A Gun is Not the Answer

When it comes to self-defense, a gun is “an” answer, not “the” answer. In fact, it’s best to look at a self-defense firearm as the last answer to the question “How do I defend my life?” There are plenty of reasons for de-prioritizing armed self-defense, from moral concerns to practical considerations. Do I really want to kill a human being if I don’t have to? Do I have time to get my weapon out and use it effectively? I posed the latter question in my post Chamber Schmamber. It’s Too Late to Draw Your Gun. And yet, the majority of commentators didn’t get it. At all. So let me make one thing perfectly clear: you can’t always shoot what you want.

In the second running of her demo, when limalife was able to draw and fire two shots, her mock assailant stabbed her twice. That’s initially. Lest we forget, the attack only stopped because the actors stopped.

In real life, that would have been just the beginning of the attack. Even if limelife scored a brace of direct hits on the perp’s chest, chances are he’d have plenty of time to stab her some more. Lots more. And BOY would he be pissed.

You’d think the results of this demo would be enough to convince limalife that it’s best to try something else to defend against an attacker at less than five feet, and then, maybe, draw and fire. But no . . . That’s not her point:

Many people feel uncomfortable carrying a round in the chamber when they first start carrying in public.

I understand the concern and the lack of comfort and I will not tell someone they cannot carry that way.

I will, however, warn them that carrying a firearm without a round in the chamber means the probability of not being able to immediately use it in self defense. One may have to fight via some other means in order to gain time and access to his or her firearm and by then it may be too late.

Great landing, wrong airport. Or great abs, wrong absolute. While it is absolutely true that you should always carry a round in the chamber in your self-defense gun to reduce the amount of time needed to respond to an imminent threat to life and limb, it is also true that the last part of the above statement is standalone, and doesn’t quite go far enough.

In other words, with an assailant within five feet, you MUST fight via some other means in order to gain time and access to your firearm. Common sense, the Tueller Drill and the results of limalife’s demo (where she was clearly ready for the attack and still lost) says that you don’t have enough time to draw your weapon.

Even when you are prepared for lethal trouble, and I mean literally standing there waiting for it, drawing a firearm and bringing it to bear is hardly a slam dunk. Watch this video to the end.

See what happens when the bad guy forgets to come straight at you? Real world assaults are fast, messy, chaotic events. Assuming you will know exactly when to draw, that you won’t mess up your draw, and that you will fire your weapon with deadly accuracy is seriously, dangerously perhaps fatally delusional.

Speaking of which, did I refer to a five-foot personal perimeter? Conventional wisdom says the distance required to respond to a deadly threat by drawing your weapon is about 20 feet. But seriously, who’s ready for action at 20 feet? How often do you see an attack coming from that far away? Excuse me miss, do you know the time? And what about the predators that hide in the bushes or around a corner and then pounce?

I’ll go further: you may not want to use your firearm at all, anyway. In the video above, the participants were living in a box. No cover. No concealment. No bystanders. No way out. Oh wait! There’s a door in the background. Anyone looking to survive this threat should run for that portal immediately. Well, after dealing with the initial threat.

Faced with a knife-wielding assailant, you could block the blade whilst launching a direct physical attack, get some distance, and THEN pull your gun out and shoot the bastard. Or you could charge the guy with the knife and knock him off kilter. And THEN pull your gun out and shoot the bastard.

But what if you can’t shoot? What if there are children or a crowd of civilians in the immediate vicinity? What if there are other potential attackers about to shoot YOU? What if you knock the assailant’s weapon out of his hand and he stands there, dumbfounded. What if he goes down and he stays down?

Should you shoot first, run second? Run first, shoot second? Run and not shoot? Run, draw, seek cover and then decide whether or not to shoot? Should you warn him off, then shoot? Shoot without warning?

In any real world self-defense scenario, there are a lot of variables in play. Thankfully, there are also a lot of self-defense options: screaming, running, hiding, blocking, pepper spray, hand skills, using a nearby object, etc. The earlier you get in the game, by avoiding threats in general and identifying specific problems early, the more non-firearms possibilities you have.

A man’s gotta know his limitations. (Women too.) A gun is a self-defense tool. It’s not a solution to an attack in and off itself. If you fixate on your firearm as “the” answer to an assault, you run the very real risk of using the tool inappropriately and, thus, losing the fight. Where’s the fun in that?

