So much of what I see on the firing line is built to fail. By failure, I mean the training won’t apply in a real world incident. If you don’t have a systematic approach to gun-fighting, there will be gaps in your tactics and strategy. One of the biggest gaps: what you need to do after you’ve fired your weapon vs. what you want to do. Everything in life is a balance, including your needs and wants.

For example, you may want to reload after a gunfight. Fair enough, but you must make sure the timing/action is appropriate. There may be actions you should consider doing first. It’s difficult to learn these defensive gun use timing issues on a flat range. This is where checklists and procedures benefit gun owners the most; a systematic approach will help you stay on task.

Knowns and unknowns

It doesn’t matter why you had to employ your blaster. Suffice it to say you were justified. What matters is what you do in the immediate seconds and moments after the fight “ends.”

The most important challenge: managing your battle-space. That means dealing with both knowns and unknowns.

Once you’ve engaged a threat evaluate your effects on your attacker(s). Determine if the results are to your satisfaction. Your level of satisfaction will largely depend on where you are and what you’re doing. If the threat continues, through actions or opportunity, re-engaging should be your immediate response.

If you’ve neutralized the threat you need to immediately think “next threat,” ending your initial target scan.

Think big, round world

Your next priority: looking for the next threat.

You have scan your immediate area for additional threats. You need to think out of the box. Look high and low. Through and around obstructions. Remember: anytime you shift your position you expose yourself to new dangers. Once this immediate threat has been completed it is now time to think big.

Start looking for your next cover, last cover, new routes or escapes you may need to use if things continue to deteriorate. Then consider improving your position. Don’t exclude the option of just hauling ass and/or putting a terrain feature between you and the attack site.

The law

At some point ammunition management will come into the picture.  If you expended ordnance, topping off in anticipation of future engagements is the smart play.

I’m mainly addressing the needs of every day carriers. So a big question: do you even have spare ammunition. You may not because you decided to lighten your load-out to match the situation and environment. You may not have spare ammunition every single moment of the day. I encourage you to have alternatives you consider now, versus then.

This is the law: keep it simple, finish the fight first. Look for more fighting immediately, then improve your fighting position as you prepare to fight.

Have a plan for the aftermath of gun-fight. It’s far easier to adapt to an existing plan than to create one on the fly.


Jeff Gonzales is a former US. Navy SEAL and preeminent weapons and tactics instructor. He brings his Naval Special Warfare mindset, operational success and lessons learned unapologetically to the world at large. Currently he is the Director of Training at The Range at Austin. earn more about his passion and what he does at therangeuastin.com.

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48 Responses to Jeff Gonzales: What To Do After A Gunfight – Systematically Speaking

  1. “It’s far easier to adapt to an existing plan than to create one on the fly.”
    Wisdom. Earned wisdom.

    • Indeed.

      There’s another website out there that refers to this sort of advice as “lessons writ in blood”, that is, lessons other people died or got seriously hurt figuring out.

  2. “Look for more fighting immediately, then improve your fighting position as you prepare to fight”

    Boyoboy, not for me, thank you very much. After ending a threat, I am looking, again, to escape, to find a way out of a threat area, to getting in my car and leaving. If I am carrying a 19+1 XD and fired 2 shots, I am not even considering topping off, whether I have a spare or not. Once my car is up to speed, I’m headed home to call a lawyer, then to wait for the police to arrive. If they don’t arrive, oh well, guess we’re done. “Preparing to fight” sounds a lot like you imagine you are an operational operator operating in a combat zone, looking for trouble. YMMV.

    • “Then consider improving your position. Don’t exclude the option of just hauling ass and/or putting a terrain feature between you and the attack site”
      I think you two are on the same page.

      • Story goes, I was minding my own business (always am), was attacked and came out on top. Since I have not even been attacked once in the last 40 years, advocating that I go to ground and prepare for The Big One, hanging around for the rest of the fun, does not play here. GTFO. If you think it signifies Party Time, it is YDGI.

    • You might not even be aware that you only fired 2 shots. I’ve heard of several instances of people being certain they shot once or twice, only to see they emptied the whole magazine.

      • Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself.

