Rules For a Gunfight

Rules For A Gunfight by Drill Instructor Joe B. Fricks, USMC

1. Forget about knives, bats and fists. Bring a gun. Preferably, bring at least two guns. Bring all of your friends who have guns. Bring four times the ammunition you think you could ever need.

2. Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammunition is cheap – life is expensive. If you shoot inside, buckshot is your friend. A new wall is cheap – funerals are expensive.

3. Only hits count. The only thing worse than a miss is a slow miss.

4. If your shooting stance is good, you’re probably not moving fast enough or using cover correctly.

5. Move away from your attacker and go to cover. Distance is your friend. (Bulletproof cover and diagonal or lateral movement are preferred.)

6. If you can choose what to bring to a gunfight, bring a semi or full-automatic long gun and a friend with a long gun.

7. In ten years nobody will remember the details of caliber, stance, or tactics. They will only remember who lived.

8. If you are not shooting, you should be communicating, reloading, and running. Yell “Fire!” Why “Fire”? Cops will come with the Fire Department, sirens often scare off the bad guys, or at least cause then to lose concentration and will…. and who is going to summon help if you yell ”Intruder,” “Glock” or “Winchester?”

9. Accuracy is relative: most combat shooting standards will be more dependent on “pucker factor” than the inherent accuracy of the gun.

10. Someday someone may kill you with your own gun, but they should have to beat you to death with it because it is empty.

11. Always cheat, always win. The only unfair fight is the one you lose.

12. Have a plan.

13. Have a back-up plan, because the first one won’t work. “No battle plan ever survives 10 seconds past first contact with an enemy.”

14. Use cover or concealment as much as possible, but remember, sheetrock walls and the like stop nothing but your pulse when bullets tear through them.

15. Flank your adversary when possible. Protect yours.

16. Don’t drop your guard.

17. Always tactical load and threat scan 360 degrees. Practice reloading one-handed and off-hand shooting. That’s how you live if hit in your “good” side.

18. Watch their hands. Hands kill. Smiles, frowns and other facial expressions don’t (In God we trust. Everyone else keep your hands where I can see them.)

19. Decide NOW to always be aggressive ENOUGH, quickly ENOUGH.

20. The faster you finish the fight, the less shot you will get.

21. Be polite. Be professional. But, have a plan to kill everyone you meet if necessary, because they may want to kill you.

22. Be courteous to everyone, overly friendly to no one.

23. Your number one option for personal security is a lifelong commitment to avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation.

24. Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun, the caliber of which does not start with anything smaller than ”4″.

25. Use a gun that works EVERY TIME. “All skill is in vain when an Angel blows the powder from the flintlock of your musket.” At a practice session, throw your gun into the mud, then make sure it still works. You can clean it later.

26. Practice shooting in the dark, with someone shouting at you, when out of breath, etc.

27. Regardless of whether justified or not, you will feel sad about killing another human being. It is better to be sad than to be room temperature.

28. The only thing you EVER say afterwards is, “He said he was going to kill me. I believed him. I’m sorry, Officer, but I’m very upset now. I can’t say anything more. Please speak with my attorney.”

Finally, Drill Instructor Frick’s Rules For Un-armed Combat.

1: Never be unarmed.

40 Responses to Rules For a Gunfight

  1. Brujo Feo says:

    24. Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun, the caliber of which does not start with anything smaller than ”4″.

    Shouldn’t this be “starts with,” not “does not start with”? I’m assuming that the author’s preference is for the .45 ACP, or at least .40 S&W. I know that mine is…

    • MavusiKenpachi says:

      I know WHY he says that, but the 357 SIG, 357 mag, 10mm and a couple others are pretty sweet calibers that don’t start with a “4”. Though again, it’s a great rule of thumb.

      • DG Shamburger says:

        10mm and S&W .40 are the same bullets. The 10mm is a longer case, similar to a .38 Special and a .357 Mag, you can not interchange the rounds in a semi-automatic.

  2. Diamondback says:

    I agree with most but will just say this:

    I used to be a big .45ACP fan but life experience has convinced me I’d rather have 16 rounds of 9mm than just 8 rounds of .45.

    But then I see a handgun merely as a tool to help me fight my way to my battle rifle anyway.

    • nick says:

      Fnx-45 standard magazine capacity is 15 rounds.

      • Diamondback says:

        Yea, you can handle that if you have hands like Goliath.

        • 77-9 says:

          Actually, the FNX 45, and the SAR K2-45 [14+1 of 45acp], feel no different then a double stack .40 s&w. The FNX even comes with multiple backstraps to help with fit.

