Chris Willden Saves Three Kids with his Gun

You know the “reasonable, common sense” crowd’s litany, the one about guns only being good for one thing? Namely, killing, death and wanton destruction? Yeah, well, next time one of them throws that one at you at a cocktail party, here’s a handy comeback example to keep in your quiver. If Chris Willden hadn’t had his gun on his hip yesterday, there would probably be two or three dead kids in Logan, Utah…

Roger Anderson was headed for a day of skiing with three kiddies in tow. But he lost control of his car on a slippery, narrow bridge and his Honda went wheels-up into an icy river. According to, that’s when Willden, who had been driving by, jumped in to try to get them out.

Willden said he tried unsuccessfully to open windows and doors. He then used his firearm just as he had done in training for his current job as a bodyguard and Department of Defense contractor.

“(The driver) was panicked, doing everything he could to get in through the doors, but they wouldn’t budge,” said Willden, who had jumped into the water with his own father.

Willden, a former cop, pressed his gun against the submerged glass and blew out the windows. He used a pocket knife to cut away seat belts. And that allowed him, with the help of others who had stopped, to turn the car right side up and yank the three kids to safety. But only one of them was breathing.

He said the other two children were lifeless, the boy upside down in his car seat and the second girl floating in the front passenger compartment. Both were pulled from the vehicle.

Buzzy Mullahkel, of North Logan, told the Deseret News of Salt Lake City that the boy wasn’t breathing and didn’t have a pulse, but was revived when another passer-by performed CPR.

“Emotions started taking over when he started to breathe. Everybody started to cheer. Lots of tears and clapping,” said Mullahkel, a father of a 4-year-old.

Fortunately, it looks like all three children will recover.

Something you’ll never hear from MAIG, the VPC or the Bradys is that guns are tools. Tools for having fun at the range, putting some meat on the table, defending your home or protecting yourself and your family. Just like a hammer or a knife, the decision of when and how to use them is up to you. Unless you live in certain cities and states, of course.

Chris Willden happened to have his tools with him when that car went into the drink. We’re sure Roger Anderson’s mighty glad he did. And three kids in Utah are alive because of it. It doesn’t get much better than that.


  1. avatar TexanHawk says:

    Willden. (Two “L”s)

    From his Company’s Facebook page:

    I don’t leave home without 3 things.
    1: Handgun
    2: folding CRKT knife and
    3: Surefire E2D flashlight.
    2 of the three were used to save three lives that day!

    1. avatar the gun wire says:

      Exactly. You never know when, you never know where.

  2. avatar ST says:

    Oh but do remember what works in Utah doesn’t work in New Jersey.

    1. avatar Ted says:

      I’m sure a gun will function under the same circumstances in New Jersey, as it does in Utah. Geography doesn’t have any affect.

      1. avatar pf says:

        actually geography does have an effect. if your in the arctic it might gum up from the cold. if your in the desert the sand can cause malfunction. so yes geography does have an effect on firearms

        1. avatar Alex says:

          i have never heard of one instance where a gun gummed up in the cold. theyre made of steel and aluminum, not gelatin. and if youre in the desert, dont drop your firearm in the sand simple as that. im sure sand doesnt just gravitate towards your weapon. whn was the last time the war stopped because everyone had to stop and clean their rifle because all the sand just packed in there out of nowhere. oh right….

        2. avatar Corey says:

          Infantry arms in 1944 – Bastogne Belgium didn’t have a problem with the 14 degree cold and we’ve have soldiers with temperamental M4 rifles serving in Iraq and Afghanistan for over a decade now.

          I am pretty certain they can handle that crazy New Jersey climate…

        3. avatar Emily Hollman says:


    2. avatar JT says:

      Did you know that it’s physically impossible for a handgun to miss an innocent person if loaded with JHPs in New Jersey? The bullet will actually change trajectory upon leaving the barrel and seek out the closest child under 12 years old. It’s true!

  3. avatar racer88 says:

    Great story! Wow.

  4. avatar Skyler says:

    Can someone tell me the correct method for breaking car windows with a handgun and still ensuring that bullets don’t hit passengers or passers by?

    1. avatar Totenglocke says:

      Don’t aim at the passenger.

      1. avatar Aharon says:


      2. avatar miforest says:

        excellent advice.

    2. avatar Darrell Dunn says:

      If you have to ask that question, then one of three things apply or possibly all:
      1. you are trying to bait someone
      2. you should not be allowed to carry a weapon
      3. you need adult supervision to chew gum.

      1. avatar Philthegardner says:

        Darrel, LOL. Good one (or three)! Skyler, perhaps if you drove your car into a frozen creek and locked the doors and windows, we can conduct an experiment to find out?

