Undercover cops exist. That fact alone means you should regard any and all violent confrontations between strangers with extreme caution. Unless you’re completely sure who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy, unless you’ve seen an entire threat scenario develop from the start, there’s a chance you will get it wrong.

For example, you walk into a Stop ‘N Rob. A bad guy’s pointing a gun at the owner, who’s standing by the cash register behind the counter. How do you know that the owner and the perp didn’t switch positions before you came in the store? Shoot the wrong person and you might pay for your mistake for the rest of your life. If you survive.

In the first scenario in the video above, our hero sees an entire violent episode, from the start of hostilities to the actual shooting. Two restaurant patrons get into it with a waitress. The bad guy shoots the waitress. Our “hero” immediately draws and fires, running towards them.

Smart move — if you don’t want to miss someone (accuracy increases with proximity). And don’t really care what happens to you. Or the people around or near you. Because nothing draws gunfire like gunfire. Do you really want to do that?

Our hero was alone. Single though I am, I rarely eat in a restaurant alone. I usually take my colleagues, my sullen teen or an age inappropriate date with me (never at the same time). If I was with my daughter or arm candy in that scenario, I’d be getting her — and me — the hell out of there. Period.

Even if I was alone, I don’t think I would have taken on TWO bad guys, one with a drawn gun. This was not a robbery or a spree killing. It was a beef between bad men and a waitress. I reckon I’d wait to see what happened after the summary execution before engaging.

In the real world. there’d be a number of people in that restaurant. They’re likely to be moving around, making a clear shot inherently difficult and dangerous. And making them potential targets for return fire.

Our hero shoots one of the two gentlemen involved four times before the exercise is called. Hello? What happens next?

Is bad guy number two out of the fight? Is he armed? He sure as hell isn’t going to be happy that you just shot his amigo, is he? By shooting the shooter, our hero has started a chain of events. A defensive gun use ain’t over ’til it’s over; until the cops show up and/or the defensive shooter and his peeps leave the scene.

As for the advice to draw while remaining seated, I don’t think so. Your best first reaction: get off the X. Otherwise you are a sitting duck. Move or die. It’s that simple.

In the second scenario, the decision to shoot seems a lot more sensible — provided the shooter isn’t an undercover cop. Anyway, for all intents and purposes the bad guy is shooting at our hero. So it’s chocks away.

After our hero shoots bad guy number one, our hero lingers, trying to keep two participants in his sights. How great is that? Not great at all. Action beats reaction. Remembering that handgun rounds are hardly one-stop shots, and that even a heart-shot perp has at least 30 seconds before incapacitation, either one of the bad guys could counter-attack and . . . lights out.

As always, distance is your friend. If you’ve downed a bad guy, never assume he’s out of the fight. Move away from the threat. Best answer? Leave. Immediately. You aren’t a police officer. You don’t need to “apprehend” anyone. You are under no legal obligation to remain at the scene. Equally, what do you think a responding cop will think when he sees you holding a gun on someone you’ve just shot?

Disclaimer: I was only a cop for a short time. I’m not a firearms instructor. I’m a gun blogger who’s had extensive self-defense training. I’ve been mugged twice while unarmed. That is all. So, here’s my view of the “decision tree” needed for armed self-defense.

1. Avoid

Avoid stupid people in stupid places doing stupid things. If you can’t, or find yourself thrust into a defensive scenario, well, there you are.

2. Escape

Your goal is to survive. The only gunfight you’re guaranteed to win: the one you don’t have. So don’t have a gunfight if you can escape it. If you decide to shoot to prevent loss of life, that’s your choice. Respect. But always remember that a gunfight in public puts everyone at risk. (Carry a gun you can shoot accurately over a reasonable distance.)

3. Evade

Don’t make yourself an easy target. Get off the X — move — STAT. Distance equals time. Time to figure out what to do next (if you can). Practice drawing and moving at the same time using the clothes your normally wear.

3. Engage

If push comes to shove, remember that a defensive gun use is actually a counter attack. I repeat: it’s attack, not a defense. Use speed, surprise and [lots of] violence of action. Run up to the bad guy? Sure. No holds barred.

