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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Dynamic Handguns and Shooting in a Structure: Information for Writers Prt 3

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Ach! With the tinkling of broken glass on her ceramic floor, your heroine was wide awake and on high alert. She ran to bolt the lock on her new bedroom door, the metal one her dad had insisted on as soon as he heard about his daughter's psycho ex.

After dialing 911, your heroine yells at the person jiggling her knob, "I have a gun. Leave now!" Then she hears her nephew's voice down the hall screaming her name. She had forgotten in her adrenaline surge, that she had house guests. She has to save them.

Video Quick Study (3:37) Using a safe room.

As an author I'm sure your realize that having a safe room doesn't mean your heroine is safe. Here are two example 911 calls where the callers did the right things, and they ended up pulling the trigger anyway:
Audio Quick Study (0:41) Man shoots intruder after his
               family is beaten and 911 operator accidentally
               puts him on hold.
Audio Quick Study (2:34) Mom is hiding in the closet with her
                two children when she shoots the intruder 5 times in the
                face and neck. He is still able to leave the house and drive
                down the road. The police find him and take him to the
                hospital where he fights for his life.

Shooting in the home or other structure.

Violent encounters statistically
* Occur at very close range (3 yrds or less)
* Often happen in low or no light
* Are over in a matter of seconds (3 seconds)
* Include the firing of three shots

According to NRA Guide to the Basics of Personal Protection in the Home, there are
 5 possible responses to a life-threatening encounter:
* freeze
* submit 
* posture
* flight
* fight

Stress and its accompanying physiologic reactions include 
* Difficulty breathing 
* Loss of fine motor skills
* Racing heart
* Tunnel vision and hearing discrimination issues
*  Shaking hands all create obstacles to defensive shooting and
    following safety rules.

Perceptual changes during a threatening encounter:
* Tunnel Vision - focus almost
    exclusively on the perceived
    threat    (Blog Link)
* Auditory Exclusion - 
   extraneous sounds are 
   inaudible. Your heroine may 
   not be able to hear instructions    being yelled at her by
   the police or other characters
* Time Dilation - slowed time,
   things seem to to be happening
   in slow motions.

Mental Preparation

Video Quick Study (4:49) Mental preparation tips.

* Your heroine must decide in advance that she is willing to be hurt
   and keep going. Once engaged she cannot give up the fight.
   (Aggression/Response Blog Link) If she doesn't have the right 
   mindset she's going to lose. So it's imperative that if you're writing
   a beta heroine that she have some impetus greater than her own
   will to stay alive and fighting - she's protecting her child, she's the
   only one who can replicate the anti-viral that will save humanity...
What should your heroine do? Listen to her limbic system
   Blog Link

Controlling the Encounter 

Strategies for a heroine who finds herself face to face with the villain.

* Both parties are experiencing high adrenaline. The problems of
   tunnel vision and auditory exclusion effect the villain as well. 
   The heroine should yell directives so the villain can hear and
* STAY AWAY - no matter how compliant the villain is acting. 
   Your heroine should keep well out of reach. Villains can have
    hidden weapons. Villains will often talk softly and reasonably as
    they make their slow approach. Your heroine will want to
    believe him and believe that nothing bad is really happening. 
    You're the author; you know what the bad guy is really up to -
    she should get as far away from as she can and not get cornered.
    This blog article discusses different tactics used by villains
    against your poor heroine.

It's bad. Your heroine is standing between the villain and her family. Gun in hand, ready to do whatever is necessary to keep her loved ones safe, she aims...

Found publicly on Facebook

A major safety rule is know your target and what's beyond. 
* Is your heroine sending a warning shot up in the air? What goes
   up must come down. And what if there is someone on an upper
* What if the villain is standing in front of a propane or oil tank, a
   kerosene heater or any other flammable liquid?
* What if she is shooting by a window or interior wall? 


Video Quick Study (4:19) Extreme Close Quarter Shooting

   Your heroine will be shooting in an enclosed space without ear
   protection. She may well not be able to hear anything for several 
   minutes following the blast. 

