Jul 312013
If your door is locked and window closed, you should never find yourself in a situation like this.

If your door is locked and window closed, you should never find yourself in a situation like this.

This is the second part of a two-part article on carjacking.  If you arrived directly here from a link or search engine, you might find it helpful to first read part 1 – The Risks of Being Carjacked.

The surprisingly good news that we learned in the first part of this two-part article is that only 45% of attempted carjackings succeed, and that your chances of injury halve if you resist the carjacking attempt.

You need to really wrap your mental arms around those two data points.  If you are carjacked, don’t go all limp, defeatist, and become helpless and passive.  Realize that you’re in an unfortunate situation, for sure, but you must also realize your best strategy is to resist rather than cooperate.  Your resistance is statistically likely to succeed, and your chance of personal injury reduces.

So, what should you do when a carjacking attempt occurs?  That depends enormously on what form the carjacking takes, and on your strategic situation.  Best case scenario, someone approaches the car with a knife, you are in the car with the engine running and a clear road ahead, you simply floor the gas pedal and drive off.  End of story.  Oh, not quite – do the world a favor and call it in.  Dial 911 and have the police earn their pay.  Maybe they can find the guy, and maybe he is a repeat offender – or maybe he otherwise would become a repeat offender.

The One Time When You Should Cooperate

If you’re boxed in somewhere and a carjacker gets the drop on you, and is pointing a firearm directly at you, at close range, then all bets are off.

If our window was closed and we knew we could simply stomp on the gas and move off, we’d be tempted to take the risk of being shot at.  The closed window provides a psychological barrier to the attacker (but not to his gun’s bullets!), and carjackers in general don’t want to shoot at/after a fleeing car.  That just draws attention to themselves and ups the charges they might end up facing.

The gun may be, in substantial part a bluff, and if you can quickly leave the scene, you might be okay.  But if you start doing something threatening in response, then the carjacker may be forced into using the gun to defend himself, or may panic or reflexively respond.  Flee if you can, cooperate if you can’t.  It takes a great deal of training to be able to disarm an attacker; don’t try doing it unless you know you’ve had sufficient recent training to be sure of doing so successfully.

The One Time When You Should Always Resist

There is however one situation when you should always resist, whether you’ve got guns pointed at you or not.  That is when the carjacking becomes a kidnapping.

While the carjacking statistics are generally in your favor, if the encounter becomes instead a kidnapping, things have suddenly become a lot less favorable.  Viewed rationally, unless you know you are a high-value kidnapping target who is realistically likely to be kidnapped by professional kidnappers, there are only very bad reasons why a carjacker would want to take you with him.

Never allow yourself to be kidnapped.  The best time to resist an attempted kidnap attempt is when it is first initiated.  At that point, the kidnapper is not yet in charge and control of you and his surroundings.  Things are dynamic and changing, and you are still unrestrained, un-gagged, and so you are best able to do anything and everything to get free.

Don’t worry about whatever the kidnapper might do in response to your resisting.  You need to realize that the chances are very great that they are going to torture, rape, and kill you sadistically anyway.  Nothing will make it worse.  But escaping, even if shot at (and possibly injured) is better than the alternative.  For that matter, being shot and killed quickly while escaping is preferable to suffering hours or days of torture and humiliation and deprivation prior to then being killed slowly.

If the kidnapper foolishly has you drive your vehicle, crash it deliberately.  An ideal speed for a deliberate crash, with your seatbelt on, is 25 – 30 mph – at that speed you are certain to survive, but your car is certain to become instantly undrivable, making it impossible for your kidnapper to continue your kidnap in your vehicle.  The act of crashing will also instantly draw attention to you, and if you’re really lucky, your attacker won’t have his seat belt fastened, so at that speed, he may be thrown about and concussed (but probably not killed).  Needless to say, please crash your vehicle into an inanimate object rather than into another occupied vehicle.  Even just mounting the sidewalk at that speed will probably destroy your suspension and make the car undriveable, even if there’s not a major hard impact.

Less Extreme Situations and Counter Measures

First of all, the best protection of all is to prevent the initiation of a carjacking attempt.  When interviewed subsequently, most carjacking victims say the same thing – they never saw the carjacker until he was at their car.  Just like most other criminals, carjackers prefer to have the element of surprise on their side.

