americanrifleman.org offers some useful if basic advice on getting to grips with your home defense shotgun. Dave Campbell recommends hanging some cardboard and shooting it with your home defense load at 3, 5, 7, 10, 15, 20 and 25 yards. Fair enough. And then . . .”Now you can start training for that encounter with a bad guy holding a loved one as a human shield. Set up the targets at various ranges and learn how much to hold off the shoot target in order to secure a hit without harming the no-shoot target. Typically, at most home-defense ranges, the point of hold is on the outboard side . . .

There will be a range at which it is imprudent to attempt this shot, and the only way to determine that for you and your shotgun is to shoot it enough at various distances.

I’m thinking that a hostage rescue shot is “imprudent” at anything other than point blank range. Your best bet: run up to the bad guy, put the muzzle on him and pull the trigger. Now there’s something to practice.

Anyway, would you take the shot? Under what circumstances at what distance? Do you practice “solving this problem” at the range with, say, TTAG Target Supplier Birchwood Casey’s Dirty Birdยฎ Silhouette III Target 12″ x 18″ Splattering Targets?

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38 Responses to Question of the Day: Would You Try a Hostage Rescue Shot with a Shotgun?

      • Yes, actually, I do. However, for those who prefer not to go with that option, let me introduce a little invention known as the “slug select drill”.

        I guess every generation thinks it invented sex, and every generation thinks it is the first to notice that shot spreads, and—eventually—that shotguns are versatile weapons that can be adapted on the fly to the situation at hand by selection of appropriate ammo.

        I’m probably turning into an old curmudgeon here. I do appreciate that blogging is bringing firearms to a whole new generation. But I would also expect that those who consider themselves journalists in the field maintain a familiarity with its traditions, and attempt to pass those on rather than reinventing the wheel. Awerbuck’s “The Defensive Shotgun” is copyright 1989. It’s still worth a read. And at 77 pages, isn’t exactly a heavy investment in time.

        Now you kids get off my lawn. I have a shotgun. And it ain’t loaded with rock salt.

  1. From the American Rifleman story: “Now you can start training for that encounter with a bad guy holding a loved one as a human shield. Set up the targets at various ranges and learn how much to hold off the shoot target in order to secure a hit without harming the no-shoot target. Typically, at most home-defense ranges, the point of hold is on the outboard side . . .”

    Who writes this range commando horseshit, what are their qualifications, and where do they get their training ideas? Watching cop shows on television?

    • I guess this post is indication of why Robert thinks you are a knowledgeable troll but from my perspective I just want to give you the Howard Cosell firm grasp of the obvious award. Nobody in his right mind is going to go freelance with a shotgun in a hostage situation without any training (In this case self training is not training.)

      So here is what I would do. If I didn’t like the hostage I would take my wife’s Beretta and shoot the hostage in a non-vital area hitting the bad guy. Two birds with one stone. I would cause pain to the guy I didn’t like and take out the bad guy. Win-Win.

      (The last part was sarcasm just in case Magoo thinks I was serious.)

  2. Officer Niggemeyer (I swear that’s his name) would.

    Damageplan drum technician, John “Kat” Brooks, was shot three times as he attempted to get the gun away from Gale, but was overpowered and taken hostage in a headlock position….Gale only saw the officers in front of the stage; he never saw Officer Niggemeyer, who was armed with a 12 gauge Remington 870 shotgun. He approached Gale from the opposite side of the stage to avoid hitting the hostage and fired a single shot, striking Gale in the face with eight of the nine buckshot pellets.

  3. I wouldn’t even try it with a pistol. I shoot at this same target every week at AFS, and my hostage always seems to catch a bullet to the side of the head. I only hit the hostage once out of 30 shots last week, but that’s enough to ruin your whole day.

  4. You can train with your chosen buckshot load so that you’ll be able to reliably make a shot like that… On paper…

    In real life? Like Joe I wouldn’t do it even with a pistol. This isn’t the movies, I’m not a SWAT team member.

