The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Sharp and Loud

Photos by AZPhotoMan and Muzzle Flash Media

On the evening of December 12, 2012, a Rutherfordton, North Carolina, police officer responded to a call about a 44-year-old man fleeing the emergency room at Rutherford Regional Hospital. The officer encountered the suspect walking along a nearby road and approached him. While attempting to convince the man to return to the hospital, a struggle ensued, and the officer was struck in the face.

As the fight continued, the suspect began strangling the officer, then grabbed his sidearm to take it from him. Unable to escape the clutches of the madman, the police officer drew a small fixed blade knife from his belt and stabbed the suspect in the shoulder to break free. That officer survived, thanks to his effective transition to the knife he was carrying that day.

THE ART OF TRANSITIONING
The ability to transition from one weapon to another during a fight is as essential as being able to operate your weapon-mounted light or perform an emergency reload with your pistol. Within the tactical community, the idea of weapon transitions is often limited to the act of slinging a carbine that has stopped spitting out lead and drawing a holstered sidearm, thus buying us time to get that superior, shoulder-fired weapon back in action. This, however, is a very linear way of thinking.

Combat is a nonlinear activity. This complex interaction between two or more human beings poses a dynamic situation that’s constantly influenced by time, distance, motivation, movement, and environment. Add in the individual skill level and strength of the combatants, the mechanical operations of weapon systems, innocent bystanders, and laws concerning the use of force, and you have the most unpredictable state of affairs.

In the broader context of combat, the art of transitioning is the ability to flow from one weapon system to another, in any direction, forming a seamless integration of all available weapon systems. (This assumes, of course, that you’re proficient in the use and application of each of those systems.) Depending on the required loadout for your operational environment, your available weapon systems may include firearms, edged weapons, impact weapons, alternate less-lethal technology like tasers or pepper spray, and even your bare hands.

Most close-combat training is compartmentalized. We tend to train specific weapon systems in a relative vacuum with little consideration of our other tools. This is where the art of transitioning becomes lost. Unless we make a conscious effort to work through how, when, and why we’d transition, the likelihood of our doing it effectively is slim to none.

SCENARIO 1: SUPPORT-HAND TRANSITION (WEAPON RETENTION)

The attacker has Chad McBroom pinned against a wall and is trying to take his gun.

The attacker has Chad McBroom pinned against a wall and is trying to take his gun.

Chad secures his gun with his dominant hand and draws his Fox 599 Karambit from his left front pocket with his support hand, using the Emmerson Wave Feature to pocket-deploy the blade.

Chad secures his gun with his dominant hand and draws his Fox 599 Karambit from his left front pocket with his support hand, using the Emerson Wave Feature to pocket-deploy the blade.

Chad targets the attacker’s eyes with a horizontal cut, causing him to release his grip on the firearm.

Chad targets the attacker’s eyes with a horizontal cut, causing him to release his grip on the firearm.

Chad then punches the karambit’s curved blade into the attacker’s brachial artery, driving him off line and creating enough space that Chad can transition to his firearm.

Chad then punches the karambit’s curved blade into the attacker’s brachial artery, driving him off line and creating enough space that Chad can transition to his firearm…

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THE KNIFE AS A TRANSITIONARY WEAPON
It would probably be safe to say that most people who are defensively minded enough to go through the trouble of carrying a firearm are also likely to carry a tactical knife of some sort. It may be for self-defense, or just for utility, but either way, gun-toters are prone to pack a knife or two. If you do carry a knife, it only makes sense to include it in your training and consider it as a transitionary weapon.

Statistically, most lethal attacks occur at contact distance. At this range, the knife is a formidable weapon. A knife won’t jam or run out of ammunition, and rarely malfunctions. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

There are some important questions that need to be thought out when carrying a knife.  What kind of knife should you carry? Where will you carry it? How will you deploy it? Under what circumstances would you transition to your knife? What do you do with the weapon you’re transitioning from? What do you do with your knife when transitioning to another weapon? We’ll examine these issues to help you form an effective blueprint for transitioning to and from your knife in a lethal-force encounter.

WHY TRANSITION
It’s tempting to dismiss these concerns with a rationalization like, “Why on earth would I transition to a knife if I have a gun?” This is a commonly asked question. Yes, a firearm is preferred over a knife in a lethal encounter, but a gun is pretty much useless if it won’t fire or if you can’t bring it on target.

Empty-hand firearm retention techniques are great when they work, but they require leverage and space, and must be applied early, before the attacker has fully committed to his grab. When you’re pinned to the ground or trapped against a wall, finding the leverage to break someone off your gun can be impossible. Every second you spend trying break loose is a second your opponent gets to improve their position. Transitioning to a blade to cut your way out while protecting your firearm, like the Rutherfordton police officer, may be your best option.

