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I ran into this post on Anything About Guns‘ Facebook page: “Man threatens woman and her 5 year old son. Woman produces handgun and robber runs away. Of course, if you ask a gun grabber like Chuck Schumer or Hillary Clinton, they’d tell you the mother was putting her child at risk by having a gun. Somehow, we think the mother AND the robber would disagree…” At the time of writing, 3959 people Like This. Some 532 souls left comments, many of which are extremely aggressive . . .

Should have shot him. And then just walked away… We need more people in this country that have balls. Just like this women.. You go girl…

Not the smartest comment to leave on the Internet. Should Martial Arts instructor Jeff Sheldon ever have the misfortune to be involved in a self-defense shooting, these words could come back to haunt him.

That said, Jeff might have the good fortune to be judged by a jury of his peers. Based on a random sampling of comments, he’s far from alone in his desire for lethal retribution. Texan Ed Collins:

I say YOU GO GIRL!!! She should have shot the BASTARD!!! He got off easy.

Morally, make of that what you will. Strategically, it’s a piss-poor combat mindset. In fact, killing your opponent is one of the three things you should NOT be thinking about in a gunfight.

Generally speaking, you are only allowed to use lethal force against an attacker to stop them attacking you or your loved ones. If you shoot someone and the attack stops, you have to stop shooting them. If you continue shooting and you kill them, at best you’re guilty of manslaughter. At worst, murder.

Obviously, this is not a hard and fast rule. The prosecutor/judge/jury will consider the totality of the situation. If it’s an otherwise good shoot, they’ll probably cut you some slack. Hey, shit happens. Anyway, for the purposes of this post, we need not concern ourselves with legal niceties. In battle, you do what you gotta do, live, call 911 and deal.

Returning to strategic considerations, it’s all about your mindset. The “my opponent must die” frame of mind creates and feeds the worst kind of tunnel vision: the kind that limits your ability to gather the information you need to make effective combat decisions (i.e. survive).

Most gun violence is gang-related. Depending on where you hang, the odds are roughly 50 – 50 that you’ll need to fight off multiple attackers. To do that, you need to stop (but not necessarily kill) the most dangerous threat, then quickly move on to the next. If you’re concentrating all your energy and firepower on taking out one aggressor, you might get taken out by another.

Here’s the thing: you may not know there IS another aggressor (or two or more) until after the hostilities begin. While stopping a lethal threat is your primary goal in a gunfight, the secondary goal—gathering intel—is only slightly less important. Ideally, you should do both at the same time. But this much is true: the sooner you stop an attack on one foe, the sooner you can scan for mission critical info that might stop a different adversary. Or determine which way you should move for cover.

Keep in mind that some people take an awful lot of killing. When you get a chance, click here to read this account of what’s come to be known as the Peter Soulis incident. Meanwhile, know this: indulging your animal instinct to exterminate your opponent could cost you your life. It’s better to keep your head while all around you are losing theirs (literally), move for cover as you fire, end the immediate threat (perhaps by achieving cover) and reassess the situation.

Problem: what if you can’t run for cover because you’ve got people? People whose lives you are defending against lethal force. People who are standing there in shock horror as the bullets fly. Et voila: thing number two you shouldn’t be thinking about in a gunfight: getting your peeps to cover.

I’m not recommending that you stop the threat first and then worry about cover for the folks. Hardly. They should get to cover or concealment without hesitation or deviation. Preferably before the gunfight begins. But that’s their job. Well, it is if you train ’em that way. Seriously. You need to give your posse a code word that tells them to seek cover. And teach them what constitutes proper cover.

I started this process with my kids simply enough: with a game of hide and seek triggered by a code word. We moved on to discussing cover as we walked around. I know that sounds uber-creepy. “OK, Lola, where would you run if I shouted BANANA (not our actual code word)?” But no one said you had to carry a gun. And now that you do, you and your loved ones should be prepared for armed confrontation.

Think how much better things would go in a gunfight if your critical assets (i.e. loved ones) dove for cover at the start of the battle. Just don’t expect them to do so at the sound of gunfire. You can’t depend on their situational awareness (what was that?) or reactions (they may freeze).  A one-word stimulus by the alpha should get them moving towards safety. Allowing you more mental bandwidth to do your ballistic thing. Which you have to keep doing, no matter what.

Thing you shouldn’t think about during a gunfight number three: losing. The rabbi is instructive on this point. “You may do everything right in a gunfight and still die,” he says. “But it isn’t over until you do.”

In terms of training, it helps to assume you’re going to get shot. Practice firing with one hand, the other one hand, on one knee, sitting down, lying down, leaning against a wall, with the dominant eye closed, etc.

And now that I’ve proven myself creepy, let’s go for kinky. Practice in pain. I’m not saying you should practice after someone punches your arm before you shoot. Or after you lift weights until your muscles are quivering. But I’m not not saying it either.

To win a gunfight, you need a state of focused alertness. You need to play defense and offense at the same time. And you need to maintain never-say-die (even though you might) determination. On the other hand, whatever works, works. But whatever you do, think about it now, so you don’t have to think about it then.

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  1. Great post. The comments after controversial entries on sites like facebook and youtube are usually pretty amusing to say the least.

    I can't resist the urge to ask if that's a banana under your shirt or are you happy to be packin. 🙂

    Practicing under pressure is one of the reasons I got involved in practical shooting competitions. No matter how many times you practice the adrenaline kicks in when you step up to the line in front of a group of people and hear the beep. They also involve all the types of scenarios you mentioned, so if you're going to shoot you need to practice those, and the emphasis on safe gun handling is paramount.

  2. The situation I hate being in is that you stop firing cause you think the threat is over, only to have the aggressor who fled regroup and attack you again while your funbling for your phone to call the police. They clearly fled the scene but returned probably thinking I was out of ammo. We are trained to fire until the threat is over but just because they are fleeing doesn’t mean the threat is over. You can’t shoot them in the back but you may pay the price for following the law. The attacker has the advantage during the opening of the attack and can stop the attack by fleeing only to return when they are in a better position What are we supposed to do?


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