Self-Defense Tip: There’s No Such Thing as a “Warning Shot”

I’m no fan of the “If I draw my gun I’m going to shoot” school of armed self-defense. A drawn gun may cause the bad guy or guys to stand down and/or flee the scene. Both eventualities are preferable to drawing blood, if only because shooting someone will be The Mother of All Draws on your life savings, come what may. If there’s time for a momentary pause—and adrenalin can make a fraction of a second seem like an eternity—go ahead and reassess the situation. You know, if it is safe to do so. Do not, however, even think about firing a “warning shot.” For one thing . . .

A warning shot could open the door to a charge of recklessly discharging a firearm. Hey, you didn’t know exactly where you were shooting. And it’s true that a “warning shot” could take out the wrong person. You could also face prosecution for discharging a firearm where you are prohibited from doing so. Bye-bye gun rights.

No really.

Secondly, a warning shot indicates [to a jury] that you weren’t really in life-threatening danger. If you, your loved ones or other innocent life were in such grave danger, why didn’t you shoot the bad guy or bad guys? The perps could even argue that you were the aggressor (a.k.a., a latter day George Zimmerman).

But here’s the thing: if you do fire a warning shot at a bad guy remember this: it wasn’t a warning shot. You faced a credible and immediate threat to life or limb and you missed. It’s as simple as that. If and when the cops ask, you say this: “My life was in danger. I will gladly answer your questions after I speak top my lawyer.”

And that’s it.

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

74 Responses to Self-Defense Tip: There’s No Such Thing as a “Warning Shot”

  1. avatarMatt in FL says:

    “Would you have any regret if you did hit ‘em?”

    “Nope.”

    Damn right.

  2. avatarChristian says:

    What about shooting to wound? I always thought that I could aim my first shot (situation permitting) at say, my assailants shoulder, and follow up with the rest of my magazine should he be foolish enough to continue his ill-advised attempt on my person. After all, I’d like to avoid killing anyone. Or would that just be opening me up to further legal trouble?

    • avatarMatt in FL says:

      The common wisdom is that in a scenario like this, it will be unlikely you will have the time, the mental faculty, or the physical dexterity to think about aiming at someone’s shoulder. And even if you do, you don’t ever say that out loud. Saying you were only trying to wound him opens you up to questions of why you were shooting at all. You’re shooting to stop the threat. Leave shoulders, hands, and shooting the gun out of their hands to the movies.

      • avatarHasdrubal says:

        Shooting to stop the threat is exactly right. It just happens to be that with guns in general, but with handguns in particular, the fastest way to stop a lethal force threat is to aim center mass. Without a lengthy discussion on human anatomy, accuracy under stress, and terminal ballistics, the short version is that center mass is the best option.

        If you’re really worried about killing someone, consider it this way. Quite often, handgun bullets don’t end up causing death, thanks to some of the best ER and trauma surgeons in the world. The faster the bad guy is stopped, and the fewer rounds that takes, the more likely he is to make it to the hospital and receive treatment.

        Although to be honest, this is not my primary concern.

    • avatarAkira says:

      As grisly as it sounds, you should NEVER pull your gun out if you do not intend to end the attacker’s life immediately.

      Besides, under that kind of stress, aiming technique will go right out the window. There is no way to simulate that stress and train for it. If they’re close enough, putting a few shots in the center mass is about all the average person can handle with that much adrenaline pumping.

      • avatarJus Bill says:

        That’s the way I was trained, way back when dinosaurs walked the earth. Happily, I never had to put the training to use.

    • avatarWarsawPactHeat says:

      Your mindset should never be to shoot to wound. You should be focused on shooting until the threat is abated. You have the power to summarily take a life and be prepared to do so once you decide to squeeze that trigger.

    • avatarchuck (slave to nj) says:

      I’m not a lawyer or do I claim to be any kind of a law expert but I would take a guess that there’s plenty of scummy lawyers jumping at the chance to represent the criminal against you. On the other hand I could easily see the scums family doing the same thing if you shot and killed the perp.

