Weapon Retention/Disarms with Paul Sharp

The second block of instruction I attended at the 2015 Tactical Conference was on weapon retention and disarms as taught by Paul Sharp of Sharp Defense. As a police officer, Paul has found himself in a scrape or two with bad men and has had to defend against weapon snatch attempts. Police departments these days usually mandate some sort of security holster but at least in my experience people often misunderstand the point of such a holster. It’s not a hip-carried bank vault that prevents unauthorized access. A good security holster (and there are certainly bad ones out there) buys the officer time. Hopefully enough time to do something significant and useful in their own defense.

This week a weapon grab made national headlines in Los Angeles as all the hash-tagging “social justice” numbskulls got up in arms about video of the LAPD shooting a “homeless” man. This despite the fact that it was pretty darn clear from the video that the “homeless man” (who, in reality, was a fugitive wanted for violent crime) tried to snatch an officer’s weapon.

A combative subject tries to take the sidearm of an LAPD officer trying to subdue him without using lethal force.
A combative subject tries to take the sidearm of an LAPD officer trying to subdue him without using lethal force.

In this case thankfully the officer had other officers on scene backing him up and they were able to protect him. Unfortunately that’s not always going to be the case for a police officer…or for a private citizen. A lot of folks openly carry a firearm these days but it’s rare that I encounter someone who has undergone any sort of training in how to defend their firearm from a grab attempt. Worse, a number of open carriers I’ve met hold the silly idea that openly carrying a handgun will somehow magically prevent any weapon grab attempt like a gris-gris wards off bullets or evil spirits. That’s just not the case. Remember that George Zimmerman, a guy carrying concealed, found himself in a fight for his pistol after he’d been blindsided by his assailant.

Paul’s presentation at the Conference was aimed at giving folks who don’t have his years of martial arts or policing experience some effective techniques for preventing a weapon snatch…and, alternately, for successfully pulling one off.

When you look at how criminal assaults like armed robbery and the like go down, you see a pattern: Bad guy likes to get close, pull out a weapon, and invade your personal space. Having some effective techniques to deal with that kind of situation is a much better alternative to just hoping you don’t get shot.

Paul Sharp explains averting the muzzle away from your anatomy in the initial stages of a defensive weapon grab.
Paul Sharp explains averting the muzzle away from your anatomy in the initial stages of a defensive weapon grab.

Paul mentioned the concept of “tool fixation” as both a danger and an opportunity. To explain it simply, if you’re pointing a pistol at me at close range and I suddenly try to grab that pistol (after averting the muzzle away from my anatomy) then odds are you’ll be pretty darn focused on getting your gun back…even if, in doing so, you open yourself up to other avenues of attack or miss opportunities to attack me. It would be bad for you, the police officer or law abiding good guy, to be so fixated on your handgun that you gave the bad guy opportunities to do significant damage while you’re worried about your pistol.

On the other hand, the bad guy is probably going to be very tool fixated which can give you an opportunity to successfully defend yourself even in an extremely close range muzzle-in-your-chest situation.

Here again the concept of time is important. If you spend 5 seconds in a tug of war over the gun odds are that the other guy is going to figure out he needs to try something else. It’s much better to be working on that something else while he’s still thinking “Holy crap, this guy is trying to take my gun!” The more savvy among the readership may recognize this as getting “inside” the other guy’s OODA Loop…and that is indeed the plan. When you avoid tool fixation and maintain a flexible mindset and you’ve managed to use a few useful techniques to put yourself in an advantageous position you can press the fight and force the other guy to react to you. That will almost always work out in your favor.

Apart from teaching specific techniques and warning about tool fixation, Paul’s block was peppered with exhortations about mindset, specifically the need to get as violent as you can possibly get when you are in a close range fight over a gun. You have to win.

Paul demonstrates a technique for breaking a 2 handed hold.
Paul demonstrates a technique for breaking a 2 handed hold on your weapon.

There’s only so much an instructor can cover in a 3 hour block, but within that 3 hours Paul managed to cram in a lot more material than I thought possible. By the end of the block he had folks working weapon grabs and defense even in a 2 on 1 scenario and looking around I saw a room full of people with little or no exposure to this kind of training before actually doing a pretty good job of it.

…so imagine how much you could learn if you did a full couple of days in one of Paul’s classes.

It was clear from even this limited block of instruction that Paul knows his material well and that he has the ability to relate critical information in an easily understandable way. If you show up for one of his classes you will learn something useful and effective that might just make all the difference in a terrible moment.



  1. One thing that surprised me when I did George Mathis class that had some handgun retention instruction was how easy it is to really mess up a 3:00 or more draw by controlling the elbow. And the more you carry behind 3:00, the harder it becomes. It is another reason why I AIWB, it was noticeably hard to stop a draw from there

  2. “Oh but I have a carry a scary looking 1911, no one is going to me with me”, “I’ll just rack my shotgun and anyone in my house is going to run for the hills”, “If someone tried to take my gun they would just get shot right away”, “If someone drew a gun on me, I’d just draw and shoot before they ever knew what happened, I shoot USPSA!”…

    All things I’ve heard when discussing weapon retention. The last class I took I was super fortunate that a former 1st Recon guy who was also a unarmed expert taught unarmed combat with a focus on weapons. It’s tough to find people who really know this stuff. If you go learn BJJ, they’ll teach you that. Karate you’ll learn how to chop things. Etc. It’s very hard to find people who really know weapon retention and unarmed combat that isn’t just choreographed nonsense you see on the youtubes.

