Editor’s Note: The following is post is from Sammy Reese, a former Marine Corps Artillery Officer and retired police officer from California. He is a part-time range master for the police department he retired from as well as a life-long martial artist and combatives coach.
Check out the last five episodes in this series:
- Ep. 16 Should I Shoot? Why You Need to Always Be in Condition Yellow
- Ep. 17 Should I Shoot? The War on Police Officers
- Ep. 18 Should I Shoot? Why A Gun-Mounted Light Isn’t Enough
- Ep. 19 Should I Shoot? Software Upgrade
- Ep. 20 Should I Shoot? Why You Must Learn to Use As Many Firearms As Possible
I was recently asked two kind-of-similar questions about what gun should be acquired for defense against animals. The first was by a buddy who was heading out on a fly fishing trip in bear country. The other was a friend who was attacked by a dog while he was out running and wanted to get a small gun he could carry to protect himself from another attack.
What I will say about bear guns is don’t get one so powerful you are afraid to shoot it. On the flip side, don’t get one so small in caliber that you won’t be able to stop a determined bear. You will also have to learn what types of bears you might encounter while on your trip. Black bears are the smallest but are to be taken seriously and are definitely not in the same weight class as an interior grizzly. (The last thing I’ll say about handguns for bears is that my preference for bear defense is my .45-70 guide gun loaded with Buffalo Bore hard cast ammo or my Remington 870 loaded with slugs.)
“Should I shoot the charging pit bull that is about to maul me?” may sound like an easy decision to make, but it’s one that comes with almost as much post-incident drama and stress as using a handgun to defend yourself against a violent attack from a thug with a baseball bat. During my time working the streets and on SWAT, I had my share of being up close and personal with pissed-off pit bulls. Once, I had a brand-new pair of uniform pants ripped down by my ankle by a 2-pound Chihuahua, but that, as they say, is a story for another time. Before anyone starts typing the hate mail about me picking on pits, let me say I have a bunch of friends who have great pits of all shapes and sizes. Sadly, the dog of choice to make into a mean “protective” dog where I worked is the pit.
On a few occasions, dogs have had to be shot to defend an officer or a citizen. As a dog guy, it was always sad to see. My preference was to use OC spray or a fire extinguisher. In fact, I think I still have the record for most deployments of fire extinguishers without fires in my department. OC or pepper spray was like a force field when applied to the face of a pissed-off dog, and the extinguishers took the fight right out of them and off they went.
As a guy who used to run a lot, I always had a small canister of OC spray and a small revolver (NAA pug) loaded with snake shot and some .22 Mag solids just in case the OC didn’t work. Today my back won’t let me run as much, but I do walk and hike a lot and still carry the same gear in a chest rig made by the guys at Hill People Gear. If the less-lethal options don’t work and you make the decision to use a firearm to defend yourself, all the rules of deploying a firearm are in place, especially in populated neighborhoods. Don’t become so focused on the threat that you lose sight of what and who might be beyond the target.
For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visit www.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.