      • I carried a revolver from 1972 until around 1999, I have trained myself to conserve rounds and to know what I have fired for longer than many of you have been alive, while most people’s “training” today consists of preparing to empty the mag willy-nilly at nothing. Change your training before you think I would fire 20 rounds and not know it.

  3. One thing I would add to this applies to post-DGU.

    Consider, if the information is available to you, how the police in the area tend to respond and add that information (if you have it) to your analysis.

    There are some places I’ve lived where as the police rolled up I would make it clear that I dropped the gun. There are other places where I would reholster the gun post-DGU (after making sure this was a good idea of course) before they showed up. Those choices come from the fact that I know how the cops in those areas generally respond on scene and my actions are meant to limit the chances, as much as I can, of getting shot by a jumpy cop as the police arrive on scene. Under no circumstances do I want to have the gun in my hand when they show up if I can possibly avoid it. If I can’t avoid it, well then I can’t, but I would prefer to not be holding a gun when the cops show up to a “guy with a gun, shots fired” call.

    It would suck to have a DGU that “went well” only to get zapped by the cops when the cavalry shows up.

    • Fascinating. A buncha folk just advised that I get ready for The Final Battle between good and evil, now you advise that I disarm myself and wait helplessly! WTF, over! I will GTFO. At my home, when the cops arrive, my gun will not be present. Why did I flee the scene? Somebody just tried to kill me!

      • Are you being intentional obtuse or are you actually this silly? Holstering your gun leaves you defenseless? OK, they why do you carry one at all?

        You might consider the fact that, unless you live in a small town and never leave it, that you may not be able to readily “go home”. I don’t assume you go around looking for a fight but I also KNOW that if a fight picks you then you don’t get to choose the time and place.

        For me, and many other people, I spend a lot of time rather far away from my house. If I had a DGU on a regular Tuesday morning it would be very, very difficult for me to justify to DPD why I drove 53 miles back to my house after I shot someone. In other instances it may appear suspicious to the police that you simply booked it from the scene when other witnesses didn’t.

        Hey, if you don’t travel more than a few miles from your home that’s all well and good, but if you’re out of your home town or out of state and have a DGU “going home” isn’t going to be an option and if you’re in unfamiliar territory, based on the circumstances, staying put might be the best option because going the wrong way in a flustered/borderline panicked state may take you to someplace worse than where ever you are now. If that’s the case you’re going to want to consider the way you look to the police when the roll up on the scene of what they know to be a shooting.

        You seem to be coming at this from a “I know the full situation in advance” sort of way and I can quite confidently assure you that you don’t. I can also assure you that, outside your little town, you have no idea what the skill, confidence, or training level of the first officers on scene will be. I’ve had a dozen cops roll “heavy” on me by accident (they got the wrong address when there was a shooting across the street) and if I’d had a pistol in my hand I wouldn’t be typing this right now because they’d have turned that situation into Mogadishu 2.0. They almost shot me over a damn Zippo as it was.

        • My impression is Larry doesn’t overthink shit much. That’s all you do strychnine. Whatever works, though I can pretty confidently predict you will never be in a gunfight. Or me. Or Larry. He knows that.

        • A gunfight would imply that both sides are shooting.

          That’s never happened to me but I’ve had more than one DGU, one against a my own kitchen knife in my own apartment. It doesn’t have to be a “gunfight” for you to get shot or end up having to shoot someone else and it’s not “overthinking” anything to consider what happens after the lead stops flying, as the police explained to me in graphic detail after that little shindig in my kitchen.

          In situations where serious harm, death or very severe legal consequences can occur it’s worth thinking about the right way to handle the situation before your heart rate is jacked and the adrenaline is clouding out the rational part of your brain rather than just assuming it won’t happen and then fucking up your life if something does happen to you.

          I learned three valuable things from living in truly shitty neighborhoods. One of them is that you don’t have to do anything wrong for the cops to think you did and wreck or prematurely end your life.

        • I would have hoped the one thing you learned from living in a shitty neighborhood was to move Strych.

