Ep. 35 Should I Shoot? When All You Have Is Your Backup Gun

Editor’s Note: The following is a post 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:

I was having one of those days where, as soon as the alarm sounded, I opened my eyes and knew it was going to be a long day. One of the messed up discs in my lower back didn’t like the way I had slept that night and it was pissed at me. While I was getting dressed, I knew a gun in the waistband was going to be out of the question until the pain subsided. It usually took a few hours to a few days for it to settle down — a routine I am all too familiar with.

I had some errands to run and left the house with “just” a J-Frame in my pocket along with a couple of speed strips — not my preferred load out, but it was better than a challenge coin and my Yojimbo2 folding knife. I will say I practice with my snubbie quite a bit and am comfortable with it out to 25 yards — not bullseye worthy, but I can put hits on an IPSC silhouette and I practice doing reloads. Like I said, it’s better than being completely unarmed.

While I was out, I got a call from a buddy asking me to meet him at the food court at the local mall for lunch. He owed me lunch, so I told him I would meet him there. While I was waiting for him, I did some people watching and started to work on some “what if?” questions, like, “What would I do if a guy with a knife started stabbing people?” or, “What would I do if a guy with a gun went active?”

Realizing I had “just” a J-Frame, I was confident I could handle a single-threat engagement. I got a sick feeling in my gut when I considered what I’d do if multiple armed threats started shooting up the mall. I knew I’d have to either be really lucky to prevail when engaging multiple threats with essentially a backup gun or do my best and hope my maker was ready for me to take my post guarding the pearly gates.

When my buddy walked up, he asked me if I was feeling OK. The feeling in my stomach had caused me to have a sick look on my face. When I told him about my “what if?” questions, my predicament of being too sore to carry my G19 and that I was rolling with my J-Frame, he threw some words I’ve used many times: “You gotta rung the bell you brung and make the best of it.”

“This is California, bro, so the odds of another armed citizen being there to help or maybe an off-duty cop are pretty slim,” he said. “At least you are armed and you have the will to fight for what is right. I hope you are around when my wife and kids are here shopping even if you just have a J-Frame. I’m hungry. Let’s eat.”

Are you prepared to do what’s right mentally and physically (skill wise)? Or are you carrying a full-size pistol and four magazines but haven’t been to the range in a year?

If you are always ready, you don’t have to get ready!

For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visit www.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Brian April 7, 2017, 2:45 am

    This Sammy reese guy has never had to shoot

    I have and all the stupid “what if” scenarios don’t do shit to help you.

    There is no training that gets you ready to shoot and kill somebody.

    You can either keep your head or not. You can either shoot or you can’t

    And I don’t care what the law says be prepared to hire an attorney.

  • Marv January 27, 2017, 10:44 am

    Twice I used my back-up snub. Once when my Beretta 92 failed after being shot at. Cramped my pants. The second time I took it to court, and upon returning home was called in to work and got caught up in a Jamaican drug deal. After that I put it n the safe where it still sits.

  • Mongo January 2, 2017, 6:10 pm

    I can identify with the wicked discs, and sometimes all you have is the backup to your EDC. When my back is giving me the blues and a light pistol (with 2 reloads) is all I can manage, I will not worry myself into a tizzy about it. I practice often, even using a folding chair to simulate seated in public. When I can only carry light, my situational awareness is the following:
    1. Where are the exits?
    2. What kind of cover/concealment is around?
    3. How will I get my wife out quickly?
    And that is all. I am only prepared as I’m gonna be at the time, and if I’m not getting shot at, I’m outta there. If I’m taking fire, then I will defend myself. You can’t “what if” too much, it does you no good. Be armed, be ready and be right with God, cuz that’s all its going to boil down to. Practice, practice, practice, then practice again. Most bad guys will (hopefully) run once someone is shooting back at them, and if not, then give them hell, even if its only with your backup. Remember, its not the dog in the fight, its the fight in the dog.

  • Chris January 2, 2017, 3:47 am

    Great article. I know a Dallas Sergeant that took out three guys with a five shot chief during an IHOP robbery in 1980. He was legendary for it because God was looking out for him and it was a miracle. I roll with nothing less than a Glock 19 because so many crimes are being committed by teams now.

  • Stevie December 31, 2016, 2:24 pm

    So glad I can go meet a friend at a food court at the local mall and not suffer a panic attack dreaming up “what if” scenarios. Carrying a firearm is good, but don’t let it keep you from enjoying life. If something bad happens, I’ll do my best. If that’s not enough, at least I didn’t spend my entire life afraid of everyone and everything.

  • Robert Novak December 30, 2016, 9:05 pm

    If you haven’t already thought well and hard about using your firearm, and the different scenarios where you may have to, then you shouldn’t be carrying. If you don’t have the mindset to take a life in defense of your own, then you shouldn’t be carrying. I think we all know this, at least those of us who have made these decisions, and thought through these various scenarios.

