Your Tactical Training Scenario- Shaking Hands

Written by Greg Ellifritz

Topics: Tactical Training Scenarios

  • SumoMe

Written by: Greg Ellifritz


You are out shopping one night in an area with lots of pedestrian traffic, bars, restaurants, and stores. A drunken man approaches you and engages you in an argument, walking away after taking a swing at you (that didn’t connect).  The drunk reappears about 15 minutes later. He apologizes for his conduct and extends his hand to shake. Do you take his hand or refuse to shake?


This situation happened to a man in Northern Ireland. When he took the drunk man’s hand, the drunk pulled him closer and stabbed him two times in the chest. How do you handle a situation where an unknown and potentially dangerous man extends his hand to shake?


Often, criminals will play on “good” people’s desires to be friendly and polite by luring them in close with a handshake. Once the victim shakes hands, he is close enough for an attack and has one of his hands (usually his dominant one) tied up. It’s a bad spot to be in.


It doesn’t have to be a weapons attack like the one above either. I once had a crazy man use the handshake as a ruse to get in close and try to tackle me. The man was trespassing at a nursing home. He was homeless, but perfectly polite. I was walking him to a bus stop when he stopped, told me he appreciated how civilly I had been treating him, and extended his hand to shake. As soon as I touched his hand, he lunged in for a tackle. I sprawled quickly, bouncing his head off the sidewalk. He stopped fighting, I cuffed him and he went to jail with some “road rash” on his face.


So what do you do when someone suspicious offers to shake your hand? You have a couple of options:


1) You can simply be rude and refuse to shake hands. This may keep you out of the bad man’s clutches, but you may unintentionally spark an unnecessary confrontation if the suspect in front of you takes offense at your refusal to shake.


2) You could employ a verbal ruse. I’ve used “Sorry dude, I hurt my hand yesterday and the doctor told me not to shake.” I’ve also used “I’m sorry. Our policies prohibit hand shakes.” These types of ruses usually work best on drunk people.


One other verbal ruse is to say “I’d love to shake your hand, but I have a bad cold and don’t want to spread it to you.


3) Instead of shaking, you could employ the “fist bump.” That satisfies most folks and significantly lessens your risk of being grabbed.


Hock Hockheim also has some interesting information on handshake problems in this article.  Have any of you open carriers considered this ruse?  What if someone approached you in a public place and said “I commend you for carrying your gun openly and appreciate that you are providing a visual deterrent against criminals.”  After saying this, he extends his hand to shake yours.  Would you shake?  If you are carrying your gun openly in a holster without retention, it might not be such a good idea!


Come up with a plan now, so you don’t have to think it up under the stress of the actual event!




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5 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Rod De Leon says:

    This is some great food for thought, Greg. The Waffle House shooting comes to mind. After receiving several uncomfortable minutes of racial slurs from a group of men, the CCW holder refuses to shake the hand of one of them and is rewarded with a punch in the face. And the situation quickly escalated from there. Whether you accept the shake or not, once they are close enough to extend a hand, they have already closed the distance. It seems the CCW holder in this case doubted the authenticity of this conciliatory gesture as often in these types of situations a handshake can be more of a show of dominance than anything else. Perhaps he didn’t want to play that game. But he should have been ready for what seemed inevitable at that point.
    If someone who is setting off my “Spidey senses” initiates a shake, I will often vigorously rub my hand on my pants while explaining, “got a bad cold.” If he insists, I’ll say something like, “it’s all good.” If he presses further, the implication is that he doesn’t think “it’s all good,” and he’s the one being a jerk. The “fist bump” is always a good standby as well. Thanks for bringing up the simple things we all encounter that are in that grey, DMZ category where “slapping the gat” would be completely inappropriate, but the situation could still turn dicey in a blink.

  2. Phill Hetzel says:

    Great article to get you thinking about something before it happens. I’ll take this one step further. What do you do if a traffic violator wants to shake your hand at the end of a traffic stop be it you wrote him a ticket or not? I train others and practice two different responses.

    My first response is the catch all. “Sir, I appreciate the jester but for safety reasons I’m going to have to pass and get you on your way”. This gets a variety of responses from ok to actual name calling as they drive away.

    The second response is shaking their hand with your non weapon hand. Even though it looks and feels awkward I have never had a bad response doing it that way. I think it is had to do with the physical touch gratification than the proper society handshake.


  3. C.W. Sayre says:

    “The second response is shaking their hand with your non weapon hand”

    That’s a good one Phill; and it also breaks their OODA Loop…

  4. Merle says:

    The Scottish used to insist on using the left hand to shake with – they explain that it is a gesture of trust, allowing him (and you) to keep your weapon hand free. Then, you can keep one hand on your holstered weapon, and be more ready to respond to an attack.

    The left arm was traditionally the shield arm – shaking left handed was more trusting than the right. Shaking right handed just showed that you didn’t have a weapon in that hand, but if somebody is left handed, you could be ambushed that way (i.e. your weapon hand is controlled, and his is not) Dropping your shield (your defense) demonstrated more trust, but for both parties, because he knew that you weapon hand was ready to strike back.

  5. john says:

    Once again, I cannot see any advantage in open-carry vs concealed-carry.

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