    • David says:

      When I was only about 15 years old I worked at a hunting camp. A 120 lb wounded deer almost killed me after I placed 15 rounds of Silver tip 9mm hollow points onto him including 4 in the neck region. The last one went up under his jaw and through the top of his head as he was over and an top of me. When it was over the 9mm was on the ground with the slide locked back. I did not pick it. I have never used a 9mm again. A Colombian “acquaintance” was double crossed. Someone entered his hotel room and shot him 15 times with a 9mm all over his body including center mass while he was lying in bed. He managed to crawl to an elevator , and crawl to the front desk and get help. He only weighed about 140lbs. And survived.

      • 77-9 says:

        A cop in Florida was shot in the face, at point blank range, with a 45 acp, and lived to kill the bad guy. Another trooper with a bullet proof vest was killed by a single .22lr and his shooter lived although shot 6 times by a .357 mag. Nothing, nothing is guaranteed in a gunfight, especially with handguns.

    • thomas boger says:

      I would rather have a sister in a whorehouse than a 9mm in my holster. I trust my life with my 1911-A1 with 4 extra 8 rd magazines. that will keep me alive till I reach my AR-15/M4. I spent 24 yrs in Law Enforcement, the last six as a Chief of police. I’ve personally seen several perps shot over 7 times with a 9mm and still shooting back. I have NEVER seen anyone shot twice with a .45 still standing.

      • 77-9 says:

        See above. I’m still in law enforcement, and have seen 9mm kill just as easily as 12 gauge. I’ve also seen folks who survived multiple hits from .32, 9mm, .40 and .45. I’ve not met a 12 gauge survivor though.

      • Doug says:

        OK, so your sister is working in a whore house. Bring what you want to the fight, who cares? 1 well placed shot ends it all, by luck or skill. I like the 45, and carry a 9mm.Why? I trust it and better yet, me with it.

      • Mark says:

        I have always used and love to use my 1911 colt its only 8 rds. but I hit what I aim at..I had to go to 40 for my 1911 is getting a bit wore out..That 45 has only 8 rds. BUT it had “Horse Power” “Stoping Power” and thats what you want! 40 is next best..KNOW YOUR GUN !!! Shoot it! Get to know it better than your wife! ..It will “Save” your life!!…..9mm???I really don’t know what there good for..

    • PARACLETE says:

      That’s what extra magazines are for.
      Never leave home with out them.
      Yes, a 9 mm has more rounds,
      but if one hits their target,
      it only takes ONE .45 to bring it down
      Unlike a 9 mm

    • Kansas407 says:

      I carry a Glock 21, 13 in the mag and 1 in the pipe, 2 extra mags.

  3. Arknshooter says:

    Yes, bigger is better, but a .22 in the hand beats a .45 in the glove box. I’m partial to 1911’s, personally.

    • sqrlhntr says:

      Overheard an ER doctor say one time that, “I’d rather work on someone that’s been shot with a .357 than a .22 Stinger.”

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  5. Jose Cunha says:

    “Only hits count. The only thing worse than a miss is a slow miss.” As far as I am concerned, any hit that doesn’t have the potential to stop is a miss. That being said, “Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun, the caliber of which does not start with anything smaller than ‘4’.” Becomes a lot less important. That is the reason that, if you hit where you need to stay faithful to #3, ” In ten years nobody will remember the details of caliber, stance, or tactics. They will only remember who lived.” Make the hits count, and the rest will take care of itself.

  6. Dan says:

    Read an article about a Chicago cop shooting a man multiple times with a glock 21 45 auto Emptied all his mag. Took a head from his rifle to kill the perp. And also was told by an instructor in my ccw class about a man being shot by 40 s&w’ and 223 rounds total of 17 times. He was still shooting back until he slowly bled out.

  7. ken says:

    It’s all a matter of shot placement. If you hit the heart it will stop beating. If you miss it the person has a chance of surviving. If you hit the Brain, chances are the person will die. In order to hit your target…. you have to practice your aim and be able to call your shot out to at least 50 feet. (my personal opinion). You should be aware of the anatomy of vital organ locations in order to place a shot where you need to…..ABOVE ALL when actually in a defensive situation you MUST HIT YOUR TARGET, so stay as calm as possible and keep a prayer in your heart that your aim is as good as when you practice.

    • Sean says:

      Everyone keeps talking about shot placement. Which does matter to a certain degree, however, it really matters on the persons will to live just as much if not more, if you have a bitch in your heart and think your going to die from a would then you probably will. There are many circumstances were suspect on no mind altering substances have taken entire magazines and stayed in the fight and or flees the scene. Granted most of the time they bleed out in the end but that doesn’t matter when they are still in the fight.

  8. Maximus Veritas says:

    All the anecdotal squabble means nothing when there are well-documented tests have been conducted comparing calibers, bullet weight, penetration, wound channel, etc.

    I say let’s all agree to select the SMALLEST caliber you would ever consider carrying, and agree to be shot with it. We’d be amazed at the change of estimation…and anecdote.

