Here's how a firearm is most effective for self defense.

The handgun is one of the most powerful personal tools for the taking of human life. But it’s not foolproof. It is a tool that can aid in the defense of your life, but that doesn’t mean it will save your life. As an external device, it has several inherent disadvantages, which are magnified in close combat.

In order to be effective, a firearm for self defense must be:

1. Deployable

If you can’t get to it, it’s obviously of no use to you. And in close quarters, especially when you’re already physically engaged with the man, it can be difficult—if not impossible—to manage the time and space needed to clear it. If you have to go digging for it, you will give the man the opportunity he needs to continue his assault.

2. Operable

As a device, it has to be in working order in order to do any work. If it malfunctions, is jammed or empty of ammunition it becomes worse than useless—it’s now a distraction keeping you from affecting change in the real issue: that active human brain bent on your destruction.

3. Employed with accuracy

This one may seem obvious, but how many of us have trained to shoot inside of three feet while getting punched in the head? It’s as hard as it sounds. Each missed shot is a wasted opportunity, your time, effort and attention spent for zero effect.

Fortunately for everyone involved, no one knew how to cause debilitating injury. I say “fortunately” because there was no loss of life and everyone survived. Dumb luck ruled the day. But you can’t ever rely on luck—you could run this same scenario a hundred times and have this be the only instance with a happy ending.

From both sides of the equation—whether you have the firearm deployed or he does—the essential problem is not the gun, but the brain operating the functional body that holds the gun.

Here’s a quick way to understand this: If you’ve drawn down on each other at range, where do you shoot? Do you try to trick-shoot the gun out of his hand? Of course not—you shoot center of mass to open up the circulatory system and deprive the brain of oxygen and take it offline, and/or to hit the spine and sever the brain’s control of the body. A bullet in the brain itself would be even better. Either way, you’re attacking the root of the problem. A gun isn’t a problem when the guy holding isn’t functional. It’s only when it’s in the hands of someone who can think and move that it’s an issue. And so you must seek to directly affect his ability to do both.

This is also true when going against a firearm with your bare hands. You can’t send a bullet into the other guy, so you must do the same work with your body in motion, smashing important anatomy to render him non-functional. You don’t want to wrestle over a firearm in the same way you wouldn’t try to shoot the gun out of his hand—it’s hard (if not impossible) to do and doesn’t really take care of the essential issue.

Grappling over a gun without causing debilitating injury can be risky. If you don’t wreck his ability to think and move then you haven’t really solved the problem and so are left to rely on luck… an element that’s often absent.

The man pushes the gunman, closing distance and not allowing that space to open back up, providing an opportunity for the other passengers to pile in. Luckily, we have the best possible outcome in this scenario—but with a lack of debilitating injury it was still just dumb luck that no one was shot and killed, even if only accidentally. While effective—this time—we should not view such solutions as being free of risk.

These videos illustrate that the handgun is not the ultimate, end-all tool. It’s just a device at the end of the brain-body chain—it’s never about what he has in his hand, but whether he can think and move. This idea can inform our thought and training from both sides: It lets us know that facing a firearm while “unarmed” is not hopeless, and that it’s probably not a good idea to put all our faith in a single solution that can be unavailable, taken away, or malfunction.

Hand-to-hand skills are instantly deployable, always operable, and are specifically designed for use at contact range. Accuracy still matters, of course, but instead of trying to intersect his anatomy with a point—that can miss with a twitch—we’ll use multiple tools, shaped and aimed specifically to increase the likelihood of striking a blow that matters. (For example, using the ulna bone in the forearm as a baton, swinging it through the neck by “crossing the T” with the two skeletons, your ulna chopping through is cervical vertebrae.)

Inflicting debilitating injury with your bare hands is not only immediate and reliable, but it also gives you the time and space to deploy a firearm—or can even end the situation without having to fire a shot. Training your brain to wield your body as an injury tool is the ultimate concealed carry—meaning you’re never truly unarmed—and giving you more than a single, external option for taking out threats. And the more options at your disposal, the more likely it is you’ll find the right answer when your life depends on it.


Tim Larkin

Self-Protection Expert & Founder of Target Focus Training
Author of When Violence Is The Answer

Scroll to Top