This post makes some important assumptions. First, you’re pointing a gun at another human being to stop them from killing you or your loved ones, causing you or your loved ones grievous bodily harm, or kidnapping you or your loved ones. Second, the person on the business end of your firearm has the means and opportunity to kill, wound or kidnap you or your loved ones. Third, the person is in the process of doing so. And fourth, that you have the time to say anything. Yes, there is that . . .
In violent or potentially violent encounters, pacing is the most important variable. Time creates options. Negotiate? Run? Seek cover? Call for help? Defend with hand skills? Warn verbally? Brandish your weapon? Shoot? If you have time to think and act—as opposed to simply reacting—you have a reasonable chance of surviving.
Most violent people have never heard the terms “first mover advantage” or “get inside their OODA loop.” But experience has taught them that the less time their victim has to think, the greater the likelihood they’ll “win.” From your perspective, if you are overwhelmed by the pace of events, your survival will depend almost entirely on luck. Good luck with that.
By shouting at your would-be murderer with your gun drawn, you may interrupt their attack long enough to more thoroughly assess your environment for cover, concealment, additional threats, potential help, etc. To think of a plan and execute it. To save your life.
But you can’t scream just anything. If, for example, you yell FUCK OFF, you’ll increase your attacker’s level of aggression. The epithet could also be used against you in a court of law. If you yell DON’T DO IT! your assailant may not know what “it” is.
You need to say the right thing in the right way at the right time—which still may not work. But hey, it’s worth a shot (so to speak). All of which brings us to our first self-defense interjection.
In a life-threatening situation, your body releases adrenalin. Your heart-rate accelerates, your blood flow changes (sending blood away from your extremities to protect them in battle), your breathing becomes more rapid, your major muscle groups get super-oxygenated and your eyes open wider.
These physiological responses are quantifiable, scientific fact. What happens mentally is nowhere near as certain.
A large adrenalin dump triggers a trance state. Like all trance states, it’s characterized by time distortion, altered sensory perception and changed cognition. But HOW these psychological effects manifest themselves is unpredictable.
For some people, time seems to move more quickly than normal. (“I don’t know what happened. It was over in a second.”) For others, time seems to slow down. (“I could see his knife hand moving like it was in slow motion.”) Some people experience increased mental abilities. Some people stop thinking.
Here’s the tricky bit: your mental abilities aren’t the most important consideration in this adrenalin-triggered trance state. After all, you can’t do anything about your crisis cognition. (The time to train for grace under pressure has passed.) Instead, you need to focus on your assailant’s mental state.
[Don’t get caught up in the differences between drugged and trance states. They’re not mutually exclusive. And the effects are roughly similar; as the Brits would say, it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other.]
One of the most interesting aspects of the trance state: subservience to authority. If you’ve ever seen a hypnosis show, you’ve seen people in trance obey an authority figure without “thinking.” So . . .
If you draw your gun and give your would-be attacker a single, focused command—STOP!—he might obey. The word is easily understood and obeyed on an instinctive (i.e. non-rational) basis.
If the STOP! command works, use the gift of time to plan and execute an exit strategy. Don’t forget to call 911 ASAP.
If the STOP! command doesn’t work, you know what you have to do. The fact that you gave your attacker a chance to cease hostilities, however brief, will help you in the subsequent legal morass.
2. DROP YOUR WEAPON!
This assumes your assailant has a weapon. (If he or she doesn’t, you better have a really good reason why you drew a gun on/shot an unarmed attacker.)
The human mind loses higher brain functions in stress-induced trance. People can’t reason or otherwise process complicated information. They don’t so much think as react. Excuse the pun, but commands need to be dead simple. DROP YOUR WEAPON! tells your attacker EXACTLY what to do.
If you’re lucky, DROP YOUR WEAPON! may trigger the stimulus – response pattern created by law enforcement during a previous encounter—which [must have] ended with a weapon’s removal. They may drop their weapon.
Compliance is verifiable. Either your attacker drops their weapon or they don’t. And there you are. Remember: even if they don’t drop their weapon, but stop moving towards you, you may no longer in imminent danger. In which case, lethal force would be illegal.
Speaking of which, as with the STOP! command, DROP YOUR WEAPON! is excellent ammo for any subsequent legal wrangle. Your attacker had a clear, unequivocal opportunity to de-escalate the situation.
So what do you do if they DO drop their weapon? Tell them to BACK UP! and kick the weapon away. Or forget it and move towards safety (e.g. high-tailing it or putting a car between you and the attacker). Keep in mind that your attacker could have a second weapon, or friends.
[Note: if an attacker who’s dropped their weapon comes at you again without a weapon, they may no longer be a lethal threat. You may have to re-holster your gun and engage in a fight without your firearm.]
3. DON’T MAKE ME SHOOT YOU!
DON’T MAKE ME SHOOT YOU! is a general warning, not a specific command. Use it to reinforce the above statements. At best, it focuses your assailant’s mind on your instructions while confronting them with the consequences of their actions. It tells them that you’re ready, willing and able to shoot them.
DON’T MAKE ME SHOOT YOU! makes your actions their responsibility. You will only shoot them if they force you to shoot them. Later, you can say with hand on heart—to the police, the courts, your friends, your family and yourself—-that you had no choice.
Which would be true, right? Don’t underestimate the power of DON’T MAKE ME SHOOT YOU! to help you live with whatever happens, or doesn’t happen, next.
The key to the effectiveness for any of these interjections is luck (you’re not in control to your attacker’s susceptibility). And force. You must say these words forcefully—as as if your life depends on it. It does.
I find it amazing that people spend thousands of hours practicing their shooting skills without spending ten minutes developing their “command” voice. Big mistake.
Practice your shooting skills, command voice and trigger control all at the same time and you’ll dramatically increase your chances of surviving a life-or-death encounter with a potentially deadly foe.