I’m a big fan of concealed carry. I feel better wearing a big gun with lots of bullets. But when the XD slots in the holster, I pray to God I never have to use it. I can use it. I will if I have to. But I will do whatever I can to avoid having to de-holster my gun, understanding that there are times when drawing a gun could be the worst possible course of action.

comments

  1. avatar sutton says:

    I cannot emphasize enough how correct I think you are, and how valuable your emphasis on this kind of viewpoint is. It's one of the things that gives you a great deal of credibility on this subject, and it's one reason I've become such a regular reader, even though there are some political points we might disagree on. I came into the world of guns from an LE perspective (CG), and I've always felt that the "minimum force necessary" rule we followed turns naturally into a philosophy that helps minimize risk of "bad shoots" in addition to the lifetime of PTSD and night sweats that I think it's reasonable to expect might result from even the most otherwise "justified" shooting.

  2. avatar Bob P. says:

    "But when the XD slots in the holster, I pray to God I never have to use it." As a former LEO, I had the exact same attitude every time I went on duty.
    Can you solicit some reader advice on some of the best resources for personal self defense (armed and unarmed)? I know that there are some DVDs out there, but I don't know which to recommend to friends.
    Keep up the good work. MOLON LABE!

  3. avatar TTACer says:

    chances are he’d have plenty of time to stab her some more.

    See my post about expanding bullets: http://thetruthaboutguns.com/2010/11/jose-juan-ca

    10-15 seconds is a LOT of stabbing time.

  4. avatar Ralph says:

    I just enrolled grandma in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class so that she can defend herself if she's attacked in a crowded schoolyard by a machete-wielding maniac while she's not wearing her track shoes.

  5. avatar Willy says:

    Personally, I wouldn’t follow the advice given, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend to a woman to follow it. When an attacker is upon you, that’s it…there is no way you will ever get any space between you and your assailant. A delay in pulling your weapon will only net you more injuries. Women run the additional risk of being immobilized almost immediately. Less than 3% of rapists use a weapon. That’s how easy it is for a determined male to overpower a woman.

    In videos of actual shootings that I’ve seen, such as store surveillance footage of robberies, the perp flees when the victim fires his first shot. To me, getting one shot off in any direction is probably the best action a victim can accomplish. Now, the perp knows you’re no longer an easy target…you’re a pissed off victim with a gun in hand, and that increases the risk of committing the crime to an unacceptable level. And so, perps disengage and run.

    Like I said, this is just a personal viewpoint.

  6. avatar Rabbi says:

    Bob P,

    I am sure that Robert will agree that my DVDs at http://www.armedresponsetraining.com offer a tremendous amount of vital, lifesaving training. If you have any questions feel free to contact me at info@armedresponse training.

    1. Not only do I agree, but the rabbi is the only person allowed to use our server for shameless plugs. Armed Response's Shoot/Don't Shoot video is the, uh, business.

  7. avatar Willy says:

    “You are legally and morally responsible for every shot you fire.”

    Actually, you’re wrong. The perp will be held responsible for injuries to others that occur during the criminal act that he is committing. That's why perps are charged with, and convicted of, murder when their partners in crime are killed by a victim during the commission of a robbery or assault.

    And if someone is attacking you, there likely are no bystanders around. That doesn't mean you won't hit someone half a mile away, but it does mean you must concentrate on saving your own life, as that's the life that is in immediate danger of being lost.

  8. avatar Rabbi says:

    Willy,

    Your conclusion are 100% wrong.

    Please do yourself a favor and do not touch your guns until you have taken a class on the legal use of lethal force. You are setting yourself up for a murder conviction as you have no idea as to what you are talking about.

    While is it true that members of a gang (of criminal actors) are all responsible for the reasonable fear caused by the gang (see Warren Doctrine) that does not mean the gang is responsible for YOUR actions. The attackers are only responsible for their action. You are 100% responsible for your actions.

    Once you take the class on the legal use of force, you should also take classes on combat mindset, defensive shooting and tactics.

    Folks,

    Do not take advice from keyboard commandos especially on issues so important as this. Consult only qualified, established and professional instructors. You will find my background at http://www.armedresponsetraining.com

    1. avatar Willy says:

      Davarrios Noel was charged with the murder of a bystander killed by the person he was attacking, who was defending himself with a firearm.

      "This defendant started a gun fight with Anderson and forced him to return fire to preserve his own life," Mike Philpott, the Jefferson County prosecutor, told jurors in opening statements Tuesday. "The one who sets a series of events into motion is the person responsible."

