Shoot to Stop

February 16, 2013 by | Be the first to comment »

There are a lot of myths when it comes to shooting bad guys, and we have Hollywood to thank for most of them. You can get a pretty good idea how much someone knows about guns when they talk about what you should do in a self-defense situation.

A lot of well-intentioned people will tell you to fire a warning shot to scare away your attacker. This sounds great because it implies you can prevent an attack without lethal force. In reality, it’s a terrible idea that opens you up to legal liabilities and may waste the only chance you had of actually stopping your attacker or even motivate them to escalate their attack.

  • If you tell the police you fired a warning shot, the best case scenario is you’ll spend the night in jail. The prosecutor will claim that your life wasn’t truly at risk since you weren’t forced to shoot your attacker, thus, there was no need to fire at all. I don’t agree, but I don’t make the rules.
  • A warning shot could easily strike an innocent bystander and increase your liability risk. More importantly, consider the impact that accidentally injuring or killing an innocent person would have on their family and your conscience.
  • You likely won’t get a chance to take a second shot. An attacker can quickly close the distance in most self-defense scenarios in less than one second. Even worse, what will you do if you fire a warning shot and your weapon jams?

The idea of shooting the weapon out of an attackers hand, or shooting to disable them still persists, but outside of the Western movies you grew up watching as a kid (did I just show my age?) it doesn’t work and isn’t safe.

  • Unless you’re a combat hardened veteran comfortable with life or death situations, your muscles will tense up, your limbs will shake, your palms will sweat, and you’ll develop tunnel vision, making it harder to hit your target—especially such a small one like their weapon or limbs.
  • Your attacker will be moving. Hitting a moving human is hard enough; hitting their weapon or limbs is nearly impossible.
  • Even if you’re lucky enough to land a shot, there’s no guarantee that it will disable your attacker. I’ve seen military and police firefights where the bad guy takes several rifle or shotgun rounds to the chest and keeps going; a shot to the leg will probably have no effect what so ever. Do you want to take that risk?

Most people recommend that you to shoot to kill, and while this is generally good advice, there are some caveats. If you aim for the center of the chest (center mass is an inaccurate term) and fire until the threat ceases, you likely will kill your attacker. You’re not in a combat zone, though, so your goal is to stop the threat; if your attacker drops his weapon, surrenders, or turns to run away, you must cease firing. You can not legally shoot someone who no longer poses an active threat.

If your attacker falls to the ground with a gaping hole where his heart was, armed with a firearm, he is still an active threat and you should continue shooting until he isn’t, however, if he’s armed with something like a knife or baseball bat, you should not continue shooting. Be aware though, even if you shoot an attacker on the ground, despite that fact that he’s armed with a firearm, you’ll likely have a long and expensive legal battle ahead of you.

No matter what, after any self-defense shooting, first call 911, then immediately call a good lawyer and don’t offer any information or consent to a search until he or she arrives.

Melanie Swick (a.k.a. Survival Chick) grew up wanting to be a rocket scientist, but when she realized she that required way too much math, she took to her second dream—spending time in the wilderness. Today, when she's not hiking, camping, or hunting, she's blogging about it. You can connect with Melanie on Facebook.

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