So you need to always be aware of your surroundings and alert for people who could turn out to be threats.  Sometimes carjackers have been quite creative in disguising their presence – they’ve been handing out fliers, for example, a familiar seeming non-threatening activity that causes potential victims to miscategorize them as ‘non-threatening’ and then ignore them.  That might be a big mistake.

You also need to reduce your vulnerability and ‘harden’ your vehicle.  The simplest two things to do are to keep your windows up and your doors locked (use central locking if possible to ensure your passenger doors are locked too).  Doing that makes you safe from pretty much any carjacker except one with a gun.

And thinking about carjackers with guns, they still want to find easy victims, and they don’t want to have to shoot anyone.  An ‘easy victim’ for them is someone with a window open – it is much easier to dominate a victim if their window is open.  Plus, with the open window, they can reach in, grab your steering wheel, grab you, and physically take charge of the situation.  With your window shut, they can point their gun at you, but neither they nor you feel them to be quite so in control.

Don’t think that closed windows and locked doors make you invulnerable.  We know of some carjackings that have been initiated by a carjacker smashing in a window, perhaps using a $7 tool like this (oh, by the way, if you don’t have one yourself, you should have one in your car for emergencies).

So, whenever you are driving, you want to, whenever possible, always keep an escape route open.  You do this by not getting too close to the car in front of you when it stops and you stop behind it.  The rule of thumb is if you can see the bottom of its wheels, then if you need to, you can drive forwards and steer around the stopped vehicle in front of you.  This assumes, of course, you’re not jammed in your lane by other vehicles on either side.

Needless to say, this is the sort of emergency which would justify driving up onto the curb to get away.  But not the sort of emergency that would justify knocking down some pedestrians!

Keep your vehicle as an untempting target.  Cover up anything that might appeal to a carjacker and which would be visible from outside.  Leave handbags on the floor and out of reach, and if you have an SUV, cover anything in its back with the (usually supplied) pull over cover.

If you see anything that feels wrong or out of place, don’t ignore your intuition, but rather reward it and respond to it.  Avoid places you’re not comfortable with.  Don’t park in dark out of the way areas.  And, for sure, always avoid parking next to anonymous panel sided vans.  You’ve no idea who or what is inside that van, and when its side door starts opening next to you, any sort of surprise might be about to greet you.  If a panel van has parked next to your vehicle while you were away, attempt to enter your vehicle from the far side.

When you’re returning to your vehicle, try not to have to turn your back to everything around you – especially if you can only see a little way away – when loading in your shopping and your children.

Also while returning to your car, if there’s someone in the car park between you and your car, change your direction and walk away from them then dog leg around them.  If they start to come towards you and keep doing so as you change your direction of travel, then you know you’ve an unfolding situation and you have time to consider your options, take control of the situation, and if necessary draw your concealed weapon and solve the problem as indicated.

Use discretion where you stop when you’re waiting for someone, and in particular, if possible, still keep your windows closed and your doors locked until the person you’re collecting has arrived at the car.

If someone pulls a knife on you, the first thing you should always consider is simply running away.  If the angles and obstructions allow you to do so, simply bolt.  The guy is a lazy good-for-nothing carjacker, not an athlete; the last thing he wants to do is chase after you in a foot pursuit.  He’ll just laugh to himself, and try again with the next easy target.

If you are in a less than ideal neighborhood, and if you’re stopped somewhere that offers valet parking (okay, so that’s a sadly rare combination of circumstances!) consider using the valet parking service for safety.

Having a second adult traveling with you gives you extra security and makes you less tempting to a carjacker.  90% of carjackings occur when the vehicle has only one occupant.  Strangely, males are more likely to be victims than women, but perhaps both these statistics need to be adjusted for it being more likely that cars in general have only one occupant, and that single occupant vehicles are more likely to have men than women in them.

You should always know where you are going and where you are.  Avoid bad neighborhoods, and don’t get lost.  Use a GPS.  By driving through better areas, you keep your risks lower than going through high risk areas.

