View Full Version : Civilian Tactics in this (real) situation:

Lost Sheep
January 19, 2011, 09:34 PM

You are a civilian, legally carrying a concealed firearm. You are exiting a store and you hear shots right outside, but not in sight. You see people running and ducking behind cover (which tells you the direction of the threat). You recall that when you entered the store that there was a political gathering (not a protest) in that area.

(Not to leave police officers and related professionals out of the answer pool, please give the answers you would LIKE to hear civilians ANSWER, and -separate concept- what you would like to see civilians DO.)

This is the situation (slightly embellished) presented to Joe Zamudio in Tuscon on 1/8/11.

To flesh out my questions, see information at
and this story which carried the byline:
Gabrielle Giffords and the perils of guns: How an armed hero nearly shot the wrong man. By William Saletan

1-What would you do? (Go to the scene to get involved, go to the scene to be a good witness, re-enter the store and cover, leave, (these are not the only options, just a sampling).

Joe Zamudio put his hand on his weapon and proceeded in the direction of the shooting, to help. When he got there he found a scuffle in progress and saw a man with a gun.

2-What would you do?

Speculation: You have proceeded to the scene of the shooting. For whatever reason, you have a gun in your hand (your own, wrested from the shooter, found on the ground, whatever). Another civilian orders you to disarm yourself. You have no indication if the other civilian is a "good guy" or a "bad guy".

3-What would you do if the other civilian is
a) not armed or
b) armed and not got the "drop" on you or
c) armed and has got the drop on you (the answer to "C" should be obvious, but I included it for symmety) or
d) armed, but you have got the drop on him?

Please also give a short description of your relevant experience and
training, particularly with regard to civilian force-on-force situations.

Two slightly off-subject questions also came to mind as I was composing this post:

Would appearance (i.e. attire or grooming) of the persons you encounter make a difference?

Particularly if appearance would make a difference to how you would approach/deal with armed persons at the scene of a shooting, do you take your own grooming and attire into account when you go armed? That is, believing that appearance affects how others perceive you, do you use your appearance as part of your self-defense equipment?

Lost Sheep

P.S. Please do not waste time discussing the bad practice of taking his gun off safety before removing it from concealment (his pocket) or whether or not a holster was used or should have been used.

Save those questions for another thread, please.

January 19, 2011, 10:35 PM
I don't feel it's a good idea for the regular joe to get involved in most situations that don't directly affect him. There are cases of armed civlilans who have stopped rapes or assisted cops who were getting the tar kicked out of them but this isn't one of those. As a private citizen you're not going to have the instant recognition of "the good guy in uniform" and you run the risk of doing more harm than good.

January 19, 2011, 10:42 PM
It depends...

Factors for me:
A. Am I alone? If I have others with/around me, I'll probably try to secure us/them first.
B. Is the shooting still going? If yes, I would be VERY cautious. If no, I might move quicker.
C. Is my car near/on the path to the shooting? I have enough supplies to treat several GSWs in my car. If the active shooter is down, I'll do more good organizing and treating the wounded than running around with a gun.
D. Physical area--If I know it is wide-open with a large crowd, I am less inclined to try to intervene. I know my pistol accuracy degrades under stress, and I don't want to wind up in a moving 50yd shootout with a pistol!

As for encountering someone commanding me to drop my gun, I would comply. Most active shooters shoot first. IMO, odds are if the person is giving you warnings, they are probably not an active shooter.

For demeanor/clothing, I would take it into consideration if their actions were not immediately clear. A person walking around and shooting random people...pretty clear.

In a dynamic situation where I cannot see a clear threat I would not be running around at high ready. My hand would be on the pistol, but in the holster. Again, the guy with his hand on a holstered pistol is not as noticeable/threatening as the active shooter with drawn weapons.

My training: Utah CCW class, several years of military-related training (3X per week of marksmanship and tactical shooting scenarios), a few day-long courses in tactical shooting, a 2-day course from a SWAT instructor, and a 5 day shoothouse instructor course.

