Handgun Disarms: Putting it to the Test

I recently ran across a YouTube video by UF PRO that tested handgun disarms from three commonly taught positions. While the creators of this video do a good job testing several disarm scenarios and come to conclusions that provide valuable data for us to analyze, I believe that we can look at this data and make a few adjustments that will improve the outcome. 

In the first scenario, the defender is facing forward with the attacker holding a gun to his chest. There are four test runs using two variables: single action trigger and double action trigger.[1] In both tests where single action pistols were used, the defender failed to parry the firearm and get clear of the the bullet path before it was fired. In the test using the double action, the small amount of additional time that it took for the firearm to perform the two actions, the defender was able to parry and clear himself of the simunition (sim) round. 

As UF PRO points out, the key takeaway of this test is the additional time it takes double action pistols to perform the two actions is crucial for avoiding being shot while executing this disarm.

The second scenario tested has the defender facing forward and the attacker holding the pistol to his head. This position was tested six times with a 50% success rate. Single action was tested in 5 of the 6 runs. I assume this a result of the first scenario proving that double action provided a slight but significant time advantage to the defender. I also want to point out two additional observations:

  1. In test run four, its looked like the defender cleared the round, but it may have impacted or grazed the side of the helmet out of camera view.
  2. The defender changed the direction that he moved his head to clear the path of the sim round in two of the test runs. This is significant and I will explain why in a minute.

UF PRO concludes this scenario with two tips: double action increases the chance of evasion (also provided in scenario one), attempt to force the firearm out of battery[2], and/or obstruct the hammer during the disarm. I do not agree that these are the key takeaways from this scenario. I feel like the wrong data points were analyzed for a conclusion. 

Let’s go back to the significance of the parry and changing head movement. In test runs 4 and 5, instead of keeping his head in place (or slightly moving it) and partially squatting, as was done in the rest of the test runs, the defender moved his head to the side. Although the sim round in test four may have grazed or impacted the side of the helmet, in comparison to the location of the rest of the impacts in this scenario and taking the additional mass added by the helmet to the circumference of the head, it might as well have been a miss. Taking that into account, this shows us that it is more efficient to clear the path of the bullet if we move the firearm up and to the side, while also moving down and to the opposite side the firearm is being pushed. I know this seems like common sense. I believe it’s worth pointing out because most disarm techniques I’ve seen from this position teach the former and the defender performs that motion in 4 of 6 test runs. My key takeaway here, whichever way you are parrying the firearm, move the opposite. 

The third scenario tested has the defender with the pistol to his back. There were four test runs, all of which used double action (not really sure why). In all four test runs the defender successfully cleared himself from the path of the sim round. The UF PRO conclusions were:

  1. Again, double action increases the chance of evasion.
  2. Element of surprise and force of action are crucial. 

Although I enjoyed this video and pulled some valuable lessons from it, I want to point out that I do not believe this test meets the threshold for the scientific method or proper pressure testing. The variables were not consistent and there were several key variables that were not taken into account e.g. not using the both single and double action for all the tests runs, the attacker knew that the defender would attempt a disarm, the attacker started with the pistol aimed and there was no movement from a concealed position, to name a few. This is not an attack on the creator of the video, I just want to be clear in that on the surface this may seem like a legitimate test for techniques, the results should be taken with a grain of salt. Also, attempting to disarm an attacker is my last resort. And, only because I’ve come to the conclusion that if I don’t disarm that person, I or someone else will be killed.

Now that is out of the way, I want to say that there are many lessons that we can pull from this video. I’m going to focus on three macro lessons that I believe are the most important. I also want to point out that these lessons are not independent of each other. When applied together, the chances of success should increase.

  1. Time is important. The more time that the defender has to move out of the way, the higher the chance of success. Instead of worrying if the pistol is double or single action, create more time for you to move and less time for the attacker to pull the trigger. In other words, create a distraction. A good way to create more time is to be compliant until you find/create an opportunity to attack. An easy way to accomplish this is by saying something that is completely out of context to what is happening. For example, the attacker is telling you to give up your wallet, tell him you have tomato juice. When we hear something that is completely out of context to what is happening, our minds naturally search for the answer. This usually causes the person to freeze. Try this out for yourself. Next time someone says good morning, tell that person that hot pizza burns your feet and watch their reaction. 
  2. Start to move out of the way with your movement to the firearm.  Do not wait until you have made contact with the firearm to begin to move out of line of the pistol. Action is faster than reaction. The faster you can get out of the way, the more the attacker has to react i.e. the attacker will have to respond to your movement by pulling the trigger and/or moving the pistol to account for your movement. 
  3. Lastly, don’t just get out of the way, GET. OUT. OF. THE. WAY. All movements should be exaggerated. Whatever movement you feel is necessary, double it. In the video the defender moved but it seemed halfhearted. Move the same as you would when a wasp is flying at your face, just not as spastically. 

Videos like this can provide us with many valuable lessons, but they should be examined thoroughly and taken with a healthy dose of skepticism. 

Let me know in the comments what other lessons you took away from this video.




These terms refer to the how the mechanics of the handgun operates when the trigger is pulled (squeezed for you Marines reading ). Each time the trigger is pulled for a single action pistol the hammer or striker is released. For double action pistols, the trigger pull performs two actions: cocking and releasing the hammer. There are different types of double action pistols, but for this blog post we don’t need to go into those details. We simple need to understand that single action firearms perform faster than double action.

2  In this context, means to push the slide out of position in an attempt to cause the firearm to fail to fire.

2 thoughts on “Handgun Disarms: Putting it to the Test

Add yours

  1. The “Out of context” statement idea is brilliant! I read and watch a lot of self defense material, but this is the first time I’ve seen that. Now, if only I’m able to have the presence of mind to pull it off…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you mentioned the presence of mind…that’s the tricky part. Can it be pulled off under the pressure in the moment? I’m positive that it’s possible if someone has been inoculated to stress and trained for it. I think the key is to have a go to phrase.

      As always, thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Your feedback is always appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

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