Defending Against Attacking Animals

Defending Against Attacking Animals
Defending Against Attacking Animals
Defending Against Attacking Animals
Defending Against Attacking Animals

The numbers of news stories about people who have been attacked by wild and domestic animals are very shocking. I also noted instances in these stories where people have defended themselves with their concealed carry pistols. While I was reading the news articles on animal attacks; I started thinking most people who learn to use a pistol for self-defense generally use targets shaped like silhouettes of people, the goal being similar to those of law enforcement officers and soldiers when they learn to hit center mass in high stress situations.

How many of us have actually gone to the range and practiced for such a self-defense scenario: an attacking animal? When considering shots to center mass of an attacking animal, if it is not stopped quickly it may continue the attack even after being wounded. The severity of injuries you may sustain may be minor to life threatening. After the injuries are treated only then would most of us begin to consider if the animal carried rabies or other diseases that could have transferred to us.

My personal experience with attacking animals:

One year my hunting partner and I were out hunting, after he shot a raccoon as it hung onto the side of a cottonwood tree. I went out through the snow that was knee deep to bring it back to our pickup on the hopes the local fur buyer would give us something for this critter. As I got closer and looked over the brush I saw one very angry raccoon looking back at me. It was very apparent he had only been wounded and as fast as he was moving it did not appear to affect its ability to chase me. I was able to fish my .357mag pistol, out of my coveralls while running backwards. I vaguely remember my friend laughing in the background as I screamed multiple descriptive adjectives to express my displeasure with this turn of events. I managed to fire my pistol, which stopped the raccoon. How I did it? Well I my instincts kicked in and I just pointed my pistol like my finger. Honestly I do not remember aiming; I was scared that he was going to get me.

Where to shoot for?

Shots should concentrate on hitting the Central Nervous System (brain & upper spine) to bring immediate incapacitation. This may call for multiple shots to this area to stop the attacking critter.

When practicing you need to keep it realistic, so practicing shooting dimes from 25yards away is not necessary. To get a good idea on what size of target to practice with, visualize what an average dog or coyote’s head looks like in size. Next mentally add three bull’s eyes. Where do you put them you ask? Well one of the simplest ways of determining the animals brain location is to mentally draw an X from the left ear to right eye and repeat from the right ear to left eye. X will mark the spot to aim for. If presented with a side shot aim for the base of the ear angling forward to where the X would approximately be. If aiming at the back of the head aim try to angle the shot forward once again towards the X.

I suggest your practice distances start at 1 yard working out to 15 yards. Concentrate on point shooting skills from 1 to 10 yards without using your sights. When your distances get beyond 10 yards you can add sighted fire, but remember action is faster than reaction. If ever faced with this situation, aimed fire may not be possible and you would have to fall back on to your point shooting abilities to stop the attacking animal.

Before everyone runs out and starts buying new .44magnaum’s and S&W .500’s as your new defensive pistol, the standard 9mm round is very capable of penetrating the skull or severing the upper spine on most small mammals to full-grown cattle.

To those who would call me cold and insensitive on this matter.

Why do you carry a concealed pistol? If the answer is anything other than for your self-defense and that of a loved one; I want each of you to consider, could you shoot an animal in self-defense? Could you shoot the same animal to put it down after it had been crippled? If you answer is no, or this question brings some type of doubt, I suggest you re-evaluate your reasons for carrying a concealed weapon for self-defense. I hope this may either reaffirm your reason, or give reasons to reevaluate your need to carry a pistol for self-defense. This may not be the ultimate tell all about your character. If your goal is self defense it should not matter if it is a wild dog coming after you while on an outing in the park or an assailant trying to kill you in a dark parking lot. In ether case now is a better time to reflect on if you are emotionally prepared to defend your self. The reality is not all assailants have only two legs, it is possible you could be faced with an attacking critter that is bent on making you their personal chew toy.

Remember! “Shot Placement is Critical and Only Hits Count”

Disclaimer: You need to check your local and state laws about using a firearm in self defense against an animal.

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Matt Schlueter is a retired Deputy Sheriff from South Dakota with over 19 years of combined experience in corrections and law enforcement, and held the position of Firearms Instructor and DARE officer with the Sheriffs Office he worked at till his retirement. He is also a NRA Certified Pistol Instructor, and owner/chief instructor of Schlueter Firearms Instruction. Matt’s goal is to provide the best information possible for those who want to further their knowledge and skills in shooting handguns. Matt’s goals also include providing the best training courses possible for students who attended courses he is offering. For those wishing to contact him please visit his website at, or or you can join him on Facebook at
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I really like the moral question near the end. Many of us practice shooting paper targets and some may even hunt live animals. However, when the red flag goes up how many of us can actually shoot a live human being if pressed to do so? Most will rush to quickly say hell yeah! However, it’s often a different thing when presented with the situation. There’s no real way to know I suppose. I think you’re right. People need to give serious thought to what they are capable of and prepared to actually do.

Being in ‘Nam and then nearly 30 years in law enforcement I sadly have had to shoot human beings. It’s a lot more difficult than most imagine. However, you’d be surprised at what you can do if you must. A great article. I thank you.


