The day I drew my gun on someone.

Posted: August 28, 2010 in Practical Shooting

I have read conjecture, opinion and mall-ninja tactical plans about how and when others plan to use their handguns in various self defense scenarios.

Some of it seems well-reasoned. Some seem like Rambo fantasies. Almost all of it is hypothetical, as 99.99% of the authors (who are not LEOs) have never drawn their weapons in a real situation.

I have.

This is my story, and the insights I gained from it.

In the Summer of 1999, I received my first concealed carry permit. I owned a Kel Tec P11 (9mm Luger), and began carrying it everywhere, as new permit holders are prone to do.

On one particular day I was at the county dump disposing of a utility trailer full of various junk. The dump required you to take irregular refuse out into the landfill area as the convenience bins up front were only for bagged trash.

The area in use was about 1/2 a mile from the front entrance. There were trash collection trucks discharging their contents via a long winding path through the various piles of stuff that the landfill operation segregated before burial.

I arrived at the current area just as a city truck was pushing it’s load out and preparing to leave. A bulldozer operator pushing the trash from where the trucks dumped it, on a flat part of the mound, up into an even larger mound.

Pulling next to the pile just dumped from the last garbage truck, I started unloading some old furniture when I heard the bulldozer’s horn blow. The operator yelled I needed to drive up closer to the huge mound to unload, not where I was.

I looked at the area he indicated (perhaps 20 feet from where I was) and determined that my Dodge Caravan was too low to the ground, and the tires were too easy to puncture for me to go 4-wheeling across the foothills of Trash Mountain, and yelled my concerns back to him over the roar of the equipment.

He seemed to understand, so I returned to my unloading. The bulldozer moved around, and I assumed he was lining up to push my old furniture (and the garbage truck’s load) up onto the monster pile once I moved out.

Suddenly the horn blows again (hard)! I swing around to see him yelling, screaming, and gesturing wildly at me, the car and towards the trash mountain. I put my palms up in a “What?” type of gesture and this seemed to enrage him even further!

Suddenly a huge black cloud of smoke erupted from the stack and the bulldozer starts moving, blade up, towards the side of my car. (We’re talking huge, 20 foot wide by 6 foot high bulldozer blade here, not some little Rent-All unit.)

Inside the car, strapped in his car seat, was my toddler son.

He was excitedly waving his binky at the really cool bulldozer, oblivious to the threat this machine represented.

They say that in times of great stress, time seems to slow down. They are wrong. Time stops.

Before I knew it, and before I had made the conscious decision, the gun was in my hand and aimed directly at the operator of the bulldozer. I remember thinking, “When the blade touches the car, I will open fire”.

The world was eerily silent and my vision narrowed to the blade of the dozer as my quaking arm wobbled the front site all over the place. The distance was probably 25 feet or so, and it dawned on me I would probably have to jump up on the bulldozer if I was to have any chance of stopping him before he destroyed my car and killed my child.

In what seemed like an hour later, the guy finally saw my gun. His eyes went wide, and he immediately reversed the beast and zoomed back over the edge of the mountain out of my view.

Still in time delay mode, I jumped into the car, slammed it into gear and blasted off at full speed (leaving my cargo straps behind) thinking I was IN BIG TROUBLE and not sure how I was going to get out of this one. It was probably 20 minutes, 10 miles, and almost half a pack of smokes later before lucid thought returned and I was able to think clearly again.

I never reported the incident to the cops, and I never went to that dump again. Nothing ever happened, though for quite a few weeks I assumed SWAT would kick in my door some night.

So… I didn’t drop 15 zombies with my .44 Mag, I didn’t crash my Ferrari through a flaming roadblock of ninjas, and I didn’t get the blonde in the end.

In fact, some of you might be thinking “what a wuss”. All I can say is: (1) I had just as many heroic fantasies as the next guy, (2) I fondled my gun and practiced my draw as much as the next guy, and (3) driving a minivan has nothing to do with sexual preference.

What I learned:

(1) Though his behavior was erratic and unanticipated, I now take special (sometimes even unreasonable) efforts not to provoke people when I’m carrying, because I do not want to accidently escalate stupidity into having to draw down on someone again.

(2) Even if you can put magazine after magazine into a hole the size of a dime at 50 yards, once your adrenaline kicks in, good luck hitting anything. I know the mantra of “shot placement” some quote with religious fervor, but if I had actually started shooting, I’m sure I would have missed. Having a higher capacity gun in the battle trumps superhero shooting skills at the range.

(3) The best gun for self-defense is the one you will carry regularly. I’m not sure any firearm would have accomplished much in this situation, but my $200 9mm Kel Tec took the will to fight out of someone who was probably impervious to my attack — whatever gets the job done is “best”, as long as you have it when you need it. “Tacticool”, expensive, or trendy guns aren’t any more intimidating than “Plain Jane” guns if they’re locked in the safe.

(4) It is very important to consider AND PLAN FOR the “after” portion of any potential shooting event, even more than the “before” tactics we all run through our heads. If I had it to do over, I would not have fled the scene, and called the cops even though I did not fire the weapon. If the jerk in the bulldozer had called the cops, you can bet my side if the story would have meant a lot less if they had to hunt me down. The anxiety afterwards was excruciating.

(5) Crazy stuff can happen in an instant, without warning. I now am much more vigilant and conscious of my surroundings than I was in years past. (My wife thinks I’m paranoid, but I even carry around the house do to recent home invasions) I really don’t want to have to pull the gun again, and avoiding these situations before they happen makes more sense now than the macho confrontation fantasies I harbored in the past.