    • avatardwb says:

      You cannot guarantee that your shot will only wound someone. What if you shoot to wound and miss, or hit an artery? A well placed shot, even with a small caliber low power round can kill, as can “less lethal” ammo. Even worse, you might make them go into fight for their life mode.

      A gun says you are serious. If you think they doubt you will pull the trigger, SCREAM AT THEM TO STOP IN A VERY LOUD MUF-KING VOICE.

    • avatarKyle says:

      My understanding is that there is no such thing as shoot to wound, there is only shoot to kill. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the skull and survived. You could shoot someone in the leg, hit an artery, and they bleed out and die. You shoot at the chest not because it’s the most effective target, but because it’s the largest target, the area of the body with the most surface area.

      • avatarHasdrubal says:

        Don’t use the term ‘shoot to kill.’ Why do you care if the bad guy lives or dies? I only care that he stops doing whatever it is that forced me to defend myself. Shoot to stop the threat. Protecting human life, your own, or someone else’s, should be the focus.

        • avatarRich Grise says:

          Agreed. Recently, I saw a photo caption: “We don’t shoot to kill, we shoot to live.”

    • avatarstyrgwillidar says:

      If you shoot, it is because you are in fear of imminent great bodily harm… You are trying to stop that threat, wounding folks may not stop them.

      The damage from bullets isn’t 100% predictable. As someone else said, you hit an artery, or the bullet strike bone and deflects, or it hits something in a pocket and deflects. Now, since you were only shooting to wound and they died, despite it being under justifiable circumstances for lethal self-defense, you could be charged with manslaughter because you did not intend to kill them- in fact you deemed the circumstances weren’t sufficient to justify killing them in your mind so you were ‘only’ shooting to wound.

      And of course, what if you miss? (this relates to something I’ll be posting a little farther down…)

    • avatarTheSleeperHasAwakened says:

      Every LEO I have psoken to has said if you shoot someone, you should always plan on killing them.

      Dead Men tell no tales…so your version of what transpired is MUCH harder to contradict.

    • avatarPascal says:

      @Christian

      You need to read the book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition” — There are so many ways the prosecutor will try to screw you. You are aiming to stop the threat and that is all, if the assailant is lucky, he is only hit in the shoulder. Your only focus is to stop the threat.

    • avatarJim Barrett says:

      Christian – this is a good question. Don’t let anyone tell you different. The thing is when the you know what hits the other you know what, you are not likely to have the presence of mind to take carefully aimed shots. Plus, the best target on a human is center mass as its the biggest. If you are off by a few inches one way or another, you will still likely strike something vital. Shooting to wound generally means aiming at an extremity which is a smaller target that you are much more likely to miss.

      If you have a range that allows it, try walking down the range from left to right, engaging targets as you go. You will see how even a small amount of lateral movement makes a huge difference in your ability to hit exactly where you are aiming. Better still, seek out a Simunitions range near you and take a class. The Adrenalin dump you get the first time you are in a live scenario with people shooting at you will give you a good idea why the wisest course is to aim center-mass with the intent to stop the threat.

      • avatarRich Grise says:

        What’s the difference between simunition and paintball, other than the propellant and trained instructors?

    • avatarBDub says:

      Two words: Civil Suit.

  3. avatarJoseph says:

    The best self defense tip I have ever heard was: Keep the fed’s out of your life…

  4. avatarGraybeard says:

    Since I live in Texas, most of my knowledge about the consequences of drawing my weapon relates to Texas laws and culture. So I have no issue in Texas with draw-and-don’t-shoot.
    However, according to a nephew in the State of Misery -uh-Missouri, their laws say if you draw you better shoot, no waving your gun around in a threatening manner.
    So, as with most advice anywhere on any topic, YMMV according to what laws are applicable in your state.

    • avatarBruce says:

      So you draw your gun, the bad guy sees it, turns and runs. You should shoot him in the back? Good luck with that.

      • avatarRich Grise says:

        I’m guessing that if there’s no shot fired, and nobody’s hurt, what they don’t know won’t hurt them. “Don’t lie, but it’s not necessary to volunteer any information.” But I ANAL[1] and I’ve never been in any situation like that, so what do I know?

