On Active Shooters in Churches

The timeless lessons we've learned from 13 years of THE BEST DEFENSE...

“In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

I posted this on FB, but I wanted to include it here to gove it a little longer life.

Our THE BEST DEFENSE episode modeling a church shooting was a HUGE success, with churches of all faiths from around the country asking us for copies to help them set up their own security (for which we profoundly give thanks). Our model was strikingly like the real event in Texas yesterday, and the lessons drawn from the model and other TDBs were and are valid:

1) Inside what we thought of as the “hot zone” — arm’s reach — there needs to be response options other than drawing a primary weapon. There simply isn’t time.

2) A head shot is the only way to shut down a determined aggressor. Sorry..all those things about head shots being hard are true, which is why TBD and my various Internet polemics were begging you to up your marksmanship game.

3) You may have to take a long shot…can you? With the gun you are carrying today, even if it’s a pocket 380? (Attribution Gabe Suarez)

4) The fastest way to double the speed of your draw is to start with your hand on the gun (attribution to Mike Seeklander). Therefore, a portion of your non-shooting practice should be on mastering the surreptitious draw.This is much more important than most people realize, and your practice may well redefine how, or where, you carry your gun.

5) Cheat. “This ain’t Dodge City. And you ain’t Bill Hickok.” Use every advantage that the Universe grants you. The ideal situation in an active shooter situation is that the aggressor catches a bullet in the back of his head from a defender he never saw. I participated in a panel discussion on a nationally televised active shooter scenario that was billed as “insoluble.” Long story short, I “solved” the scenario by shooting the aggressor in the back of the head from cover. The IMMEDIATE response was, “You would shoot somebody from behind???” Duh. (Attribution Clint Smith)

6) In terms of moving with a firearm, one technique isn’t enough. In my early classes, I was taught movement with the gun at low ready because it was harder to block than “High Sabrina,” moving with the gun point up or even vertical, as the way the “Angels ” always moved in “Charlie’s Angels.” Later, we worked with several varieties of “compressed ready,” the gun tucked back against the chest. Down, up and compressed will all work, and it is the situation will determine which one you use! Where should the gun be when moving, or pushing, through a crowd? (Attribution Jimmy Graham)

7) If you do not have a gun, and SHAME ON YOU, “down” is a good move. Assume the exit doors will be blocked or jammed with people trying to escape, making the exits a killing ground. Secondly, by hitting the floor you’re clearing shooting lanes for people with guns.

8) When you hit the ground, keep in mind that ALL cover and concealment comes with a ticking clock. An attack is a fluid situation, and unless you’ve locked yourself in a safe room you need to be planning your next move to cover/concealment. And know the difference between cover and concealment.

9) Use the “home field advantage!” If it is your home, your office or your place of worship, you know, or should know, the ground. You know where this door or that window leads; you know what the potential obstacles are; you know exits and cover, you know where the threats are likely to come from and you have mentally stepped through response scenarios. Sun Tzu said the terrain will determine your life or death; if you have a home field advantage, use it.

10) You may be required to take a shot while both you and the shooter are surrounded by innocent people. Over the years, we have expanded Rule 4 — ALWAYS BE SURE OF YOUR TARGET — to add “what is in front of your target and what is behind your target.” Rule 4 as originally written stands.

11) You can never take death or serious injury “off the table.” Violence is the ultimate chaos system, and there are no guarantees. As overwrought as it sounds, if you carry a weapon capable of dealing death, you need to understand what you are willing to die for.

12) Every one of our TBD “Big Box” scenarios has included at least one person who, upon seeing a suspicious person or sensing a questionable situation, left the scene. That person should be YOU! You’re not just getting yourself out of the kill zone — movement creates opportunities! Of course you can notify security or call the police, but you almost may put yourself in a position for a shot that can end the situation.

13) You are on your own. Understand that and train accordingly.


  1. The recent church shooting brought out to me the lesson that at times, the best training you can put in place, can still end with some friends being hurt or even killed.
    I listened to an audio tape of the incident, and the 3 shots fired were nearly evenly spaced, telling me that the man who stopped the aggressor was as quick as I think is possible , while still ensuring that he was doing the right thing.
    One could never come up with any complaints about what he did, as he saved countless lives.
    I hope that just like our President said what a good thing it was that Texas passed a law loosening some gun regulations, he might consider putting some real pressure on congress, to get them to act. The Republicans act tough when Trump is not around, but when he pins them down and looks them in the eyes, the party does what he wants almost.all the time.

  2. If you watch the interview from acting security guy he says something that I dont understand that to me could of stopped this hole scenario from happening. He said and I quote ” from the parking lot we were on this guy due to his demeanor, clothes,fake beard,and wig,we were on him with CCTV and us watching him. ???…My thinking and my training says take the threat out before he she they enter an area to where now your face the threat with less of a chance for other to get hurt or killed. I’m glad the shooter is gone, I’m glad someone took him down, but I’m not so glad we had to have collateral damage when it needed not to be…Just saying!


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