The real reason for shooting back


In military actions prior to the Crimean War, the ratio of dead to wounded was usually around 1:1. After the 1850s, medical corps were formed and more of the wounded survived. By WW2, 1:2 ratio was common, and modern US army is closer to 1:4. In other words, people hit by military weapons are still far more likely to survive than to die. The factors contributing to survival are usually protective gear, good physical condition of the troops, and prompt medical attention.

In modern times, we know that people shot with handguns have an 85% chance of survival, provided they get medical treatment. The chances are far lower with shotgun or rifle, but even then modern medicine can accomplish near miracles. Given the proximity of most mass shootings to urban medical centers, how do we end up with statistics reflecting dead:wounded ratios opposite of the military numbers? How is it possible that a single person with a hand-held weapon could produce more deaths than non-fatal injuries? The answer is simple: control of the scene.

A murderer who has the crime scene to himself can take the time to shoot or stab every victim again, just to make sure they are dead. That’s been the typical mode of operation for the killers: shoot a group of victims, then backtrack and shoot everyone in the head. The other factor is the exclusion of medical emergency response personnel from the scene, meaning that the victims bleed out before anyone reaches them. Those two factors, combined with fear-driven compliance and resulting close-range shots on non-evading victims (likely the reason why the school attack in Newtown had 27 deaths to one injury), are the reason why murderers with seemingly light weapons are so efficient. Given control of the scene and lack of resistance, a 1770s regular soldier with a musket, bayonet and sword would have killed as many, primarily with the blades.

The emphasis on shooting back comes not only from the likelihood of stopping mass murderers dead before they can harm more than a few victims, but also because even suppressive fire distracts them from the initial quest. In all recorded incidents, attackers who came under fire — even when the return fire was ineffective — stopped what they were doing and either hid or tried to fight the responders. As a result, the wounded had much better chance of survival.


Immediate armed response is also important for avoiding friendly fire. A person present at the start of an incident are much more likely to know who the aggressor is than would responding cops.


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18 Responses to The real reason for shooting back

  1. Pingback: Oleg Volk: The Real Reason for Shooting Back | The Ultimate Answer to Kings

  2. Rick Berry says:

    Notice that the death toll from the Orlando Pulse shooting remained steady throughout the days that followed. Why? The responding police officers were told to wait and not enter to engage the active shooter for a long period of time.
    I believe that the result of this delay was that all the critically wounded died of their wounds at the scene, and none of the others, who didn’t expire at the scene, were wounded badly enough for their wounds to result in death after medical treatment.
    So to state it plainly, the decision for the first responding police officers NOT to enter and confront the gunman directly led to the deaths of a probable 3/4 of the 49 persons who lay injured and bleeding in the club at that time.
    This is shameful and goes against everything I’ve been told about Active Shooter training. Even a single responding gun-holder could have drastically changed the tide against the attacker, even if that person lost his or her life in the process. It’s simple math, people.
    So I think that there needs to be a reckoning from those who ordered those first responding police officers to wait, rather than enter the bathroom and finish the attack in a timely manner.

    • Mike says:

      It is now believed in some circles of responders that, an immediate assault on the attacker(s) before they have a chance to fortify there position. It is known that these cowards only intent is to kill and seriously injure as many victims as possible. Unfortunately there will be those who will be killed or seriously injured, we all must fight back instead of allowing these cowards to win.

    • arne says:

      The cops probably knew they’d be facing rifle fire and would likely get killed if rushing in. Would you dash in to rifle fire?

      • Lyle says:

        If that’s not their job, then don’t call them until you’ve secured the area yourself. The cops can come in after the fact and take pictures.

        If it’s not the cops’ job, then who’s? Someone else will have to step up and be responsible. That, or we can all cower in fear and be controlled by one person. What does that slogan on the side of many cop cars mean; “To Protect and to Serve”? Should we re-write it, “To Protect Ourselves and to Serve Ourselves”?

        We keep hearing that he police are “putting their lives on the line” for us, and how we should practically worship them as saints because of it, and hen we keep hearing stories about how cops laid outside until the murderer was finished.

        Which is it? Are cops supposed to risk their lives for the sake of those they serve, or is it their Job Number One to go home unscathed at the end of the day? It certainly can’t be both.

        If they’re unwilling to risk their lives to save lives, then what good are they to us, and for what, exactly, are we paying them?

        I can fully understand someone being reluctant or unwilling to enter the scene of an active shooter. I really can. Just don’t ask me for a job as my protector. See?

  3. Woody W Woodward says:

    The delay makes me question as to whether the supervisory personnel on scene may have attempted to treat the incident as a hostage situation which it obviously wasn’t. The FBI course I attended several years ago stressed that once it is determined that the killings are the act of a fanatic, negotiations are a waste of time and will result in nothing more than allowing the perpetrator additional time to kill more people. Had some of the people in the club been armed and equipped with the proper mind set they would have at least had the means to defend themselves.

  4. LarryArnold says:

    This lesson was first taught at the University of Texas tower shooting, in 1966.

