You can learn a lot from a dummy

| September 25, 2014 | 0 Comments

Two successful self-defense shootings have made the news lately — or at least the sites I visit for news.

Both of these incidents occurred at gas stations / convenience stores, and they offer us some valuable information on how certain kinds of attacks go down, how people react when shot, and what we can all do better thanks to the footage we’re lucky to see. Let’s see what happened to these dummies when they went up against armed and determined men.

Convenience store clerk in Canton, Ohio vs 3 armed men:

19 Action News|Cleveland, OH|News, Weather, Sports

What I picked up:

There are two big lessons to learn here, lessons I learned from fight-focused training but worth validating on video:

  1. When shot, people will usually react in one of two ways. Either they will run, or they will do nothing. They will not fly back in a geyser of blood like shown in movies. In this case, two of the robbers were hit, and both ran away.
  2. When shot with handguns, people will survive the initial contact and may die later. Both men who were shot died at the hospital, a long time and distance from the shooting incident.

How this applies to us:

Don’t rely on a single shot or even a double tap from any handgun to stop an opponent. We are taught to fire in bursts of four. Three is “acceptable” for single stack according to QSI Training, the folks I usually train with, but after watching more and more footage I might just go a full four even from my S&W Shield.

The situation unfolds quickly, so having a firearm in immediate control is critical. I spend a lot of time writing about keeping an SBR or PDW in a bag, but there wouldn’t be enough time to get a larger, more powerful weapon out in time. Seeing the speed at which things deteriorate has reinforced my ideas about when to go to your handgun versus a bag gun you may have in your possession.

Be careful about chasing / closing with attackers as you hit them. The first man that falls fires several wild shots before dragging himself off. If the clerk entered the doorway at this moment he would have gotten shot — and given that he was hit once in the leg, maybe it happened at this moment.

Son of store owner vs man with pump shotgun

According to the report, a man entered a convenience store with a pump shotgun. The man allegedly yelled for money and that he was going to kill everyone if they didn’t.

The store owner slid is 20 year old son a handgun and told him to protect his family. The son was like, “yup,” and shot the attacker in the leg. The son engaged the assailant a second time and put “several” rounds into the man’s chest. The criminal was dead right there.

What I picked up:

  • The footage indicates that the son took the fight to the criminal. The guy with the shotgun never fired.
  • The first shot went low and hit the attacker in the leg.
  • It took multiple rounds to stop the attacker.
  • “Stand and deliver” posture + a snack rack = a big target and poor cover.
  • The son turns his back on the attacker when moving the shotgun and calling for help.
  • The young man hit all the important points when making his statement to the media. Watch the first video in the news post about the incident for additional information.

How this applies to us:

Act decisively. The 20-year old hero knew he was the only one capable of stopping the man with the shotgun. He wanted to save his mother and his sister more than he wanted to protect his own body, and he did what he had to do. This is the mindset we all need to have. As I wrote about before, I do not ask for an encounter devoid of risk or injury. We just demand a chance to act. Don’t blow your chance, act with everything you have.

Don’t over-react. The first round hit the attacker in the leg. This seems to be exactly what QSI head firearms instructor Erik Pakieser describes as the “die you motherF***ER!!!!!!” response. A student is so filled with emotion that they drive their handgun past full extension. The barrel of the handgun tilts down, and rounds go very low. Perhaps the son was aiming for center of mass, was in an understandable hurry, and over-extended. I am glad he hit the guy in the leg, but more training may have put the round exactly where he wanted it to go.

Burst! Again, a single shot from a handgun did not stop the threat. Yes, he hit the guy in the leg, but even a well placed pistol round anywhere but the brain stem would have left the man plenty of time to counter-attack.

Know the difference between cover and concealment. The storeowner’s son uses a snack rack as partial “cover,” but a shotgun blast would easily pass through it.

Get low. He’s also standing at full height. I’m not knocking this kid, just pointing out that he’s at a full “stand and deliver” position and with training could have minimized his risk.

Watch your shots. It is really hard to tell from the footage, but the son may have shot the robber again when the criminal was on his back with his hands up. The shotgun was still near the criminal, but I hope the shooting doesn’t get the young hero in legal trouble.

Don’t touch the evidence. I did this in a Force on Force class, so I’m just commenting on a behavior that seems to be common. The young man picked up the shotgun and moved it. I kicked a training knife away from a student. In my case I didn’t want someone in close proximity to a weapon, but by moving the weapon (I kicked the knife pretty far) it would have caused a problem during the analysis of the crime scene.

Get your story straight. The son was interviewed by the local news. He had his shit together and repeatedly stated that he wanted to “stop” the attacker, not kill him, and that he was afraid for his family’s life. His statements helped establish some of the criteria required (here, at least) for a self-defense shooting. The son felt that someone was in immediate threat of great injury or bodily harm, that his intent was only to stop the threat, and that due to the threats of the attacker retreat was not practical. Good job! I wonder if the family got a lawyer involved before contacting the media. Smart folk.


I always wonder if it would be inappropriate to contact the survivors of these incidents and offer to help them find fight-focused training. Statistically they’ve already won the “violence lottery” by being involved in an incident involving a firearm. However, I also feel like they got lucky in some ways, and I want these people to be as trained and safe as possible.

This footage makes me wonder if we should be doing force on force training constantly throughout the year. In Minnesota we mostly do FoF in the winter since there’s too much snow to go outside and train. The importance of “getting low,” moving dynamically, and controlling yourself are more obvious when someone else is trying to shoot you with Airsoft or brain you with a rubber crowbar.

I am very happy the people in both incidents are fine, and grateful that we can analyze this footage. We can all learn a lot from how the heroes responded to attacks, and we can learn a lot from those dummies that tried to hurt them.

About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.

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