   If you've never heard gun fire in real life it is LOUD!

   Remember that the military and law enforcement officers use
   flash bang to disorient the individuals in a structure so they have
   time to run in and time to function, taking control of the area. A
   gun shot is loud and can have this stunning effect or a deafening

   Will your heroine be able to shoot a few bullets while standing in
    her bathroom, turn her head and chat with her cohort? Not likely
    unless she can read lips. 

   Couldn't that lead to a complication? What if the
   good guy was shouting instructions, "Get down! Get down!" She
   would never know. 

   If she is an avid shooter she may have silencer and that would
   help immensely as would subsonic bullets. Why do I say avid
   shooter? Legally it takes a very long time (about a year) to obtain
   a license for a silencer. So not something she can just decide on a
   whim to go purchase.

 Brian Coates demonstrating a silencer with 
sonic and subsonic bullets at 
Nottoway Wildlife Association Link

Your heroine will not be wearing protective glasses, though her regular glasses would serve this purpose.

Without eye protection, she could have eye damage from the gases and debris from the blast of the firearm, or a casing could fly back and catch her in the eye. Now your heroine is blinded and deaf. A terrible situation.

Use of Cover and Concealment

As soon as your heroine senses a threat - her limbic system lights up. She needs to immediately seek cover or concealment. She should not wait until someone fires on her or rushes her.

Your heroine is doing her best. She's standing strong. She took a bullet to the shoulder, but she will not give up the fight. Now that she has the injury, she realizes that concealing herself behind the cabinet was not enough. She needs cover, and she needs it now!

When you write a scene make sure you know which term to use. 


She concealed herself behind the sofa, holding her breath, hoping the sound of her beating heart wouldn't give away her position.

Concealment is - 
* Anything that will hide your heroine from observation
* Does not protect her body from incoming fire.
* Could prevent the villain from locating your heroine or being able
   to accurately fire on her.
* Could help her gain the upper hand through surprise.
* Could allow your heroine to avoid or escape from the intruder all

Cover - 

Cover will protect your heroine from incoming fire. A fridge would be cover. A wood burning stove would be cover.
* A regular mattress provides concealment; a water bed provides 
   cover .
* Regular walls provide concealment; brick, stone, or concrete
   provide cover. 
* There's actually very little in a normal house that will provide
   cover - but the villain may not understand this. He could be
   aiming at the tiny piece of your heroine that is exposed instead of 
   shooting through the door or wall.

Techniques for using Cover and Concealment

* Minimize your heroine's exposure - the less seen the better her
   chance of escaping detection.
* When looking around a barrier, have your heroine do a quick
   peek, bobbing her head out to get an image then popping back
   into her place. (much less than a second)
* She should vary the places that she peeks from so that the villain
   isn't just waiting for her like an arcade game.
* The human eye is predisposed to tracking movement. As long as
   your heroine is frozen in place, she will be harder to detect. Once
   she moves, the villain's eyes will be drawn to her. An old Indian
   trick would be to wait very still and then let out a war whoop - the
   sudden noise would make the hidden pioneers flinch thus giving
   up their location.
* If your heroine must fire from her position, she should stand arm's
   distance from the barrier, leaning out just enough to catch the
   villain in her sights.

U.S. Marine Corp., veteran Brian Coates
teaches how to acquire the target from behind barriers.

* In this video, I emptied my clip to time how long it took me to fire
   off all of my bullets. This is a VERY BAD idea in a shooter
   ^ Reloading takes time and attention, leaving your heroine at
      greater risk.
   ^ She doesn't have an endless supply of bullets. Once she's out,
      she's out.
* Your heroine should make sure that her muzzle is clear of the
    barricade. Sights being clear of the barricade does not equal
    muzzle being cleared.
    ^ Firing into cover at close range can cause serious harm to your
       heroine from ricochet or from debris.
    ^ Firing at close range into your own cover can lessen its
* If shooting multiple times (for example, your heroine needs to
   reload) she shouldn't pop out each time from the same spot.
* Your heroine should not rest or brace the firearm on the cover -
   this can cause the gun to malfunction and messes up the aim.

