The Exception to the Rule

When dealing with armed encounters, the law of averages is more of a suggestion than a law.

posted on June 1, 2024
sheriff Jim wilson

When it comes to armed citizens defending themselves against criminal attackers, the 3-3-3- rule has become the norm. That is three shots, in three seconds, at 3 yards being considered what the average action looks like. And I hesitate to use the word “rule” because it is really more of an estimate. You see, there is no national clearing house that collects data about citizens using deadly force to protect themselves.

The 3-3-3 estimate comes from a number of us who have studies citizen-involved shootings and have come to the same conclusions. Most citizen-involved shootings happen at very close range, involve the firing of very few shots and are over rather quickly. The problem, of course, is that your particular encounter with the bad guys may turn out to be the exception to the rule.

There are a lot of reasons that we might have to fire more than three shots. The most obvious being if you are confronted by multiple attackers. Another might be that your attacker has taken cover while you, on the other hand, have no immediate exit. While it is true that some criminals will beat feet the minute they discover that you are armed, there are those who, for whatever reason, are going to press the attack regardless of the fact.

We know that most criminals like to get close to their victim before they press their attack, but there are a lot of circumstances that might cause you to have to deal with the crook at longer range. Your attempt at exiting the situation may have extended the range. You may simply be dealing with a problem in a more open area like a parking lot, vacant field, or rural setting. Remember the church shooting from a few years ago that was ended with a head shot at about 15 yards? Other examples will occur to you.

And we can come up with many examples of actual shootings that extended the time period. Dealing with an attack in a rural setting while waiting for a law enforcement response would be one. Defending your home against determined attackers would be another.

So, while the 3-3-3 rule is a good estimate of the average citizen-involved gunfight, it is just that, an estimate. And this is why it is smart to practice for being the exception to the rule. This is why we carry extra ammunition. It is why we practice with our carry gun at longer ranges. And it is why we are so insistent on the use of cover; the longer the fight goes on, the more important cover becomes.

At the end of the day, the most important rule to remember is that the fight is going to be what it is going to be.


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