How To Correctly “Pistol Whip” An Attacker (Weapon Striking 101)

I swear to God I'll pistol whip the next guy who says "Shenanigans."

Have you ever seen a TV show or movie where someone takes a handgun and BONK whacks someone over the head to knock them out?

What about when you see a good guy pistol whip the bad guy into submission during an interrogation?

The fact is, if you’re getting your training and technique advice from movies like this then you’re doing it all wrong.


There’s some serious consequences to messing this up too.

Why Would You Strike With a Handgun?

There are two primary reasons …

One, you’re in a fight for your life where lethal force is justified, but it’s NOT the right time to start shooting.

Maybe it’s a close, hands on fight with the bad guy and your child or spouse is in the area and behind the bad guy. You don’t want to shoot at the attacker because of safety rule #4 (know your target and what’s beyond it).

The same thing might apply to a police or military member who has a teammate “down range”. So the proper thing to do is fight the guy until you’re in a safer position to start shooting.

Reason number two is if your handgun is no longer functioning. This could be due to it getting a stoppage or malfunction from the draw stroke, or the FUT (F*cked up tangle) of a close quarters fight with the bad guy.

Or maybe your gun is just empty. As you’ll see in the video below James Yeager points out that it’s stupid to drop your handgun if it runs out of bullets because you essentially have a $500+ pair of brass knuckles in your hand!

The WRONG Ways To Strike With a Handgun

In short, if you’ve ever seen someone hit someone else in the movies with a handgun — then you’ve probably seen the wrong way to do it!

Don’t do it like the movies.

As much as I LOVE the scene in good fellas where Ray Liotta pistol whips the tough guy neighbor — there are better techniques.

pistol whipping scene from Goodfellas. Classic.
pistol whipping scene from Goodfellas. Classic.

First off, don’t hit with the butt of the pistol like Archer does here:

Don't hit them on the head with the butt of your handgun
Don’t hit them on the head with the butt of your handgun

Hitting with the butt of an auto-loading pistol (as James explains in the first video below) can sometimes do whacky things with the remaining rounds in the magazine that can cause malfunctions down the road.

Even with a revolver, if you miss the grip, you can bend parts of the metal frame and cause malfunctions (as James explains in the video below).

The best case scenario if you have to hit someone with your gun is apparently 1.) straight on with the end of the barrel and with 2.) the top of the slide

Another reason why I wouldn’t recommend turning the gun in your hand to hit them with the butt of it is because it’s also too easy to get your finger in the trigger guard and have a negligent discharge.

A Detroit news station reported in 2014, “An assailant died this week when his cohort’s gun discharged while the cohort pistol-whipped a man on Detroit’s west side, George Hunter reports in the Detroit News. “One of the men was pistol-whipping the victim when his gun went off, and his partner was shot in the neck,” Assistant Police Chief Steve Dolunt told Hunter.

So don’t do that. Keep your primary fighting grip on the gun, finger off the trigger “at home” on the slide and go to work.

Pistol Whipping 101 Part 1 & 2 With James Yeager

Check out the quick vid below by James Yeager for some more tips on how to pistol whip properly:

And in video 2, James basically just disproves the myth that having your hand or your finger on the back of the slide of an auto-pistol will rip your thumb/finger/hand off:

How To Practice Your Pistol-Striking Skills

In the video below, Michael Seeklander shows you a few more tips that James didn’t cover in his video. Specifically, pay attention as he demonstrates:

** The proper close quarters retention shooting position

** How NOT to shoot yourself in a close-quarters fight

** How to combine striking and shooting

** And how Mike likes to practice this in dry fire

Have You Ever Practiced Close-Quarters Fighting With Your Pistol?

There are a lot of different things that can happen that are totally different than going to the range, grabbing your gun out of the holster (or gun case) and blasting away on a sunny day.

Of course, videos are no substitute for learning this stuff in person. Greg Ellifritz has an excellent one day class called “Extreme Close Quarters Gunfighting” that I took and highly recommend.

Try these techniques out, be CAREFUL, and let me know what you think!



  1. Sorry but try that with a Colt 45 ACP 1911 and trust me it can and may dislocate your thumb!! This occurs not when you intentionally brace the firearm, rather with an accidental interference with the slide. I have seen people in training with Army 45 do it, both male and female.

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