Survival Psychology “The Aftermath”

self defense shooting, survival rifle, survival pistol, bug out bag

You are now 5 hours into a very long day. At oh-dark-thirty a bad guy kicked in your front door. Took him three tries so you had time to meet him armed. In the ensuing encounter, he came in second place.  The police and paramedics have come and gone.

Your attorney, that you keep on retainer for self defense gun issues, was there and got you through the investigation without you saying something dumb and getting arrested.

Note:  I use Texas Law Shield ( ) – you should find a similar firm for yourself. For the price of a couple of boxes of high end ammo each year you have legal defense against criminal and civil prosecution related to the use of your weapon.

The body has been removed and the gawking neighbors have gone home. You are puzzled at the looks they gave you as they left. Your wife, who was in the bedroom during the shooting, also looked at you funny as she went back to the bedroom.

The door is barricaded closed – that will have to be fixed when things open up a little Survival Pistollater and the carpet may need replacing, but it’s not yet dawn so you have time to just think.  Who would have thought the Bad Guy would bleed like that.  Your attorney told you not to talk to anyone about what happened, until all legal issues are settled to keep you from saying something that can be used against you.  Funny, only now are you really shaking.  The adrenaline is gone, you’re exhausted but no way you’re going to get any sleep in what’s left of the night.

The Aftermath

Now comes some of the toughest times for the citizen who uses lethal force to defend himself.  During the event, things happened without conscious thought, you just did what you had to do.  Now you must deal with the aftermath. There will be reporters and family members who want the “whole” story.  Depending on motivation the “how does it feel to kill someone” sickos will be trying to paint you as some kind of a homicidal maniac while the “he didn’t deserve to die” weepy moralist will be trying to score points by making you guilty of murder (sure it was legal for you to shoot but did you HAVE to KILL him?)

The City of Phoenix PD created a ‘peer counselor’ program staffed by those who had been in lethal force incidents to be with officers involved in shootings or other traumatic incidents like traffic accidents that turned children into body parts.  The city determined that suicide rates were substantially reduced if the officer involved could talk to a ‘safe’ person within 24 hours of the incident.  It was discovered that the standard investigative procedure tended to isolate the officer from his society. As in most shootings, the gun used is evidence and is taken by the investigators.  For an officer, the badge and gun are signs of belonging.  The peer counselor carries a firearm to replace the officer’s service weapon – to let him feel that he still belonged.

As a civilian, we don’t have this kind of arrangement but the needs are still there. The home defense pistol shotgunweapon used to defend yourself and your family is most likely in the impound pending the completion of the investigation.  Can you defend your family now?  Do you have another firearm should the Bad Guy’s friends come calling tonight?

You are not the only one isolated from your community now.  If you have children, the other kids will not be kind.  From some, your kids will get the ‘Your daddy’s a murderer’ line and from others a ‘Don’t play with them, you can’t trust their family’.  Your neighbors will be formal and polite but very distant.  Your family members will treat you differently.

You are different – you’ve taken a human life and IT DOES CHANGE YOU.  Priorities change, plans change, hopes and dreams change.  Many marriages can not handle the additional stresses.  The marriage stress ( you are no longer the person she married ) just adds to the mental and emotional stress on you.


So, how do you get through it.  Some don’t – the suicide rate attests to that.  If you’ve not thought about these things prior to the shooting, you are at high risk.  If you’ve taken the time to come to grips with the fact of what you may be called upon to do with that handgun, you are ahead of the problem.  Don’t think that being a combat vet means you won’t have this problem as well.  There is a world of difference between shooting at an enemy soldier at  200 yards as part of a team and seeing the face of a bad guy at 5 feet as your Hydra-Shok rounds turn his chest into hamburger (yes, graphic – make you queasy?  The real event is much worse).

At home, before the event ever happens (hopefully it never will), spend some time home defense shotgun pistol survivalthinking about this.  Not macho crap but honest thought about what happens if you ever pull the trigger on another human.  Get used to the fact that if the Bad Guy dies, it was HIS choice.  You didn’t force him to kick in your door.  He chose to do so because he thought he could hurt you and get away with it.  Get angry at him for putting you in that spot. Talk it over with your spouse and then with your family.  Don’t scare the little ones but make sure they know to stay out of harms way.  You don’t want them to come in and see the Bad Guy bleeding out on your carpet or taking a stray round.  Remember, you are NOT shooting to kill.  You are shooting to STOP the Bad Guy from hurting you and your family. If he dies that was HIS choice, not yours.

If at all possible, now is the time to find someone with whom you can talk and I don’t mean a mall-ninja.  When I came home from Viet Nam my wife went through about 5 years of this with me.  That she stayed always amazes me, but she did.  I was so sick of people telling me they ‘knew how I felt’ when they didn’t have a clue of what being so scared that you puke really means, that I just wanted to punch them out.  Then I met a man who had spent 5 years as a POW.  We talked for about 16 hours straight.  He UNDERSTOOD in spades and helped me adjust to the new reality.

Many political leaders, medical and religious professionals don’t have a clue about guns and the effect using one has on a person.  They expect the men or women who they have hired to carry out these tasks to be made of steel.  Because of this attitude they often feel superior to those who take arms in their own defense and are of little help as counsel.  I have observed that a strong prayer life helps.  For those who don’t believe in God, strengthen what ever it is that forms your core beliefs.  You must be strong at your core or you won’t make it.

