According to Hollywood, you shoot a bad guy, they die. Unless they suddenly and unexpectedly come back to life. In which case the good guy shoots them again. And then they die. Here in the real world, bad guys remain animated for quite some time after they’re shot, before they stop pestering people. A homicide detective told me most bad guys stagger around for at least a minute before they collapse. Maybe it just seems that way. Anyway, even without stats (cough 80% survival rate cough), we know guns are not death rays. That’s great news if you’re a good guy who gets shot. It’s not so great news if you’re a good guy attempting to stop a lethal threat through armed self-defense . . .
First, note the word “stop.” If you’re trying to kill someone—even if that someone is in the act of trying to kill you—you’re on shaky legal and practical ground.
Legally, generally, you’re only allowed to shoot to end a credible and imminent lethal threat. If the bad guy or guys die in the process of ballistic threat cessation, oh well. It’s a good thought to keep in mind before before and after a defensive gun use (DGU). Statements like “it was him or me” are not helpful to your cause. “My life was in danger” is all the mantra you need before you lawyer-up.
Practically, shooting to kill can be a huge waste of time—time that would be better spent leaving. If you can shoot and scoot, that’s the ideal plan B. (Plan A was scooting without shooting.) And when your priority is skid-addling, you view your firearm in its proper perspective. It becomes what Ralph calls a time machine: “It gives me time to get my ass out of Dodge.” True dat.
OK, so, there’s no such thing as a “one shot stop.” Well, there is, but it depends on a large range of factors: caliber, shot placement, the recipient’s level of intoxication, etc. It’s not a good idea, survival-wise, to believe such a thing exists. As Ben Frankin said, it’s better to be a pessimist and pleasantly surprised than an optimist and constantly disappointed.
This doesn’t mean you should empty your mag at the mo’ fo’. That would be stupid. There may be other mo’ fo’s ready to go. At the other end of that, DAs don’t like bullet-ridden corpses. As the rabbi says, you need to fire as many shots as you need to fire and no more. Which requires a bit of thinking, if you think about it.
Only most shooters don’t think. They shoot until their gun runs dry and . . . that’s it. As the Dixie Chicks sing, there’s your trouble. Legally and strategically, it’s really important to make each shot a conscious choice. The only way to do that” follow the path to Carnegie Hall. Practice.
When you’re at the range, do whatever it takes to NOT mindlessly fire at a target. Don’t load a full mag, shoot a full mag, reload a full mag, etc. Load half mags, insert random snap caps; shoot various strings, practice acquiring the target and not shooting, create multiple targets. Think!
By the same token, stop thinking about what’s on the target after you shoot and start thinking about the act of shooting. Run through scenarios in your head and then shoot. What am I doing and why am I doing it and what would I do next? After you shoot, check left and right. Really look at what’s going on around you.
The goal: to process information about lethal threats in real time as you’re shooting. That way you can keep shooting until the threat ceases—and no longer. Well, in theory. Truth be told, no matter how you train, everything may go to shit. You may well empty your gun. Never mind. It still pays to train yourself to think before, during and after you shoot, just in case you somehow manage to do so instinctively.
Instinctive thinking? It’s entirely possible. But one thing’s for sure: a bad guy doesn’t stop being bad because you shot him. In fact, he can go from bad to worse. You have been warned.
[h/t to everydaynodaysoff.com for the video link]