Safety and Training

Don’t Shoot to Wound—Why We Are Taught to Shoot Until the Threat Stops

On December 4, 2012, James Gerow broke into Christopher Lance Moore’s Springtown, Texas home. Moore awoke to find Gerow in his bedroom. Moore grabbed his pistol, and along with his son held Gerow at gun point until law enforcement could arrive. When interviewed on Dallas’ Fox 4 News, Moore told reporters that he ordered his son to shoot Gerow in the legs if he had to—that he didn’t have to kill him. However, those of you who know anything about anatomy know that a bullet to the femoral artery—a major artery located in your thigh—can cause death within a matter of minutes.  Would the young man have hit Gerow’s femoral artery? We will never know. Moore and his son did not have to shoot Gerow. Do you know why? It is because Gerow never became a lethal threat to the Moore family.

If you have taken a concealed carry class or any self-defense handgun or carbine course, your instructor should have taught that when you must use your gun in self-defense, you keep shooting until the threat has stopped. We are never taught shoot to wound or shoot to kill.

In the split second you choose to use your gun in self-defense, by law, you must feel your life is in imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death. For a more in-depth discussion of how the law views justifiable self-defense, read my blog “When can you Use Deadly Force?” With that said, if you feel your life is in danger, keep shooting until you feel your safety is secure.

For example, if someone breaks into your home and rushes at you with a weapon, you fire at them until they have both dropped their weapon and surrendered, or they have fallen down and not gotten back up.

The three main reasons why we are taught to shoot until the threat stops and not shoot to wound are

  • If you are shooting to wound you don’t feel your life was in immediate danger of serious bodily harm or death
  • Wounded people can still hurt or kill you.
  • The law may not see shooting to wound as justifiable self-defense.

A fourth reason we don’t shoot to wound is because attempting to hit a specific part of the body, such as the arms or knees,  might be next to impossible when your adrenaline is pumping and you have tunnel vision. In this case, you would be unlikely to stop the threat.

We don’t go into owning a gun for self-defense with the mindset of shoot to kill. In the eyes of the law, that would be murder.

Choosing to own a gun for self-defense, whether you conceal carry, open carry or keep it in a lock box by the bed is a noble and empowering choice—as well as your right. It is also a big responsibility. Take a self-defense pistol class. At any time you find yourself hesitating, remember we shoot until the threat stops. To learn about what to do if you find yourself having to use your gun in self defense, read my blog “You Were Forced to Defend Yourself. Now What? Did your conceal carry class or self-defense class tell you something different? I’d like to hear about it. Tell us about it in the comment section.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (4)

  1. DB Cooper: “At the end of the day its who’s still standing that counts.” I would respectfully disagree with your comment.

    What matters is that you are able to go home at the end of the confrontation. Whether or not your attacker survives is not the important thing in a life/death situation.

    As Helio Gracie said: “If you don’t lose, you win.”

  2. When I was going through the infantry Officers Basic Course in 1984 we were taught react as violently as needed toward a threat and only stop firing when the threat was elliminated. Basically the same thing as the author wrote. At the end of the day its who’s still standing that counts.

    I go to the rifle ranges and see guys taking forever to fire trying to put every bullet in a dime sized area at 100 meters. Shooting that precise is great if your a sniper and the target ia a long distance away but not worth a hoot if the perp is right up close. I had to show a guy I was teaching to shoot why in the real world thats not practical for self defense so I put 20 rounds in a 100 meter targets center mass chest in less than 20 seconds. All kill shots. It didnt matter they were in a small dinner plate grouping and not a dime grouping because the threat would be over and the perp dead. Precision shooting can come later and I’ve seen more people than I could count miss 50 meter targets and nail 200 and 250 meter targets like clockwork.

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