TTAG reader Cliff H writes . . .
Colonel Jeff Cooper was a very smart man. He wrote a lot of books, had a storied career as a Marine Corps officer and established the Gunsite Academy in Arizona which has a well-deserved worldwide reputation for high-quality firearms training.
Colonel Cooper was also a staunch supporter of the 1911 pattern Colt .45 semi-automatic pistol and a vocal detractor of the modern DA/SA “crunch & tickle” semi-autos in lesser calibers. He was also the creator of the “Scout” style rifle.
There are many people of the gun today who do not know of Colonel Cooper, who died in 2006, but probably know one of his most important lessons: the four rules of firearm safety.
Far be it from me, a mere keyboard commando, to disparage anything the venerable Col. Cooper had to say, but my EDC is a striker-fired Ruger SR9c and my rifle is a Ruger SR-556. I have never liked the 1911 pistol, although I understand its merits and the reasons so many other shooters like it.
The point is, the world has changed since Col. Cooper set forth his opinions on firearms. The four rules remain sacrosanct because, by and large, they make perfect sense and are easy for even beginners to remember and understand.
Further, as TTAG has pointed out on numerous occasions, you have to break at least two of the four at the same time before anything bad happens.
Colonel Cooper four basic rules are:
- All guns are always loaded. Even if they are not, treat them as if they are.
- Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
- Know your target, and what is behind it.
It must be remembered, however, that Colonel Cooper came from a time before wide-spread concerns about psycho mass shooters and domestic terrorists. As such he tended to be concerned more with limiting civilian casualties, legal repercussions, bad press, etc.
As such it is my opinion that in the 21st century we need to a fifth rule of firearm safety:
5. Depending on your assessment of your target as to intent and potential to cause death and destruction, it may be necessary to disregard Rule #4 and take any shot offered in order to stop the threat.
Yes, that’s wordy, but here’s my rationale:
If you shoot and miss, or shoot and over-penetrate you might hit an unintended target downrange. If you don’t shoot because of Rule #4 a bad guy will definitely and intentionally shoot as many targets downrange as he can.
In my opinion it’s better to accept the risk of collateral damage than the certainty of intentional damage (YMMV).
I am not an operator nor have I ever played one on TV. I am not a lawyer, either. This is just my considered opinion on this subject, so take it for what that’s worth and make your own decisions as to its applicability in the real world.
By all means, minimize the risk of unintended casualties if you can. When possible, shoot at a downward angle to limit bullet travel past the target to an occasional ricochet from the floor. Unless the target’s position and proximity allow a center mass shot, aim for the groin or thighs. Hits in this area will immobilize the shooter and make your follow-up shots easier while at the same time preventing him from moving on to new targets.
Once the shooter is immobilized or on the ground, follow up with as many rounds as necessary to stop the threat. I suggest that you keep shooting until he drops his weapon.
Once the threat appears to have stopped, DO NOT APPROACH the shooter. Keep him covered with your weapon, call or have someone else call for help, and respond immediately to any commands from first responders.
In any active shooter situation the most important consideration is to to stop the threat.
You may get shot. That would suck, but…how much more would it suck to do nothing even though you had the ability to take some action and then go home and see the body count reported on the news? And how many bystanders around you may make good their escape while the active shooter turns his attention to dealing with the threat you pose as opposed to shooting innocents?
At this point this is no longer a theoretical exercise. There is an active ahooter intent on killing as many people as he can. All rules other than “stop the shooter” must be reconsidered.
This is not a Hollywood production or a Simunitions exercise – if your only shot is the knee or an ankle, take it. If necessary, shoot him in the balls. I guarantee that will distract his attention from whatever other plans he had for the rest of his day. Then keep shooting until he is no longer a threat.
The above scenario assumes, of course, a lone shooter, or only one shooter in your general area. If there are multiple shooters, do the best you can and feel free to get the hell out of Dodge.
Here are five things to consider in an active shooter scenario:
1. Always assume the active shooter’s firearm is loaded and he has an unknown but significant number of additional magazines to keep it that way indefinitely.
2. The active shooter will always keep their muzzle pointed at any living person, since they are all targets to be destroyed.
3. The active shooter will keep his finger on the trigger until he is out of targets, out of ammo, or dead.
4. The active shooter has no regard for what is beyond his target since every person in front of his weapon is a target.
5. In an active shooter scenario you must disregard Rule #4 and take any shot offered since failure to stop the active shooter GUARANTEES more people will be shot as opposed to the possibility that some MIGHT be hit by your missed shots or over-penetrations.
I look forward to reading your well-considered opinions on this topic.
[This post was originally published in 2015.]