Rule #5: Take the Shot

Jeff Cooper

Courtesy Gunsite Academy

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:

  1. All guns are always loaded. Even if they are not, treat them as if they are.
  2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
  4. 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.]

comments

  1. avatar Hans says:

    Excellent advice, indeed.

  2. avatar Grog says:

    Not as smart as Jeff Cooper

    1. avatar Reason says:

      Not even close.

    2. avatar California Richard says:

      Indeed…. I think NYPD adopted that rule and the cops are 4x more likely to hit bystanders than deadly force threats. SFPD tried it and hit everything except the bad guy…… https://youtu.be/IamGqcVhljo …. not so smart in practice.

    3. avatar Flying Fish says:

      Cooper is still right. Collateral damage is not any more justified today and is even less acceptable in today’s culture accustomed to precision drone attacks (and the liberals still complain) than in Cooper’s day accustomed to carpet bombing.

  3. avatar Specialist38 says:

    Cooper rules focused on the mindset as well as actions.

    Therefore, rule #4 refer to a deliberate act. Not “popping one off”.

    He always noted there was no need to drop the hammer on an un-alligned piece.

    This is something that seems to be overlooked when you watch SOME police shoot-outs (like Trader Joe’s).

    In any situation, you may have to “make a call”. Unfortunately, an armed citizen may not get the leeway of LEO.

    Also – He called them “krunchentickers”.

  4. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    Cliff, very well thought out article. I had considered much of what you said, but never thought to articulate it. Well done. BTW, it’s chrunchentiker. Not crunch & tickle. LOL. Cooper was also a big advocate of “do something!” I believe he said, “You might get hurt. You might even get killed, but do something.” May be a paraphrase. 1911s and scout rifles rule. As do ’03 and M-1 rifles. Deadly on both ends. Butt stroke someone with a poodle shooter and see what happens.

    1. avatar burley says:

      you said: “Butt stroke someone with a poodle shooter and see what happens.”
      are you willing to volunteer?
      The difference between getting hit with an m1 and an m16 is the same difference as getting hit with a 10 pound hammer and a 7 pound hammer. Stand still and I’ll show you…

      1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

        burly, when I went through the first bayonet course the Army put on for a number of years. At least according to the Army. Early ’80s. Seems a mother had complained about her son being violent after basic to her U.S. Representative. “What is the spirit of the bayont!? To kill!” We were taught to place our right hand at the heel of the stock so it wouldn’t break off when we butt stoked the dummy. That was an M16A1. I can only guess what they teach with those itty bitty M-4s. As for standing still; no thanks. I never stood still for much. I will pary your thrust with a rifle and bayonet that has further reach than an AR and smack you above the left ear with walnut and steel. See how that feels.

  5. avatar jwm says:

    I run hot and cold on the 1911 style firearm. Generally speaking they fit my hand well. 9mm is the worlds cartridge in handguns. And the 1911 simply doesn’t pack enough of them on board.

    Thanks to freedom week I have 15 round mags for my g19. Does it fit my hand as well as a 1911? No. But it doubles the number of chances I have to stop the bad guy.

    And yes, I am a die hard revolver fan. But i recognize that some situations are made for double stack autos.

    1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

      jwm, just because the world carries a medium bore caliber doesn’t make it the best. It just makes it common. Maybe, with a more efficient caliber, you would only need half as many rounds.

      1. avatar SAFEupstateFML says:

        Best can be relative but thankfully there are a lot of good choices for good enough in availability, comfort, effectiveness, affordability, and adaptability. Granted some regions find it easier to get closer to the best option than others.

      2. avatar Richard Steven Hack says:

        In my opinion, the *minimum* number of rounds in a magazine for a pistol carried for defensive purposes should be ten.

        That pretty much eliminates a lot of .45 caliber pistols (and just to reiterate, *all* revolvers – although I believe there are some revolvers that hold ten rounds, although some might not be easily carried concealed.) But there are .45 semi-autos with ten or more rounds. Extended magazines are also an option if they don’t make concealment problematic.