    3. avatar GS650G says:

      Are you capable of doing anything without supervision?

    4. avatar drksilenc says:

      angle it so you shoot twards the roof in the water the bullets are going to be severly slowed and plus the initial hit on the class

  5. avatar Cigr says:

    Sorry, but I’m pretty sure the knife he used to cut the seatbelt would have broken that window just as well.

    1. avatar John says:

      Not necessarily… pretty hard to break a window with a knife if it’s underwater…

    2. The car came to rest upside-down in the water with the windows submerged. All movement through water has added resistance and Mr. Willden was correct in his split-second determination to use the BEST tool at his disposal to breech the window ASAP to rescue the drowning occupants.

    3. avatar Aharon says:

      It would be a different type of impact and breakage, wouldn’t it? What about his safety from the sharp glass if he had used his pocket knife instead on the window?

      1. avatar Dan says:

        Car glass is designed and manufactured to break without much in the way of sharp edges. One of the many safeties that uninformed people have no idea about. Before making a comment, check your level of knowledge on the subject.

        1. avatar Big Boy says:

          Only the side and rear glass can be easily broken with a center punch and will dissolve into a thousand 1/4×1/4 inch pieces. The windshield requires a Hallagan tool or a fire axe – it’s designed NOT to break.

    4. avatar Just Another Matt says:

      not likely auto glass is very hard to break by design and to drive a knife handle into a window hard enough to break the window is likely to hurt your hand if not outright fail.That is the reason the carbide glass breakers are shaped like a hammer.The best “other” way requires a carbide automatic center punch but no one carries a fully loaded tool box with them at all times

    5. avatar AznMike says:

      Didn’t mythbusters prove that it was extremely difficult to break auto glass? i think they used a key not a knife but still, mad props to Chris.

      1. avatar Brian says:

        I destroyed an old car we had with a bowling ball just for the heck of it before bringing it in for scrap. The doors, headlights, grill and hood all caved in nice. The windshield dented and spidered but it was still a fight to get through it. The drivers side door window ricocheted the ball right back at me and did nothing to the window and all this was without the resistance of water.

      2. avatar JoelM says:

        Actually… they used a hammer and had a hard time breaking the glass. Yes, it’s THAT difficult to break a car window.

        1. avatar Ing says:

          Little-known fact: tempered glass, while incredibly strong, will shatter completely with only a modest tap on the edge.

          If your car windows are closed, this won’t do you much good. But if they’re open even a crack and you have any kind of steel implement handy — the back of a closed pocket-knife blade, a Leatherman tool, a pair of pliers, a screwdriver, etc. — just give the exposed edge of the glass a sharp tap. I haven’t tried this underwater, but odds are it would still work. Doesn’t take a whole lot of force.

    6. avatar Charles5 says:

      “Willden, a former cop, pressed his gun against the submerged glass and blew out the windows.”

      To answer your question as to whether or not the the pocket knife would have worked, negative. Seeing that the glass was “submerged” indicates that the window was under water. Even if he could have smashed the window with the hilt of the knife on dry land, the water would have created too much resistance for him to strike the glass with sufficient force to break it. Don’t let the movies fool you.

      1. avatar Michelle says:

        Exactly what I was thinking Charles5 don’t be fooled by what hollywood can do. Car windows in the movies are not made of glass. Kudos to Chris on quick thinking and bravery. I’m sure the father of those children didn’t care if he used a knife or a gun to save their lives. Not that just anyone should go packing heat and shooting our car windows, it did say he was properly trained in such emergencies, so he knew what he was doing. It would not hurt for everyone to be trained in such a manner, though not everyone should carry a sidearm.

        1. avatar Roger McGowan says:

          Car windows in movies are made out of candy…really.

    7. avatar Ryan Finn says:

      As a volunteer firefighter I’ve broken many a car window and can tell you that they are much stronger than they look. We’ve had our automatic punch fail sometimes because we didn’t hit the window in the sweet spot. I honestly don’t think there is any way his knife could have done the job, especially with the windows submerged.

    8. avatar Stephen says:

      Unbelievable. The man saves the lives of little kids, and all you can do is criticize him for using a gun!? You need a good ……

    9. avatar Pyrotek85 says:

      As others have said, car windows are hard, and trying to break a window underwater even harder. That’d be my biggest fear if my car ever got submerged, not being able to kick hard enough to break a window and escape.

    10. avatar Jim says:

      Sounds like we have another anti-gun Obama drone… please wake up, turn off your XBox and join the real world, eh? As has been noted, water resistance would have made the knife option, at best, insufficent; at worst, deadly. We’d be looking at three dead children and one adult (at least what I got from the article). Perhaps a lesson in actual logic is in order?

