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Not to mix a metaphor, but drawing a gun against an attacker is a double-edged sword. On one hand, aiming a firearm at a bad guy (or guys) has been known to have a decidedly demoralizing effect (on the perp). Firing bullets into a person posing an imminent, credible and lethal threat increases that effect, dramatically. On the other hand, guns tend to piss off the bad guy. For some reason, they don’t want to get shot. So, like you, they focus their aggression on the guy with the gun. You. And guess what? First responders with a badge have a similar response. There’s no getting around it: armed civilians are bullet magnets. So the last thing you want . . .

is to be left holding the baby, while holding a gun, in a gunfight.

I know; you don’t know what you’re going to do in a gunfight. Unlike Mssrs. Nugent and Beck, I realize that all violent incidents have their own pace, nature, geography, dangers and opportunities. You can no more predict the exact progress of a violent attack than you can its eventual outcome.

If holding a baby while shooting at a bad guy—with either aimed or suppressive fire—is what needs doing, do it. Perhaps there’s no one else to schlep the sprog and a ballistic offense is the best maybe even only defense. Who knows?

When it comes to a defensive gun use (DGU), you and yours either live or die. Second guessing your gunfighting or GTFO strategy is a luxury best savored alive.

That said, there are certain battle-tested general rules which are worth programming into your subconscious mind. Aim for center mass. Move for cover and/or concealment. Keep fighting. And, most importantly, GTFO. And GTFA (Get the F Away) from your family if you draw your gun.

Mr. Volk’s poster makes at least one excellent point: “if you take a bullet for your children who would safeguard them from then on?” Only that’s an excellent reason NOT to draw your gun, NOT to engage the bad guy/active shooter and NOT to try to be a hero. Remember? Bullet magnet.

[I’m a little confused how an innocent victim of a spree killer is a martyr. Wikipedia tells is that a martyr is “somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.” In fact, you could say that someone who engages in an unnecessary gunfight—who dies as a result—is a martyr. Nothing wrong with that. Just sayin’ . . .]

But if you DO draw your gun it is imperative that you GTFA from your loved ones, lest they become collateral damage. And the best way to make sure that happens is to warn them about the possibility.

I’ve said it to my eight-year-old straight out: “If I ever draw my gun move away from me as fast as you can.” I’ve taught her to go for cover or concealment and the difference between the two.  And even before that, she learned the rabbi’s first law of communal situational awareness: “If I say ‘leave now’ we leave now.”

Don’t be fooled by wishful thinking promoted by armchair warriors and pistol-packing pundits. The best you can do: train yourself with some general principles to deal with violent encounters and hope they kick in as and when. But the most important of these is clear: the further away your family gets away from a gunfight, the faster they do so, the better.


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  1. yes, rf, comunication with the family is very important. i’ve told my keeper wife,”i’ve never given you an order or played any sort of practical joke on you. if we’re out and about and i tell you to run or fall flat or some other outrageous command. do it. i have a valid reason and taking the time to spell it out could get us killed.” i’ve given her the same authority over me. after all, i don’t have eyes in the back of my head.

  2. Good tip. I’ve planned for this, but haven’t let my wife and kids in on it. It’s on the agenda for tonight.

    • I told my wife about this yesterday (I saw a similar idea in a comment in another post here) and she was very intrigued. She thought is was very wise. It’s one of those plans that are not immediately obvious, but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense.

      I’m looking around locally to see if there are any handgun training classes for newbies (not CWP–I already took it) that teach the practical use of handguns in a way that instructs these kinds of points to the lesser informed of us who have no military or LE training.

    • > Does anyone else find Volkswagen to be on the creepy side?

      I don’t know if “creepy” is the word I’d use, but as someone who used to be an admirer of his work ( c. 1999 – 2000 ), something has bothered me about him and his work over the past few years. I just haven’t been able to articulate it yet.

      Maybe, like celebrities and pundits and politicians without term limits, he’s been doing what he’s been doing for so long that he’s lost touch with the real world most of us live in. ( cf Fred Reed’s “Commentator’s Disease” ). Most of us will never have a Playboy mansion with a shooting range.

      That being said, I wouldn’t mind living in a world where guns, private land to shoot them, ammo, and attractive women willing to take off their clothes are plentiful.

      • I’ll take the other side; I like his work. Of course I may be predjudiced, as Oleg graciously gave me permission to use several of his posters in my CHL PowerPoint, and they helped me win a national communications contest award.

        One impressive part is that the women he pictures with guns don’t take their clothes off and aren’t steriotypical models. His work is a lot more real-world than most of the gun ads you see. It even makes guns more real-world than a lot of ads for more mundane products.

        • Congratulations on the national communications contest award.
          Um, that is what you were fishing for, isn’t it?

  3. All my children know, “If daddy draws his gun, you draw yours as well and cover daddy”! 🙂

  4. The photo seems like Oleg Volk’s take on Desmond Howard’s Heisman Trophy pose. I sure hope that nobody spikes the kid.

