Just Say 'No' To Warning Shots
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In a perfect world, everyone would know not to fire warning shots. Unfortunately, Hollywood has made them almost part of our cultural lexicon. But don’t fall for Hollywood “training” on self-defense when it comes to warning shots. Or pretty much anything else for that matter.

Why not keep the warning shot in your toolbox should you have an opportunity to employ it?

Make no mistake…discharging your firearm in a confrontation will constitute use of “deadly force” to police and prosecutors. Possibly an illegal discharge of a firearm, depending where it happens. Maybe a reckless endangerment charge. If circumstances don’t justify shooting a bad guy (or girl) center mass, then circumstances don’t justify firing a warning shot. Period.

What’s more, depending on the state of your your cosmic karma, that warning shot projectile could wind up hitting a busload of widows and orphans somewhere downrange. Or a neighbor’s child. Or someone you love.

Or, in the case of an upstate New York woman Saturday night, your aim might not be so good . . .

An Ogdensburg woman is facing assault and weapon possession charges following a Saturday night shooting on Deviller Street after she allegedly tried to fire a warning shot above two men, instead hitting one of them with a shotgun blast.

Ogdensburg police charged Nikeia J. Paige, 39, of 1217 Greene St., with second-degree assault and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon.


Then there’s the fact that firing a warning shot wastes precious ammo. If you have a five-shot revolver, you’ve just expended 20% of your threat-stopping capability. Remember, using handguns involves shooting a peanut-sized piece of lead a modest velocities. A single handgun-round hit may not stop a motivated bad guy. In fact, it might just irritate them.

Additionally, in the heat of an actual fight, you may miss your target 80% of the time just like cops tend to do. Want to have a really bad day, Kemosabe? Bring a five-shot revolver to a confrontation, fire a warning shot then miss with the other four rounds. It can happen.

Biden warning shot
Never take advice from this man.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, that warning shot may in fact prove counter-productive. The odds of you being attacked a “virgin” violent criminal actor are between slim to nil. They may have enjoyed looking down the muzzle of a cop’s or other victim’s gun before.

If a potential victim shows that they don’t want to shoot the bad guy by pulling away and firing a warning shot into the air or into the ground, Mr. or Mrs. BadDude may think the good guy doesn’t have the stones to actually shoot another person, even if that person has deadly intent.

Two incidents I’ve seen show just that. In both cases, the good guys desperately wanted to avoid shooting someone. In one case, a farmer fired not one, but two warning shots. With each one, the man’s attacker grew more fearsome and aggressive.

The attacker, already angry over crashing his truck, had a blood alcohol three times the legal limit. After those two warning shots, he attacked the farmer a third time sensing his reluctance to shoot him. In the end, the angry and intoxicated aggressor chose poorly. Moments later, he died in a ditch from a ruptured femoral.

In the other case, a man fired over his attacker’s shoulder. At that point, the female attacker apparently made some sort of comment to the effect, “Oh, you really aren’t gonna shoot me, are you?”

Sensing his reluctance to shoot her, she continued to advance upon the drawn gun while threatening to shoot her own gun she pretended to have behind her back. Whereupon the good guy drilled the next round into her gut at bad breath distance. She chose poorly as well, but alcohol intoxication does that to people. Fortunately for her, her victim rendered aid after shooting her, potentially saving her life.

In short, don’t fire warning shots. Contrary to Hollywood make-believe, they may not only fail to discourage an attack, but they may in fact embolden an attacker…and land you in prison.

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  1. On a *slightly* related note, the ‘Washington Gun Law’ YouTube channel answers a question that some have wondered –

    “Can I Run Over a Carjacker?”

    • I don’t have time to watch this today, so I will just say that I certainly would. If he is threatening using deadly force against me, then I am justified in using deadly force to defend myself, and if a car is what is available, so be it. Recently there was a cop who shot and killed a (pregnant) shoplifter by firing through her windshield when she hit him with her car when trying to escape. As I recall, he was found to have justifiably acted in self defense, hence the reverse must be true as well.

  2. Ammo is expensive enough, legal defense fees for a justified shooting are expensive enough why would you want to pay more for either? Especially if your nearest neighbor isn’t a mile+ away and would bring a shovel if he did hear something.

    • “I thought not firing warning shots was common knowledge.”

      At least in Florida, you would think so, considering the number of examples in the news over the years.

      (Know the law where you reside, it could determine where you live (free or incarcerated) for a long, long time… 🙁 )

  3. 8 rounds of buckshot in the tube and one round of dragons breath in the chamber. If the fire doesn’t scare them, then you have 8 more options at your disposal.

  4. A warning shot to the face will in fact warn other criminals to not attempt this ever again.
    Reduce crime by reducing criminals. Simple.