    The gun is a crutch that some people learn far too heavily on.

    1. This is where I believe instructors like Paul, Cecil, and Craig “SouthNarc” Douglas provide exceptional value…as their material is based on self defense in the weapons-based real world.

  3. I am not a hash tagging social justice numbskull. I am hardcore 3% and am firmly on the side of law and order. But correct me if I am wrong: As soon as the cop backed up and out of reach the threat was over. The guy was way outnumbered and a baton could have easily finished the arrest. Cop deaths by shooting went up 56% in 2014 from 39 to 50. Cops have to realize that when the perception of them goes from public servant to over armed and armored bullies they are going to have a real problem.There is a building perception nationwide that the police are overstepping the boundaries when it comes to the use of violence and deadly force. Either one of those should be initiated only as a last resort. What started in Ferguson and New York is far from over and the cops need to be careful not to start a war they don’t want. Let me reiterate I not one of the hands up crowd, I just see what is coming.

    1. Jay352-

      The reason the public is getting the “perception” that the police are overstepping the boundaries of deadly force is because they get their information from the media, and the vast majority of reporters wouldn’t know a lawful use of deadly force if it walked up and bitch slapped them.

      The U.S. Supreme in “Tennessee-v-Garner” stated that the police may use deadly force to protect themselves or another person from the threat of serious bodily injury or death. Serious bodily injury is defined as broken bones or severe disfigurement. So lets apply this to Michael Brown’s attack on Office Wilson in Ferguson. Michael was an 18 year old adult who was 6’4″ and 295lbs-around 100 lbs bigger than Officer Wilson. Just before he attacked Officer Wilson, he robbed a store by picking up the Asian store owner and throwing him across an isle.

      His first contact with Officer Wilson was when Officer Wilson told him to get out of the middle of the road. When Michael refused, Officer Wilson took a closer look at him and at that point he realized Michael was most likely involved in the robbery. Michael could have cooperated at this point. Instead he made the decision to attack Officer Wilson in his patrol car. His first punch fractured Officer Wilson’s orbital bone-in other words, his first blow caused serious bodily injury. He continued his attack and attempted to take Officer Wilson’s pistol. The only reason for him to do this would be to murder Officer Wilson with his own gun. Anyone who thinks this was not an all out fight for Officer Wilson’s life has never heard of Officer David Smith of the Johnson City Police Department, New York. On 3/31/14 a suspect (who was much smaller and much older than Michael) attacked Officer Smith in his patrol car, took Officer Smith’s gun, and murdered him with it. Both the suspect and Officer Smith were white, so the media never picked up the story.

      Officer Wilson had already suffered serious bodily injury and was in fear of death at this point, clearly making his shooting of Michael Brown 100% lawful. Michael backed away from Officer Wilson, but then turned back toward him. Again, Michael could have given up, but he moved aggressively toward Officer Wilson. Fearing that he was about to be attacked again by a man who had fractured his face and attempted to take his gun and murder him, Officer Wilson fired, protecting himself. All three autopsies proved that Michael was never shot in the back, despite all the media reports. Yet not once did I read a single news article where a reporter actually covered “Tennessee-v-Gardner” and how it applied to the attack and attempted murder of Officer Wilson.

      The media has a need to sell advertising, so ratings drive their decisions, not creating an accurate and in depth perception of the police. I am certain there is way more to the LAPD shooting you talk about, but you won’t hear it from the media, so you shouldn’t judge the officers based on what the media tells you.

      1. As I stated, I am not one of the “Hands up don’t shoot ” crowd. As a blogger I constantly have content coming across my desk and probably fully 1/4 of it is cop beating or shooting related. Virtually every state now has multiple chapters of Cop block.org or cop watch. The perception , IMHO, is being fueled by the citizen videographer, not the false media narrative created by the media as with the Brown ordeal. Yes they created a frenzy, but it was with all the usual suspects who don’t actually care about the truth. The Occupy crowd was well represented there along with other left leaning groups. But for main stream America, they are being inundated with videos on youtube, facebook, etc. of brutal police assaults on citizens or questionable shootings. With the camera phone the genie is out of the bottle. Now L.E. has to decide how to deal with that Genie. There is a real adversarial relationship forming up and they can try to go heavy handed, but I don’t think that is going to work out well.

  4. Paul Sharp is on my short list of “guys to train with.” which includes Craig Douglas, Tom Givens, and Ben Stoeger…

    The last one’s a little weird, but hey, I like playing games too.

  5. Pretty good synopsis. This block at the conference simply intensified my desire to take a MDOC class as soon as one is within acceptable travel distance. It was great to see the similarities and differences, albeit subtle, between this and some of Craig’s concepts. I left wanting more.

  6. “God why would I be for something called ‘social justice’ and equality and shit? Sounds so gay! I can safely say I would of been risking my life to shoot at redcoats a hundreds of years ago though!”

    You are a bunch of crew cut wearing polo shirt wearing gun magazine reading boring ass white guys with 1950s ideas of what’s normal trying to ascribe negative connotations to the phrase “social justice and apologizing at every opportunity for anything the police do, yet you all think you would of completely gone against the social norms of some bygone era to fight what history books have told you were the bad guys, even though you can’t even pull your head out of your ass in the present. Do you morons have any self awareness what so ever.

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