What about when your pistol runs dry at contact range and you just spent your last (and maybe only) magazine, or you just fired that sixth shot out of your six-shot revolver? Bad guys don’t care if they’re supposed to be incapacitated already. If they have the will, they’ll continue to fight until their body shuts down from decompensated hypovolemic shock. At this point in the game, the whole “I have a gun, I’ll shoot them” argument is null and void, worth nothing more than a cliché on a T-shirt. You’re still in a life-or-death battle. Transitioning to your knife gives you a viable lethal force option.

RETENTION OPTIONS
When we’re talking transitions, you have three options to consider when it comes to retaining the weapon you’re transitioning from. You can holster/sheath the weapon, you can keep it in your hand, or you can discard it.

Discarding a weapon is the least preferred option, but sometimes necessary. You must consider that doing so ensures that you won’t be able to transition back to it, and that your opponent might be able to use against you.

Holstering or sheathing the weapon is the most preferred option. It allows you to focus on the transitionary weapon, but it takes precious time and attention to do so. For this type of retention to be most effective, it needs to take place during the deployment of the transitionary weapon.

Retaining the weapon in your hand is the most efficient option in terms of speed. It also requires the most amount of training and forethought because of the modified fighting platform it creates.

SCENARIO 2: DOMINANT-HAND TRANSITION (SHOOTING GRIP)

Faced with a closing attacker, Chad McBroom body indexes his pistol and covers with an elbow shield.

Faced with a closing attacker, Chad McBroom body indexes his pistol and covers with an elbow shield.

Having emptied his firearm, Chad delivers a muzzle punch to the attacker’s throat.

Having emptied his firearm, Chad delivers a muzzle punch to the attacker’s throat.

Chad transfers his pistol to a support-hand shooting grip and draws his Colonel LowVz fixed-blade with his dominant hand.

Chad transfers his pistol to a support-hand shooting grip and draws his Colonel LowVz fixed-blade with his dominant hand.

He then delivers a straight thrust with his knife to the same target.

He then delivers a straight thrust with his knife to the same target.

SUPPORT-HAND TRANSITION
The support-hand transition allows you to access and deploy your knife when your dominant hand is occupied. If an opponent is trying to pull your gun from the holster, then your dominant hand will likely be busy hanging on to your gun. Likewise, if your gun is already in hand and you’re fighting to keep control of it, you’ll need to transition with your support hand.

You also may find yourself in a position where your dominant hand is occupied controlling your opponent. Perhaps the bad guy is reaching for a weapon of his own or already has control of yours. Regardless of the situation, there are many scenarios where your dominant hand could be occupied, leaving the transition work up to your support hand.

DOMINANT-HAND TRANSITION
Let’s face it, most of our training repetitions, regardless of the weapon system, are done with our dominant hand. It’s just how we’re wired. So, whenever tactically feasible, it’s better to transition with the dominant hand.

As mentioned earlier, we want to retain our weapons if possible. That means either holstering or transferring the weapon currently in play to the support hand. When transferring a gun to the support hand, you can either switch to a support-hand shooting grip or roll your support-hand thumb over the top of the slide and wrap your fingers around the trigger guard.

Both methods keep the muzzle pointed away from your body. The thumb-over-slide grip works well when you’re transferring from a compressed or two-handed shooting position. The shooting grip provides a stronger hold and allows you to perform muzzle and slide strikes with your support hand.

SCENARIO 3: DOMINANT-HAND TRANSITION (GROUND DEFENSE)

From inside Chad McBroom’s full-guard, the attacker grabs Chad’s gun with his right hand. Chad pins the attacker’s wrist with his right hand to keep him from removing the gun.

From inside Chad McBroom’s full-guard, the attacker grabs Chad’s gun with his right hand. Chad pins the attacker’s wrist with his right hand to keep him from removing the gun.

Chad then hooks his support arm behind the attacker’s right triceps to keep him from pulling back.

Chad then hooks his support arm behind the attacker’s right triceps to keep him from pulling back.

Chad releases the attacker’s wrist and draws his Microtech Combat Troodon OTF from his right pocket and deploys the blade.

Chad releases the attacker’s wrist and draws his Microtech Combat Troodon OTF from his right pocket and deploys the blade.

He drives the double-edged blade into the attacker’s left lung to stop the threat.

He drives the double-edged blade into the attacker’s left lung to stop the threat.

CARRY CONSIDERATIONS
Accessibility: Your knife needs to be accessible with either hand. Placing it somewhere near your centerline is ideal. If your kit doesn’t allow it, consider carrying two knives, one on each side of your body. If you choose to pocket carry on your gun side, make sure that your holster doesn’t impede access to your knife.

Deployability: You must be able to deploy your knife with one hand. A fixed-blade is the easiest type of knife to deploy, but concealment limitations sometimes make them impractical to carry. If you decide to carry a folder, choose one with a flipper or thumb-opening mechanism. Better yet, a knife equipped with a pocket-opening mechanism like the Emerson Wave Feature offers rapid, one-hand deployment. An automatic opener is also a good choice if legally permissible.