    11. avatar Brandon says:

      Have you ever tried to break auto glass?! If you don’t hit it just right, you just bounce off. This man did some quick thinking and used the right tool.

    12. avatar Mgentry77 says:

      You cannot swing your arm with enough force underwater to break car glass. Most people cannot even break a car window with a hammer above water.

  6. avatar Brice says:

    Have you ever tried doing autoglass with a pocket knife? It’s harder than it looks, especially in the water. Go to the junk yard and try it.

  7. avatar JOE MATAFOME says:

    This man’s a hero, but if he had done the same thing in some of our COMMIE states he’d be sitting in jail for a few years.

    1. avatar TTACer says:

      +1 Jersey or NY and he would be looking at jail time.

  8. avatar Mr. Lion says:

    As has been said, it is extremely difficult to impossible to pop auto glass under water with a knife. The only way to do it is to hit some relatively sharp metal object with another one. So, I suppose he could have pressed his closed knife frame to the window and started beating on it with his gun. However, that is a) A crap shoot, and b) Really stupid.

    A pretty important metric is being overlooked, and that is TIME. A pistol pops out windows really fast. Other tools, save for in perfect environments, generally do not. Were I in a similar situation, I’d most certainly want someone being “aggressive enough fast enough” and shooting some glass.

    Whether or not Our Hero thought of it at the time, it’s actually a fairly safe thing to do in such a situation as the bullet fragments aren’t going to move more than a few inches with anything like enough energy to hurt someone.

    Even in an absolute worst case, one in a million solution, I’d rather risk taking a bullet than spending the remaining minute or two of my life with my lungs full of water.

  9. avatar Texan says:

    Great article, thanks Dan!

  10. avatar Graybeard says:

    I remember the 1st time I tried to break window glass to rescue a driver in a burning car. Two young, strong grown men kicking the window glass simultaneously were unable to even crack it.

    As for the use of the pistol to break the glass: I suspect he aimed the bullet under water toward the roof of the car (which – as I understand the article – was “down” at that point). The water would slow the bullet rapidly.

    I just finished reading “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” by Laura Hillenbrand. (ISBN: 1400064163) In the book it relates how Louis Zamperini was saved from being machine-gunned to death by a Japanese Zero by the fact that the rounds lost all lethal momentum in the first foot or two of sea water. I believe it’s safe to say that the rounds fired by a Japanese Zero were a little more powerful than whatever handgun Mr. Willden was using. He was actually taking very little risk in using it to break the window.

    A knife would have been useless to break the window. Even a hammer may have been ineffective. Those things are really pretty hard to break.

    1. avatar CarlosT says:

      Mythbusters did some testing (I think up to .50 cal, even) and if I remember correctly, no round retained any energy past three feet. Given that fact, and the fact that his backstop was likely the rooftop and the riverbed behind that, I agree that the risk to the passengers was minimal.

  11. avatar Drew says:

    Since I live in SoCal and our freeways are a nightmare ,my daily carry knife has both a carbide glass breaker and a seat belt cutter , but I agree with everyone here that there’s no way it would work effectively underwater.

  12. avatar Tom says:

    Auto glass is tough to break. I have had criminals hit the glass with a hammer and it indented but really did not break. This type of thing happened to a guy with a pickup truck along the Chief White Eye Trail in my area. Luckily, he got the window down and the water in the fast moving creek was not deep.

    1. avatar Drew says:

      Pointy is key. You need to focus the impact on a tiny area to overcome the compressive strenth of the glass. However, just a slight tap along an edge will shatter tempered every time.

      1. avatar Graybeard says:

        Drew – you tried that underwater in a river in the winter yet?

        You might find it more difficult even when you just hit the edge of the glass.

        1. avatar Drew says:

          Oh, I agree totally that underwater would be damn near impossible. I was referencing the hammer blow in his comment above.

        2. avatar Graybeard says:

          Gotcha! I’d missed the reference.

      2. avatar Big Boy says:

        That’s why firemen carry spring-loaded center punches. All the force is directed into a pin point. The PSI on that “dot” is enormous.

  13. avatar Talmon Burke says:

    Now we need TTAG to do some research — what handguns can be fired safely under water? Any, most, or just some? I know Glock sells spring cups (to military and law enforcement only, I think) that make them safe for underwater fire. Do all semi-autos need that? How do revolvers fare?

    1. avatar Cameron says:

      I know that the Beretta 92fs…I’m guessing most if not all quality modern semi-automatic handguns can function underwater. Revolvers would be interesting to see, however.

