Officer-Involved Incident Teaches Can-Should-Must in Defensive Gun Use

This officer-involved incident shows all self-defenders what the differences are between the “can I shoot,” “should I shoot,” and “must I shoot” in defensive gun uses!



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News story with details from the officer’s dash cam:


What does this video teach us about using our defensive firearm?


  1. One of the most significant paradigms of using deadly force is called the may-should-must paradigm. “May” asks whether your force is lawful (and, if LEO, within policy). “Should” asks whether the rewards outweigh the risks of not acting or of unintended consequences. “Must” asks whether this is the only course of action that can affect the necessary outcome. Knowing how to apply this paradigm in deadly force encounters, in the moment, is an important responsibility for self-defenders!


  1. A critical skill in successful use of a defensive firearm is a smooth, fast, reliable draw. You can’t use a gun that’s not in hand and on target, and 100% of gunfights involve getting your gun out from its holster and on target. In a gunfight, this is perhaps the most significant skill to have because it is the foundation upon which marksmanship is built. You must acquire a full firing grip on the gun while it’s in the holster, draw it out of the holster while maintaining trigger finger discipline, accurately and unfailingly bring it up to your support hand, acquire a proper two-handed grip, and press out while you acquire the front sight visually. And all that must be done with unconscious competence so that you can use your thinking capacity in the moment to continue to problem solve and deal with the threat causing you to draw your firearm.


  1. In a deadly force encounter, decisions of life and death will be made in the blink of an eye. On the range and in class we have time to consider and to think and to reset and to make multiple attempts, but when the balloon goes up in real life you’ve got fractions of seconds to decide what the best course of action is to protect yourself. The way to be better at decision making in the heat of the moment is training, specifically scenario training and force-on-force training that is designed to work on decision-making skills under stress. It’s offered all over the country, so get training!
  2. One of the most significant benefits of training ourselves to the point of unconscious competence is the ability to think under pressure. (the path to unconscious competence is different than most have been taught, as this article shows) If your skills are significant enough that you don’t need to think about the physical manipulations, such as drawing your firearm or countering a takedown attempt, your brain can stay engaged in problem-solving mode to allow you to make good decisions in the blink of an eye. (this is a concept that one of my most significant martial arts mentors, Skip Hancock, introduced me to)


  1. Empty-handed skills are absolutely critical for self-defenders. First of all, more conflicts you will encounter as a self-defender will require empty-handed skills than will require firearms skills, simply because more self-defense encounters are physical than deadly. Second, since a firearm is a tool of last resort, self-defenders need to have non-lethal options that include empty-handed skills to protect themselves from likely incidents. Third, in the moment of the encounter you may not have the time to get to your gun before you can fight your way to it.


There are 3 additional lessons for Patron Members and 3 class starters for Instructors from this video, so please join us in those programs to see them!


Attitude. Skills. Plan.


(music in the outro courtesy of Bensound at




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