When is the right time to present your gun in a hostile situation?


Resident HK Guru
Mar 1, 2006
Not in the PRM.
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This is an actual event that happened to me a couple of months ago near Fenway Park in Boston. Before I begin, let me say that ultimately nothing "bad" happened, but I have been thinking about it off and on since the event, and particularly with the castle doctrine being discussed in neighboring states, I thought it was relevant (it could happen to any one of us at any time)

Myself and a friend went into Boston to play some pool and have dinner. I normally carry when going into Boston for a variety of reasons, but this time I left the trusty Warthog at home. The evening went smoothly up until the time we left the pool hall, when we were verbally harrassed by two large twenty-somethings near a large white limo. They fit the typical description of large, white, drunk, frat-boy, steroid-pumping a-holes, and I have run into these types many times before (as we all have). The problem began when the taunting turned into threats/challenges to fight, and another a-hole came out of the limo (clearly theirs for the evening) to join the fray. At this point my friend and I are about even with the limo, and running or quickly avoiding the a-holes would have shown fear and most likely escalated the situation, plus we had to go in that direction to get to the parking garage to our car. All of this happened in about an eight to ten second span. My friend and I (whom is also LTC, but not packing either) did what we perceived to be the smart thing and kept on walking right by, not giving the BG's any reason to escalate, but also not showing fear. I was listening very closely for more than my own footsteps and my buddy's (these guys were not in any way subtle, and I could hear them from a mile away), as we quickened our pace to the garage, I could hear the taunts increasing in severity and volume as an unknown number of the BG's began to walk after us. I'm not sure how many there were in total as had my back to them for most of the walk (after I had put a significant amount of distance between us), but I know that 3 people typically don't rent a stretch limo to go into town on a Saturday night. I have to assume that there was at least 6-10 guys total in the limo, and since birds of feather flock together...

Ultimately, we made it to the garage and got to our car without further incident, but when we paid and pulled out, we saw a group of the same BG's near the entrance to the garage looking very angry. I noticed that more than one of them had beer bottles handy. Drunk or not, even the biggest idiot USUALLY thinks twice before toting an open alcoholic beverage around the streets of Boston. Maybe they were just bringing the party outside. My thought is that those beer bottles had our names on them. We drove away without further incident, which leads me to my question:

Could I have presented if the situation was slightly different? Say, that the walk to the garage was much longer, or that we were cut off from the car? I'm not talking about going on a Dirty harry shooting spree because some punk offended my manhood, but the real dangerous situation that this almost was. All I could think of on the walk to the car was" WHY didn't I CCW?" Would warning them that I had a gun before presenting be a logical first step? Needless to say, this assumes no antagonization on our part whatsoever, no "pounding of the chest" or "Oh boy! An excuse to pull my gun!" BS. From where I stand, multiple assailants, even unarmed, is a deadly encounter. Add to the mix alcohol/drugs, and the possibility of things spiraling out of control increases exponentially. My thought is that these guys we very likely not armed (although one never knows), and that if pressed into a corner, with no viable means of escape, presenting would have sobered them right up and stopped any further conflict. Obviously no one really knows how any particular scenario is going to play out until it happens, but since we spend a fair amount of time discussing being prepared, I'd very much like to see where you all weigh in on this...

Thanks for your time.
You had no reason to draw or mention if you even had a firearm on you that night. You need to make an effort to avoid any confrontation. You should have left and called the police when they started to threaten you. Castle doctrine has nothing to do with this IMO.

Do I think that's what I'd like to do? Heck no... I won't say what I'd really like to happen to those kind of scums. But when you're carrying you have to be the better man.. not the badder one.
Good question, I came across about the same a month back, when I told the person that I do not want to fight him and he just kept throwing names at me... a few other's started in, at this point I told my daughter to call the PD and to tell them to get a unit here quick, by the time the PD showed up, he was still in my face, at this point I turned and went to the officer and stated to him what went on. At no point did I draw or mention to the other party that I was packing. When the officer told me that for me to be CCW was a threat to the other party know or not know... I almost told him "no wonder you find more victims of assault... then the numbers you arrest on the street...” but I held back on the comment.