        That said, I can see someone carrying a .45 with less rounds as a backup piece to a primary .45 semi-auto that has ten rounds or even less rounds. At least a “New York Reload” would enable a higher round count, although *any* need to reload increases the risk of failure to defend. One could also carry extended magazines that hold ten or more rounds as backup magazines.

        I can also see carrying a .45 with less than ten rounds over a 9mm with more capacity if one is *really* good at hitting what one aims at *even under real conflict stress.* The problem is that most people under real combat stress will *not* usually hit what they aim at, especially if they are firing higher power weapons. This has been proven both in military and police contexts. This is why I recommend higher capacity firearms. Higher capacity really is a benefit in real conflicts.

        Bottom line: Carry a firearm with a minimum of ten rounds and preferably as many rounds as possible for the caliber you’re carrying. Then carry *at least* one reload magazine or a backup firearm (or both), preferably in the same caliber and preferably with its own reload magazine. On top of that, consider extended magazines for for both the primary and backup firearms and the reload magazines, depending on concealment constraints.

        Real bottom line: You can’t ever have enough guns of high caliber or enough ammo in a conflict, subject to marksmanship ability and concealment constraints.

        Trying to *finesse* one’s carry based on other considerations than actual risk is probably dangerous. And by actual risk, I mean the potential for multiple well-armed, well-trained opponents and extended engagements – even if the alleged statistics indicate such events are rare, they *can* and *have* happened to people in the past. So one needs to be prepared for “outlier” events when one’s security is at stake.

        1. avatar SAFEupstateFML says:

          Mostly agree, I really only diverge due to your minimum capacity being my state’s maximum so our math is more on the common core end of logical.

      3. avatar Clarence says:

        Double stack handguns are great, shot placement with a handgun is better. .45 ACP will stop a threat , as will 9mm. The caliber you shoot best is likely the one you’ll use. Unless you’re in a firefight, in Afghanistan, 6 rounds of .357 Magnum should neutralize most threats-if you train with it, so will a 1911. And if you carry, not having an extra loaded magazine or speed loader can be fatal.

        There’s no perfect answer to every scenario, but it seem too many have the “spray and pray” attitude that high capacity handguns can give.

    2. avatar Waylon says:

      Keep in mind 9mm is the “worlds caliber” due entirely to logistics, and not performance. I’m not a 9mm hater, but it is true. It’s just good enough, yet remaining relatively small. It’s also had to become heavily modified with great advancements in ammo tech to achieve being appropriate. You wouldn’t want to be defending yourself with 9mm ball from the 40s. Being that you’re not a government agency, you can choose whichever caliber best suits you. Don’t hem yourself into a particular set of standards just because some autocrat is trying to cut costs so he can use the remaining funds to line his own pockets with.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        9mm suits me just fine. It’s cheap enough in ball ammo to make it easy to practice with and the modern self defense ammo makes it suitable for most situations.

        It’s not perfect. But nothing ever is.

        1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

          jwm, you disappoint me. 9mm begins where larger calibers bein. Larger deeper holes!

    3. avatar Missouri_Mule says:

      My Rock Island Armory 1911 packs 17 plus 1 in 9mm.
      It will run with your Glock all day.
      Only time you win is at the scales.

      Col. Cooper is still right.
      Be AWARE of your target and what is beyond, then make your best call you can live with.
      We don’t prepare for philosophical discussions, we prepare for the worst and maybe last day of our lives.

      1. avatar neiowa says:

        And Dearborn once put 2.3l 4cyl in the Mustang. Just WRONG.

        1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

          ghia ll not really ‘stang, but it was fun w/ four speed.

  6. avatar strych9 says:

    I’ve thought basically the same thing for a long time.

    Essentially it’s a variation on the “Trolly Problem” (two tracks, one with a baby the other with five people and you control the rail switch and must choose) but with the twist that the lone person/baby isn’t guaranteed to die or even be injured.

    Ultimately ya pays ya money and takes ya chances. There’s no way to know what will happen until it does and people will always second guess your actions no matter what you do, so fuck them.