If possible, find someone who has been there.  Not the guy who talks about it; find the guy who sits quietly and says little.  Watch to see the respect he shows to the flag or the Corps or the nation.  Listen to the words he speaks and look at the firearms he may use at the range.  The guy with the AR15 tricked out with every “add-on” money can buy but who hasn’t fired it more than twice in 5 years but talks often about shooting Mutant Zombie Bikers is probably not who you need.  The guy who says “Yes, I was in the service” and shuts up may well be the guy you need.  Don’t ask about his service – he won’t tell you.  Just get to know him and get to be friends.  Invite him to the range and learn.

Lastly, killing is not something to be proud of.  Anyone who brags about the Bad Guy’s they’ve killed is either a psychopath or a liar.  Being skilled enough and prepared enough to defend your loved ones is worthy of pride.  I’ve always found it to be a silent pride – those who are skilled and prepared don’t brag about it.  They will share to help others but never to brag.

The key is to be able to continue doing so after a ‘first’ event.  Hopefully there will never be a first or, God forbid, a second event but for the sake of the ones you love you must be prepared to survive the aftermath of using deadly force.

By Captain Bart
Catholic Deacon, Retired US Army Pilot, Suburban Survivalist

Also read Captain Bart’s – Survival Psychology: Deadly Force

Read – Making the Best of Basics to make sure your family is prepared.

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{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

JohnDoe1999 February 17, 2011 at 8:33 am

Thank you for this excellent article. Any time I try to acknowledge the gravity of what I may have to do with my peers, the barracks or "locker room" mentality takes over and stupid lines like "all you should feel is recoil" followed by demeaning obscenities ensue. It's refreshing and comforting to hear someone acknowledging reality.


CaptBart February 17, 2011 at 10:13 am

Thank you, sir.


Kevin James February 17, 2011 at 9:06 am

THIS WAS A GREAT ARTICLE! You hit the nail on the head for the military and civilian who has never had to pull the trigger and really stop someone. I am a Marine combat veteran and I work all the time with my wife on the standard procedures for the escalation of force and the possibly of deadly force as a final option. I am always discussing the lack of formal training (maybe once a quarter we talk about it) and the very little amount of time she will have to make decision in the event of a scenario, as mentioned above, occurs. Will she have time to get mace? or call 911? or will she only have enough time to grab the hand gun, click off safe and pull? She is like most human beings…she is a good natured Christian woman but will do whatever it takes to protect her kids. We have set her up for success with protection but we have not discussed the aftermath that WILL occur.


CaptBart February 17, 2011 at 10:11 am

I am glad you found the article useful. One thing to remember about that 911 call. It is being recorded and it WILL be used as evidence. A relieved 'you got what you deserved!' can turn into a very damning recording at a trial. Still the legalities are not as tough as the reality of what you just did to a human being. Especially our ladies – they are nurturing, wonderful people and what happens in a firefight is not something I ever want them to see. If they do, the trauma will be great unless they are prepared. Taurus has an ad for the Judge (.45Colt/.410 shotgun) revolver where a lady takes out manikins with watermelon heads. What that .410 with 000 buck does to a watermelon is a good approximation of the mess it would leave of a person, your walls and floor. You can help her by talking about it. As her spouse you are a 'safe' person who can't be forced to testify. If she is prepared to help, she is a safe person for you. It takes time to share with the ones you love something that you'd rather not ever expose them to. The thing is, that exposure could be the difference between a very stressful time and not surviving the aftermath. The hardest part is to not talk; just listen to them. They don't want you to make it better, they need to talk it out for themselves and come to grips with their new reality.


OfficerOtto February 18, 2011 at 7:24 am

On the 911 call topic, I work in a small municipality and our response time is very good. If you don't live on the extreme edge of town, we are typically on scene within 2 minutes of a "hot" call. Add a minute for the 911 call to go out, a dispatcher to answer and get vital information. A LOT can happen in those 3 minutes. Being prepared to take action yourself is the only way to ensure your survival.


nerdyadventurer February 17, 2011 at 11:36 am

Another great article! And no one should ever underestimate the importance of talking things out with a peer. The first time I had a patient die on me, I was still a college student doing my internship shifts. I didn’t really know anyone in the field. I couldn’t stand the idea of putting the stress on my husband, and he wouldn’t really now what I was feeling. So I ended asking my instructor to talk to me. What had bothered me really, was that I DIDN’T feel bad about it. I thought there was something wrong with me. My instructor really helped me understand what was going on in my head, he’d been exactly where I was once. Anyways, we are very close friends to this day. And now I have no trouble dealing with the death that I inevitably face at work.

However, taking a life is way above and beyond just having someone die in front of you. So I really believe that the above article is extremely important. PTSD is nothing to mess around with.


