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Defensive tactics training: Preparing for your moment in front of the muzzle

You are looking down the muzzle of a semi-automatic pistol held by a man at point-blank range, what will you do next?

Marcou Disarm 1 IMG_8028 (2).JPG

Having been an active street cop for the entire 33 years of my police career, as well as an active police trainer for 43 years, in this series I share some of the defensive tactics techniques that helped me prevail on the street. The series presents a variety of defensive tactics in a format that allows you to follow the instructions and practice the technique. Remember practice makes prepared.

Imagine you are looking down the muzzle of a semi-automatic pistol held by a man at point-blank range. He has somehow managed to get your weapon, or maybe he has his own and yours is not available. He pauses to say to you, “I am going to blow your f---ing head off, you mother-f---ing pig”

If you have to stop and think about what you would do, you are not yet ready for the moment, for you only have three choices:

  1. Place your life into the suspect’s hands and submit to his whims, hoping he does not kill you.
  2. Panic and do nothing, or react wildly without focus, because your mental and physical training has not prepared you for this moment.
  3. Initiate a pre-trained disarming technique before he finishes his sentence.

When faced with this, would you fight, flee, or submit?

In this article, I will describe an effective disarm. There are many viable pistol disarms you could choose to train in, but the one below is a good place to start, because it is effective, as well as relatively easy to learn.

SAFETY NOTE: If you practice any disarming techniques it is best to use non-firing molded plastic weapons and proper protective gear. It is important to know that when you start dynamically training disarming techniques even the molded plastic sights on training guns can lacerate unprotected skin. I have often used ground-smoothed training weapons in this type of training to avoid these injuries. TO PREVENT INJURY AND DEATH DO NOT USE LIVE WEAPONS FOR DEFENSIVE TACTICS TRAINING, EVEN IF THEY ARE CLEARED!

With those cautions given, here is a close-quarter pistol disarm tactic for you to practice.

1. Distract

If you can distract the gunman for even a moment this will increase your odds of success. For example, if you have your car keys in your hand, hit the alarm button. This will instinctively cause him to look toward the noise. Another simple distraction would be to throw whatever is in your hand into your attacker’s face. A more subtle distraction would be to look over his shoulder as if you are looking at someone behind him. You can even say to that imaginary person, “Don’t do it! He has a gun on me,” or “Jump him!”


In a moment you pivot, establish the proper grip and create a malfunction.

As already mentioned, If the criminal is talking to you, that is a natural distraction in itself. For example, if he says, “Do you believe in Jesus? Well, you are about to…” in mid-sentence, move hard and fast and don’t stop until you have either succeeded or are being introduced to Jesus.

2. Pivot or side-step and control the weapon

Your first move should be to either pivot or lateral side-step, just enough to move out of the line of fire as you grasp the weapon. With your strong hand (gun-hand) control the under-side of the barrel, wrapping your fingers around and over the top side of the barrel. Simultaneously, wrap your reaction hand (non-gun-hand) over the slide up to, or slightly over the rear sights. Grasp tightly, as you try to move the slide back, placing the weapon “out of battery” so it can’t be fired.

3. Break the grip and disarm


Lever the weapon out of his grip.

As soon as you have a grip on the weapon lever the barrel upward and toward the gunman’s forearm (like you are putting a gas nozzle into your car’s gas tank.) In conjunction with this movement, your reaction (non-gun) hand reinforces this movement but simultaneously pulls the weapon out and away (toward you) from the fingers of his hand. This movement is done as your back foot (strong) steps away from the suspect and your reaction foot follows sliding into a good stance, taking control of the weapon. This creates a dynamic whereby your entire weight is in motion and reinforcing the disarm.

Once you have the weapon, transition to your own if you have one. It is best to use a weapon you can count on rather than an unknown. If it is your weapon you have reacquired, be aware that this disarm may have created a malfunction that you may have to quickly clear before the weapon can be fired in the defense of your life.


Step back and away as you lever the gun out of his hand.

Whether you fire or not depends on the threat that exists the moment after you successfully disarm the suspect. An imminent deadly threat may still exist and you may choose to fire at the suspect to stop the threat. Or, the disarm may have eliminated the imminent threat and you may choose to verbalize orders, such as, ”Police! Get down on the ground! Arms out! Palms up! Don’t move!”

Revolver disarm


If it is your gun, clear the malfunction your disarm has created and defend yourself or cover and give commands.

The disarm of a revolver remains the same except when you grasp a revolver, you will attempt to lock up the cylinder with your reaction hand, preventing it from revolving, while simultaneously keeping the meat of your reaction hand between the cocked hammer and the firing pin, preventing it from going bang.

To repeat, practice this technique only with a non-firing training weapon. It is important to continually practice keeping the muzzle directed away from your body throughout the disarm since the suspect may fire the weapon during the disarm.

Last word

Attempting to disarm a person who has a gun pointed at you is a life-risking endeavor. Your firearm is the best defense against another firearm.

However, if I ever find myself unarmed at point-blank range with a criminal shoving a pistol in my face, I know what I would do. Rather than place my life into the hands of a criminal, I would prefer to place my life into my own empty hands that have been prepared in an ongoing manner my entire life to prevail in that predicament.

How about you? Have you properly prepared yourself for your moment in front of the muzzle?

Photos by Anya Marcou. Techniques demonstrated by Lt. Dan Marcou and Aidan Marcou.

NEXT: Access Dan Marcou’s entire defensive tactics training series here

Lt. Dan Marcou is an internationally-recognized police trainer who was a highly-decorated police officer with 33 years of full-time law enforcement experience. Marcou’s awards include Police Officer of the Year, SWAT Officer of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year and Domestic Violence Officer of the Year. Additional awards Lt. Marcou received were 15 departmental citations (his department’s highest award), two Chief’s Superior Achievement Awards and the Distinguished Service Medal for his response to an active shooter.

Upon retiring, Lt. Marcou began writing. He is the co-author of “Street Survival II, Tactics for Deadly Encounters.” His novels, “The Calling, the Making of a Veteran Cop,” “SWAT, Blue Knights in Black Armor,” “Nobody’s Heroes” and “Destiny of Heroes,” as well as two non-fiction books, “Law Dogs, Great Cops in American History” and “If I Knew Then: Life Lessons From Cops on the Street.” All of Lt. Marcou’s books are all available at Amazon. Dan is a member of the Police1 Editorial Advisory Board.