    2. avatar Randy says:

      Any modern gun will fire under water. The only thing that would prevent it would be wet powder and sealed cartridges solve that problem.

      1. avatar Chris_From_NY says:

        A related question is “Does firing a handgun under water cause damage or accelerated wear?” I’d imagine peak chamber pressures are a lot higher, for one. Does the handgun need a complete checkout for deformation before it can be trusted to be reliable for EDC?

      2. avatar Meridia says:

        What I saw was some testing with a Glock in a swimming pool. First few shots fired perfectly but the gun started to fail before the mag was empty.

        Why exactly, I don’t know. But in a case like this, underwater vehicle, you don’t need more than a few shots at most. Or shouldn’t anyway. Hopefully. If I need more than a couple shots FML.

    3. avatar Ralph says:

      What I want to know is, what handguns can be dry fired under water?

      1. avatar Totenglocke says:

        Center-fire caliber handguns, of course!

  14. avatar Silver says:

    In other news, the Bradys and mikeb will be holding a candlelight vigil for the broken window, yet another victim of senseless gun violence.

    1. avatar Graybeard says:

      [choking on my coffee while trying to laugh]

    2. avatar Mikeb302000 says:

      Actually, I think it’s a wonderful story. There was one last year too. A guy drove into a river and shot his way out.

      But, you know how you guys are always telling me how few the child deaths are and how few the “accidental deaths” are, well what about these heroically-shooting-out-the-car-windows stories. Even fewer, I’d imagine.

      1. avatar RuffRidr says:

        So is it your contention that New Jersey style restrictions should be in place and that this man shouldn’t have had the gun? I’d love to see you try and explain your reasoning to the father of these children.

        1. avatar Mikeb302000 says:

          Lighten up, Ruffy. You can’t work backwards from the incident to the laws. Of course it was good this guy had a gun.

          But, do I want to make it easy for EVERYBODY to have a gun just in case they drive the kids into a frozen river someday? No.

        2. avatar RuffRidr says:

          “Of course it was good this guy had a gun.”

          Don’t you typically refer to people like him on your website as being ‘paranoid’? Which is it, paranoid or prepared?

        3. avatar Pyrotek85 says:

          It’s also been increasing common for us to be referred to as potential criminals.

      2. avatar Dan says:

        Remember, my friend, it is not the gun’s fault that the owner did not properly store it to prevent children from gaining access. You folks always seem to think that blaming the gun is the answer while the real answer is going after the negligent gun owner. Oh well, guess we need to ban forks and spoons so we won’t have an over weight health problem and yes lets ban drivers so the cars won’t hit any school children in a cross walk. And, the list goes on. LOL.

        1. avatar Illicit says:

          lets ban schools so we have no school children to get ran over by cars

  15. avatar Dirk Diggler says:

    it is better if we could post pictures of the kids he saved. kids and puppies melt hearts (or better yet, a picture of the kids holding a puppy). and those antis who will scream about gun usage will have a heard time arguing against this

  16. avatar UtahLibertarian says:

    I’m SO glad the local station ( didn’t even bother to mention the DGU or the details of the heroics. Why have a positive story about guns when it can be avoided?

  17. avatar ralphrotten says:

    Nice job Mr. Willden. My family is very proud of you (and your Dad)…


  18. avatar Windy says:

    many years ago when I was in a rescue unit (1989) we had an expert show us with his issue 1911 and GI ball ammo a method for breaking auto tempered glass underwater by placing the top of the pistol slide flat along the glass that is the bullet not aimed at the glass but along it into the frame of the window the blast of the discharge and the incompressibility of the water creating the glass confetti but thinking on it right now I wonder if the slug hitting the frame is not causing an edge impact which has been stated will shatter any tempered glass

    1. avatar caffeinated says:

      That is a worthwhile experiment to see which calibers and firearms have the ability to break glass that way. I also noticed that the firearms in question use a locked breech. I’m just curious if an straight blowback design such as a PPK or Makarov could safely fire underwater. Either way, I will also attest that autoglass is damned near indestructible as my I’ve destroyed my 3D Maglite just getting into one passenger side window before. Suggesting that a pocket knife could do this underwater is plain absurd.

  19. avatar E. Zach Lee-Wright says:

    People greatly underestimate the strength of the side and back auto glass windows. I was doing crane work at a location next to a auto salvage yard. I saw a worker cleaning up an area by throwing scrap metal items into a junk car. The back door window was fully up in its channel when the guy threw a brake rotor and hub “Frisbee” style at the window from a distance of about 10 feet. The rotor bounced off the window. The rotor was from a full sized vehicle and had to be over 15 pounds.

