Personal Defense Tip: Just Say No To Warning Shots

by Tommy Grant

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In a perfect world, everyone would know not to fire warning shots. Unfortunately, Hollywood has made them almost part of our cultural lexicon. But don’t fall for Hollywood “training” on self-defense when it comes to warning shots. Or pretty much anything else for that matter.

Why not keep the warning shot in your toolbox should you have an opportunity to employ it?

Make no mistake…discharging your firearm in a confrontation will constitute use of “deadly force” to police and prosecutors. Possibly an illegal discharge of a firearm, depending where it happens. Maybe a reckless endangerment charge. If circumstances don’t justify shooting a bad guy (or girl) center mass, then circumstances don’t justify firing a warning shot. Period.

What’s more, depending on the state of your your cosmic karma, that warning shot projectile could wind up hitting a busload of widows and orphans somewhere downrange. Or a neighbor’s child. Or someone you love.

Or, in the case of an upstate New York woman Saturday night, your aim might not be so good . . .

An Ogdensburg woman is facing assault and weapon possession charges following a Saturday night shooting on Deviller Street after she allegedly tried to fire a warning shot above two men, instead hitting one of them with a shotgun blast.

Ogdensburg police charged Nikeia J. Paige, 39, of 1217 Greene St., with second-degree assault and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon.


Then there’s the fact that firing a warning shot wastes precious ammo. If you have a five-shot revolver, you’ve just expended 20% of your threat-stopping capability. Remember, using handguns involves shooting a peanut-sized piece of lead a modest velocities. A single handgun-round hit may not stop a motivated bad guy. In fact, it might just irritate them.

Additionally, in the heat of an actual fight, you may miss your target 80% of the time just like cops tend to do. Want to have a really bad day, Kemosabe? Bring a five-shot revolver to a confrontation, fire a warning shot then miss with the other four rounds. It can happen.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, that warning shot may in fact prove counter-productive. The odds of you being attacked a “virgin” violent criminal actor are between slim to nil. They may have enjoyed looking down the muzzle of a cop’s or other victim’s gun before.

If a potential victim shows that they don’t want to shoot the bad guy by pulling away and firing a warning shot into the air or into the ground, Mr. or Mrs. BadDude may think the good guy doesn’t have the stones to actually shoot another person, even if that person has deadly intent.

Two incidents I’ve seen show just that. In both cases, the good guys desperately wanted to avoid shooting someone. In one case, a farmer fired not one, but two warning shots. With each one, the man’s attacker grew more fearsome and aggressive.

The attacker, already angry over crashing his truck, had a blood alcohol three times the legal limit. After those two warning shots, he attacked the farmer a third time sensing his reluctance to shoot him. In the end, the angry and intoxicated aggressor chose poorly. Moments later, he died in a ditch from a ruptured femoral.

In the other case, a man fired over his attacker’s shoulder. At that point, the female attacker apparently made some sort of comment to the effect, “Oh, you really aren’t gonna shoot me, are you?”

Sensing his reluctance to shoot her, she continued to advance upon the drawn gun while threatening to shoot her own gun she pretended to have behind her back. Whereupon the good guy drilled the next round into her gut at bad breath distance. She chose poorly as well, but alcohol intoxication does that to people. Fortunately for her, her victim rendered aid after shooting her, potentially saving her life.

In short, don’t fire warning shots. Contrary to Hollywood make-believe, they may not only fail to discourage an attack, but they may in fact embolden an attacker…and land you in prison.

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