Apr 022014

How much accuracy do you need, and should it come from your gun or from you?

Some people obsess over the accuracy of their firearms.  Others laugh and dismiss the concept as irrelevant, saying something like “the gun shoots so much better than I can, so it doesn’t really matter exactly how accurate the gun itself is”.

If they cite numbers, they might say “I can shoot to within about 6″ of the point I’m aiming at.  But these two firearms will shoot to within 1″ or 2″ of the aiming point, so with my 6″ limitation, who cares if the gun is accurate to 1″ or 2”.

When expressed like that, it sounds almost sensible, doesn’t it.  But don’t be fooled by things that seem almost sensible!  The key fallacy in the reasoning is that the errors are cumulative.  Your plus or minus 6″ of accuracy has to have the gun’s accuracy added to it.  If the firearm is +/- 2″, now in total you have a system that is +/- 8″.

And, wait, there’s also the accuracy limitations of the ammunition you’re using, too.  That might be another inch or two of (in)accuracy, bringing you now up to +/- 10″.  And that’s before you start to think of all the other issues that can impact on accuracy when the distance you are shooting to/from starts to extend.  Temperature.  Barometric pressure.  Of course, wind.  Uphill/downhill.  And so on.

If you are considering accuracy in the context of the increasingly popular sport of precision rifle shooting, these are all important factors that you’ll want to optimize, and it certainly makes sense to start off with a rifle that gives you sub-MOA accuracy.

If you’re thinking more in the context of defensive handgun use, this often boils down to unaimed instinctive pointing.  Instead of measuring distances in hundreds of yards, you’re considering a fewer number of inches.  Instead of tiny bulls-eye circles, you are simply trying for chest type shots.  In these cases, accuracy is indeed less of an imperative consideration.

But, having conceded that accuracy means different things in different contexts, we’re certainly not suggesting that accuracy doesn’t matter in a self-defense situation.  As easy as it might seem to hit man-sized targets at close range, the statistics on hits vs misses in real shooting encounters show that when under stress, not only ordinary people but trained police officers tend to shoot appallingly poorly.  Other articles on our site give examples of such poor shooting.

Which brings up another possible reason for not considering the accuracy of your firearm.  If you can’t hit a one foot square target at 10 ft, does it really matter whether your pistol’s accuracy is within 0.5″ or 1.0″ or even 2.0″ at that same range?  Shouldn’t you spend money on better personal training rather than a more accurate pistol?

Yes and no.  And, of course, we always advocate you should invest in ongoing personal training.  But we also recommend you should start off with the best possible pistol choice, within general limits of realistic cost and functionality.

This is a heavily modified CZ-75 pistol suitable for IPSC competitive shooting, but not something we’d choose for defensive carry.

Here’s an interesting thing.  The most exquisitely accurate pistols are also quite likely the least reliable.  They are hand-crafted to such fine tolerances that they become more readily troubled by dirt, sand, and other contamination, and they can also be very fussy about which types of ammunition they will reliably feed and cycle.

So don’t go too far down the ‘better accuracy’ path for a defensive handgun, where its prime mission is to be 99.9% reliable rather than 99.9% accurate.  But in general, better defensive handguns will be more accurate than inferior defensive handguns, so getting a ‘better than average’ handgun is good for every reason.

Furthermore, while it is true that if you can’t hit a one foot square at 10 ft, you have more important things to improve than your pistol, what happens when the scenario you’re responding to is more challenging than this ‘easy’ scenario.  There are five classic scenarios where improved accuracy is much more essential

  • Other people around the scene and the possibility of stray rounds causing injury or death to innocent people (should you even be shooting in such a case?)
  • Hostage situations where the bad guy is using an innocent person – perhaps someone known to you – as a shield
  • Obscured bad guys who are partially protected by some type of cover – maybe a car or side of a building or something
  • Bullet-proof vests that might mean you need to shoot at unprotected parts of the bad guy’s body
  • A threat at more than ‘bad breath’ distance – a threat is just as deadly if the bad guy has a firearm and is 20′ or even 30′ from you (many police shootings are at extended ranges way further than the oft-cited 21′ Tueller distance)

Although we’ve listed five separate scenarios where accuracy is important, the reality is that you might find yourself facing a situation with elements of two or three or more of these five factors, making accuracy even more important still.

In such a case, while it mightn’t seem like much, but having a firearm that cuts off a couple of inches of inaccuracy, and ammunition that takes away another inch or two of inaccuracy, gives you a 3″ or 4″ accuracy advantage that might mean the difference between succeeding at stopping the deadly threat or failing.

Lightweight, very short barrels, very short stocks, long heavy trigger pulls and low profile sights with a short sight radius make these two pistols ultra-concealable but poor choices for accurate fire.

What Makes for an Accurate Pistol?

There are many factors that add up to how accurate a pistol is, and most of them are not easily measured or evaluated by you when making a buying choice.  These obscured factors have to do with the relationship between the barrel and the sights – typically you have a floating barrel, and sights that are mounted on the top of the pistol’s slide.  If the barrel isn’t consistently aligned with the sights, then your accuracy is going to degrade.

Other not obvious factors include the barrel itself – the tolerances by which it was manufactured, and how worn it is, as well as possibly any damage to its crown (the end of the barrel that the bullet comes out from).

Good gun reviews might give you some feeling for pistol accuracy, and good pistol companies will sometimes even quote or guarantee certain levels of accuracy.

There are some factors that you can easily understand and evaluate, however.  Most of all, you want good sights and as much length between the front and rear sight as possible.

Talking about length, and, yes guys, size does matter, in general longer barrels tend to be more accurate than shorter barrels, and also allow for more of the cartridge’s energy to transfer to the bullet, sending it downrange faster and with more hitting power.

Still on size, a decent stock on your pistol which you can grasp with all your fingers is also important, giving you a more stable firing platform.

Another consideration is the type of trigger in your pistol.  If you’ve a revolver or some types of double-action only pistol, with a long and heavy trigger pull, it is going to be very much harder to control your pistol and experience accurate shots.  A striker-fired pistol or a single-action pistol – both with shorter/lighter trigger pulls – will give you much better accuracy.

Still one more consideration is the pistol’s weight.  The heavier the pistol, the less the felt recoil, and the better you can control it.

One more consideration is caliber, which is why the FBI returned back to the 9mm round, which they feel to be the best compromise between stopping power, accuracy, and the ability to rapidly get many rounds downrange.

Talking about caliber, don’t forget your ammo choice, too.  Sure, stopping power is important, but what use is stopping power if the bullet whizzes harmlessly past your target.  Get ammunition that is as accurate as possible.


You can never have too much accuracy.

Get the most accurate pistol you can justify and which remains suitable for its intended purpose (very different as between, for example, a ‘nightstand gun’ at home, and a concealed carry pistol in an environment where it is essential that the pistol remain unseen).

And then, train with it to improve your part of the total accuracy equation too.

