Do you know how to survive a gun fight?
Here’s the situation: some people want your stuff, or they just plain out want to kill you. Whatever the cause of the escalation might be, all you’ve got is a gun lying on the ground next to you. What shooting techniques and tactics would you use and how would you survive a gun fight?
So first, you’ve picked up the gun, pulled out the magazine and checked how many rounds you’ve got spare. This is all while rounds are flying over your head and bouncing off things around you. But they’re not hitting you because you’ve already ducked behind cover to figure out your tactics right?
Let’s just say that if there were a group of people firing at me, my first thought would be to get out of there as quickly as possible, regroup with some gun-savvy would-be John Wick volunteers and come back. One big tip that might help, in a gunfight, 3 on 1 is better than 1 on 3. So work with those odds and round up some friends who would be worthy of a gun fight and are up to scratch with these 14 things to remember to survive a shootout.
1. Have yourself a merry little sidearm pistol
Weapon fires weapon stops. This is a thing they teach to soldiers in initial weapons training. They teach this because guns are not like a weapon in Call of Duty, in a real gun battle they stop. You could fire one shot and the weapon might not automatically reload because you have a chunky piece of metal 5.56 jacket jammed in your ejection port.
Now while any good shooter might pull out the magazine, cock the weapon and give the gun a right old nudge and shake just to free up the jam, you’re not going to do that. In an immediate jam, you are going to sling that weapon (everyone should have a good adjustable sling) and whip out your pistol to keep firing.
You might have seen John Wick make his way through a soiree of larger weapons before working his way down to his pistol range, that’s because when you’re in the heat of a shootout, using your next loaded weapon is quicker than fixing a jammed gun, or doing a magazine change.
That pistol is your merry little backup present when the first one wasn’t good enough. It is loaded and ready to dump out the 15-30 rounds you might be carrying in your glock magazine.
In this case, you’d probably use this secondary weapon to work your way through a pistol fight while you find cover and get your boomstick back into the game.
For a demonstration on the quick sling of the primary to secondary weapon, we can look no further than to the training given to Keanu Reaves to become John Wick by Taran Tactical for this one:
2. Know where your ejection port is
While we all love the John Wick films and other great shooting movies, those films aren’t always that accurate. Especially when it comes to bullet casings. Every weapon has an ejection port. Out of that comes the bit of bullet that never leaves the barrel of a gun. It’s called a casing and it is damn hot.
The first reason you should know where your ejection port is would be in the case above where your weapon jams up. Most of the time it’s going to be a bullet that hasn’t been struck properly and has not fed into the gun correctly, you will see this stuff up in the ejection port. It is about this time that if you are only carrying one gun, you should know how to fix a weapon jam pretty quick.
The second reason, and one quickly learned by shooting beginners, is that some weapons have ejection ports that can fire hot bullet casings onto your skin causing a nice little bullet tattoo to be burnt into your skin. Generally, the ejection port is on the right side of the weapon, so when your would-be volunteer buddies in the gun fight are on your left you are going to get sprayed with burning hot bullet casings.
What should you do about this? Suck it up. They’re on your side and you’ve got bullets coming at you. But if you’re like this lady with a bullet casing down the top, you’re probably going to be burning.
3. I shoot, you run
If you are not shooting you should be running. Tell your buddies in the gun fight the same thing. Try to synchronize it. If you are retreating, one person shoots while the other runs, repeat this until you are in your abandoned building, bunker hideout.
This works the other way, in the attack. If you have sized the enemy as being reasonable for your capacity and you decide to attack, shoot in their direction while your buddy runs. Let’s hope he is smart enough to figure out he should do the same.
The process of your buddy shooting while you run is called ‘covering’. This is why you hear that great term, covering fire.
This gunfighting technique also referred to as ‘fire and movement’ and if you’ve been in the military you’d cringe just hearing these words as that is a lot of the combat practice in the field which turns to elements in urban training.
When you are making those shots, sure, rounds placed near an enemy’s position is going to keep them pinned behind cover, but make sure you control your breathing, which in turn helps with your aim. The military uses a method called Box Breathing for this. Learn it and use it as it is a great way to de-stress and take control of any given situation.
4. Keep your eyes on three things at the same time
While you are ducking, diving, and firing well-aimed shoots in your gunfight survival, there are three other things (I know, it’s a lot) that you should be paying attention to: the guys shooting at you, your buddy, and possible cover. These three things are the only things you should be looking at. You should be watching where your enemy is, where you last saw them or where they sound like they are shooting from. You should be watching this because when your buddy is moving, this is where you are shooting.