January 19, 2011, 11:26 PM
I don't feel it's a good idea for the regular joe to get involved in most situations that don't directly affect him. There are cases of armed civlilans who have stopped rapes or assisted cops who were getting the tar kicked out of them but this isn't one of those. As a private citizen you're not going to have the instant recognition of "the good guy in uniform" and you run the risk of doing more harm than good.
End Quote

I agree. I am neither an off duty cop, nor a knight in shining armor.


January 19, 2011, 11:50 PM
It depends.

Where is my car? If it's close and I think I can get to it safely, I get in and LEAVE NOW.

If I don't think I can get to it, I go back in the store and out the back door and keep going until I feel safe. Maybe call family to let them know I'm ok.

I'm not a cop. I'm not a superhero. I don't carry, so what can I even do anyways?

Glenn Dee
January 20, 2011, 12:06 AM
A no-win situation

January 20, 2011, 07:35 AM
While it is often said here that the police have no obligation to protect you, by the same token then, you probably have no obligation to protect others (strangers) either--or authority either.

January 20, 2011, 09:37 AM
More often than not a good cell phone and better cover will be better than some one running around trying to find the shooter.

Unless it directly affects my family and/or me then i'm more likely to d,b,w(duck,bob and weave).

I make my choice because i wood either be described as the shooter or a second shooter and not the hero running to save lives.Also because to many people would rather be victims than save them selves.I don't have the time or energy to save them and my family,so my family would have to come first.:cool:

January 20, 2011, 09:41 AM
This is not a no-win situation. I would win, because the only thing I'm going to change is the pace at which I continue traveling to my car. When I get there, I'll call 911. I win.

Since I am in no immediate danger and neither is my family, I have no intention of interjecting myself into a highly charged, violent situation, when I am already clear of it. I recognize that I have neither the training nor the equipment to do any good in the scenario proposed.

January 20, 2011, 10:00 AM
It seems as if the less risky option would be to
A) Make a good witness and only draw your weapon if you are in immediate danger. Or

B) Don't put yourself in that situation if you dont have to.

Chances are that if there is a political gathering there is going to be some kind of security present (uniformed or plain clothed LE) especially after the Arizona incident. You showing up there with a weapon drawn will only add to the confusion.

January 20, 2011, 01:58 PM
I agree with above (JC553) there are enough plainclothes police officers getting shot/kill by responding uniforms

January 20, 2011, 03:36 PM
Its simple for me, I carry a 1911 and a cell phone, unless it immediately affects me or my family I'm using the 911 option, not the 1911 option. I've managed to get to 46 years of age and I'd rather not be shot for the first time, by the good guys. My CCW didn't come with a badge and cuffs.

January 20, 2011, 04:21 PM
Get in a good Tac position,do not draw gun,but have ready.Help as many people out of harms way. You are not a cop ,but you are a human with compassion i hope. I would do it for your wife and kids do it for mine too.

Onward Allusion
January 20, 2011, 04:57 PM
Observe/Report to 911 dispatch. Unless it's situation where the BG is clearly identified AND there's a clear & present danger to innocents (i.e. guy going around methodically shooting people) AND no LE is present, a civilian should not get physically involved unless it's just helping folks get out.

January 20, 2011, 06:09 PM
What would I do?

If I exited a store to hear gunfire and see people running, I will take my behind back into the store. I will warn the customers and employees inside the store that there is danger outside. If there are other exits I will explore them. If leaving the store means I have to be in the wide open, I will probably stay in the store. If I stay, I will observe from a good place to defend myself from if necessary.

January 20, 2011, 06:30 PM
I'm not a cop. I'm not a superhero. I don't carry, so what can I even do anyways?

LOL, made me laugh. :D

(you know, since the thread is about carrying)

Double Naught Spy
January 20, 2011, 07:58 PM
Civilian Tactics in this (real) situation:



You are a civilian, legally carrying a concealed firearm. You are exiting a store and you hear shots right outside, but not in sight. You see people running and ducking behind cover (which tells you the direction of the threat).

