A couple of entries ago, the discussion on a major police association conditionally condoning warning shots drew a lot of commentary here.

And we didn’t even get all the way into the topic.  For example, we never discussed what I call the “chaser shot,” the after-the-fact warning shot fired when the bad guy is fleeing, as if to say “and don’t come back, you so-and-so.”

Last weekend, Charles Heller at Liberty Watch Radio and I had half an hour to go into a little more depth on the matter, including some case examples and a bit of listener call-in interaction.

If you have time to listen (might want to fast forward through the intro music to save time), I’d be interested in your thoughts on what was discussed.


  1. In a rural community I once fired a .357 shot a little off vertical in the middle of the night, the bullet calculated to fall in the middle of an adjacent vacant, open field. I fired to drive away a pair of escaped wolves that were causing a ruckus with my tied-up dog, who was pursuing a liaison with the female wolf. The noisy, jealous male wolf of the pair had circled to attack me after I picked up a stick to try to drive him away. He gave me the distinct impression that he intended to sever my throat, and I thought that the best choice at the moment was to fire in the air into what was most likely a completely safe zone, rather than to chance a ricochet within the local neighborhood. One shot and both wolves ran away like scalded cats. I would rather have used a blank, though.

  2. I was at a job site the other day when I caught the the last bit of the NPR story, it stopped me in my tracks. The idea that sending a round down range as a warning was now a good idea chilled me to the bone. It seems like a reckless act in so many different ways. Taking time to look for a “safe” direction to fire a warning while under deadly threat, at that very moment seems to be madness. Understanding the limited capabilities of our carry guns to “stop” a determined attacker in his tracks makes the idea throwing away one off the potentially life saving rounds to “warn” is unwise at a minimum.

    We are responsible for our every act. Even placing our hand on a holstered gun to “warn” away a threat can have profound legal consequences. After all you are threatening deadly force. If you can’t articulate why it was a necessary to do so can get you in deep hot water. (And even if you can) Actually firing a bullet down range just seems reckless.
    I just can’t think of a situation where this would be a good idea. Well, OK. Say you are out camping in the desert and you’ve just been on a hilltop and seen with your own eyes that you are the only person around. No hunters or hikers or campsites anywhere. And walking down the trail back to camp a mountain lion steps onto the trail in front of you. Warning shot? No, I think I’ll save the ammo in case he decides to take a run at me. Yelling GO AWAY seems like a much better idea. Say, that might be a better idea with a human predator as well.

  3. I caught the story on NPR, (don’t judge me, opposition research) and it stopped me in my tracks. The idea that sending a round down range to “warn” just seems crazy. We are responsible for every round and the risk of causing harm to non combatants is reckless at the very least. Removing your attention from the deadly threat that, at that moment is causing you to fear for your life seems unwise at the very least. Knowing that the handguns we carry have a very limited ability to actually “stop” an attack in its tracks if you will, makes throwing away one of your limited rounds seems like a bad idea all the way.
    I fear this will give our press yet another reason to ask, “why didn’t you fire a warning shot?” And then, “why not just shoot him in the leg?”
    Batten down the hatches everyone. It’s on it’s way.

  4. Dan Becker said, “Maybe use of a device that makes a big noise without sending a projectile.” Donald Trump, perhaps?

    Sorry, just couldn’t pass that one up…

  5. A blank in the first round of a New York reload?

    If the secondary weapon was in a position to be retrieved with one’s non-dominant hand, one could still keep ones eye on the threat and one’s dominant hand on one’s primary weapon pointed at the threat.

  6. Here is a twist, I am an officer with the Florida Dept. Of Corrections. We are mandated by policy to , time permitting, in a tower or perimeter vehicle to fire a warning shot at an inmate of deadly force is justified.

  7. Its on a case by case bases I am not totally against it if it’s done so safely.
    We use to have warning shots when I started on the police department.
    Look at rural areas when officers are being beaten on the side of the highway or as an example I have no problem with firing a warning shot into the grass or some trees to stop the action without taking a life. It use to be effective at stopping many people in their tracks.

    But there would have to be some real good restrictions placed on this rule….

  8. No warning shot. No way. No how. Unleashing a round in public that is not intended for a legal target is just not a good idea. I doubt any felon in flight from an LEO would stop for a warning shot (except in the movies). Mas is right. That warning shot would simply make them run faster.

    A warning shot is an even worse idea for a citizen. If a situation occurs that justifies you drawing your weapon, then it should be fired at a perp only to protect yourself or a loved one. If the perp is running off, then let them run. The police will find them later. I pay taxes for the police to do those things so I don’t have to.

    A warning shot is also not justified just to show the bad guy that you are “serious”. If you are being approached by a felon showing intent to harm you and they do not respond to a verbal command (assuming you have time), then they have made their decision. The felon’s bad judgment is not going to force me to put myself out on a legal limb to try to save his disappointment to my resolve.

