Gun Fiction, Facts vs Myths: What a Professional Would Do!

Literature and film are filled with silliness when it comes to what supposed “professionals” do or don’t do when faced with “do-or-die” situations.  In past installments, we’ve explored death and dying, gun nomenclature and firearms related myths.  Now, it’s time to open the book – so to speak – and expose the truth related to what real professional would do or not do, depending on the situation.

“Drop Your Gun!”

I’d be a rich man if I collected a quarter for every movie or book I’d wasted my time on, in which the protagonist was ordered to drop his gun just because his antagonist had the “drop” on him.  In war, there are “conventions” which are supposed to protect a surrendering soldier.  Of course, history has illustrated that even these conventions are often not enough to protect helpless soldiers from retribution or execution at the hands of their captors.  Still, we are talking about the rules of war.  In homicide, there are no rules.  Well, maybe there’s one rule; that being the unarmed person cannot make the rules.

The appropriate response of course depends on the firearm being leveled against the professional, and at what range the antagonist is standing.  If my antagonist was 10 yards away with a shotgun, it would be near suicide to attempt to draw against them.  However, surrendering your weapon is an option that greatly reduces your survivability quotient.  In reality, a shotgun is a toughie!  There are no good alternatives.  So, if your “hero” is faced with a shotgun, you get a pass for having him or her drop their weapon.  Have a good back-up plan, however.

When faced with a handgun, a professional knows that only another true professional has the talent to hit a suddenly moving target and even then, it’s highly unlikely that a shot will be instantly fatal, if at all.  People survive many more gun shots in reality, than expire at the scene.  The odds are actually greater that you will survive a gun shot, particularly one that is hastily fired at a suddenly moving target.  At the same time, a person suddenly moving for cover has an advantage of firing on the move at a stationary target.  I’ve proven this to my own satisfaction in exercises to determine the validity of this theory.  Your hero/heroine should move and shoot at the same time.  That’s what a “professional” would do!
“Come out with your hands up, or I’ll kill the girl!”

You know the drill!  This tired old cliche is so worn out, I want to throw my popcorn at the screen.  Especially, when the protagonist follows these ridiculous instructions to the letter.   I’ve actually been known to rip a book asunder half-way through when the author hands me this pile of bull after I’ve paid good money to be entertained.

Some years back, I was attending a handgun instructor’s course being taught by two FBI agents in Virginia.  There was a video “Shoot-Don’t Shoot” exercise where the students were faced with scenarios in which they had to decide what they would do under stressful situations.  I was disappointed at so many “law enforcement” officers who were failing miserably in both decision making and marksmanship.  I mean, it was a game for crying out loud!  What would they do in real life?

When it came to my turn, I was faced with the perpetrator hiding behind the woman and telling me to drop my weapon.  The simulated range was about 15 yards.  I made the obligatory command for the bad guy to surrender, and then shot the perpetrator just above the right eye with my Springfield XD, 9mm.  It was the only valid target I had, so I took it.  I was the only student to make a one shot kill in that exercise.   Afterward, it was hashed out by the class with several students believing that the requirements for “Deadly Force” had not been met at the time I acted.  Of course the instructors were of a different opinion.  It was a good shoot and what a “professional” would have done.

When Faced With a Gun/Knife at Contact Distance

The professional knows that he or she can and should be able to deflect a gun or knife before it can be lethally employed.  If you’ve ever seen the movie “Payback” starring Mel Gibson, you will recall a scene where he is riding in a car and the man sitting next to him covers him with a handgun.  Mel deftly takes it away before it can be employed.  I wanted to stand up and cheer!  Finally, someone with brains was writing a screenplay.  Of course, there were other scenes in that movie that made it particularly enjoyable from a homicidal standpoint.  I highly recommend it, especially because it illustrates what a professional would do when faced with a number of deadly scenarios in which the ends ultimately justify the means.

Professionals have been taught and religiously practice methods of disarming people who believe their gun is a magic wand and its mere presence renders rational people impotent of action in the face of danger.  The time to act is instantly!  If you doubt it, search “Disarming Techniques” on Youtube.  You will be amazed at what you see.  It will also help you with your writing when you know what to do, how to do it and when to employ the technique.  And yes, I have done it in real life.

Leaving Loaded Guns Behind 

When faced with an unknown number of assailants, a professional will not leave a loaded and functional gun behind after neutralizing a subject.  Don’t write it.  Better yet, make it a point to illustrate the opposite and you will thrill legions of discriminating readers.

Giving Away One’s Position

There are times for talking and times for homicide.  Once the shooting has started or is about to begin, a professional will not engage a suspect in unnecessary conversation, unless he or she intends to talk the suspect to death.  To use a very bad pun:  “Shoot or get off the pot!”

Approaching The Freshly Shot

As I covered in previous essays, a bullet – unless it hits a major central nervous system point of weakness, will not render one instantly dead or incapacitated.  A bullet to the torso, even one that perforates the heart, will not cause instantaneous death.  The heart shot will render a person unable to do violence within a few seconds, but a “dying” person can fire a magazine full of rounds in a couple of seconds.   There is absolutely no reason to approach a suspect on the ground, until one is certain that they are no longer a threat. The only reason to make a cautious approach, is to render their weapon ineffective and even then, once it has been rendered so, the professional will again retreat to a defensive position.   It makes no sense to shoot someone in defense of your own life, and then negate that survival instinct to go to their aid.  If you shot them in the first place, let them bleed until they are no longer a threat!  Keep them covered and watch your back.

That’s enough for one sitting.  I hope you found this entertaining.  If you would like to cover other scenarios, leave a comment or a question and I’ll be happy to address them.

Until next time, good writing.



About danielchamberlain

Former Chief of Police. Former Special Agent, AFOSI (Retired). Former Director of Security of multi-national corporation. Currently, Registered Nurse. Father Husband Outdoorsman
Gallery | This entry was posted in Guns'n Violence for Crime Writers. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Gun Fiction, Facts vs Myths: What a Professional Would Do!

  1. Catching up here, Dan. Love this: the unarmed person cannot make the rules. Too true.

  2. Doug Hoffman says:

    Wanted to thank you for this series. I’m doing my research before writing the bits requiring gunplay, and I’ve been eager to learn what not to do. Thanks.

  3. Doug

    Thanks for visiting and commenting. I’d be more than happy to help you with your drafts concerning violence/death and guns. My essays touch on the subject. My aim was to get writers to look more critically at the subject matter when writing their scenes. Contact me if you have any more questions. A comment here will bring me running.


  4. This is great. Going on to the next article now.

  5. C.T. Westing says:

    Great post Dan. In my opinion, here are the worst Hollywood gun cliches:
    1. The character slides a clip into the pistol and fires without chambering a round. Ridiculous, but it happens quite a bit on screen.
    2. Whenever a gun is raised in a threatening manner, be it a shotgun, rifle, revolver, or semiauto pistol, we always hear a click, or a shotgun shell being chambered, etc. The character or characters aren’t actually chambering rounds; some sound editor is just inserting that noise for effect. Drives me crazy.
    Anyway, just my two cents. Again, great post.

  6. Daniel, great to meet you. I’m glad I came across you on Twitter. Great blog! I’ll read more of your posts. As a iwriter I can benefit from knowledgeable people like yourself.

    • Stephen

      Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. Glad you find it interesting. My children are bored with my advice, so it’s nice someone else hasn’t started to yawn yet.



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