When is it Time to Draw?

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

One of the hardest decisions any of us face isn’t the shoot/no-shoot decision; that’s often decided for us by the actions of the bad guys. If their actions create an environment which is dangerous enough to yourself or others, then you are justified in using deadly force. Unless you lose control and shoot when there is no longer a threat, you should be okay.

Brandishing a Firearm

No, the one that can get us into trouble for nothing isn’t shooting; it’s drawing our gun. Technically, drawing a firearm is known as “brandishing a firearm.” This is a felony, with a potential penalty of up to six months.

Here’s the problem with “crimes” like brandishing a firearm; they depend on whether someone is afraid of you brandishing that firearm. You could take the exact same action as you would at the shooting range, to show your buddy your gun, and someone else could think that you are a threat, calling the police. You didn’t do anything wrong; but it would still go down as if you did.

It can get worse than that though. The next step up from brandishing a firearm is called “threatening with a firearm.” This means that you took some sort of threatening action with that firearm, either in conjunction with or without words. Pointing a gun at someone is clearly threatening them with it, even without saying anything.

The problem comes in when you take those actions, but they might not be needed or appropriate. Probably the most common example of this is due to road rage. One driver doesn’t like what another one does and so pulls a gun out and waves it in the air. A variant of this could be that you pull into a parking lot, cutting off another driver to get a prime parking spot. They act in a threatening manner, in response and you feel threatened, so you pull out your gun to even the odds.

A situation like that is extremely hard to read. If you are a woman and the other driver is a man, you probably do feel threatened and are therefore justified in drawing your firearm. But what if you are a man and they are too. You might feel threatened because they are obviously bigger and stronger than you; but are you justified in drawing your sidearm? That’s one the judge and/or jury will have to decide.

My default position on something like this is to not draw, unless they have a firearm in their hands. I might uncover my firearm, just to let them know I am armed; but that’s as far as I’ll go. Even that can be a bit risky.

But They’ve Got a Gun!

Let’s step it up now, going to a situation where armed criminals are about to commit a crime. In such a case, the criminal will most likely be armed, giving you the justification to draw your own firearm. There is little chance that any law-enforcement officer, district attorney or judge is going to say that you acted unreasonably or that your life was not in danger.

But should you draw? That depends. Personally, I would wait to draw until such time as I knew that I was going to need to shoot and I knew I had the shot. As long as my gun is concealed, the bad guys probably won’t notice it. But once I draw it, they’ll know that they have at least one armed adversary.

Here’s the thing, when it comes time to shoot, you’re going to need every advantage you can get. Surprise is one of those advantages. Keeping your gun hidden helps ensure that you will have that surprise, whereas drawing it could eliminates any surprise that you might have. So, to me, it makes more sense to keep it hidden. The only exception to that, is if I can draw it and still keep it hidden, such as under the table, by my side, until I am ready to use it.

Patience often pays off in an active shooter situation. If they’re just threatening everyone, you still have time. Their plan may be to get everyone to do what they want, without firing a shot. Waiting may give you the opportunity to improve your tactical situation, so that you have a better chance at winning.

The flip side of that coin is that if you wait too long, you may not seem justified in drawing. The question can be raised as to why you waited if there was a credible threat. Unless you can clearly articulate the need to wait, in order to improve your tactical situation, while also showing that the threat existed up until the time you drew, your lawyer is going to have a hard time defending you.

It’s a Judgment Call

When all is said and done, the time to draw and the time to shoot is a judgment call. But there’s a good chance that you’re going to have to defend the reasons for your actions. Be ready for that. Think things through, so you can articulate why you did and how you did it.

Better yet, think things through ahead of time, so that you have a good idea of what makes sense to do in any given situation. That way, your chances of doing the right thing are vastly improved. In the mean time, be sure to keep your powder dry and your survival gear close at hand.

Dr. Rich

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