        [1] I Am Not A Lawyer. The space is for humor. ;-)

      • avatarRich Grise says:

        If you draw, the perp sees the gun and runs away, and there are no shots fired, no one is hurt, and no crime is committed, just wait ’til the adrenaline wears off and go back to bed. Maybe have a nice relaxing beverage and tell your roomie about it.

      • avatarBob says:

        No. Read the original post again.

        “If there’s time for a momentary pause—and adrenalin can make a fraction of a second seem like an eternity—go ahead and reassess the situation. You know, if it is safe to do so. ”

        While you are drawing the gun as fast as you can, you should continue assessing the situation. By the time you complete the draw, you may determine that the situation has changed such that the threat does not exist anymore or is not imminent anymore. Then you do not have legal justification for shooting the perp anymore. Take your finger off the trigger, look around to ensure there are no other threats, maybe give the perp a verbal warning, and if safe to do so, carefully put the gun back in your holster. Then thank God that you got out of that one without killing anyone or being killed.

        One should practice drawing from concealed carry and shooting. However, one should practice drawing and deciding to not shoot also. ‘Muscle memory’ is a good thing, but if you only practice drawing and shooting (never practice not shooting), then muscle memory can cause you to accidentally shoot someone when drawing your weapon was sufficient to stop the threat or maybe when another half second tells you that you were mistaken about the threat. Try explaining to a jury that you saw that you shouldn’t shoot, but your finger pulled the trigger anyway!

  5. avatarAkira says:

    I don’t know, Mr. Farago… Joe Biden himself said that firing two blasts from a double-barrel shotgun off of my balcony is the best way to deal with home invaders. I mean, I think the Vice President would know what he’s talking about! He IS a sportsman, after all…

    /sarc

    • avatarVenator Magnus says:

      I was waiting for someone to mention that! The crazy thing is, no one in the MSM even bothered to follow up with Biden on the fact that firing two “blasts” indiscriminately into the air in an urban area is a misdemeanor in most places. Unless you’re firing at someone directly attacking you, the court will ALWAYS side with the burglar. That’s what happened with the guy in Utah earlier this year, who fired off a warning shot at a burglar who was fleeing his home.

    • avatarHoystory says:

      And it was too much to ask for a knowledgeable reporter (like bigfoot, such a thing might exist) to challenge the VP on his stupidity.

      “Mr. Vice President, wouldn’t that open you up to the charge of recklessly discharging a firearm?”

      “What if one of the pellets struck and injured, or even killed, your neighbor across the street? Is that really wise advice to give?”

      Turn to his Secret Service detail:

      “When you perceive the vice president is under a threat, do you discharge your weapons into the air to warn people off? If he gave you a direct order to fire warning shots, would you follow that order?”

      The man is a world-class dumbass and Obama’s best insurance policy.

      • avatarRich Grise says:

        For some reason, this brings to mind D. Cheney.

        • avatarjwm says:

          Bullsnot,Rich. Cheney didn’t fire a warning shot. His first shot hit the dude in the face.

          Not standing up for Cheney and his meat puppet dubya, but slow joe is more on the level of Quayle when it comes to not smart.

        • avatarRich Grise says:

          jwm: Fair enough. I stand corrected. :-)

  6. avatarComrade X says:

    How can you be firing a warning shot if the first thing you should do is run and hide?

    Running and hiding; A real man’s self defense!

    Heck I am waiting for my first self defense class where we can all practice running and hiding! Saves a bunch of ammo, for sure!

  7. avataruncommon_sense says:

    Our criminal justice system defines drawing a gun and pointing it at someone as deadly force whether or not you actually pull the trigger. The only time deadly force is legally justified is when a reasonable person would honestly and reasonably believe that their life is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm.

    If you are in a situation that meets those conditions, then point your gun at the attacker. If the attacker continues their attack, then pull the trigger.

    Warning shots waist ammunition, make you half deaf (at least temporarily anyway), and divert your attention from other possible attackers that are not in front of you. In other words they are a bad idea from a strictly tactical perspective. They also happen to be illegal in many instances.