The good thing is, after the unit ran a check, he was arrested for some fault..
My question was geared toward a situation where it came to fight because flight was no longer an option. I know that presenting is the last thing that you want to do in this crazy state, but at some point point something's got to give. Am I to deduce that if these guys had cornered the two of us with bottles in hand that I should have pulled out my cell phone and tried to call the cops in the 3 seconds I would have had before I took a bottle off the head? This is the situation I'm describing. Not how it actually went down. I agree that presenting in that situation would have been inappropriate, but cornered in parking garage against multiple assailants, some of which are armed? If CCW isn't for that situation, I don't know what is...
Fooped said:
Am I to deduce that if these guys had cornered the two of us with bottles in hand that I should have pulled out my cell phone and tried to call the cops in the 3 seconds I would have had before I took a bottle off the head?

This is an entirely different situation. You have no where to go and they have a deadly weapon. A cell phone wouldn't likely help you. [wink] Now fast forward.... if they retreat and you don't fire... I'm sure you will be grilled whether you call the PD or the scum bags do. But you would have averted a really bad day.
You're justified in presenting your firearm whenever you're justified in shooting the sumbitch stone cold dead, not any earlier. One of the problem with drunk aholes is that they're almost always stupid drunk aholes. If they were criminals, they'd be a lot smarter. I had an incident where I was walking to North Station one evening, when I noticed a couple of mutts drifting across Canal Street in my general direction. Since I was once a Boy Scout ("Be Prepared"), I casually shifted my brief case to my left hand and stuck my right hand inside my coat. A second or two later, the two changed direction and began drifting back to the other side of the street. You'll never get that sort of sensible response from stupid drunk aholes.

Maybe this is a good reason, that alternative self defense means should be carried, even though you are packing.
And NEVER EVER get into the verbal jousting. It can be looked at as 'escalation' of the event in which case, your use of Deadly Force as defense could be in jeopardy.

You are always the passive person.

A good quote from a BAD movie is: "You are nice. You are nice until it is time to not be nice".

That sums it up PERIOD.

Of course, training will help you a lot in determining when it's time to say when. You'll know about distances and why one point is 'nice' and a step closer is 'not nice'. But you need to have trained in a way that you can present that as evidence in court.

I can not stress enough that if you plan to carry, you can not have too much training in the art of self-defense.
Let me modify the original poster's situation a little and see what y'all think. OK, he's trying to get to his car with all speed - but what if he can't walk fast? Say, his foot is in a walking brace (those of you who shot IDPA with me last year know what I'm talking about!) or he's just unable to move fast - arthritis, bad knees, whatever - and he hears footsteps behind him.

What's his next move - does he stop and put his back against a building to see what's coming up behind him? Since he can't outrun the rowdies, is he justified at that point in drawing? Certainly, if it's multiple drunks against one person, I'd think he'd have fear of injury.

What do you think?
I am now not looking forward to my hip surgery since running could very well cause grave bodily harm (a 30 yr old running at full speed on a replacement hip has different wear patterns/stress points than one who is 50 to 60).
Skald said:
I am now not looking forward to my hip surgery since running could very well cause grave bodily harm (a 30 yr old running at full speed on a replacement hip has different wear patterns/stress points than one who is 50 to 60).
yeah, I was thinking of you and one other poster, who also has mobility problems, when I wrote my previous post.
I have had the same question in my mind for some time. I do carry, not all
the time and i am the passive type, i would rather and have walked away.

Most times the fools will find something else to occupy their stupid minds.

If they do persist and in fact you find yourself in a dealdy situation, i mean
deadly, you will have to make a decision..

I keep in mind that words are cheap, actions are not...

Adam_MA said:
Maybe this is a good reason, that alternative self defense means should be carried, even though you are packing.

I can't see it here. There are mulitple BG's. What are you going to do mace the first guy? That would only get the others mad...and then you're done.

E&E is the only thing that works here. If you can't, then show it.
Ross and others...

There is almost never the clear cut case of 'this is when'. You use your judgement, your level of fear, and training to guage the situation. Many officers have told me that they wish they had drawn sooner, and many lawyers have told me that they wished their clients had waited a little longer.

Pulling a firearm on another human being is not a macho thing, but a last desperate stand for survival.

The only way I know to say it is that when you so fear for your own very survival that nothing you own or have or know matters, then you have reached the point. Unfortunately, that doesn't really tell you much.

You need to know your personal 'safety zone'. You need to be able to honestly judge your own perceptions. You must carry with the personal conviction that the use of the tool is my LAST resort when all other options are gone.

Think of it as the gift the elves gave to Frodo. A light when all other lights fail. Being able to realize THAT moment is key.

Remember, you will have only moments to make a decision. The prosecutor, the jury, and the media get to take all the time they want to tell you how wrong you were.