If you find yourself confronted by a carjacker on your way to/from your car, and he asks for your wallet, or keys, or handbag, or whatever else, don’t just hand them over.  Toss them away as best you can, then run in the opposite direction.  The chances are the bad guy is more interested in your valuables or keys than in you personally, and he’ll go after those rather than after you.

Try not to give away your cell phone if you can avoid it, though.  You’ll need it for summoning the police.  So if the guy says ‘give me your keys, wallet and phone, toss the keys and wallet and run off with your phone.


Prevention is better than cure, and being aware of your surroundings is always the best thing for you to do, at all times.

Make yourself a less tempting target, and if confronted by a carjacker, other than one pointing a gun at you (just under half of carjackings involve guns) consider some form of resistance rather than meekly complying with all the bad guy’s demands.

Never under any circumstance allow a carjacking to become a kidnapping.

Lastly, here’s a feel-good story about a citizen who acted to prevent a carjacking.  It can be done.

This was the second part of a two-part article on carjacking.  If you arrived directly here from a link or search engine, you might find it helpful to also read part 1 – The Risks of Being Carjacked.

Jun 302013
A very scary confrontation, but if you resist, the odds are in your favor.

A very scary confrontation, but if you resist, the odds are in your favor.

We regularly write about the dangers that lurk in places where we feel comfortable and safe, for the simple reason that we do feel comfortable and safe in such places, and so we relax and are no longer as alert and aware as we are when in unfamiliar and clearly higher risk locations.

The most extreme example of this is our home, and we’ve lots of articles on how you need to maintain a level of caution even while at home.  So, rather than beat that drum one more time, today we’ll look at another place we often allow ourselves to feel ‘too safe’ in – our car.  That perception is inappropriate, and there are several key areas of risk.

In this first part of a two-part article, we look at the main risk factors associated with carjacking type crime – the places where you are most vulnerable and/or most distracted.  Understanding the risks brings you a large part of the way to reducing the risks, and (of course) we talk about specific strategies to protect yourself from carjacking in the second part of the article series.

Carjacking Risks

One of the greatest areas of risk and vulnerability is when we approach our vehicle in a parking lot.  Think about this – other cars and vans around you obscure you and other people from view.  Your sight lines are blocked, and someone can suddenly appear from where they were hiding behind an adjacent vehicle and do whatever they choose, not only catching you by surprise, but also doing whatever they wish largely hidden from other people.

Plus, in such encounters, you’re seldom in a good tactical position to quickly respond to threats.  There you are, returning to your car, perhaps carrying some shopping bags in one hand, and looking for your keys with your other hand or maybe even fumbling with the remote control to unlock your vehicle.  Perhaps you have children with you too, or perhaps you’re on the phone or texting.

If you’re at all aware of your surroundings, you are primarily focused on cars that are driving around or about to suddenly back out of their parking spots.  You expect there to be other people in the parking lot too, and so if you vaguely notice people around you, that is accepted as normal and you don’t really concentrate on their presence.

As distracted as you are, and as awkwardly ill-prepared as you are with groceries in one hand and car keys in the other, if someone suddenly appears in front of you with a gun or knife, the chances are you’re taken completely by surprise and unable to respond appropriately.

And that’s only the start of your vulnerabilities – as you approach your vehicle.  How about your continued vulnerabilities as you unlock it, open doors, lean in to stow shopping bags in your trunk, and so on?

Maybe you have young children with you – that’s a major distraction right from the get-go, of course!  So there you are, talking with little Johnny while also trying to strap little Susie into her car seat.  Are you also focused on your surroundings and ready to defend you and your children from any threats?  Almost certainly not!

The reverse scenario applies when you are parking your car too, of course, although our sense is that more carjacking encounters occur when people return to their car rather than when they get out of it.  You’re again focused on many different distractors, primarily to do with finding a good park and positioning your car reasonably within the space, you’re unlikely to be also judging the threat levels in your environment at the same time.

Okay, let’s assume you’ve safely driven to the local mall, done your shopping, and safely returned back to your vehicle.  You get in and drive away.  End of problems, right?


Is your door locked?  Is your window open?  What about the other doors and windows, too?  Is your pistol readily retrievable at short notice, or is the safety belt covering your pistol and restricting your access to it?

