Claude Werner personal self defense doctrine
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Words of wisdom from Claude Werner. Highly recommend following his blog not because he’s a friend but because he gives solid advice on self-defense and training. Best of all he’s succinct so you aren’t wading through fluff. It’s all good.

Every time we pull a gun on someone, a binary decision, ‘Shoot or Don’t Shoot,’ immediately ensues and continues until the gun is put away. That decision is not necessarily either conscious nor intentional. Because of that, we need to be very mindful of when we choose to place ourselves into that position. Two recent incidents, one involving a personal friend and one involving a gun celebrity, have reinforced that to me. In fact, we probably should change the common usage to Don’t Shoot/Shoot instead of vice versa.

The possibility of a Serious Mistake and subsequent Negative Outcome will always be present. That’s why developing our personal doctrine ahead of time, based on our needs and considerations, not someone else’s, is important.

– Claude Werner, Shoot/Don’t Shoot and METT-TC

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    • I understand this but at the same time I don’t. Say someone is walking toward you with a knife in their hand, looking crazy. You notice the knife when they’re 40 feet away and draw when they’re 30 feet away. They don’t take another step toward you, turn tail and run without you firing a shot. I feel like a crime wasn’t committed but, alas, I am no lawmaker

      • “I feel like a crime wasn’t committed but, alas, I am no lawmaker”

        The difference, in the described circumstance, would be whoever makes the call to 911 first. “Brandishing” is a ticklish legal matter because we all think we are justified in showing our gun as a means to de-escalate a situation. After all, we are the good guys. But the issue is one of state-of-mind, and absolutely no one can capture the state-of-mind of another.

        The question also rotates around “threat of imminent death or grievous bodily harm”. A person standing 20 feet away, showing a weapon, and claiming they will kill you does not present an “imminent threat”, as that person is not moving in any direction at all. Presenting your gun in this situation is bringing deadly force into the situation, and that is justified only under “imminent threat”. These are situations where “the law”, being only words, cannot observe the activity and decide between unjustified presentation of a gun (brandishing) and justifiable DGU.

        Even in states with “stand your ground” laws, a jury of “reasonable”(?) peers (chuckle) get to decide what they, as reasonable people (most likely deciding they would just run away), would do.

        Am I saying you should never present a firearm when you feel threatened? No. Just pointing out the complications.

        • “A person standing 20 feet away, showing a weapon, and claiming they will kill you does not present an “imminent threat””

          Nope. Tueller Drill.

          ETA: Granted, their not moving adds a layer of complexity to the situation, but it’s incorrect to state that a person 20 feet away is not a threat.

          • “Nope. Tueller Drill.”

            The drill is only a drill, it is not a law of physics. Nor a codified law.

            I would not want to test it in court, “Your honor, the man was standing there, with a kinfe/gun in hand alongside his right leg. He was screaming that he wanted to kill me. He made no move whatsoever, other than screaming. Because I watched a demonstration of the Tueller Drill on YouTube, I believed that the mere presence of the deceased was an imminent threat of death or grievous bodily harm, so I shot him before he could actually make a move in any direction. Judging from the Tueller Drill, any person within 21 feet of me holding a deadly weapon of any kind is, de facto, and indisputably an imminent threat to my life, and shooting such people, regardless of actual movement, is a proper exercise of my natural, civil and human right to self-defense. Although I could have evaded the deceased by simply walking on toward my destination, I am justified in shooting the person holding a deadly weapon.”


        • “Using or displaying a handgun could result in your conviction for crimes such as improper exhibition of a firearm, aggravated assault felony, manslaughter, or worse. Generally in a situation involving firearms, an Aggressor, and the use of deadly force in self defense, the author (again, I’m not an attorney & this is NOT LEGAL ADVICE) believes for a legal shoot that ALL 3 of the below criteria MUST BE PRESENT. These are based on what noted firearm expert Massad Ayoob and other firearms trainers refer to as the triad of Ability, Opportunity, and Jeopardy. Juries and Judges consider the “reasonable person” concept, excessive use of force, non-deadly response options, avoidance tactics, and other factors as well. If you do use deadly force to defend yourself, Ayoob says you’ll eventually have to explain what specific things you perceived led you to conclude that your attacker had the (1) ability and (2) opportunity to cause you death or bodily injury, and why you perceived that your life was in (3) jeopardy sufficiently to justify the use of deadly force. The 3 criteria are:

