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TTAG reader Cliff H. was not impressed with The Washington Post’s advice for dealing with an active shooter at work. So he knocked out this little cheat sheet, of which I’ll share with you. It assumes you, our Armed Intelligentsia, are armed. What are the odds?

1. Move to COVER. Move as fast as you can away from the threat’s line of sight. In almost every case the Active Shooter has not trained with firearms in real life scenarios and so hits a moving target only a small percentage of the time at any range. Once you have found cover expose only enough of your head and body on your strong side to get a good sight picture before firing. ALWAYS remember the four rules, but also remember this is a life or death emergency situation and the Active Shooter’s death at the earliest possible time is the desired outcome . . .


2. Look for an exit. Look for any exit to get people out of the line of fire, including emergency exits, windows and doors not typically used as entry and exit points. Make sure you know that doors not typically used as entry/ext points actually lead exterior, not to a closet or other dead-end trap. Direct all people you can see or that can hear you to use those exits while you engage the Active Shooter to cover their retreat. When possible distract the Active Shooter with thrown objects or other noises. Your ammo is limited – conserve it!

3. Take cover, stay low. If there is anything low in the room that can provide cover, duck to that height and stay behind that cover. If you need to maneuver to get a good shot at the Active Shooter scramble on all fours to lower your profile. Remember that a shot taken from low cover at the Active Shooter’s feet, knees or lower legs can be extremely effective.

4. Stay sharp and focused on the threat. Realize the possibility that you can be shot the longer the Active Shooter threat goes un-neutralized and think through how you can best ensure that you shoot and stop the Active Shooter before he can deliver an incapacitating wound to you.

5. Remember – an Active Shooter almost always believes that they are safe within a Gun Free Zone. Your ability and willingness to shoot back effectively will be a shocking surprise. Use the advantage to enact violence and speed of action in your response if at all possible. In any event realize that your presence has completely disrupted his wet dream of unopposed massacre and the advantage is now yours if you keep your head. At the very least your distraction from his plans may allow many more people to escape his planned kill zone.

65 Responses to Cliff H: Protecting Yourself During a “Shooting Event”

    • No doubt!

      I’ll add:

      6) Remember that even if you look “trapped” in a room, most walls in offices can be punched or kicked through. You might break a finger or a foot, but usually there is always an escape to another area.

      7) Everything around you is a weapon. If you have to lead a party out and you’re the only one with a firearm, make sure everyone else grabs scissors, knives, make-shift clubs, etc. – just in case.

  1. Quibble about point 1: the goal is to Stop the active shooter, not kill them. Killing is an acceptable method of stopping them. Being in a potential mass murder scene does not change how the law sees us.

      • He’ll it’s entirely possible they want to be killed…they might sue you if you don’t. Nothing would surprise me anymore

    • The goal is to keep firing at center of mass until he quits. If you are shooting accurately, dead is what he will be. Unless he is wearing a vest…then a head shot is gonna kill him as well.

      .45 ACP….because shooting twice is just silly.

    • My quibble about your quibble:

      If I am in a situation where fear of death or severe bodily harm gives me the right to use deadly force in defense of myself or others then the deadly force is what I expect to use. If he DOESN’T die it’s not because I was not trying really hard. My intention is to neutralize the threat, completely. If he is neutralized to the point where a stops shooting and cannot resume shooting, I’m done. Until then my efforts are not to wound him into submission, but to kill him. All other bets are off.

      While I can see your point from a legal technicalities side of things, what really are the chances that in such a situation ANYBODY would be looking for a reason to bring charges against the person who stopped the threat? Even if you knocked him down with a knee or pelvis shot, then stood up and put a few more rounds in him to make sure he didn’t get up again or reach for another weapon, what public official would see any possible career enhancement from prosecuting you for that action?

      And even if he is not killed outright in the efforts to stop the rampage, survives any wounds he may have received, and is brought to trial, is it not most likely that the prosecution will seek the death penalty? So, the Active Shooter’s death at the earliest possible time IS the desired outcome. At all levels.

      That said, in a litigious society I can understand your concern. In the event I will make sure to state to investigative authorities, “I was in fear for my life. I want a lawyer,” and NEVER utter the words, “I wanted him DEAD!” Should you decide to disseminate this article please feel free to edit that sentence to suit your legal requirements.

