Don't Give Up Your Gun: Tips for Weapon Retention - ITS Tactical

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Don’t Give Up Your Gun: Tips for Weapon Retention

By Richard Johnson

Being killed by your own firearm is not the way any of us wants to go. Unfortunately, many law enforcement officers have been disarmed and subsequently killed with their own gun. Some citizens have also met this unfortunate end. There are three things that can help prevent being disarmed by an assailant: awareness, retention holsters and weapon retention training.

While this article will focus on the carrying of handguns, excellent retention techniques exist for the long gun as well. In many ways, retention of a shotgun or rifle is easier than that of a handgun.


The first, and perhaps best, counter to a gun grab is your awareness of the situation. You have to be aware of how your weapons are exposed to the enemy and what pre-attack signals your potential assailant may be exhibiting.

Weapon Exposure

For a law enforcement or security officer, you must be wary of turning your holstered firearm toward the subject you are investigating. The same holds true for any citizen exercising their right to open carry. Turning the gun side of your body toward a potential assailant is an invitation you do not want to send.

If you are standing directly in front of a potential attacker, you can turn your body about 45 °, rotating your weapon-side away from the danger. This will make it harder for the subject to try to grab your gun quickly, but still allow you to face the threat.

Observe Distance

A suspect may try to take your firearm while it is in your hands, not in the holster. When pointing a firearm at a suspect, you want to be very careful in approaching him or her.

One advantage of a firearm is the operator’s ability to place distance between him and the assailant that would not be possible with a knife or baton. Once you close to the distance, the assailant may knock the firearm off target and move to an inside position where you are vulnerable, or the suspect may be able to take control of the gun.

I suggest not closing with the subject unless circumstances demand you to do so. For example, a police officer will have to approach a subject to handcuff him. An armed citizen who is holding an intruder at gun point should avoid approaching the subject.

If you do have to approach, make sure you have cover officers on scene to immediately deliver deadly force if required. An armed citizen is less likely to have such assistance, but a team approach by trained family members is possible.

Pre-Attack Signals

Another aspect of awareness is reading the suspect’s intentions. Oftentimes, an assailant will telegraph his intentions to attack you or to try to disarm you prior to the actual attack.

Pay attention to the suspect and look for behaviors such as:

  • Staring at your firearm,
  • Repeated glancing towards your firearm,
  • Movements to close the distance between you and him,
  • Movements to the side of your firearm,
  • Odd or inappropriate questions about your firearm,
  • Or other body signals that suggest imminent fight or flight (shuffling feet, shoulder shifts, clenching fists, etc.).

If you see a suspect exhibiting these signs, address them as an imminent threat using whichever options are reasonable at that time. Having someone staring at your gun while they are clearly calculating the odds of success is a little unnerving the first time you experience it. How you react can determine the outcome of the encounter before the suspect’s move is ever made.

Retention Holsters

Retention holsters are an excellent tool to help retain control of your firearm in a gun grab. A retention holster does not replace awareness and retention training, but, like a bullet resistant vest, a retention holster may give you the second chance you need to prevail. More than one police officer is alive today because a gun grab was defeated by a retention holster.

By use of levers, hidden snaps, buttons and directional drawing, duty retention holsters can slow or even prevent an assailant from taking your gun. If you are in uniform, I strongly recommend carrying your duty gun in a retention holster.

One of the best retention holsters on the market is also one of the pioneers in this category of gun leather: the Safariland 070 SS-III. The 070 was a Bill Rogers design that Safariland has been selling for about 30 years. I’ve spent a lot of hours carrying guns in this holster, and I give it a wholehearted recommendation.

For citizens exercising open carry, I also suggest a retention holster. A single snap on the top of the holster is easy to defeat, but better than nothing. There are retention holsters on the market for both open and concealed carry, including products from Bianchi, Safariland, 5.11 and BLACKHAWK!

Retention holsters require additional training for unconscious competency. In other words, you need to spend time learning the holster so you can draw smoothly under pressure.

Retention Training

If someone grabs your gun, do you know what to do? Learning techniques to defeat a gun grab can literally be a lifesaver.

Jim Lindell pioneered training in gun retention techniques back in the 1970’s when he was working for the Kansas City Regional Police Academy. Those techniques have been the basis for many retention training programs in the US.

The concept behind most retention training is leverage, not brute force. A small framed officer or armed citizen can easily be overpowered when matching force to force. Leverage, however, allows a small person to move a mountain.

I strongly recommend seeking out gun retention training. An article like this is wholly inadequate to teach the techniques. After you receive the basic training, it is up to you to practice it and make it natural and instinctive.

Don’t forget that an assailant trying to take your gun away is a deadly force situation. Respond appropriately. The use of a back-up gun, knife or crushing blow to the windpipe may all be justifiable in a lethal force encounter.


If you have a firearm for self-defense or you carry one on the job, you owe it to yourself to practice good gun retention. Be alert of your surrounds and who you are dealing with. Get good training and practice it. If you carry an exposed firearm, seriously consider a quality retention holster.

Dying sucks. Giving your gun to the dirtbag who kills you is even worse. Stay safe!

Richard is a Police Officer with a mid-sized department in the Tampa Bay area and also publishes the police training site,

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  • I have a hard time with anything other than kydex retention.

