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Confession: this isn’t a self-defense tip per se. This post assumes you weren’t able to use your gun to successfully defend your life. Not to put to fine a point on it, you’re toast. A dead defender walking. A wounded, soon-to-be ex-member of TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia. It probably wasn’t your fault. As I pointed out in a previous post, you can do everything right in a gunfight and still die. You can be out-gunned, out-maneuvered or blind-sided. Lady Luck may be diverting to voice mail. You-know-what happens. Deal with it. That’s right: you’re about to die and you still have work to do. (You can sleep when you’re dead.) Here are three things you should do before you shuffle off this mortal coil . . .

1. Save friendlies!

What are the odds that you’ll be all by your lonesome when push comes to shove, you’re pushed off the cliff and left scrambling in thin air, Road Runner-style? Do you have a plan for saving your companions before you suddenly realize you’re about to plunge into the canyon, fall and poof-out?

To that end, have you mastered one-handed shooting on the move? That skill would leave a hand free to push a child or other friendly out of the way. Which is an excellent idea, as you, the self-defense shooter, will draw the bad guys’ gunfire, knife attack, kicks to the head, whatever.

If you can, dial 911. Whether or not you can call-in the cavalry, given the nature of your wounds, your friendlies will probably require more immediate assistance. Generally, they need two things to survive what you didn’t: cover/concealment and/or a weapon.

Teaching your friends and family how to ID cover and concealment before a deadly encounter is not a bad idea. But even if they understand the concept, they may freeze when the going gets tough. Direct them to the cover/concealment by spoken command (i.e. screaming) or by dragging/pushing/kicking their butts in the appropriate direction.

In terms of willing your friends and family a weapon with which to defend themselves against your murderer, you could hand them your self-defense firearm. Then again, that bad boy’ll probably be empty by then. And where there’s life, there’s hope. Few of us would have the presence of mind to conclude that our turn on the merry-go-round is over, and surrender our gun.

A shared secondary weapon’s best. Some of us use this theoretical scenario as [another] reason to carry a Back-Up Gun. Otherwise, it’s a good excuse—I mean justification for carrying a knife, tactical flashlight, pepper spray, etc. Don’t forget to offer your friendly some friendly advice before you expire. Run! Attack! Hide! Whatever. (Note: the last one’s not considered self-defense instruction.)

2. Don’t kill innocents!

Nothing can throw off your aim like a bullet wound—especially if the projectile has removed a portion of your arm. Still, with all that adrenaline flowing, you might not feel a thing, even as you exsanguinate. Resist the urge to shoot your gun sort of kinda at the bad guy or bad guys. You could shoot the wrong person or people.

Note: death may exempt you from charges of negligent homicide, but your heirs could end up defending your actions in court. An innocent person hit by one of your stray rounds may decide that someone in your blood line should pay for their injury. If you kill a bystander by accident, their family may get really pissed.

Not to mention the moral cost. Do you really want your last words to be “oh shit I missed”?

What about covering fire to protect your friendlies? Yeah, well, OK. I guess. If you find yourself in a situation resembling the Vietnam War. Consider the possibility that your job—ending a lethal threat—-may be done. At least until the cops arrive (they do get there eventually).

Alternatively, if the hostiles remain aggressive, it may be better to save a bullet or two, let the bad guys think you’re finished, allow some time to approach, and . . .

3. Kill the bastards!

If someone’s attacked you to the point where you’re about to buy the farm, the gloves are off. If you know you’re about to die, well, why not take the bad guy or bad guys with you? Even if there aren’t any friendlies to protect.

Disclaimer [via Romans 12:19]: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

If you’re going to ignore Biblical advice on your way to the Pearly Gates (or eternal damnation), remember the other Holy Trinity: speed, surprise and violence of action. Take the fight straight to the enemy.

Who knows? You might survive after all. Gunfights, like life, are a crapshoot. You pay’s your money, you takes your chances. No matter what happens, deal. Or die. Or deal and die. Sucks. But there it is.

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  1. Here are three other things you should do before you shuffle off this mortal coil . . .

    1. Tell your boss what you really think;
    2. Max out your credit cards;
    3. See Venice.

  2. Never really thought about this in such stark terms, that I am in the check out line.

    I spend most of my time with wife and her brother. The thought of handing over my 1911 to either is problematic. If it were a revolver that is a different story. Since I already expect the wife to be a basket case it is mostly pushing and shoving cause as usual, my verbal commands mean little to her.

    Thoughts of liability weigh heavily with me and I would roll over in my grave if my widowed wife has to give our hard earned money away because of a last second screw up.

    Never really given much thought of the vengeance part as my whole orientation has been nothing more than stopping an attack.

    Vengeance may be the Lords, and it will only be between me and Him as to my last thoughts, as did I really believe I had to pump four or more rounds beyond the intended double tap?

    In the heat of the moment my attitude may change.

    Always the humble servant ready to do His dirty work.

  3. Was it Heinlein who wrote that the size of your bodyguard in Hell depends on the number of enemies you took with you when you were killed?

  4. I haven’t really thought about this either. But I do have a in grained sense of justice and of making things right. I think if I were on the outs, had some rounds left, and there were bad guys that needed killin, I would try to put those round in their proper place.

    This kind of shit happens fast & even with training you never really know how you are going to behave. I guess you just have to go with what you have done in past situations that can give you some idea of how you’d might react. Many years ago now I was coming home late from work past some bars. In the middle of the street some big fat guy had a woman at arms length swinging and hitting her in the face. To go by them I had to drive around them. There must have been 20 people outside the bar watching. I knew I couldn’t just go by so I stopped my car and started up the hill toward the guy & woman who he was still hitting and yelled stop. The guy let go of the woman and she ran into the crowd and the guy, drunk, started yelling at me. I turned and walked back down the hill to my car and I heard someone say something and I went into a crouch just as the big fat guy hit me grapping & missing, flipping over my back and landing in front of me with the wind knocked out of him. From the crowd I heard something like”holy shit did you see what that guy did” and my knees started shaking and got in my car and drove away. Adrenline is what prompt me to get out of my car & adrenline is what got me out of there. I really didn’t do anything I just reacted which is what I think most people do when the shit starts flying. I have thought after that incident how easily it could have been different but it wasn’t so luck was with me that night at least.

    Rob Drummond
    Hillboro, NH

    • Rob, you did a good thing, but Rule #1 is: never turn your back on a big fat drunk guy who just got finished wailing on a woman.

      Did you got lucky? Well, fortune favors the bold, so you earned your luck.

  5. Ralph,

    Having done all three things you suggested, I’m sitting here out of work, remembering the lovely sights of Venice, wondering how I’ll handle my credit cards. Well, not to worry, that’s what Chapter 7 is for.

  6. I think that #2 “Don’t Kill Innocents” really ought to be #1 on that list. “Saving friendlies” and “killing bad guys” sounds really cool and all but if you wouldn’t shoot drunk then since blood loss and shock can make you do all kinds of crazy stuff, including hallucinate, common sense would dictate that you also not shoot while bleeding out.
    Life’s not an action movie, so unless your job involves training every single day for gunplay then #3 shouldn’t even be on the table. That kind of worst case scenario discussion coming from a site like this seems irresponsible to me.


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