Tag Archives: pistol whipping

Q&A: Pistol Whipping

How effective (or ineffective) is “pistol whipping” or bashing someone with the butt of a rifle or a similar weapon in real life? Is it a load of bullshit (I imagine most guns being hollow) or can it actually work like in the movies?

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You imagine incorrectly, except on a technicality. Turns out, “technically correct,” isn’t the best kind of correct after all.

The barrel is hollow. That’s a necessity, otherwise you can’t fire the bullet. The receiver needs to have a void, so that’s another technicality. Beyond that? It varies.

Most handguns store their magazine in the grip. This means that while the grip is technically hollow, under most circumstances it will be filled with bullets. This can significantly increase the weight of the gun, and make being on the receiving end of a pistol whipping unpleasant.

Rifle butts are a similar story, but this gets into more complex engineering considerations. The short answer here is that you are “sometimes correct.” Some rifle stocks are hollow, some are not, depending on the exact weapon, this might be a relevant consideration, or might not.

Some rifles do use full wooden furniture. Getting struck by this will not be fun. Again, there’s some variation here depending on the wood. Doesn’t matter if it’s pine or walnut, getting tagged will suck. Probably less than if they connect with a polymer stock, but still, would not recommend being on the receiving end of that hit.

Any rifle patterned off the AR15 has a recoil spring in the stock. This is, mostly non-negotiable, and the only exceptions I’m aware of moved the recoil system above the barrel, like an AK. This means any AR pattern rifle will technically have a hollow stock, which is pretty cold comfort, because it’s still the stock, and as a result, still a stable, heavy, chunk of polymer you don’t want to see used as a blunt weapon on your face.

I mentioned AK rifles a moment ago. In this case it really depends. The stock could be wood. It could be polymer. It could be a simple collapsible wire construct, in which case, probably not the best thing to use as an improvised melee weapon. Or it could be absent entirely, in which case, you’re not going to get hit with a stock that doesn’t exist.

I’m bringing up those two examples because the vast majority of assault rifles are based on one, or the other. (Technically, the AK was based on the StG44, but the AK is the one we all know.)

When it comes to other rifles, it will depend on the specific weapon. So, it’s kind of hard to generalize. If the gun has a stock that can clock you in the face, it can clock you in the face.

The thing that is “bullshit,” is getting knocked out. Taking loaded handgun to the back of the head will suck. It might even put you on the ground. But, it’s not going to magically knock you unconscious. Striking someone with the butt of your gun can create distance to allow you to open fire on them. It will not knock them out safely. That is a myth.

So, if that was your question, “can my character clock someone across the back of the head with their handgun to knock them out?” then, “no.” They can do that, but it’s just going piss off and knock down their opponent.

Generally, I would not recommend this. You never want to take a handgun into melee if you have the option. So, if you have functional handgun, shoot them, don’t walk over and slap them with it. Similar situation with a rifle. This is large, easy to grab, object. It’s far more effective when your foe is not close enough to wrestle with you for control.

-Starke

In a strange moment, while writing up the tags, I’ve discovered that we answered a similar question two years ago. The auto-import from Tumblr messed things up a little, but you can find the post here.

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How does pistol-whipping actually work? It seems to me that if the gun is held in the usual way, you’re not left with a reasonable bludgeoning surface. When it happens on TV, it’s never clear enough to show what part is striking, and whether they’ve changed their grip.

With handguns, usually it’s the magazine’s buttplate. It’s not technically the heaviest part of a gun, but if loaded, it’s close. It’s also devoid of operator controls (in most cases), and is unlikely to be damaged if you clock someone with it.

It can be used either while the pistol is in a normal firing grip, by bringing it down onto the target, or while holding the barrel as an improvised grip, and using the actual grip as a strike surface. (Incidentally, I’ve known a few Marines that used to joke about simply using Mk 23s as improvised hammers.) Both approaches also work with most revolvers.

It’s also probably worth remembering, this is one of those things that is basically never useful. (Unless you intend to use your pistol for hammering tent stakes. In which case, don’t, it’s a really terrible idea.) If you have a gun out, and you’re in a situation where you should be shooting someone, you probably shouldn’t simply hit them with the gun. It won’t knock them out, but it will make them angry. At which point, better to have them angry and leaking blood everywhere than angry and trying to beat you to death with your own gun.

-Starke

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