    With the recent Tex Grebner video as well as everything else I’ve experienced in my brief shooting career, I feel that active retention is probably the worst idea ever.

    However, for LEO I see the issue, being as though they may encounter a situation where they are out of power of their firearm(administering aid whatever) and a gun grab could happen.

    For the average Concealed carry person though, it’s probably unnecessary or more likely, dangerous to use.

    • Ken

      I wouldn’t use the Tex Grebner video of him shooting himself as an endorsement against multilevel retention holsters. The reason he shot himself wasn’t the retention holster. It was muscle memory, rushing a maneuver, finger control, and lack of familiarity of the holster.

      What he SHOULD have done is several dry fire exercises increasing to full speed before using live ammo. Kudos to Tex for admitting to pulling a bone headed maneuver–still bone-headed is as bone-headed does. Good thing no one was killed.

    • Good points Ken. Definite points to Tex for making the video. Anyone who doesn’t think the same could happen to them is a fool. Mistakes happen all the time, and no matter how hard we try, we are all just human.

    • wayne

      A brief tenet of Safety: Accidents don’t just happen; they are caused.

    • Interesting viewpoint Rodger. While I can’t agree with you, I certainly respect your opinion.

      Retention holsters are just a tool, but I have found them to be an effective tool for their purpose. Like anything else, there are good ones and bad ones. Becoming proficient with the tool is exceptionally important.

      While it is unlikely a gun grab would happen to you while carrying concealed, open carry presents the exact same issues for the armed citizen that it does to the uniformed cop.


    • I completely understand your point of view, thanks for your article, got me thinking about carry methods/ect!

      Thanks again!

  • “Odd or inappropriate questions about your firearm,”

    The “inappropriate” part just struck me funny. So a violent attacker threatened my life and/or property and I have him held at gun point. We’re clearly into rough, ugly, felony territory here. What could be said to possibly make the situation become “inappropriate” ? 🙂

    I understand the BG asking “how many rounds does that hold?” “what caliber”, etc. Those are legit warning signs. As usual a quality post overall. Thanks -Sean

    • Hi Sean,

      Thanks for the feedback and the compliment.

      I suspect you may have meant it tongue-in-cheek, but by inappropriate I wasn’t talking about when you were pointing the gun at the bad guy. 🙂 I was thinking more about the patrol officer talking to someone on a traffic stop or similar circumstances. It could also be while you are standing in line at the sandwich shop. Weird questions should definitely set off an alarm.


  • Jesse

    Another important thing to remember is location of your knife, if you carry one. Most people carry their knife on the same side as their firearm because that is the side of their dominate hand. But think of this, if someone is trying to pull your gun out of your holster, you are using your dominate hand to hold it in. Carry your knife on the support hand side, so while holding the firearm in the holster with your dominate hand, you can draw and use your knife with your support hand.

    • Excellent observation Jesse. I know there are some questions about the safety of carrying a TDI knife on your duty belt, but I carry one there for the exact reason you mention: to counter a gun grab. Thanks for making that point!


    • Ned

      Jesse, did you mean “dominant” hand? I could wax incessantly sarcastic on your choice of words, or on the fact that you may or may not wear a pink cowboy hat with a peacock feather tucked neatly in it’s rhinestone brim. Instead I’ll be gracious, and say you made a good point!

      I’ll pray for your English teacher, though…

  • Concealment is the easiest method of retention. Out of sight, out of mind, not an issue. Even when open carry is required or preferred, mannerisms and body language can bring attention to your weapon or “camouflage” it.

    Most people that have open carried extensively, already understand this and can make a full-size service pistol seem as unremarkable as a set of keys hanging on a belt. Unfortunately though, it’s not just the fidgety, self-conscious newbie open carriers that have problems with this. Concealed carriers transitioning to open carry generally do well with this, but it’s through self-examination(looking in the mirror, seeing video of yourself, etc.) that you can pick up those subtle indicators like stance, hip placement, where you rest your arms, etc. Once you identify the indicators, it’s a matter of reinforcing good habits.

    This obviously won’t solve every problem, but it might be able to head a few off at the pass.

    • Hi Rob,

      Excellent point about not drawing attention to the firearm. I think that is probably the best first line of defense.


  • Randall

    In a gun grab, it is a close-quarters-battle encounter. Knowing the most potent empty-handed striking areas and vulnerable targets can be the best and quickest way to separate yourself from the potential murderer. Fight to win and stay in the fight. I found a murdered officer, and friend, with my Police K9 dog when he wouldn’t answer his radio. It was a prowler call. Shot with his own .45, he expired before I got there. The killer is serving life, but my friend is still dead. Please think it can happen to you, because it can.


    • Excellent points Randall. I hope everyone takes your painful story to heart.


  • Failure Drill

    There are videos of prisoners training to defeat level I and II holsters (LEO holsters). Nothing but time to train in prison.

  • It does suck to die! Glad to see other supporters of TRAINING! Keep up the good work.

  • One thing I did not see you mention is a CCW BUG (back up gun). These can be a life saver when open carrying, and I won’t OC without one. My main BUG is a S&W 649-3 357 with a 2″ barrel – something hard to be grabbed, that can be brought immediately into service in close quarter combat.

    Great article, thanks for the read!

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