You should be watching your buddy and listening out for his gun. If he is shooting, you move, if you don’t hear any shots from him, that probably means his weapon is jammed or he is just plain useless. In some cases that uselessness can also cause a jam – be warned.
On top of this, you should always be looking for the next place you are going to move to. If you are in a retreat, this is basically putting solid things behind you, if you are attacking, this is stuff in front of you. Always be looking for covering spots. Why? Because the next point is why.
5. I’m up, he sees me, I’m down
This is what you say when you run. As soon as you take your first step you should say to yourself: “I’m up, he sees me, I’m down”. This is enough time to move, and not allow your enemy to take a steady aim and kill you. If you run longer than this, anyone with a sense of aim can take a quick sighting and put some metal your way and possibly land a hit. So don’t let it happen.
When the phrase says ‘down’ this doesn’t just refer to dropping to the ground, it is whatever you deem a safe place to fire from. If it is a wall or over the front of a car, use it as cover and shoot while your buddy moves.
You can see how these guys from Polenar Tactical work in unison to provide covering fire for their buddy running. Eventually, this would get you close enough to the enemy to grenade them, or get closer to get your buddy in a flank.
This phrase is something that is regularly repeated in initial combat training for a lot of the world’s forces. It is taught for the reason which is to keep you alive. But this will fail you if you don’t adhere to the next part, which is once you are down, move for an extra few meters. Why? Next point.
6. Don’t be a rabbit
Ever seen a rabbit in the grass? It bends down to eat, pops its head back up and bends down again. You give your friend a nudge in the arm and say “check out two meters left of that tree, there’s a rabbit”. And before you know it, the rabbit has popped his little head up in the exact same spot. Boom, if you were the rabbit you would be dead. The same will happen in a real gun fight.
In a shootout, if you see someone running you are going to aim at their last seen place and wait until they pop out to shoot them. So with the principle mentioned before, once you leave the visibility of your enemy whether it be behind a car, wall… or whatever, move and crawl a few meters before popping up to shoot. Make sure that movement is lateral to the enemy. Think of it as getting out of the X.
In an urban environment, this can only work so well as you might be behind a car or a single-spaced object with very little crawl distance. Make do with what you can but remember the idea of the rabbit popping up in the same place.
7. Be aggressive and quick
Let’s think about some animals at the top of the food chain. All of the ones that I can think of are aggressive and quick in their attack and you should be too despite whether you are attacking or retreating. Why? When you are covering fire you only have a certain amount of bullets to do so (You are hoping that we picked up a gun with a full mag when we found it at the start).
Taking a gun fight slow and steady will result in getting shot. Bullets move fast and you need to as well. If you are ever unfortuante enough to find yourself in the midst of a real gun fight the number one rule is to be aggressive, confident and quick.
Part of being aggressive is also being on the offensive. When it comes to surviving a gun fight, when you maintain the offensive with your buddy (hopefully more than one) you are overwhelming your enemy with so much precise force that they cannot handle the pressure and start making mistakes and panic. This puts you in control and control is the key to winning.
8. Plan like it’s the last thing you ever do
Yes, it could be the last thing you ever do. Getting shot is no field trip and it can result in a massive loss of blood and death. So what are you going to do? Well, you should already have your answer for that. Plan, plan, plan.
It could be anything from attacking with your buddy up until you can run a flank, or it could be to sit and fire a few shots in the enemy’s direction to probe and find out what sort of guns they have (let’s hope for your sake they don’t have mounted heavy belt-fed weapons). Whatever you do, have a plan and a backup one if that fails.
When it comes to gun fights, there are a huge amount of tactics that can be employed, they all depend largely on the area where you are fighting, such as urban gun fights in buildings, apartments and tight streets, or in the wilderness in forests, jungles or wide open planes. All of these have their setbacks, exposure points, and weaknesses. The only way to win a fight is to think logically and exploit those weaknesses against the other team.
I recently wrote a post about a tactical way of thinking using situational awareness. The theory of the OODA loop was developed by a military tactician and is something you should use to diagnose, dissect and win your gun fight. The OODA loop is explained in-depth in the post on situational awareness but for an overview, it stands for:
- Observe your enemy
- Orientate how they are acting and what you can do to counter and win that action
- Make a Decision on the best course of action to take
- Carry out the Action.
- The loop then continues back into the observation phase.