  • Steve December 30, 2016, 9:58 am

    Am I going to die anyway, they’re mowing everyone down? Shoot! Am I totally out gunned and can get out alive, if I don’t shoot? Probably don’t shoot. And I with someone I must protect and can’t get away unless I take someone out? Shoot. I think many of us have contemplated this. What we’ll do, we won’t know until it happens, and it’ll happen quick if it does. Hopefully it never does for any of us. If it happens, let me be in bed, fully awake, and already reached for my weapon, and got to the top of the stairs where I know I’ll only take out the perps. At that point, I’m fine, they aren’t. We’ve got a responsibility to plan, and train.

  • Billybob December 30, 2016, 9:39 am

    Are you sure you want to roll the dice for someone else ? Can you afford the out come ? (legal–damage– what if you get hurt or shot is it worth it ? Are you sure you know who the bad guy is ? Can you afford time off from work ? Will you still have a job afterward ? Is that person going to be there for you afterwards ? What are they going to tell the police ?
    1. Call 911
    2. Officer this person attacked me, I will sign the complaint,
    3. Officer here is the evidence (knife, gun, ball bat, whatever).
    4. Officer these are the witnesses.
    5. Officer you will have my full cooperation in 24 hrs after I see my attorney.May 13, 2013
    10 things you should NEVER do after a self defense shootingWhen it comes to armed self defense, it\\’s usually not the shooting itself that trips you up legally. More often than not, it\\’s what you do afterward that gets you in hot water.Here are 10 things you should avoid after using your gun in self defense. Never …Call 911 in a panic. No matter how tough you are, your body and brain will be a mess after you pull the trigger and see a body lying on your living room floor. Take a moment to breath deeply, calm down, and get your thoughts in order before you call authorities. Consider learning 4-square breathing to relax.Leave the scene. Unless you\\’re in danger, stay put. You may feel an overwhelming need to seek out friends or family or run away, but don\\’t. That could be misinterpreted as fleeing the scene which could give the appearance of guilt.Move or tamper with evidence. It\\’s natural to want to \\”tidy up,\\” especially if you\\’re in your home. This is unwise. Touch nothing. If there are others nearby, make sure they do the same.Have your gun in your hand when the police arrive. Police will be responding to a \\”man with a gun\\” or \\”shots fired\\” call and won\\’t know who\\’s the good guy and who\\’s the bad guy. They will view anyone holding a gun as a threat and will deal with you as such. In short, reholster your gun or set it down if you don\\’t want to get shot.Make a statement to police before you talk to your lawyer. Police have a job to do and you need to be cooperative, but you don\\’t want to say too much because anything you say will be used against you. What should you say? There are many opinions on this, but here is one formulation:My gun is laying over there, and that is the gun that I used to shoot my attacker in self defense because I feared for my life. I do not want to say anything else until I have had time to talk to my attorney. I want to cooperate with the investigation completely, but I\\’m very upset right now and I need to talk to my attorney first. I hope you understand.Fall for good cop bad cop. You think you\\’re too smart to fall for this routine, but you\\’re not. You\\’ll be upset and you\\’ll want to talk, especially to anyone who appears sympathetic. Law enforcement officers are not necessarily your enemy, but they\\’re not your friend either. Shut up. Talk to your lawyer before you make any statement to police.Try your case on the spot. Police have more than one way to get you to talk. Aside from good cop bad cop, they might challenge your use of lethal force. You\\’ll want to argue your case, but don\\’t. Again, shut up. You\\’re not a lawyer and you\\’re not in a courtroom, not yet anyway.Lecture police on the law or your rights. One of the worst things you can do is get belligerent or act superior. Police are human beings and will react like anyone else if you challenge their authority, belittle their intelligence, or talk down to them. No matter what police say, even if they say or do something you believe to be incorrect, this isn\\’t the time to get into a debate.Fail to use the word \\”sir.\\” Most police are good, decent people who have a difficult job. Treat them with respect. Phrases such as \\”yes sir\\” and \\”no sir\\” will go a long way toward showing responding officers that you are the respectable, upstanding citizen you know yourself to be.Be surprised if you\\’re treated like a criminal. It\\’s best to assume that you will be handcuffed, placed prone on the ground, locked in the back of a cruiser, or even jailed. It takes time to sort out the truth of any shooting, and police are likely to do any or all of these things. Don\\’t take it personally. Don\\’t resist or argue. Cooperate fully and just let it all happen. Of course, if you\\’re a member of Second Call Defense, you\\’ll have immediate help to sort things out. But even if you\\’re not, take it all in stride.

    • LJ January 2, 2017, 10:38 am

      Well said! Just hope and pray it never happens but be prepared if it does …

    • Mike October 14, 2017, 2:48 pm

      Just shoot the cop. Damn pigs.

  • Billybob December 30, 2016, 8:44 am

    IS YOUR LIFE IN DANGER ? CAN YOU AFFORD THE LEGAL EXPENSE TO PROTECT SOMEONE ELSE ? IS PROTECTING SOMEONE ELSE WORTH GOING TO JAIL FOR IF I AM WRONG SHOOTING ?

    • Alan Yates December 30, 2016, 11:25 am

      It would depend on whether or not YOU were the “someone else” and needed someone to protect you, wouldn’t it? IF you are wrong the doom is on you to know the difference. If you were wrong then you weren’t protecting anyone else.