May 312013
There's a right way and a wrong way to carry a pistol in a purse. This shows a good solution.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to carry a pistol in a purse. This shows a good solution.

Accidental discharges – some people prefer to call them negligent discharges, because in truth, such events are almost always due to stupidity rather than random blameless accident – are invariably unfortunate and sometimes fatal.  They are particularly unfortunate when they happen to a person while carrying concealed, because the event provides valuable ammunition to gun control advocates as ‘proof’ that people can’t be trusted to safely carry firearms.

So you want to do all you can to ensure your concealed carry is as safe as possible – for your personal safety, for the safety of those around you, and as a responsible firearms owner keen to protect and preserve your rights.

Here’s an example of a woman who did not optimize her concealed carry.  We don’t know the exact details, but according to the report, she had a .25 caliber semi-auto inside ‘a small gun bag’ which in turn was inside her apparently capacious purse and she forgot it was there.  She dropped the purse, and that caused the pistol to discharge, and the round struck her friend (probably now her former friend!) in the leg.

There is one very important lesson from what we do know about this incident – make sure that none of your pistols are of a design, or in a state/condition where they can self-discharge if dropped.  These days all modern pistols have been designed so they can not are not likely to self-discharge when dropped, no matter how you drop them, or from how high.

To explain the strike-through text – there may sometimes be exceedingly rare combinations of situations that might cause a pistol, if dropped forcefully enough (ie from a sufficiently great height onto a hard surface) and if landing in exactly the right way to possibly have the force of the impact work the slide, perhaps causing a round to partially chamber and then be detonated by part of the slide mechanism.  But the chances of this happening are close to one in a million; maybe less, and for sure, if you’re dropping pistols from ‘only’ 6 ft or so, this would not happen.

Some old model pistols, without ‘transfer bars’ or ‘disconnectors’ could fire if they landed on their hammer, but those designs are largely a thing of the past now.  However, check with your local gun store or a respected gun expert to make sure that your pistols can not accidentally self discharge if dropped.

If they can do this, get rid of them.  You don’t want to end up less ‘fortunate’ than the woman in the story above (at least she didn’t accidentally shoot a lawyer’s kid!).

Maybe the woman’s pistol self discharged, or maybe the ‘small gun bag’ didn’t protect the pistol’s trigger and the drop caused something else in her purse to bump into the pistol and its trigger.

Which leads to a couple more things to consider.

First, always have your concealed pistol in some type of holster.  The holster should do several things.  The two most important are that it should hold the pistol securely in whatever location the pistol is intended to be, and that it protects the trigger area making it impossible for something to catch on the trigger and pull it.

If you have a soft nylon holster, it may not give adequate trigger protection.  And if you can see any part of the area inside the trigger guard – if any of that space is not covered by strong holster material – then toss the holster.  It is unsatisfactory and potentially unsafe.  Spend $50 – $100 on a proper holster – it is cheap insurance that might save your life or that of a lawyer’s kid, a friend, or anyone else.

Second, if you are keeping your pistol inside a handbag or other larger container, you must have some way to hold it securely in place and in position and to protect it from the effects of whatever else is in the handbag/purse/container.

You want it held securely in place and in position so you always know, when you put your hand inside the container, where your pistol will be and so you can ‘index’ your hand to your pistol, under stress, without looking and without fumbling.

You obviously want to keep other objects as far away from the pistol as possible to make it easy to reach the pistol and so other objects don’t interfere with your drawing and presenting the pistol when you need to.

Bags that are specifically designed for concealed carry have a dedicated compartment just for the pistol, or possibly for the pistol and a spare magazine or two, and will have a retention/protective/holster system for the pistol and also pouches to hold the spare magazines.

Choosing a good pistol is essential, but it is only one part of the chain of dependencies that come into play when you carry your pistol and if/when you ever need to present it ‘for real’.  Don’t be like so many people and, after spending a great deal of time researching your pistol choice, then treat the manner of its carry as an afterthought.  You should consider how to safely, comfortably, and conveniently carry your pistol just as much as you considered the pistol choice in the first place.

Apr 242013
All pistol calibers are inadequate. It will take more hits than you expect to stop a determined attacker.

All pistol calibers are inadequate. It will take more hits than you expect to stop a determined attacker.

We teach two things that many people disagree with – the need to be ready to shoot at (and only occasionally hit) attackers very many times before they will cease to be a threat, and that no pistol calibers are very effective when it comes to stopping attackers.

Traditional firearms defense classes will sometimes advocate you shoot twice then stop and observe if the person is still a threat.  We understand the unfortunate reason that this should be a consideration – avoiding subsequent accusations of using excessive force.

And many people – ‘old timers’ – will argue against some calibers and claim that their favorite caliber is wonderful while all other calibers are useless.

The real world contradicts both perspectives.  A determined attacker can absorb way too many hits before he will stop his attack, and it doesn’t seem to matter what the caliber of rounds you are sending his way may be.  Although, for sure, sometimes you’ll get lucky and a single shot – whether it hits him or not – will be enough to have him turn tail and run away as fast as he can go.

But some of the time, you’ll not be so lucky, and those are the situations you need to most focus your training on.

Please read this article.  It tells of a police sergeant who is a master firearms trainer and SWAT team sniper who found himself unexpectedly in a gunfight with a bad guy.  The exchange of fire lasted less than a minute, and was at very short-range – both being very typical situations.

During the short exchange, the police officer fired 33 of the 37 rounds he had with him.  He’d have probably fired more, but he had to switch to conserving ammunition because he was running very low.  The bad guy fired 21 rounds from two pistols.

So there’s the first training point.  A highly trained police officer fired 33 rounds – and would have loved to have been able to fire more – against one single attacker, who in turn sent 21 rounds back at the police officer.  That’s a lot of lead flying through the air – do you always carry extra magazines with you?  How would you have managed?

Now, of those 33 rounds, an amazing 17 hit the bad guy.  That’s extremely good shooting indeed, and easily twice as good as most police officers achieve.  As we said, the officer was much more trained at firearms use than most officers.  On the other hand, none of the 21 shots from the bad guy hit the police officer.

Second training point – even at point-blank range, and with a great deal of training, you’re going to be lucky to get one in every three or four shots on target.  How would you have scored – would your results have been more like the bad guy’s 0/21, or the police officer’s 17/33?

Third training point – the bad guy soaked up 14 rounds and was still attacking – it was only the last three rounds that stopped him.

That’s an incredible situation, all the more so when you appreciate the bad guy wasn’t high on drugs or anything; he was just simply a determined really bad guy.  There’s no way the police officer was stopping after each shot to see the effects of it – he was simply firing as fast as he could.

Keep reading, and you’ll see that six of the 14 hits were ‘fatal’ hits.  But none of the six fatal hits, nor any of the eight other hits, were enough to stop the bad guy from continuing his attack.  The bad guy finally died in hospital, some time later.

