Exceptions To The Rule

There is no such thing as a typical gunfight.

posted on July 29, 2022
Sheriff Jim Wilson

One of the things that makes us a harder target in terms of our personal defense is to study actual criminal attacks and gunfights. Through study of these actual encounters, we begin to understand the dynamics that are involved. We learn that things are not always what they seem to be. We learn that things can happen in an almighty hurry. We learn that crooks like to run in packs.

The problem comes when we begin to rely too much on the patterns that we might see in these criminal’s encounters.  “Well, this is the way armed robberies usually happen,” or “The average home invasion goes down like this,” can be fatal mistakes in thinking. There are always exceptions to the rule and here are three that the armed citizen should consider.

A study of citizen-involved gunfights will show that the vast majority of them involve only 4 to 6 shots being fired. The thing to remember is that there are no average gunfights; the fight is going to be what it is going to be. Extra ammo might actually be needed.

I am also reminded of a law-enforcement friend who, while patrolling in his squad, somehow managed to depress his pistol’s magazine release. When he got out on a hot call, his magazine fell out on the ground. A speed load of a fresh magazine got him quickly back in the fight.

At least one extra reload should be the minimum for the armed citizen. You may never need it, but it may be that reload that saves your life.

Another thing that statistics will show us is that most citizen-involved gunfights occur at rather close range. We’re talking 5 yards or less. Just keep in mind that ever so often we get reports of defensive shootings at much greater distances.  You may recall a recent report involving some 40 yards distance.  And, not long ago I wrote up Bill Hickok’s 1865, Springfield gunfight in which he was fired on and returned fire at 75 yards. 

When I first went into law enforcement, never mind exactly how long ago that was, we had to qualify out to 50 yards with our revolvers, and I still think that this is legitimate. I choose to carry a defensive handgun with which I can make head shots out to 25 yards and vital zone shots out to 50 yards.

Finally, we get a chuckle at the guys who quote, “I use a handgun to fight my way to my rifle.” My friend, most gunfights are going to be over long before a person can get to his rifle, wherever that rifle might be.  Oh, wait—most gunfights—but not all of them.

So that shotgun in the corner of my room and the carbine in my vehicle may never be called to duty.  But, they sure don’t take up much room and, who knows, they might just get me out of a tight spot one of these days. 

We used to tell our rookie cops that there is no such thing as a routine traffic stop, and I would suggest to you that there is no such thing as an average gunfight. It is a good thing to keep in mind that the fight is going to be what it is going to be.


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