      In this particular case the jury seemed to have a hard time reaching a verdict, and ultimately found Noel not guilty of the bystander killing. But the fact remains that the perpetrator of the criminal act was tried for the murder of the innocent bystander.
      http://www.al.com/birminghamnews/stories/index.sshttp://blog.al.com/spotnews/2009/01/man_cleared_ihttp://www.al.com/news/birminghamnews/metro.ssf?/

      So in cases where defense is justified, you're wrong about being 100% responsible for your actions, you're wrong about attackers not being responsible for a defender's actions, and you're wrong about me being 100% wrong.

      1. avatar Willy says:

        As for the advice on this page, if you didn't have time to get your gun out while the attacker was rushing you, what in the world makes you think you're going get yourself "some distance" afterwards?? That's ridiculous! If someone is on you, getting your gun out and firing a shot is imperative. I've been on the receiving end of gunfire from an attacker, and I know how startling it is and the fear that grips you when you believe there's a person with a gun in his hand who's trying to shoot you. I've also witness a fight escalate into a shooting…and *everyone* scattered when that first shot was fired. Perps don't continue an attack once a shot is fired. So in that regard the videos above don't represent reality.

        If you like, I'll revise my statement to say, don't wait for a center-mass shot when a perp is upon you. Shoot at the perps feet if that's the first place you can point your gun. If you can't do that then fire into the ground, but don't delay. Startling the perp can give you that 1/2 second you need to get on target.

  9. avatar Rabbi says:

    Willy,

    Please do yourself a favor and do not touch your guns until you have taken a classes on the legal use of lethal force, combat mindset, defensive shooting and tactics.

  10. avatar Ralph says:

    Every jurisdiction will treat an innocent bystander shooting differently, so do not take these comments as advice on your jurisdiction. Generally speaking, states have "felony murder" statutes. Those laws typically provide that if anyone dies as a result of the commission of an enumerated felony such as robery, the death can be treated as a murder by the felonious actor even though, under other circumstances, it would be treated as a lesser offense. However, such felony murder laws in no way excuse the person who actually fired. Thus, in the case Willy describes above, Mr. Noel, the felon, could and was charged with murder. Anderson, who apparently defended himself, could also be charged with crimes ranging from murder of the bystander to a lesser offense, such as manslaughter or negligent homicide. And both parties could be civilly liable to the estate of the deceased.

    1. avatar Willy says:

      I don’t agree that the defender could be reasonably charged. It is not reasonable to view a bullet fired at an attacker to be any less likely to hit a bystander than a bullet fired in a random direction. Even if you hit the attacker, the bullet can continue. The issuance of CCLs for personal defense clearly demonstrates an expectation and acceptance by society that bullets may end up being fired at any place at any time and in any direction as a result of a person defending his life. That does not excuse reckless behavior. However, it does place a high bar on what actions society considers reckless when considering the actions of a person found to be in genuine fear of losing his life and justified in shooting…as the presented case demonstrates.

      1. avatar Willy says:

        Also, It is not reasonable to view as reckless, the firing of a firearm in self-defense when the attacker is in physical contact with the defender. I would say it is an unreasonable expectation to expect a defender to think, “I’ll wait until his back is to that brick wall before shooting” or, “let me try to swing him around.” That’s ludicrous. A person in such a situation has a reasonable belief that his life can end at any moment, and the firing of his firearm is a reasonable act in such a situation.

  11. avatar Ralph says:

    The real issue for me is: could I live with my actions if I shot a bystander? It doesn't matter to me whether or not the state found my actions reasonable, permissible, criminal or laudable. I answer not only to the State, but also to my conscience. So, I could not fire willy-nilly. I hope that you couldn't either.

    Anyone who disobeys Rule Four will pay a price. It may be their liberty. It may be their money. It may be their spirit. Only an unthinking, unfeeling bastard would trade an innocent person's life for his own. Sure, you must know all the laws and rules, but you need ethics too.

    1. avatar Willy says:

      "The real issue for me is: could I live with my actions if I shot a bystander?"

      But that can happen even if you hit your attacker with every shot. Is the risk reduced by hitting your attacker? I’d speculate that it certainly is. Is the risk gone? Absolutely not. Can you live with it any better if the errant bullet went through the attacker first, and you had done everything right? Because if you can't then you shouldn't be carrying.

      You're not the one responsible for the bystander's injury or death…your attacker is. The bystander would be fine if it were not for your attacker's criminal actions.

  12. avatar Rabbi says:

    Great comments Ralph. Thank you.

  13. avatar Ralph says:

    Willy, note that I never said "will be charged." I said "can" be. The fact that you — and I — don't like it doesn't change the law. I've been a lawyer for over thirty years. It's been my life. If I'm wrong on this, then I have been for thirty years. My professors were wrong. The law books were wrong. Fifty years of cases were wrong. All the judges were wrong. And — this is not addressed peronally to you, Willy, so don't take it that way — I believe that anyone who can live with himself after killing an innocent person needs to rethink his ethics.