Fourth training point – even ‘guaranteed’ stopping shots such as head shots don’t guarantee you’ll stop the bad guy instantly.

Oh – and the caliber of pistol the police officer was using?  It was chambered for the classic .45 ACP round, and almost certainly the police officer was firing high quality hollow point rounds.

Fifth training point – Fourteen hits with .45 cal hollow point rounds, including six ‘fatal’ hits, failed to stop this bad guy’s attack.  It was only the final three (three!) headshots that took him out of the fight.  Note also the police officer didn’t shoot just once into the bad guy’s head – he did so three times as quickly as he could.  A headshot is not a magical solution, and don’t assume your job is done after a single headshot.


In case it isn’t obvious from this story, you need to be sure to have an adequate supply of ammunition with your pistol in a convenient location on your person, and be skilled at quick reloading in a high stress environment.  You need to be able to reload your empty pistol in under 2 seconds.

Note also the police officer’s conclusion.  He no longer carries a 13 round Glock 21 in .45 ACP caliber.  Instead, he carries a 17 round Glock 17 in 9mm.  He decided it was better to have more rounds in his gun, albeit of a lesser caliber.  And he now carries 145 rounds with him.

How many rounds do you have with your pistol?

Mar 272013
Lonnie Lorenza Hollingsworth jr got what he asked for....

Lonnie Lorenza Hollingsworth jr got what he asked for….

An alert and armed 81 yr old gent, Mr James Stevens, was driving back to his home in central Florida when he noticed a Kia following him.  Well done, Mr Stevens.  Too many of us barely glance in our mirror and don’t take any notice of who or what is behind us.

In addition, a plain ordinary vehicle like a Kia is something you’re likely to look at then ignore and develop a mental blind spot over.  Who ever heard of a bad guy driving a Kia?

The Kia continued to follow Mr Stevens for 20 minutes.

What would you do in such a situation?  There is something you should do and something you must not do.

The thing you should do is to second, confirm that the vehicle is following you.

But, before that, the very first thing you need to do is to switch to a heightened state of awareness, and to adopt a defensive driving posture.

The key parts of a defensive driving posture are :

  • All doors locked and windows up (you should always have your doors locked anyway, right?).
  • Don’t get boxed in – keep out of the middle lane if on a three lane road, and if you have to stop in traffic, leave enough distance between you and the car in front so that you can see the bottom of their rear wheels.  That way, if you need to turn out and speed away, you’ll have enough space to do the turn.
  • If you have a ‘fender bender’ type accident, don’t get out and don’t stop – it could be a deliberate ploy on the part of the would-be attackers to both disorient you, get you focused on the accident rather than on the unfolding attack, and to cause you to stop and get out of your car in a distracted frame of mind.  Slowly keep moving and call 911, then follow their instructions.
  • Pistol still holstered – if you place it on the seat ‘ready for action’ it might slide off, but with any snaps released, round in the chamber, cocked, and safety on (modify as necessary for double action and Glock type shooters).
  • Getting ahead of things for a minute, but while we think of it :  If you subsequently need to leave your vehicle, no matter what the situation, leave your pistol in its holster until you are clear of the car.  You need both hands free for exiting the car; if you have your pistol in one hand, something might happen that causes you to drop it (especially with you clumsy from an adrenalin surge, trembling with fear/anticipation, and perhaps under fire/attack.  Wait till you’re clear of the car and can switch your focus from ‘getting clear of the car’ to ‘taking care of business’.  If you drop your pistol while exiting the car, it could go anywhere, and you then have no gun.  Maybe it rolls under the car.  You doubly are without your gun then.

Now, on to the second thing.  It is easy.  Assuming it is safe to do so, and won’t take you into bad parts of town, or onto a country lane with no more intersections for miles, turn right at the next light.  Then turn right again as soon as you can.  Then turn right again as soon as you can.  And, once more, a fourth time (which should get you back the way you were going to start with).  If it is safe to do so, by all means drive through red lights as part of this process.

No-one in their right mind does all of that, and your own antics of doing this might discourage the people in the car behind you from pressing on with their villainy against you, whatever it might be they were considering, because you’ve shown yourself as an alert citizen conducting a formal response to being followed.  Chances are they’d prefer to go find easier pickings with someone else instead.

Remember – unlike in the movies, the bad guys aren’t hired hit men with a contract to take you out.  They are opportunists looking for anyone at all, just so long as the person is an easy mark.  When you start acting like this, you clearly show yourself as alert, aware, and using tactics to manage the situation.

If the car is still behind you at that point, there’s a dismayingly good chance that you have a situation on your hands.  Maybe they are indeed Mafia hitmen, and maybe they’ve mistaken you for some mob accountant who they’ve been hired to hit.  Well, just joking. 🙂  More likely, they’re like Lonnie in this situation we’re discussing here.

As soon as you’ve made it probable that there are bad guys planning bad things behind you, the next thing you must do is call the police for instructions.  And the next thing after that is to resist the ‘homing instinct’ – don’t flee to your residence, because you don’t want to bring the bad guys to where you live, do you.

Mr Stevens – the gent in the Florida incident we started talking about above, got things half right.  He detoured away from his home.  But he got things half wrong.  He didn’t call the police – maybe he didn’t have a cell phone with him, perhaps?

He stopped his vehicle, got out of it, and at the same time the Kia also stopped, with 28 yr old career criminal Lonnie Hollingsworth jr getting out of the Kia.  He approached Mr Stevens and told his intended victim to give him ‘everything you got’.

An unfortunate choice of words, perhaps?  Mr Stevens obliged, but not in the way Hollingsworth expected.  Mr Stevens pulled a revolver and shot at Hollingsworth four times, hitting him once in the abdomen, causing Hollingsworth to collapse.

The Two Lessons

In addition to the important points we made above, there are two other matters we’d like to comment on.

First, at what was probably very close range, Mr Stevens only managed to get one of his four shots into Hollingsworth.  He was lucky that it was a disabling shot, because if it wasn’t (and statistically it probably would not be disabling), at a rate of one hit per four shots, he’d have been out of bullets (in his six shot revolver) before he got a second round on target.

Mr Stevens is also lucky that Hollingsworth was alone.  Again, do the math.  You’ve got six shots, it took four to stop the first threat, and now you need to take care of a second threat – with only two remaining bullets?

When did you last see a policeman with a revolver?  Folks – while a revolver is better than no gun at all, a nice reliable semi-auto with a dozen or more rounds in its magazine, and a spare magazine or two with you also, is what you need to have with you.

Second, read in the article what it discloses about Hollingsworth’s priors.  They include a charge that was subsequently dropped of wearing a bulletproof vest in the commission of an attempted crime.  Our guess is the charge was dropped not because he didn’t have a vest on, but because of a plea bargain, or perhaps because it was too difficult to prove he was attempting a crime at the time.

