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“A Nevada sheriff says a deputy wounded five times in a shootout with a man firing a rifle from the roof of a home in Wells is improving after surgery at a Salt Lake City hospital,” reports. “Elko County Sheriff Jim Pitts tells the Elko Daily Free Press that he spoke Sunday with Deputy Lenwood VanNatter at the University of Utah Hospital, and that VanNatter was doing well despite chest, hip and leg injuries.” On TV, it’s a different matter. Everybody shoots and no one gets killed; someone gets shot, falls down and dies; or someone clutches their shoulder and tell their police partner I’ll be alright, take care of her. In real life, unless someone’s shot in the head [black swan example above], they are not going to die straight away. And maybe not even then. And maybe not later, either. Ask any ER staff member: most gunshot victims survive. Which means two very important things . . .

1. As the headline says, just because you’ve been shot doesn’t mean your dead

There’s a theory going around that people fall to the ground when they’re shot because Hollywood has programmed them to do so. I’m not so sure about that. My research indicates that getting shot hurts like hell. Falling to the ground when you’re hurt is a natural reaction to extreme pain. As is curling up in a little ball and crying like a baby.

If you’re in a gunfight, assuming the fetal position is not really your best option. I would recommend continuing to fight: shoot, move, throw things, attack! I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not even saying that’s what I would do (and I pray to God I never find out). But it’s important to remember that getting shot isn’t necessarily the end of the world. Don’t go Hollywood, get even!

This is an extremely critical point to keep in mind BEFORE you get shot. If you know you have a good chance of surviving a non-head gunshot, you give yourself more aggressive options. Remember: most bad guys expect their gun to instill instant and complete compliance.

As combat vet Adam Deciccio says, the key to survival in a firefight is speed, surprise and violence of action. Don’t stand there and let a stranger (or acquaintance) slaughter you like a sheep. Truth be told, there are worse things than being shot, even if you die. Watching a bad guy kill your family’s right at the top of that list. Don’t fear the reaper.

2. Just because the bad guy’s shot doesn’t mean he’s dead

Cops like to talk about the effects of drugs on shot perps. Back in the day, “Angel Dust” supposedly gave the bad guys a superhuman ability to take a licking and keep on ticking. Nowadays, we know that adrenalin’s all the psycho-chemical action someone needs to shrug off a gunshot. Seriously. The BG may not even know they’ve been shot.

Even if you shoot someone straight through the heart, they may be up and running for another 30 seconds. That’s plenty of time to kill your ass. Strategically, you must remember your goal: shoot until the threat stops. Killing your assailant may—or may not be—a by-product of that process.

Stopping a life-threatening threat in the process of threatening you life doesn’t simply mean shooting someone numerous times (although that can’t hurt). Again, move! As the rabbi says, there’s no such thing as a gunfight. Just a fight with a gun. Very zen I know, but the man’s got a point. It ain’t over to the police take over.

And don’t forget that most perps are on the friends and family felony program; scan for danger even after the leaking bad guy stops trying to kill you. Just because the bad guy’s dead doesn’t mean you’re safe.


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  1. Good post. I’ve seen several debates here about competition training and it’s usefulness in a real fight involving guns. Alternatively, I’d say that one of the best ways to get yourself killed is watching gunfights on TV and in the movies.

  2. An NYPD officer cousin of mine showed me a dry-fire re-enactment of the 1986 Dade County shootout. IIRC, the analysis portion of it talked about the will to survive and continue fighting despite being gravely wounded.

    I believe that the rough percentages are: 80% of those shot with handguns survive, 20% of those shot with rifles survive.

  3. Number two is especially important. At the Tyler Courthouse shootout in 2005, the civilian who shot the AK-47 wielding bad guy thought he was down for the count. When he approached he found that the BG was wearing body armor and the .45acp round had simply knocked him down. The BG popped back up from behind cover and shot Mark Wilson 4 times, killing him. Never assume anything people.

  4. This is why HEAVY DUTY fire power is so important because if I pop you with a S&W 500? There’s no need for any further explaintion.

  5. The Dade county shootout was ended because an FBI agent was trying to save others after multiple GSW wounds under the impression that he was mortally wounded.

    The storal to the morey is that you may die if shot but if you don’t try to win the fight and your adversary does, you certainly will.

    As for falling down, I’ve known men who took rounds and bayonet strikes and didn’t even notice until someone sat them down to tend their wounds. They were apparently too busy trying to survive to notice the injuries.

  6. Thanks for posting this. I’ve linked to it on my blog, and added my own $0.02 worth there:

    I’d like to reinforce this very important article from my own experience. I’ve been shot twice, hit by grenade fragments three times, stabbed once, and beaten up a few times. (That’s what comes of not being able to carry a tune . . . ) Seriously, though, this was in another country, during a very turbulent period in its history, when racially-motivated civil unrest was endemic.

    I learned a number of lessons during that period which resonate with the article above.

    Yes, being shot did indeed hurt like hell sometimes: however, at other times, it didn’t. Once I only realized I’d been hit when others pointed out that I was bleeding. I guess it all depends on the circumstances, what you’re hit with or by, and your own mental state. (I’m here to tell you, getting clobbered by a 7.62x39mm. round from an AK-47 hurts like a bleep*bzzt*crackle*zzzz*grrr!)

    There are, indeed, worse things than dying. I’ve seen several of them at first hand, and I never want to see them again.

    You can, indeed, go on fighting after you’ve been shot. That’s why I’m still alive to write these words.

    Bad guys can, indeed, go on fighting after they’ve been shot. The field of wound ballistics is a very complex one. Briefly, the only wound guaranteed to instantly shut someone down is a central-nervous-system hit, either in the motor control center of the brain or in the spinal cord. Those are very small targets, and hard to hit when your target is moving at high speed. The more common torso hit will puncture blood vessels, and perhaps (if you’re lucky, and a good shot) the heart and/or lungs; but even a ruptured aorta will take a minimum of 15-20 seconds to cause enough blood loss to stop someone. The rule is, if someone is still armed, and/or still advancing, and/or is still on his feet but is not retreating . . . he’s still a threat. Shoot him again.

    Yes, bad guys can have friends handy. If you stop the threat, keep your eyes open and look around frequently. Unpleasant surprises might be coming up behind you. (How do I know this, you ask? Trust me. I know this. I have the scars to prove it.)

    I hope the article, plus my comments, will provide food for thought to those of you who are aware of the need to defend yourself and your loved ones from criminal attack. For those of you who haven’t thought about that . . . may I suggest it’s about time you did?

    Having been shot myself, more than once, I agree that being shot isn’t the end of the world for you (unless the bad guy got lucky).

  7. After I read this article, I got to have knowledge and add my insight, I happened to look for an article like this, it is very helpful for me and the crowd, the writing is good to read and easy to understand.


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