Store owner Mohamed S. Ahmed (left) and Matt Drosser (right) (courtesy startribune.com)

At the start of my journey into concealed carry-hood I worried about my reaction to a life-threatening situation. Would I know what to do if I had to clear leather (this was during was my pre-Kydex period)? When, exactly, should life-threatening push come to ballistic shove? And what would I do come The Moment Of Truth? Hundreds of training hours later I’ve reached an important conclusion: I haven’t a clue. I know what I should do but I’m not 100 percent sure I’d do it. How could I be? But one thing is for certain: I will not be caught sitting on the X. You know, frozen to the spot. Whatever happens I will do something. Like Matt Drosser . . .

Inside his neighborhood market, Mohamed S. Ahmed [above left] was screaming for help after a pair of armed robbers had left him bleeding.

Outside the northeast Minneapolis store, two men pounded on the window, trying to get back into the University Market after Ahmed managed to lock them out.

“They seemed really agitated, super agitated,” said Matt Dosser [above right], who was walking by about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday. At first, “nothing made sense, then I saw the gun.”

Dosser, who has a permit to carry a gun, reached for his own weapon.

One of the robbers “turned around and looked at me,” Dosser recalled. “He stared at me. I had my weapon up. I didn’t point the gun at the person. I had it at the ready, out of the holster.

“His buddy said something to him,” Dosser continued, “and then he had this surprised look on his face, and they both ran to his vehicle and took off.”

Assuming that’s the way it went down, this story [via startribune,com] is full of win. Two armed bad guys encounter an armed good guy and scarper. But Mr. Drosser’s tale also contains a fair amount of fail, too . . .

Back in the day, the rabbi advised me to avoid stupid people, in stupid places doing stupid things. The underlying logic: the only gunfight you’re guaranteed to win is the one you never have. So if you encounter a pair of [what the British call] ‘scrotes banging the beJesus on a locked door, your best course of action is to back away and call the cops.

The only time you want to draw your gun: when you, your loved ones or innocent life you deem worth defending are in imminent danger of death or grievous bodily harm, and imminence is imminent. In this case, Mr. Drosser saw a gun in an unknown person’s hand. A gun that was not pointed at anyone (again presumably). A gun that was not about to be fired.

At the risk of fueling the antis who claim that any good guy that draws a gun against any bad guy at any time escalates a bad situation, Drosser’s decision to unholster his firearm escalated a bad situation. The smarter move: get to cover/concealment and call the cops.

Let’s assume, though, that this all went down in the blink of an eye. Mr. Drosser acted instinctively. He felt a large measure of responsibility for his community or University Market and anyway he IS the good guy for Pete’s sake. If so, Drosser should have pointed his heater at the gun-toting miscreants.

I disagree with those amongst us who say “if my gun comes out I’m sending lead.” Too much can happen in those long seconds between unholstering and aiming your gun to commit yourself to firing it. The decision to shoot has lifelong, potentially ruinous consequences. If you live. BUT—

Just as you should never draw on a drawn gun (unless you have no choice) you should never NOT aim at a bad guy holding a gun if he’s NOT aiming at you. In other words, you need every advantage you can get in a gunfight. If a situation is serious enough to get out your gun it’s serious enough to aim your firearm at the bad guy.

By the same token, and perhaps more importantly, MOVE! There is no point to having a Western movie-style middle-of-Main Street showdown if you don’t have to. It seems pretty clear that Mr. Drosser didn’t have to. The way he played it could have gone. Very. Badly. Wrong.

But hey Drosser did something. Which is a lot better than doing nothing. Someone more passive, someone who just watched the “action” unfold, someone who denied themselves the “first mover” advantage, could have ended-up dead, too.

Which brings me to my main point: when it comes to personal defense, a bad decision is better than no decision. If you screw it up at least your OODA loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) is spinning. You can correct and continue. But if you’re caught flat-footed, if you;re frozen to the spot, you’re at someone else’s mercy. No matter how you slice it, that sucks.

Recommended For You

68 Responses to Self-Defense Tip: A Bad Decision is Better Than No Decision

  1. “The only time you want to draw your gun: when you, your loved ones or innocent life you deem worth defending are in imminent danger of death or grievous bodily harm, and imminence is imminent. In this case, Mr. Drosser saw a gun in an unknown person’s hand. A gun that was not pointed at anyone (again presumably). A gun that was not about to be fired.”

