It’s Just a Car! Should I Shoot?

Here’s the scenario: Just before 9 p.m. on a hot July evening, you pull into the gas station to fill up and buy a cold drink. On your hip, hidden beneath a snappy Hawaiian shirt, is a single-stack 9mm. On the other hip is a spare magazine. Using all of your recently acquired situational awareness training, you circle the station once. Seeing no one out of the ordinary, you pull up to the pump to get your fuel. It’s one of those pay-before-you-pump stations, so you slide your bank card and get to business.

You are actively scanning the area as you listen to the rhythmic sounds of the gas pump dispensing what will soon be processed into greenhouse gasses. The loud click indicates the tank is full, and you head inside to buy a bottle of water and maybe a pack of beef jerky. Do you want regular or extra pepper?

Inside, you take a moment to soak up some of the air conditioning as you pay for your purchases and head out the door. You reach into your pocket to grab your keys and make your way over to your sweet ride. As you approach the truck, a young man steps out from behind the closest pump, seemingly coming from nowhere. You don’t know how you let it happen, but this man is now directly in front of you, less than 10 feet away. In his right hand is a screwdriver, but he’s holding it like a knife, pointing it directly at you.

“I’m a need them keys,” he says quietly. “And that wallet too.”

He takes one full step forward, and you focus on the blade of the screwdriver. It has clearly been ground to rough edge. The shank is a full 5 inches long. You are suddenly snapped back to reality when the man says, louder this time, “Hey. This ain’t no game.”

Should you shoot?

Your Self-Defense Options:

  1. Run! Simply turn tail and sprint back into the store.
  2. Toss the keys over your assailant’s shoulder and beat a quick retreat to the store.
  3. Open both hands, letting everything drop to the ground. Raise your hands in a surrender posture and take a step to the rear with your strong-side foot as you go for your gun. Continue moving to put as much of the vehicle between you and the assailant as possible. Bark verbal commands, telling the attacker to get away from you.
  4. Can you think of another option?

Things to Consider:

You are very clearly facing an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm! That screwdriver will gut you like a salmon. With the information you currently have, you have every legal right to respond to this aggression with deadly force. But your failure of situational awareness and the stealth of the attacker has brought the weapon too close for you to effectively make an immediate move for your gun. You need an alternative plan and you need one pretty quickly.

What is your physical condition? Can you effectively run away? Do you reasonably believe that the attacker will chase you if you turn and run back to the store? Could he catch you, stab you repeatedly and take your keys and thus your car?

If you choose to give up the keys, you may save yourself from immediate harm, but you still have something to worry about. There is very likely documentation in your vehicle that contains your street address. If you toss the car keys, which also very likely hold a copy of your house key, you have effectively given this attacker directions to your home, a key to the front door and, because he now has your car, a means to drive directly to your house to commit more crimes. Do you have any weapons in your car? If so, the robber now has those weapons as well. If you give up your keys, know that you will immediately need to secure your dwelling. That can mean anything from new locks to an upgraded security system.

Getting Your Gun in the Game

Trying to figure out how to get your gun into play in this situation is something you should consider well before you wind up with your hands in the air. The space between you and your attacker is minimal. You are certainly in position to accept some injury if the situation escalates. Count on getting cut at least once if the attacker decides to move on you and take the situation to the next level.

Can you shoot accurately and quickly in a close-quarters battle? You will very likely be firing from the retention position if you are forced to fire. Have you trained for this? That includes acquiring a firing grip on your defensive firearm, withdrawing it from concealment and bringing the muzzle to bear on target. Have you tried this before your life depended on it? Are you confident that you can make combat-effective hits at this range? Have you practiced shooting while moving laterally to the rear?

If you move for your weapon and bring it into play, are you prepared to assess the situation before firing the first shot? Your attacker may decide to flee or surrender at the first sign of resistance. Here is where you must balance the need for speed and accuracy on target with the decision to shoot. Your attacker may be able to turn away in time for at least one of your rounds to hit him in the back before you have made the decision to stop shooting. This is a very real concern in such a situation, as it creates a huge legal mess. You must be cognizant that firing your weapon is the last resort.

Getting Out

Once you start moving, keep moving. At the same time, you must be aware of obstacles. Dividing your attention in such a manner increases the danger in this scenario. If you look away from the attacker, you may lose target acquisition. If you trip and fall, you may find yourself on the bottom of a ground fight. Will the fall cause you to lose your gun or cause an injury that limits your ability to fight?

In an incident such as this, you are clearly choosing from among a series of bad options. You have to choose the best bad option and execute your actions effectively. Think about how you might face this situation, and train accordingly.

What would you do?

About Kevin Michalowski

Kevin Michalowski is executive editor of Concealed Carry Magazine and a fully certified law enforcement officer working part time in rural Wisconsin. He is a USCCA and NRA Certified Trainer. Kevin has attended training across the U.S. as both a student and an instructor in multiple disciplines. These specialties include pistol, rifle, shotgun, empty-hand defense and rapid response to the active shooter.