  8. avatardwb says:

    In some places this is aggravated assault. Thanks Joe Biden!

    Don’t shoot people in the back either.

  9. avatarRopingdown says:

    The question really highlights the fact that we’re on the horns of a dilemma (they’re big and raised in DC, not Texas): One thread of law developed to say “Citizen, don’t present a gun unless you absolutely are forced to by another person’s actions.” The other thread of law says “We can’t ask cops to ‘shoot to wound’ because it is too dangerous to the cop, so shooting to kill is fine if that is the result of effectively shooting to ‘stop.’ ” The result is the common legal view that a gun should not be presented unless it has to be used, but that once you have to shoot, stopping the threat must be the purpose, not mere discouragement.” It would seem courts want to discourage shooting cases and subsequent litigation from appearing on their docket, so they want to keep it simple even if it promotes the death of stupid criminals for whom mere presentation of a weapon isn’t enough, who demand proof the gun works.

    Warning shots seem to be the answer to the question “what do you do with a perp that doesn’t believe your gun is actually a gun, or a functioning gun?” “That,” the law seems to say, “is the perp’s problem.” Warning shots are generally forbidden. It often happens, though, that in the heat of the moment a defender legitimately faced with a threat of serious bodily injury or death misses with their first shot. It happens all the time. For some reason. Draw your own conclusion. You can’t be blamed for a lack of accuracy under dire pressure. It happens to cops every day, somewhere. You can certainly be blamed for firing a warning shot. As I said before in “Should you tell a home invader that you have a firearm?”

  10. avatarAdub says:

    Note to self: squeeze out the double tap to the chest, follow up with a head shot, and claim the last one wasn’t “aimed”.

  11. avatartdiinva says:

    The only warning shot that I give is if I happen to miss with the first round.

  12. avatarShaun L. says:

    Just my 2 cents here…

    Court can be a very dangerous place even to the innocent(or justified). A “warning shot” isn’t the only action that could bring unwanted questions. Too much remorse can be seen as a sign of questioning your own actions. Showing remorse for the life you took no matter the circumstances can be presented to a jury as a guilty conscience thereby bringing the necessity of your actions into question.

    Make no mistake, a jury trial IS about the emotional reaction of the jurors as much as about the actual details of the event. Even when instructed to be objective do you doubt for a second that some would vote with their “heart”? I only hope NEVER to put myself in that situation in the first place.

  13. avatarpeirsonb says:

    I may argue that ANY shot is a “warning shot.” It just happens that in a life threatening situation a “warning shot” should be placed center of mass.

  14. avatarmediocrates says:

    If somebody is breaking into my house, my first thought is how the hell am I going to get out of there, provided no member of my family is threatened. Barring that, I’m going to light’em up, pure and simple. I respect everybody’s right to defend their person and property from armed criminals.

    • avatarJake says:

      I understand this, just remember that you might not know how many other perpetrators might be at windows or other locations around the house. Not a good idea to go out of cover with unknown assailants present. “Duty to retreat” rules that apply to persons in their own home should be struck down with prejudice because they technically recklessly endanger homeowners

  15. avatardon says:

    You mean like the one in Angela Corey’s other case???
    http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/11/justice/florida-stand-ground-sentencing

    • avatarMatt in FL says:

      That wasn’t a warning shot, that was aggravated assault. She went out to the garage, she says she either was trapped by a door that wouldn’t open or she forgot her keys, so she got the gun out of the car, went back into the house, and fired a shot past (or at, and missed) her husband. She returned to the fight, it’s on her.

      Angela Corey may be an evil, conniving bitch, but in this case, she offered the woman a 3 year deal, and the woman turned it down, electing to take her chances on a Stand Your Ground defense. I don’t know if her attorney told her how bad an idea this was, but if he didn’t, he should be liable for malpractice, because that decision will go down as a massive failure. It took the jury twelve minutes to convict. That’s not even worth taking your coat off for.

      • avatarCarlosT says:

        A lot of people misunderstood this case, and it got politicized to “prove” Stand Your Ground is racist. It actually proves SYG isn’t a “license to kill” or whatever other BS the anti self-defense people were claiming. The woman in this case wasn’t being attacked, so SYG didn’t apply.

