Editor’s Note: The following is a post by Ed Combs, the Associate Editor of Concealed Carry Magazine.
Check out the last five episodes in this series:
- Ep. 31 Should I Shoot? Self-Defense Amid a Riot
- Ep. 32 Should I Shoot? Threat Assessment in Cold Weather
- Ep. 33 Should I Shoot? The Late Night Prowler
- Ep. 34 Should I Shoot? ‘The Drop’
- Ep. 35 Should I Shoot? When All You Have Is Your Backup Gun
The “if he’s in my house, he’s dead” crowd might not like to hear it, but if you can avoid having to shoot somebody, for God’s sake, don’t shoot. For a healthy private citizen, there’s nothing even remotely pleasant about having to shoot someone other than the knowledge that you, who were prepared and trained to accomplish such an unpleasant task, were there when you were needed to preserve innocent life.
Making that decision can be hard, though. Dead’s dead, and bullets can’t be called back. Killing’s hard on the average person and, even though no one has much sympathy for the criminal, putting him down hard will be the worst chapter of a bad book for his family. If you don’t really have to shoot, I beg you not to.
Complicating matters further, deciding whether to shoot is almost never a red light, green light affair. Don’t complain; you knew that when you got your permit, and if you didn’t, let’s you and me go get some lunch at the park.
It’s a slow day — almost no one around — and let’s say that, on our way to the charity hot dog stand, I end up waiting outside a public bathroom for you to come out so we can continue our leisurely stroll. I’m concerned that I look like some kind of skulking pervert because I’m hanging around outside a men’s room in a public park, and thus distracted, before I realize what’s happened, a young man has what looks like a K-frame revolver with a 4-inch barrel stuck in my face. From where I’m standing, the bore on it looks about as big as an oil drum as he says, “Gimmie all you got.”
Slightly flexing his clenched fist back to threaten me with a pistol-whipping if I don’t comply, I’m pretty sure I see daylight for a fraction of a second; more accurately, I’m pretty sure I don’t see any cartridge rims between the cylinder and the frame. I slowly raise both of my hands into a traditional “surrender position” and agree to give him my property. He appears to slightly relax, and I slowly reach my left hand into the pocket that actually contains my backup gun.
Should I shoot?
I’ll say short answer “probably” and long answer “no, but…”
On the one hand, though I do pretty well for a fella who’s never worked as a firearms historian, I would never claim to have seen every last revolver on the planet. Additionally, in a situation like the one described here, I’m under terrible duress. This guy’s waving a gun in my face and demanding my property, which means that what he’s really saying is, “I’m ready to murder you. Give me your money.”
Did I see that right? Were there really no rims there, or did I misidentify nickel-plated cases against the bright white sky? Can I get a look at the chambers in the cylinder? Do I see anything that looks like bullet noses in there?
Or do I quit wasting my time, pretend to comply and then initiate stopping him before he finally decides to murder me?
But dammit… just by how big the gun seems in his hand and how the t-shirt is hanging off of him, this is a very young man, maybe even a kid in his mid-teens. If I shoot at him from here, I’m going to hit every time, and enough of these 88-grain jacketed hollow-points to stop the threat he presents will likely also kill him. He should have thought about that before sticking a gun in a stranger’s’ face, but killing a kid is still killing a kid, and killing a kid is to be avoided whenever possible.
Hang on… Is that a pellet gun? For use as training aides, plenty of pellet guns are manufactured to look and feel exactly like their legit counterparts. Atop that, the cylinders seem kind of small. Son of a… I think this kid is pointing a pellet gun at my face. Or is it one of the old .22-cal I-frame Smith & Wesson “Kit Guns” that he stole from somewhere? Even if it isn’t, a pellet through the eye or nose at this range could easily kill me. Didn’t I recently see an article or an ad or something about how some guy just took a 600-pound wild boar with a pellet gun?
Wait a second… I’m standing around outside a bathroom because I’m waiting for someone. When you come out, the kid pointing a revolver in my face will likely get spooked, and there’s a good chance he’s going to either shoot you or me or hold both of us at gunpoint.
It’s been a second. Time’s running out. I have to move. I have to give him my wallet or begin the process of stopping the threat that he poses. Giving him my wallet in no way guarantees my safety as he isn’t wearing a mask as almost all robbers do when they’re looking to get away clean.
Such a situation is a lot more common than you might think and, if you haven’t thought about a situation like this, you need to. You might live in an area where this kind of violent crime is rare or you might live in an area where it’s common. Either way, all Wal-Marts sell pellet guns and all criminals can get a hold of firearms.
Some kids do stupid, dangerous things.
Some pellet guns wind up in the hands of stupid, dangerous people.
Some stupid, dangerous kids wind up with firearms.
Some pellet guns will kill you as thoroughly as a firearm chambered in .22LR.
Some days are worse than others.
Should I shoot? Should I fight?
I’d love to hear your answer.
For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visit www.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.