Defending Against an Active Shooter

 

On his podcast last week, Michael Bane talked about altering our practice to accommodate the new reality of Islamic terrorism. In essence, we should prepare ourselves to deal with some of the same kind of things that Israel has been dealing with since about 1947 or so (Thankfully without the hordes of invading T-62′s for now, at least.).

Since at least the early ’70s, the paradigm in the United States for armed personal defense has been defending against street crime: Muggers and rapists were our greatest worry, not a re-creation of Charlie Hebdo on American soil. Sadly, those days are in the past. We’re no longer worried about the bad guy coming within bad-breath distance to do us harm, now we also need to worry about attackers with rifles whose intentions aren’t to rob us, but to kill us in the name of their god. Because there is nothing that an active shooter with a rifle wants from you besides your death, the distance of a potential deadly encounter is significantly increased, which affects how we practice and train with our defensive pistol.

The next time you’re out and about, take a look at the entrance to a shopping mall, movie theater or office building. Where is there possible concealment from an attacker? Where is there cover? Do you know how to tell the difference between the two? How far is cover away from where a shooter might be? When’s the last time you practiced at similar distances? I was somewhat amazed this week when I paced off the distance between the closest cover to the entrance of my local big blue discount store and found out it was over forty yards from a safe place behind a concrete planter to the front doors of the store. That can be a challenging distance for accurate pistol fire, especially under very stressful conditions.

Up until now, the longest shot I’ve taken practicing with my pistol is ten yards, as part of an El Presidenté drill, because that’s close to the upper edge of distance I would see in a practical shooting match, and until now, is about as far as I needed to worry about for self-defense. The reality of an active shooting situation is somewhat different, with the distance between a killer and the intended victims ranging between a few yards in a restaurant to 75 yards across an Air Force base parking lot. (Good shooting there, Airman.)

75 yards is… a challenge. I’ve trained at similar distances a couple of times, and I’ve experienced first-hand the benefits of a red dot sight on a defensive pistol at such a range. While a red dot pistol sight definitely helps your long-range accuracy, so does consistent practice with regular sights, but at smaller targets. Next time you practice, rather than blast away at a full-size torso target, spend a few minutes before you head out to the range and print out a 1/3 scale target, which will effectively triple your practice distance. Work on accuracy: Don’t just hit the X ring, hit the center of the X itself, on-demand. If you can shoot a pistol from alternate positions like kneeling or squatting at your range, do so, it will help with putting rounds on-target at longer distances.

The question of whether you should engage an active shooter with your defensive firearm is up to the individual: The variables for the situation will be unique to you and your circumstances if your (un)lucky number comes up and you have to deal with someone intent on killing you and your companions. However, having the skills and tools needed to save your life and the lives of those under your care can only help in those circumstances. Stay safe, have fun.

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  1. PHenry Member
    PHenry
    @PHenry

    Excuse the slightly off topic nature of my response, but I have been considering getting my CCW permit for just the reasons you outline in your post, but as I age I find I am not able to see my sights clearly enough to properly aim without reading glasses any more.  This has me concerned that I may not be wise to carry, as in any ‘active shooter’ type situation, I don’t think it would be realistic to think I could both pull and cock my weapon, as well as put on glasses or bifocals before I can fire. On the other hand, having a chance, even a diminished one, at protecting myself and others is better then just waiting for victim status…

    What is your advice to me on concealed carry?

    • #1
  2. Barry Jones Thatcher
    Barry Jones
    @BarryJones

    PHenry:Excuse the slightly off topic nature of my response, but I have been considering getting my CCW permit for just the reasons you outline in your post, but as I age I find I am not able to see my sights clearly enough to properly aim without reading glasses any more. This has me concerned that I may not be wise to carry, as in any ‘active shooter’ type situation, I don’t think it would be realistic to think I could both pull and cock my weapon, as well as put on glasses or bifocals before I can fire. On the other hand, having a chance, even a diminished one, at protecting myself and others is better then just waiting for victim status…

    What is your advice to me on concealed carry?

    Think about a laser sighting system. I use Crimson Trace as they are instinctive (for on and off) and the bullet hits about where the red dot is(depending on distance, ballistics of different ammunition bur close regardless)…other systems are pretty good, too. Laser sights can go a long way towards helping with older eyes (mine aren’t what they used to be either!).

    • #2
  3. PHenry Member
    PHenry
    @PHenry

    Barry Jones: Laser sights can go a long way towards helping with older eyes

    Thanks, I had been considering that, and wasn’t sure how much a laser sight might inhibit concealed carry/ holster and draw?

    • #3
  4. Byron Horatio Inactive
    Byron Horatio
    @ByronHoratio

    PHenry,

    Two potential solutions:

    1) XS Sights makes large after-market sights you can affix to any pistol. Would be a great improvement over factory ones.

    https://www.xssights.com/Products.aspx?CAT=8208

    2) Crimson Trace Lasers are pricey but in my eyes worth it. The laser firs to the pistol handle or under the barrel in such a way so that it does not affect the ability to holster it.

    • #4
  5. Byron Horatio Inactive
    Byron Horatio
    @ByronHoratio

    Kevin,

    I read an article after the Paris attacks about “anchor shots” wherein the writer suggested the new urban threat necessitated a finishing head shots even when the assailant was neutralized or mortally wounded. It’s not a new concept. We called a variation of this double tap” in the service.