    In the same vein, if another citizen shoots me by firing a warning shot (assuming I’m not DRT/DOA) then I will sue the daylights out of them. I have paid good money for the proper training in these matters (Clint Smith and John Farnam, and I wish Mas was included – Mas, email me the next time you have a class in Texas) and that citizen that shot me with a warning shot should have done the same.

    I remember my father (may he rest in peace) telling me as a boy “you can say you’re sorry after stepping on someone’s toe – but their toe still hurts, so be careful”.

  9. Don’t have a book on that per se, Matt.

    However, the current Athlon Publications annual COMPLETE BOOK OF HANDGUNS 2017 contains my three part series on 9mm versus .40 S&W versus .45. It’s on the newsstands currently, or you can find it online at tactical-life.com.

  10. Thanks Mas, just ordered it and am looking forward to your insight. Our local law enforcement is transitioning back to 9mm from 40 S&W after 20 plus years. They went to 40 after several failure to stops and now don’t even issue shotguns anymore.

  11. Thank you for sharing, Matt. If you don’t mind could you tell us what law enforcement agency that is? Are they going to patrol rifles in lieu of shotguns, or are they leaving their officers with only handguns?

  12. A gas station/convenience store down the street was robbed not long ago. Two armed citizens were on hand and stopped the robbery chasing off the would be robbers. Problem is, they sent them down the road followed by a few shots from their previously concealed pistols. I suppose because you see the cops and/or the hero banging away at fleeing villains all the time on TV and the movies, without collateral damage.

    This in a residential neighborhood with houses side by side as far as the eye can see.

    Luckily no one was hit and so far no one has discovered bullet holes in their houses.

    Those “warning shots,” if you want to call them that, very likely put the would be robbers out of the robbery business, at least temporarily, but were not worth the risk involved.

    The armed citizens found themselves in a bit of hot water after thinking themselves heroes.

  13. I listened to the interview and agree 100%. If the public wants warning shots and leg shots why not just put the TV and movie cops on the street? They already have the skill sets.

  14. I have fired a warning shot once. It was #4 buck into the ground in my backyard. It scared away the black bear that was wreaking the bird feeder and the side of my house. At the time I was very aware of where the pellets were going to go after the bounced off the ground and that was into some deep woods. Still would have rather had a blank or two. It was about 11:30PM when this happened.

  15. Mas,

    I listened to your linked radio discussion. I agree that warning shots are generally a “stupid” idea. I was interested in your approach of the “least stupid way” to do a “stupid thing”. You talked about placing the shot into a safe solid object (you used an oak tree for an example) where it could be retrieved latter. You also demolished the idea of using a blank cartridge for the first round.

    Which raises a question: What about using a frangible bullet for the first round? Something like the old Glaser safety slug?

    The advantages would be:

    1) The round will probably still operate your firearm (better test it) and not tie it up as would a blank round.
    2) if you still need to use it for immediate self-defense (rather than as a noise-maker), it could still be quite effective.
    3) If (stupidly) fired into the air, its light weight for caliber construction will cause it to lose velocity rapidly. Maybe less dangerous then a conventional bullet on that account?
    4) If fired down at the ground (at pavement, etc.), it will break-up and pose less of a ricochet danger.

    A downside is that, if fired into a solid object, it will break-up and one would be less able to prove that it is your bullet in that “oak tree”.

    Anyway, on the theme of doing a “less stupid” thing, what about frangible ammo for the first round (only) in the event that a warning shot might be considered?

  16. What I’m seeing is that your “warning shot” just escalated a bad situation into a gunfight.

    You don’t *know* that the bad guy is unarmed, just that he wasn’t showing a weapon. Maybe he didn’t think the firearm multiplier was worth it, or he was worried about the noise. But when you bang out a “warning shot”, there’s no way he can tell your intention.

    I’m not seeing many situations where a warning shot is going to help things, and a whole lot where you’re rolling the dice on bad odds.

  17. Just finished reading your articles comparing the 9mm 40 S&W and 45 Acp. A lot of indications of how happy agencies are we it their own choice but curious where you come down? I have been reading your articles for over 30 years and would guess you are still in the 45 camp. The ballistic gel tests I have found with the Winchester 127 +p+ haven’t been very impressive through denim, not that we shoot very many people through there pairs of jeans in Florida. Seems like for agencies it comes down to dollars and cents. I appreciate your contributions to law enforcement and the self defense community. Stay safe.

  18. Matthew, I’m not uncomfortable with a 9mm and the best loads; carrying a Glock 19 today with 127 grain +P+ Winchester. (Positive results we’ve seen with that ammo outweigh this or that test on the internet, in my mind.) I do prefer a .45 in cold weather, since I’ve seen damn near everything clog when the bullet cavity fills with inert material, and if my ammo turns into ball I want it to turn into BIG ball.

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