Think about this.  You pull up to a stop sign or stop light and someone suddenly appears alongside your car and either opens your door or sticks a gun in through the window.  You’re restrained by your seat belt and there’s no way you can effectively respond.

Another scenario.  You have a minor fender bender.  You were driving along, stopped for a light, and the car behind failed to stop in time, and ends up giving your car a little ‘love tap’.  Or maybe the car in front of you stopped suddenly, you managed to stop in time, but the car behind you hit you.  You curse to yourself, quickly run through a checklist in your mind ‘Was it my fault, and what do I do now?’, reach for your insurance card, and get out of the car to meet the other driver, who has got out of his car and is staring at your bumper and his bumper in dismay.

But when you get to the other driver does he then suddenly pull a weapon and demand your wallet, and who knows what else?

One more scenario.  You stopped at the local convenience store or gas station, sensibly took the keys out of your vehicle, rushed in to buy a pint of milk or whatever, came back out a couple of minutes later, got back in your car and then suddenly discovered – surprise!  Someone had let themselves in to your unlocked vehicle and was hiding in the back seat, and now holds you up.

Whichever of these various scenarios may apply, the bottom line is the same.  You’ve just been carjacked.

Carjacking Facts and Figures

It is very difficult to know how common carjacking is, because there isn’t a formal crime of carjacking, and so different police departments report such crimes in different ways.  Indeed, as the different examples above showed, carjacking is a vague term that we are using to refer to any sort of crime involving you in or around your car.  It ranges from assault and robbery to potentially rape, assault and even murder, and of course also includes vehicle theft.

Due to this broad range of different threats and actions and outcomes, it is hard to come up with exact statistics, and because not all carjackings are even reported to the police in the first place, these issues become even more extreme (it seems that one in four carjackings is never reported to the police, usually because the attempt was unsuccessful).  But you can readily and easily understand situations that place you, while in or close to your car, at elevated risk.

There have been some formal carjacking studies done, with the most recent one we’ve found dating back to a 2004 study of statistics covering the period 1993 – 2002.  It makes for interesting reading.

According to this study, most carjackings occur in big cities or suburbs (but that’s also where most people live and work, so no big surprise).  Firearms were used in 45% of carjackings, although one in every four carjackings involved an attacker with no apparent weapons of any sort at all.

Bearing our another of our repeated warnings, 56% of the time, a carjacking involved two or more carjackers.  Whenever you are confronted by one assailant, you always need to be planning for encountering his accomplices.

Most carjackers are black males.

Carjackings are twice as likely to occur at night than during the day.  This is unsurprising, because the carjackers can operate ‘under cover of darkness’.  It is harder to see them prior to them making their move, harder to recognize them in the half-light if you need to subsequently identify them, and easier for them to make good on their escape, whether in your car (in the less heavy evening traffic) or on foot.

Carjackings are more likely to occur on a public street (44%) than in a parking lot (24%).

Perhaps the most surprising fact in this study is that only 45% of attempted carjackings succeeded.  This is great news and something to seize upon.  Just because you find yourself in the early stages of a carjacking does not mean that it is predestined to proceed to a negative conclusion.

Furthermore, while 32% of carjacking victims were injured, only 17% of people involved in attempted carjackings were injured.  Resisting would seem to be twice as safe as giving in and cooperating.

The odds are in your favor, and also show it is better to resist than to give in.  So don’t give up and give in.  Instead, respond as best you can and fight back.  More on that in the next part of this two-part article.

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.

Feb 112013
Maybe the police can shoot at fleeing felons. But you shouldn't.

Maybe the police can shoot at fleeing felons. But you shouldn’t.  Here’s why.

Here’s a short and simple story with a very powerful lesson in it; about a homeowner in Utah arrested and jailed on two misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment.

He arrived home to surprise three burglars about to break into his house.  It seems two of them raced away in their vehicle, and the third fled on foot.

Which is where the problem arose.  The homeowner apparently fired one shot at the car as it drove away, and a second at the man running away.  You might immediately think ‘Only one shot at each?  Why not empty the magazine at them!’.  By this standard, the homeowner was actually remarkably restrained.  But not restrained enough.