    If you’re waiting until you see a person draw a gun, point it at someone, and put their finger on the trigger to clear leather, then I am pretty sure that the S.S. Saving Life has already left the port at that point.

    • If we only do that which is the most politically correct and beyond reproach, we will never get anything done in our lives. Sometimes you have to take risks, like Dosser did in the above story. Sometimes the “do nothing” option is the worst option.

    • Elsewhere in the story, Drosser reveals that this is the second time that he stopped a crime without firing.

      The first time, two people were stomping on a third. He told them to stop or he would shoot.

      They stopped stomping and ran.

    • The only time you want to draw your gun: when you, your loved ones or innocent life you deem worth defending are in imminent danger of death or grievous bodily harm, and imminence is imminent.

      At my CCW class I stated this almost verbatim as the only reason I would ever clear my holster. The instructor was the only one who backed me up on it.

  2. Based on the story quoted above, I believe there was too much uncertainty for the “good guy” to righteously unholster his handgun. The two guys beating on the locked doors could have been good guys as well. Criminals robbing the store could have closed the doors and locked the doors behind them as they went in … and the guys banging on the doors outside could have been trying to get in to help a buddy or the store clerk himself.

    I have said it before and I will say it again. Unless you saw and heard everything, from before the event started to the present, and know with absolute certainty that the subject before you is going to seriously injure or kill an innocent citizen, do not draw a firearm and point it at anyone. There are just too many scenarios where a person who really really appears to be a “bad guy” is actually a “good guy”.

    • It says in the story that the owner was inside screaming for help. There were two armed men outside. It doesn’t seem to me that the owner would be screaming for help if the two men were trying to help him, but that’s just my opinion.

      • Um? Couldn’t they have been responding to the clerks calls? From Dossers pov there may well have been an assailant locked in the building with the two guys at the door being responding citizens just like him. IMO it all boils down to judgement in the moment.

    • If you came into the middle of a situation and drew down on a cop, he’d tell you he’s a cop. If you drew on another CCW civilian, and said “stop or I’ll shoot”, he’d say “whoa, buddy, I’m here to help. Here’s the situation.” To me, not knowing the whole scenario means you don’t shoot first, ask questions later; it doesn’t mean don’t get your gun out.

  3. IMO, whatever action you take afterwards, getting the pistol out and ready for use while you assess the situation makes a whole lot of sense. Waiting until the guy with his gun already out notices you and decides how to react to your presence seems like a very bad idea.

    Either run away right away, or at least be prepared to fight if a fight becomes necessary.

    • Exactly! I’m not waiting until the perp draws on me, that’s a death wish IMHO. Whether it’s a gun, bat, or something else he’s holding it becomes a weapon in their hands. My weapon is a 12g. I WILL use it IF needed be. I hope I never HAVE to for defence however.

      • But you are missing a ginormous detail tommyr: the concerned citizen that approached the store had no way to know if the two men banging on the door were criminals or concerned citizens like himself. We only know because we are reading an account of the situation after the fact.

        You cannot draw on someone (much less shoot them) just because you happen upon them and they are armed. That armed person could be a good citizen who just used their firearm in a legal self-defense situation … or was preparing to use their firearm in a legal self-defense situation. Do you want to be standing there pointing a gun at a stranger who just — or is about to — use a firearm in self-defense?

        • You should be able to tell enough from someone’s body language to know their intent. Imagine two robbers beating on a door- they look angry and forceful in your head, right? Now imagine two concerned citizens doing the same- they look, well, concerned and hurried instead.

          I know it’s a subtle difference, but we humans pick up subtleties very quickly. My instructor, a retired Marine/MP/Special Forces guy, taught us that one of the most important things you can do for defense is to always pay attention to, and trust, that hinky feeling you get sometimes when you know something isn’t right, but you’re not sure what yet.

  4. Have to disagree with you on this one. The bad guys had a gun and it wasn’t pointed at Dosser. He did the right thing by drawing and getting ready. Maybe he should have been on the move but his actions put him in the drivers seat anyway. He had the drop on the BGs and if they turned to face him gun in hand he would have been within his rights to pull the trigger. My guess is when an average BG sees someone with a gun at the ready his immediate reaction is “oh $hit, a cop” followed by a quick exit. Beside what makes you think that these characters wanted to get into a gunfight either?

