instructor at Relson Gracie Jiu Jitsu/Krav Maga in Tyler, Texas and Director of Training for Palisade Training Group (www.ptgtrainingllc.com).