"The Retention Position" — When An Attack Becomes Too Personal - By Ronald Andring

Ronald Andring, Sr. is a veteran of a 30+ year career in law enforcement and corrections, serving with the Washington State Patrol, the Walla Walla Police Department, and the Washington Department of Corrections until his retirement in 2005. _____________________________________________

I think we all dread the thought of being confronted by an attacker. We practice our draw stroke, sighting our target, and firing rounds at the attacker. The data says should we be confronted by an attacker he/she will be some distance away from us generally allowing us to fully extend our hands before firing. But what do we do if the attacker is upon us, and we find ourselves in a hand-to-hand encounter? To my thinking this is a worst case scenario. You are in a dangerous position, and your response, if not well planned and executed, can be equally dangerous to you.

Hopefully when you are out and about you are maintaining a state of alertness. By being alert to our surroundings we increase our ability to spot potential threats, and respond soon enough to keep a threat at a distance. But even the best of us can be blindsided by an unexpected threat because sometimes even our best instincts are not enough.

Protect Your Head And Your Firearm

Should you find yourself attacked in a hand-to-hand situation it is vital that you do two things immediately. First, protect your head. Your body and extremities can take blows, but if you are struck hard enough in the head you stand a good chance of losing consciousness, and becoming defenseless before you have a chance to defend yourself. The type of attack will determine your precise response, but your first instinct should be to raise your support arm above and in front of your head to ward of blows by fists, blunt objects, or even edged weapons. This position allows you to see your attacker while moving your arm as necessary to ward off any blows to your head.

Second, protect your firearm. Practice responding to any potential threat by turning the part of your body where you carry your firearm away from the threat as soon as you detect it. You want to put as much distance between your attacker and your firearm as you reasonably can. I carry my primary EDC on my hip. I have trained myself to turn my hip away from strangers or situations that may pose a threat. It isn’t obvious to most people, but it has become an ingrained response from years of practice.

Firmly Grip Your Firearm

Once you have established your defensive position, move your shooting hand to your weapon and establish a firm grip. You don’t want to have your firearm knocked out of your hand, or worse, taken from you by your attacker. At this point a discussion of where you carry your firearm is in order. For the purposes of this technique, in my opinion, acceptable locations for carrying your firearm are appendix, hip, or back. The locations are well suited to the retention position technique. More problematic locations are shoulder, ankle, and cross draw holsters. Drawing from these positions exposes your firearm to a greater chance of being knocked out of your hand, or being taken from you.

Draw To Your Chest

With your weapon firmly gripped, draw the firearm from its holster and move your shooting hand up your body to your chest. Keeping your firearm close to your body increases your ability to retain it securely. With your firearm at chest level point the muzzle toward the attacker. From this position you can fire two or three quick shots directly into your attacker. Some instructors recommend the muzzle be aimed slightly upward to target the attacker’s chest. Some recommend a horizontal point of aim at the attacker’s mid-torso. Others recommend a slight downward angle aiming at the attacker’s pelvic area. I personally prefer the latter for my own safety. If you are using a semi-automatic pistol cant your hand slightly away from your body so the slide does not become entangled in your clothing rendering it inoperable.

While the purpose of this technique is to deliver a few quick shots into an attacker to convince him/her to disengaged an attack, it is critical that you do not inadvertently shoot yourself as well. These close encounters are dynamic, and pose a serious risk to you if your support hand is brought down into the field of fire. Aiming slightly upwards increases this risk, as does a horizontal position to a lesser degree. Pointing the muzzle downward into an attacker’s pelvic area provides the greatest margin of safety, while still providing devastating injuries to the attacker.

Back Away

Once you have delivered a few quick shots, hopefully your attacker begins to retreat. At this point take a couple of quick steps backward to create some distance. While pushing your strong hand forward, bring your support hand down, around the side, and up into your strong hand obtaining your normal firing grip. It is important that you practice bringing your support hand from its defensive position safely so it does not cross the muzzle of your firearm. You cannot practice this enough in my opinion. It must become second nature, as your natural reaction to the threat works against thinking what you should do at that moment. You should continue firing follow up shots until the threat is stopped.

After Shooting Followup

It is a mistake to assume once the primary attacker is down the threat is over. He/she may have accomplices, so it is important to bring your firearm to a low ready with your finger off of the trigger. Take a moment to do a 360 degree visual sweep of the surrounding area to determine if any additional threats are present. If the attacker was armed, and his/her weapon is still accessible, move that weapon away if safe to do so. Otherwise, do not disturb the scene. There will be an after shooting investigation, and moving items may lead investigators to suspect the scene was staged after the shooting. If the attacker is moving it is important to cover him/her at a low ready, giving clear instructions to stay down, not move, keep his/her hands visible, and to not touch the weapon.

As soon as it is safe to do so, call 911 to report the shooting. Tell the authorities it was a defensive shooting, the attacker is down, and you will surrender to the responding officers. If safe to do so, place your weapon in an open area away from you, and position yourself in a non-threatening manner, with hands empty and visible. Do not use your phone to make additional calls until after the responding officers have cleared you to do so. Having a cellphone in your hand when police arrive may get you shot because they mistook it for a weapon. Be prepared to be taken into custody while the preliminary investigation is conducted. Finally, give the officers a brief statement regarding the shooting, stating just the basic facts, and tell them you will submit to a more in depth interview once you have spoken with an attorney.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Ronald Andring, Sr. is a veteran of a 30+ year career in law enforcement and corrections, serving with the Washington State Patrol, the Walla Walla Police Department, and the Washington Department of Corrections until his retirement in 2005."

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