We took our minds to a place they had never been before in part one of “Contact Shots.” This month, going over the physical workings of handguns and how to train for contact shots will complete the circle.
Revolvers aren’t as failsafe as you might have thought or heard. The cylinder of a revolver can be stopped from moving with very little force. Also, revolvers with exposed hammers can be stopped from firing by simply keeping the hammer from cocking, and it doesn’t take much. Take the time to try this with an unloaded gun.
Unload and double-check your revolver. Pull the trigger a couple of times to feel how easy it is to pull. Then, take your nonfiring hand and firmly pinch the cylinder between your thumb and forefinger. Try to pull the trigger … it won’t budge. Next, decrease your pressure on the cylinder until you are able to pull the trigger and the cylinder slips through your fingers. You’ll find that it doesn’t take much pressure to keep it from moving.
If you have an exposed-hammer revolver, try applying force to the rear of the hammer when pressing the trigger. Determine how little it takes to keep it from moving by reducing pressure while pressing the trigger. Just laying your finger or thumb behind the hammer is enough; you can’t force the trigger through that obstacle to complete the cocking stroke. If a hammer is cocked and you can get a finger in between the frame and the face of the hammer, you can stop the function there, as well.
A final way to keep a revolver from firing is to get an obstruction behind the trigger itself. It’s probably unlikely that someone would use this technique against you, but you should be aware of the possibility. Knowing that any of these techniques exists will help you defend against them; and they can be something you use against an aggressor who presents a revolver against you.
Contact shots with a revolver are simple—as long as you can press the trigger. Likewise, follow-up shots are easy, as long as you don’t press the trigger partially or stutter-step the trigger. Revolvers are the original point-and-click technology. They function, shot after shot, under circumstances in which semiauto pistols would fail.
“A contact shot could be the way you save your day.”
Semiautomatics would seem to be the most prone to malfunctioning in close quarters—and they are. With so many configurations, semiautos can have some of the same issues as revolvers … and then some. Stopping external hammers from moving and blocking trigger movement are possibilities. However, knocking the slide out of battery just a small amount can keep almost any semiauto from firing. Try these techniques with an unloaded pistol.
Unload your pistol and check it again. Against any piece of furniture or forgiving, but firm, surface, press the muzzle and slide into the surface and press the trigger. Do this with more force and less force to see what happens. The hammer or striker might fall, but likely not with enough force to detonate a primer.
Many of today’s modern semiautos have a safety device called an “out of battery safety.” Obviously designed to keep a gun from firing when “out of battery,” these safeties generally won’t let the firing pin drop when the slide is knocked out of lock-up. The fear is a cartridge firing with the slide unlocked and explosive gasses and casing pieces rupturing from the ejection port. So, keeping the gun in battery (slide locked forward) is not only for safety; it is necessary for the gun to fire.
Forcing the gun to stay in battery using the following techniques allows the gun to fire—but causes the gun to malfunction. This can be good and/or bad.
It could be good if you are fighting over the gun and need a free moment to forget about the gun so you can transition to another weapon or free up your hands to use them to defend yourself. It could be bad if the shot didn’t have the desired effect and you need to fire a second round quickly. It then needs an immediate action drill, or “tap rack,” to clear the spent casing and chamber a fresh round.
“Practicing these gunfighting techniques is best done under the watchful eye of a qualified instructor.”
Keeping the Semiauto in Battery
Two-Handed: With your firing hand on the pistol, use your support hand to come up over the top and grab the slide tightly. Or, place your palm against the back of the slide to hold it in battery (not an option with hammer-fired guns). Either way, when firing, you hold the slide forward in place. This keeps your pistol in battery to fire.
You cannot be hesitant when doing this! If the slide is allowed to unlock at all, it will come back, and you might get hurt. Do not be tentative! It is also imperative that you keep all parts of your hand and body away from the front of the muzzle.
One-Handed: The one-handed method is easily done with striker-fired guns but not so much with hammer-driven guns. When firing and pressing forward, press the thumb of your firing hand into the back of the slide. The gun will not cycle, and your thumb will not be torn off—but you must press firmly into the back of the gun. If the gun unlocks at all, the slide will want to travel to the rear.
Practicing these gunfighting techniques with live ammo is best done under the watchful eye of a qualified instructor. None of them is for the faint-hearted, but if you carry a gun for personal protection, you need to know how to make it work in extreme close-quarters fighting.
A contact shot could be the way you save your day. Whether it’s in cars, elevators or the back of a kidnapper’s van, you never know where your self-defense situation is going to happen.
Remember, life isn’t all rainbow hugs and candy kisses. Train hard to fight easy.
Chris Cerino is a 25-year law enforcement and training professional. He competes in shooting sports to validate his skills. Chris writes on the topic of training and can be seen on a variety of TV shows.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the March 2018 print issue of Gun World Magazine.