By Eric Tull
In the firearms world, it’s supposedly common knowledge that an ankle gun is ideal for gun fights that go to the ground. Some quotes from popular instructors:
“When you are down on your back, with a bad guy on top of you, your body weight is no longer pressing down on the legs, and your balance is no longer dependent on having two feet solidly on the ground. Your back is bearing your weight, and now it’s a piece of cake to snap your foot toward your hand and your hand toward your ankle, making for an extremely fast ankle holster draw.”
“If you are on the ground when you go for the gun, the ankle rig can be handy.”
“When you’re getting your a** kicked and you’re on the ground getting your a** handed to you, even at my age with all my busted up sh** I’ll carry an ankle gun because if they’re on top of me I’ll get the freaking gun out…”
However, is it actually the case that an ankle gun is even accessible during a ground fight, let alone ideal? To test this, I wore an ankle gun (without telling anyone) during Brent Yamamoto’s three-day Pistol Ground Fighting class. I did this to test two hypotheses: 1) Most instructors are wrong; an ankle gun is not convenient to access during a ground fight, and 2) your opponent will notice your ankle gun and find it fairly easy to use against you.
(Note: This article is only concerned with accessing and using an ankle gun in a ground fight. There may be other times when an ankle gun is ideal as a second firearm. For example, an ankle gun can be easy to access when in a vehicle, and it can also be a good spot for a last-ditch hideout gun.)
I was surprised to find out that my second hypothesis was incorrect. During the three-day class, no one ever tried to grab my ankle gun and use it against me. In fact, when I surveyed the students at the end of the course, no one knew I was carrying one. A couple people had noticed I had something on my ankle, but they didn’t realize it was a gun. Interestingly, the people who noticed were all skilled Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners with years of ground training. It would take more testing to fully confirm this hypothesis was incorrect, but it satisfied me enough that I’m not overly concerned about someone accessing my ankle gun during a ground fight.
Although my second hypothesis was incorrect, I was spot-on for my first. An ankle holster does nothing in a ground fight that an appendix or hip holster can’t do better. During the entire class, I was never in a position on the ground where it was quicker or easier to draw my ankle gun compared to the gun at my appendix.
I can see why people would be convinced of an ankle gun’s effectiveness if they’re just practicing drawing and shooting on their backs at a square range. After all, the idea is simple: Just bring your foot back to your hand, draw and shoot. But you add in a live opponent, and things change. Namely, the bad guy gets in the way of your draw, or is able to grab your ankle gun as soon as you draw it.
If the bad guy has you mounted or side mounted, his body is between you and your ankle gun. You won’t be able to access it. If he’s in your guard, he’ll be able to stuff your draw or disarm you as soon as you go for the gun. You do not want to go for an ankle gun in either of these situations.
One of the students at the Pistol Ground Fighting class was a police officer who wore his duty belt for most of the class. Even though a duty holster is much harder to access on the ground compared to an inside-the-waistband appendix or hip holster, he also said that he never had an opportunity where it would have been easier for him to go for an ankle gun. (Interestingly, he also said that there were times when a gun in his left cargo pocket would have been perfect during a ground fight.)
“OK, fine,” you say. “It might be the case that it’s easier to access an appendix holster when both of you are on the ground, but what about when you’re on the ground and the bad guy is standing?” There are two separate scenarios here. 1) He’s close enough that you’re using your legs to fend him off of you, or 2) he’s too far away for you to use your legs against him. In scenario 1, you won’t be able to access an ankle gun because it will be too close to your opponent. Bringing your foot back will allow him to finish closing the distance and get on top of you. In the second scenario, you could potentially access your ankle gun, but it’s going to be quicker to get to a gun at your appendix or hip. A gun on your waistband will be a shorter distance to your hands, and you won’t have to coordinate two limbs moving in space.
There may be some bizarre circumstance in a ground fight that I haven’t come across where it’s easier to go for an ankle gun, but this would be such a niche situation that it doesn’t seem worth it.
The point of this article isn’t to dissuade you from carrying an ankle gun as a backup. If that’s the best place for you to carry a BUG, go for it. In fact, I’m a huge proponent of carrying multiple firearms, and I do so every day. I even carry an extra gun on my ankle when I’m working. Just don’t carry an ankle gun with the expectation of drawing it during a ground fight.
If you don’t believe me, come to a Suarez International Pistol Ground Fighting course with your ankle gun and try it yourself.
Eric Tull is the Suarez International Staff Instructor for Iowa.
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