When a Gun is the Wrong Thing to Use

Many of us look at guns as the ultimate in self-defense weapons. I say us, because I have to include myself amongst that group. I’ve legally carried a gun for a number of years and feel half-naked without it. I go to the range regularly, especially to tactical shoots. My gun is a part of my life and I expect it to stay that way until I’m gone. But I’ve come to realize that there are times when a gun is the wrong thing to use.

Granted, these times may be few and far between, but they exist. I’ve seen too many cases of well-meaning, law-abiding people using their guns in the wrong way and end up suffering for it. Even worse, I’ve seen cases where their incorrect use of their guns has caused others to suffer needlessly. So, I’ve become more cautious about my personal use of a gun.

In many cases, patience is the thing to use, waiting for the ideal time to draw, when you have surprise, a clear shot and no innocents in the background. Let me show you what I mean. Drawing a gun in these situations could end in disaster, either for yourself or for someone else there.

Crowded Rooms

One of my personal nightmare scenarios is someone coming into church to rob the congregation. While that isn’t common, it can happen. Most people will panic in that situation and start running back and forth, some directly in your line of sight to the bad guys. Pulling a gun at that point would put everyone in danger, as the bad guys might just decide to open fire.

The 2012 shooting at the premier of the Batman movie in Aurora, Colorado is an ideal example. The shooter walked into a place where people were unlikely to be armed and opened fire. He was able to gain access by propping an emergency exit open earlier in the day.

One of the people in that crowded theatre was a concealed carry holder. Although they were armed that night, they didn’t bother to draw. There wasn’t a good shot. Any shot they took would be just as likely to hit an innocent as to hit the shooter. There was little chance of successfully stopping the gunman and plenty of chance of killing someone else.

The law holds you and I responsible for every bullet that leaves the muzzles of our guns.

If a frightened victim runs across our line of sight, right when we pull the trigger, we’ll be charged with murder, plain and simple. Good intentions don’t matter, what matters is that we shot an innocent bystander.

Remember, in a crisis situation like this, it’s easy to develop tunnel vision. That prevents you from being able to see the other people in the room clearly. So, you might not even see the person you shoot, because of being focused on the criminal. Better to wait until you have a good shot or just hide and hope that you’ll be safe.

When You’re Incapacitated


Anyone who has spent any time on the shooting range knows that you have to be at the top of your game to make a shot go in the X ring. Have you ever tried going to the range when you were sick? How would your shooting be then? Is it safe to say that you’d be lucky to keep them all in the seven ring, let alone the X ring?

I have problems with high blood sugar, which require that I take medication. If I’m not careful about eating at the right times, the medication can cause my blood sugar to drop too low, which results in unclear thinking, shaky hands and general weakness. I had that happen to me one time at the range, right in the middle of my shooting. I instantly went from shooting a one inch group to shooting a ten inch one.

There are lots of situations that can cause you to be incapacitated, at least to some extent. Being out of breath from running may not seem like it, but it is one. Years ago I shot in an Army “Patton Match.” Part of that particular competition was that you had to run two miles before going on the shooting line. Try shooting sometime when you’re out of breath like that, your gun sights will be all over the target, the sky and the target next to you. Better to wait, if you can, until you are breathing normally.

Alcohol is another big problem. Many of us drink, at least some; and we all tend to say that we’re okay when we’ve only had a couple of drinks. Are you sure? Have you ever tried shooting like that? Do you know that you can still hit the target or is that bravado talking? Be careful.

When it Can Accelerate the Situation

Situations can vary a lot, so we have to realize that not all altercations require a gun. Sometimes, pulling out a gun in the face of a bad guy can cause them to start shooting, not cause them to run away. You’ve got to read the situation, paying special attention to trying to understand the thinking of the bad guy. If you can get inside their head, you might be able to figure out how to diffuse the situation, without having to draw your gun.

The gym I go to has a lot of guys who look like gang members. They’re in much better shape than me, tend to hang out together and tend to do what they want, no matter who is in their way. There were a few times I stopped in to exercise on my way home. Since I had a pocket pistol with me, I ended up exercising armed. That was a bit weird.

Okay, so I’m outnumbered by guys who are obviously bigger and stronger than me, who look like they could break me in half if they wanted to. If they threatened me, would I have been justified in drawing my gun? From a purely legal point of view, I would have been. But that may not have been the smart thing to do. Instead of getting them to back off, I just might have started a riot there in the gym.

Not everyone who is acting aggressively has violent intentions. This is even true of those who are armed. A kid with a gun who is claiming that they are going to shoot anyone who gets close may just be scared. In that case, pulling a gun just may make them start firing, either at you or at themselves. Life is too valuable to take risks like that. You’re better off not drawing until you’re sure you need to use the gun.


When You’re Being Physically Attacked

This one sounds contradictory, but if there’s a guy who is hitting you, grabbing you or otherwise in direct bodily contact with you, don’t draw. If they are that close, they may just manage to take your gun away from you, before you can fire. If not, they could bat it aside, causing you to shoot an innocent bystander.

When faced with a situation like that, you’re better off pushing away and getting some distance from them, before drawing. That way, you have the room to use your pistol, even if you’re shooting instinctively from the waist. Your shot will most likely go where you want it to and there will be less risk of your assailant getting it out of your hands.

The longer you can wait to draw, the more likely you are to surprise them. Trained fighters will recognize a move towards a gun for what it is, so if you move to draw, but then find that you can’t, you’ll have given away your tactical advantage. Learn how to fight without a gun, so that if you have to, you can fight your way to a place and time where you can use it effectively.

A Final Thought

Looking at these various scenarios, I see one common trait that must become an important part of all our training; the ability to draw your gun quickly and smoothly, even when you are out of position. When the time becomes right to draw, you can’t afford to waste any time at all. You’ve got to get your gun into action, before they can do anything.

This is a great thing to add to your dry-fire practice. Most ranges won’t allow you to practice drawing and firing, for safety reasons. By doing it as part of your dry fire, you maintain safety, while getting the necessary training.

As part of your practice in drawing a gun, work on being able to get the gun’s sights aligned on the target, without looking at the gun. I do this by keeping my eyes closed until I have the gun raised and pointed at the target; then I open my eyes. The goal is to be able to open your eyes and see the sights properly aligned and pointed at the target. I’m not there yet, but I’m still working on it.

Dave Steen

About The Author: Dave is a 58 year old survivalist; father of three; with over 40 years of survival experience. He started young, learning survival the hard way, in the school of hard knocks. Now, after years of study, he's gray-haired and slightly overweight. That hasn't dimmed his interest in survival though. If anything, Dave has a greater commitment to survival than ever, so that he can protect his family. Click Here To Read More About Dave

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