It is easy to understand how this could happen to you, too.  Your adrenalin is pumping, your sense of moral outrage is surging, and you’ve already pulled your pistol and used the sight of it (and possibly even had to discharge it) to cause the three burglars to abort their burglary and to run away.  It is so easy to have images from the movies fill your brain and to find yourself all of a sudden shooting after the fleeing felons, perhaps with half-remembered thoughts about it being legal to shoot at fleeing felons (some states have laws that in some circumstances would seem to allow this).

There are two reasons you should never do so.

1.  The Hazard of Shooting in an Urban/Suburban Area

Go stand outside your house or apartment, and look around you.  Imagine that you are shooting at people fleeing the scene, either on foot or in a car.  Now ask yourself this question :  Where will your bullets go?  Assume you either miss the bad guys, or you hit them but the bullets pass through and continue forwards (and possibly now deflected in an altered direction).

Oh yes – remember your bullets may penetrate several exterior and interior building walls too.  And they will travel up to a mile before losing their lethality.  So just because it seems that you can’t see any danger to where a bullet goes, the bullet doesn’t just harmlessly ‘disappear’ when it goes into the bushes that are obscuring your vision of things beyond.  It keeps traveling, through the bushes, through the fence, and into whatever lies beyond.

Now allow for ‘Murphy’s Law’ and ask yourself – what are the chances that my rounds will grievously injure or kill an attorney’s child?  Or anyone else’s child (or adult) for that matter, too?

Even if you don’t hit any people, how much property damage will you do?  Hit a car and you’re quickly up for $1,000 or very much more.  Some police departments average payouts well in excess of $10,000 per round fired by their officers.  Oh – please also remember that none of this will be covered by insurance, and no matter if your shooting is justified or not, if you damage someone else’s property, you’re going to have to compensate them.

As you’ll see for yourself if you do this exercise (and you really should, because it is very sobering when you do so), in most residential neighborhoods there is close to nowhere that is safe to shoot.

2.  Civil and Criminal Liability and No Insurance to Protect You

Shooting after fleeing attackers/felons/anyone is never a good idea and very difficult to justify, either legally or morally.  There are special situations where it may be appropriate, but they are very rare and primarily revolve around where you know the fleeing person is going to cause great harm somewhere else immediately thereafter, and/or situations where the fleeing felon is shooting back at you as he runs away and you’ve nowhere to take cover.

You should only use deadly force where you or your loved ones are facing imminent danger of extreme harm.  Using deadly force to protect property is a grey area – even if the law allows it in theory, you’ll probably find the laws talk about what ‘a reasonable man’ would do, and the concept of a reasonable man is a terribly vague concept that ends up building generous retirement funds for attorneys.  The reasonable man and what he does is what the police, DA, jury and judge all decide it to be, modified as best possible in your favor by your own team of attorneys, expert witnesses, jury consultants, and so on.

Some parts of some states are clearly supportive of the use of deadly force to protect property, other parts of the same states may be equally clearly opposed to it, even though the same law applies in the different (or even same) counties or cities or whatever.

Look at it this way.  If the burglars steal your electronics and jewelry, you can claim insurance.  But if you shoot them as part of preventing the loss of your personal effects, that same insurance policy almost certainly won’t cover your costs of either criminal or civil defense.

The insurance companies say that being burgled is an event outside your control, an ‘accident’, but shooting someone in any circumstance is always a deliberate act on your part.  They’ll cover you for accidental loss but not for the consequences of deliberate actions.

Your Bottom Line

So, to close with our subject line :  Don’t get carried away in self-defense, because shooting at anyone when they are running away/driving away from you is almost never self-defense.

The Utah man who used his pistol wisely and well to prevent his house being burgled, and possibly himself being attacked, didn’t know when to stop.  If he watched the three burglars flee the scene, he’d have been a hero, and could have gone inside his unharmed home and poured himself a celebratory drink.

But now he has been arrested, incarcerated, will have a lengthy trial process to go through, huge legal bills, and will probably be found guilty and end up with a criminal record.  His two shots didn’t alter what happened to the three burglars one bit.  But have massively changed his life, forever.

Learn from his mistake.  Don’t let this happen to you.

