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Carrying a gun is like buying insurance: You have it, hoping you never have to use it.

In most cases, this is true. The vast majority of the more-than-16 million concealed- or open-carry gun owners will never draw their handguns to defend themselves or others.

Nevertheless, we train. We train for that one moment in time when our actions and training determine the result of a life-or-death struggle. It is not at that time that you want to be thinking to yourself, I should have trained harder or sought out better training.

During a recent visit to Salt Lake City for a different article than this one, I was able to connect with my brother. While visiting family is important, this visit was for something more important. Our lives have taken us on different paths of learning—mine was the military, and his was martial arts. He has made a lifelong commitment to martial arts and self-defense. That’s what I was after: his knowledge and experience!

We arrived at his gym to work on some training I have wanted to work on for a while. I had several scenarios I wanted to train on; two of them I feel are the worst cases that could occur, and not just for gun owners. These are things that could happen to just about anyone. I’ll go over one of these here.

Before getting in too deeply, it should go without saying that the drill I am going to cover requires extensive training and practice. I do not recommend trying it just because you read about it here. This is a starting point to get you thinking about the possibilities for additional training in your training regimen.

Going Unarmed

This is pretty much the worst-case scenario: when you are out and unable to carry a gun of your own. You might be in a gun-free zone or another situation that leaves you without a firearm. Without warning, an assailant is upon you, gun drawn, and he’s aggressive or appears mentally unbalanced. In this case, you can comply, but that won’t guarantee you will not be harmed anyway. You might have to disarm your attacker—which is not a guarantee either; some trainers say it’s too risky to ever do.

You first move is to get a solid grip on the handgun without getting your hand in front of the barrel. This should be a quick move, without hesitation or feebleness. For many semiautos, a solid grip will prevent the gun from cycling a round if fired. This might prevent additional shots being fired. In the event the gun is a revolver, blocking the hammer could also prevent it firing, but neither of these situations is guaranteed.

Maintain Contact

You will want to stay in close, because this allows you leverage. Allowing yourself to be stretched out takes your leverage away. Try to keep your head low, with your forehead against the chest of your opponent. This will help prevent you taking blows from fists or elbows.

As you grip the gun, you want to turn it in to your attacker to break it free from their grip. This could be either in and away or out and away. The wrist can only take so much pressure. If the finger is within the trigger guard, it is likely this will break the finger as the gun is turned. The important part is that you keep from bringing the barrel in line with yourself.

You should also be aware of your surroundings so that if a round is fired, it won’t impact an innocent bystander. Once you have possession of the firearm, get some distance and call 911, if possible. If your assailant tries to reengage, you should be good to use deadly force.

Don’t Try This at Home

Again, you should not try this just because you read it here. It takes a lot of practice to conduct this maneuver, and it is not for beginners. Like any kind of training, seek a qualified professional. Better yet, find a few so you can develop multiple techniques.

Seek Out Professional Instruction

One of the worst mistakes we can make as gun owners is to think we have enough training and that we have thought through all situations. It is important to seek out the right kind of training, as well. I have covered situational awareness in a previous column, but it is important to also cover it here: making sure you are aware of what’s going on in your surroundings and avoiding situations that could be dangerous, if possible.

But sometimes, it is not possible to avoid certain areas or situations. That’s where being trained will help provide you with the tools you need to get yourself to safety—or at least in a position of dominance.

Finding a good training professional is difficult. Many will advertise all their qualifications, but the real proof is in the delivery. I was lucky enough to have someone I know and trust to go to.

Take the time to find a quality instructor in unarmed combat to enhance your firearm defense skills. Most clubs will let you observe and maybe even take part in a class to see if it is what you are looking for. Reputable gyms should be willing to provide you with references whom you can talk to about the quality of training.Train hard—your life depends on it!

If you are in Salt Lake City, you can get trained at the 54th Street Gym Bihonte Martial Arts Academy. The focus is not on competition but on how to defend yourself and stay alive. Owner Dan Berry has more than 40 years of experience.


Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the December 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.