Nicely realistic and shows just how much an individual not present at the start of the event (like Zamudio) may actually understand about what is going on and hence know what action that needs to be taken. Zamudio arrived late and the gunman was already grounded, which may have turned out best for all involved.

Kevin Rohrer
January 20, 2011, 10:00 PM
From a purely survival standpoint, you would take-up a good defensive position, call 9-1-1, and remain observant, while protecting those in your immediate vicinity.

From a societal standpoint, you would call 9-1-1, then goto the area of the shooting, watch and observe, then take action if possible.

If it was some gangs battling it out between them, I'd help get the sheep (citizenry) out of harms way (if possible), then let the trash kill each other. If it was alQueda pulling more of their "kill them all and let God sort them out" nonsense, then I'd be helping them meet Allah.

January 21, 2011, 09:11 PM
egor20 in post #12 was pretty sensible, IMO.

When you guys got your CWP/CHL in the mail, they came with a letter and instructions.

Did anyone besides me actually read that stuff?

There's not a lot of good that can be gained from standing in for a trained LEO.
But if anything goes wrong, everyone will question your actions.

Lost Sheep
January 23, 2011, 08:56 PM
I really admire the handful of unarmed people who were 1) in a position to and 2) willing to 3) able to and 4) lucky enough to disarm an active shooter half their ages. I also wondered that in Arizona (even at a function for a Democrat) there were not more armed civilians close enough to return fire. (I am not immune to preconceived notions, and it has been nearly 30 years since I lived there.)

But if anything goes wrong, everyone will question your actions.
Therewolf, you've got THAT right. Joe Zamudio has been both lionized and demonized by the small section of the press that mentions him at all. Obviously the bulk of the nation's media has a blind spot. As you point out, prosecutors will not.

When I started this thread, I was soliciting more tactical observations. Legal rights, shoot/don't shoot, stuff like that.

What I got is eye-opening, and appreciated.

What I expected was ratification of my preconceived notions.

What I got is a reality check (which we all need once in a while, right?). I will study hard and use all your comments to inform my future plans.

Thank you, everyone.

Lost Sheep

Rob Pincus
January 23, 2011, 09:12 PM
Great Thread.... Too often, on other internet forums, this would've degraded into hyperbole and SWAT-Wannabee-bravado. This is an excellent example of why TFL is still the classiest place to talk gunstuff on the net.

We carry firearms to defend ourselves, our friends and our families. Running towards the bang-bang sounds is for the guys with the badges and uniforms.


January 23, 2011, 10:13 PM
A Baltimore City plainclothes officer was killed by officers from his own precinct as he was responding to a distress call by another officer outside of a nightclub. He was shot by four officers who just saw a guy pointing a gun.
By all accounts, Officer William Torbit, Jr. was a dedicated and popular policeman who was very active in the community and respected by his fellow officers. Not only him, but a civilian was killed as a result of the 41 shots that the four officers fired.
If that can happen to a guy who works in your own precinct, I'd hate to think what would happen to a civilian.

(Baltimore Sun)

January 23, 2011, 10:21 PM
I agree it isn't wise to run towards the bang-bang, so I am siding with most of the posts already mentioned. However, what would you do if a bank was being robbed by one armed assailant and he is being physical with a teller and threatening people's lives? Do you hang tight on the ground as ordered, or do you take a shot you think you can manage from your position? this isn't a loaded question or a trick question; I am just curious what the census would be on a similar scenario with a twist.

January 24, 2011, 07:21 PM
Generally, retreating or hiding is the best way to go from a survival and legal standpoint.

I have a special hatred of active shooters and hate the idea of not stopping an attrocity when I had an opportunity. That might lead me to take the higher-risk/higher-reward option in some cases (the reward being helping some people and maybe having a clearer personal conscience). I'm not saying that's a good option for anyone else, or even a great personal option.