Update :  The citizen ended up in a plea bargain arrangement.  He agreed to plead guilty, accept a $700 fine, forfeit his handgun, and take a weapons safety class.  Details here.

Dec 172012


In the early 1970s, Israel responded to the problem of terrorist attacks on their schools, not by disarming everyone inside, but instead by arming the staff. Since then, no terrorist attacks have occurred on schools.

In the early 1970s, Israel responded to the problem of terrorist attacks on their schools, not by disarming everyone inside, but instead by arming the staff. Since then, no terrorist attacks have occurred on schools.

I am a parent of an elementary school child.  Most of you reading this will have children of some age or another, too; and even if you don’t have children, you might plan to have them in the future, or simply be a concerned citizen who understands the tragedy of failing to protect our society’s future – our children.

I – and you too, I’m sure – can all too easily relate to the horror of what happened in Newtown CT last week, and there is absolutely no way in the world anyone wants to see their child at any risk of suffering a similar fate in their local school.

I also agree that ‘something needs to be done’ to prevent yet another school massacre.  Yes, there have been too many of them already, and yes, we can’t allow more to happen.  Everyone can agree on that.

But – and here’s the thing.  What have we learned from the Sandy Hook tragedy, and from all the other ones too?

First, without exception, the gunman/gunmen have not been legally in possession of the firearms they had.  They have broken various state and federal laws with severe penalties just by possessing firearms and taking them onto the school grounds in the first place.  The laws against these people possessing firearms and taking them onto school property were of no use whatsoever.

Secondly, there are already extreme prohibitions against shooting and murdering people, be they school children or anyone else.  Penalties all the way up to capital punishment apply for such actions.  And these penalties had zero effect on these crazy people.

There is no recorded case in US history of a would be mass-murderer saying ‘Oh, shucks!  I can’t go out and kill all those people, because it is against the law for me to own a gun, it is against the law to take a gun into a school, and it is against the law for me to shoot the children and teachers.’

Furthermore, there are no new laws we could pass and no new penalties we could add which would create any measurable deterrence.  Mass murderers already risk death or life imprisonment for their actions.  We can’t sentence them to death twice, and our society wouldn’t be comfortable sentencing them to a decade of excruciating torture or anything like that (besides which, even that would probably not deter such people).

Now, let’s continue our logical analysis of the present problem.

These crazed gunmen aren’t as completely crazy as they may seem.  What do they know about any school, anywhere in the country?  They know that once they get inside the school, there is no danger at all – absolutely positively none – that anyone will resist their actions, or shoot back at them.  They know they are in a place full of trapped defenseless helpless people, and as the statistics all too tragically show, the results are obvious.

Now it is true that your average school teacher is probably far from your first choice of person you’d want to equip with a gun and ask to defend you in a critical situation.  But – think about this :  We require our teachers to train for years before they are certified as qualified to teach in our schools.  We require them to have ongoing training and refresher courses to remain certified.  Many school districts require teachers to have first aid training, too.  We even require teachers to be re-fingerprinted every year (why – do fingerprints change from year to year?) and pass annual criminal background checks.

Would it be so completely impossible to bolt on a one week defensive firearms course to the rest of a teacher’s training?  With annual range refreshers, too?  And rather than prohibit firearms in schools, why not require teachers to have firearms; either concealed or openly carried on their person, or secured in a desk drawer or locker – anywhere that is closely at hand in their classrooms.

What would that do to potential gunmen?  Do you think it might discourage them from attacking schools in the first place?  And, if someone truly crazy still persisted in his attack, how many casualties do you think he could inflict before becoming a casualty himself?

Even if the armed teachers did nothing more than simply shoot blindly at the classroom door from behind the concealment of their upturned desk when the gunman tried to enter, wouldn’t that be helpful?  Wouldn’t that buy time for the police to react and respond?

The thing is this.  Gun control, teenage sex, and drug use have one thing very much in common.  You can pass as many laws as you like making teenage sex illegal, you can do whatever you like to make illegal drug use severely sanctioned by draconian prison terms, and you can pass as many laws as you can dream up restricting the right of free citizens to own firearms.  But randy teenage boys are always going to find a way to sate their lust, no matter how many laws they may break.  ‘Stoners’ and other dregs of society will find a way to illegal drugs, the same as they have been for decades, and the same way much of society found its way to alcohol during prohibition.  And bad people will always find a gun, and will always use it.