        • After all those war stories, and then after we all know about cops taking 30-45 minutes to arrive on scene, and somebody just tried to kill you, and you plan to hang around for an encore? WTF are you thinking? Yes I can draw again, but can I explain why I killed two or 3 more people 15 minutes after the first engagement, because I reloaded and hung around?

        • “justify to DPD why I drove 53 miles back to my house after I shot someone”

          How about “because I shit my pants I was so scared!”?

  4. Customer service. You deal with the first customer, complete the transaction, then move on to the next customer. If there is not another customer, then you tidy your area, and refill your supplies.

    See, not being an operator still taught me decent tactical knowledge.

    This is where you laugh.

    • I’m not laughing, I worked in a ultimately managed in customer service for a long decade once and I like the analogy. The customer in front of you requires you attention, but you can’t ignore the others in your queue/space/store. You should use any lull to be ready to service the next customer as excellently as the last. You’re responsible for the space and your performance regardless of what or how the customer presents.

      I think, if one doesn’t mind the tongue-in-cheek nature of it, that there might be an interesting and useful primer in tactics readily adaptable from the thrust and language of customer service.

      …and now I’m laughing.

      • Plus, there’s always the 2nd or 3rd customer who thinks their issue is bigger than the 1st, or that their time is more valuable and requires more immediate attention. Gotta quiet them down and insist they respect the 1st customer’s issues.

  5. I am a big fan of Navy SEALs and other operator types operating operationally. I took my basic tactical pistol course from a retired SEAL and he was great.

    But we are NOT Navy SEALs! We will seldom, if ever, need to use, much less draw our defensive weapons. The chances of the vast majority of use having to face multiple, determined aggressors is statistically zero. The advice above is excellent, if you are facing a group of people dedicated and determined to kill you. While it is remotely possible to be caught up in some terrorist incident in a public space where this would be an issue, what are the odds? Why would your average Joe Concealed Carrier need to spend any significant amount of time or money training for such a scenario?

    YouTube is your friend in this case. There are thousands of security camera videos of exactly the sorts of attacks normal people going about normal lives can expect. In the vast majority of cases, even when the attack starts with multiple assailants, they all un-ass the AO with alacrity when lead starts coming their direction, usually leaving compatriots behind to their fate and NEVER returning to re-engage. I recall one video where a large gang approached some sort of bodega and when one customer came out with a pistol they en-mass beat a hasty retreat. This is not Falujah.

    Take training advice from persons whose career is focused on combat with a grain of salt. Unless you are planning on taking up a career in combat.

    • The statistics do not support your assumption. Almost half of the time when someone faces in an assault, that assault is carried out by multiple assailants. And never get the idea that a single shot will send some away or that giving people what they want will send them away. There are multiple defensive gun uses listed on this website that show exactly the opposite. Many attackers do commit. Take for example earlier this month the man in Dallas who was murdered during a carjacking. He allowed the attackers, multiple, to have his vehicle. But when they realized they could not drive a stick shift they murdered him in front of his family anyway. Multiple, determined attackers are a reality. And not an uncommon one.

      • Hell, I can agree with that! Shoot each once, quick as you can, before serving seconds. Reload and THEN beat feet! Especially if that first serving may have included a few backs. If you do not need the police at that stage, why call them?

    • Your argument(s) say, statistically, you shouldn’t even bother carrying a gun then. The chances of you ever having to use it are so slim, what’s the point? Same can be said for any other type of physical or systematic insurance policies.

      Being prepared for every scenario is better than being in one you’re not prepared for. What’s the old saying? Better to have and not need? Or something like that…

      • But where do your scenarios end Jon? I can always one up your best scenario. It never ends with these tactical trainers. Of course, that’s where the money is.

        • You can’t one up reality. The “scenario” I gave just happened in Dallas. Please explain to me how your philosophy of not training for events that actually happen will help victims survive. Luck is not a survival strategy.

        • No offense JWT, but “luck” most certainly is a survival strategy and it’s one a hell of a lot of people rely on these days.

          It’s a really shitty survival strategy but 95% of the time it works in modern society because nothing actually happens that requires a better strategy (or isn’t compensated for by EMS or safety devices that require no use input like an airbag) and generally speaking when a better strategy is required the poor slob who didn’t bother with a better strategy is dead and not telling anyone where his/her errors were.