CaptBart February 17, 2011 at 12:30 pm

As a medical professional you have an additional burden to worry about. You spend your life trying to ease pain and save life. To be forced to take a life in defense of your own life or your family is to apparently violate everything you live by. Your work associates will almost certainly not understand and you could be forced to change jobs over defending yourself. Not fair but life can be terrifically unfair.
I don't know what would be the best way for you to consider such an event; all I can tell you is what a physician friend told me. He considered his family as a living organism (I like that comparison, by the way) and the Bad Guy is an invading disease that must be stopped before it kills the organism. The cost to the organism could be high if not stopped soon enough but the disease must be stopped. It made sense to him, it might help you should you ever need it.
If you can discuss it with your spouse the two of you will be stronger than either one alone but that is a call only you can make.


nerdyadventurer February 17, 2011 at 1:20 pm

I like that analogy, too. Here's what I came to after my husband and I had our first 'sit down' to discuss how we felt about self-defense. I took a vow that says "First, do no harm." I take that very seriously, along with the rest of the vow that follows. So, initially I was really afraid, how can I use deadly force to protect myself or family and reconcile it with that? I realised that A) If my family is in danger, and I have the means to protect them, and don't; then I am harming my family. B) This is an extension of our training to always make sure that "the scene is safe" before entering: You can't help anyone if you get hurt or killed. How could I expect to help my family or anyone else if I allow myself to be killed?


nerdyadventurer February 17, 2011 at 1:22 pm

That being said, my husband and I determined that if a situation arises, he'd be the one to shoot, if possible. If he isn't there, or is unable to for some reason, then I will be ready. Though I did argue that point, because quite honestly, I'm a better shot than he is. :) However, I believe that helps him feel that he is protecting me, not just physically but emotionally and mentally. Which I adore him for.

On a slightly lighter note, I laughed when I realised that if I shot an intruder in my home, incapacitated him without killing him, I would end up administering first aid and probably saving his life. :P


CaptBart February 17, 2011 at 2:05 pm

If you find yourself treating the Bad Guy (I applaud you for recognizing that fact – it isn't obvious) you must be very careful. Many people have been killed by 'dead men'. It can take tens of seconds to minutes for some fatal wounds to have their effect, as I'm sure you know. During that time, the Bad Guy can continue to harm you and your family. Approaching a downed BG is always risky. Make sure someone is covering you and DO NOT HAVE A WEAPON WITH YOU when you do so. The last thing you want is to provide him with another weapon. Also, recognize that your medical skills could be compromised by the adrenalin change from the encounter. Fine motor skills are among the first to go so I would consider before hand whether or not to attempt any delicate first aid. The paramedics should be on the way so I would recommend (and I am not a medical authority by any means) that only the most immediate stabilization care be given. You may be damned for not helping if you do not and accused of 'finishing the job' if you do help. It is not always a nice world we live in.

CaptBart February 17, 2011 at 1:54 pm

'Primum non nocere' is the ethical command to 'first do no harm'. It is a derivation from the Hippocratic Oath (if my physician hasn't sign it, I find one who has) that says (in translation)

"I WILL FOLLOW that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous."

Note it is to the benefit of the patient as a whole. Arguably performing an amputation is doing harm, yet if the patient survives as a result of removing a leg infected with gangrene then I would argue the Oath has been followed. Also note it is according to your ability and judgement. You may be mistaken and still not violated the ethics of your profession.
If your family is your first and prime patient (and I would argue from any number of sources that it is) then protecting that patient from an infectious disease does not violate the ethical requirement. Medical ethics is a difficult field and care must be taken not to use the situation to 'justify' a bad choice. In this case, the Bad Guy freely chose to put you and your family in harms way. He is the infectious disease that must be stopped. You are not free to 'kill' the Bad Guy but you are free to 'Stop' him in the most efficacious manner possible. A double tap to the chest is likely to minimize harm to the greatest number of people. If the Bad Guy dies in the process, that was HIS choice. Ethically there is a world of difference in 'killing' and 'stopping' even thought the outcome is exactly the same. Unfortunately, you may have trouble explaining this to some of your co-workers.


nerdyadventurer February 17, 2011 at 3:02 pm

You're right, and I've had to come to accept that some of my co-workers may not understand. However I've been surprised at how many share my view. It'll really suck. I remember very clearly how people acted around my mother after she shot a prowler in our yard when I was 12. No charges were pressed, and the guy even lived through it. And he had (stolen)gun, and it turned out that he was someone that she'd already filed police reports against him for stalking her. And police didn't arrive for about 10 minutes after she'd shot him. She obviously did the right thing to protect herself and her children. But people treated her differently. Not outright mean, just wierd. Not quite at ease. It's hard to describe.

It's a hard thing to have to deal with, but I know that she doesn't regret what she did at all.

Jack February 17, 2011 at 11:38 am

This as fantastic. While I was never in the military, many of my friends were, and are now LEOs as well. They come and go, and you would never know they served, and say any type of action until they opened their mouths to tell you. I know more than one who has counselled someone because of a violent crime, as they were the ones that really knew what the violence meant as well as the reaction to it.

I hope I never see that situation. In NJ, regardless of the situation and your attorney, you are sure to spend a night or two in jail until the investigation is complete. It is a very weird state with some of the worst gun laws in the country next to NY and CA. For many reasons I believe it is time to move to a more gun friendly state, but moving to a state for the gun laws isn't really realistic, I think. Maybe I am wrong, and off on a tangent.