  5. Calling this “imprudent” is polite. The truth is, this is an armchair Schwarzenegger fantasy in an increasingly paranoid “tactical defense obsessed” industry.

    I guess I should also train to cock and shoot a lever-action shotgun, with one hand, while riding a motorcycle, in case that intruder is also a killer robot sent back from the future?

    • For that scenario, it would probably be more prudent to practice firing an M79 at a close range, man size, target… ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Hostage shots are incredibly dangerous. Practicing them on the range does not take into the account stress, the degradation of shooting skills under stress nor the fact that the target is not likely standing still and might move just as the trigger is being pulled.

    A hostage shot with a hostage near the assailant should only be taken just before the moment you think a hostage will die–yes, they are that dangerous.

  7. Life or death (obviously, or we would not be having this conversation) where the hostage is at the point of a gun, it’s safer to shoot out the legs .. You are unlikely to kill either one, but you will likely separate them , and very likely impair mobility.

    Reflex action from the report as well as to get off a wounded leg tends to throw the arms up, pronating the wrist so the finger extensors naturally open, making a trigger pull less likely by the bad guy. The victim’s similar reaction will also help separate them .

    Then if the threat is still active, a followup with clearer field of fire, and a less mobile target.

  8. If you practice this technique, you should also practice getting fall-down drunk and waving the shotgun around in your kitchen until a family member calls the cops. It’s essentially the same caliber of firearms handling (i.e., dipshit yahoo) and is, realistically, the more common scenario.

  9. I don’t think I’d need to. No one in my house would likely be a very friendly hostage, especially if held in a simple half assed rear naked choke. By the time I got there, the hostage would either be clear of the goblin or already be shot.

  10. Depends on how much I like (or, more to the point… dislike) the hostage. ๐Ÿ™‚ Seriously, though, I’m having a hard time envisioning a situation where calling the Police is not a better way to go. If you do happen to miss and harm / kill the hostage, it is pretty much guaranteed that you will be on the losing side of a lawsuit from the victim or his or her dependant /next of kin, etc.

  11. I would not. It is called a scatter gun for a reason. Patterns are tight nowadays but they still do scatter. I wouldn’t even try it with a slug as the damage it would do to the wrong person is too heavy to think on.

  12. Just a few questions.

    You are standing on the shore of a lake. Somebody you love is drowning a few yards out. Do you jump in to attempt rescue, or wait around for a few minutes for the professional lifeguards to arrive?

    You are standing in your yard. Your house is on fire. Somebody you love is still inside. Do you enter the burning building to attempt rescue, or stand around for a few minutes to wait on the professionals to arrive?

    You are in your yard. Somebody you love is suddenly attacked by a pack of dogs. Do you wade into those dogs swinging a stick, or slashing with a pocket knife? Or maybe even kicking and punching? Or do you watch and wait for professionals to arrive as that person is mauled?

    I am in my house. A crazy and evil person comes inside and takes my wife or child hostage with a weapon. He is standing maybe 18 feet away (can’t be much farther than that in my house). I have a gun in my hands, and his head is mostly clear.

    Hell yes I take that shot. And yes, I have practiced with “hostage targets.” So has my wife. We have discussed it and know how we both feel about taking that shot.

    What If I don’t take the shot and he kills my wife or child because I opted to wait on the professionals? What if I don’t take the shot and he shoots me first from behind the cover of my loved one? What if the pros who show up are like the third string rejects cut from the Pima County SWAT?

    It would be an extremely dire, last-ditch situation. But if faced with it inside my own house, I take the shot.

    • Most hostage situations result in the perp giving up after a long standoff. The hostage-taking event is most frequently a desperate and unplanned move and is not a terribly well-thought-out decision on the part of the perp. The best course of action is always to try to defuse the situation – usually giving the perp a chance to rethink the whole thing leads to better decisionmaking on his part. Even allowing him to escape can be good alternative.

      The second most common result is the perp commits suicide – and these are usually the “three strike” folks. It is rare for the perp to take strangers with him on his way out (so to speak). In most cases where the victim ends up getting harmed (i.e. the murder / suicide scenario), it is usually a situation where the perp knows the victim (usually a wife or girlfriend).