  16. avatarRalph says:

    This isn’t rocket surgery. A gun is for stopping the bad guy. Your lungs are for warning the bad guy. Use either at your own discretion for their intended purpose.

  17. avatarstyrgwillidar says:

    Another problem with warning shots. We all tend to think of ourselves as the good guys. And of course, everyone we discuss the incident with will see it our way.

    However, from the other guy’s perspective- how does he know it’s a warning shot? How does he know that you’re not just a bad shot? You’ve certainly just given him reason to claim hes in fear of imminent great bodily harm… and legally he’s got as much right to self-defense as you do.

    No matter who started the situation, legally the role of aggressor/victim can change during an encounter.

    Depending on circumstances, the fact you fired and missed him may not play out the way you think it will.

    • avatarArthur says:

      Dudes standing in my living room, just busted through my door with a gun in his hand. If I fire my weapon at him in self defense and miss, I’m purty sure he can’t get away with telling the judge the reason he killed me was because he feared for his life. Unless he can.

      • avatarBob says:

        If he is in the process of committing a violent crime, then most courts will say that he does not have the right to self-defense.

        If he turns and runs away, and you shoot at him WHILE HE IS RUNNING AWAY, then he does have a right to self-defense, because he is not committing a crime anymore, and now you are attempting to murder him.

        Do you see the difference?

  18. avatarHasdrubal says:

    Folks, consider this as an option- if you draw, there’s no requirement that you then point the gun at the threat before you decide to shoot. It takes a fraction of a second to go from low ready to on target, and having your weapon out of your line of sight makes it easier to see the bad guy. Point at center mass, and you may obscure your view of his waistband and hands, which are places I want to be able to see.

    If your situation does turn into a DGU, and there are either coherent witnesses or video, you may look more competent and more restrained as a result. If it does not, then it may keep you from being prosecuted for whatever your state’s legal term is for brandishing. Especially combined with appropriate verbal warnings.

    That’s how I was trained, and I haven’t seen a drawback yet.

    • avatarstyrgwillidar says:

      http://www.forcescience.org/demos.html

      Times for college students unfamiliar with firearms to draw/produce weapon and fire; compared to actual LEOs times to react and fire based to a light signal. (I.E. times for experienced perps should be faster, times for LEOs in an actual situation requiring more than a simple consequence free go/no go decision expected to be slower).

      Think OODA loop. Action beats reaction. If their hands are at their waistband by the time you react to their hands moving they will have fired once and the second round will be headed towards you by the time you fire.

      • avatarHasdrubal says:

        Point taken, but what are the alternatives? Shoot because the bad guy was menacing and they might have a weapon? You’re right, action beats reaction. Given that we put ourselves at a disadvantage by not preemptively shooting anyone who might be a threat, I think going to low ready takes a bit of the disadvantage away. Concealment draws are likely to take a bit longer than draws from a duty belt. It also, local laws permitting, can be a way to demonstrate the bad guy’s poor choice of victim without getting yourself criminally charged.

        What do you propose as a better course of action?

        • avatarstyrgwillidar says:

          My plan is to draw when I am in fear of imminent great bodily harm and fire until that is no longer the case. That fear/assessment informed by realistic times for actions that can occur.

          So, it really is going to depend on the circumstances- someone with my TV in their hands heading for the door gets a pass. Hey, I’ve got property insurance, the insurance claim is a lot less hassle than a shooting.

          By the way, college students averaged .23 seconds with a fastest time of .09 to draw from a waistband (hand on the weapon), LEO reaction to a buzzer from ‘Tactical low ready’ aimed was .64 for an unsighted shot (.44 fastest time) and .83 for a sighted shot.

        • avatarHasdrubal says:

          So, in general, would you say that fear of great bodily harm is reasonable before someone presents a weapon or otherwise declares their intent to harm you, i.e. “give me your wallet or I’ll cut you?”

          If you’re only talking about finding someone in your home, then the rules change somewhat. By entering, unless they’re doing something obviously non threatening like leaving (with or without property), they’ve moved up the threat scale considerably.