My point, is that if the time comes, ever, I hope I can defend myself, and I hope it doesn't have to take a life unless it is to completely protect my own and the lives of those that I love. However, I hope that time never comes…


CaptBart February 17, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Jack, moving to a place because of their gun laws is perhaps unrealistic. Moving to a state that recognizes your right to defend yourself and your family makes great sense to me. Make sure you phrase the question properly. If there is no chance that you will be able to help change NJ law, I would choose to move my family somewhere else where self defense was possible within the law. Make it a reasoned, deliberate move with plenty of planning, but move I would.

I'm a native Texan and was raised believing I was responsible for what happened to me and mine. No law can remove that responsibility from my shoulders – it is mine as long as I am above room temperature
The US Supreme Court has ruled that the police have no responsibility to defend an individual citizen. This is a fair ruling if for no other reason than that it is physically impossible for the LEOs to be with each person all the time. When I was there, Phoenix PD had one of the best responses in the nation for a lights and sirens call. It was 2 min and 47 seconds. Sounds quick but think about someone beating you with a baseball bat – for 2 min and 47 seconds. Try sitting in a chair, on your hands and staring at a clock for those 2 min and 47 seconds. It is a really long time. As the saying goes,"When seconds count, the police are only minutes away". Nothing bad to say about the nation's police departments. It is just that individual protection is an impossible job.

I pray the 'time' never comes for any of us but for some of us, it will come. If you spend 2 days in jail for a justified defense, who is protecting your family from the gang members out to avenge the death of their member? It is not my intent to tell anyone how to live their lives. You must weigh and decide what is best for your family. By the way, I note that in 'gun friendly' states like Texas the violent crime stats are better than in strong gun control states.

Don't move because of the gun laws. Move because of the quality of life, the strong sense of individual rights, the recognition of the right of self defense and the opportunity to be freer from crime.


Emerson February 17, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Great article Capt. Bart. Most people do not face the reality that having a gun and/or your CCW is having the ability to use "deadly force", not something to be taken lightly. I am baptist (raised catholic too), and I agree that a strong prayer life helps. I have never faced a "first event", and I hope I never have to. Although, as I say with a gun and a CCW… it is better to have it and not need it, then need it and not have it. Jack (above), I was raised in NJ, and you are right, the gun laws there are atrocious. Consider Ohio where I live, VERY gun-friendly!


Wolfie2884 February 17, 2011 at 1:19 pm

Great article. Thanks. I looked at the Texas Law Shield and it sounded like a good program. Does anyone know of a similar program that would cover Pennsylvania, or better yet multiple states as I have to travel sometimes?


CaptBart February 18, 2011 at 12:27 pm

You might Google something like "chl legal defense program Pennsylvania" and see if you get anything. seems to be an insurance for criminal only defense – it is multi-state but lacks the 'on call' feature of Law Shield. If you have a state gun club (Texas has a Texas State Rifle Association) they might be able to put you into touch with someone like Law Shield. You might contact the folks at Law Shield via email and see if they can make a referral. Wish I could be more specific but I found Law Shield at my local gun shop. You might ask the manager of your local gun store who he uses – I did.


daddy September 7, 2012 at 2:09 pm

YES. SECOND DEFENSE ALLIANCE. …. They specialize in empowering family protection.


T.Rapier February 17, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Great article ! , definitely food for thought .


Dave H. February 17, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Great article! This is an aspect that most people never think of, PRIOR to a deadly encounter.


Josh February 17, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Thank you for sharing, I am really enjoying this series. I am able to gain a lot of valuble information from your insightful comments as well. My family is very blessed to live in a state with good laws on a number of things including gun rights, homeschooling, and a very similar castle doctrine to what is in place in TX.


LesStroudfan February 17, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Like most of the guys here, thanks for this wonderful, well enlightning article. if you was really in front of me, i would salute you for bravey for writing about such a complicated topic.

still, there is one piece of advice i would like to add to this masterpiece. when anyone, no matter if it is yourself or someone you love, has a hard trouble pulling the trigger, they should treat the situation as if it is a video game of sorts. now, i know how this might sound to some people, but hear me out. when someone degrades a difficult situation such as shooting a bad guy down to something as childish as shooting a zombie on your PS3 you can better control the situation since it seems easier to handle. personally, this has recently helped me when i was doing behind the wheel for the first time last summer; it seemed at the time that every turn i would make would cause me to either hit a pedestrian or maybe a BMW (yikes, talk about hitting you where it hurts). however, by pretending i was riding my ATV at home, i was able to conquer my fears and eventually got my driver's license (which was last month, yeah!).


CaptBart February 17, 2011 at 8:36 pm

Yes, but be careful of what you accomplish. What you are doing is desensitizing yourself to the situation. To a point this is a good thing and I don't disagree if it gets past a dangerous hesitation, but remember, under stress you react as you train. Your ability to get your license (congratulations, by the way) was helped by being desensitized to what was worrying you. While you don't want to hesitate excessively, you also don't want to pull the trigger too easily. Even the great pistoleer Wild Bill Hickok was faced with this when he killed his own deputy. It was a justifiable shooting but he never got over it. Had he hesitated and been wrong he might or might not have been injured; as it was he killed a friend running up to help him. Pilots have to be careful with very realistic flight simulator games – you fly and fight like you train. Bad habits show up in real life and there is no reset button. I know that some recommend things like air soft guns for training but I disagree unless it is used under strict control to learn things like fire and maneuver. In that case shooting my own team member just annoys him and we get a do over after the instructor corrects the errors. Under a good instructor you can learn a lot. Under a poor or no instructor, air soft can teach you that at 20 yards you're 'safe' or that a bush can stop the round. With a .45 ACP that bush will make no noticeable difference in velocity and 20 yards is within range. Another tool for training, yes, but one that can also cause some really bad habits and reactions so be careful. I personally don't use it or video games as a training tool but the choice is up to the individual.


