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It’s generally accepted that most defensive gun uses (DGU’s) end without a shot fired. The defender shows the bad guy or guys their gun, the perps think better of their attack and scarper. Result! A non-ballistic DGU means less paperwork, less psychological trauma, less money spent on lawyers and a lower chance of subsequent retribution. As the independent counsel to Texas Law Shield above points out, you have no legal obligation to fire your weapon when you clear leather. But giving yourself the option not to shoot raises a thorny question: how do you know whether to shoot or not? That depends on . . .

Whether or not the attacker ceases their attack when you show them your gun. Yes but – will you have enough time to shoot if you “pause” before pulling the trigger?

This “hesitation kills” conundrum explains why some gun owners proclaim “If I pull out my gun I’m shooting.” They don’t trust themselves to be able to make a split-second life-or-death decision in the heat of battle. It’s a perfectly understandable fear. Attacks are usually extremely swift. Aside from force-on-force training, there’s no good way to prepare yourself not to shoot.

Fair enough, but not all defensive gun uses are the same. The decision on whether or not to pull the trigger upon presentation depends entirely on the situation. If you’re hit over the head, it’s best to draw and shoot. By the same token, if someone’s running at you with a knife, draw and fire.

Note: running. If they’re walking towards you with a knife, you might want to show your bad guy your gun and give them a chance to desist. It’s not about whether you have time to change your mind. It’s whether or not the bad guy has time to change their mind.

How do you know that? For one thing, distance = time. The closer the bad guy is, the less time he or she has to reconsider the foolishness of their ways. There are important variables. If they’re pointing a gun at you, for example, remember that bullets travel at thousands of feet per second. In that situation, there is no distance between you and your attacker. Drawing and firing is the sensible option.

You can and should increase their decision time by moving. Moving away from a bad guy improves the dynamics of the shoot/don’t shoot decision. If someone is chasing you, rather than approaching or following you, it’s easy to see that they’re a serious threat. If they see the gun and continue approaching, you know where you stand (not that you should be standing).

[Note: you don’t have to fully draw your weapon to make an impression on a slow-moving attacker. You can put your hand on your gun and prepare to draw – a move best performed while shouting commands (e.g., STOP!) This is a good “half-way house” if you have the time/distance required and you’re not entirely sure if someone IS an attacker. It prepares you for conflict while lowering the risk of an arrest for brandishing on an innocent person.]

It’s impossible to know what kind of attack you’ll face and what you’ll do in a DGU. But it’s all about options. Keep the option of not shooting open and you could save yourself a whole lot of trouble.

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  1. The may be less time than the blink of an eye between drawing and shooting. There will be little opportunity to decide. Ain’t life a bitch.

    Personally, I’m not going to draw without the expectation that I will have to shoot. It’s one expectation that might be unmet without me being sad about it.

  2. I like it that in Texas the legal standard for threatening deadly force is identical to that for actually using deadly force. If you’re not justified in shooting, then you are justified even to draw and threaten.

    Lethal force justification should be a bright line, hence the identical standard for threat and use. Otherwise you run into trouble. Once you clear leather, the situation on the ground changes dramatically. People’s lives are in grave danger at that point. There shouldn’t be unserious shortcuts to that stage.

  3. That being said, if you draw your piece and dont use it. it could be wise to make the report so they dont call the cops saying you are the crazy with the gun. Better safe than sorry

    • That’s probably a good idea. If you’re a Texas Law Shield member, call them, too. If threat is over and there are no injuries, you might even call them first. You’re covered for gun use, which doesn’t necessarily mean actually shooting.

  4. How many times?

    The brandishing laws in every jurisdiction must be known and understood. There are too many politicians and bleeding hearts who love to find a reason to disarm gun owners. If you draw and don’t shoot, you risk being arrested and convicted of brandishing, while the perp gets away clean (and maybe enjoys watching you be punished). Brandishing laws can be so loose as to identify “…or otherwise perceived to be/feel threatened”. The clever idea about brandishing is a gun-grabber tool to discourage gun use, and thus, gun ownership. Bad guys who are arrested after using a gun to intimidation are never prosecuted for “brandishing”. Brandishing laws require death to ensue. The bleeding hearts who are oh so concerned about legal gun owners, that the gun grabbers become complicit in the death of some poor, misunderstood, turning their life around, slob who would still be alive if displaying a gun to ward off a crime was not illegal.

  5. Common sense 101. Like you said distance = time.

    The “do I draw” is the real question. If you decide too, then “distance = time”

    If that distance is short then its a draw and shoot as fast as you can. If that distance is great enough its draw, give them a “moment” to stop, if they do keep pointing until they are gone, if not shoot. That “moment” is small though and should be backed by determination to live as you live not them.

  6. One should practice drawing a firearm until you can go through the process without think about the steps involved. Then one should go to a range (or dry fire carefully), and practice drawing and shooting or not shooting. Have someone call “Shoot” or “Safe” as you are drawing, and you do what he told you to do. The point of this drill is to get you in the habit of drawing, and deciding whether to shoot or not as the draw is in progress. He might even say “Safe”, then say “Shoot” a second later. (Don’t relax too much if it looks like you don’t need to shoot. The bad guy could stop, then resume his attack when he realizes that you only pointed your gun at him. BANG! Bad decision, Bad Guy!)

    • The decision whether to shoot or not must be an instantaneous decision, based on what has happened within the last SEVERAL seconds, but the final decision must be based on what is happening RIGHT NOW. If you perceive that there is a reasonable danger of death or grave injury within the next second or two, then you should draw your firearm with the intent of shooting the dangerous person. However, if the danger stops while you are drawing, then you MUST NOT shoot, because the danger is no longer imminent. One must also make the same kind of instantaneous decision, when deciding whether to shoot again or stop shooting after the first shot. Is the threat still imminent, then shoot? If not, then don’t shoot.

      This is the intent of the law in every state. And one should train your mind and muscle-memory for this kind of scenario; a situation and threat level that is changing every second.

  7. Best of both worlds: When defending the life of yourself +/ others from mortal danger, draw your weapon, yell, “STOI, SUKA!”, and if they aren’t reconsidereing by the time you finish closing your mouth, then pull the trigger.


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