          If you apply the same standard to someone who walks up looking menacing while you’re pumping gas, you may have a problem. In situations like this it may be appropriate to give a verbal warning like “stay back,” or combine that with sweeping your concealing garment back and placing a hand on your weapon, or even to draw but not yet point in. This may cause another uncounted stat in the quasi-DGU no shots fired column.

          Then again, it may not.

          I do appreciate your mindset in recognizing the threat and acting to stop it, I’m just trying to get a better idea of where you draw the line. Personally, I won’t shoot everyone who walks up to me at a gas station at 2am. Body language is a good indicator, though, and someone who walks up to me looking like they might be planning an armed robbery may get a verbal warning. They won’t get shot for looking like they might be a bad guy, but I don’t want to ignore them until I get muzzle flash confirmation that they’re a bad guy, either.

        • avatarstyrgwillidar says:

          Well, in court whether your fear was reasonable will be based on the juries assessment of what a reasonable person in the same circumstances would be. You’re right- my mindset is more inside the home since I live in a discretionary issue state.

          I think my first inclination is to move away/ or get something in between myself and someone I have a bad feeling about. I think a verbal warning is better both practically and legally prior to getting a weapon out. As soon as you pull the weapon, you’ve definitely put them in fear of imminent bodily harm. You could be viewed as the aggressor/instigator vice defender/victim. It truly is a last resort and while I wouldn’t say I’m committed to pulling the trigger as soon as I reach for a weapon, I would be defaulted to pulling the trigger while looking for indications I shouldn’t. I think yelling freeze as you draw would spark a reaction to help give you more last second I&W. (Problem is, it’s a situation which will happen not in seconds, but in tenths of a second). They throw their hands up vice down and starting to back away etc. But based on actual timings from studies I don’t think you can assume you can react to motions, that is I’ll cover them and wait to see if they move.

          It will be very situationally dependent. Lighting, context- good/bad part of town, time of day, you have a known stalker, etc. etc etc But you’ll also be fighting the normal human tendency in an emergency of disbelief. This can’t be happening, I must be misreading this… conversations like this help to overcome that by working through pre-planned responses ahead of time based on all available info which shortens the OODA loop. Plan and review in slow time what will happen incredibly fast. To quote Groucho Marx, “I could go on talking to you kids forever, but it’s time to play “You Bet Your Life”.

  19. avatareshank881 says:

    Wait a second. This was on TV? I thought the media’s purpose was to make guns look like evil, sentient creatures that kill indiscriminately and are therefore inherently unsafe. This piece made it seem like, possibly, maybe they might be tools for self defense. How long til these narrative-opposing presenters are looking for new jobs?

  20. avatarKyle says:

    IMO, never ever talk to the police and never tell them you will talk to them either.

  21. avatarRoss says:

    Warning shots should always be placed into the cranial of the bad guy, that way they will always remember it.

  22. avatarCraig says:

    If you’re Joe Biden, you shoot TWO warning shots out of your double barreled shotgun. And then you walk away from the press conference into a sea of Secret Service.

    If you are not Joe Biden, do not shoot a warning shot.

  23. avatarC says:

    “If I draw my gun I’m going to shoot”

    For me, that’s only half the statement. The rest being “unless they quit doing what they’re doing.”

  24. avatarOut_Fang_Thief says:

    In this rare instance I can see firing a warning shot(s). Criminal crowd dispersal.
    A riotous mob(of more people than you have bullets) is surrounding a car and
    threatening the occupants therein. You’ll scatter the joiners-in, and half-hearted,
    leaving you clear shots on the real agitators. Never underestimate the dynamics
    of the herd. In the fight or flight scenario, most opt for flight, ask questions later.
    Admittedly, seeing your species fleeing like a herd of impala’s spooked by a lion,
    can be a terribly disillusioning sight for a “so-called” apex predator, but the painful
    reality is, when we gather in large groups, we all tend to behave like a herd.
    It’s this ego-deflating reality that can be safely used to serve a positive outcome.
    When faced with superior numbers, a warning shot(s) may give you the best
    opportunity to save a life, if that’s what you have decided to do. My standard
    carry is 30, one in, one backup. If I can scatter 26 of them, a 4:1 scenario will
    leave me 8 bullets per perp. Much better odds for achieving a positive outcome.
    Or you could leave the people in the car to the violent, riotous mob. Pick one.
    Either way, you’ll be the one who has to live with the choice you make.