  2. Also, know the difference between cover and concealment. That filing cabinet is concealment, unless it is packed full of paper and other hard to penetrate items.

    When directing people to escape, have them tell the arriving authorities your description, and that you are NOT the shooter they’re looking for.

    When confronted by said authorities, drop your weapon and comply with their commands. No hero needs to die because they were misidentified as the shooter.

  3. Speaking of aiming low – it’s not often discussed, but a hit to the pelvic region is pretty effective at putting a bad guy on the ground. If you hit the femoral artery, it’s mortal within a few minutes.

    • Pelvic region shots, while theoretically effective (reduce shooter mobility), may also drop them to the ground – giving them the most effective platform to shoot from if they are still armed. It might even be a lethal blow, but in the 15-45 seconds before they die they can do serious damage from a prone shooting position.

      That is why most advanced LEO tactics have abandoned pelvic targeting unless the person is only armed with contact weapons. No reason to give your enemy a temporary advantage – shoot for the center of mass if no body armor is present, or the ocular cavity if other vitals are protected.

      That being said, hitting the unlawful shooter in any visible part of their body is probably a good idea.

      • A pelvic hit is going to HURT. Hurt bad. You are most likely going to shatter some big bones, and bones do have lots of nerves. I saw a couple of pelvic GSWs in Iraq…not pretty. If you hit him in the jewels, well, you know how that goes. If that’s all you’ve got, it will work. Once he’s been stopped, he may well turn his weapon on himself and finish the job for you.

  4. Not to mention that there has been several times when the Active Shooter realized they weren’t the only one with a gun and they where drawn down on and committed suicide. That’s also a happy ending, less court costs…

  5. I have a small quibble with the suggestions, as it seems the writer does not grasp the distinction between cover and concealment. And cover differs with the weapon(s) faced – cover from pistol fire is not necessarily so against rifle fire, crew-served weapons, etc.

    • In an active shooter situation I would say you take what you can get…but if you actually have options then use the best one available.

    • Army basic training – Concealment prevents the enemy from seeing you, cover prevents the enemy from shooting you. Simple concept but the intent was to be concise. I used the term cover because cover is obviously the best option, but in this sort of situation you would have to take what you could get, cover OR concealment.

      • I’m with Dirk. I already know that I’m the better person, but I don’t feel that I have to prove it by becoming the deader person.

    • Dirk, you must do what you feel is right for you.

      Most of the unarmed people in your vicinity every day are already victims of the propagandizing of the Brown Stream Media and the self-serving efforts of liberal/progressive politicians. Educate them on their error at a later date, but leave them to the mercy of a spree killer to prove a point?

      For myself, I am also going to be trying to save myself, but if you consider only your own self I refer you to Matthew 16:26 – “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”

      Running from the fight and leaving innocents to die that I had the power to save would leave me without my soul and make it extremely difficult if not impossible to look in the mirror or face any of my family or friends for the rest of my life. Sure, you have to want to survive and try to survive, especially if you have people who love you and depend on you, but what will those loved ones think when they learn that you might have saved X number of innocent people, but you let them die just so you could come home to your family? And if you think you personally are so much more important to your family than the lives of those you left behind, I quote Anon: “The cemeteries are full of people who believed they were indispensable.”

    • The way you interact and their training. Of course you can let the perp shoot you in the head and you won’t have to worry about this scenario.

      • Even the best trained rescue teams, i.e., SPECOPS forces, will drop anybody who doesn’t respond to an immediate command or has a weapon. They teach you in force protection training to go face down on the ground and don’t move when the cavalry arrives.

        • Going into a university such as Va Tech or Santa Monica is NOT a SpecOps operation and in SWAT team that treats it as such should be barred from LEO and dismantled as a unit. There are campus police etc. on a University Campus but mostly students, staff and professors. That is part of the problem of “militarized police.”

    • Just thinking the same thing. Should be a step in there in recognizing and responding to law-enforcement so you don’t end up being killed as a “second shooter”.

  6. Two other add-ons:

    1) Having a Crimson Trace or other laser on your EDC gun would be very helpful in an active shooter situation when trying to aim around cover/concealment, for example.

    2) Remember to carefully scope the area and other people for a potential accomplice to the primary shooter.

      • Just how long do you plan on holding the dot on him? If he ain’t lookin’ your way and it helps you get a couple of accurate shots, he’ll never know where you are.

        • That may work for a mall ninja but you aren’t going to be that straight forward in long halls and narrow corridors.