    Take what opportunities present themselves, use what advantages you have to the best of your ability and, if worse comes to worst, die well.

    “I returned and saw under the sun that – The race is not to the swift, Nor the battle to the strong, Nor bread to the wise, Nor riches to men of understanding, Nor favor to men of skill; But time and chance happen to them all…” is a pretty good description of reality.

    1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      “Essentially it’s a variation on the “Trolly Problem””

      My sincerest hope is I *never* have to make the choice between #4 and #5…

      1. avatar strych9 says:

        If that one bothers you then you probably shouldn’t (or should) look at the conundrums known as “Human Fuel” and “Wandering Stranger”.

        Those are fun ones to see the reaction on people’s faces if they’re new to such thinking.

        1. avatar ChoseDeath says:

          Where would I find those? I like thought experiments!

  7. avatar Nate in CA says:

    Cooper deserves sainthood for bringing us the holy 10mm cartridge – and the world was a better place!

  8. avatar miforest says:

    cooper was a great man , he was right about the crunch and tickers , they usually have lots of safety’s and a complex battery of arms . this makes them hard to bring into action, and with a little adrenelin, trigger control is complex. I love my 915, but it isn’t a beginners gun, and takes a lot more training to accurately master.

  9. avatar Texican says:

    Ecclesiastes wisdom explains that no matter what you do there’s a chance it won’t work. But that doesn’t mean you don’t try so that the odds can be in your favor. I know that my reward is in heaven and I won’t allow an evil gunman to hurt others if it’s within my my power to do something. I’ll take my chances doing something instead if nothing. If I have loved ones with me they take priority.

  10. avatar TommyJay says:

    It’s an interesting article. While I have less experience than the author, it might worth considering the Clackamas mall shooting incident.

    A spree killing shooter had killed 1 or 2 people when an off-duty mall cop pulled his concealed weapon and drew down on the killer from behind cover. The mall cop followed Cooper rule #4. He did not have a clear shot and pulled back into a covered position without firing.

    However, this perp was apparently one of those suicide spree killers and he saw the guy draw down on him, and so he promptly killed himself.

    A strange thing about these crazed killers seems to be that almost all of them used to be suicide spree killers, but many of the recent ones don’t appear to be interested in the suicide part.

  11. avatar Nanashi says:

    Rule 4 doesn’t say not to shoot, just to know. I really doubt Cooper was unfamiliar with the “greater danger” standard that is now (as far as I can tell) universal in police doctrine.

  12. avatar Hannibal says:

    “The four rules remain sacrosanct because, by and large, they make perfect sense…”

    They make sense on a range. The problem is people bandying them about elsewhere.

    Good luck taking down a glock if you treat it as always being loaded. And if you’re in a situation where you have to draw and shoot in close quarters against an armed threat you may lose because you refuse to put your finger on the trigger before you’ve got the sights lined up on target. And as the article points out, rule 4 is impossible in a real environment. Bullets go through all kinds of concealment and partial cover- there’s simply no way to know 100% whether someone is there.

    And I know, someone will say “well, it obviously doesn’t mean you can’t pull the trigger to take down the gun, you just have to check and make sure it’s not loaded” except that’s not what the ‘rule’ says, and that’s important when it comes to rules.

    Outside of a range I would go with something like these:
    1) Assume a gun is the worst-case-condition for your situation unless you have made sure it is not and it has not left your sight. (I bet it’s not the only case, but I am aware of a police officer that was dry-firing his unloaded gun and supposedly left it on a table to take a whiz. During that time a roommate loaded it and left it there for reasons unknown. When the first guy came out and resumed “dryfiring” he put a nice hole in the wall. I don’t know if I believe their story, but… it could happen.)
    -I say worst case condition because while a gun going bang when it wasn’t supposed to is very bad, it’s also bad if you need a gun to go bang and it does not because you forgot to load it after taking it from your safe.
    2) This one’s pretty good and can stay
    3) Keep your finger off the trigger until rule 2 is in effect. There are cases when you won’t have time to adopt a full shooting stance and may have to shoot between clearing leather and a sighting. A good holster and training in drawing (pointing the gun at the threat as you bring it up) is important for this.
    4) Consider what is in front and behind your target. (This isn’t to say you shouldn’t fire but if you’re somewhat close and there’s a kid behind the bad guy you could literally crouch or lie down and fire at an upward angle)