    Crowd dispersal is the only reason I can see for firing a warning shot(s).

    • avatarMike says:

      Wouldn’t you also scatter the half hearted and joiners in if your warning shots are among their ranks? I’m not sure even the scenario you describe is enough to justify warning shots. Sending ammo into the air, hoping they don’t hit someone on the other side of town?

      • avatarOut_Fang_Thief says:

        I don’t personally know anyone, including myself, who would be stupid enough to be among the ranks of a riotous mob. I’m talking about standing 20-30 yards away when you’re trying to scatter the herd, leaving you a good line of sight to the most dangerous ones who don’t run away. A 9mm will not hit somebody on the other side of town if fired straight up or into the ground. The falling bullet scenario in this instance, and with this caliber, is negligible due to it’s limited terminal velocity, 300mph and less. A larger caliber and heavier bullet, maybe, but a tumbling 9mm hollow point, not a real big danger. As I said, on only the rarest of occasions would firing a warning shot(s) be advised, and only for the purpose of scattering the most fearful of the mob. Mobs have a few instigators, and lots of followers. It’s those X-Y followers you want to disperse. It’s the double Y chromo-boys that are the agitators who need to be stopped. It’s these people the crowd takes its cues and inspiration from. Remove these people from the riot, and most of the crowd discovers they have better things to do than waiting to get shot. Crowd dispersal is the only reason I can find where firing a warning shot(s) might be tactically efficacious.

        If you want to pick up some thoughtful insight on crowds and mobs, check out Gustave Le Bon’s book, The Crowd. ~ 1896
        I’ll bet the Community agitator in Chief, Obama, has read this book.

  25. avatarRopingdown says:

    The question posed cannot be answered intelligently without more facts and knowledge of the relevant state and municipality laws. The only general answer seems to be a question: “If you are actually in fear of death or serious bodily injury, why on earth would you hesitate to stop the attacker?” If brief words don’t work, and presentation of a gun doesn’t work, but your belief in the immanence of the threat is reasonable, why on earth would you not shoot to ‘stop’?

    • avatarRuss Bixby says:

      If it’s a drunken dip in need of encouragement to be elsewhere, but isn’t usually a bad joe.

      This can happen, and I’d rather stop the guy without drawing blood, but also ensure that he goes off to cool down — usually flanked by a buddy.

      As it’s legal here, it’s a good alternative to feeding him some lead.

  26. avatarHinshelworld says:

    I will draw my gun any time there is a reasonable possibility that I may need to use deadly force imminently.

  27. avatarAlejandro says:

    Standard instructions from the CCW/CPL class I took in Michigan (your state laws will vary) from a Detroit cop. Cliff notes version:

    Brandishing to de-escalate a threat is legal (may not be in other states). Such as if a road rager gets out of his car and starts walking towards you with a tire iron. This would be a smart and effective use of brandishing. Keep in mind that brandishing laws vary greatly between states and in some states is very vague.

    The deadly threat perimeter (for someone approaching you threateningly (but without a firearm)) is 21 feet. IOW, If that same guy with a tire iron is 50 feet away, you’d better not shoot him as he doesn’t present an immediate threat of death or great bodily harm. Once he gets within 21 feet, he becomes an immediate threat. Once he starts coming towards you aggressively, it is wise to warn him verbally (“STOP!”) as this helps to legally establish that you felt threatened.

    Never, ever, fire a warning shot as it is a de facto admission that there was no immediate threat. I suppose that the “riotous crowd” example given above could be an exception, but was not covered.

    Never “shoot to wound” as this is simply Hollywood fantasy. Shoot center mass until the threat is neutralized. Once the threat is neutralized you must stop shooting (recent case of a guy delivering a coup de grace shot to the head to a disabled robber got him in big trouble). Trying to “shoot the shoulder” just increases the probability of a miss and shooting a by-stander.

