Cold Firearms Combatives

At 2:30 AM on 9/23/2020, the Fargo, North Dakota police received a 911 call regarding a burglary in progress. A woman reported that they heard glass breaking, and a man entered their window. Her husband had armed himself with a shotgun and went to confront the attacker. Upon their arrival, the police found the burglar in the front yard, struggling to recover from a strike the homeowner had given him in the face with the stock of the shotgun.

Rather than killing the suspect with the shotgun, the homeowner applied a strike known as a butt-stroke in the parlance of cold firearms combatives.

Cold firearms combatives consist of strikes, blocks, and combinations using your firearms as other than a projectile weapon. They are a vastly over-looked part of self-defense.

Even in the military, here in the US, only the US Marine Corps continues to train in cold firearms combatives. Krav Maga retains the skill-set, but no school here teaches them to civilians, and that’s a shame.

When watching action movies, I always scream at the screen when the hero throws down an empty rifle…It’s still a very viable weapon empty, and you can always pick up ammo from the opposition.

I also wouldn’t be me if I didn’t add that as long as you have a bayonet in your gear, your rifle can still be made lethal if you run out of ammo or it malfunctions. Sticking people with the pointy end is how war was waged for millennia, and it’s still effective.

In the film World War Z, the hero makes an improvised bayonet by duct-taping a kitchen butcher knife to the end of a deer rifle. That’s excellent advice and worth remembering.

All of the techniques we’ll discuss can used with a bayonet, just understand that they become lethal with a blade attached.

A long gun makes a highly effective blocking tool against either other weapons or empty hands. Hold the long gun at where the stock meets the grip and the forward hand guard. A high block can be done simply by raising the rifle up the body and just over the head, with the magazine well facing out. A low block is done exactly the opposite, thrusting the arms straight down, with the magazine well facing down.

Mid-Blocks are effected by holding the hand guard up and the stock down, directly out in front of you, so that the long gun is straight vertical, covering your midsection, with the magazine well facing out. Left and right mid-blocks are done by twisting this same motion to either the left or right.

Those five moves will keep you relatively safe from attacks, but no one ever won on defense.

The basic cold firearms combatives with a long gun are the slash, the thrust, the butt-stroke, and the smash.

For a slash, imagine that there is a bayonet on the end of the rifle, and just slash at the attacker. I assure you that being hit with a metal barrel hurts, even without a blade attached.

The thrust is exactly what it sounds like, thrusting the weapon forward and striking with the end of the barrel.

After learning the the slash and thrust, practice the most basic combination of a slash to open the defenses, followed immediately by a thrust to a vulnerable point.

The butt-stroke is striking the attacker with the stock of the rifle. The first variation is horizontal, swinging the butt horizontally and hitting the attacker in the face or mid-section from the side. It is best followed up in a combination with an immediate slash and thrust.

The second variation is the vertical butt-stroke, swinging the butt of the long gun straight up the mid-line, striking them in the solar plexus or face. It’s best followed up with a smash (be patient, we’re learning that next), followed by a slash/thrust combination.

The smash is done by raising the long gun over you shoulder and “smashing” the butt straight forward into the attackers face. It’s best followed up with a slash followed by a thrust.

A variation of the the smash is a rear smash. If someone grabs you from the rear or is running up behind you, twist your body and thrust the butt of the long gun directly behind you, striking the attacker in the face or solar plexus.

These tactics can enable you to defend against a close in attack so that you can gain distance to use the firearm as intended, if needed.

Long gun retention is also a good skill to practice. If anyone grabs your long gun, rotate the firearm in a C motion while stepping back quickly, and the person will let go. There is a whole additional skillset here, that we aren’t covering today.

Cold firearms combatives can also be employed with a handgun. You can throw a punch, striking with the pistol instead of your fist. You can also conduct a knife hand or hammer fist strike using the handgun to strike the attacker.

A handgun is particularly effective in a ridge hand strike, striking with the slide of the hand gun instead of your ridge hand.

As you can see, a malfunctioning or empty firearm is still a highly effective weapon, capable of defending yourself.

Also, firearms can be used to effect less-than-lethal force on attackers to save your life or the lives of others.

Get a standing or hanging bag and practice these techniques until they are instinctive. It takes hundreds of repetitions before a technique becomes useable in combat, so train.

An excellent resource for learning more about this is Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. You can also buy the book “Krav Maga Professional Tactics” by David Kahn of the Israeli Krav Maga Assocation (


Published by JD

I am the author of the Tactical Wisdom Series. I am a personal protection specialist and a veteran of the US Marine Corps. I conduct preparedness and self-defense training.

One thought on “Cold Firearms Combatives

  1. Outstanding post, and one as far as the pistol techniques we taught a lot, though I don't hink we ever applied ridge hands (a speciality of mine) to handguns. We mostly went with disarming and taking others guns, not using th


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