Thursday, July 9, 2009

Warning Shots

Dear Ferfal,

I have enjoyed reading your work ever since you first showed up in the forums. Thank you for your contributions.

Regarding warning shots: Generally they are a bad idea. First, they reveal your position. Second, they give your opposition the idea that you shoot and miss. Third, unless you are scrupulously careful, they may go you-know-not-where. Fourth, they deplete your already limited supply of ammo. Fifth, they give the opposition the idea that you do not have the stones to actually shoot them.

Jeff Cooper had similar things to say, and I am not sure that any of the more modern teachers recommend the warning shot.

Generally, the only safe backstop for a fired shot is the body of your assailant.

Please know, I write this from a standpoint of only one moment of experience, which is not much. But in that experience, I saw a man continue to advance in the face of a shot from a .357 magnum fired about six feet over his head at a range of 15 feet. His reaction? He yelled, "You tried to kill me, you S.O.B!" and he kept advancing.

So in that one case, a warning shot was not effective. That is my only experience. Everything else I have is just from books.

(PS, the advancing man was finally subdued, not shot.)

Again, thank you for your blog.

Ed Gage

About warning shots, Ed I agree with what you say, and in the situation you describe, a warning shot is a terrible idea.
That’s why I said it depends on your type of home and location. Also depends mostly on the situation.
True warning shots are used all the time around here on farms to let know poachers and trespassers they are not welcomed. I’ve seen it done several times and they get the message. Even shot a couple myself (couple loud .44 magnum shots sent the right message, the poachers that where about 100 yards away left right away)
I’ll readily admit the risk involved, some farmers even shoot over the heads of the poachers or petty thieves but it does seem to work rather well and avoids unnecessary bloodshed, when the situation allows it.
Every situation is different.
Neighbors in certain scarcely populated locations (I know people that do it in CaƱuelas ) shoot a couple shots each night as a warning, as a standard procedure, and apparently it does work to keep certain thieves away.
A woman not long ago scared away several armed bad guys trying to break into her home. She screamed and told them to leave and they kept trying to break in in spite of that. She shot some rounds through the door and that sent them away.
Mostly these involve dissuasion shots where the attacker is not close enough or in sight, but is suspected to be in the premises.
“I’ve called the police and I’m armed!” carries much more weight if a shot confirms that you’re not bluffing and the bad guy knows he's stepping into the wrong house. Then again someone already in your house requires you to be silent so as not to reveal your position and using the known territory to your advantage. Depends a lot on each situation.
Now when you have to shoot in true self defense with a clear threat you shoot to kill, no warning shot, no bluffing or shooting in the leg /arm/whatever. I think that’s what Cnel. Cooper had in mind when he said you shouldn't shoot warning shots.



Anonymous said...

Shoot the closest assailant and let that serve as a warning shot for the others. Problem solved.

Anonymous said...

A warning shot backfired on a farmer I heard of. When he fired the warning shot, the people he was trying to scare off shot back. I can see how in U.S.A. a warning shot could be determined as assult that could be defended (by the person being warned) in court to make returning fire a self defense excuse to return fire.

FerFAL said...

If you shoot a couple shots in a safe direction, as you would like when plinking in your own range, given that it's out of city limits and you are allowed to shoot, what right would they have to consider it a threat, (after tresspasing) and claim self defense by shooting you down inot your own home?


Double Tapper said...

The "warning shot" definitely has a place in the defence hierarchy. After Hurricane Katrina. For some people in New Orleans, Katrina is as close to the end of the world as anyone in the US has come in modern history. Looting and all sorts of other mayhem was taking place everywhere in the city. However, the rule of law still prevailed concerning the use of firearms for defencive purposes - and in Louisiana that means your life has to be in danger before you shoot someone.

I am not going to address defending yourself from direct attack - rape or murder or violent robbery - which are up close and personal. In those instances, you are always justified in defending yourself. Warning shots should not be used in such circumstances. However, when the threat is not so close, you enter a grey area.

After the hurricane, no basic services existed in the city - no fire, police or ems. You were on your own. Roving bands of looters ranged over the city. Most people had evacuated but some stalwarts had remained behind. Most of the looting occurred in empty housing. However, sometimes, looters attempted to sack occupied residences. So the folks who stayed behind ended up making signs to warn off looters and sometimes fired "warning shots" to keep looters away.

In my opinion, looters should be fair game. However, with the racial tensions in the city, shooting a looter who did not pose an immediate threat (one > 25 yards away) would probably land you in jail. Some residents reported firing 100s of warning shots. Don't know if this is an exaggeration or not, but I can believe it happened.

Hence the warning shot makes sense in some circumstances.