      I still think your best bet from a statistical standpoint is to get the professional hostage negotiators on the scene and let time wear the perp down. You miss that shot and you have to deal with the consequences and guilt for the rest of your life. Getting the shot makes for great movies / TV, but unfortunately, it rarely turns out so good in real life. Keep in mind that there are no time-outs or do-overs. And Murphy’s Law applies.

  13. Joe Grine, I get your point about stats and probabilities.

    But if you are in the situation that’s not the statistical norm, then those stats mean nothing.

    After careful and serious thought, I chose a long time ago that inside my house, I don’t wait around to see if it’s “the norm” or not. If it’s not “the norm” then you find out too late and at too great a cost if you wait.

    Outside my house? I’m running away from a hostage situation as fast as I can and will dial for help as soon as I feel it’s safe.

    Inside my house, I choose to not let the bad guy make all the choices for me and mine.

    The flight crews and passengers on three of the planes hijacked on 9-11 followed standard hijack procedures based on “the norms” and “the stats.” That meant the hijackers made all the decisions for them. Flight 93 all still died, but the bad guys didn’t get to make all the decisions.

  14. I love this thread.

    Okay, you are holding your own child and the cure for cancer over a cliff, and you have to drop one to save the other. What do you do?

    So stupid it’s painful. This N E V E R happens. This will never happen to you.

    You will never be holding a shotgun on a person who is hiding behind your spouse or child with a gun, but sticking their head out to the side a bit and holding perfectly still. Do not train for it because you are wasting TIME and AMMUNITION that you could be using to train for a plausible situation.

    Heart disease, folks. Heart disease will kill 2/3 of the people reading this sentence. Home invasions? Not 1% of 1%. Hostage takers hiding behind your spouse’s head? There aren’t enough zeros on the internet to express that probability.

    • Yet it is in the news almost weekly, hostage taking that is. Shotguns are common… so it would be likely in the situation. Never say never and always always home carry. It renders this discussion moot.

      • Yes: Hostage situations do happen and they do show up in the news.

        But no, the above scenario has never happened, not even once, since the beginning of time.

        THE SCENE:

        Perp: holding your loved one, holding perfectly still, sticking head out in front of the muzzle of your shotgun.

        You: 10 feet away, holding shotgun, carefully rested, carefully sighted, correct load chambered, correct choke installed, moderate heartrate, controlled breathing, hands not too sweaty, ready to take a shot that is likely to kill your loved one even if executed perfectly.

        Even most action movies would find that too implausible, and that’s dealing with hollywood-level plausibility. Even when you get Keanu Reeves and a bunch of hollywood hippies coming up with the plot line, they still just do the reasonable thing and shoot the hostage in the leg.

        Do not train for this scenario as you are wasting time, ammunition, rations, and oxygen.

  15. There was a scenario like that in my gunsite shotgun class. I saw a very good shooter “kill” the no-shoot with a single pellet center of the “head”. The other 8 round pellets would have put a nice 4″ hole in the bad-guys head, but one went wild 8″ out of the pattern.

    So no, it’s a totally desperation shot. You should instead do a select slug drill first. And then hope you don’t put the wad into the hostages throat.

  16. Just curious how many people out there are prepping for home defence at 25 yards. I don’t have the exact stats, but I don’t think I have a straight line in my home quite that long. Also, would hope to have a rifle if I incoming fire comes from across the street.

    Note: not questioning the ability of Karl Lippard-grade shooters to take the head off a hostage taker at 600 yards using buckshot.

  17. *I* don’t have a home-defense shot over 25 feet, and that’s from the toilet, thru the bathroom door, thru the hall door, and all the way to the front window! 25 yards is roughly the length of the average .25acre city lot, edge to edge.

    My longest expected shot is about 7 feet.

    No shotgun silliness here, I load frangible 9mm that is not supposed to penetrate 2 layers of sheetrock.

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