Combat_Medic February 17, 2011 at 6:44 pm

I was in Iraq twice and both times I had to take a life. I understand your thoughts on the difference between combat and self defense. I had the chance to get over the medical professional vs soldier aspect of it.. But having been in combat twice I have taken enough lifes. I will do it again but I have another option. I have rubber buck shot rounds in the first two positions in my shotgun. I will protect my family but I'm not sure I could handle killing a 15 year old kid strung out on meth just trying to steal my big screen and I happen to be there. So I think that is an option. If they have a gun and keep coming, number three is 00 buck. Great Article!!


CaptBart February 17, 2011 at 8:57 pm

Medic, thank you for your service, sir. I have no arguments with your choice, especially since you realize that you might need that third round. As an aside, I never consider such things as TASERS and bean bag rounds 'non-lethal'. They are certainly less lethal but under the right (wrong?) circumstances can be lethal. In Texas those rounds would be considered no differently than buckshot but I recognize the effort to preserve life. While I reached a different conclusion, I appreciate the thought that went into your decision. I assume you are aware of the potential lethal effects of the less-lethal ammunition and have chosen to reduce the risk to the bad guy at a slight but real increase in risk to yourself. Should the rounds prove lethal to the bad guy, many of the same problems present themselves even though you tried to use a less lethal defense.


Combat_Medic February 18, 2011 at 6:03 am

Well CaptBart I do realize at close range the rubber rounds can be made lethal with shot placement. I don't live in a high crime area so I am more likely to find a bear in my trash can as to find a buglar in my house. I also realize the rubber rounds increase my risk but we have a lot of teenagers around and I rather not make a bad choice worse.


bob February 17, 2011 at 11:01 pm

i been in combat and i was shocked. my home has been broken into as well as my vehicles
and i was shocked. could i? you see i could, i had one incident with a drunk at 3am in the morning
wanting to fight me. he tried to kick the steel door on my house in. called me every name in the book. i was ready to take him down. my wife stopped me from escalating the situation. she didnt
want the legal hassles and his family , well lets just say they don't exactly fit the citizen of the year awards criteria..but things have gotten worse, out of hand and i have to remind myself its not worth the legal hassles to take his life.


nerdyadventurer February 18, 2011 at 7:41 am

I hate to put it this way, but if you have time to be worrying about the legal hassles, it probably isn't a true life threatening situation. The good thing is that that kept you from taking life unnecessarily. However if the situation arises that you know that your family is in danger above the risk of legal problems….


CaptBart February 18, 2011 at 11:19 am

If you have not read the "Survival Psychology Deadly Force” article you might find it interesting. There is a difference between justified and legal. Depending on your state, you might have been justified in firing on someone trying to force entry into your home but if there was no immediate threat to your (or someone else's) life it would probably not have been legal. You were in no danger of life threatening harm as long as the steel door held so to use lethal force would be very difficult to justify, legally or morally. I'm not saying it isn't possible, just that it would take a great deal of care to not be in the wrong. If 'legal hassles' are the only thing preventing you from taking a life, you are in a very dangerous and precarious place. You need legal advice immediately on available options before an accident leads to one or the other of you being arrested for murder.


Chefbear58 February 22, 2011 at 2:24 am

I am just a police science student (working on becoming a Game Warden), so I can't really say what legal action you can take on a person in the situation that you have described. However, I can see no harm in going to your local police department and informing them of the troubles you are having with them. Also depending on the laws in your area, you may be able to take legal action against him (criminal, not civil, not saying civil is not possible). Here in VA we have a Magistrate system, with a witness you can go to the magistrate and file charges against the person. What charges those might be, I am unsure, but I know of at least three friends that have taken this course of action and had success. If nothing else, it will help to inform the police of the trouble they are causing, and will help if future events occur because there would have been previous records of similar actions. If there is a specific pattern to how/when this person "harasses" you and your family, they might even dispatch an officer in an attempt to prevent them from creating a bad situation. Remember, 99% of the police officers aren't in their field for the money (I say 99% because there are "bad eggs" in every field), they are there to make an impact in the lives of their neighbors/fellow citizens. Like I mentioned, even if they decide to not do anything at the moment, it will help to develop a history of this persons actions, which can definitely help "make your case" in the long run, or if heaven forbid he takes it to far sometime in the future and you DO* NEED* to defend yourself/family, the records of previous disturbances will show that you have attempted to seek help with the problem and can help support your claim of defense.


