It’s generally accepted that most defensive gun uses (DGU’s) end without a shot fired. The defender shows the bad guy or guys their gun, the perps think better of their attack and scarper. Result! A non-ballistic DGU means less paperwork, less psychological trauma, less money spent on lawyers and a lower chance of subsequent retribution. As the independent counsel to Texas Law Shield above points out, you have no legal obligation to fire your weapon when you clear leather. But giving yourself the option not to shoot raises a thorny question: how do you know whether to shoot or not? That depends on . . .
Whether or not the attacker ceases their attack when you show them your gun. Yes but – will you have enough time to shoot if you “pause” before pulling the trigger?
This “hesitation kills” conundrum explains why some gun owners proclaim “If I pull out my gun I’m shooting.” They don’t trust themselves to be able to make a split-second life-or-death decision in the heat of battle. It’s a perfectly understandable fear. Attacks are usually extremely swift. Aside from force-on-force training, there’s no good way to prepare yourself not to shoot.
Fair enough, but not all defensive gun uses are the same. The decision on whether or not to pull the trigger upon presentation depends entirely on the situation. If you’re hit over the head, it’s best to draw and shoot. By the same token, if someone’s running at you with a knife, draw and fire.
Note: running. If they’re walking towards you with a knife, you might want to show your bad guy your gun and give them a chance to desist. It’s not about whether you have time to change your mind. It’s whether or not the bad guy has time to change their mind.
How do you know that? For one thing, distance = time. The closer the bad guy is, the less time he or she has to reconsider the foolishness of their ways. There are important variables. If they’re pointing a gun at you, for example, remember that bullets travel at thousands of feet per second. In that situation, there is no distance between you and your attacker. Drawing and firing is the sensible option.
You can and should increase their decision time by moving. Moving away from a bad guy improves the dynamics of the shoot/don’t shoot decision. If someone is chasing you, rather than approaching or following you, it’s easy to see that they’re a serious threat. If they see the gun and continue approaching, you know where you stand (not that you should be standing).
[Note: you don’t have to fully draw your weapon to make an impression on a slow-moving attacker. You can put your hand on your gun and prepare to draw – a move best performed while shouting commands (e.g., STOP!) This is a good “half-way house” if you have the time/distance required and you’re not entirely sure if someone IS an attacker. It prepares you for conflict while lowering the risk of an arrest for brandishing on an innocent person.]
It’s impossible to know what kind of attack you’ll face and what you’ll do in a DGU. But it’s all about options. Keep the option of not shooting open and you could save yourself a whole lot of trouble.