How about that, huh?  A criminal who went out and bought himself a bullet proof vest.  What a good job for Mr Stevens that Hollingsworth wasn’t wearing it during their encounter!  He’d have been out of ammo long before realizing that his shots weren’t stopping the attacker and shifting his aim to the unprotected head – a much more difficult shot to take/make.

Criminals are indeed criminals, and maybe yes they are stupid in many ways too.  But learn from this.  Here’s a case of a criminal who doesn’t look like his other job in Florida was as a rocket scientist at Cape Canaveral; but he outfitted himself with a bullet proof vest.  You need to assume, in your tactical analysis of any situation you find yourself in, that the bad guy is experienced and may well have better gear than you, to say nothing of more experience at doing what he’s about to do.  Chances are it is your first ever violent assault; but the chances are it is his tenth or maybe even his one hundredth.

You need to train, train, train, and to do so regularly, to allow you to get close to even odds in such scenarios.

Jan 052013
Alleged home invader Paul Slater survived five close-range bullets shot into his head and neck by the lady defending her house and children.

Alleged home invader Paul Slater survived five close-range bullets shot into his head and neck by the lady defending her house and children.

Here’s an interesting story of a woman who suffered a home invasion.

She ran and hid with her children in a closet, and when the bad guy opened the closet door, she shot at him, hitting him five times, in what is described as ‘the face and neck area’, with .38 SPL rounds from her six shot revolver (the sixth missed).

It seems reasonable to assume that this was at a distance of perhaps three feet.  The muzzle blasts alone would have been very severe, disorienting and disabling.  The .38 SPL round is a good round, at least in terms of pistol caliber rounds.  And, of course, as per Hollywood movie myth, five rounds in the face/neck should be enough to instantly kill anyone.  The ‘head shot’ – five times over.

But as you’ll see in the article, the bad guy, although no longer aggressive and initially compliant, managed to get free and was subsequently caught by police some houses away.  He was taken to hospital and is expected to survive.

The Two Morals in this Story

Firstly, all head shots are not the same.  If you are shooting into the lower half of the head, or the neck, your chances of instantly incapacitating your attacker are much lower than if you shoot into the cranio-ocular cavity – a sort of 3″ x 5″ card sized area bounded by the eyebrows at the tip and the bottom of the nose at the bottom.

For this reason, unaimed fire is best directed into the ‘center of mass’ (or, slightly better, the thoracic cavity) – the shots are more likely to hit the target and will have similar effect, whereas unaimed shots to the head may miss entirely or hit a non-vital area.  If you need to switch to head shots (due to body shots having no effect, or body armor) then they should be carefully aimed into that 3″x5″ card area in the upper half of the head.  Shots that land in that area have a high probability of causing rapid/instant incapacitation – your objective becomes one of ‘quality’ (of aiming) rather than ‘quantity’ (of shots).

Secondly, no matter if the guy is a block away or at very close ‘bad breath’ range, pistols are ‘ballistically inadequate’.  While the fight went out of this would-be assailant, it was probably as much for mental as physiological reasons.  If the guy had been high on PCP or similar, or just a highly motivated attacker, it seems he would still have been physically capable of attacking the woman and her children, even after taking five shots at point-blank range to the head and throat.

We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again.  Six rounds in a revolver are not enough.  And when you’re facing down an oncoming attacker, don’t pause between shots.  Keep shooting as long as he keeps coming.

‘High Capacity’ Magazines are Not Overkill – They Are, Instead, Essential

The facts of this scenario point to one more conclusion/moral.

As you surely know, politicians are currently clamoring to ban ‘high capacity’ magazines, viewing it as ‘low fruit’ and an easy next step in further gun controls.  But here’s a case of a woman who found that her six shot revolver was insufficient to guarantee a positive outcome to having only one person attacking her.

Her situation was unusual – it is more common for people to start shooting at an attacker across a room rather than from the back of a closet to the front of the closet, which means that normally you would not have five rounds land on target from six shots.  Remember that trained police officers seldom get more than one round in four on target.  In other words, in most common home defense situations, firing six shots from a revolver would probably mean only one hit, and at best, maybe two.

In these types of common self-defense situations, it is very unlikely you’ll have a chance to reload.  Maybe you can do a 1.5 second or faster magazine change on the range, but it would take you longer ‘in real life’ because you almost certainly don’t go around with a spare magazine in a pouch on your belt such as you might do on a range.  However, even a 1.5 second change is too long – wherever the bad guy was when your gun went empty, he can probably close the distance and be literally on top of you in less than 1.5 seconds, and with you splitting your focus between reloading and avoiding the bad guy’s rush at you, you’re again adding time to the reload process.

Needless to say, unless you’re unusually skilled, you can completely forget about any attempt at reloading a revolver in such situations.

A ten round magazine is not ‘overkill’, not even when facing only one bad guy, and definitely not in the more probable case where you have two or more attackers.

No-one has ever lost a gunfight because they had too many rounds of ammo in their gun.  But plenty of people have lost out because they didn’t have enough.  Don’t let that happen to you.

Dec 092012

Getting your rounds closely on target is essential, but so too is being able to do so in a speedy manner.

Any time you visit a range for some practice, you probably notice two types of shooters.

One type has tiny bulls-eye targets way down range at the 25 yard line or somewhere similarly distant, and are taking very slow deliberate aimed shots at the target – and often hitting dead center with truly impressive accuracy.

These types of people are generally considered to be ‘competition shooters’.

Then there are other people who are shooting at big silhouette targets up really close – no more than 10 to 20 ft.  And if you watch carefully, you might notice that some of them are either shooting as fast as the range rules will allow them to shoot, or they are shooting from ‘strange’ positions.  Off-handed, strange stances and positions, and so on.  Their rounds may land all around the target, but they seem pleased about that, even though the target shooters look at them with derision.

These types of people are generally considered to be ‘combat shooters’.

Which is the better approach for you when training to be able to respond to a self-defense situation that calls for the use of deadly force?

Somehow, many people seem to think that being a combat shooter is a more ‘macho’ (or simply a more fun) thing to be, and it also has the benefit of allowing a person to shoot relatively poorly and not be embarrassed.

Now, we’re all in favor of having fun and enjoying our practice and our training, but for it to be of value, it also needs to give us real-world skills we can benefit from.

Some people have a mental picture of a concealed carry gun only being used when a bad guy is standing straight on to you, and at ‘bad breath’ distance.  In such a case you’ll draw your pistol from wherever it was concealed, and probably start shooting as soon as the pistol has cleared its concealment/holster, and rapidly fire multiple unsighted shots into the center of mass of the bad guy.  Your shots may be plus or minus a foot in accuracy, but it won’t matter so much at that range.  This is the main type of scenario the combat shooter trains for.

Other people have a mental picture of a hostage situation where they’ll need to draw their concealed weapon and take out a bad guy sheltering behind a hostage, with only a thin sliver of the bad guy visible, and the risk that a missed shot will hit/kill the hostage instead.  In such a case, accuracy becomes essential.  This is closer to the type of scenario a target shooter trains for.

