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Montanans administer first aid to a victim of the las vegas shooting

The goal of a gunfight is not to kill or disable the other person(s), it’s to stop the attack and keep yourself (and anyone else you choose) alive If needed, go back and read that again.

Yes, in order to keep yourself alive and (hopefully) uninjured, you may need to kill or disable an attacker. However, the killing or disabling of the “bad guy(s)” is a means to an end – it’s one method to achieve the ultimate goal of keeping yourself (and anyone else you choose) alive and unharmed. Another method might be running away to safety.

This is an important distinction.

First, it emphasizes the point of self defense; you aren’t trying to kill or disable anyone. You’re trying to defend yourself and others. Second, I believe that too many people train for a gunfight by focusing only on offense and not enough about defense.

If I haven’t lost you already…hear me out.

You will have survived and/or won a gunfight not by killing or disabling the “bad guy(s)” but, rather by being alive. Killing the “bad guy” is irrelevant to the outcome. For example, you may have killed the “bad guy(s)” and still not have won the gunfight if you end up dead as well.

Yes, it’s vitally important to train with a firearm. You must know how to use it and use it effectively to defend yourself and others. You should also be training to get to/fire from as safe a position as possible.

If you were preparing for a football game, would you only focus on offense by only practicing how to score touchdowns? No, you’d practice defense too. You should start thinking about your training the same way.

I encourage you to seek out defensive training. How to defend against a “bad guy” (by running, barricading, etc.). How to prevent the “bad guy” from getting into good position while you’re in a bad one (situational awareness, making good choices, etc.).

But primarily, you should be training to keep yourself and others alive. Putting five bullet holes into a bad guy and killing him is likely little consolation if you’re lying there with four bullet holes in your body and bleeding out. Which brings us to first aid.

If you have a quality firearm and ammunition with which you regularly train, that’s great. If you carry it regularly, even better.

Now, do you have first aid supplies or training? Do you own a tourniquet? Gauze? A chest seal?

In the horrific Las Vegas shooting, the vast majority of the injured people didn’t have a firearm. They were listening to music in a designated gun-free zone. Therefore no amount of firearms training or tactical skill would’ve helped. However, a small emergency medical kit and the knowledge how to use it would’ve been priceless.

Even without a kit, some knowledge alone would have helped. Even a granola bar wrapper makes a fine field-expedient chest seal. A belt can be used as a makeshift tourniquet. In the military, we kept giant safety pins handy. In the absence of a proper airway device, I’d have no complaint if someone safety-pinned my tongue to the side of my cheek to keep me breathing and alive.

Of course, I’m stepping way outside of the bounds of “approved” medical treatment here. However, during a mass casualty situation like the Las Vegas shooting, I couldn’t care less what’s “approved.”

I spent my time in the military was with 1st Ranger Battalion/75th Ranger Regiment. When I was in, great effort was made to have an EMT in every functional group. I was a sniper team leader (group of two) and therefore, my unit paid for me to attend civilian training for and become certified as a nationally registered EMT-I.

During our training, we were constantly reminded what we were allowed to do when we were working in an ambulance or the emergency room of the local hospital vs. what we could do on a battlefield where lawyers aren’t a consideration.

Unfortunately, we need to treat some situations such as what happened in Las Vegas like a battlefield when it comes to saving lives (see safety pin comment above). The only consideration then is to mitigate the damage done with anything and everything at hand.

I’ve seen RF write that when someone asks him about home defense with a firearm he asks them if they have a fire extinguisher or an alarm a burglar alarm. I’d like to piggyback on that: the next time someone tells me about the firearm they have or the training they’ve completed, I’m going to ask them about the first aid (defensive) training they’ve completed or what tourniquet/chest seal they have with them.

I hope that this gives you something to consider. Practicing for offense is great. However, you win/survive a gunfight by staying alive, not necessarily by killing the bad guy.


Ryan Cleckner was a special operations sniper team leader in the US Army’s 1st Ranger Bn (75th) with multiple combat deployments and a sniper instructor. He has a series of basic online instructional videos, he’s the best selling author of the Long Range Shooting Handbook, and he’s a firearms industry executive and attorney at where he helps folks get an FFL and where he qualifies folks for a CCW in over half the country all online.

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  1. In all the training Ive had over the years. Its always been do what you have to.To stop the aggressor/aggression. If he/she happens to die so be it. First aid for the aggressor. Its not in my book.. The goal of course is for me to or whom ever Im defending comes out alive.

    • and scrotum/groin, nothing says “I’m THE ‘Winner'” more than shooting someone in the nuts.