I look at this tool as every other I posess. I renew my CPR not because I hope to use it, but because I want to be ready with a tool. I train with a firearm not because I ever hope to use it, but that its ready should the need arise. They are BOTH tools to save life when employed at the proper time and in the proper manner. They can both kill mercilessly if misused. You are the one who gets to decide.

You can study scenerios until you are blue in the face. I've found that they don't help all that much. It's all Monday Quarterbacking. You need to take courses that present you with real time problems. Problems that may or may not call upon the firearm as the solution. You need to see how you react under stress to unknown situations. You need to learn to supress the anxiety and make rational choices.

This is the one thing that games like IDPA do not provide. In IDPA, the answer is ALWAYS to shoot. In the real world, that is a very very low percentage posibility.

That's why I had so much fun watching the way people handled the 'Door' last year.

For those that were not a part of my evil experiment, I built a scenerio where the shooter was walked into a range he could not previously see. In it there was a chair, a table, and a door. Beyond the door everything was hidden.

The shooter was asked to make the pistol ready, take a seat, and then I proceeded to 'chit chat' with them a little in which I brought up a photograph of a target with 'hair' that I called the shooter's 'daugher'. Then I lowered my voice and said "Shes screaming behind that door" and set off the timer.

The shooter had no idea what was going on, and it showed. First shot times were no better than 5 seconds and some were as long as 20 seconds as the shooter realized what was going on.

On opening the door, a trolly was released on a 16 foot track hurling at the doorway. On the trolly was the 'daugher' being chased by a bad guy. We won't get into how many times the 'daughter' was hit.

But this was a simple scenerio. Yet, the adrenalin rush that people reported was higher than any other stage they had ever shot. The uncertanty, the fubling of the doorknob, everything showed just how much you lose when panic sets in.

There are courses that offer such 'solve on the go' type training. none are cheap, most have required 'starter' courses, or require recommendations. But I've found them the best test of your true response to threat, or perceived threat.

Another use of the 'door' was to set out an array of targets with an unknown threat level. (knives were stuck to threat targets) The shooter had to open the door, evaluate the situation and then act properly. The act of even drawing if there was no threat was a penalty. Once again, the reactions were highly ammusing to this evil stage designer.

The problem I see with many beginner shooters is that with a new tool in their hand, suddenly all the problems start looking like 'targets'. Teaching people to make quick rational decisions in a life and death situation is NOT an easy task, and there are a good number of people who simply can not do it for whatever reason.

A lot of the skill comes from being a good observer. Being able to see things that don't look right. sizing up a situation and knowing where to position yourself to be most aware of the area, or listening to that little voice that tells you that it might be best to just leave when you have no logical reason to do so. This is a HARD skill. It takes an amazing amount of energy and effort to constantly be aware of what's around you and identifying possible sources of hazards. You feel as if you are paranoid. Yet, in time it becomes second nature.

I know I've been blabbing on here for a while, but it's all relevant. It's a combination of all these skills that help you to determine what is a life threating threat and what is just a really major annoyance.

The sad part is that it's far less likely for the loud punks to be a true threat than the lone guy walking that you dismissed without really looking at him and suddenly he's behind you.

I know the next question will be "What course should I take?". I can't answer that. Only YOU know what you are ready for. If you have not taken the basics like LFI or even the NRA Home Protection, those are a great start. Beyond that, look around and see what others are taking and if it sounds like fun. Trust me, getting into a high level tactical class when you are neither ready for it, or skillful enough just WASTES everyone's time. I've had people asked to leave from several of the classes I've taken for just that reason. So, it does nobody any good to say I thought XYZ was a superb training experience because unless you are at the point I was at when I took it, it may or not be the right one for you. Trust me, as you train, the courses will become known to you.

But, whatever you do, find something to take that you find interesting. Heck, maybe it's AWARE's one day Deadly Force Seminar with Lyn Bates. If that's the level you are at, then it's a good choice. (even if you are advanced, it's not a bad refresher course)

But find something that sounds your speed.
Thank you to all whom took the time to read my post and offer your opinions on this very serious manner. Chris, I particularly appreciate your point of view as it confirms what I suspected all along, that there is no "right" time. Per your advice I am going to begin the next level of training. Given the following levels of experience, what would you suggest is the next logical step?

3 years active military
10 years handgun/long gun experience (somewhat casual up until a year ago)
Multiple degrees in martial arts (I only mention this because the same principles of using a "tool" apply there as well)
No formal home or personal defense firearms courses taken as of yet.
I'm a fairly good shot and have a reasonable understanding of the basics of gun handling and control.

Your opinion is most graciously appreciated.

