Trends in Active Killer Interdiction by Armed Citizens

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A lot of active killers are stopped by armed citizens despite what the mainstream media hides from you.  The Crime Prevention Research Center estimates that 34% of active killer attacks are stopped by armed citizens, a much different number than what is declared by the FBI crime statistics.  Even the FBI, however, points out that most such attacks happen in gun free zones.  The truth is, many such attacks have even been stopped through unarmed resistance, but the success rate of armed interdiction is much higher, at over 90% success rate for the citizen.  

The fact is that we now have a fairly extensive list of incidents in which rampaging killers, armed with long guns, have been stopped by armed citizens on the scene who are armed with handguns.  Many question the ability to stop a bad guy with superior weaponry if you are armed with only your carry pistol at the time, but this is not a hypothetical question of “can it be done.”  Rather, it has been done, many times, and the armed citizen prevails the vast majority of the time.  While the perpetrator may be armed with a rifle, and may be wearing body armor, the lesser-armed citizen still has the ultimate advantage of surprise, and typically prevails.  So, the debate over whether or not it can be done can be put to rest.  Rather, we should focus on the lessons learned and the trends apparent in such incidents.  

In a previous article, I related ten incidents in which citizens or law enforcement officials (mostly citizens) stopped rifle-armed killers with only handguns.  Here are some overall trends to consider:

Longer Than Usual Range Shots May Be Required

Of the ten incidents given, three involved shots made at over forty yards, so of our limited sample of examples, that is a 30% rate of shots being made at over forty yards to stop the killer.  This is a far different accuracy consideration than what is involved with typical violence, such as armed robberies.  While the often quoted “three yards, three rounds, three seconds” is hardly universal, most defensive shootings do happen within seven yards or less, with a significant amount of such incidents happening within, essentially, the length of a car, as such crime often happens in parking lots and at conversational distances.  

As should be obvious when looking at these incidents, the need to make relatively long shots with only a handgun is common in active killer interdiction.  Even beyond the three incidents involving shots well beyond forty yards, a fourth incident, involving Jack Wilson at the Texas church, required a fifteen-yard head shot, and a fifth incident involving officer Gregory Stevens, who shot two terrorists armed with rifles as they exited their vehicle at about ten yards away, also involving several head shots.  The accuracy requirement will likely be high.  

The Head is Likely the Necessary Target

Standard training doctrine teaches that the high center chest is the default, immediate reaction, target area on a deadly human threat.  There is, generally, good reason for this, as the target area is larger than the head, thus insuring a more likely hit, and also reducing the likelihood of a miss that may zip past the target only to hit innocent people in the background.  With active killers, however, we see a clear trend that calls for the head as the likely target for the only option for fast naturalization.  

Active killers have often worn body armor, so the attack on the high center chest will have limited effect as handgun bullets are unlikely to penetrate either soft armor or plate armor.  If a threat is wearing body armor, the head will be the obvious target.  A second consideration is the fact that the wearing of explosive devices among such killers is a growing concern.  While the use of explosives has been rare among mass killers in the United States compared to elsewhere in the world, we have seen it, and it is an unfortunate trend that we can expect to grow.  If a killer is wearing explosives, then a head shot is the most likely way to induce a fast neutralization that will prevent the detonation of the device.  

There Will Most Likely be Some Victims

Statistics from a number of sources show that the amount of fatalities during such incidents is drastically lower when an armed citizen on the scene interdicts the killer than otherwise, but most incidents prove that at least some casualties happen.  Often, the killer first makes his presence known when he starts shooting.  Unless noticed before the attack begins, the first sign of the attack will be gunfire.  At that point, there will be at least one, if not several, victims before the armed citizen can even begin to counterattack.  While the body count is far less among incidents where armed citizens interdict, there is usually still casualties simply due to the nature of this insidious threat.  Are you prepared to help in the medical emergency after the threat has been stopped?

Training Takeaways

With the above in mind, what are some considerations for our own training and equipment?  First, the accuracy requirement for stopping such a maniac may be high.  Spending at least some time practicing at distance is a good thing.  Shooting at B8 bullseye targets at 25 yards can build the accuracy skill greatly, even though it is a form of shooting that most contemporary handgunners are not particularly into.  Being able to hit a man-size target at 50 yards with your carry gun is a good skill to have, and it can be done if you apply yourself to some persistent accuracy practice.  Also consider your gear; do you carry a diminutive pocket gun that makes hitting anything past close distance exceptionally challenging?  the modern world may demand a more formidable handgun.  Also, know the point of impact of your carry ammo, as it is likely to be different than your cheap practice ammunition.  

Consider your ability to treat traumatic bleeding.  Do you carry a trauma kit and do you know how to use it?  Also, do you have a plan among your family or group as to how to deal with such an incident that will surely be chaotic.  This horrible trend will continue, so dedicating some thought and training towards dealing with this threat is warranted.  

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