Situational Awareness: When You Have to Use Deadly Force

Over the past few months, I’ve written about situational awareness and how to lessen your chances of becoming a victim. This month, I’m taking it a step further. Sometimes, regardless of how observant you are, you’re in a situation where you have no choice but to use deadly force.

In 2013, I participated in season 1, episode 1 of Gun Talk TV’s “First Person Defender.” This stressful and eye-opening, scenario-based experience taught me the importance of being able to draw a pistol without being noticed.

Likewise, the December 2019 Texas Church shooting reminded me of the gravity of failing to have a stealth draw. Would that have made a difference for the first man murdered? Should any verbal commands been given? If someone comes into your place of worship, school or anywhere else and points a firearm at innocent people threatening them, are they not showing
means, opportunity and intent?

  • Means – The killer in this example brandished a shotgun
  • Opportunity – The killer was in a room full of people attending a church service.
  • Intent – The killer pointed his shotgun at the congregation sitting in the pews.

When in a situation without any safe alternative and you have no choice but to use deadly force, keep in mind these 3 things: speed, surprise and violence of action.

  • Surprise – Can you draw your firearm and be ready to shoot without being noticed or drawing attention to yourself? Remember, action is faster than reaction.
  • Speed – Are you able to make your intended shot quickly and accurately? Are there innocent people near your target or beyond? Can you make the shot?
  • Violence of action – Once you brandish your firearm, are you willing to do what is necessary to end the deadly encounter?

Training for Deadly Force Situations You May Encounter While Seated

Most people only have the opportunity to practice shooting on a square range. Often, they can’t even draw from a holster. When practicing the following situations in your home, use a SIRT pistol or your UNLOADED (and double checked) EDC gun. *Make sure to remove all ammunition from the room when practicing.

Shooting While Seated

Consider all the various seating types you encounter when heading out to eat, such as hightop tables, booths, tables with heavy chairs that barely move, benches, couches, bar stools and more. They all put you into a different position with different considerations, especially for a deadly force situation. Next, think about how you carry your handgun. Is it in a holster on your side, appendix, ankle or back? Do you carry off-body? If so, where is your purse?

Now, the most important part – can you get to your gun without being noticed?

Seated Dry-Fire Practice

Since the act of drawing from a seated position has so many different variables, I offer these pointers for your dry-fire practice. Ideally, when practicing, have a friend watch you for movement or have a large mirror in front of you to check yourself. Keep in mind these things: surprise, speed and violence of action.

  • Someone moving his or her shoulders is a sure sign they are up to something. Can you remove your gun from its location without moving your shoulders? If the bad guy knows you have a gun, you’ve lost the element of surprise. If you carry on your side, try removing your gun with your opposite hand.
  • Once you have your gun in your hand, can you line up your sites on target quickly from the seated position? Unless the situation forces you to stand up, remain seated. Why would you want to draw any attention to yourself?
  • Here’s a helpful tip I learned from my husband who was an air marshall: When shooting from a seated position brace yourself against the back of the chair to help stabilize yourself. Plus, this gives you more room to present the gun.

Remember, the mind won’t go where the body has never been. I have never had a deadly force encounter; however, I often play over scenarios in my head, imagining what I would do in the same situation. The next step is to build up confidence in both shooting skills and your ability to draw the gun stealthily, which will improve your overall situational awareness, too.

When on the range, increase your situational awareness by practicing distant and close-in shots with various sized targets. At home, find out the best technique for drawing in relation to each way you carry, and apply those methods in different each situations you may encounter.

Finally, make sure you know your laws about deadly force encounters. When in a situation, you don’t want to have to second guess yourself and waste precious time.

Michelle Cerino, aka Princess Gunslinger, is the managing and social media editor at The WON. Michelle is the president of Cerino Consulting and Training Group, LLC, a firearms training company she built with her husband Chris in 2011. Her path in the firearms and outdoors industries is ever progressing. She is writing, hunting, competing and doing contract work for major manufacturers.