Reliability: Don’t go cheap on your defensive knife. Make sure you choose a knife that’s made from good steel and uses quality handle materials and components. You don’t want your blade to break or the locking mechanism to fail.

Retainability: A quality sheath with good retention or a strong pocket clip is a must to ensure that you don’t lose your knife when it’s on your person. Grip retention features like the finger ring of a karambit or the trigger-guard–style cutout of the ColonelBlades LowVz or FullBird help maintain positive control of the knife, even if your grip is compromised. These aren’t a requirement, but their advantages should be considered.

CONCLUSION
Choose your equipment carefully and train diligently. Never assume things will go as planned and always have a contingency plan. Your life may depend on your ability to transition to your knife and use it effectively, so learn how to use your knife, integrate your skill sets, and master the art of the transition.

DEFENSIVE KNIFE CONSIDERATIONS

FIXED-BLADE KNIVES
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Fixed-blade knives are the most reliable and quickest knives to deploy, since they’re solid and require no manipulation to open.  Concealability can be compromised, but when practical, a fixed-blade can’t be beat. The Microtech SOCOM Alpha is a good example of a reliable fixed-blade that can be carried on kit for rapid deployment.

TACTICAL FOLDING KNIVES
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Tactical folders are probably the weapon of choice for most due to their concealability and accessibility. A good folder should have a pocket clip and, at minimum, a flipper or thumb-opening mechanism for one-handed deployment. With a pocket-opening feature like the Emerson Wave, a folder can be deployed almost as quickly as a fixed-blade.

OUT-THE-FRONT (OTF) KNIVES
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Out-the-front automatic knifes like the Microtech Combat Troodon offer the same concealment advantages as the tactical folder, while the location and operation of the thumb slide allows the user to open the knife without changing their grip. An added advantage is that OTF knives can be double-edged. The downside is blade deployment can be interrupted if it hits something during opening.

PISTOL-GRIP KNIVES
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Pistol-grip knives like the ColonelBlades LowVz and the KA-BAR TDI provide the same advantages as fixed-blade knives with the added benefits of concealability and familiar handle ergonomics. Designed to mimic the drawstroke of the pistol, these knives are very intuitive for those already trained in the use of firearms.

RING-HANDLE KNIVES
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Ring-handle knives like the Fox 599 offer distinct retention capabilities. The finger ring assists with drawing and handling the weapon under stress, and is especially beneficial when using the non-dominant hand, which frequently lacks the dexterity and control of the dominant hand. The retention ring is also handy when transitioning to a firearm, where two-handed operations become necessary.

REAL-WORLD APPLICATIONS

RECOIL’s inaugural live event, Summit in the Sand, was a training-focused event held at CowTown Range in Phoenix, Arizona. It provided an excellent venue to work knife-gun transitions. The weapons of choice were the Microtech SOCOM Alpha and the Walther Arms PPQ M2 semi-auto pistol. Attendees worked on transitioning to the fixed-blade Alpha, in defense of their holstered PPQ. We’ve reviewed several versions of the PPQ in previous issues and liked it so much that we asked Walther to work with us for Summit

in the Sand. The PPQ M2 is competitively priced, concealable, and offers a couple of good out-of-the-box advantages, including metal magazines, a smooth trigger with an impressively short reset, and OEM grip texturing that’s actually worth a damn. This was particularly important at Summit, where temps during the training day were close to triple digits. A number of variants of the PPQ M2 are available, including larger and smaller sizes as well as an optics-ready version that was our cover gun for CONCEALMENT Issue 8.

microtech socom alpha

The Microtech SOCOM Alpha, while not ideally sized for daily carry, is an excellent fighting blade thanks to its quality materials and excellent ergonomics. The full-tang, PVD-coated ELMAX steel blade is virtually indestructible and made for hard use, as we proved during Summit. Contoured G-10 handles with aggressive perimeter jimping virtually guarantee this knife won’t slip in the hand. More information on the SOCOM Alpha can be found in our in-depth review on Recoilweb.com.

The pairing of these two weapons provided an excellent training experience for attendees. Students practiced cutting away from an adversary using the SOCOM Alpha, transitioning to the PPQ and dry-firing from a body-indexed position, then creating distance to go into aimed fire. These weapons both served as fine examples of functionality and reliability, as demonstrated during the live-fire and live-blade training portions of the event.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chad McBroom is a 21-year veteran law enforcement officer with most of his time spent in the tactical unit. He has spent over 30 years studying various combative systems and focuses on the science of close combat. Chad is the owner of Comprehensive Fighting Systems and offers training in empty-hand tactics, edged weapons, impact weapons, and firearms tactics.
comprehensivefightingsystems.com


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