    Once you do shoot someone, you have an obligation to call the police and remain at the scene (within reason if it is safe to do so). All you tell them is “I was in fear for my life and had to shoot to stop the threat.” Then you shut up. Not one more word. You can add a very brief statement as to what led to you fearing for your life such as “He broke into my house…” “He came at me with a knife…” etc. in the fewest words possible (better be 100% truthful), but that’s all. If they ask for more details – “I invoke my right to remain silent.” Same if they detain or arrest you. Remember, a recent Supreme Court decision completely convoluted Miranda, such that you now have to verbally assert your right to remain silent, otherwise just doing so may constitute reasonable suspicion.

  28. avatarBull Run Gun Guy says:

    “But Officer, warning shots are illegal, I just missed.”

  29. avatarPCnotPC says:

    Warning shots are just a waste of potentially life-saving ammunition.

  30. avatarRuss Bixby says:

    Damn, I’m glad to live in unincorporated Leavenworth County.

    Shoud I empty the entire magazine into the dirt at the feet of my antagonist, it’s his word against mine that he was even standing there as I legally cleared the immediate area of gophers. Or if I’m inside, mice.

    ‘Course, in reality I’d save a couple pills for the bad guy but otherwise the preceding paragraph holds.

    ‘Round here, there really aren’t any rules about discharging any kind of weapon. Hell, I know a guy with a six pounder cannon. So long as it ain’t nuclear (over half a kiloton; less is usually O.K.) we can pretty much do as we like.

    Crike, I’m going to go kiss the ground right now.

    • avatarRuss Bixby says:

      EDIT: Inside, the floor’s not dirt – although sometimes that’s not obvious. I’d rather not shoot the floor ’cause the basement holds all the water works.

      Still, if I wish to not shoot the bastard but still want him to back the Hell down, where I live I can.

  31. avatarEd G. says:

    Shaun L. made a comment about showing too much remorse, this is a good comment. If you are asked in court if you are sorry that you shot the bad guy and you say yes the attorney will then pull out the definition of sorry which generally reads that you are apologizing or sorrowful for a wrong act that you have committed. If you say you are not sorry you of course are a cold blooded killer. A good response it that you are sad that the bad guy put you in a situation where you were forced to shoot him. I haven’t read all the comments about shooting to wound. The ones that talk about shooting to stop are the legal basis for shooting someone. You should also remember that many people who have taken fatal wounds are not always immediately incapacitated and will continue to attack, placing shots in an area that is less likely to be lethal makes this possibility even worse. You should also look up “excited delirium” which is becoming more and more recognized, but not universally accepted.

  32. avatarJLR84 says:

    “I’m no fan of the “If I draw my gun I’m going to shoot” school of armed self-defense.”

    I suspect this is a result of people taking a reasonable maxim and turning it into something completely different, because they don’t actually understand the underlying concept.

    The argument is that you should never draw you’re gun unless you’re justified and prepared to use it. That doesn’t mean that if the gun clears the holster, that you must pop off a round.

    Another example of people twisting reasonable advise is the “shoot to kill” thing. The argument that you don’t “shoot to wound” is sound, and you should only shoot if you’re justified in using lethal force. That doesn’t mean that your goal is to kill the assailant. If you incapacitate an assailant, you’re not legally or morally justified in delivering a coup-de-grace to finish them off.

    I could probably go on and on. There are all kinds of things, in the gun-world and beyond, where people take a reasonable concept and completely corrupt it because they don’t actually get the point.

  33. avatarRick says:

    And lastly, firing a deliberate warning shot tells the goblin “Despite my words, despite the gun I have pointed at you, I’m not really serious.”
    At that point, you probably WILL have to “shoot to stop.”

  34. Great tip! I think the warning shot crowd needs to take the time to mentally prepare themselves as much as possible for the idea that if someone is threatening their life, they my have to take theirs. Otherwise, they hesitate and may do everything they can NOT to shoot the bad guy, such as fire a warning shot.

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