      • Two things you cannot do in a situation like this: turn your back and not get ready. If you turn your back you lose SA and you have to be ready if they turn on you. My guess is that the two gents didn’t look like cops.

    • tdiinva wrote, “He had the drop on the BGs and if they turned to face him gun in hand he would have been within his rights to pull the trigger.”

      As my post above points out, the concerned citizen had no way to know that the two men pounding on the door were bad guys. They could have been concerned citizens as well who happened to be armed and attempting to help hostages inside the store.

      You cannot shoot someone just because they are armed and turn to face you. They have not announced any intent, either with their words or their actions, to cause you great bodily harm or death. Your only moral option in a situation where you happen upon armed people with guns in hand (I am not talking about people who openly carrying a sidearm in a holster or a long gun slung over their shoulder) is to move to cover/concealment and observe.

      We harp on police every time they march in and interrogate people who are openly armed. The same standard applies to everyone else. If you haven’t observed long enough to KNOW all the facts, continue to safely observe.

      • Dosser did not point his gun at the two potential assailants. He placed himself at the ready. As I noted in my follow up post once Dosser encounter the situation he could not turn his back and he had to prepare to defend himself if they turned on him. From a tactical training point of view he did the two things he had to do. He was in a position to defend himself if need be.

        I base my ROE on the fact that in most states if someone points a gun at you that constitutes an imminent deadly threat. I am guessing that the two perps did not look like upstanding citizens or law enforcement. If they were undercover cops they would take off so as not to blow their cover. Plain clothes cops would be displaying their badge and announcing their status as LEOs.

      • Un,
        The story doesn’t give enough detail to second guess the passerby in whether he was right or wrong in pulling his weapon. He was correct in doing so because 1. if the hood he was in was good or bad it ain’t good news if you see someone with a gun in his hand and 2 if the perps had heard him approach and he didn’t have gun in hand they probably would have shot him. No witnesses to worry about.
        My opinion is he should have moved towards cover with his gun ready. Anyone can get lucky and the perp had just as much time to raise his gun and fire as the passerby. And the author is correct No Decision is always wrong. In Infantry Officer Basic it was drilled into our heads to quickly assess the situation and act because doing nothing was always wrong and never an option.

        • We are talking as if the encounter lasted a couple of minutes. It probably took less 5 seconds before it ended. Not much time to anything but observe and orientate which he did quite well. It was over before the decision and act phase.

  5. I’m not going to second-guess Mr. Drosser simply because no shots were fired. He brandished his pistol and the BGs went a-runnin’. Had shots been fired, we’d have a whole lot more to talk about, but most DGUs do not involve gunfire.

    Besides, all’s well that ends well — and this ended very well indeed.

  6. “if you have a carry permit and you have the opportunity to stop a gun crime, you should run, hide and call the noble cops” – TTAG boss.

    huh?

    • Find cover call the cops and remain ready to act as things progress. Given the average response time the suspects likely would have moved on or escalated the incident to the point the ccw would have ample cause to act.

    • I won’t be doing ANY of those things. What if you CAN’T call the cops? Not near a phone? I’m not one of those cell phone zombies that are near their phone 24/7 every 2 minutes. Cops are far away? etc. No, I’ll do what I have to do until I CAN get to a phone. It’s called being realistic.

      • You really dont carry a cell phone? Being glued to a smartphone and carrying a means of communication in 2013 are two very different things. You know, specifically so you dont HAVE to go “find a phone”

        • Are we talking day or night? At night no I don’t unless I am OUT of the house. In the house at night no, I don’t carry around a cell. Daytime yes, mine is in my pocket. It’s a standard flip phone.

        • Nothing wrong with a flip phone. Not everyone needs or wants a smartphone, however I think carrying a phone, day or night is prudent. Many, many circumstances in everday life where one can be of vast importance. My phone is always part of my EDC.
          Not raggin on ya for not doing so, just pointing out its a good idea to always have a means of communication in case of emergency of any kind.