      • The problem with these sorts of things when you try to boil them down to their essentials is that there will always be debate about things left out or fine details of tactics. If you go into too much detail the whole thing becomes so intricate that it’s useless. These are intended as guidelines, not a blueprint for every situation, and started out as only a counterpoint to the helpless victim assumptions of the original four points posted. I agree that a step 6 on how to respond when the authorities arrive on scene might be a good addition. If you make it through to that point it would certainly be a shame to have an amped up cop take you out by mistake.

        As for the Crimson Trace, do we have to have that argument again? If you don’t have a laser, go to a pet store and buy one of those cheap cat toy lasers. You can quickly prove to yourself that even in a dark room there is no red or green line running from the laser to the target, just a spot on the target and if you are looking more or less directly at the laser source. (NEVER look directly at the laser.) Unless the room is filled with smoke or dust the laser beam itself will not be visible. What you see on CSI or in the movies is a Hollywood special effect. It is in most cases difficult to impossible to track the laser dot on the wall or your chest back to its source. Certainly not in time to aim a counter shot before you are hit.

        • I understand how lasers work. I have 2 sitting on my desk. I guess you missed the part where I said “come hunting you.” I didn’t say “follow the laser.” If you can’t visually ID your target in a university/school setting, you shouldn’t be taking the shot. In my university building, a laser wouldn’t be as beneficial but could alert LEO or perp if not disciplined properly. Then you are being hunted by 2 groups of predators.

      • “It can also give them an idea of where you are.”

        This is a myth that really needs to be squelched. You can not see the laser beam, unless it is passing through smoke, fog, or a heavy dust cloud. In other words, a laser sight generally will NOT give away your position.

        Have you ever seen a laser before? I don’t mean on TV; I mean in real life. If you had, you would know better.

        • Some people do seem to have a deep aversion to the idea of laser sights. I have one on my SR9c but do not use them on my revolvers. My advice to people is to go to a range and rent a gun with a laser, then decide for yourself if it has value for you. As an OFWG whose eyes are not what they used to be I find the Crimson Trace a fine tool.

          The other thing that seems to be often overlooked is that the laser doesn’t come on unless you squeeze the button. It’s there if you want it and not if you don’t. If you don’t have one at all you do not have the option. YMMV

        • Bob, both of you failed to read what I said. I never said a damn thing about them seeing a laser beam. I already addressed this in another response at21:01. However, when laser dots start showing up, people know someone has a laser. They aren’t the end-all in tactics to make up for handling a weapon and make up for a lack of training or magically negotiate odd corridors and angles.

    • Can someone with a little more dexterity at surfing the Interweb find some statistics on the number of spree killings (I can think of Columbine and the D.C. Sniper) that involve more than a single shooter? I would be interested to know if that was a legitimate concern.

      • The Boston Brothers, McVeigh and Nichols are 2 more examples. The punk that was involved with killing his mother before going to school, his gf and her gf at school as well as shooting several students had accomplices but chickened out and didn’t participate. The Jonesboro school shootings (Arkansas 1998) had more than one as well (Johnson & Golden).

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitchell_Johnson_and_Andrew_Golden

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pearl_High_School_shooting

        • Well I have to point out that the Boston Brothers and McVeigh/Nichols were bombers, not spree killers. As for the others you list, that is a little scary and certainly does make it a valid point that in an Active Shooter scenario you should never assume you have only one shooter and one target.

          Thanks for the research.

        • No problem. I didn’t have to do much because I am up on the history of this things going back as far as the Texas Tower. I remember a bunch of them. As far as the Boston brothers you are right about the initial bombing but they had others planned and also killed an MIT LEO and took a guy hostage. The unabomber was a serial bomber and not a spree killer.

  7. Where did this idiotic “active shooter” nonsense come from (or mean). Popo trying to sound educated and technically advanced would be my theory. Is an “active shooter” worse that a lackadaisical shooter? More WASP sounding/worse that an Islamic terrorist?

    Make the guy dead is he the an inactive shooter? or just and alledged or accused shooter?

      • Active shooter is a pretty concise and accurate descriptor for someone who is actively engaged in shooting.