While both these scenarios are possible, there are also many other scenarios in the middle between these two extremes.  Indeed, don’t just take our word for it – have a look at the video of this self-defense shootout, where an armed citizen fired between four and six shots, and registered perhaps two hits, neither of which stopped the two attackers (although for sure, it did cause them to run away!).

Don’t you think that a bit more accuracy on the part of the citizen in this case might have saved him the need to spray so many bullets around a densely populated area, and if the two attackers had taken cover and returned fire rather than turning tail and running away, don’t you think that accuracy in the ensuring exchange of shots would have been a major issue?

So, don’t sell the need for accuracy short.  There’s never a downside to being ‘too accurate’, but there’s often a downside to being not accurate enough.  For example, read this account of how two NY policemen fired sixteen rounds at a person outside the Empire State Building, and managed to hit nine innocent bystanders while doing so.  Not prominently mentioned in the linked report, but subsequently revealed, was that perhaps the police didn’t need to open fire in the first place, something that the nine innocent but injured bystanders would doubtless have appreciated greatly.

What Distance to Train At

Same as us, the police sometimes need to shoot at bad guys in self-defense, ie to save themselves personally.  But sometimes they also need to aggressively shoot at bad guys just because the guy is bad and they need to take him down before he does harm to others.  In that latter case, they will shoot from any distance at all where they feel they have a reasonable chance of making the shot.

But you are (probably) not a police officer, and you will almost never be justified in taking down a bad guy to save others.  Okay, there are exceptions to this, but in general, we urge you not to become a ‘vigilante’ but to limit your involvement in deadly situations to only those cases where you have no choice in the matter.

So you should only ever be shooting at a bad guy when he poses a credible immediate threat of doing grave harm to you or your loved ones.  What sort of distance is that likely to be?  That depends on many things, and in particular, on the weapon he has.  If he is fielding a scoped sniper rifle, then he could pose a credible threat, even half a mile or more away (on the other hand, at that range, there’s no way you can do anything in response with a handgun!).  But if all he has is ‘only’ a knife or baseball bat, at what point does he become a deadly threat?

The answer to that question depends on several factors, but let’s just say that anyone who is within seven yards/21 ft of you is a deadly threat and you better have your handgun in your hand and pointed at them, ready to fire.  If you don’t, then no matter where or how your pistol is holstered, they can be on top of you before you can draw, present and fire it at them.  This has been enshrined in the phrase and concept known as ‘the Tueller Drill‘.

As a very rough rule of thumb, if someone is within 21 ft of you, they may be a deadly threat, armed or not, so if the circumstances force you to do so, it is time to start shooting.  On the other hand, if they are further away than that, then unless they have a gun pointed at you, they are not yet a threat, and you should attempt to avoid rather than resolve a confrontation.

With this in mind, it would seem that the best distance to train at would be to have life-sized targets in the 12 – 21 ft sort of range.  Any closer than 12 ft and the need for aimed fire diminishes, and any further than 21 ft and the justification for shooting diminishes (plus, the greater the distance, the more opportunities you have to escape/evade rather than to stand and fight, and escaping/evading is almost always preferable to standing and fighting).

In theory, you could also practice with smaller sized targets closer to you (the smaller target size compensates for the shorter distance), but we would recommend against that.  Practice as realistically as you can, and by having ‘real’ distances, that helps you get an instinctive feel on the street for when people are getting too close and when you have to start to think about urgent solutions to pressing problems.

Now, how about practicing at longer ranges, too?  Surely there’s no such thing as being ‘too accurate’?

Well, that is indeed true, but we’d suggest that instead of shooting at bulls-eye targets at long ranges, a more practical type of practice would still involve life-size targets at the ‘real’ ranges you’d be shooting at.  But practice for aimed head shots rather than not-so-aimed center of mass shots.  Or  use different silhouettes with people side on to you (much smaller target area) or with arms in front of their chest (once termed ‘the poor man’s armor’), or poking out from behind a wall, or in some other way presenting smaller targets.

Certainly, as you get better at speed and ‘combat accuracy’ (ie being able to reliably and quickly get shots into the target center of mass) you then want to move the targets out closer to the 21 ft point, and you want to then start shooting not just for center of mass, but for specific locations within the target blob.

There is also one exception to when a person is a risk only within 21 ft.  That is if they are inside your home, and are headed towards where your children or other family members are located, or have already challenged you and exchanged fire with you.  In such a situation (happily unlikely but not impossible) then you’ll be trading shots with them any time you have a clear sight picture.  What are the typical maximum distances that apply within your house or apartment?  Probably these distances will be less than 21 ft, but why not go around and measure.

Furthermore, in such cases, they might be sheltering behind some cover, so you’ll not have full body shot opportunities (indeed, in the real world, you seldom or never do).  You want to get reasonably accurate at hitting smaller targets at those sorts of distances, and at ‘snap shots’ because they won’t stick their head out and hold it still for you to slowly shoot at.

Speed vs Accuracy

Which brings up the tradeoff between speed and accuracy.

For most of us, we have to choose between speed and accuracy when shooting.  Sure, we can try to make like a wild west fast draw gunslinger, yank our gun from its holster, and get that trigger pulled very quickly, but if the shot goes wild, have you actually achieved anything (except probably causing some damage to someone’s property, and possibly even wounding or killing an innocent bystander, unseen/unnoticed by you, a block or two away, and/or inside a nearby house.

Surprisingly, the answer to this question is actually as much ‘yes’ as it is ‘no’.  If you get the first shot off, then you have the initiative and you are – sort of – controlling the situation.  The bad guy is now forced to respond to your actions rather than able to pick and choose his own gambit.

As we saw in the video example above, the ability of the armed citizen to surprise the bad guy and open fire first caused the bad guy to give up the fight and run away.  In this case, surprise and initiative won the day.

In the military, troops are taught about the benefit of suppressive fire.  Very little battlefield shooting is actually carefully aimed shooting – much of it is semi-random, fired in the general direction of the bad guys, in the desperate hope that maybe some rounds might land on their targets, and in a desire to keep the bad guy from shooting back.  While the bad guy is keeping his head down, he isn’t able to shoot back, and he probably also can’t respond to your side maneuvering into a more advantageous tactical position (either to better press the attack, or simply to, ahem, run away yourselves).

But in the military, the troops seldom have to worry about the consequences of where their rounds end up, and usually a conflict has multiple good guys working together in a trained manner, all with plenty of ammunition and fully auto weapons.

Things couldn’t be more different in real life.  As the saying goes, ‘every bullet has an attorney’s name on it’.  You need to be careful and sparing of your ammunition and where you are shooting (unless, alas, you are members of the NYPD it seems).

There’s one more important difference between a military conflict and a self-defense situation.  The bad guys aren’t being paid or tasked with killing you.  Whereas enemy soldiers are being paid to do that, and in a firefight, both sides are supposed to hold their ground and advance on the enemy if at all possible, and to accept some casualties in return for winning the battle, that is not the case with you against the local bad guys.

