Have a look at this frightening video of a police officer getting into a confrontation. After being sprayed with pepper spray, shot in the abdomen, and repeatedly hit – this guy is still attacking the officer.

It’s not my intent in sharing this video to criticize the officer’s actions after the fact. I wasn’t there, I don’t have the officer’s training, and my understanding of the situation comes entirely from this short video.

However, I have had people say things to me like, “If you really want to teach people self defense, teach them how to use a gun.” I would like to address that by pointing out, via this video, what can go wrong.

  1. The first shot misses at point blank range.
    One study I’ve read shows that police officers hit their target around 17% of the time. Most gun fights happen at extremely close range. This is not a criticism of police training in any way. The issue is that firing a pistol accurately while under attack is extremely difficult. The body’s natural stress response makes complex motor skills much harder than many imagine.
  2. The second shot hits the assailant but doesn’t stop him.
    Most people get their ideas about self defense from the movies. Gun people frequently talk about “stopping power” of their handguns. The truth is that the only sure way to stop someone with a gun is to shut down the central nervous system. That’s unlikely to happen if you follow your training and aim for center mass. Given point number one above it’s really hard to aim for and hit a target like the brain stem. Even if struck in the heart, an assailant may have a few seconds or a few minutes to continue an attack.
  3. The third time the police officer tries to fire – his gun jams.
    Guns are mechanical, they can and do jam. All kinds of things can happen.
  4. The officer’s pepper spray has no effect.
    Some people have a relative immunity to pepper spray. Wind and environmental factors also can limit the effect of pepper spray. Pepper spray, in an enclosed space, can effect the person spraying as well as the intended target. With pepper spray you still have to hit a target (see #1 above).

Let me be clear, guns, knives, clubs, and pepper spray are all good tools and have their uses. When you can access them, employ them properly, and they have their intended effect – they are brilliant. However, a lot can go wrong at any stage. Unarmed self-defense using gross motor movements that will work in a stressed state should be the cornerstone of self-defense training.

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