        I don’t even see how it could be confusing really…

        • You obviously haven’t thought about it. LEO or anyone defending themselves could be an active shooter. What about when they are deactive? But I will draw it out for you. What does an active shooter situation look like? Va Tech? Ft. Hood? Texas Tower? Boston Marathon? Aurora? Peach House Shootout? Pearl High Mississipp 1997i? Miami 1986? Santa Monica? Columbine? Appalachian School of law 2002? All these were different.

    • The difference comes from the way the police are dispatched. In most cases they are dispatched to “shots fired” but it’s not an ongoing situation, i.e. my neighbor pissed me off so I shot his dog went back in the house. The shooter is no longer actively engaged in the act of shooting people/things. So an active shooter is a situation where shots are fired and the shooting in ongoing and “active”.

      • Look at my previous response. The problem is that most of these things are over before LEO get there. Exceptions are Navy Yard, Santa Monica and Ft. Hood. So it can be misleading. The Peach House Shoot out had the Perp, a deputy and a civilian backing up the deputy. It was over by the time backup got there. Aurora? Over. Newtown? Over. Pearl High (1997 Mississippi)? It was stopped by Assistant Principal with a .45 acp. Appalachian School of Law 2002? Stopped by a couple of students with guns.

    • It need not be so complicated. Active Shooter means that you are there and someone who obviously is a bad guy is shooting at people. I use the term because if the BG were not actively shooting or prepared to shoot then you would have no legal authority to respond with potentially deadly force. Or it could be he’s clearing a jam or switching weapons or mags. If he’s not down for the count and is shooting or preparing to resume shooting he is an Active Shooter.

      As noted above the police dispatcher will refer to either “Shots fired” meaning be careful but no one seems to be shooting now, or “Active shooter” which means someone is reporting that shots continue to be fired which means the police need to go in on very high alert and prepared to return fire. My post above was in no way meant to reflect police procedure, but a reasoned response from an AI who happened to be on scene.

  8. Don’t forget to think in 3 dimensions. If you can’t get out of a building, go up or down. Avoid the common choke points and know where the utility access areas are, back staircases, service ladders, etc.

    And always keep your badge on you, not in a desk drawer. Some of the places I worked had auto-locking doors on the stairwells. It sucks balls to get stuck there (doors open into the stairwell, but didn’t allow out without an electronic badge). Some buildings required a badge in/badge out policy, meaning you could actually be standing at the exit, banging on the door, unable to open it as the “active shooter” came toward you.

      • “If you pull a fire alarm, will such doors open without a badge?”

        Never had an opportunity to find out. I did have to crawl over a fence one time during a power outage. Those badge activated turnstiles make excellent ladders when they’re locked up. Some buildings now have emergency buzzers by the main exits, but not always at the alternate exit locations. Remember that you’ll want to avoid crowds and choke points.

    • The final answer on this point is obviously up to Robert, since this is his site, but for my part I am thrilled that he saw value in my article and decided to publish it here. I hope it has some value for everyone who reads it, if only for the further discussion on tactics in response. I personally would be flattered to have the item reposted wherever anyone thought it might do some good and to have it attributed both to TTAG and myself.

      By the way, I would suggest adding and attributing Item #6 added at the top of the comments. Makes really good sense.

      • By Item #6 I am referring to the discussion of what to do once authorities arrive to take control of the situation.

        6. When the Active Shooter is neutralized or when the authorities are in a position to take over the situation such that you are no longer in immediate danger from the Active Shooter, put down your weapon where it is in full view of anyone entering the room, place your hands on your head and comply immediately to the best of your ability with each and every command. Make no move to retrieve your weapon. Upon approach of the authorities announce in a loud voice, “I was in fear for my life. I want a lawyer.” And say NOTHING more until your lawyer is present.

        Or words to that effect.

  9. “Your ammo is limited – conserve it!”

    Thank you California!

    If you’re like me, a California resident… You probably threw-up in your mouth slightly.

    • I get the strangest feeling that none of you have heard of carrying a spare magazine or two? Besides the extra rounds they provide, if your primary magazine is dropped (it happens) or malfunctions, you are left with a very expensive and inefficient rock.

      My EDC here in SC consists of a Colt Combat Commander in the winter with 3 eight round magazines. In the summer I have used a G26 with a 12 round mag (Pierce mag/grip extension) and two 17 round (G17) magazines. Returned the 26 to its rightful owner (my daughter) when she went off to grad school. Some friends of mine gave me a new G19 to replace the 26, I carry the last two rounds from the box in my pocket, just in case.

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