  13. avatar Ansel Hazen says:

    If the esteemed Colonel left us in 2006 I would hazard that most of his opinions were formed in the last century. I would have enjoyed hearing what he thinks of a modern day piece of tupperware chambered in .357 sig. Which is a 9mm bullet in front of nearly twice as much powder.

    1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

      Ansel, I met the man. All his books on my shelf autographed. Read him since I was fourteen. I’ll hazard a guess. .45. ACP. Pistols ain’t rifles. Smaller, faster doesn’t work as well. Bigger, deeper holes for them to leak out of work best.

      1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

        10mm.

  14. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    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 want to add to that commentary:

    The odds that you hit an unintended target are low since you are effectively shooting in a random direction. Someone might be there, someone might not be there. Furthermore, the odds that you hit an unintended target AND impart a fatal wound are also very low since, again, you are effectively hitting that bystander in a random location. That could just as well be on the edge of someone’s thigh as it could the middle of their chest.

    Contrast the relatively low probability of hitting a bystander and the relatively low probability of imparting a fatal wound to a bystander versus a spree killer who is operating with impunity, unopposed, and delivering carefully aimed shots on victims at close range.

    There is no doubt in my mind that the potential loss of life is far, FAR lower if we “take the shot” on a spree killer rather than allowing a spree-killer to operate unopposed.

    Critical Caveat:
    My analysis above assumes that the armed defender is a reasonably competent marksman/woman who takes a reasonably and carefully aimed shot at a spree killer. My analysis does not allow for unaimed shots or spraying bullets wildly in rapid-fire fashion. My analysis also assumes that there are no obvious bystanders directly in the line-of-fire between the armed defender and the spree-killer.

    1. avatar strych9 says:

      Of course there’s also the ethical problem I alluded to above.

      If you fire a few rounds and kill an innocent person but stop the shooting was that ethical?

      I mean, yeah you ended some innocent person’s life but the shooter might have gotten them anyway and you also very likely prevented the shooter from ending the lives of more than one other person.

      Since you can’t know the future at the moment you pull the trigger (like that the shooter has one round left or that he’s about to stop or off himself or something) is that (potential) innocent life worth the lives of the people it saves? Say they do take one right to the ear and die, flat out you cannot stop it and it’s guaranteed to happen… what is that person’s life worth in the balance of the numerous other lives the shooter is about to take if you don’t fire?

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        There is no set, perfect answer. Any action or inaction could increase rather than minimize casualties.

        All we can do is give it our best shot, both figuratively and literally.

        1. avatar strych9 says:

          Realistically the answer is “What can you live with?”.

          There’s a philosophical (ethical/moral) and a legal philosophy justification for picking either option (shoot/don’t shoot). The question is what school of thought you prefer and if you can personally live with the consequences of that choice.

  15. avatar RCC says:

    The amended version of “rule 5” is really make sure it’s a bad guy before you shot. Probably not to hard if there is one shooter. Not so easy if there are two or three shooters or another concealed carrier is already engaged.

    I was at an incident last week (there to check warrants) with 12 uniformed police and 2 drug dogs. I was the only person aside from suspect not in uniform. If you had come on the scene who would you think was in trouble?

    1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

      RCC, been there, done that. Hope you were wearing something that I.D. you. I at least wore a raid jacket. Body armor was always well marked.

  16. avatar Anymouse says:

    The security guard at the STEM shooting followed rule #5. Unfortunately, the target he didn’t identify was a responding police officer. Fortunately, he missed the officer. Unfortunately, his bullets penetrated a wall beyond the corner where he saw the officer’s barrel and hit a student hiding in a classroom. Fortunately, the student lived, and the former officer guard wasn’t charged for being armed or endangerment.