    • Yes! When facing multiple opponents, your warning shot goes center of chest in the first guy. Now the rest know:
      You really, REALLY WILL SHOOT THEM.
      You’re a pretty good shot.
      Extra points for shooting the guy saying “He won’t shoot us!” before he can finish the sentence.

  5. My psychopathic, marijuana bootlegging tenant got away with firing two rounds of slugs at my sons by claiming that he was just firing warning shots. Based on observations by the victims, he missed by only about ten feet from 150 yards away. His scum sucking whore of an attorney invoked the Elmer Fudd defense that it was only a shotgun. The imbecile judges around here don’t understand that buckshot can be lethal at a quarter mile and slugs can be lethal at a mile.

    As much as my experience pisses me off, you have to concede that shotguns do benefit from judge as well as jury appeal. People are to abysmally stupid to understand how deadly a shotgun can be.

    • You are absolutely correct. Most people have never seen a round of 00 buck hit a flesh target. Seeing that even ONCE will drastically change your attitude about the destructiveness of shotgun rounds. I saw a 12 pound ham hit from 15 yards with ONE round of 00 buck at Thunder Ranch. Pork went flying in all directions and what was left of that ham wouldn’t have made a good sandwich.

      The instructors were trying to hammer home to the students in this defensive shotgun class just how dangerous these weapons are. Judging from the wide-eyed looks on the students I saw, they succeeded admirably.

      The reality is that if you hit a perp in an extremity with most of the 9 pellets, you’re talking amputation, not repair, of whatever you hit. Hit someone in the chest and it will be a miracle if they survive. Fact: a shotgun loaded with buckshot or slugs inside 25 yards is the most lethally dangerous weapon most people will ever have their hands on. The effect of those incredibly powerful hits is just devastating.

  6. Me: Bang Bang

    Bad Guy: “You shot me!”

    Me: “Since you are still alive consider that a warning shot.”

  7. From the article:

    “Fortunately for her, her victim rendered aid after shooting her,…”

    Nope. Don’t render aid. The problem is that a zealous anti-2A D.A. will use your attempt to save the attacker’s life as a reason why you weren’t convinced you were in a position to shoot and potentially end his life. If you need to shoot to stop the threat, do so. Then immediately call 911 and request both LE and EMS to your location. State that “if your attacker survives, you want to press charges”. This will position you firmly as the defender/victim when the report reaches the D.A.

      • he’s right…an over zealous prosecutor will use it against you…then if they die while you are rendering and to save them after you shot them it opens up a whole new dimension that you may have done something to hasten their demise. then there is the very real thing that a bad guy who tried to attack you already intended you harm, so while getting close to them them to render aid after you shot them they may have a hidden weapon and try to use it on you (I learned my lesson on that one early on in my first DGU years ago, for the rest of the several in my life I just let them bleed and let paramedics take care of it if he lives)

        • “that you may have done something to hasten their demise…”

          meaning the prosecutor will try to claim and plant in a jury mind that you did something intentionally to kill the bad guy because you premeditated to make sure the bad guy died.

      • If they commit an act deserving of being shot. They made their own life choice. It’s not my responsibility to risk being infected by a disease that may kill me. In order to try to render aid. Bad consequences come from Bad choices. Obviously they made a bad choice.

    • HAZ,you are completely wrong about this.

      Go over to the website called “lawofselfdefense.com “
      Atty. Andrew Branca discusses how DAs love it when you provide first aid.
      As a matter of fact there’s been several cases where they have not prosecuted based on the rendering of first aid.

      He also discusses that you really don’t want the person you shot to die.
      That will up any charges you may face to a much more serious crime with the possibility of life in prison.

  8. “Hey! Ump! Don’t I get a warning?” “Sure kid. Watch out you don’t get killed.” Or something like that.

  9. If a situation has devolved to the point I feel threatened enough to draw my weapon, it has gone beyond a warning of any kind. If a drawn weapon isn’t warning enough, no wayward shot will convince the aggressor to turn away. Of course i was trained to not point a firearm at anything I don’t intend to perforate.

  10. All those comments that came before me and not one of you wanted to talk about 5 shot revolvers. I only have one revolver myself, but it’s a weirdo, holds 6 shots.

    • Somebody:
      Five shooters (e.g. S&W J frame) are more compact for concealed carry. Nevertheless, surely you jest, when you refer to your six-shooter as a weirdo. But if you want to talk about nontraditional, Ruger has recently come out with a couple of GP100 seven shooter versions in .357 magnum.

  11. What I taught my kids was, “If you’re justified to shoot at all, you’re justified to shoot to kill, but if you’re not justified to shoot to kill, you’re not justified to shoot at all.” If you shoot a warning shot, it could be construed as not being to the point of justification of deadly force, but you’re still responsible for what that bullet does downrange.

  12. But wait, didn’t our current President tell his wife to “take that double barrelled shotgun outside and fire off two blasts”?

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