I've pretty much decided that IF I see an opportunity to end the situation, I will try to take it.

January 25, 2011, 05:43 PM
Yes, raimius,

I also foresee the day when a roomful of armed citizens draw down on a

perpetrator and yell "FREEZE" in unison...(OOPS:eek:)

But, for now, I can't help feeling that most CCWs carry guns which aren't exactly crime intervention grade, not to put too fine a point on it.

A .380 or .25 is great for CQB or SD, and they're wondrous tech, don't get me wrong, but there's a good reason LEOs haven't adopted them as sidearms.

I'm cautious, and my CCW is a full-size service pistol.

Double Naught Spy
January 25, 2011, 06:59 PM
But, for now, I can't help feeling that most CCWs carry guns which aren't exactly crime intervention grade, not to put too fine a point on it.

To offer a slightly varied opinion, I don't think it is the guns that matter so much, or the caliber. Anybody landing shots on the bad guy in an active shooter situation is going to be improving the situation by degrading the shooter, keeping the shooter from being able to have free reign.

The problem isn't the guns but people's understanding of how to proceed in such a situation. Most folks, if mentally prepared at all, are prepared for the stereotypical situation of some form of robbery, not a lot of people around, home invasion or dark parking lot. They aren't mentally prepared and almost certainly have not trained for a situation where they find themselves in the middle of active carnage occurring within the space of a fairly concentrated group of people.

One of the guys at the AZ shooting had gone to ground and and only was able to determine who the shooter was once the shooting stopped and the shooter was the only one upright who wasn't running away. In other words, there was several seconds of extreme chaos and while folks knew there was shooting and great danger existed, they didn't necessarily have a clear view of just who the shooter was.

Even if a person at the shooting had a gun and was able to draw it before getting shot by Loughner, determining the corrrect point to shoot may have been overwhelming. Having an unobstructed shot at the shooter is just one criterion for making the shot successfully, assuming you have a clear shot. If folks are running into you while trying to get away, then your shot isn't going to be clear or it won't be reliably steady. Then you need people to not be directly behind or just to either side of the shooter and to not be running into your shot trajectory as they flee in panic.

It would be sad to have the means to stop the shooter and not be able to stop the shooter for some reason. It would be horrific to shoot the wrong person in trying to keep from being sad.

Being in such a situation means being in a highly chaotic and quickly changing situation where every delay in trying to respond is another bit of time the shoot can and in this case continued to do harm while at the same time an incorrect response may result in your own injury or you shooting the wrong person. Once the shooting starts, everything changes for most pepole. Everyone who moments before were just regular people in a crowd are now all potential victims and all potential bad guys. Not only must you identify the shooter, but also identify others who may also be bad guy shooters and distinguish them from other good guys such as yourself. Some people do very well in these situations naturally. Most do not. Some train to be able to do well in them. Most do not. Of those that train to do well in such situations, not all become good at it.

January 26, 2011, 12:31 AM
Former LEO here. Back when I was a policeman, if I were off-duty and armed and that situation had arisen, I would have moved towards the situation and attempted to intervene. Cops have badges and I would have been allowed to identify myself and order the person still holding the weapon to drop it. At the time it was my duty and job, and I had both a city and county police commission that granted me authority that a regular citizen doesn't have.

These days, I am a civilian, much older, and have no delusions that I am still as fit or my reactions or instincts still as good as they were when I was an officer. If I were carrying it would have been under the auspices of my state issued carry permit, which is strictly limited to defensive purposes. In that case I would have taken cover where I was and called police. I would NOT have advanced into the area from where the shots originated and I certainly would not have drawn or displayed my weapon, unless I were in immediate danger of death or grievous bodily injury and there was no other option. There are just too many unknown factors in a situation like that.

January 26, 2011, 01:51 PM
Now, personally, not having a LEO background, I would be cautious because I

neither have LEO training, insurance, nor LE support for any action I may take.