Thanks again!
Excellent, well-thought out post, Chris. Thank you.

Personally, as I lived most of my live unable to carry either due to permitting or living where carrying is not allowed (NJ, NY), I try to develop my situational awareness as best I can. I watch reflections as I walk; I listen to footsteps, I look around. I really don't want to become a statistic... and yet, add in the gray in the beard and the limp when I walk sometimes and the average street predator sees a target.

I try not to let myself get caught as one, though. So far, it's worked.
Fooped said:
what would you suggest is the next logical step?

Sign up here for my 12 step program to Self-enlightenment...

OK, maybe not.

If you can afford the cost and the time, there is no better start than the week long course up in Dunbarton, NH called LFI. Lethal Force Institute run by Massad Ayoob. I have NEVER ever heard anyone tell me it was a waste of either time or money no matter what level of training they were at.

If that is too much, select any of the weekend defensive courses at SigArms or S&W, or even the NRA Defense in the Home. Start SOMEWHERE.

You have NO defensive training. All you know is how to make bullets hit paper. It's great start, but there is a whole 'nother world of skills that deal with fighting with a gun. I'm not talking military type fighting, but defensive fighting.

You've got three basic levels of people who understand the defensive handgun.

The first level I'll call the 'Glock'. These are the guys who know some marksmanship, are upstanding guys, and really want to do the right thing, but are still green behind the ears. They are eager, usually better shots than the bad guys, but make rash decisions.

The next level are the '1911'. These are the gung-ho shooters who tick off nationally known trainers like badges of courage. They are fast, accurate, and deadly. But they don't know when to say when.

The highest level I'll call the 'k-frame'. These are the people you'd never suspect as being able to handle themselves. They are soft spoken, usually carry less firepower than you'd expect (like a snubbbie), but absolutely nothing gets past them. They know the score and how to deliver the tie breaker.

As you progress, you'll understand what I mean.
Chris said:
You need to dress like your avatar. Nobody messes with the crazy guy. (^_^)
Great idea, but...

Mail shirt = 27 lbs
Open face bascinet (helmet) = 15 lbs
Shield - somewhere around 5 lbs (it's aircraft grade aluminum)

denting 14 gauge steel helmets with a wooden sword: Priceless (couldn't resist!)

I've worn 50 lbs of armor before - it's not what I'd like to wear while doing my job. [smile]

Unless my job is guide at the Higgins Armory Museum. THEN I'll wear it with a big S. E. G.

fooped...some may disagree with what im about to say...but i think about it everytime i ccw and am in a possible confrontational situation...this is what i was taught when i got my LTC...my 2 instructors were a lawyer who dealt mostly in firearms related cases and a former marine/chief of police/prison guard

if you are carrying, and are in a JAM...you have every right to present...a JAM is a situation where your life is in JEAOPARDY, your assailaint has the ABILity, and the MEANS to kill you...also, you must be within 21 feet for it to be a justifiable shooting...when i asked what if youre 25 feet away and someone is running at you with a knife and you drop him, the lawyer told me to walk 4 feet closer and then call the police...

pulling my gun is always my last option...i carry a knife with me as well as a gun and i'm trained in knife fighting so my gun would really be my last resort if its a situation i couldnt handle/ intimidate the assailaint with a knife...ive read a bunch of articles on this topic with a similar situation and they all say that in order for you to be viewed as the vitcim you must immediately call police and let them know the situation...tell them you have a license, you feared for your life and you felt if you didnt present the BG could have done serious bodily harm...if the BG calls the police before you do then you're viewed as the bad guy for pulling a gun on an innocent civilian...its really a sucky situation no matter how you look at it
Levity aside, ignore the move 4 feet closer and the "if you shoot him outside the house drag him inside" frequently thrown out otherplaces. Do not attempt to manipulate the scene in any way or tell even the tiniest lie. You will almost certainly get caught in it, turning police investigators who probably started out believing it to be a righteous shoot into your worst enemies, and earning yourself a conviction you otherwise would have avoided.

Good advice on a very touchy and delicate subject. It's funny (sad) that the anti's think we're all a bunch of AW-wielding maniacs, when in reality, I don't know ANY group of people that spend more time "making sure" that they are following the law.

New Hampshire's looking better all the time.

For what it's worth, I finally convinced my uber-Democrat, bleeding heart liberal brother-in-law to go shooting over the long weekend, and guess what? He enjoyed it! Also got one of my buddies that inherited a Para from his mother to sign up for GOAL. Score two for the good guys!
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