Hope you never
need to shoot.

[ Overview | Self Defense | Reasonable | Yes, No, Maybe |
Reporting | Talk with LE | Defending Others | Defending Property ]


First, I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. Thus anything you receive here is worth, in court, exactly what you paid for it . . . . nothing.

This is NOT legal advise, nor should it be construed as such.

That said, what I have here are things for your consideration, if you have, or are contemplating obtaining, a Concealed Carry License. The source for this information is reading I have done in many books, some from lawyers, some from people known as "firearms experts", and many from law enforcement professionals. You will not see major quotes from any of those sources to assure there is no possibility of copyright violations. When three or more of these sources talk about the same items, I believe those items are important for you to think about. If you find any of these items of use, I suggest you contact a lawyer for complete and accurate details that will apply to where YOU live, since many of these items vary significantly from state to state.

Self Defense

Self defense is a process of countermeasures that can be used to maintain your well-being against attack/harm from another.

The very first thing you need to decide/know is what IS self defense? How do you define it, how will others define it, how will law enforcement look at what you did, and finally, what will the courts think of what you did?

The very best self defense is avoidance! If you are not involved in an incident, you do not need to take action against it. You can most readily do that by not doing stupid things, by not being with people who are doing stupid things, and by not going into areas that are known for being at high risk for stupidity. Easy, right? (roll eyes) If you consume alcohol, doing so at home as opposed to in a bar, helps keep the stupidity away. In fact, drinking while carrying your gun can land you in jail, in some states, just for that combination.

In general, what rules apply?

A few definitions may be of use:

  1. Assault: Assault happens when you make someone fear immediate physical harm.
  2. Battery: Battery is the unwanted and deliberate touching of another person.
  3. Brandishing: Brandishing is when you show a dangerous weapon in a rude, or threatening way.
  4. Disorderly Conduct: Conduct is disorderly if it causes an inconvenience, annoyance or alarm.
  5. Accidental killing: A death that happened when you did something otherwise legal, that you thought would not cause harm. Note: This is mentioned only so that you do not say "the gun just went off" and thus eliminate any possibility of claiming self defense.

What is "Reasonable"

Reasonable is best defined as: ordinary, cautious, responsible, sober, and slow to anger.

If you are involved in a self defense shooting, one of the first things to be determined is would a "reasonable person" have done the same thing, in the same situation, with the same knowledge that you have, with the same experience you have, with the same strengths you have, and the same weaknesses you have? If the answer is yes, then most likely you will not end up in jail for defending yourself.

If you were forced to defend yourself was:

AOJ Triad

AOJ is an acronym for Ability, Opportunity, Jeopardy. This "triad" makes it much easier to determine if what you did was reasonable self defense.

Ability: Does your attacker have the ability to bring physical harm to you? Stated another way, does he have a weapon, or physical superiority that would enable him/her to adversely affect your well-being? If not, it is NOT self defense.

Opportunity: Does your attacker have the immediate opportunity to adversely affect your well-being? If it is not immediate, it is not self defense.

Jeopardy: Are you in immediate jeopardy if you do not take action? If not, it is NOT self defense.

Tueller Drill

A Sergeant Tueller of the Salt Lake City PD developed a set of guidelines to define when a person with a knife was "too close" for a person to draw a holstered hand gun and make a defensive shot. He tested people of assorted ages and abilities and found amazing consistency in the distance . . . 21 feet. So if someone says when does a person with a knife become "too close" to defend yourself, Sgt. Tueller says 21 feet.

Failure Drill

One other "drill" to think about is . . now . . called the failure drill. With this you shoot two rounds COM and then a third round center of face (COF). Many will object to shooting COF saying that if the first two shots did their job, an attempt at a "kill shot" will leave you liable for prosecution. Talk with your lawyer about this, but I think that if you get in the habit of shooting two COM and are getting ready for the COF, the head will . . not . . be there in your sights if the first two shots did their job. If you see his ugly mug in your sights, you NEED the third shot.

Yes, No or a Firm Maybe?

This is the part that drives me nutzo. There are significant numbers of specifics that vary, DEPENDING ON WHICH STATE YOU LIVE IN, for what you can legally do. An example to set the stage: Someone breaks in to your house, has a weapon, threatens you, can you shoot them? Answer? It depends on many other factors and primarily with the state you live in. In one state (and I'll not mention which ones, to stay away from seeming to attempt to provide legal advise), if he is on your property, you may be justified in shooting. In another state, he must be IN YOUR HOUSE, and you have tried to get away before you are justified. Notice the HUGE difference?

The time to fix the roof, is while the sun is shining. That's another way to say, READ the laws for your state, and if you have any questions, talk with a lawyer for clarification. You need that information BEFORE you shoot, to keep your negative contacts with law enforcement to a minimum.


One item that some/many overlook is that, in general, the first person calling 911 will be considered the "victim". This because a BG seldom reports himself, unless he thinks he can get YOU in trouble by doing that. For example: Three toughs come up to you and say something like "your money or your life" while holding their hands in their pockets pointing a finger as if it were a gun. You pull your pistol and suddenly they find need of their presence elsewhere. If you immediately dial 911 and report the incident, LE believes that you are the victim. If you do not report it, you can get hauled in for brandishing.
If possible, be the first to report the incident.

The other things you can do to make yourself look like a BG are:

Talk with LE right after a shooting?

There are many an opinion about if you should talk with Law Enforcement just after you shoot someone in self defense. Some say your first words need to be "I'll be happy to talk with you once my lawyer arrives." Others say you need to say just enough to clearly establish that: 1) you were the victim, 2) VERY briefly what happened, 3) the FACT that you felt your life was in jeopardy, and 4) that you felt you had no other option but to shoot. THEN . . SHUT . . UP!

IMO, I would use the latter approach. If you disagree, PLEASE talk with your lawyer and do what the two of you agree on.

Mas Ayoob has some thoughts on this that you may want to consider.

One VERY important thing to remember is to NEVER look like you are a threat to Law Enforcement!
If your look, attitude or dimeanor in any way implies a threat to LE, trust me, YOU will come out on the short end of the stick. - - - If you feel that the officer you are dealing with has his head where the sun doesn't shine . . . the time to resolve that issue IS LATER! Don't argue with them, yell, strenuously object, or in any way do anything that implies a threat to the officer. Should you appear to be a threat to the officer, plan on having a gun screwed in your ear to get your atterntion! The time to resolve those issues is when your lawyer is in attendence and the situation is calm.

Defense of Others

In simplest terms, it is recommended that you NOT use a gun to defend anyone (except in the case of mass shooting) that is not within your family. The reason is complex, yet quite simple; if you come upon an incident where you might be tempted to defend someone you do not know, from another person attacking them . . . . just don't. The police have literally thousands of incidents where LE, in the case of a domestic dispute, go into a situation to help one of the combatants, only to find that when they get involved, BOTH parties will defend each other and attack the "rescuer". Just stay out of it. You say "but what if two guys are beating up on a third guy?" Well . . . what if those two guys are undercover cops attempting to arrest a felon? You pull a gun on an officer, and I believe the end result will not be good . . . for you.

To summarize, IMO, if the third party is not family AND it is not an "active shooter", just stay out of it. Be a good witness and dial 911.

I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. As such, it is UP TO YOU to decide what YOU will do, how you will do it, and when.

Defense of Property

Everything that I read tells me that defense of property is insufficient justification for the use of deadly force, with the exception of arson. As I understand it, if a BG is about to set your house on fire, you do have justification for the use of deadly force.

E-mail at: w0ipl@arrl.net