          People are lazy. Just look at the discussions on TTAG, ones in which you’ve been involved, in the past about how hard/not worth it/my back hurts it is to get in half-decent shape or how hard it is IRL to convince some people to change batteries in smoke detectors and buy a fire extinguisher.

  6. Solid advice from a good instructor. How invested is the TTAG publication crew with the Range at Austin? Mr. Leghorn no longer serves as IT Director yet most if not all interior range photos seem to come from the top-notch facility. Capitalism is a great system but I’ve wondered how transparent your business dealings are lately…

  7. You might want to consider topping off. Whatever you had, it’s a pretty good bet it’s all gone. No matter what you think.

    • I doubt that. No matter what you think. And I suspect we have been in a near identical number of non-military shootouts.

        • Larry might be right about how many non-military shootouts JDC has been in but that doesn’t mean the conclusions he draws from that assumption are correct.

          In fact, based on his other posts, I’d suggest to you that nearly every conclusion Larry draws warrants serious doubt about the skill set(s) and experience of the person who made those posts.

          You know this is true because you mentioned it earlier.

        • I don’t think I’ve made any claims of vast tactical skills as an operating operator, which I gather you are, S9. I have neurological problems causing the shakes and making my stance unsteady, my near vision has deteriorated since I turned 60 until I can no longer focus on pistol sights without reading glasses which are useless except at the range, so am trying to adjust to laser sights since distant vision is fine, but am not sure how well it’s sighted since I can’t hold it steady enough to shoot a reliable group. None of that says I cannot think, and hanging around waiting for a corpse’s buddies to return with automatic rifles to finish the job just does not make sense to me, and I might remind you that even you will not be paid for it any more. If I find myself in a gunfight, then I somehow got myself into the wrong place, and I will be LEAVING it if I get the chance. Arguing about it will happen with the lights on, my lawyer present, and include liquor.

  8. So, what does this have to do with training on the firing line? If I saw some “operator” scanning, topping off, seeking cover, repositioning, hauling ass at my local range, I’d haul ass.

  9. Golly gee Jeff, how did the 79 dude in Jefferson County Alabama manage to ventilate his home invaders without your special ops/tactical bullshit? You are an expensive solution in search of a very occasional problem.

    You guys would live a lot longer investing your time in aerobic exercise.

    • Please list the training history of that 79 year old man. Please list his military service.
      Oh..dont know it? Why would you assume everyone is like you and just hopes for the best?

  10. This is Exhibit A for why military training and civilian training are two entirely different things. Battle space? Routes of escape? Terrain features? You gotta be kidding me. This is terrible advice, it’s almost a parody of “how to get shot by the police after a DGU”. Sad to see how far down the hype-train TTAG has gone.

  11. In the words of General “Mad Dog” Matis. “Be polite, Be Professional, and Have a Plan to Kill Everyone You Meet.”
    Not saying you need to Kill Everyone. Just be Prepared.

  12. If you’re not in a war zone:

    1. Deal with the immediate threat(s) as necessary.
    2. Secure your weapon to your person, but keep your eyes open for additional threats while executing the following steps.
    3. Immediately call 911, and give them a quick summary of the situation.
    4. Be sure to tell dispatch your name and driver’s license number so the police officers can bring up a picture of you on their computers. This greatly lessens the chances of your being shot by mistake, and it’s a great reason to always get a fresh picture when you renew your license.
    5. If you don’t feel like hanging around in a bad place, politely ask dispatchers if you can meet the police officers someplace else nearby.
    6. Don’t say anything else without a lawyer present.

    • Saying absolutely nothing will get you arrested for certain, but at least you didn’t incriminate yourself…perhaps telling the first responding officer your name and any contact information, the reason you shot your attacker …you were in fear of your life at that moment, the “perps” weapon(evidence) if it’s laying near the body or bodies assuming more than one assailant and any witnesses that saw what happened….at that point you respctfully decline answering anymore questions until you have been with your attorney and that you will fully cooperate with the investigation….that might keep you from being arrested.

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