Dodging the bullet

In many films the scenario is presented where one person holds a gun to the head of another with intent to capture them rather than kill them.
Has any research been done to test if the gun holder can react quickly enough to shoot an opponent who in this situation moves quickly out of the line of fire of the gun.
There are several complications that I can think of in the situation.
How much the target ‘telegraphs’ the attempt to move away.
If and how the gun will tend to move with the target.
How much the gun holder wishes to capture rather than shoot the target.
How the target, if they can avoid the first shot, can take advantage of the new situation.
The relative positions of the gun man and the target.

It seems to me that it would be possible to experiment with these situations using non-lethal weaponry such as soft-air pistols. Has anyone any knowledge of these sorts of scenarios being investigated.

When I used to train MA, I heard references to several instances where folks could disarm or otherwise get the better of a gunman. Essentially the concept was that action is quicker than reaction. Of course, there are many instances of urban legend in MA. I’ll see what I can turn up.

Odd. When I used to train in MA (martial arts, not Massachusets), the instructor always answered the question about facing a gun the same way…put your wallet on the ground, hands in the air…

I should specify that I am talking about the instances where the gun is held touching or a few inches from the target’s head. This is the situation where a movement of about 8 inches will be enough to get out of line from the gun. At distances more than a foot or so then the gun barer could easily track with the movement of the target giving the target no options but to hand over whatever the gunman wants.

I definitely agree w/ crazyjoe.
Just saying there are several folks who maintain what Bippy asks about is possible.
Of course I’ll observe that even if a few talented and experienced people are able to accomplish this, is no reason to believe an ordinary schmoe could.

First of all, no professional is going to hold someone with a firearm at anything less than leg’s reach; doing so invites a response by the opponent, and if the latter can lay hands on the pistol there’s a good chance he can disable it by grabbing the cylinder, pushing the slide out of battery, dropping the magazine, et cetera. (The Jet-Li inspired removal of the slide from an autoloading pistol is a myth; on all firearms I’ve handled you have to remove the magazine in order to clear the slide.)

That said, I wouldn’t want to be in the position of disarming a gun-wielding opponent. Even if you manage to deflect the barrel so that it’s not pointing through your head when the hammer falls, the muzzle flash will likely blind you if it passed in front of your eyes, and at close range the report will probably bust an eardrum. Anyone who claims otherwise isn’t living in reality.


You can easily test this with an (yes, unloaded) gun. Stick it in your friend’s back, for instance, and then try to pull the trigger before he turns and hits it/your arm with his elbow.

You don’t need to know martial arts to pull this trick, but most manouvers in these kind of scenarios involves two steps: Move and hit. This makes it impossible for the man with the gun to fire it at you before the hit takes.

During my military service they told us, as an above poster said, always to keep a couple of yards away from the other if pointing a gun at him/her.

One can also test this with an airsoft pistol. I knew a firearms/self-defence instructor who would demonstrate that, with a success rate of 100%, standing face to face at a little over arm’s length, he could knock the gun out of line before a shot could be fired.
He recommended against actually trying it in real life, as it usually makes the guy mad, and requires expert follow-up techniques.

Thanks Stranger this is what I am getting at. What you are saying is what I beleive to be true. But, is there any proper experimental evidence, or criminal action statisitics that back this up. What I’m looking for is a good cite for what we both apparently beleive.

  1. Is the gun heald to a persons head without otherwise restraining that person something that only happens in movies?
  2. If it really happens, is there sufficient time to move out of the guns field of fire before the gunman can react and pull the trigger?

We teach firearm self-defense in my Taekwondo school.

The worst position to be is at a roughly 6-15 foot distance. If more than 15 feet, I’ll run like hell (broken-field style) because the odds are he won’t hit if he fires (I’m assuming a handgun here for purposes of argument). If 6 feet or less, I can disarm him without getting shot.

And again, that’s a last ditch thing. Give up the wallet or purse as a first reaction. Go for the disarm only if you have to.

I know you didn’t ask me, but as I said above, you can easily verify this by yourself, and you will see that you will get away with it (but it would require garygnus’ point: “expert follow-up techniques”). – The “action and reaction” theme, mentioned above.

It’s a whole different thing IRL. It’s like an earlier discussion on this boards where I gave some input, not too appreciated it seemed, regarding hitting somebody in the balls if attacked by a stronger person. Yes, in theory, of course, but in real life your chances are slim.