      • Billybob December 30, 2016, 11:17 pm

        Your friends doesn\’t have a ccw permits ? Are your friends felons ? My friends have ccw permits ! My wife has her ccw permit ! My wife\’s first NFA weapon was a DD ! Bet she owns more mg\’s than you have ever shot ! They write poems about your friends !
        God Will Save Me ! A terrible storm came into a town and local officials sent out an emergency warning that the riverbanks would soon overflow and flood the nearby homes. They ordered everyone in the town to evacuate immediately.A faithful Christian man heard the warning and decided to stay, saying to himself, “I will trust God and if I am in danger, then God will send a divine miracle to save me.”The neighbors came by his house and said to him, “We’re leaving and there is room for you in our car, please come with us!” But the man declined. “I have faith that God will save me.”As the man stood on his porch watching the water rise up the steps, a man in a canoe paddled by and called to him, “Hurry and come into my canoe, the waters are rising quickly!” But the man again said, “No thanks, God will save me.”The floodwaters rose higher pouring water into his living room and the man had to retreat to the second floor. A police motorboat came by and saw him at the window. “We will come up and rescue you!” they shouted. But the man refused, waving them off saying, “Use your time to save someone else! I have faith that God will save me!”The flood waters rose higher and higher and the man had to climb up to his rooftop.A helicopter spotted him and dropped a rope ladder. A rescue officer came down the ladder and pleaded with the man, \\”Grab my hand and I will pull you up!\\” But the man STILL refused, folding his arms tightly to his body. “No thank you! God will save me!”Shortly after, the house broke up and the floodwaters swept the man away and he drowned.When in Heaven, the man stood before God and asked, “I put all of my faith in You. Why didn’t You come and save me?”And God said, “Son, I sent you a warning. I sent you a car. I sent you a canoe. I sent you a motorboat. I sent you a helicopter. What more were you looking for?” (dam you go to hell)

        • Vinny December 31, 2016, 10:56 am

          God Is Good

  • Ron Stidham December 30, 2016, 5:04 am

    I have those same pissed off discs, and they are not at all friendly. Being ready with what you have is better than nothing. I carry a full 5″ 1911 in 45, my other carry is M&P 40. Neither gun is small, but if you them with you, BG beware. I have no dream of saving the world, just the world I’m in at the moment. Inside the waist band is good, holstered the same. Being ready all the time is not a easy thing to do. But at least you are able to make the difference in your life. and maybe some one else’s. Be shure of. the mall time back ground, and do what you have trained to do.

  • Will Drider December 24, 2016, 11:18 am

    Some folks primary carry guns are less capable then your BUG J frame. Some don’t carry a single reload. Different strokes for different folks.
    When working with a limited capability, your tactics are also limited: engagement distance, number of rounds per BG (if all hit), your capability compaired to BGs, whether you go offensive, defensive only or cover egress. Of note, there are different duty obligations for a citizen then a LE Office, even one “off duty”.
    As a Rule, some people run towards the battle, others away, we are internally wired that way. Now put that aside along with any moral obligation to try and save others. Why? Because other law abiding citizens generally have the same opertunity to CC, OC, Train and be able to help defend themselves and chose not to. Those who follow the misguided mantra of LE will protect or save them from crime or harm are often disappointed, if they live. It is almost unbelievable that the majority of people still don’t consider protecting their own life or their families, as a priority.

    • Billybob December 30, 2016, 9:44 am

      God Will Save MeA terrible storm came into a town and local officials sent out an emergency warning that the riverbanks would soon overflow and flood the nearby homes. They ordered everyone in the town to evacuate immediately.A faithful Christian man heard the warning and decided to stay, saying to himself, “I will trust God and if I am in danger, then God will send a divine miracle to save me.”The neighbors came by his house and said to him, “We’re leaving and there is room for you in our car, please come with us!” But the man declined. “I have faith that God will save me.”As the man stood on his porch watching the water rise up the steps, a man in a canoe paddled by and called to him, “Hurry and come into my canoe, the waters are rising quickly!” But the man again said, “No thanks, God will save me.”The floodwaters rose higher pouring water into his living room and the man had to retreat to the second floor. A police motorboat came by and saw him at the window. “We will come up and rescue you!” they shouted. But the man refused, waving them off saying, “Use your time to save someone else! I have faith that God will save me!”The flood waters rose higher and higher and the man had to climb up to his rooftop.A helicopter spotted him and dropped a rope ladder. A rescue officer came down the ladder and pleaded with the man, \”Grab my hand and I will pull you up!\” But the man STILL refused, folding his arms tightly to his body. “No thank you! God will save me!”Shortly after, the house broke up and the floodwaters swept the man away and he drowned.When in Heaven, the man stood before God and asked, “I put all of my faith in You. Why didn’t You come and save me?”And God said, “Son, I sent you a warning. I sent you a car. I sent you a canoe. I sent you a motorboat. I sent you a helicopter. What more were you looking for?” (dam you go to hell)

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