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Why handgun retention training is essential

It is highly likely that if someone gets your duty firearm ‒ for any reason ‒ that person will kill you

Lindell retention.JPG

Every confrontation a law enforcement officer is involved in, at least one firearm is present, the officer’s firearm. If your firearm is ever taken away from you and you fail to defend your gun successfully for any reason, it may be the first and last time it will ever happen to you. It is highly likely that if someone gets your gun ‒ for any reason ‒ that person will kill you.

Handgun retention, like all training, must be hands-on, with a qualified trainer, and in as realistic an environment as possible.

In 1970, the Kansas City (Missouri) Police Department hired Jim Lindell to supervise its self-defense training. The training was a response to officers having their weapons taken during violent confrontations. Lindell, a martial artist, created an extremely effective and uncomplicated method addressing concerns about officers being disarmed. I was fortunate to train with Jim in 1983 and subsequently had the opportunity to train departments around the country. While there are several other such training methods, I find this system works best and is one of the most natural to learn and use. The course is divided into the retention of handguns and retention of long guns. This article focuses on the retention of handguns and what I have learned over the years of teaching.

Lindell Handgun Retention system

The Lindell Handgun Retention system consists of 12 different techniques. Each technique is divided into three parts with a specific response to a particular kind of attack that is directed against the officer’s weapon. The concept behind the training is that a trained officer will know what to do, will immediately defend the gun and by doing so, limits any surprises for the officer. Of course, there are always unexpected events, and that is where the individual officer’s survival mindset is critical. A well-trained officer will be able to readjust and move forward because of that survival training.

Lindell’s training was designed in obedience to the law of nature. There is no strain in its execution. Obey the laws of nature in all your moves and win; disobey and lose. Let your opponent go where they want to go, bend in the direction they want to bend as you lead them, and then let them fall where they want to fall. There is no need to strain yourself unduly.

To do this, one must understand the seven components of power. Power is different from strength as power is generated through the combination of these seven forces. Strength is only one component.

1. Balance

This must be automatic, instantly fluid, present during the continuous movement and capable of being sustained as momentum increases. Balance is linked with timing and is improved by working with moving targets. Drop your center of gravity.

2. Endurance

This improves with aerobic exercises, like running a SWAT obstacle course. A rule of thumb is to be able to run one mile for every three minutes of fight. Keep in mind, three minutes is only a short time if you are winning the battle.

3. Flexibility

Without this component, you will have tremendous problems during any confrontation. Rigidity comes from tension, fear, nervousness and lack of confidence. Flexibility is improved by stretching and relaxation. You are not expected to do complete splits, but if you move quickly, it is good to know that your hamstrings will not pop out.

4. Focus

This is the result of proper mind-body coordination and will occur when the mental and physical systems complement each other to the point that total concentration can be directed to a specific technique for a short time. Two barriers to this are hesitation and overcompensation. Hesitation is often tied to a lack of flexibility and confidence. Overcompensation is defined as trying to kill the bad guy. Once the techniques are understood, they will flow properly.

5. Speed

This is generated through continuous repetition until a technique is both physiologically and psychologically routine, and lag time is reduced. In other words, your defensive actions become second nature.

6. Strength

You must have some strength. Keep in mind the strongest officer possesses little power when off-balanced, exhausted, or inflexible.

7. Simplicity

Do the technique, nothing more is needed and certainly do nothing less.

The three steps to this system of handgun retention are:

  • Secure the gun
  • Position
  • Release

Secure the gun

Since the attacker is concentrating on grabbing your weapon from the holster or out of your hand, the first thing you must do to counter the attack is to secure the gun. Each of the 12 techniques begins with a specific securing procedure for securing your weapon. In every case, secure the gun first.


As the gun is secured, it now becomes necessary to move in a manner that offers the most significant opportunity to exert maximum leverage and physical stress against the attacker. This action will ensure that a release is accomplished, and at the same time, moving your body to prevent additional assaults. The movement positions and protects the officer. Assessing the attack correctly and moving fast will become second nature if and when the training is serious and ongoing. Remember, this, like much of the training a law enforcement officer requires, is perishable and must be continually updated and practiced.


By the time the officer trained in this system prepares to apply for the release, the attacker is already at a considerable disadvantage. The attacker has been checked in the attempt to gain control of the gun. This plays into the action verses reaction concept. When the attacker begins an attack, all focus is on that attack, and the attacker must regroup to the fact the initial attack was blocked. The officer takes advantage of that. It is now the attacker that must react to your action.

A quick movement by the “centered” officer makes it virtually impossible for the attacker to adjust or move out of the counterattack range. This allows for enough force to be applied to the attacker’s arm to cause the release of the weapon from the attacker’s grip.

The weakest link concept

In every gun assault situation, the release is accomplished by producing more physical stress against the attacker than he or she can withstand. Counterattacks are directed against the attacker’s arm. This includes the hand, wrist, forearm, elbow, or shoulder. The arm is the weakest link. Techniques used are hyperextension of the elbow, rotating the shoulder out of the socket, leverage against the thumb, and striking nerves in the forearm.

If properly trained, the initial success of the attacker causes their ultimate defeat. Once that attacker is committed to gripping the firearm, you know the attacker’s body position and where the focus is directed. The attacker has you right where you want them.

This training should be in every law enforcement officer’s arsenal.

NEXT: Preparing for your moment in front of the muzzle

Marty Katz is a retired sergeant with the Broward Sheriff’s Office in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. During his 34-year career, his assignments included field training officer, SWAT team member, undercover narcotics detective, academy instructor street crime suppression unit and supervisor of Recruitment, Criminal investigations and Patrol. Marty is a Florida Department of Law Enforcement certified instructor (Firearms, Defensive Tactics, Driving, First Responder, Ethics and Human Diversity), Expert Witness for Use of Force issues, a member of ILEETA, and past Florida Chapter Director for the International Association of Ethics Trainers In addition, Marty has trained in Japan with the Tokyo Metropolitan Riot Police and is a martial arts instructor.

Marty is owner and chief instructor of Crimewave Solutions, a training company for officer survival and common sense self defense. His first book, Past the Uniform, was published in 2008.

Contact Marty Katz