We don’t know the exact statistics, but we’ll guess that more often than not, if the bad guy simply sees you draw your weapon in a determined and authoritative manner, he’s going to flee the scene as fast as he can (especially if he is alone).  A very very few may choose to ‘call your bluff’ – more likely if there are two or more of them and only one of you (and also more likely if you look panicked and irresolute); not only because they have the benefit of numbers, but also because their social/peer pressure makes them each unwilling to be the first person to be ‘a coward’ and run away.  In those cases, you’ll need to shoot the most threatening person, and the chances are that as soon as they hear the gun shot, the whole group of them will run off.

Why would they not?  Surely it is better for them to run away, safely, and to exercise more care in picking a defenseless ‘soft’ target for their next act of violent crime!  They understand that perfectly clearly.  They are lazy and don’t want to risk their lives; they want safe easy soft targets and will do all they can to avoid people who don’t have ‘victim’ stamped invisibly on their foreheads.

So from this point of view, speed is important and beneficial.

On the other hand, don’t sell accuracy short.  A recent FBI study into the ‘best’ handgun calibers and cartridges concluded that all caliber/cartridge combinations were remarkably similar in effect (in terms of stopping power and lethality), and the most important factor in the outcome of any gun fight was not the caliber/cartridges being used, but rather the accuracy of the shots.

Quickly getting ten rounds out of your pistol, and hitting the bad guy once or twice in non-vital areas will do nothing more than empty your gun and cause damage/destruction all around you.  On the other hand, a single aimed shot into a vital zone will end the fight instantly, and just as surely if you’re firing a .22LR round out of a target pistol or if you’re firing .44 Magnum rounds from Dirty Harry’s famous Smith & Wesson Model 29 revolver.

So, the real issue here isn’t whether you should focus on speed or on accuracy.  Sorry – you need to get good at both.  You want to get the first round off fast, and have it land where you want it to go.

Accuracy and Ammo

An upside to being accurate is that you are less likely to run out of ammunition.

The police average about one hit on target every four or five shots, so to get two shots onto a bad guy requires 8 – 10 rounds of ammo, (and the time it takes to shoot that many rounds).  If your pistol only has six rounds in it, which is better?  Needing to pause half-way through to reload, or shooting accurately and only requiring (perhaps) four shots for two hits?

At the risk of making an unfair comment, it could be observed that the police response to this solution was to trade in their older six round revolvers and seven/eight round 1911s, and replace them with higher capacity 13 – 17 round semi-autos.  That’s for sure one ‘solution’, but it is not the best solution for a private citizen.  Not only is a full size semi-auto larger and heavier to carry, and more difficult to do so concealed, but you don’t have the city/county/state/federal government standing behind you and sparing you the civil and criminal liability risks that each ill-aimed round you shoot may create.

As a private citizen and with a smaller sized concealed carry pistol, for all reasons you need to optimize your effectiveness and accuracy with your chosen pistol.

The chances are that you’ll be carrying (concealed) a pistol with only a limited supply of ammunition in its magazine – probably no more than ten, and possibly as few as six or seven.  And the chances sadly are that if you get into a situation where deadly force is warranted, then as likely as not, it will involve two or more aggressors, and will be in low/bad/no light.

It will also be at close range, so if you haven’t managed to do something to solve the problem in the first couple of seconds, the bad guys will probably be physically on top of you and you’ll lose control of your pistol.  So you need speed to get shooting quickly, and you need accuracy so that the shots are effective.

Although you should always carry at least one spare loaded magazine, the chances are that when the brown stuff hits the fan, you’re not going to have time to reload in the middle of what goes down.  You need to solve your problem with only the bullets in your gun at the start of the situation, and so you can’t afford the high rate of misses that even well-trained police officers experience.


One more thing.  On a typical ‘square range’ (ie a line of shooters at one end, a line of stationary targets at the other end) neither you nor your target(s) is/are moving.  But out there on the street, there’s a good chance that your attacker is moving, and you should be too.

Indeed, studies show that one of the key survival skills when in a gun fight is the ability to be moving yourself – to be moving between shots, and, if the situation and your competence allows it – to be moving while shooting, too.

This adds a massive extra level of complexity and skill development required in order to become truly competent at defending yourself with your handgun, and with few ranges allowing for shooters to be moving, and with few ranges offering moving targets, it is difficult to acquire the extra skills needed.  Joining a shooting club and participating in IDPA or IPSC type matches is probably a very good way to acquire familiarity with movement – both yours and your targets.


Accuracy is very important in any situation.  Even if your attacker is terrifyingly close to you – at ‘can’t miss’ range – you might still find in the stress of the moment you do miss if you are untrained and unfamiliar with your pistol.

In addition, due to the woeful inadequacy of any and all caliber/cartridge combinations in terms of being able to give you instant single shot stops, even at very close range, you want to be able to land your shots not just blindly and anywhere in the attacker’s torso, but as effectively aimed to vital areas as possible.

Your accuracy needs to be balanced with your speed.  Typically there is a trade-off – you can be accurate or you can be fast; training will help you to become both faster and more accurate.

Nov 272012

Gun sales are booming, and perhaps for valid reasons.

If you’ve visited a gun shop in the last month or two, you may have felt there were more people in the store than normal, and that many of the people there were actively buying rather than just idly looking.

You’d not be wrong to perceive things that way.  Gun sales spiked to a new all time high on Black Friday, 20% higher than the previous record, and have been steadily growing for a long time.  Gun sales are usually guesstimated by tracking the number of FBI NICS calls – this is the ‘instant background check’ service required any time a person buys a gun from a FFL dealer.

NICS call numbers don’t exactly match the number of guns being sold.  Of course, all private party sales usually don’t involve NICS calls, but on the other hand, private party sales are simply transferring guns that are already ‘out there’.  All new gun sales have to go through a licensed dealer, so the NICS numbers are helpful to understand the growing number of guns being added to the country as a whole.

On Black Friday this year, NICS processed 155,000 calls, up 20% from the 129,000 calls on Black Friday last year; indeed, it was so busy that its computer system crashed twice.

Overall, monthly NICS calls have increased every month over the last year, and every year for the last ten years.  You can see the FBI’s monthly NICS call volumes here.

While the NICS numbers are not the same exact thing as the number of new guns being sold, they are closely linked together.  More NICS calls definitely means more guns sold.  On the one hand, sometimes a single NICS call is for a person buying two or more guns, which would mean that the total guns sold is greater than the number of NICS calls logged.  On the other hand, some states do NICS checks when issuing CCW licenses, which means that the number of guns sold would be less than the number of NICS calls logged.  On balance, most estimates suggest that fewer guns are sold than NICS calls are logged, but whatever the adjustment factor needed, the bottom line is that gun sales are greatly increasing, and each year probably sees another 10 million – maybe more – new guns added to the total already in private hands in the country.