          Ability = Means— Aggressor has (or reasonably appears to have) weapon or power to deliver force sufficient to cause death or grave bodily harm… or bigger size, strength, weight, or height than you, or has special tactical training (judo, boxing, martial arts, etc.) that you don’t have. So, a garden hose (means) attack against you does NOT justify your use of deadly force;
          Opportunity = Proximity— Aggressor is nearby within (generally) 21 feet of you or approaching toward you or in position close to you to immediately employ force; AND
          Intent = Jeopardy— Aggressor is verbally or physically threatening you, trying to shoot you, kill you, or interact with you to cause you or a family member serious bodily harm or death; acting in such a manner that a “reasonable person” would conclude that the Aggressor has the intent to kill or cripple. Hostile words or actions. GENERALLY:

          You CAN’T shoot the angry, shouting guy a block away (NO OPPORTUNITY) who is not approaching you, but who is wildly swinging a baseball bat in the air while cursing your name.
          You CAN’T shoot the gal who has not interacted with you with hostile actions or hostile words (NO INTENT), but happens to have a gun in her hand, pointed at the ground.
          You CAN’T shoot the solo unarmed (NO ABILITY) person who is roughly your size/strength or smaller who has punched you. (You can’t shoot an unarmed person, since that would usually be considered excessive force. If a victim uses excessive force they usually become the Aggressor. Force becomes “excessive” generally when it exceeds that which is needed to assure one’s own safety. So when someone says “I give up!” or runs away from you, you have to stop hitting him or shooting. Immediately!)”

        • Due to a stupid misstep in my driveway while I was backing out of the doorway on a slide-in truck camper my neck is held together with stainless bands and screws. Any trauma to my head, like a punch, could easily end my life.

          I’ll shoot first as my fear for my life is absolutely real in every confrontation which might entail a physical attack.

          Luckily, I’m also pretty careful to watch my surroundings and spot troublemakers, instead.

          • “I’ll shoot first as my fear for my life is absolutely real in every confrontation which might entail a physical attack.”

            Don’t fail to be first to call 911 if the threat melts away when you present your firearm, but are not required to shoot.

  1. If I’ve even cleared leather, I’ve already thought out my options, or even exhausted them. I’m not going to brandish, or fire warning shots. I’m probably already in a position where I need to shoot.
    I’ve cleared leather once at 420am in my home, a drunk/druggie trying to kick in my front door. My mind was made up if the dead bolt didn’t hold he was getting flying lead for his troubles.

  2. My Plan, YMMV
    1) Avoid / walk away if possible. Even if not legally required, it is most often the best solution.
    2) If reasonable, consider showing that I am armed, pull to low ready or even casually hold pointed down. I know, some will call the brandishing but it does both give a thinking perp a chance realize they have a fighter and back off. More importantly, it gives me the change to consider what is happening, not pull/shoot reaction. This step depends a lot on the situation, sometimes the extra time could get you killed if they are bad breath close. On the other hand, I carry one in the stove pipe, no manual safety, so at that point I can move very fast.
    3) If I point at the perp, I will shoot and shoot to kill. No more hesitations at this point.

    • GrumpyOldGuy,

      A friendly reminder regarding your point number (3): the legal standard is that you shoot to STOP THE THREAT. Sometimes that means your attacker will survive and sometimes that means your attacker will die. Whether or not your attacker survives your righteous application of your firearm is on the attacker.

      • Yup, poor wording on my part and I really missed item 4, STFU post shooting until I have legal rep because anything I say will be used against me.

        My real point is I know once I get to the point I am aiming at a perp, I expect I will probably shoot center mass, multiple shots without thinking under pressure. It is more of a reaction than a logical thought process at that point.

        • “I really missed item 4, STFU post shooting until I have legal rep because anything I say will be used against me. ”

          Might be prudent to make sure no one is around when you make the call to the lawyer.

  3. Weird, this kind of goes with the dream I had this morning. SHt had it the fan, people were burning, jets, explosions, chaos. We were inventorying our gear and I couldn’t find my boots.

  4. If a DGU is an option you’re almost out of good choices. Just remember the famous general saying that no plan survives contact with an enemy

  5. It sounds like Mr. Werner is encouraging people to consider a strategy where they do not always shoot if they produce a firearm for self-defense — in case they were mistaken and produced their firearm in a situation where they were not legally justified to use deadly force.

    I would much rather focus on ensuring that I am absolutely legally justified in using deadly force. Once I have cleared that hurdle, then it becomes a quick tactical decision whether or not to pull the trigger. And the tactical nature of that decision involves the immediate attack as well as ensuing legal considerations after the attack is over.

  6. “3) If I point at the perp, I will shoot and shoot to kill stop the threat. No more hesitations at this point.”