    A thirty-year range master showed me one day…on his hip was his duty weapon, a .40 S&W fifteen shot, on his ankle rode an air-weight snubby with five rounds of .38SPCL. And in his pocket with his keys, one of those NA Arms mini with three rounds of .22 WMR. I calculate 23 opportunities to win the fight BEFORE having to reload. Seems to me the ultimate point is a well-placed bullet hole of ANY caliber can end the fight in a blink. Conversely, a .500 S&W revolver in the trembling, unpracticed hand of a first-time fighter could easily launch multiple missiles that might kill granny on the porch next door or end the career dreams of the junior college athlete coming out of the library across the street.

    Below the bottom line…
    1.Choose your caliber for whatever reason
    2. Practice, practice, practice! Rinse. Repeat
    3. Carry it comfortably, but rapidly accessible.

  9. Curt says:

    The one I most agree with is nothing is certain in a gunfight. There have been encounters at close range where everyone empties and no one is hit. And this is with trained LEOs. In situations where you can’t possibly imagine missing. Adrenaline is your worst enemy. Someone engaged in daily combat has a huge advantage once they can deal with chaos. Very few can get their body under control in a chance, life threatening encounter. A 12 guage improves your chances immemsely just because it doesn’t matter as much how bad you are shaking.

    • Brian F. says:

      “Trained LEO” is an oxymoron. That myth is perpetuated throughout our society and it is mostly false. (Let the flaming posts begin) Most LEOs only pick up their weapon to holster it before and after their shift. They may qualify on the range once or twice a year. That is why most perps live. As for living through multiple gunshot wounds, that is because of shot placement. A hollow point of 9, 40, or 45 directly to the heart will kill VERY QUICKLY. Regardless of adrenaline, narcotics, etc. once blood flow stops, oxygenation of muscle and tissue ceases almost immediately. Once this happens, lactic acid starts to build up and will shut down the muscles as well as the brain. This usually will only take 60-120 seconds. That is why deer can sprint 50-100 yards before collapsing even after a shot through the heart. However, 60 seconds in a gunfight is an ETERNITY. Gun fights very rarely last 60 seconds or more because everyone is running for cover at that point.

  10. mike igoe says:

    circumstances, sawed-off 12 gauge 00 for home defense… messes can be cleaned incidental damage can be repaired… after that, what ever hand gun you can shoot accurately every one has their preferences… mine? 357 mag with hollow points… a shoulder shot can render your opponent unconscious. survival is the goal… killing is secondary… now if you served active duty and have to go on offense? that’s a another conversation

  11. mikey says:

    i seen alot of good replies…and a few inexperienced replies. all rules of combat may very to a degree with each individual situation…practice, practice, practice.

  12. Dan says:

    NO handgun can be guaranteed to have the power needed to end a fight immediately and decisively. Even rifles can fail occasionally. There is only TWO body parts that IF hit will ALWAYS drop the opponent. The brain stem in a head shot and the cervical spine. A bullet to the head is frequently fatal but often survivable. A bullet through the heart is frequently fatal but people have survived such wounds more often than one might think. A bullet through the brain stem turns off EVERYTHING in the nervous system instantly. A bullet through the spine will paralyze immediately….frequently survivable but a guaranteed stop. If a spinal hit is high enough an opponent is done….permanently. If lower they may lose use of the legs but can still fight if their arms work. It is basically a matter of chance who wins or loses a gunfight. Training and practice can tilt odds one way or another but there is no removing the luck factor. And there are NO true experts on gun fighting because very few people get into gun fights and NOBODY has been in enough to grant them expert status. Math says that you will losemahd die before you survive enough such fights to become an expert.

  13. […] The rules of gunfighting certainly come into play here. We chuckle at Joe Frick’s rules for a gunfight, but they play out here. Move or die. Gunfights don’t happen standing still and all targets […]

  14. Witheld says:

    Excellent article, I can’t think of anything to add except to emphasize the importance of immediate cover and return fire with superior caliber and superior ammo quantity.

  15. bull says:

    It seems here the main thing is practice.some people say that you have to have a 40 or 45 but not everyone can handle one of those. I have successfully hunted mule deer with my 357 mag and firmly belive in it but in all honesty any gun you can get to in the situation you are in is best. At home 12 Guage or whatever rifle is nearest. In my truck is my 357. For carry it’s a 357 but if I can get to something faster that’s what I’ll use.

  16. Aaron Espy says:

    I’m a newbie guys…enjoying the education. I’m looking for my first handgun and found this article and your comments very enlightening.

  17. HamHock says:

    When ISIS attacks your home remember to dip your bullets in pig’s blood.
    No 72 Virgins for you ISIS POS !!!

  18. FloridaFrank says:

    #25 – Alle Kunst ist umsonst wenn ein Engel auf das Zundloch brunst. Literally “All skill is in vain when an angel pisses in your flintlock.” It rhymes in the original German.

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