Who knows, maybe I'll be the big hero who saves the day sometime. Even in

that event, hopefully I'll be able to do it without drawing a gun.

More than likely, I'll be one of the cowards who protected his family, called 911,

and **R*A*N** away...

January 26, 2011, 02:24 PM
I by NO way meant to aproach the situation in my post. I meant to be ready,be in a good position,Help all those you can get out of harms way. My life is very important to me<but so is your wifes and your kids and others. I would not run or flee. As i would not push the situation either. I feel you have to weigh the situation as to run and live with the fact that more people died because you did. Or you maybe and very heavy on the maybe got shot,but you managed to save innocent people. You are in a safe position and when and if someone comes shooting people,you will know who it is.

You don't need to be a Officer to help people,just a person with a heart that cares

January 26, 2011, 08:26 PM
to me its common sense + between my ears whether or not its feasible. hopefully the encounter will never happen and it probably won't, but if I have what I consider a very makable shot I'm going to take it. I am not gun happy and I am not looking to kill someone, and I am definately not going to seek out the commotion. that being said, if I am right on the scene when it goes down, I definately will trust my judgement in the matter plus am ok with the aftermath. I am capable of making an easy shot and saving lives. of course I realize that the AZ shootings wasn't an easy scenario(and to be more specific: the OP's scenario isn't something I am engaging as I don't know enough and the LEO was right about there are always unforseen, mitigating factors) - I am more speaking of a scenario more upon the lines of my last post in this thread. It will always depend on the emergency obviously and what factors are present at the time: examples- my children and so-on. If I am in the middle of an atrocity if that is not too strong of a word, I am not going to sit there without engaging just because the focus isn't on me.

January 28, 2011, 03:58 PM
I may be considered cold blooded or not having a social conscious but I can handle that. If it were myself and family exiting the store to the sound of gunshots we would be going right back into the store as concrete walls and canned goods are much better at stopping bullets than car glass, I would be notifying the store and someone would be on the phone to 911 within seconds. I would find a safe defendable place to place my loved ones and protect the entrance for them any any employees that may join. If it were me alone I might be quite so quick to find a solid cover and simply watch from semi-cover, depends on if the shots are right outside the door or across the parking lot. My first concern for safety is my family, my second is for me, and third is for everyone else, sorry if its you. I cannot imagine anything good coming of me drawing a weapon and charging headlong into a gunfight that I am not already a part of. If I were an off duty LEO pretty much the same answer except I would identify myself to the 911 dispatch and they would then have a live witness in the area to keep them abreast of what information I can provide. If I were an on duty LEO on the scene I would most definitely not want someone I couldn't recognize running into a situation where I wasn't sure who was friend or foe.

January 29, 2011, 01:29 AM
It is a hard question, and the answer depends on whether you believe you have a moral obligation to your neighbor.

For me, I hope I would not turn tail and run. Sitting at the keyboard, I envision that I would approach cautiously. I would not come running in and get shot in the process. If given the opportunity, I would shoot to stop the carnage.

Yes, I run the risk of getting hurt or killed. On the other hand, if I ran away(or did nothing), and a child got killed, my conscience would trouble me for a long time. Yes, the shooter killed the child, but knowing that I could have stopped it if I had courage would be unbearable.

January 29, 2011, 02:39 AM
I've been thinking about this situation since the tragedies of that particular day. I have several responses to the OP's question....

- If my children are with me and my wife is not, I stay hunkered down behind cover and ready to protect them. Period.

- If it's just my wife & I, or my wife & I + the kids, I order her and the kids behind cover and tell her to call 911 and give them my description and make sure they pass to responding officers the fact that I am armed. Then, I cautiously make my way towards the shooting. I stay behind cover if available, but under the circumstances (innocent people being shot), concealment will suffice. My weapon will remain holstered until I can see what's going on. If the shooter is still shooting, I will engage to stop the deadly threat to innocent life. If I cannot readily 100% identify the shooter, I stay behind cover/concealment and mentally record everything for police, weapon still holstered, but ready to draw.