    Assume someone you care about, maybe family or a child, is on the opposite side of the gunman. If he isn’t firing at the moment, maybe you have a chance to get a different angle that doesn’t use your favorite kid as a backstop. Maybe you can close the distance and muzzle strike the base of his skull. Maybe you can buy time by yelling at the gunman so that you become the target (hopefully armored or behind cover or concealment). If the guy is blazing away, then he’s probably going to do more damage while you wait than your misses will.
    If you’re not using ridiculously penetrative rounds, the FBI’s 12-18″ inch penetration will be used up going through the bad guy if you get a torso hit. If he’s not wearing restrictive clothes, the exiting layer of skin will stretch and act like another 4″ of tissue (that’s why hunters often recover rounds at the far side skin). A bullet that has been slowed by a torso and expanded probably isn’t going to do lethal damage to the next person. All bets are off if you’re using FMJ rifle or “extreme penetration” all copper handgun bullets. Taking shots at non-vital areas is stupid. It isn’t going to stop the bad guy unless he feels like surrendering, and you have a much greater chance of missing or overpenetrating. Change angles to see vital areas and maybe not put the victims in the line of fire.

  17. avatar RKC says:

    Pretty certain the Colonel used these as ‘range rules’

    In day to day carry we often have the muzzle pointing at things we don’t wish to see destroyed.
    Everything goes to pieces in a combat situation, which is personal defense.
    You should know your target and what is behind it unless you want to cause unwanted tragedy.

  18. avatar SkorpionFan says:

    “If necessary, shoot him in the balls.”
    Finnish war cry in World War II: “Tulta munille!”
    Translation: Fire at their balls (eggs)! Shoot ’em in the nuts!

  19. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    Also, don’t talk.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=C0aWrDcM988

  20. avatar MaxRockatansky says:

    In my 50’s. Read Col. Cooper as a kid. He pretty much is who I blame for my infatuation with 1911’s and CZ’s. My carry CZ has been converted to SAO. So I guess I can blame him for that too.
    Great article, good points to ponder.

  21. avatar possum foxtrot says:

    Stick the gun over the car, table, ice box , whatever and blaze away in the general direction of the incoming. Reload and repeat, toss a couple frags, then di di

  22. avatar ChrisL says:

    I’ve always thought Rule #1 primarily addresses the fact that so many negligent discharges happen because someone thought a gun was unloaded when it wasn’t. So why not make Rule 1: “These rules apply to any firearm, loaded or unloaded.” (ok maybe it’s a Preamble to the 3 Rules). Cause if you do that, the other 3 rules make sure you’ve still got redundant safety for things like disassembly or dry-fire. The other 3 rules don’t actually prohibit you from pulling the trigger (whereas “treat it like it’s loaded” sure does). They keep you safe when you do pull the trigger (and keep you from negligently pulling the trigger). Dry-Fire: never point it at something you’re not willing to shoot. Yup, still applies. . . what else protects you if you screw up on the unloading thing? If you’re using Rule 2, you shot your fridge. . . you can probably live with that. Disassembly–same thing. Keep it pointed in a safe direction.

    “Treat it like it’s loaded” implies that there’s different rules for handling a firearm depending on if it’s loaded or not, and that right there seems to cause the trouble, cause then you don’t have redundancy. All you have it getting it right that it’s unloaded. And how many thousands of times a year do people get that wrong??

    I would also like some kind of “Part B” to the first rule, that states “Always insure that the firearm is in the condition you want it to be in (loaded or unloaded) whenever you take control of the firearm.” I wish we had this one, ’cause I hate the look I get when, as soon as the gun store guy hands me the firearm that he just cleared, I still check it myself. It’s nothing personal, why you looking at me like I’m a jerk? I’m in control of it now, I’m responsible if a bullet comes out of it, I’m damn well gonna check myself and not trust someone else, even if I just saw them check it.