Tom February 18, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Interesting article…can create many answers . Having been a police officer for 22 years I totally understand. The major thing to think about is at night or during a incident that is only you and someone else "DON'T PANIC"..sometimes the situation is not as bad as one actually thinks at the time. Someone on the other side of the door yelling and screaming and kicking creates an aurora that they are really big and bad, then when the door comes off the hinges there is a 15 year old kid.
Its always easy to give advice by when confronted count to 10 and wait, sometimes a shot in the ceiling will now turn the situation around and you are the big guy with more noise. Always think hard and count to ten it works. But then again, its easy to give advice. Be safe


CaptBart February 18, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Tom, you are right. Don't panic is always easier to say than to do. I suspect panic has killed more people than any firearm. That said, avoiding panic is difficult in a situation that is totally outside of any experience you've ever had before. The more you train, the more you play out scenarios in your mind when not under stress, the more certain you are of your core values, the less likely you are to panic. Even a situation you've never seen can be dealt with if you have prepared for a broad range of contingencies. The final thing to remember is that even if you do everything absolutely perfectly and right, the result may turn out poorly. The good guy doesn't always win and the "bad" guy isn't always bad (he may just be mistaken – wrong place, wrong time kind of thing). The tough part is to accept that if we do our absolute best, then the result (regardless of what it is) is the best that could be obtained.
The key to surviving the bad ending is to not second guess yourself into suicide or breakdown. One of the things I learned from my POW mentor was to ask the following question:
Given exactly the same information available at the time, no more and without knowing how things turned out, would I have made the same decision. No fair using your knowledge now of how things went. If all you had was the knowledge and experience that you had at the time, would you make the same decision today? If the answer is yes, then you made the best decision possible regardless of the result of that decision. Sometimes, luck or fate or destiny or karma or providence or ? can alter an outcome but you can't make decisions based on luck. All you can do is your best to prepare and respond prudently; the rest is out of your control.


Minarchist_1776 February 18, 2011 at 10:11 pm

Unfortunately the idea of firing a warning shot has various legal complications involved with it. While from my point of view those complications are mostly (but not all) nanny state nonsense they are nevertheless real. Depending on where you live, it may be illegal to discharge a firearm in your jurisdiction. So if you fire your weapon and the bad guy runs away, it is now *you* who are potentially prosecutable for having broken the law. And odds are excellent it will be the bad guy who will pull out his cell phone after he's run far enough to feel comfortable and rat you out.

The other potential consequence of firing a warning shot is that depending on what caliber of weapon you are using and what sort of ammunition you have loaded in it, you could potentially injure/cripple/kill someone upwards of several hundred yards away. While the probability of that happening is slight, the higher the population density of the area that you live in, the more likely it is to happen. This is NOT a "nanny state" nonsense consideration. You need to put a lot of thought into what sort of weapon you're going to be using and what type of ammo to load it with.

My advice would be to either use a shotgun loaded with relatively small shot (at least for the first round or two) or a pistol loaded with frangible ammunition. If you're living in an area where you don't have to worry about prosecution for simply discharging a weapon, one might be able to make a case for having the first round in the firing sequence being a blank (note that might not work well for some semiautomatic weapons). The drawback with that is if you find yourself in a situation such that you need the first round to be effective, you're hosed. Then again, there's always the noise that's made when one cycles a pump action shotgun that could also have a similar effect. Back in the day there were allegedly "rock salt" loads that were used in shotguns to get a nonlethal effect.

Bottom line, while I have quibbles about "warning shots", I nevertheless much prefer the idea of scaring people away to killing them. Just make sure you know the laws in your area and the ballistic characteristics of the weapon and ammunition you're using. And also yet another excellent article by Captain Bart.


CaptBart February 19, 2011 at 10:01 am

Thank you, sir, and I too have issues with warning shots. I think they used to be a 'standard' (at least on Hollywood sets) some time ago but there are issues. A problem with a warning shot tends to be your location. I tend to think a shot into the air or ceiling is always a bad idea. It will travel (here in Houston we get several people hurt every New Year from idiots firing into the air) unless, as you suggest, the chosen ammo is very carefully selected (Hollywood never seemed to have problems with someone 1/2 mile down range getting hit). I tend to think that in any 'general carry' weapon, such ammo choice is impractical. That leaves a shot into the ground or a certain 'bullet stop' near the bad guy. If you can be absolutely certain there won't be a ricochet, this might be a viable option but now your legal issues come into play. You have just shot 'AT' your presumed bad guy. If he has not YET broken any law, he may be legally within his rights to return fire. Puts you in a very bad position with the LEO who respond to a 'shots fired' call. You have also provided the bad guy the opening to fire the first effective shot.
I tend more to the idea that if he is too far away to hear a "I have a gun" warning then we don't have a problem requiring the immediate use of lethal force. There may be exceptions but they would be extremely rare (and you'd better be an excellent shot). If he ignores the "I have a gun", a warning shot probably won't be effective either. I really think 'warning shots' are a bad idea in general; if the statement that I have a gun and the presence of a gun in my hand isn't enough, you are going to have to shoot and not a warning shot.
As an aside, I've had occasions where the simple act of placing my gun hand under my coat into the small of my back (once without a gun – I never want to do THAT again – that little maneuver is called a bluff and is spelled S-T-U-P-I-D in all caps!) was enough to defuse the situation. In many shootings the first shot fired determines the outcome. Deliberately wasting that shot is not wise.
Again think this through very well before the incident and plan. My bluff was a spur of the moment reaction that had it been called would have resulted in me and my wife being harmed. Another reason I am never 'not armed' if at all possible.