  7. I have been recently reviewing (in great detail) “conventional wisdom” regarding when we are legally justified to use deadly force. I have concluded that the conditions which legally justify use of deadly force are exceedingly simple and clear-cut.

    Don’t produce a firearm for self-defense unless my attacker is:
    (1) coming at me,
    (2) to maim or kill me, and
    (3) has a huge advantage of strength

    Note that having a visible weapon in hand automatically means that my attacker has a huge advantage of strength. More than one attacker almost guarantees a huge advantage of strength as well.

    It is immediately obvious by inspection whether or not someone is coming at me. And it is immediately obvious by inspection whether or not someone has an advantage of strength. (Either your attacker does or does not have a visible weapon in hand.)

    I am not seeing any potential for confusion.

    The only vulnerability that I see in this standard is when a single person is approaching you without any visible weapons and for no obvious reason. If you are concerned that he/she could be an attacker, I think you are screwed (legally speaking) and your only legally safe option is to attempt to maintain space between the stranger and yourself while loudly and assertively telling the stranger to back off. If the stranger continues to close the distance and has no advantage of strength, you are unfortunately condemned to hand-to-hand combat with the very real possibility that the stranger suddenly produces a weapon. Sometimes life sucks.

    I really wish it would be legally permissible to draw a handgun and keep it pointed at the ground when a stranger continues to close the distance on you after you have tried to maintain spacing and yelled at the stranger to back off. Unfortunately, many/most jurisdictions could charge you with brandishing in that situation.

    Disclaimer: I am not an attorney — the above is my opinion and is not legal advice.

  8. Well, it’s forty years ago but there have been two times in my life that pointing a gun turned away a threat. There was adequate distance in both cases to react. One of those was witnessed by Border Patrol, who responded to my aid, made some arrests too. But it took them hours to reach me.

    All very long ago and lots of water under the bridge since. Lots of learning since.

    These days if I can simply leave I will do so. Don’t want no troubles. But if I am threatened to the point that I feel the need to pull a gun then there is no time for anything but pulling the gun and shooting to stop the threat. I’m old now and odd though it may sound disinclined towards victim-hood or a demise any sooner than nature provides me.

  9. A firearm is a possible final resort and should be treated as such. That said it should be situational wether to shoot after producing the firearm as you changed the dynamics. DGU is a ethical question not just a matter of law.

  10. My gun don’t come out till someone or something needs to be taken out… remember, If you can always double tap… otherwise you might spend a lot of time & money in court…

  11. I wholeheartedly agree!! And don’t carry a gun until you are mentally prepared to take a life otherwise you could hesitate when the situation could go fatal for you or those with you. Mentally consider scenario so you can do as I once did when miscreant pretended he was pulling a gun and came up empty. I came up empty handed too even though I had a Smith model 48 with its short barrel halfway out of the holster. I can’t count the number of scenarios I’ve considered and still do at 70+.

  12. Is this the same Claude Werner who did the analysis of the armed citizen articles?
    That was a fascinating analysis of civilian defensive gun uses.
    The only one that I am familiar with that tracked purely non-law-enforcement defensive gun use.
    He found that the average DGU took place at just past arms length distance, and most Citizens had warning than an attack was about to occur, and were often able to retrieve a firearm from another location like a car or another room in the house.
    There was only one instance of reloading.
    That was the escaped lion from the zoo, shot multiple time with a .32!
    Look it up, it is an amazing read

  13. If any of you are in a shooting situation, especially with a Democratic DA or politicians, EVERY one of your posts will be reviewed and used against you in court, even the good ones will be twisted for their advantage.
    I’m a retired engineer and after retirement worked for an honest attorney doing construction lawsuits:
    There is NO resemblance between justice and our legal system. Common sense does NOT APPLY! I know from going over cases and testifying in court.

    • “There is NO resemblance between justice and our legal system.”

      Exactly. “Justice” is not the goal of the legal system. Even equity before the bar is an afterthought (if at all).

      In a self-defense situation, you need plenty of personal liability insurance, and a lawyer skilled at law surrounding firearms. It is also prudent to have a sizeable nest egg to post bail.

  14. If you pull a gun on a miscreant it pretty much depends on who is in charge of charging you. Even cops(see LaQuan McDonald’s shooting) aren’t immune in Chiraq & Cook County,ILLinois. That boy was clearing advancing on the po-leece with a brandished knife and was on a crime spree. I have NO advice…

  15. You mean it’s not “have a plan to kill everyone you meet”? Doesn’t mean you have to, just have a plan.

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