    Rule #3 maybe could use a little tweak, like “Finger off the trigger until your sights are coming onto the target.” This keeps it off the trigger at the ready, or coming out of the holster, but allows for the modern technique of taking the slack out of the trigger in the last motion of the gun coming onto the target, to allow for firing the instant the sights are on target. Some more risk than waiting until sights are on the target before placing the trigger finger, but a realistic modification that captures how most people actually handle their firearms.

    I think that the original Rule #4 actually does what the proposed Rule 5 does, so it’s not strictly necessary. “Know your target and what is behind it” doesn’t say “don’t fire unless you won’t hit anything other than your target.” It just requires we know what we risk hitting when we decide to fire. Weighing that risk definitely involves assessing the level of the threat that we’re trying to deal with. But Rule 5 or not, I think we should emphasize that we’re always responsible for every bullet that leaves our gun. Even if it’s “the right call,” we’re still responsible for everything our bullets do. Not sure how that works out legally, but ethically that seems right to me.

  23. avatar Dan says:

    “Take the shot” may be good advise…..if you are a holy badgemonkey granted special powers and the holy writ of “qualified immunity”. If you are not and you “take the shot” and hit an innocent person NOTHING ELSE THAT HAPPENS WILL MATTER. You WILL be arrested, you WILL be prosecuted and you WILL BE SUED INTO BANKRUPTCY. END OF STORY. So leave that “take the shot” mentality to the people who NEVER pay the price for their poor decisions, bad judgement and lack of training. I am ONLY firing at a ‘bad guy’ if he poses a DIRECT and IMMEDIATE threat to me or a family member. Society has made it far too risky for me to take any actions that benefits society at large therefore I will NOT DO SO.

    1. avatar EpsteinDidNOTKillHimself says:

      -Dan,
      Have you ever noticed in articles about a good guy with a gun, shoots a bad guy with a gun, it is a well placed hit, with only one or two rounds expended?

      While I understand the want for a handgun that carries a lot of rounds, I think I would rather have a smaller capacity of effective rounds then many questionable effective rounds that I can shoot with a high degree of % first round hit.
      .357MAG, .357SIG, .45ACP, 10mm, are just a few that come to mind. Single stack or revolver.
      Unfortunately I cannot afford another firearm. Stupid Obamacare.

      1. avatar RidgeRunner says:

        Yup. “Spray n’ Pray” don’t work for civvies.

    2. avatar hawkeye says:

      “Society has made it far too risky for me to take any actions that benefits [sic] society at large…”

      I’ve been cogitating on the horns of this dilemma for some time now, and I have to say I’m perhaps beginning to come down on Dan’s side of the fence. What little law I am familiar with requires no action on my part as an civilian. Good Samaritan statutes that I’m aware of address varying levels of protection for voluntary first aid action not beyond your ability, but I don’t know if they apply to sheepdog actions. Something akin to the “fruit of the poisonous tree” concept generally assigns responsibility for any collateral action or damage to the actual perpetrator(s), as with the felony murder rule. I feel some ethical/moral leaning toward needing to intervene, but it isn’t clearcut to me any more.

      The days of plugging the bad guy, and the townsfolk nodding in approval and then returning to their business with no more thought on it because “he needed killing” are long gone. I just don’t know how much room there is in our society for heroic sheepdog types, at least as things are today. I’ll be responsible for the safety of myself and my family, but the inclination to spread that umbrella to others is waning.

      Just like opening a door for a lady. Glare at me and cuss me out, and you can open the next one yourself because you’re no lady. But I’ll still open it for my family.

      Still cogitating…

  24. avatar EpsteinDidNOTKillHimself says:

    Then there is this:

    “All nine people wounded during a dramatic confrontation between police and a gunman outside the Empire State Building were struck by bullets fired by the two officers, police said Saturday, citing ballistics evidence.

    The veteran patrolmen who opened fire on the suit-wearing gunman, Jeffrey Johnson, had only an instant to react when he whirled and pointed a .45-caliber pistol as they approached him from behind on a busy sidewalk.

    Officer Craig Matthews shot seven times. Officer Robert Sinishtaj fired nine times, police said. Neither had ever fired their weapons before on a patrol.