  5. A secondary fear of mine is permanently deafening my (or someone else’s) infant with gunfire should I need to defend my them. I can’t exactly tell a baby to roll his stroller to cover….or trust a bystander with them. Granted my usual solution would be E & E with a baby in tow. With my back against the wall, what’s a guy to do?

    • I don’t have children, but I guess I’d rather bring up a deaf child than lose one that I can’t bring up.

  6. RF, good advice and post. The copy hook in the picture can probably use a bit of clarification in its intended message.

  7. Except in a spree shooting I disagree that the armed civilian is automticaly a bullet magnet. Time and time again we see DGUs where as soon as the good guy draws his gun or fires on his/her attacker the BG gets out of dodge. Yes the potential is always there for the BG to decide to go down in a blaze of glory but it is a rare occurance.

    With a spree shooter you are more likely to become that bullet magnet not because he sees the gun but because you have made yourself stand out. If you are in his field of view he very likely to target you whether he sees the gun or not. If you are not in his field of view there is good chance that he might not even notice you after you fired at him.

    • I agree with tdiinva.

      That said, if you do engage a spree killer or criminal who is going to shoot back, keep in mind that they are physically capable of shooting at you for something like 10 to 15 seconds after you shoot them even if your shot severs a major artery! That is an eternity in a gunfight.

      Only head and spine shots — which are very difficult for most armed citizens to accomplish under combat conditions — will stop the attacker immediately. Unless you are hidden and the attacker will not likely find you before they go unconscious, I believe the best advice is to keep putting rounds into the attacker until they break-off their attack. And after launching a few at their center of mass, head shots could very well be in order.

      • My normal rules should I find it necessary to use a gun and pull the trigger are: ‘Open Fire. When In doubt empty the mag.’

        If I’m dealing with a serious psycopathic spree shooter the rules become: ‘Empty the mag. When in doubt… empty another mag.’

  8. Million dollar idea up for grabs:

    “The Tactical Baby Bjorn kevlar/dyneema constructed infant and ballistic plate carrier. Pockets for spare baby bottles and magazines.”

      • Got that right! And there needs to be a pocket for an MP3 player, they you have tactical head phones on the kid. He can listen to baby Mozart and it protects his hearing!

        • In Shoot’em Up, they buy the baby a kevlar vest. Don’t remember if they wedged diapers in it, though.

          Am I the only one who’s feeling weird about mentioning Shoot’em Up on this website? Hilariously silly movie that is literally all about putting as much gunplay into a film as is cinematically possible, but still seems wrong to mention it on a website that’s all about responsible firearms use. Oh well. Yay silly movies!

  9. the last time i was under fire i used cover. i was armed but did not return fire. in order for the shooter to have gotten into position to get a shot at me he would have been open to return fire. 911 to the cops and the shooter, who turned out to be drunk, took off at the sound of sirens. his judgement was so impaired that he took off on foot even though he was standing next to his car. i had no family or innocent bystanders with me and i had good cover. different situations require different responses.

  10. I see from the background of this graphic it is intended to remind us of the Colorado movie theater. I took my first child to the movie theater when she was an infant. Didn’t do it ever again. I guess it’s a newbie parent thing. Although I did like Don’s idea of the kevlar baby holder.

  11. There are a few things that come to mind here.
    1. What is the situation? As we all know sometimes there isn’t time to have family duck and cover or hide etc. a spree shooter might be a good example, or being surprised in an area where it just isn’t possible. They might just need to drop, or run, but finding something substantial to get behind is preferred.
    2. Depending on the situation you might or might not surprise the BG with drawing a weapon. In the case in Aurora I don’t think he would have noticed, he was concentrating his fire on folks running from the theater, and was preocupied with hitting moving things. In a home invasion things are more focused. The invaders are less distracted, perhaps a pooch barking or some other distraction might come into play, but not much beyond that. In those cases you want your family to move away and hide. If there is time then a locked room or something of that nature helps. Which leads me to my next point as discussed.
    3. Find cover! If you have trained well you probably have practiced shooting while moving. I know this can be hard if you don’t compete and have limited access to private lands but it is darn well important. You need to protect yourself and your family. Getting something between you and the bad guy is pretty important. If you can’t then you need to acquire your targets and keep shooting until they stop moving or you run out of ammo. In many cases though like the guy in the internet cafe in Florida, a couple of shots and they will run for the hills. Again this falls to situation.

  12. [I’m a little confused how an innocent victim of a spree killer is a martyr. Wikipedia tells is that a martyr is “somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.” In fact, you could say that someone who engages in an unnecessary gunfight—who dies as a result—is a martyr. Nothing wrong with that. Just sayin’ . . .]

    There were three men at Aurora who died covering their women.

    My take on the question, expressed on Oleg’s site:
    1. If I’m GTFO take the family. I might be doing that with gun drawn, and I might be in extreme cases shooting.
    2. If the best option is to stay put, stick with the famly in a position where I can ambush the threat if he approaches.
    3. OTOH if I’m on the offensive, because that’s better than other alternatives, I want to be away from the family for the reasons you stated.
    4. I’m not going to be the guy who ran out of the theater and drove away, leaving his girlfriend and their two kids inside.

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