- If I am alone, I call 911, put the phone on speaker (or use the earbud I normally have with me) and put it in my shirt pocket, I'll tell them everything as I make my way to the scene, response at scene will be the same as above.

I'm sure there are those who will disagree with me. I fully expect it and understand their arguments against engaging the threat. The difference between me and the 'average Joe' is that if my actions land me in court, I can fall back on the considerable amount of training and LE experience I have in the CG. My defense would center around the actions a "reasonable and prudent person" would expect from an off-duty federal LEO in such a situation.

It is a tough question to answer, but I view it the same as I would approaching a vehicle accident on a highway; Yeah, it's dangerous, potentially deadly, but I signed up to help people, protect people, and enforce laws. My (personal) obligation to do so does not stop when I step off the ship... I'm reminded of a line from the Coast Guardsman's Creed I memorized in boot camp long ago... "I shall sell life dearly to an enemy of my country, but give it freely to rescue those in peril."

Glenn E. Meyer
January 29, 2011, 04:04 PM
I would remind folks of an incident Ayoob reported where an officer with his daughter put her under 'cover' to intervene in a gun fight. The fight evolved such that a shooter got to his little girl and killed her.

There is no safe place in an on going critical incident. Get your family way, way out of there - or stay with them. Or accept that they might die.

If you feel your professional or moral standards necessitate that you put your family at risk in an ongoing shootout of unknown size - that's your choice.

Is it a single shooter or Mumbai? How do you know?

January 29, 2011, 04:40 PM
I should have mentioned in my previous post that my wife is armed as well... That's why she's the critical factor for wether I go or stay. If she's there, the family is portected and I can do what I can to stop the shooting. If she's not there, I believe I said I would stay with my kids....

January 30, 2011, 06:25 AM
I'd have likely have done the same thing. In fact in the last active shooter situation I was in; I did something pretty similar. I don't think it makes you a hero, it just makes you who you are.

I don't blame people for running away. It is pretty scary and overcoming the flight or fight instinct is something you either have or don't. There isn't really much time to think about it so whatever you have decided in your mind already is most likely what you are going to do.

January 30, 2011, 06:49 AM
What scares me the most is that if I didn't see the initial shots by the original bad guy, I don't know if I'm assessing the situation correctly. My fear is that I'll see a situation in progress, see some other civilian CCW with a gun shooting (at the bad guy) and me not knowing who's who, might take out the wrong guy. Friendly fire, if you will.

Best thing if you didn't see the initial start of the situation, is get under cover, help people get away, call 911 and if you're in a position to see the situation develop, make good mental notes for the police when they arrive.


old bear
January 30, 2011, 05:06 PM
IMHO the reason we carry self defense weapons is for SELF DEFENSE. Not to get involved in every shoot out or to try and stop every crime that we may see.

January 30, 2011, 08:06 PM
From a personal safety and legal standpoint, exiting the area as quickly and safely as possible (then calling 911) is the smartest option.
From a moral/conscience standpoint, it depends on the person's beliefs.
In the end, it is something each person should determine for themselves.

I have some training and a conscience that beats me up if I know I didn't help when I might have. If I don't have companions to get to safety, I plan to intervene as necessary to stop the attacker. I've lost one friend to an active shooter, and don't intend to let that type of thing happen if I can do something about it.

February 2, 2011, 10:39 PM
North Carolina is a "duty to retreat" state. Also it has no law allowing citizens arrest. That means, if you run in to the mess, you are looking at the potential of jail time.

The best thing to do (here) is step back in to the store and warn the manager and customers. Once they are hunkered in a safe location, take up a tactical position, call 911 and report the gun shots, then wait untill the cavalry shows up. That is if you feel like getting involved at all.

The best way to cover your rear legally is to retreat in the most expedient manner while calling 911.