By Sheriff Jim Wilson, Shooting Illustrated
Not only do we know that crooks like to run in packs, but we also know that they will take every advantage available. And you should really not expect that they will line up, side by side, like those silhouette targets on the shooting range. They may be coming at you from different directions and armed with a variety of deadly weapons. You have an extremely short time to sort things out and deal with the threat. The smart thing to do is to neutralize the crook that presents the greatest threat to you.
In his testimony following the OK Corral fight (Oct. 1881, Tombstone, Arizona Territory), Wyatt Earp stated that he and Billy Clanton fired the first shots in the fight. But, they did not shoot at each other. While we don’t know who Clanton fired at, we know that Earp stated that he fired at Frank McLaury. And he did so because, in his opinion, Frank McLaury was the best shot of the bunch. Earp clearly wanted to take the most-dangerous man out first.
In most criminal attacks, we may not know enough to know who the most-dangerous attacker is. Failing that information, it would be a good idea to focus on the criminal with the deadliest weapon. Someone wielding a shotgun would be high on my list of serious stuff to take care of. All other things being equal, it would be a good idea to address any attacker who is armed with a long gun before dealing with the pistol shooters or knife wielders.
During one of his Central America trips, Col. Jeff Cooper learned of a landowner who stepped out of his house to find three armed men running toward him. He had already received threats. The thugs were on his property, uninvited. And he perceived that they did not have peaceful intentions. Under those circumstances, the landowner did not wait for one of the attackers to fire first. He drew his Browning Hi Power and stopped all three before they could get a bullet into him. Situational awareness and evaluation applied immediately.
We might need to deal with the attacker closest to us. Imagine a trio armed with knives and clubs. If a club wielder happened to be the one closest to me, I might need to deal with that threat before I addressed another armed with a handgun, as a blow from the club could render me unconscious and out of the fight.
Sometimes you just have to go with your gut feeling. I once investigated a ranch burglary that was committed by about a dozen criminals who had come in from Mexico. A 4-inch-barrel Smith & Wesson Model 15 was taken in the crime. The next day, I located the group of crooks as they crossed a mesquite flat.
Now, I’ve got a dozen men standing off the point of my .44 Mag. carbine, but I don’t know which one of them has the gun. Call it a gut feeling, call it luck—I just picked one who didn’t look right and told him that we should resolve this thing in some way that avoided bloodshed. At my request, he used two fingers to extract the stolen revolver from under his shirt and dropped it on the ground.
We also talk a lot about the use of cover in a defensive situation. When dealing with multiple attackers, it is even more important. If you can get behind something that will stop bullets, you are well on your way to winning the engagement. Failing that, it is an excellent idea to get your back up against something solid so that you don’t have to deal with attacks from behind.
If there are two of you, it is nearly always a good idea for one of you to flank your attackers. It is usually best to do this just before the action starts, without giving them time to regroup and respond. In this manner, you present two, separate targets. You have the attackers from two different angles of fire. And, in the melee, you may even cause them to get in each other’s way and end up taking bullets that were meant for you.
We reduce their advantage by first being so practiced in our gun handling that it becomes second nature to us and allows us to focus our entire attention upon the threat. We accept this sort of thing can happen and we get training and make time for regular practice. Finally, we have a realistic personal-defense plan that includes several scenarios dealing with multiple attackers.
Crooks like having the odds stacked in their favor. But, you can ruin their day with good planning. It has been done before and you can do it, too.
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