        • Agreed. It will go next to my bed. But I grab the shotgun first and call AFTER. Ever hear a 911 call? It’s 50 F’n questions, like you have TIME to answer them while SHTF.

      • Sigh, obviously if you can’t call the cops you can’t call the cops. If there is no cover you can’t take cover. To state with certInty you WONT do those things cause you might not be able to is rediculous. Did you miss the part about observing and responding as needed or just ignore it?

  7. I recall something about no draw is faster then a drawn weapon? If you happen upon folks with guns out and have a chance to get yours out of its holster where it can be deployed if necessary, that would be a good thing.

    Obviously getting to cover and avoiding the fight unless necessary would be good.

    But stuff happens we do what we can

  8. The bottom line and take home message here is this.

    None of us can second guess someone else’s choices unless we were their shoes and situation. Nor will we know how we will respond unless we are in fact in that situation to have to choose. I can say that even with police and military experience that no matter what, once that trigger is pulled you cannot have a do over. As someone stated above. Being wrong can have terrible consequences. That can be from emotional problems, sleep problems, stress, financial and physical. Sure we can train and take classes to observe, respond, react to take a life in those awful situations. The other side effect in the wrong decision would be not only the above mentioned, but also the families that can be destroyed. So in closing I will continue to carry my weapon and pray I never have to make the decision to draw and fire.

  9. I think the monday morning quarterbacking is a little silly here. It sounds like he wasn’t paying attention to the extremity of the situation (which is only natural, things like this being out of the ordinary) until he was close to the bad guys. I wouldn’t want to turn my back to armed bandits, especially if they saw that I saw them.

  10. I often see a number of people on this site say people should shoot bad guys if you ever have to draw.
    I thoroughly disagree. The emotional, financial, possible criminal, time consuming consequences often outweigh taking out a BG.
    Shoot if you have to, but dont shoot just because you can. God forbid I ever am in a situation, I will rather my weapon scare them off then having to shoot them.
    If I have to shoot, I will. I would prefer to not ever have to though

    • Drosser had the same right to have his gun in hand as the other fellow had. You may not agree with his decision but 2a isn’t about how you feel about the situation.

        • “Nothing made sense. Then I saw the gun.” True, he didn’t say the bad guy pointed it at him. But he also didn’t say he pointed his at the bg. My point stands. Display a gun in a public place and expect other guns to be displayed also.

      • “Display a gun in public and expect… Bla Bla Bla” seriously? Are you an anti in disguise? Cuz that is exactly how they argue we shouldn’t have guns at all.

        • Drew, this wasn’t a guy just walking down the street oc’ing. He was involved in something, maybe or maybe not illegal, when Drosser approached. I see a gun under those circumstances and I’m going to alert and arming myself.

          Maybe I could have worded my reasoning a little better. But this wasn’t an open carry rally in San Antonio.

    • What about his head? What about the femoral artery? What about a high chest/ low neck shot that hits above the plate (and is probably fatal without intervention)?

      What about the fact that most body armor is uncomfortable as f_all and no one wants to wear it 24/7?

      Body armor is not magic, and only an idiot entrusts his life to it.

      • Body armor is a great non-aggressive passive manner to provide protection from a gunshot. It may not be perfect, but it is better than just wearing a gun.

        An openly carried firearm along with the wearing of a bullet proof vest combined with situational awareness is hard to beat.

        • No, Leonard. Not getting shot is a great defense against getting shot.

          Anyone who has actually had to use body armor understands what it can and cannot do. You obviously don’t, so having exposed your ineptitude I will assume you are a troll and bid you good day.

          In the spirit of the season,
          “Good day to you, Sir. GOOD DAY!”

          🙂

        • Body armor will leave you wounded and on the ground likely incapacitated and vulnerable. If the guy runs off that might be great, if not you probably just delayed your death by the few moments it takes the guy to aim better and pull.

  11. The only way to never make a mistake, is to never do anything. Get to cover, ready your gun, call the police. If the bad guys break into the shop before the police arrive, you can re-think your options.

  12. Pointing a gun (even an unloaded one) is considered deadly force here (ak) and requires all the same justifications as throwing lead. Seems like not pointing it at the BG may have been the legal thing for him to do.