    • Lyle says:

      I think it was probably taught a few thousand years before the invention of gunpowder, but obviously we have to keep re-learning it.

  5. Lyle says:

    The main take-away form Orlando, as from nearly all mass shootings, is that the perp selected a gun free zone or similar soft target in which to do his killing.

    If the second amendment were upheld, there would be no mandated gun free zones, precisely because of the above, and therefore few if any such soft targets.

    So where does that lead us? Those who perpetrated the gun gun free zone are guilty of Conspiracy to Deprive Rights, or of Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law. They are criminals for making targets out of us and thus offering us up for slaughter, just as the shooter is guilty of accepting their offer.

    Why do we so often ignore that elephant in our living room?

    I ask which is worse; a common criminal, or one who seeks a position in government, takes an oath to uphold the law, and then turns on us.

    • I, of course, agree that we need to eliminate as many “gun free” areas as possible, but Pulse is a special case, sane people don’t drink while armed, same as we don’t drink and drive. We need a new custom, a member of the party designated to not drink, and to be armed.. they can socialize with those designated to drive the drinkers home 😀

      • Paul Koning says:

        But the problem here, as I understand it, is that state law did not allow any such thing. It required all victims to be defenseless whether they were drinking or not. In other words, the state government is directly complicit in this crime, having previously violated the Constitutional rights of the victims. Which, incidentally, is a felony under Federal law punishable by a year in jail.

  6. BF Caffrey says:

    There are some other factors at play here too, which should not be ignored. Among these is the societal view of police actions and how the media will portray them.

    You’ll notice the media has barely touched on the subject of whether police tactics were appropriate for The Pulse shooting. At best, they’ve causally mentioned that some people have questioned the police response… as if someone was criticizing their response time, not tactics.

    Do we have any doubt about how the media would play the story if the first eight officers on the scene, stormed the club and engaged in a ferocious shoot-out with the gunman? Especially if some patron tearfully recounts how someone they knew and who was close to the shooter was “gunned down by police.” If the shooter had herded survivors together and tossed an explosive device among them when police entered there would be hours of media criticism and “experts” claiming the deaths were the result of “hasty” police actions.

    What no one wants to admit, least of all the media and bureaucrats, is that once a mass shooting begins in an enclosed venue everyone inside is living on borrowed time. Do nothing and they will all die. Do something, anything at all and you probably increase their odds of survival. In terms of modern terrorist attacks and mass shootings the actors are not interested in negotiating for something nor getting some arcane “message of revolution” aired by the media. They want body counts.

    I live near San Francisco so I’ve heard quite a few “opinions” about how police tactics should not risk the lives of the patrons in the club. The mere mention of an armed citizen engaging elicits typical responses ranging from (paraphrasing) the incompetent fool will die before getting off a shot to visions of indiscriminate shooting of patrons. And it’s a very strong, visceral reaction.

    The only “traction” I was able to get with a couple of folks was to ask if they were trapped in some public venue like a mall with their children would they take a bullet to save their children? Most agreed they would. So the next question was if nothing is done, if no one acts against the shooter, what chance do your children have to survive? Slim and none. So finally I asked “Would you accept being killed, whether by police or an armed citizen, if that action neutralized the shooter and your children could survive?” In that context the message seemed to get through to them that during such events your choices range from crappy to shitty and waiting for the perfect solution isn’t an option.

  7. Vince Romano says:

    To sum it all up. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” And that good guy is not necessarily some guy with a badge worried about Al Sharpton, Jessie, or Obama looking to incarcerate him for not letting the shooter getting off the first dozen shots before he responds.

  8. Chris Gerrib says:

    I really wish people would look at the actual sequence of events. First, the shooting starts at 2:02 AM with a cop engaging the shooter at the front door. At 2:05 AM “OCSO Deputy Mark Rutkoski and others help remove victims from the building.” At 2:08 AM, a team of six officers break through a window and enter the club. The officers push the shooter into a bathroom, and that’s when the hostage situation breaks out.

    The shooter WAS NOT wandering the club re-shooting people. Within 5 minutes, he was holed up with (some wounded) hostages in a bathroom.

    Oleg, I think your military casualty numbers are misleading at best. Prior to the 20th century, most soldiers died of dysentery, fever or other non-combat-related diseases. Actual battlefield casualties were relatively low.

    • Oleg Volk says:

      I wasn’t counting non-combat deaths for the military — I am well aware that disease was a bigger factor than combat most of the time. I am going by the numbers that led to the establishment of medical corps around the 1850s.

      For the club shooting, I was going by the information available to me at the time of the writing. The original first responder did not stay engaged. The hostages wouldn’t have stayed hostages had the perpetrator had to watch his back the entire time due to the possibility of getting shot by one of them.

  9. JimM says:

    Possibly off the subject, but the man shown in the photo drawing the gun should have the thumb and fingers of his left hand together; not spread like bananas. He could have a problem when he brings his hands together to complete the draw. If he fires one handed from position 3 (1-as shown in the photo; 2-straight up and out;3-rotate; 4-hands together and gun aimed at target. His elbow is in the right position), as he very well might, he could shoot a digit off.

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