Chefbear58 February 22, 2011 at 2:43 am

In many states the "warning shot" is considered reckless discharge of a firearm, around here that means a felony charge! Also consider this, CaptBart and Minarchist_1776 mentioned the potential for hitting someone "downrange", what about when you fire into the ceiling of say a house/apartment/office building… Are you 100% sure that nobody is standing above there your firearm is aimed? Even for some of the "frangible" ammunition this can be a serious issue!

I think CaptBart has the right idea, if you want to "warn" them, announce that you have a firearm and you will use it if need be. Even the simple act of drawing your firearm, around here in VA, is a pretty serious charge… it's called "Brandishing a Firearm". If I am not mistaken, this to would be a felony charge, meaning that you may forfeit your right to even own a firearm by choosing this course of action, whether you shoot or not! There is an ongoing "joke" in my police science classes that "You get in more trouble around here for simply drawing your weapon, than for using it against an assailant!". This is true in a pretty "gun friendly" state, VA.

Just some things to consider.


CaptBart February 24, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Brandishing in Texas is also very serious and requires the same level of threat as using. If I show or pull my weapon, I had better have a level of threat sufficient to justify using that weapon. The law makes no distinction between the two as far as justification goes. That may not seem fair but the law is not about justice or fair – it is about the law. The price I pay to conceal carry is to live with in the rules.


Straydog February 21, 2011 at 10:03 am

Great article!!! Keep'em coming.


Chefbear58 February 22, 2011 at 2:45 am

Great article CaptBart! This paired up with your previous article about morality makes an excellent combination. I hope you don't mind, but I have sent links to both of them to everyone I know! So far everyone has enjoyed them as much/more than I have!


CaptBart February 22, 2011 at 6:02 pm

I am flattered, sir. No I don't mind but be sure to credit Survival Cache as it is this site that makes this possible. If it causes others to think about what owning a firearm may mean, then I have done what I hoped to do.


Chefbear58 February 23, 2011 at 3:44 am

I sent them a link to this article on the site. I have to say "Mission accomplished"! These articles have even sparked a few good debates between myself and a few relatives who are 100% anti-firearm for any reason… Not quite sure if we are REALLY related, seriously thinking they are adopted!
I especially appreciated the previous article (Survival Psychology “Deadly Force”), they seem to go on the uber liberal "anti-everything because I heard someone say it on TV" trip, which makes it almost impossible to have an intelligent and rational discussion. A combination of the topic of self defense for the security of your family, and how to deal with actually having to take someones life seemed to help spark them into REALLY discussing things, rather than going on a rant!


CaptBart February 23, 2011 at 8:27 am

My Brit friend's parents were over and his mother was outraged that I had – GASP – guns! So we had a little discussion about things. I posed this question and will paraphrase the discussion:
me: If some 18 year old drug addict breaks into your house and starts beating up your husband, are you going to call the police?
her: OF COURSE! (caps indicate indignation)
me: and do you expect the police to come?
me: and when they get there, do you expect them to stop the bad guy?
me: even if they have to use force?
me: and if the only way to stop him results in his death?
me: So, you always HIRE it done then?
her husband thinks a second, smiles and nods.

Sometimes it is the way you phrase the question. She doesn't talk to me much anymore. The husband and I are pretty good friends.


CaptBart February 24, 2011 at 2:19 pm

I thought I had posted this but can't find it. In regard to the anti-everything crowd; My Brit friend's parents were over and his mother was outraged that I had – GASP – guns! So we had a little discussion about things. I posed this question and will paraphrase the discussion:
me: If some 18 year old drug addict breaks into your house and starts beating up your husband, are you going to call the police?
her: OF COURSE! (caps indicate indignation)
me: and do you expect the police to come?
me: and when they get there, do you expect them to stop the bad guy?
her :ABSOLUTELY (looking at me like I'm an idiot)
me: even if they have to use force?
me: and if the only way to stop him results in his death?
me: So, you always HIRE it done then?
her husband thinks a second, smiles and nods.

Sometimes it is the way you phrase the question. She doesn't talk to me much anymore. The husband and I are pretty good friends.


Rescue7 February 23, 2011 at 6:12 pm

Thanks Capt Bart… Great article! Sounds like you are blessed with a good woman.
PTSD: A normal reaction to and abnormal situation.


Grunt Doc February 26, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Great article. No macho bravo sierra. I've been trying, with limited success, to get my spousal unit to think about this stuff. I think this one might have reached her in ways I haven't been able to. I pray that if and when it ever happens, we'll both be able to protect our family from those bent on destruction. Hopefully, it will be theirs and not ours.


Chefbear58 March 2, 2011 at 2:04 am

I see a few folks have mentioned PTSD, and for those out there who don't have any experience with it… IT IS REAL!
Personally I have lived with PTSD since 1989, it's not something that you ever really "get over". At least for me, it is a challenge every day to live with the memories of what caused my PTSD. I know it sounds strange, but I am kinda glad that the events which caused my PTSD happened when I was young. This has given me time to learn how to manage the "fun" things that come with it. For many who live with it, they have a huge challenge in trying to adjust back to "normal life". Many of our soldiers returning home from "the sandbox" have to deal with it, and what is probably more difficult is that families learn that their loved one is not the "person they used to be". Some affected by PTSD experience drastic changes in their personality.
If anyone has not had experience with people who live with PTSD, it literally changes your life, how you view the world and how the world views you. I pray that no one here ever has to experience what it's like, but if you do or know someone who does, remember that there are folks out there who can help. I know for me at least, it was extremely helpful to talk with someone who had similar experiences to me.