(6) Not to sound like some Jedi master, but there was no conscious thought in the weapon presentation. It was just “there” via muscle memory. I attribute this to practice, and only consider weapons that will operate with “one in the pipe” (without any mental gymnastics) as worthy of self-defense carry. (In addition to the same Kel Tec, I also carry a Springfield XD45 now.) I know there are proponents of “Israeli Carry” and/or non-passive safeties, but practicing to develop muscle memory for these methods seems trouble-prone to me for various reasons.

My response to internet questions about the incident:

The bulldozer was moving towards the car, and over the roar of the engine I could see him yelling and flailing his hands around like someone who has “lost it”. (I don’t know what set him off so far, or what was happening bad in HIS life that day – which is another lesson in itself.)

My assumption was he intended to, or at least pretend to, push the entire car over to where he demanded I unload. I don’t really know what his ultimate intention was, but even a “oops, I scratched your car, hee hee” was unacceptable with my son strapped in the middle seat next to the side of the car in peril.

I was standing on the cargo trailer throwing junk towards the pile on the right, the bulldozer was perpendicular to the left side of the car, in position to cave in the whole left side.

At some point during the million mental replays I’ve had over the years, it occured to me I could have easily leapt onto the roof of the van from the trailer, and possibly over the blade from there. Who knows how much is possible and how much is Hollywood Action Hero fantasy? (I have no idea how to drive a bulldozer either.)

Mall Ninjas can always do it better than you.

I’ve had a few people suggest ways I could have handled this better, and that THEY would have been able to shoot straight because they “are used to pressure from competitive shooting events. What they misunderstand is that competition creates

    anticipated

pressure and “you can have your game face on” before it starts.

This came totally out of left field, was a threat I had never considered, and began without any warning (that I perceived at the time.) Even my driving (fleeing?) was erratic for a period after the event and I have done that daily for years. I can admit any shots that hit would have been total luck, probably worse if facing someone who was returning fire.

Having some punks eying you in a dark parking lot is the typical “threat” most of us think about, and even that gives you some moments to change mental gears (if you weren’t already on alert in a dark parking lot, punks or not.)

No matter how good someone thinks they are, or how great a shot they are, it will all go to hell in a heartbeat, along with your reasoning skills, once the poop hits the fan.

Standing tall, wearing cool sunglasses, firing multiple volleys of instant death against waves of tweaker biker gangs, all while maintaining your perfectly groomed hairdo is total fantasy IMO, but reading the various posts and caliber wars in gun forums seems like more than a few people believe the Hollywood version of a gunfight.

Some also seem to salivate at the thought of someday being able mete out some “Street Justice”.

What I hope people take away from this is:

(1) I thought I was cool beforehand. I found out I was scared ****less.

(2) I didn’t actually shoot, yet I feared the legal consequences of my actions, even though I felt they were reasonable.

(3) I still think about it frequently a decade later and no one died.

(4) Knowing one’s limitations suggest “non-fussy” guns holding lots of extra bullets is a good thing for carry. Other guns may be good for the range or competition, but when the lizard brain is running the game, anything that isn’t immediate and simple is a tactical liability.

(5) You can consider potential situations, but don’t limit your thinking to only standard threats behaving in anticipated ways. Crazy **** is always possible.

(5) Color me yellow, but my “carry behavior” is now closer to Pee Wee Herman than The Terminator, even though I now also carry an XD45 regularly now. You also don’t want to make someone else’s bad day part of your day, even if your “macho” screams “BRING IT!”. I also studiously avoid even considering “third party rescue” situations unless it is me or mine at risk.

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Comments
  1. blackwatertown says:

    Interesting story. The happy aspect is that your child remained uninjured and untroubled.
    http://www.blackwatertown.wordpress.com

  2. […] The day I drew my gun on someone. Archives […]

  3. Jake says:

    Pulled his 9 on a garbage worker who was on the fucking job? Absolutely pathetic, especially since the guy has spartan insignia on this site. Give me a break.

    Real amazing use of self control threatening an underpaid American that’s on the job. It really shows how insecure and antsy you are to say it’s all in the name of safety.

    • snoballs says:

      Easier to judge if you weren’t there. You can learn from the story. (Or not.)

    • alex says:

      you did actually READ the story??

    • Paul says:

      So, garbage workers never have a bad day?? They’re garbage workers, I can’t imagine it ever being a good day.

      I don’t care what they get paid and in that situation, I don’t think I’d stop to ask “Are you happy with your current job and your take home pay?”

      He saw a threat, he responded to it.

      One thing he’s lucky about is the guy not pressing charges and suing in a civil court case. He’s easily suffering from PTSD and could get millions.

      When my father teaches a Concealed Carry Course, one of the first statements he makes is “When you pull your weapon, you kill the person with it.” That’s how strong the threat should be to you or someone else. If you think they’re going to kill or seriously hurt someone, draw your gun and squeeze the trigger.

    • Zack says:

      You obviously don’t have a child. Or you’re a troll who didn’t read the article, or possibly just an idiot.

  4. Paul says:

    I think this was a great story and well stated. Composure under immediate and unexpected duress is an amazing thing for sure. And I also know the retaliatory/protective forces that a responsible parent has for their children is immeasurable. They will do ANYTHING to preserve the safety of their child, and that’s WITH consequences in mind. So, bravo-zulu to nobody dying and a heinous act of violence was potentially averted. Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of perspective for the aggressor to re-evaluate his decision making paradigm.

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