Kyle Eggimann writes on his blog LuckyGunnar in an article titled "Muscle Memory: Combat-Proven Self-Defense Training Tips":

One very important thing to remember is that while muscle memory can save your life in a defensive shooting situation, it can also get you killed. There are numerous accounts of police officers putting themselves in extreme danger by instinctively replicating behavior that they practiced in training. For example, in Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s book On Combat, one officer recounts grabbing a pistol out of an assailant’s hands and then handing it right back to him. This bizarre action occurred because in training, the officer would always immediately hand the weapon back to his partner after he disarmed them.

Is this story an urban myth or did it really take place?

  • 2
    If not the mentioned book, what kind of evidence will you accept for this happening? I can't imagine it hasn't ever happened, just due to the sheer numbers of police officers.
    – Is Begot
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 13:02
  • 4
    @Geobits : I would expect an event like this to produce news stories. I would expect there to be more independent sources than just one book.
    – Christian
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 13:05
  • 5
    Brings to mind youtube.com/… Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 14:53
  • 1
    I was told exactly this at an actual university course probably 37 years ago in Germany. Slightly different: Police officers were told to pick up any spent bullets after training. So then there was a real shooting, everything should have been safe, except the police officer bent down to pick up his spent bullets without watching the criminal. If it is an urban legend, then it is very old.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Dec 5, 2022 at 17:49

1 Answer 1


On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace (2007) does have this story at page 76:

One police officer gave another example of learning to do the wrong thing. He took it upon himself to practice disarming an attacker. At every opportunity, he would have his wife, a friend or a partner hold a pistol on him so he could practice snatching it away. He would snatch the gun, hand it back and repeat several more times. One day he and his partner responded to an unwanted man in a convenience store. He went down one isle, while his partner went down another. At the end of the first isle, he was taken by surprise when the suspect stepped around the corner and pointed a revolver at him. In the blink of an eye, the officer snatched the gun away, shocking the gunman with his speed and finesse. But no doubt this criminal was surprised and confused when the officer hand the gun right back to him, just as he practiced hundreds of times before. Fortunately for this officer, his partner came around the corner and shot the subject.

There are similar stories in February 2004 Black Belt magazine, in an article by Jim Wanger at pages 38 and 40, one taking place in Canada and another in Finland, both involving officers returning weapons to a suspect after forcibly disarming the suspect.

There is more information about the Finland incident from Jim Wanger at: The Danger of Repetition, World Wide Dojo

  • 3
    I recall reading a story once about how the military has refined their training protocols to prevent exactly this. This naturally made me think that only a little knowledge would allow enemy soldiers to exploit them. For example, when practicing a choke hold, your sparring partner taps your shoulder to tell you he submits, and then you release. In combat, this just might trick you to release your enemy.
    – user11643
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 19:33
  • 4
    @fredsbend If you've got an enemy soldier in a chokeholdand they tap your shoulder to signal submission, and they continue fighting aftwards, that would count as a false surrender, which is considered a warcrime because it encourages unis to refuse to accept surrenders
    – nick012000
    Commented Dec 4, 2022 at 19:33
  • 1
    Do the quoted sources cite their original sources? If not this answer just looks like more unsourced examples of the same urban legend.
    – Brian Z
    Commented Dec 4, 2022 at 21:01
  • @BrianZ I didn't find any better sources unfortunately
    – DavePhD
    Commented Dec 5, 2022 at 0:01

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .