These were ordinary citizens, mostly white-collar and professionals, and only about seven percent “blue-collar” workers. The majority of our students are in sales, management, IT work, the medical field or other professional activity.
The majority of these incidents involved an armed robbery, which I believe is probably the most likely scenario for armed self-defense by private citizen. We’re talking about business stickups, parking lot robberies at gunpoint, carjackings and home invasions — all crimes likely to get you killed. The reason the bad guy uses a weapon is to create standoff and to terrorize the victim into compliance, before closing in to take the wallet, purse, car keys, etc.
The thug will, however, need to be close enough to his victim to communicate his desires and to easily close the distance and take the goods when the time comes. Thus the typical armed robbery occurs at anywhere from two or three steps, to roughly the length of a car — between the robber and his victim. That is, then, about three to seven yards typically, or say nine to 21? or so. This is the distance at which most of my students have had to use their guns.
I believe we should do the bulk of our training and practice at these “most likely” distances.
Only two of my students’ shootings occurred at contact distance. In one of those cases the physical contact was purely accidental. In the other case physical contact was intentional, but the victim missed a large number of cues before he was struck with a club.
At the other end of the spectrum we have had three students who have had to engage at 15, 17 and 22 yards. The other 92 percent of our student-involved incidents took place at a distance of 3 to 7 yards, with the majority occurring between 3 and 5 yards. The rule of thumb then is most civilian shootings occur within the length of a car.
Only about 10 percent of our student-involved incidents occurred in or around the home, while 90 percent occurred in places like convenience stores, parking lots and shopping malls. The majority of the incidents began as armed robberies or carjackings, with a few violent break-ins involved.
The success/failure tally among the incidents involving my students is 62 wins, zero losses and two forfeits. Every one of our students who were armed won their confrontation. Only three of those were injured, and those three recovered. To the best of my knowledge, two people have gone through training with us and subsequently were murdered in separate street robberies — but neither was armed. This is why we put a great deal of emphasis in our training on the necessity of routinely carrying your gun.
Based on this data, we believe the following are key skills the private citizen should concentrate on in their training:
- Quick, safe, efficient presentation of the handgun from concealed carry.
- Delivery of several well-placed shots at distances from 3 to 7 yards.
- Keeping the gun running, including reloading and fixing malfunctions.
- Two-handed firing. We train our students to use two hands if at all possible and most have done so in their fights.
- Bring the gun to eye level. This is the fastest way to achieve accurate gun alignment. All but two of our students brought the gun to eye level, and as a result got good hits. Two had to shoot from below eye level due to unusual circumstances.
- Some effort expended on the contact distance problem, including empty hand skills and weapon retention skills. However, these are secondary skills for the private citizen.
- Some effort dedicated to longer shots in the 15- to 25-yard range.
One of the things we stress in our training is the likelihood of your needing a gun in self-defense is not a one in one million chance.