  2. If I ever find myself in a crowd under attack by a dedicated suicidal fighter, e.g. an ISIS jihadi, my goal will not simply be to survive. It will be to eliminate the threat utterly. I will assume if the attacker survives and remains at large he will likely try to do the same thing again. With those assumptions, my goal will be to kill the attacker. In other words, Mr. Cleckner, you have addressed only a subset of possible self-defense scenarios, and your advice is inadequate.

    • Your reaction is very gallant, but first save yourself so you can help others. If eliminating the threat does that, it is a win-win.

    • What is this, a movie? You, as one guy, are going to maneuver through a panicking crowd under direct fire against an adversary that may be armored and/or rigged with explosives and may be accompanied by allies you aren’t aware of so that you can try to “utterly” eliminate him with what is probably just a handgun? This sort of thing is a team sport. You lack the team and the equipment.
      A+ for motivation, though.

      • A little late on my reply, but you do make good points. My original comment lacked essential detail. Priority #1 is not to be killed. Co-priority #1 is not to have any family members killed. That may of course dictate getting the hell out of there. But left to my own devices, I would find cover and return fire. The most likely beneficial result would be to cause the mad gunman also to find cover and therefore to shoot less, perhaps buying time for that team you mentioned to get their act together. If I could get a kill shot in, I would not hesitate one picosecond. And if there’s a bomb in the picture we’d all be screwed anyway.

  3. I recommend Dark Angel Medical ( for their 1 day course – Direct Action Response. I never appreciated the proper use of a TQ (Tourniquet – they recommend the CAT), until I took their excellent course. I now always carry at least the TQ (belt or ankle). I still have a more complete med kit in the car, but you should have (at a concert for example) – TQ, gloves, flashlight. Save yourself so you can help others – or at least reduce the burden of the responders.

    • People used to look at me funny when they heard I had a couple of CATs and some compressed gauze packs in my cargo pocket at the range or on the motorcycle. Now, they ask where they can buy it and learn to use it…

      • I keep a pretty complete IFAK under the rear seat of my bike. People think it’s odd as hell right up until they wreck.

    • DART is a 2 day course, and you get hands on learning on how to use everything in the kits, except for the pneumothorax needle, which you can’t legally use on someone else unless you’re a doctor or on duty military. I like Dark Angel. There’s a small premium for their products over assembling it yourself, but they vacuum pack it in a good case and will replace it if you use it. They buy direct from the manufacturers, so you won’t get counterfeit stuff. If there’s money in my health savings account at the end of the year, I spend it with them. I haven’t taken Kerry’s range courses, so I can’t comment on those.

  4. Actually, most DGUs don’t even require gunfire. My own single experience didn’t require me to shoot or even draw. The bad guys backed off and left in a hurry after I took off my jacket exposing my .45.

  5. You bring up Vegas and being unarmed. Even if they had a pistol, it would have been unreasonable to fire at that distance and have made no difference in the outcome.

    • I think the point wasn’t “you’re being shot at, return fire”, it was “you (or your date) has been shot, live to see tomorrow.”

  6. I don’t recommend toilet paper to stop a bad laceration. I had to soak the paper off and then it started bleeding again. I reckon a kotex would work, not many guys use those anymore though. Lol

  7. I suspect that in the case of someone who turns out to have been affiliated with a terrorist group that if you do reload and finish him off that prosecution would be set aside – except possibly because by doing so you have eliminated a potential intelligence source. So there’s that to keep in mind – do you want to deprive law enforcement of useful intelligence just because you’re pissed off that they shot at you? I can understand it, but it’s not wise.

    But if you reload and shoot an ordinary criminal after he’s down, expect to be prosecuted and rightly so under our system of justice. You’re not being paid to be an executioner. Besides, you’re depriving him of spending a very long and unpleasant incarceration. Do you really want to do that? Sure, he might get out later and continue to commit crimes, but why risk your doing his incarceration instead?

    Medical training is a very good idea.

    Always remember: The best way to win a gun fight is…not to show up for it.

  8. Sadly, too few people avail themselves to good training.

    It’s more fun to play golf or watch NFL football.

    You can lead the horses to water, but you can’t make them drink.

  9. Well written. Defense needs to start with situational awareness. Getting off the X or potential X is paramount to survival. If offensive action is required unleash with extreme violence, end the aggressors attack. Re assess the area if no further attacker is present consider your health and welfare and those who are with you. If the perpetrator is alive? Only if you can safely administer first aid do so. The author is correct, self defense is to stop the attack.


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