    An earlier comment by Pyrotek85 said “being able to kick the glass out”. As already mentioned here, it does not work that way. When you are in a car that is submerged, the pressure of the water adds to the already strong glass. The TV news reporter Jessica Savitch found herself in this bad situation in 1983. When they pulled her body from the car the heals of her shoes were broken.

  20. avatar Cwillden says:

    Hi everyone. I googled myself and found this little conversation. Thanks for all the cudos but I wasn’t the only one there. Ya, I was first in the water with dad. Ya, I used a tool I had on my belt to open a window that was completely underwater. Ya, I tried the doors and they wouldn’t open. I watch as Rodger tried to kick and hit one of the windows to break them. Did it work? Nope. My knife was a CRKT M16-12M (complete with our company logo on it) and I have carried it since Strategic was founded. The firearm, a Glock 23C. I tried to locate the bullet two days after by looking in the vehicle and no hole in the roof, door frame, seat cushions etc. No fragments ANYWHERE. I think someone upstairs kept it as a momento and hopefully he puts it in my folder to enter through the gate. Be safe and if anyone has any questions, feel free to contact me on our company Facebook page. Be safe everyone.

    1. avatar M B says:

      You did right. I’ve been in that situation and nothing else works underwater. Firing a handgun does. At the time I was only carrying my 380 but it did the job. Butt strikes don’t work underwater because the pressure is so great. I applaud you sir.

  21. avatar Bill says:

    Anyone criticizing this hero for using a gun rather than trying to break a window underwater with a knife is probably the same type of person that would have stopped and filmed the death of these kids with their cell phone rather than try to help.

    1. avatar Domenico Giordano says:

      you are 100 percent right on saving these kids, would they mock this hero if he was saving THEIR KIDS
      these people are IDIOTS

  22. avatar M B says:

    Have any of you people ever been in a vehicle that is submerged in water????!!!!! I doubt any of you have! Well I have and let me tell you…. Power door locks and windows of course don’t work because they’re immediately shorted out and kicking glass doesn’t work, knives don’t work…multiple different items don’t work, but a gun does!!! Glass under water doesn’t break by being hit with the butt of a gun but it does if you shoot it. The man did right. Kudos to him for saving those children!!

  23. avatar Richard says:

    If only someone could come up with a specialized tool to shatter car windows and cut seat belts in just such a situation…
    Oh, wait…

    1. avatar Fred says:

      Go to your local pool and try to swing that under water with enough force to even make a dent. Then go to your local library and get a book on basic physics. Read up on viscosity of a fluid, I would hope this would help you understand why even a world champion weight lifter wouldn’t have enough strength.

  24. avatar Dave says:

    Wonder if the fellow that was rescued was pro or anti gun before this episode. Good story, happy ending, all is well 🙂

  25. avatar markemark says:

    Here’s some evidence on how hard it is to break a car window…

    1. avatar Meridia says:

      Yeah… got a nasty cut too. Lol

  26. avatar Melanie says:

    I love how a guy uses a gun to break a window and it becomes a gun debate. Also how is he the hero when it says another passerby stopped and did CPR, I would say the person who was able to get the children breathing again should really be praised as a hero!

    1. avatar Jeremiah says:

      As much as gun owners rights are attacked these days it doesn’t surprise me that good people get really defensive when anyone suggests that a gun is a bad thing. Good people = Good use of guns. And guess what everyone, there are already laws for bad people no matter what tools they use to commit evil.

  27. avatar kristal says:

    Wow this is great, i rolled in a wreck, and was trapped inside w airbag fumes gagging me. I grabbed everything i could find to try and break the window with including a knife that did not do a damn thing for me, i wish i had my gun handy that day! I kicked as hard as i could but no luck until a passerby pulled a door open and drug me out

  28. avatar Alex says:

    people have this misconception that when you pull the trigger, the fired round will go anywhere it damn well feels like. im going to give you all a recap on the lesson you learned in elementary school. something will travel on the past of least resistance when being propelled by an external force. usually meaning, in simple enough terms for half of you, straight. meaning, in this application, when you fire your handgun, rifle, rocket launcher, etc., it will travel straight out of the barrel until energy has dissipated and it arches downwards until it hits the ground, if theres nothing in front of it. its not like a bullet leaves the barrel and goes, HOLY SHIT LOOK AT THAT CROWD OF PEOPLE TO THE LEFT. IM GOING TO SUDDENLY TURN IN TO THEM. guns are safe, shooters arent. gun control should be taking a required safety course before being able to purchase a firearm. at least in PA, you have to take a hunters safety course to get your permit to hunt. they should do this before purchasing your first firearm.

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