Your Tactical Training Scenario- Pistol as Impact Weapon

Have you ever considered using your handgun as an impact weapon? Before you do, you may want to think about a few things.

Take a look at this article. A cop used his pistol to break a car window and accidentally cranked off a round. Don’t think that trying to break a window with the butt of a pistol is an isolated incident. I’m aware of an officer from a police department near me doing the same thing. Luckily the gun didn’t go off. The strike did, however, rip off the floorplate of his magazine and showered the roadway with cartridges he might have needed if the confrontation became more serious.

The problems with using the handgun as an impact weapon are two fold. The first is that you may accidentally fire the weapon. This happens quite regularly. Here is another story where an armed citizen accidentally fired his weapon while striking an attacker with the pistol. The other problem is that you may damage your pistol or render it incapable of firing. Breaking your gun or firing a round unintentionally are negative consequences you will definitely want to avoid.

Is there ever a reason to hit someone or something with your pistol?

Guns should not be used to break windows. But there are a few instances when it is advantageous to use a drawn pistol as an impact weapon.

Here’s my question to you…Under what circumstances would you hit someone with your pistol and how would you do it so as to maximize damage to the bad guy while minimizing damage to your gun?

I can see two possible situations where using a pistol as an impact weapon would be a useful tactic.

The first one is if your gun has malfunctioned or is empty in a contact distance fight. In that case, we don’t have to worry so much about firing an unintended round. The pistol won’t work, so using it as an impact weapon seems completely reasonable.

I’ve even trained with instructors who advocated adding a simulated muzzle strike to the “tap, rack, assess” malfunction clearance procedure when at extremely close range. It makes sense in that scenario. Why not smash the guy in the face to buy you time to clear your malfunction?

The second instance is when you have a gun out in hand and the threat becomes physical, but non-lethal.

Let’s say that as a cop I respond to a call about a person who is reportedly armed with a firearm. As I approach, I will probably have my pistol in hand. What happens when the suspect is actually unarmed, but physically attacks me before I can reholster my gun? I don’t want the suspect to grab my gun. I don’t want to take the time to reholster when I’m under attack, but I really don’t want to shoot the suspect either.

In this situation, a strike with the pistol may be an effective option. If I would be justified using a more traditional impact weapon like a baton to defend myself, the emergency use of a handgun as an impact weapon would likely also be acceptable, assuming I have enough trigger finger disciple to avoid shooting an unarmed suspect.

So, how would I hit someone with a pistol in such a manner that I avoid damaging the weapon?

In this article, Mike Seeklander tried a variety of different pistol strikes against a “BOB” dummy and then attempted to fire rounds from the handgun he had used for the strikes. None of the strikes he used either broke the guns or caused them to malfunction.

I would be extremely cautious about using one of the pistol strikes he illustrates. The “hammer strike” he demonstrates (using the trigger guard and bottom of the barrel as a striking surface) may work well with a modern polymer pistol. It may not work so well with a steel or aluminum framed handgun. Handguns with metal trigger guards can bend if hit hard enough. I would hate to collapse my trigger guard behind my trigger so that it blocks the trigger from moving rearward. I don’t like the “hammer strike” with a pistol.

Instead, when striking with the pistol, either punch with the muzzle or hit the person using a “ridge hand” like hooking strike with the top of the slide. These two methods are least likely to jam or damage your gun.

If you choose to hit someone with your pistol, you MUST keep your trigger finger out of the trigger guard and high up along the frame or slide of the weapon. Don’t take the chance that you will accidentally fire a round when doing so is not legally justified.

It would be a good idea to occasionally practice these strikes using a simulated firearm and a heavy bag or “BOB” target like the one showed above. Get a feel for the mechanics of the strike before you have to utilize it under pressure in the real world.

Like many other firearms techniques, proper practice is the key to success.

Greg Ellifritz is the full time firearms and defensive tactics training officer for a central Ohio police department. He holds instructor or master instructor certifications in more than 75 different weapon systems, defensive tactics programs and police specialty areas. Greg has a master's degree in Public Policy and Management and is an instructor for both the Ohio Peace Officer's Training Academy and the Tactical Defense Institute.

For more information or to contact Greg, visit his training site at Active Response Training.

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