4. Wash, rinse repeat

After you’ve engaged, it’s the same formula again. Avoid, escape, evade, engage.

I hate to throw cold water on this beautifully produced self-defense video, but your life depends on seeing a defensive gun use as a continuum. And having a coherent plan to get you from start to finish.

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13 Responses to Guns for Beginners: Avoid, Escape, Evade, Engage

  1. Sounds like “Don’t get noticed, run away if you are, and only use deadly force when yit run out of options.”

    For those who wonder why I stick around this article should give you a clue. Eventually someone you all respect comes around and validates what I have already said.

  2. While I generally agree with this article I cannot support the idea of creating a lot of “rules” for dynamic situations. That’s how people get “target lock” on a specific objective such as “escape” that doesn’t fit with the current situation and may actually make it worse.

    When things like this happen you don’t know what’s going on. That’s the simple fact of the matter. It’s just a beef with the waitress? IRL you don’t know that. This guy could be on meth and hallucinating that you’re all out to get him and the waitress getting popped is just an intro to this guy’s delusional bullet-fest. Any situation like this can be “what-ifed” to death with rules.

    Immediate escape always sounds good until it doesn’t. Packed restaurant/other venue + shooter = jammed doorways and people getting trampled in many cases. That’s a shooting gallery if the shooter is just so inclined to raise the body count. Just look at the Baticlan where people couldn’t egress because too many people mobbed the doorway. You want to bring your six year old into that? Well you just increased the risk to him or her.

    You need to pay attention to your surroundings so that if it hits the fan you know where the cover and concealment are. From there you can assess the situation and your options based on the actual situation, your skill set and the tools at hand. Simply running down a checklist of things to do isn’t the answer because if that’s your game plan and it doesn’t work you’re likely going to panic and panic fucking kills.

      • Keep to the code! I love how many movie references you get on TTAG.

        My guideline is scope out the place before you sit down so you know your surroundings. Wander around and figure out what doors go where etc. If someone bothers you about it, play dumb and say you’re looking for the bathroom.

        Based on this situation I think the guy acted exactly correctly and that the instructor has some odd ideas about shooting from a table.

      • Actually RF, that was Barbosa’s line. I also really enjoy the strings of movie quotes / references that come up here!

  3. “provided the bad guy shooter isn’t a cop”???

    If the murderer in the 2nd scenario is a cop, then it’s your civic duty to make sure he’s dead, or at least permanently disabled and unable to carry a badge again. Not only was he not ‘law enforcing’, he showed willful disregard for your life when he shot the guy standing next to you.

      • No sir, your first duty may be to stay alive, but that priority is for each person to decide. Someone else may, and some do, make their first duty to protect someone else, regardless of their own life.
        Still others may, and some do, decide that killing is more important than living.

  4. “He sure as hell isn’t going to be happy that you just shot his amigo, is he? ”

    Your a culture appropriating racist bigot! I demand you issue an apology!

    It’s OK Kemosabe….I don’t think you meant anything by it….please go to the nearest safe space and repent.

  5. I agree with the OP more than any post in recent memory. Some other things to consider:

    > Read up on the legal principle “In his shoes.” It means that you are only justified defending a third party if that third party would be justified in defending themselves. So, say you come up on Guy A and he is about to shoot Guy B. What you don’t know is that Guy B started the fight by pulling a knife. You shoot Guy A in good faith, but now you can’t claim the shooting is justified, even if you didn’t know the background.

    > I recently attended an Active Shooter presentation put on by a local PD. The cop said more and more, department policies are changing. If an officer comes up on a “hot” scene, they may choose to shoot anyone with a gun in their hand, no waiting to sort things out, no warning. Too many officers and innocents have been killed by officers going through the “Police, drop your gun” command. If it is you holding the gun, you may be the target if you don’t see the cops coming on the scene.

    For me, my brain is my first weapon. My feet (to run) are my second. My gun is third. I will not get in a fight I don’t have to. It’s not about whether or not you are a hero. It’s just common sense.

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