    • Generally pointing a firearm at someone illegally will catch you an aggravated assault charge (as would shooting someone, if attempted murder wasnt charged)
      With that said, I wouldnt consider that deadly force, and neither does any justice system.
      I see what you are trying to say though.

  13. I think we can all “armchair quarterback” Matt’s actions, but none of us were there. I spoke to Matt on the phone an hour after the incident, before the reporters got a hold of him, and my understanding is that it went down in a matter of seconds and Matt’s and the perps’ actions occurred virtually simultaneously.

    No fault in your assessment, I think it’s always good to have a healthy discussion and “devil’s advocate” point of view on these situations. It’s serious stuff. We need to think about it. We need to analyze it. We need to envision ourselves in these situations and plan how to respond.

  14. Sometimes the ends do justify the means. Defensive Display, whether your government recognizes it or not; it’s a good thing.

    Or better yet, Open Carry, and the bad situation never begins in the first place. You don’t have to de-escalate (or shoot in a public place) something that never happens…

  15. I see a stranger on the same street as me with a gun in his hand and I will put mine in my hand. I don’t know him or his reasons. I will not point it at him unless he becomes aggressive. But it will be in my hand and not holstered.

    • That seems fairly reasonable to me, too. I don’t think the act of unholstering to meet an unholstered gun is exactly an escalation. It’s more like meeting the level of escalation already in play. That actually seems like a prudent first step to take while beginning to assess whether you’re meeting a threat or someone defending against an unseen threat. In either case, being ready to act is a good thing.

      • “That seems fairly reasonable to me, too. I don’t think the act of unholstering to meet an unholstered gun is exactly an escalation. ”

        WHAT? Of course it is an escalation. It is exactly an escalation.

        • So only 1 person is allowed to exercise their 2a rights on a street at a given time? The bg displayed his firearm. The good guy did the same. That’s not an escalation, that’s detente.

        • Not by itself, it’s not. Context is important.

          The first decision to make is whether there is a situation (your open carry example below is not one; two people banging on a locked door with gun in hand certainly is).

          If there is a situation, the next decision is whether you’re going to insert yourself in the middle of it. The story in this article seems to me like a scenario where I couldn’t be sure that backing off and/or waiting for the police would be a viable strategy. And it was already escalated to the point of drawn weapons when Mr. Dosser happened upon it. So, no, I don’t see him drawing his weapon as an escalation, because he didn’t point it or threaten to use it. He simply met the level of escalation already in play.

          Suppose the situation had been someone ready to kill a person inside the store, and the individuals banging on the door were trying to stop it. Would you call a second friendly gun on the scene an escalation, or added relief?

      • I don’t live in some Tennesee communities. Are you against the open carry of firearms, Leonard? That’s basically all drosser did.

      • “Openly carrying in his hand?”

        Your source please?

        A gun should stay in a holster at all times. It should not be removed unless the person is intending to fire it.

        Exactly the same with swords hundreds of years ago.

  16. “I disagree with those amongst us who say ‘if my gun comes out I’m sending lead.”

    Whole-heatedly!

    Anytime you don’t have to shoot, or get it shot at, it’s a good day

    I had an incident where simply going for my snubby .38 was enough, that was back in my early “all I need a revolver with no reload” carry days.

    Ironically, that was the day I decided to upgrade to something that holds more bullets.

  17. it seems that, actions have reactions, an unsheathed GUN in a hand, person beating on window, OODA loop screaming, what to do? one mind set, run away do nothing, Call police from a distance, What if? better to be prepared than get one in the back;

  18. You’re nuts. I hope for your sake you never kill an innocent person; could you live with your “bad decision” when “no decision” would have resulted in *no* death?

    People like you give the pro-gun movement a bad name.

  19. in too many places/states/cities/counties, the law requires that if you draw your weapon, someone has to die. why? if you unholster, anyone in sight (including bad guys who run away) can file a complaint that you were “brandishing a weapon”, or that the sight of you armed made them feel threatened. indeed, if someone detects your concealed weapon ‘printing’, you can be charged with brandishing or reckless endangerment or whatever the local laws want to call it. worst of all, if you display your weapon while behind cover waiting for escape or to evaluate how the situation is developing, you can be charged. we are facing an environment where being armed is increasingly more dangerous to us than an actual BG encounter.

    cheers,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *