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Skill Set: Retention and Backup Guns

by Tiger McKee

Courtesy of The Shooting Wire

Yes, the slide was pulled free from the frame! In addition to backup guns, consider gun retention training and training in the lateral vascular neck restraint from Kansas City's National Law Enforcement Training Center (

Regardless of why you carry a weapon retention techniques are a mandatory skill. Most confrontations occur at close range, putting your weapon within proximity of the threat. It's important for anyone who carries, especially law enforcement officers who carry openly, to insure your weapon doesn't end up in the hands of the bad guy. Having a backup weapon is another good idea. The unexpected constantly occurs in fights, and carrying a spare weapon is cheap insurance. A recent confrontation with one of my guys is a perfect example of these two aspects, and contains several important lessons. (Since legal matters on this case are still in process I can't supply all details.)

Like a lot of confrontations G.G. (Good Guy) ends up fighting on the ground with B.G. (Bad Guy) - same last name, no relation. While applying a chokehold, which is slow to take effect, G.G. feels movement at his holster. He immediately goes into retention mode, preventing B. from getting the pistol out of the holster. As soon as possible G. gets to his feet, creates distance, and draws his pistol. The problem is that B. has applied so much pressure to the pistol that the front of the slide has twisted off the frame's front slide rails. G's pistol is out of commission.

An empty pistol is easily reloaded. Malfunctions can be cleared. A jam at the range probably means tools and time to correct. A breakage, in this case during a fight, is serious. Your pistol ain't shooting. For fighting, facing a sudden unexpected and violent confrontation, backup weapons are essential kit.

G. didn't have a backup firearm, but I bet you won't catch him without one again. In this case everything ended up good. It could have easily gone the other way; the same is true for all of us. Regardless of who you are and what you do, preparing for real world confrontations takes a lot of thought, educating yourself and learning from others, and time, practicing the multitude of skills you may need.

Although G.'s holster doesn't have any retention device it is a good holster. There are a few cracks in the kydex at the top of it, but it didn't fly apart at the seams, even from the amount of torque applied to the weapon's grip. On the range almost any holster will do. In real life you need gear that will hold up to real world use.

Determining what backup weapon to carry will take research; there are always compromises. Work on it until you have the weapon that fits your need and application. As with all aspects of combat once you figure out what weapon you need then practice until accessing it becomes second nature. Keep in mind that depending on the situation the backup weapon may become your primary. Practice for all possibilities.

"Like a lot of us," G. told me, "I'd become complacent."

This is a danger we all face. Dedicate time to learn and practice. Don't neglect dry practice. Tomorrow could be the one. Prepare now.

Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama. He is the author of "The Book of Two Guns," a staff member of several firearms/tactical publications, an adjunct instructor for the F.B.I. and designer of the "Katana" AR carbine, manufactured by Red Jacket Firearms. (256) 582-4777


Uploaded: 8/2/2011