New Mexico is a border state to Mexico. The most common animal attacks in NM are from the fearless breed including cross types, known historically as ‘Pit Bulls’. Pit Bulls are favored by the ‘Dealers’ and heavy users of illicit Drugs. A yard of Pit Bulls more often than not, indicates the presence of ‘Business’. These animals have killed many more than a few, innocent passersby on neighborhood walks. The mangled and slaughtered children, now ever more common, are also of great concern.

This past year has seen a radical increase in ‘Pit Bull’ administered fatalities. For some unexplained reason, the Dog’s owners face media ‘Hoopla’, but minimal charges. Convictions in ‘Pit’ attacks are as rare as the ‘whistling pig’, even following attacks resulting in permanent mutilation and death.

No one will suggest ‘restrictive’ Laws. In one recent instance, the son’s ‘Pit’ killed the Father watering his plants (Santa Fe), The Only success of halting the deadly attacks, has been from bystanders with a firearm. In most cases it is too late, and even worse, immediately brings down ‘Media’ and legal retaliation. These dogs are fast and deadly. The owners have No tangible assets. Obviously the ‘Dog’ loving society has way too much political influence. Enough to allow this insane pattern to accelerate beyond common sense.

Carrying a deadly weapon that will put a fast end to this animalistic ‘behavior’ is sadly, the Only recourse in today’s ‘misinformed’ (I’m being kind) society. Beware, You will likely face charges upon discharging the firearm. If you enjoy Freedom…and a walk, ‘carry’ and know how to accurately bring down these ‘animals’. It’s Your Life… or Face… or Child..


In Washington State, dangerous animals (pets) that have any history of human attacks, particularly if they have ever drawn blood, will be quarantined on the owner’s property. If EVER seen off that property, the OWNER goes to jail on serious charges, and the animal is destroyed, no option. This is a good law. Dangerous animals are relatively rare since that law got passed. Most owners would rather lose the “pet” after the first attack than risk going to jail for a long time. I don’t know about other states, but I’m quite certain that the use of lethal force against something like a pit bull actively attacking would be considered self defense. Their history of serious injury puts them in the class of “lethal force” once they begin an attack. One of the main reasons I began to carry was to defend against attack dogs coming at me when out cycling our rural roads. Not to mention the grifters that began a campaign of assaulting and robbing cyclists, even in groups, at a couple of “choke points” up north. I decided if they ever attempted to waylay ME, with a group or solo, I’d have a surprising response for them. These cowards would surely back down in haste were they confronted even with the lowly and almost laughable .380. Cycling is the ONLY time I ever carry that one.. otherwise too small to provide the level of security I desire. a hundred twenty pound dog with ten pounds of teetn aimed at me will be considered lethal force, and met with same. I know it is legal here, and I won’t hesitate.


Exellent article and thought provoking commentary. And I agree with all.
My father was a police office for 20+ years. In all that time he said he only had pull out his piece a few times but had never fired it. Being WWII UDT vet, he told me when you have to take a human life, there can be no question as to whether to do it or not. He says he had to do hand-to-hand combat and even after 60 yrs later the guilt of taking a life, enemy or not, is a hard thing to live. His rule was make sure you have have to shoot or run like hell.
Living in Ariz at the time when the population was a lot less than today, we had to wild animals to keep from being attacked. The wild boar and coyote packs ahd qualms about attacking anything in their way – all was just another meal or another enemy.


The issues I see with defending against animals as opposed to humans — animals are smaller, so while one shot might well dispatch them, the target will be far harder to hit; and, I’m guessing there’s nothing comparable to the Tueller Drill with animals, but most of the ones we might need to deal with move far more quickly than humans. Add that to their size and I’m guessing that most shots will be taken with the beast hanging off one of your limbs … I carry all the time while out in my neighborhood after being caught with only a folder when three on-the-loose dogs charged me and my beagle … after thinking, this is going to hurt, I started yelling and shouting no, no, bad dog, hoping they were pets … they finally veered off about 10 feet from us. I later saw them in a neighbor’s back yard and had a word with him about their fate under similar circumstances in the future …

Matt Schlueter

There are drills to practice for them, if your interested contact me directly.

Matt Schlueter


One thing to keep in mind for those in the Rockies and Alaska: a charging grizzly is not likely to be brought down by CNS-aimed shots unless you are literally ‘loaded for bear’. The reason behind this is this: grizzlies have very thick skulls, and although they are not thick enough to stop a direct shot from most high-powered rifles, a charging grizzly’s skull is going to be angled, which -will- tend to deflect shots away from the brain. The best area to aim for with an under-powered rifle or pistol against a charging bear, is the shoulders, to either side of the head, or low on the snout. Most hunting rifles have plenty enough penetration against pure muscle mass to allow them to penetrate to the heart and lungs.
That being said, bear spray is probably a much better alternative, being proven about 90+% effective at detering charging bears.

Cameron Allen

Great article…I was hunting in Northern North Carolina near the Virginia line this past december. I was walking back to my stand after lunch, and had left my rifle in the stand. Luckily I had my Kahr CM9 with me when a stray dog decided to run my down. 2 instinctive shots and the dog was down.