Back to topic, I was once out with a friend several years ago who generally avoided trouble because he had “suspended senteces” hanging over him from earlier fights, and he was third dan in ninpo tajitsu (?). Believe me, he knew how to fight; he didn’t want to, but when somebody attacked him they got hurt and the got reported.
To make a long story short, there was some trouble at this place and all of a sudden a guy stuck a gun right at him, right in his stomach. Since this was real life, he didn’t do shit. He kept his face and everything, but he didn’t do any of those ninja moves.

Why? – It was a f+cking gun.

Given the scenario: Possible? Yes. Desirable? No. If you think you have a reasonable chance of not being raped/tortured/killed if you don’t resist, you’re probably better off not gambling that you can beat him.

Like garygnu’s instructor, we tested this scenario in the dojo to see if it was realistic or not. We were all pretty surprised that if the guy with the gun is simply reacting, you have a very good chance of getting away from the first shot without getting a hole in you. Even if he starts to pull the trigger as you move, if you’re close enough you might either get out of the way or get the gun off line before it fires. Getting shot in the ear is a lot better than getting shot in the head anyway. Before testing we thought the guy with the gun unquestionably had the advantage. On the other hand, Stranger On A Train is absolutely right that you’re not getting away scott free, and you’d damn well be able to follow it up.

Probably several months after we played around with that, we had a guest seminar by an Israeli instructor who worked with the military as an instructor for advanced unarmed (non-firearm) combat. He modified some of the things we’d worked on and pointed out that you’d only do it if you knew you were probably going to get shot anyway. If the guy tells you to turn away or kneel down, and you don’t think he’s going to just take you hostage (i.e.: he’s highly emotional) you’d probably be much better off immediately attacking him since he’s mentally preparing himself to shoot you by dehumanizing you, putting you in a position of inferiority, and in a less advantageous position for defence.

Also, like both Clothahump and Stranger said, less than about 4 paces away and the guy with the gun is being stupid. They show this in movieland for two reasons: 1) It gives the Hero or Heroine a chance to get the better of the situation, 2) Most of the people making movies go for looks over substance. It looks more threatening to have the gun in the guy’s face than to have a more realistic 10-15 foot distance between them. You can cover a 2 meter or more distance in less time than most people’s reaction times with a single lunge. Surprise him enough and you might be able to get another step in, enough to close 3 or even 4 meters if you’re lucky.

This video on YouTube shows some Krav Maga training for dealing with this very scenario. Pay attention to the actual training and ignore the comments from the trainees. Feeling “safer” doesn’t necessarily match reality.

Surprisingly enough, it’s actually not a myth. You can do it with a Beretta Model 92, known in the military as an M9. You grab the top of the slide, push it back just a bit, and simultaneously push the take-down button and push the take-down lever down. The gun comes apart in your hand, and that is no joke. With practice you can do it so quickly that your assailant will never know what hit them. When my instructor did it to me I was stunned, even though I had asked about it I didn’t believe it possible. I was wrong.

Also, with tipping-barrel type automatics, simply pushing on the muzzle of the weapon will take it out of battery and render it unable to fire. Try it for yourself (but please, make sure it’s unloaded first!). That’s the first thing I would think to do in that position: go for the gun and push on the muzzle. It’s unexpected and it’s very effective (again, with certain types).

One of my first jobs was as an assistant manager trainee for an upscale greasy spoon. (Like Denny’s, but a different outfit.) At the end of my first week, another trainee, who was on the verge of being dismissed from the program, came into the restaurant carrying a 12 gauge shotgun. The manager and I were sitting at the end of the counter discussing my progress. Other trainee ordered us to stand (he had walked behind the counter). Shotgun aimed from the hip at manager’s chest, me standing right next to manager. Other trainee, obviously intoxicated if not downright drunk, ranting at manager for f***ing up his life. A short lunge, and I probably could have gotten the gun away from him. Better than a 50/50 chance (for the sake of discussion, please accept the estimate), but by no means certain. If I lunge and fail, he almost certainly shoots, and maybe keeps shooting till he runs out of ammo. If I don’t lunge, manager dies. What do you do? You’ve got fifteen seconds to decide.

In the event, I didn’t lunge, he did shoot and mortally wound the manager (died in the ambulance), but didn’t shoot anyone else. Instead, he put down the gun and waited for the police.

Dammit. Should have said: “If I don’t lunge and he IS going to shoot, manager dies.” Whether he was going to shoot if I didn’t lunge was, of course, the key unknown variable at the moment the decision had to be made. Incidentally, for various reasons, I hadn’t even met this fellow during that first week, though I’d heard a little gossip about him, so I had no insight into his character on this crucial point.

Here’s a question - if PBear had lunged, and the gunman shot and killed the manager, would PBear have been liable to any extent for the manager’s death?