Oh – as we’ve pointed out before, all these extra guns that are reaching private citizens – the net result is that violent crime rates are declining rather than increasing.

Do we need to tell you the reason for the soaring gun sales?  Ironically, but obviously, President Obama has been the best ‘salesman’ for the gun industry ever, and his comments in one of the Presidential debates in October about seeking to introduce new gun controls on ‘assault rifles’ (a made up term which means nothing specific at all, which unfortunately also means it can apply to any and every type of firearm, depending on your perspective) added to the worry that many people have about what might be coming down the line during his second term.

We’re not saying you should panic and rush out to buy more guns now.  After all, hopefully you already have an ample sufficiency!  On the other hand, it is almost Christmas, and what better gift for yourself and your loved ones than the ability to defend yourselves/themselves.

Maybe it might also be a good idea to buy a few more cases of ammo – people opposed to firearm ownership sometimes promote restrictions not just on guns but on ammunition as well.  Besides which, the more ammunition you have, the more likely you are to use some of it for ongoing practice and training, and that’s surely a good thing.

Oh, and make sure you have plenty of full designed capacity magazines too – one of the ‘low lying fruit’ that has been attacked before is to restrict the capacity of magazines down to an inconveniently small number.

Oct 162012

‘When seconds count, the police are only minutes away’. In an emergency, is a phone or firearm most likely to save your life?

It is late at night, and you’ve just heard the unmistakable sound of intruders kicking down your front door and invading your home.  Within minutes – perhaps even within seconds – they’ll be in your bedroom.

Imagine that you have a choice of two items on your nightstand.  One is a cellphone with 911 programmed into its speed-dial.  The other is a loaded pistol.  Which would you reach for as the sound of the intruders’ footsteps approaches your door?

This is actually a somewhat unfair scenario, because the correct answer is ‘both’ and there should never be a real world scenario where we are restricted to a choice of only one of these two essential items.

So let’s reword the question – Would you wish to keep a loaded firearm close at hand in your bedroom, as well as a phone?  Or is a phone all you’ll ever need to guarantee your safety?

We have a follow-up question, too – especially if you feel that all you will ever need is a phone.  How long is the average – and worst case – response time for your local police to arrive at your residence; from the time you first pick up your phone, to the time multiple units have reached your property and the officers in question have worked out a strategy for responding to your home invasion?  Oh – did we not mention?  If you call the police and say ‘There are multiple intruders in my house’ there’s close to no chance that the first car to arrive, with probably only one officer in it, will do anything other than observe.  He’ll wait for more officers, and ideally for a K-9 unit, before even getting out of his cruiser.

Don’t forget also the time it takes to get through to 911, to verify your address and other information, and to persuade the operator that your call is genuine and deserving of a highest priority despatch.  That will eat up a minute or more of time before the police ever start rolling towards your home.

The best case scenario is that you’ll be waiting 5 – 10 minutes before any police response starts to make its presence felt.  Worst case?  You could be still waiting, half an hour later, due to the police being too busy on other priority calls, and you needing to wait your turn, or due to a tragic series of command miss-steps and excessive caution and concern for ‘officer safety’ such as sometimes happens when the police respond to such calls.

In the scenario where intruders are already in your house, you don’t have 10 minutes; you don’t even have 5 minutes.  Your life, and that of your loved ones, could change profoundly in the next 30 seconds if you don’t do something to directly impact on what is about to otherwise happen.

We do agree – it is always best practice to call the police as soon as you are aware of intruders in your house, and to then try to get out of the house and to escape, or failing that, to barricade yourself as best you can in your bedroom or bathroom, and hope the police turn up before the intruders get to you.  You should call out to the intruders telling them to leave, and advising them you’ve called the police and they’re on their way.

But do you want to trust your life to the desperate hope that this will be all you need to do?  Intruders are not necessarily rational people and in a sober state of mind.  They may be high on mind-altering (mind-destroying) drugs, and may not be worried at the thought of the police having been called, and/or they might know how long it will take for the police to arrive and not feel any time pressure at all.

For all these reasons, it is prudent to have a firearm conveniently at hand to use as a last-ditch defense option.

Not everyone agrees with this recommendation.  Read, and weep upon seeing, the assertion boldly made by (thankfully now retired) Supreme Court Justice Stevens, who in recently addressing a group of DC gun haters, suggested (quoted near the bottom of this article)

Stevens also had a recommendation for people who keep a weapon in their homes for self-defense purposes. “Maybe you have some kind of constitutional right to have a cell phone with a pre-dialed 911 in the number at your bedside and that might provide you with a little better protection than a gun which you’re not used to using,” he said to laughter.

Sadly, we suspect the laughter was not at Justice Stevens for uttering such a preposterous nonsense, but with him, at the imagined foolishness of people who seek to have a firearm as well as a phone for their personal protection.

Oh – as for the rest of his opinions that are referred to in the article?  Being as how he was on the losing minority side of both the two Supreme Court cases that dealt with the Second Amendment in 2005 and 2010, there’s little reason to respect his opinions and legal interpretations now as being any more accurate than they were in those two cases.  He is clearly a gun-hater and views the law through that distorted perspective only.

But it for sure is a scary thought that a person who was formerly (and for 35 long years) one of the nine people who hold ultimate say over our ability to own and use firearms, would offer up such imbecilic nonsense as suggesting that we don’t need firearms and that cell phones are all the protection we need.  Has he never heard the oh-so-obviously true adage ‘When seconds count, the police are only minutes away’?

Update, March 2018 :  Justice Stevens again showed his animosity to the Second Amendment and his eagerness to overturn the US Constitution in an “Op-Ed” opinion piece he published in the NY Times, also no great lover of the Second Amendment.  He suggested the Second Amendment should be eliminated.  Thankfully, it isn’t as easy as he might wish it to be to overturn the wisdom of our founders.

Jul 182012

A 71 yr old armed citizen bravely – and successfully stood up to two armed youths.

Last Friday evening, just before 10pm, an ‘internet cafe’ in Ocala, FL was held up by two armed robbers.  One had what appears to be a baseball bat, the other a pistol.  There were about 30 people inside the cafe.

One of the patrons was lawfully carrying a concealed .380 semi-auto pistol (it looks like a Ruger LCP from the video footage).

When the bad guys turned their back on him, he pulled his pistol and started shooting at them, firing between four and six shots as the two would-be robbers turned tail and desperately ran out of the store, twice tripping over themselves in their desperate rush to run away, including a final parting shot out the closing door as the two robbers departed the scene.

Both of the robbers were wounded, and subsequently arrested at a local hospital.

The man is now being hailed as a hero, and won’t be facing any charges.  You can see good video clips from three surveillance cameras on several web pages such as this one here, and you probably should review the video before reading this analysis further.  Here’s a second site which has a different mix of video footage – showing some extra parts but leaving some other parts out, plus mug-shots of the robbers (their race is carefully not mentioned in most accounts), and some extra background to how events unfolded.