CaptBart March 2, 2011 at 5:10 pm

I'm glad you found someone to help. It is serious, more so than most know. Regardless of whether you call it shell shock, battle fatigue, or PTSD it is a killer. I believe more men die from PTSD, sometimes years after the event, that from actual combat. The Captain of the USS Indianapolis committed suicide years (in 1968) after the war was over. He never forgave himself for surviving and I consider him a victim of the sinking, even if the Navy does not. If you don't know the story, look it up. I am alive because 'she who must be obeyed' came home from the store 15 minutes early and instead of suicide, I unloaded groceries. It was that close a thing. With time and help from a POW survivor I got over the worst of it but even 35 years later there are moments. PTSD does change you.


squiddy1 October 10, 2011 at 9:31 pm

It is better to be judged by 12 than carried out by 6 , If someone breaks into my home and tries to harm my family you can be certain of one thing and that is the authorities will only hear my side of the story.
I am a peace loving man that wants to live and let live but not everybody sees things my way.
If you break into my home and stay on the first floor and steal and leave that is what I carry insurance for I will let the police do their job's but being that the national average response time from when you call the police and when they arrive is 16-20 minutes If that person comes up the stairs to where my family is then It will his funeral and it will be a closed casket.


MarineSawgunner December 13, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Great article


Johnny March 7, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Welcome home, Captain Bart.


XDm March 14, 2012 at 10:45 am

God bless you, Capt Bart. I've emailed this article to all the gunowners in my social circle, including one LEO. They've all commented on the incredibly real perspective this writing brings to the situation. As a result, one more man now owns a weapon. Several men have shifted their view of a home defense situation from testosterone-fueled eager anticipation to something they hope not to face. I have an attorney on retainer. The LEO is leading a course on gun safety for some of his friends.
It's like ripples in a pool and all it's taken is for you to open up with your perspective into this situation. Please…keep 'em coming.

PS- Thank you for your service to our country. The debt we owe to you is beyond the measure of words.


magnesiumninja5 May 14, 2012 at 4:15 pm

………….Wow. That is a lot to take in, but it makes sense.


jeff September 8, 2012 at 7:00 pm

This was the best article on the aftermath I have read. You should be proud that you garnet one of those people who pretend it is a game and you win by killing. I am a civilian and I don’t know what it is like, to kill, and I wont pretend I do. It takes guts to type this and leave all the macho crap out.

Thank you for wrighting this article.


CaptBart December 8, 2012 at 5:57 pm

thank you, sir. I pray that those who don't know never have to find out.


pep February 23, 2013 at 1:05 pm

The author makes it sound like you get to sit down in your living room with a cocktail and think it through afterward. Yeah right. Chances are better than not that you'll be leaving with the officers and you'll be lucky if you're not initially charged with a crime.


CaptBart April 11, 2013 at 11:25 am

While that is a real possibility, especially in some states, I have my attorneys on retainer to prevent that very thing from happening. If you have to be bailed out of jail it will simply make the stress much worse; now you have "film at 11" showing you doing a 'perp walk' after the shooting. Try explaining that to a family that doesn't understand.

Texas is very friendly to home owners defending themselves, their family and their property. In other states, the fact that you actually had a firearm to use can send you to prison. One of the reasons I live in Texas is the attitude on self defense.

If your state prefers to keep you helpless then you have my sympathy, sir. I would recommend you consider moving to a different location where you are not dependent on the whims of local politicians for your family's safety.

I do agree with you that if you talk to the police without benefit of attorney, you may well spend some time in jail. Such injustice does occur, even in Texas, so be careful.


Erik June 13, 2013 at 11:54 pm

Great article! I haven't served, but I have 20 years of martial arts experience and multiple years of firearms experience with training from former/current military, this thought has crossed my mind multiple times whether it be with a gun, knife, or my bare hands. As you stated in the article about making peace with whatever you believe in, I couldn't agree more. I'm not religious at all, but I consider my martial art my religion, and we have 5 codes of ethics we abide by, and this one definitely fits under the 5th, "JUSTICE – NEVER TO TAKE A LIFE WITHOUT A CAUSE." I live by these code of ethics and have mentally prepared myself as much as I can without having anyone to really talk to about it. I have definitely had the discussion with my wife about what if it happens, and she doesn't think she could ever do it, but she knows that I am serious about having the mental capacity to do it if it ever came down to it, especially if it threatened her.


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CaptBart February 18, 2011 at 11:02 am

Sounds like your mother is quite a lady. My compliments to her for having the courage to do the right thing even thought it was extremely difficult and the aftermath was unpleasant.
I wonder if the reason the use of deadly force causes such weird reactions in our 'friends' is that it reminds people they are mortal? A great many folks just can't face that truth and someone who has used lethal force (even if the result was non-fatal for the BG) is a living, breathing reminder of what the ultimate fate is for us all. Just a speculation …..


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