9. Be fit for a gunfight
By this, we don’t mean you should start doing pushups in the middle of a two-way range. This is a preparatory thing and is a big part of prepping for when the sh-t hits the fan. Fitness is important in a gun fight for three main reasons:
- It keeps you confident with a level-head and tactical thinking mindset
- It gets you from point A to B quickly and efficiently
- It allows you to make a steady aim after just sprinting for your life
If you are not fit, get started by working with high-impact interval training.
10. Get creative when looking for cover
Cover isn’t just a place to hide, it’s also a place to shoot rounds from to try and land a hit on your enemy as well as to suppress the enemy for your buddy to gain some ground. Part of this involves the flexibility and creativity that many special forces soldiers use in their field office. Chances are your gun fight is going to be in an urban environment which means you are going to have vehicles, houses, fences, garden hedges, windows and anything else at your disposal. Whatever you have got, use it.
Navy SEAL Rich Graham teaches various methods like this at his Tactical Carbine course. While this video was intentionally about muzzle awareness from a concealed position, you can see how he uses the tray of a truck as a covered firing position.
Remember that whichever position you find to fire from, make sure you can build a solid firing position to aim, control your breath and control your weapon so that you can make more accurate shots. These are simple military marksmanship principles and greatly improve your aim ability to end a firefight with a well-placed shot when coupled with breathing exercises taught to soldiers. For those that find they need to take time to line a good shot on the range, there are courses developed online such as the Spec Ops Shooting Course that teaches you how to shoot faster while still maintaining the same accuracy. When it comes down to it, shooting quick, and accurate is the most important shooting technique you can ever master.
11. Bring a knife to a gun fight
You have probably heard something along the lines of “don’t bring a knife to a gunfight”, but that is completely wrong. A knife is a piece of equipment every tactical gun fighter should have on their kit for a number of reasons. One of them is that a knife something you can grab in close combat when everything else fails.
Remember how we said you should have a merry little sidearm? What if you have spent all of that ammunition getting to the enemy and it comes down to a test of strength between the two of you? No, that’s not going to happen. You’ve got a fixed-blade knife ready to use in combat.
What type of knife should you be using? That’s up to you, but as far as cool gear goes, you can’t go past the legendary US Marine Ka-Bar knife.
12. If you are entering a gunfight in a car, shoot, then get out and shoot some more
Cars are bullet magnets, and you are pretty well exposed if you are sitting in it (unless of course, you are in the US President’s Beast), so you are going to need to get out of that thing quickly. But while you are getting out, you could be sprayed with metal.
To leave a car in a gun fight (assuming it has stopped) you should:
- Fire some shots at whoever is shooting at you (this will divert their attention from shooting you to ducking)
- Open the door and hold it open with your foot (some doors have a kickback)
- Lead with your gun out the door aiming at the enemy and fire shots while leaving the car
- Position yourself so that the vehicle is in between yourself and the enemy
Here is a demonstration on executing a quick departure from a car under fire from Tactical Rifleman:
13. Don’t forget your chest rig
Okay, so if you are in a gun fight, chances are you were probably looking for one and did not run away at the first sign of a shot. This means you are a hardened individual ready to eat lead, shoot with precision, advance towards an enemy and make them quiver with fear from your dominant fighting skills.
All of this means you probably already have something like a Condor Recon Chest Rig and the sweet sidearm carrier the Condor Tornado Tactical Leg Holster. You are a dangerous gunfighter by the looks of it. And with this gear you can carry more magazines, have the smaller working space between the quick draw of your magazines to the loading port of your rifle and handgun and you can also fasten the previously mentioned US Marine Ka-Bar knife to the molle on the rig.
If you are are anything of a military buff, you have probably heard of the film Lone Survivor, the film adaptation of the amazing story of war hero Marcus Luttrel. The film’s immensely real adaptation of military tactics, weapons drills, and equipment was very real. In saying that, the specialist Rhodesian Recon Vest (RRV) chest rig the character wore in that film is also a very popular option for many military professionals and security workers.
14. Don’t get in one, but if you have to, win.
Remember how we mentioned the OODA loop in Number 8? Well if you can see an opportunity to de-escalate an issue then take it. Peace is a much better approach for all parties than exchanging fast and hot bullets.
If there is a peaceful option to take, then take it. But if there isn’t then god speed.
In writing this article, I also encourage anyone who is interested in weapons, in general, to promote gun safety to anyone you know who is about to touch a weapon otherwise you might end up being injured by one of these unsafe people. While this post might sound light, guns are no joke and are meant to be taken very serious when working with and around them.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Give it a share with the buddies you would expect to back you up in a fight!
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