Moving to cover/concealment
* Your heroine should try to keep as much distance between
    herself and her attacker as she can.
* Your heroine should try to move away from villain and toward
* Your heroine should practice moving backward and laterally to
   find cover. If she knows she's in danger
   -rabid ex, crazy stalker, etc - then she has time to practice and
   prepare. How will she move? Where will she go? What protective
   objects are placed strategically around? What if you showed her
   practicing and the villain thwarts all of those plans by attacking
   her elsewhere - where she was vulnerable? By moving
   backwards and laterally she:
   ^ Can keep her eye on the villain
   ^ Keep her firearm in a ready position (NOT aimed NO finger on
      the trigger)
   ^ She maintains her balance

Video Quick Study (3:46) How to move backwards and laterally

When your heroine is choosing her shooting position, the NRA manual indicates that she should consider the following list:
* consistency (she's trained in that position)
* balance
* support
* natural point of aim (versus torquing the body)
* comfort

Here's hoping your heroine does a great job and saves the day!

Image found publicly on Facebook
This blog article is based on my experience at an all-day dynamic gun training class that I took at Nottoway Wildlife Association, LINK  called "Personal Protection in the Home," following NRA curriculum. 

These are the same folks who taught me about rifles in this article: BLOG LINK.

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

I used the book, NRA Guide to the BAsics of Personal Protection in the Home (2000) to write this article
As always, this is a non-political site that is geared to help writers write it right. I am presenting information to help develop fictional characters and fictional scenes. In no way am I advocating any position or personal decision.
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  1. I've got a few thoughts on all 3 parts, which I'm just going to post all here, partly because I'm lazy and partly because I figure it's easier to answer them all in one spot:

    -I thought silencers were illegal in the United States. You actually can get a permit for them? (And I do know they're technically suppressors but I'm so used to calling them silencers I usually just go with that)

    -One thing you mentioned about hand-eye dominance is something I can relate to in real life. I'm right-handed but left-eye dominant so this means I should shoot handguns with my left hand? It might not be a big deal to me because I do actually use my left hand a lot more than most right-handed people, to the point there are some tasks I can do better with my left hand than my right hand.

    -You mentioned it's not a good idea to frisk the subdued bad guy, so I'm guessing my signature idea I picked up from my time on here of ziptying him is probably also not a good idea.

  2. Hey there,

    1) Suppressors are legal in most states with the right paperwork. This is a site that lists which
    states, the documents, fees, etc. Suppressors are great for practice shooting because it saves your ear drums and makes your
    neighbors happier (if you're sports shooting on your country property).
    2) Yes, you should shoot with the hand that is on the same side as your dominant eye. And it makes sense that if you are left
    eye dominant and right hand dominant that some tasks would feel equally natural on the left side - I would imagine these are
    focus tasks - like writing, perhaps.
    3) Well - you know zip tying him is not effective - so I would never do that. In a book meh, go ahead and write the scene; have your
    hero go over and pat him down and see if the bad guy jumps up. In real life - are you willing to risk that the bad guy is going to
    jump up? You might if you are a cop, combat trained, or a pro MMA fighter. Me? I'll call in one of the above. If the police are not on
    route and you are in an area where no one can hear to assist, your going to have to make some tough choices. And all of those
    choices MUST be aimed at keeping you and those in your protection safe. Stay Away. Make sure you can see his hands and any
    movement. Don't lose focus.

    Hope this helps!



    1. Writing is actually one of the main things I can't do left-handed. I tend to use my left hand more for simple everyday tasks. It feels really awkward just to open a can with my right hand. I consider myself right-handed because most things I do left-handed I can do with my right hand, it just feels really odd. I can't really do tasks I do right-handed with my left hand well at all in most cases (especially writing and throwing). I have very minimal experience with handguns (mostly just fired shotguns) so if I started doing it left-handed it might not feel too awkward.

      And I was being a little facetious with the zip tie thing. But it could work for fiction.