A little while ago I wrote about finding cover and concealment in an urban environment, and I wanted to follow up on that. I’ve thought a great deal about some of the more practical problems facing the armed citizen, and I noticed something. Most of us that carry regularly carry compact or sub-compact handguns, and most of our defensive shooting training is engaging targets at 3-15 meters. I rarely see training with handguns at distance of 25-50 meters, and for good reason. Accuracy and the efficacy of the round decrease rapidly out of a short barrel. For general defensive shooting, there’s nothing wrong with this, and statistically speaking most gunfights occur in very close quarters.

However, there is a particular threat that has gained prominence in the last two decades – the so-called “Active Shooter.” Active shooters, for those of you that do not know, are your Columbine, Aurora theater, San Bernadino, Virginia Tech, Chattanooga, Pulse nightclub and Sandy Hook shooters. The Department of Homeland Security defines active shooters as “an individual [or group of individuals] actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearms(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims.” In short, the active shooter differs from a barricaded gunman in their mobility and unfettered aggression.

The problem, I noticed as I sat in church this morning, is that the kinds of targets these active shooters choose are not close quarters. To the contrary, the target selection is crowded, open areas filled with people. For these reason, these shooters typically select rifles, precisely because a rifle allows the shooter to accurately engage their victims at greater distances. Unless you are particularly lucky (or unlucky) the subcompact 9mm you have in your waistband isn’t going to reach far enough to win fire superiority, and your single spare magazine isn’t going to sustain the fight. The regular problems associated with an active shooter are compounded – friendly, inaccurate fire can kill civilians just as well as hostile fire.

Personally, I’m a proponent of certain well-trained and vetted professionals using the so-called “grey man bag” to bring compact longarms, armor and medical equipment into the general population. The key phrase here is well-trained – I have no confidence that Bubba J from the backwoods militia will consider his sectors of fire or know how to address the threat and handle a panicking crowd simultaneously – but the “grey man” concept is not the focus of this article. For now, speaking to the off-duty cop or the responsible citizen, I want to simply make a few recommendations for how you can mitigate these problems, and what tactics you can put in your toolbox.

  • Carry a tourniquet: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. (Just do it.)
  • Make sure that you’re at the range you practice engaging targets with your CCW at varying distances. As you work your fundamentals, try pushing your limits. If you’re shooting effective shots at 7 meters, then back it up to 15 meters – then to 25 – then to 35, etc. Find your failure point and put in the work to improve. If you’re really practicing, you’ll be challenged.
  • Be on the lookout for cover and concealment, and know your exits. Have a plan not only to move towards your escape route, but to do so quickly and under the best cover and concealment you have.
  • The FBI’s recommendation on a civilian response to active shooters is the ADD system: Avoid, Deny, Defend. The idea is to Avoid the threat by getting out of the area – if you can’t run, then Deny the threat by blockading entrances or access points – and if you must, Defend I’m going to tweak their system a bit to get you in the right mindset – Avoid, Deny, ATTACK! Violence of action is essential at such times – and make no mistake, it will be all or nothing.
  • Consider carrying more ammunition. If you carry a weapon but do not carry a spare magazine, you are severely limiting your survivability (and banking on not having a double-feed malfunction.) One spare magazine gives you twice the capacity to fight. If you’ve ever been in a firefight, you know how fast ammunition vanishes. If you haven’t, then just take my word for it. I try to carry two spare magazines at all times.
  • And finally, pay attention. Read the news and see what ISIS is doing in Europe – those tactics will migrate here. Watch people for odd behavior, bags left unattended, etc. Situational awareness is a term we hear so often I’m afraid we are numb to its importance. Practice it daily.

So there’s a brief list of things you should consider. Stay frosty, know your exits, and drink water! Timaeus out.