We’re not going to be drawn into debates about drug laws and teenage sex.  But we are going to say that the solution to prevent future school tragedies is not to add to the current surfeit of laws that make such things illegal, and doubly the solution to future school tragedies is not to penalize law-abiding citizens and to make it harder for them to own, carry, and – if necessary – lawfully use their firearms in necessary self-defense.

The solution is to encourage teachers and other law-abiding citizens to be armed in schools as well as everywhere else in their lives.  Rather than having schools as the ultimate ‘soft target’, let’s make schools into hard targets.  When was the last time you saw a gunman attack a police station?  Right – never.  Let’s make schools as unattractive a target as police stations already are.

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.

Oct 162012

These two men robbed a couple returning home. The couple could have prevented the robbery.

Here’s a short report of a Redmond, WA couple who returned home late at night (1.30am) and were robbed at gunpoint when they got out of their car.

Redmond is a suburb of Seattle and is best known for being the home of Microsoft.  It is an up-market and prosperous small city of 52,000, and is generally blessed with very little crime.

We are going to risk being politically incorrect by citing another Redmond statistic.  Only 1.22% of people in Redmond are African-American (source), as were the two robbers in this incident.

We’re not saying that all African-Americans in Redmond are armed robbers, but we are saying that the couple probably would have noticed the two men and recognized them as not being neighbors, and – sorry to say this – as not looking like the sort of people normally found in their nice neighborhood, either.

So here’s the thing.  It is 1.30am, and you’ve just driven home, and are about to park your car outside your residence when you notice two strangers on the street with no apparent reason for being there, and who clearly look as though they are neither local residents nor likely visitors to local residents.  Should you park your car as you normally would, get out, and walk along the sidewalk in close proximity to these two people, go to your residence, unlock the door and let yourself inside?

You are actually creating two vulnerabilities here, and it could be said that this couple suffered the lesser of the two outcomes.

The first vulnerability is clearly the one that occurred – getting robbed on the street.

The second vulnerability is the more serious one.  You unlock and open your front door, and the two men suddenly rush you and get inside your home, where they can then, in private, do whatever they wish to you and your home.  It could be argued that the couple in this case got off lightly – only a mild amount of personal injury and the loss of cash, jewelry and personal items.

So what should you do?

The easiest thing is that if you see people who look out-of-place, and who are present for no obvious purpose; simply keep on driving and come back in five minutes.  If they are still there – ie, loitering, call the police and wait for their arrival before stopping and exiting your car.

And that is where a self-imposed political correctness constraint often comes into play.  Many people feel awkward at calling the police and saying ‘there are two black men hanging around my residence, so I’m scared’.  They don’t want to sound like paranoid racists.

We don’t want to get into the whole causal debate about why it is so, but we will simply cite the statistic that blacks are eight times more likely to commit robberies than people of other races (source).  This statistic varies somewhat depending on how/where/when it is calculated, but whether it is eight times or perhaps a number that may be more or less, and whether it is due to the black robber-to-be coming from an unhappy home life or whatever else, the impossible to ignore fact is there is an elevated risk of being the victim of a violent crime when the potential perpetrator is black rather than white.

The police already know this, although they have to be careful not to ‘profile’, even though many people might think that it makes sense to concentrate the policing on the high risk sectors of society.  So there’s no need to pretend that the issue doesn’t exist.

We’re not saying you should go to a heightened state of alertness just because you see an African-American on the street.  But we are saying that you shouldn’t fight off a feeling of unease just because your sense of political correctness is trying to over-power your street-smarts sense of what feels out-of-place and uncomfortable.

And, more than anything else, we are definitely saying that the best outcome of any confrontation is to avoid the confrontation in the first place.  If anything ever looks out-of-place and makes you feel vaguely uncomfortable, then if at all possible, take evasive action to avoid the possibility of any problem occurring.  Sometimes all it takes is to cross the road.  Sometimes – as in this case – it is better to delay your return home and drive around the block for a while, rather than leave the safety of your vehicle, and potentially expose both yourself and your residence to violent criminals.