  14. avatar Rabbi says:

    Ralph,

    I have been called worse than "crazy." 🙂 You and I see alike legally, we just have a few differences of opinions on the tactical side.

  15. avatar Lima says:

    That is me (limalife) in the first video you posted. I found this post via the “discovery” on my “should you carry a round in the chamber” video that you embedded above.
    In actuality the two short clips put into this video were supposed to be part of a series where I/we DID show how poor of a choice using a firearm this close was, especially unchambered. We had technical difficulties after only a few shots and I did the best I could with the video I was able to get.
    The first scenario we were running (the one you see in this video) is based off the Tueller drill.. Just trying to draw and fire while someone is coming after you and to show how bad it was chambered and unchambered but especially unchambered.
    I agree, I DID NOT have distance or control. That was what was being demonstrated and I have never said that is an appropriate response, only that it was a demonstration.
    The next scenario we were going to run (which we weren’t able to get) was with my trying to fight for distance or control and showing that in that moment when you DO get distance or control you need your firearm to be ready NOW because the opportunity will close quickly.
    We were going to run a third scenario as well with possibly throwing in knife defense but, again, we just couldn’t get the video and we wanted to make it simple.
    This video has been taken out of context as me demonstrating “this is how it’s done.” It’s not, nor did I intend it to be that way… if anything it is “this is how it’s not done.” Had we been able to get the video we wanted I would have gone into more detail regarding when close is too close and fighting for distance or control.
    I really don’t mind people using the video to demonstrate the need to get off the x or fight for distance or control (because it is a good demonstration of that) as long as they don’t try to put words in my mouth or assume I was using this video as a means to say “do what I did.” It’s just a demonstration of the speed difference and possible consequences of choosing to carry a firearm unchambered. That’s all.
    If you watch my TDI knife FOF video you will see a better example of my advocating “fighting for distance or control” to use a weapon.
    One day I hope I’ll get to redo this video and show a better response but until then I have gotten dozens upon dozens of messages saying that video along has convinced people to carry with one chambered and so I will leave it up.
    On the other hand I get lots of messages, comments and posts like these who wrongly assume and say that I advocate this kind of response to a close quarters attack. I don’t. It was just an elaborate Tueller demonstration that left me with a bruised rib and a very sore spine and not nearly enough video to relay my true message.

  16. I can understand your point of view, that you should use the mildest effective means. And I will also point out to you that limalife does in fact follow that, and teach that. I feel you have used this one video of hers slightly out of context, as it is specifically about the difference in having a condition 1 weapon and a condition 3 weapon.

  17. avatar Robert Farago says:

    Context my toches. It is irresponsible to post a “how-to” video that illustrates an “expert” drawing a weapon at this distance. If you want to demonstrate the inherent advantages of keeping a bullet chambered, a straight demo of the Tueller drill (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tueller_Drill) would suffice for those purposes, showing the difference in time/distance between racking and not racking. Or a fancy one. But not this.

    Let me be clear. I keep one in the pipe in my Springfield XD-M. I wouldn’t carry it any other way. I wouldn’t advise anyone to carry a gun without a bullet in the chamber—unless it’s a gun like my Colt .32 which is prone to firing when dropped. [NOTE: reliability issues account for the Israelis’ empty chamber protocol.]

    But, as the post above says, you must choose the best response for any given situation. Drawing a weapon at the wrong time can get you killed. Easily.

    1. avatar Lima says:

      Oh dear heavens… Where on earth do I say I’m an expert at anything? I am a STUDENT of the arts of self defense trying to do my best to learn and pass on the bits of information I get along the way. Also, where the heck do you get the impression that this is a “how to” video of anything. You, sir, are reading WAY too much into this video.
      How is this NOT a demonstration of a type of Tueller drill? He comes after me with a knife, I try respond before he closes the distance.. that’s pretty much the definition of a Tueller drill.
      Did you not read my post I made above? I agree that drawing at the wrong time can get you killed. I agree that you need to have distance or control. I agree that you have to choose the best response for any given situation.

      1. avatar Robert Farago says:

        And yet there it is: a video of you (a YouTube expert if nothing else) doing the wrong thing. Which very few of your commentators noticed. If you’re serious about NOT recommending this approach during a close-quarters attack, the remove this misleading indeed dangerous video and do it again from a longer distance, with a suitable explanation.

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