Some comments about what 71-year-old Mr Samuel Williams did.

1.  He was very lucky that none of his shots hit anyone (or even anything) else, either in the store or outside on the street.

2.  It is unclear how many times he hit both robbers, and where his shots landed, but as you can see in the video, neither robber was physically impaired by being shot.

This is another reminder that pistols are not imbued with magic properties.  Most times, a single shot will have little effect on the person you are confronting and you should usually not pause to see what happens before continuing your defense.

3.  Almost certainly his first shot or possibly two were justified, but it becomes more difficult to say that the others and in particular his last one or two shots were still justified.

Shooting at fleeing felons who have left the store and are running away as fast as they can is rarely a case where you can claim to be in imminent deadly danger, beside which, shooting out onto a public street massively increases the risk of stray rounds hitting other people or damaging other property.

In particular, one of the two people was armed ‘only’ with a baseball bat and at no time was in an aggressive posture towards Mr Williams.  In some states it would be difficult to suggest this second robber posed a sufficient threat (although for sure a baseball bat can grievously injure), particularly as he almost certainly was in headlong retreat by the time Mr Williams got to shoot him.  If you live in a state that is overwhelmingly anti-self defense and all about ‘offenders rights’ (a nonsense concept but one sadly embraced by some states), this would be a difficult situation to justify.

4.  Mr Williams took a very aggressive approach to defending himself.  He made no use of any cover or concealment.  He was very lucky that the robber with the gun did not shoot back.

Indeed, if you look at the video, you can see the armed robber turns with his gun to point it almost at Mr Williams, but as soon as Mr Williams fires his first shot, the robber loses any thought of fighting and instead starts running away as fast as he can.  Half a second of timing the other way could have seen a very different result, and/or if the bad guy was a more determined assailant, the two of them would have ended up fighting it out with less than 10 ft between them (which incidentally is a typical distance for gunfights to occur).

And – here’s the thing – the bad guy had a buddy.  Mr Williams did not (his wife was in the store too, apparently, but Mr Williams was the only person engaged in confronting the robbers); if he was incapacitated, the ‘game’ would have been over.

On the other hand, Mr Williams displayed an excellent ability to combine movement with shooting.  Most inexperienced shooters end up rooted to the spot.  He did an excellent job of controlling the environment and tactically moving and flushed the bad guys out of the store before they had a chance to regroup and return fire.

The one thing that can most positively impact on your survivability in any gunfight is to keep moving.

5.  Talking about timing, from when the robbers entered the store until their hurried exit spanned a period of only 17 seconds.

The military doctrine of ‘speed and violence of action’ certainly applied in this case.  While we advocate, below, that it is often prudent to quietly sit out and wait and see what happens in such situations, in the hope you won’t need to respond; that is not always the best advice, because the first few seconds of a takeover situation like this are the most fluid, with the two robbers having to somehow focus on 30+ people, spread all around the store.

Mr Williams exploited this to his advantage, by being able to draw his pistol and approach the armed robber unseen; 30 seconds later, with the store more secured by the two robbers, this would have been more difficult to achieve.

6.  One thing Mr Williams did not do – he didn’t reload at the end of the confrontation.

His pistol likely held no more than six or seven rounds, and he probably fired five or six of them.  It needs to be an automatic instinctive reflex, at the apparent end of any confrontation, to reload.  The chances are you won’t have accurately counted the shots you fired, and even if you only fired two or three from a high-capacity magazine, you have no way of knowing what is about to happen next, so give yourself as much benefit as possible by swapping to a more fully loaded magazine.

Oh – one other comment about that.  You do, of course, always carry at least one spare magazine, don’t you?

Analysis and Comments

The good news is that this situation did end with good news.  The good guy won, the bad guys lost.  But we’re troubled by the incident, and don’t think it a good example of an optimum response by an armed citizen.  There could very easily have been a much less positive outcome.

The appropriate response when two robbers burst into a store, one armed with a pistol, depends on many things, including the state you are in at the time, because different states have very different laws on the legal use of deadly force.  It also depends on what you can determine about the gunmen’s state of mind and their declared intentions.

If the robbers merely focus on the cashier at the front, asking him to empty his till, and give no indication whatsoever of any interest in the people in the store at all, you’d be better advised to sit out the confrontation.  You’re not in any immediate danger yourself, you just happen to have the bad fortune to be witnessing a hold-up of someone else, and particularly if you are one of 30 other people, the robbers’ focus on you is at best marginal and diffuse.  Be alert, of course, and ready to defend yourself if the situation deteriorates, but don’t go looking for trouble, because if you go looking for trouble, you run the grave risk of trouble finding you.

It is important to realize that just because you have a concealed weapons permit and happen to be carrying a pistol with you, this does not authorize or obligate you to use your pistol for anything other than essential life-threatening personal protection.  Mr Williams is extraordinarily fortunate not to be facing criminal charges now, and who knows if he might not end up with civil suits being filed against him by the robbers.  He is also extraordinarily fortunate that none of his rounds hit anyone else, or damaged anything valuable.  You shouldn’t automatically assume to have such good luck in any respect.

Apparently in this case, the robbers made clear their intention to rob not just the store but its patrons too (an ‘internet cafe’ in Florida is a polite name for a semi-legal computer gambling facility, apparently, and so there was a reasonable expectation that the customers may have been carrying more cash with them than normal).  This may have been the ‘trigger’ event that caused Mr Williams to feel he needed to actively respond while he still had the possibility of gaining a tactical advantage.


It is difficult to know what type of behavior the two robbers were displaying – whether they were cool, calm and collected, showing a ‘professional’ ability to conduct a businesslike robbery, or if they were wildly unstable and appearing as if they would shoot people for no reason at all.

But their announcement that they intended to rob all the patrons, and of course, their mere presence and their weapons, created sufficient cause for Mr Williams to feel his life was threatened – indeed, the validity of his decision is now being confirmed by the authorities and their decision not to prosecute him.

But this was a decision (by the authorities) which could have gone either way, and in other states, might well have resulted in Mr Williams facing criminal charges – not so much for his first shot or two, but for his last few shots.  There have been other cases where a citizen defending himself was found not guilty of inappropriate use of deadly force for all the shots fired except the last one.

If you do find yourself in a situation where you must use deadly force to protect yourself, don’t let the blood lust take over.  Stop shooting as soon as the threat has been nullified.

Although the distances between Mr Williams and the two robbers were very close, the stress levels were high, the angles were bad, everyone was moving, and the store was full of panicking patrons.  This was a very difficult environment, and he did very well.

Clearly, we all need a high level of training to be able to make the right decisions and then to carry them out appropriately in such situations.

Lastly, it is easy to second-guess someone from the comfort of one’s safe environment, with time to leisurely analyze and consider things that happened in split-seconds of great stress.  Mr Williams did a commendable job from start to finish, and we appreciate his public-spiritedness.