You arrive home after dark. You get out of your car and walk to the side door of your house. The door is locked, but you don’t remember locking it. You head to the front of the house to try the front door. That is when you see a man come out of your house and move toward you. He has a knife in his hands and he threatens you.
You back away from your attacker, but he can move forward faster than you can back away. You own a gun. You’re carrying concealed tonight. You present your gun and shoot your attacker one time. You continue to back up and your attacker stops chasing you. Now he falls and you call 911.
Police disarm your attacker and EMS takes him to the hospital. You tell the police what happened. You go inside your home with the police. You notice that some money is missing.
Later, you find out your attacker died in the hospital.
I chose this story because it is probably the most common defensive encounter for the armed citizen. A recent report said that slightly over half of all defensive gun uses occur on our property, but outside our home. It is a place where many of us are armed and where criminals lie in wait. That might mean we were attacked as we stepped outside or as we arrived home and were walking up to our door.
This homeowner was armed when he returned home after dark. That may have been his constant habit. The news article also mentions a number of break ins nearby. For whatever reason, our defender’s head was up so he noticed someone coming out of his home. As obvious as that sounds, I’d like you to notice how many people have their head down and their attention on their phone as they walk out of a grocery store and try to find their car.
The defender’s attention to the world immediately around him gave him a faster response than if his attention was on his phone or on the mail he’d picked up at the curb. Those several seconds made the difference between keeping his distance and getting cut by his attacker.
For a sense of perspective, being attacked with a knife or cutting instrument is over 7 times more common than being attacked with any long gun like a rifle or shotgun. The defender’s sharpened attention was particularly valuable at night when it takes us longer to recognize what we are seeing, and to re-acquire a moving object.
This defender re-discovered what our instructor told us way back in our concealed carry class; an attacker can move forward faster than we can move backward. One way to reduce our disadvantage is to move to the side. That lets us keep our eyes on our attacker while reducing the disparity in speed.
There are other factors to consider. Leaving the hard-surface walkway might not be a good option if your yard is a mess. Snow, ice, and mud count as a “mess” too.
Many of us often have our hands full when we return home. We could be carrying a briefcase or a purse, a backpack or a few shopping bags. I have the mail in my hands at least once a day. Of course we want to drop that so we have both hands free. Like everything else, getting our hands into the fight takes practice.
Dropping things we don’t need isn’t obvious. Lots of police officers fought an attacker while carrying their notebook in their hands because the officer was holding the notebook when the fight started. They had to be taught to drop the things they don’t need. We can learn that too.
It doesn’t cost any more to go to the shooting range with a plastic shopping bag folded up in our range bag. At some ranges you can practice dropping your burden and moving to the side. At some ranges you can’t. We can always train to drop and move during dry practice at home.
The other thing we were taught so long ago is to shout. Words can do a number of things for us. Words tell the bad guy that we’ve seen him. Ignoring our words tells us about the stranger’s intent. Words also make us breathe.
I’ve seen lots of men and women who were holding their breath as they shot a stage in competition. Breathing makes us both smarter and stronger, so it is a good skill to learn.
Another advantage is that a loud shout will draw attention. It may turn some bystanders into eye witnesses. It will also turn some bystanders into ear witnesses. They can testify they heard us yell “STOP” before they heard a gunshot.
A final advantage to shouting is that the attacker might be tempted to reply. We want to shout, but we never want to talk. We want him to talk while we run away.
That said, there is a very real downside to shouting. The problem is that we’re tempted to talk. Try it for yourself in dry practice, but we can’t talk and shoot at the same time. That is why we shout one syllable commands like “NO” or “STOP” as we move and draw. Knowing when to shout is similar to knowing when to move. There is a time to move and there is a time to concentrate on presenting our firearm and pressing the trigger. There is a time to shout and a time to use armed defense.
We are in a potentially violent encounter. We can’t think or defend ourselves when we’re talking. Get someplace out of danger before you bother to talk. Also, most aggravated assaults occur when the attacker is intoxicated. Arguing with an addict is a waste of our precious attention. Just like movement and like getting our hands empty and ready to fight, shouting takes practice. Be prepared that shouting will draw strange looks at the gun range.
If our shouts didn’t draw attention, our gunshots probably will. Given my luck, my neighbors would look outside and call in a report of a man in the street holding a gun. That is another reason we want to call 911 and ask for help. We’ll tell the dispatcher where we are, what we need, and how we’re dressed. We also want to keep an eye on our attacker, and particularly on his weapon.
We want to reholster our gun when we can, but we definitely want to put our gun away before the police arrive.
I’ve written about staying at the scene, what to say to the police, the advantages of having a carry permit, and having a lawyer to call. There is always more to learn even from an ordinary defense like this one.
-Rob Morse highlights the latest self-defense and other shootings of the week. See what went wrong, what went right, and what we can learn from real-life self-defense with a gun. Even the most justified self-defense shooting can go wrong, especially after the shot. Get the education, the training, and the liability coverage you and your family deserve.
About Rob Morse
Rob writes about gun rights at Ammoland, at Clash Daily, at Second Call Defense, and on his SlowFacts blog. He hosts the Self Defense Gun Stories Podcast and co-hosts the Polite Society Podcast. Rob was an NRA pistol instructor and combat handgun competitor.