    The practical reason for the suggestion was that even if a downed suspect is no longer a threat in any other way, they still might activate a suicide belt on them.

    I’m curious if this is standard counter-terrorism police/SWAT protocol for attacks like these.

    • #5
  6. Sowell_for_President Member
    Sowell_for_President
    @

    All fine points.  I would add two things:

    1. Simply returning fire can be more important than returning fire accurately in situations in which bystanders are unlikely to be hit.  (For example, in the 1966 University of Texas tower shooting, certain bystanders returned fire from below without much hope of actually hitting the shooter.  But the shooter was thereby forced to conceal himself better, which limited his range of fire and probably slowed his rate of fire and so saved lives.);
    2. Simply drawing and pointing without firing at all can stop a shooter, who may have been expecting no resistance whatsoever.  (For example, in the 2013 Clackamas mall shooting in Oregon, the shooter killed himself after a citizen drew on him without firing.)

    But the most important thing is to remain aware of our surroundings and possible dangerous persons or areas, as you recommend, regardless whether we arm ourselves (but we should arm ourselves, too).

    • #6
  7. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton
    @KevinCreighton

    Byron Horatio: I read an article after the Paris attacks about “anchor shots” wherein the writer suggested the new urban threat necessitated a finishing head shots even when the assailant was neutralized or mortally wounded.

    I saw that article as well, and to be honest, it gave me moral indigestion. I get the idea behind what is essentially a coup de grace: The bad guy may down and out of the fight, but still have enough left in him to trigger a suicide vest. However, I’m not sure that’s an ethical bridge I’m willing to cross at this moment.

    • #7
  8. Sowell_for_President Member
    Sowell_for_President
    @

    Byron Horatio:I read an article after the Paris attacks about “anchor shots” wherein the writer suggested the new urban threat necessitated a finishing head shots even when the assailant was neutralized or mortally wounded….

    The practical reason for the suggestion was that even if a downed suspect is no longer a threat in any other way, they still might activate a suicide belt on them.

    Alas, what is practical is not always legal.  Be aware of criminal or civil liability (not that I need to tell you, I’m sure).

    • #8
  9. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton
    @KevinCreighton

    PHenry: What is your advice to me on concealed carry?

    Agree on the laser. I have one on my little pocket-carry Kel-Tec, and I like it because it allows you to focus 100% on the target and what the target is doing.

    Also, a friend of mine spent 20+ years with the Border Patrol and was head of training at a prestigious firearms facility in Arizona (yes, THAT one). He likes lasers because when he hit a suspect with a flashlight beam, nothing happened. When he pointed his gun at them, they might stop. If he put a laser dot on them, though, the bad guy ground to a halt and complied, because they knew whatever body part that laser dot fell on was in mortal peril.
    Great motivation to stay still and comply. :D

    • #9
  10. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    Good thoughts.  Realize that if the shooter has a long gun, you, the pistol shooter are starting at a disadvantage.  Good comments on staying alert and monitoring the environment, keeping SA on cover and concealment.

    Also, think a little on tactical patience.  LE, now, is training to move to the sound of the guns during an active shooter event, vice waiting for backup/SWAT.  An individual shooter needs to pause and assess.

    Can you make the shot?  I’ve been shooting for a while; a 75-yard pistol shot would give me pause.  Waiting, or repositioning to intercept the shooter during his movement through the scene may well be prudent, but will also cost lives.  Shooting back, even with little or no chance of hitting the target could disrupt the shooter’s plan and thus save lives–but will also highlight you and put you high on the shooter’s “to do” list, especially if there is more than one shooter.

    There may be some legal pretzel tricks if there is only one shooter, but administering a coup de grace probably won’t be an issue if it is an active shooter scenario.  There almost definitely won’t be legal peril if there are multiple shooters (salt that assessment to taste).

    On using precise terms precisely: the use of “double tap” should be avoided, sounds aggressive and heartless and will get you tangled up.  A “controlled pair” is sending out the second shot as soon as the trigger resets.

    • #10
  11. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    A controlled pair puts the second round about where the first went.  I highly recommend training to the point that issuing a controlled pair becomes muscle memory.  Anyone worth shooting once is worth shooting twice.

    A “Mozambique” is two to the chest, one to the head (press press, pause, press).  Strangely enough, in Mozambique they call it an Americano.  In an active shooter/multiple shooter scenario, you absolutely need to know (via Mozambique) that the shooter is down for the count.  It’s a matter of public safety.

    And, no matter how righteous the shoot was:  never, never, ever make a statement, written or oral, without legal representation present.

    • #11
  12. Barry Jones Thatcher
    Barry Jones
    @BarryJones

    I think from a tactical perspective, take a shot as soon as you can is generally a good idea (taking into consideration not to shoot into a crowd, etc). Make them respond to you instead of controlling the situation – disrupt the Shooter’s decision loop and (hopefully) force him (or them) to start reacting to someone else. The very act of forcing a reaction may save lives. That is not to say start indiscriminately start shooting, but take the shooters under aimed, controlled fire. If nothing else, they will start to duck – also a good thing.

    • #12
  13. Ron Selander Member
    Ron Selander
    @RonSelander

    PHenry,

    Get the CCW.  Then, get a laser for each handgun that you own!

    • #13

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