    The volley of gunfire felled Johnson in just a few seconds and left nine other people bleeding on the sidewalk.

    In the initial chaos Friday, it wasn’t clear whether Johnson or the officers were responsible for the trail of wounded, but based on ballistic and other evidence, “it appears that all nine of the victims were struck either by fragments or by bullets fired by police,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters on Saturday at a community event in Harlem.”
    rest and source here: https://www.foxnews.com/us/nypd-9-shooting-bystander-victims-hit-by-police-gunfire

    A slow hit is always better than a fast miss.
    I am sure those other 9 people/bystanders would agree.

    1. avatar EpsteinDidNOTKillHimself says:

      BTW, that is one of the reasons why COL. Copper always puts emphasis on first round hits (per his book, The Art of the Rifle).

  25. avatar burley says:

    Col. Coopers rules are complete. They are a concisely stated group of consderations that one must be mindful of whilst operating firearms. When you read the “4 rules”, you must understand that there was an assumption, a presupposition even, that one has EVERY intent to shoot. No need to add anything. “Know your target and what is beyond it” is precisely what you said when you added all the unneeded language beyond it.
    -KNOW your target: (is it a bad actor, will the round ricochet or pass through easily)
    -and what is BEYOND it: (are their people that might incur injury, if so how much from my {insert type of projectile here} and is that injury an acceptable rist to stop this threat to multiple poeple; is there valuable property that I must replace or pay for).
    Every single person I’ve had teach me those rules did exactly that kind of breakdown. That’s why there’s no need to pile more language on the rules. The rules are simply stated but much bigger than the words involved.
    When you realize that Cooper fully intended to shoot the bad buy, even if there was a chance of potential bystandish harm, you begin to understand the beautiful simplicity of the rules. An acolyte of Cooper has meditated on these tenets and understands the full import of what it means to “never let the muzzle cover anything you aren’t willing to destroy” and will do their level best to minimize that harm and sometimes minimizing that harm involves exposing innocents to potential overpenetration when you put down the threat. A throught provoking master of concision was Col. Cooper, unlike the author of this article and this post.

    1. avatar RidgeRunner says:

      100%. The beauty in the Four Rules is in their simplicity. It’s something one can bring to mind easily, do a mental checklist and, as the previous poster pointed out, most applicable to the range. In a SHTF situation, all bets are off and you do what you gotta do, up to and including hauling ass.

      1. avatar adverse6 says:

        Hauling ass would be my first choice.

  26. avatar Mark H says:

    Cooper was a Marine. He shot at least 3 people with a handgun, no idea how many with a rifle. Rule #4 says know your target and what is behind it. Doesn’t necessarilly mean don’t shoot a threat.

  27. avatar Hannibal and the Elephants says:

    I find issue with anyone who introduces their argument on something unrelated with how they hate the 1911. I do not understand your hatred nor what it has to do with Cooper’s rules.

  28. avatar Bob Smith says:

    Having read the article a second time, I am of the opinion the author, whom hides behind the moniker of TTAG reader as Cliff H, should not be able to shoot firearms, but own firearms.
    His logic renders him as a red flag candidate.

    Nor should he be allowed to vote or operate heavy machinery.

  29. avatar adverse6 says:

    If you can not hit a coke can at 25 yards with a hand gun, you have no business shooting at people.

  30. avatar Northern_Michigan says:

    “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.”

    This is incorrect and the result of TWO points of incorrect thinking/flawed logic. One: A mass shooter is responsible for their actions and the damage they cause. Two: Not all shooters are spree shooters. Plenty of active shooters go someplace with a target in mind (an ex, a bully, etc), kill that person, then themselves.

    If a active shooter “creates” a situation and you respond, ignore Rule #4 and don’t get lucky, you now share responsibility for the outcome with the initial shooter. While we have a right to self defense, we also have a responsibility, especially when we are not defending ourselves, but others.

    Anyone that argues that blame should be placed on someone who could have acted sooner and not on a shooter (perpetrator) for victims might as well blame the gun and the parents and the system as well. We are all responsible for our own actions.

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