Never Give Warnings Or Fire Warning Shots: Just Shoot The Threat

Never Give Warnings Or Fire Warning Shots: Just Shoot The Threat

If you’ve never seen the Sergio Leone film “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” one of the characters admonishes a would-be assassin “When you have to shoot, shoot; don’t talk” after having dispatched him. Something like that exact sentiment is why warning shots, verbal warnings and other attempts to dissuade a violent attacker are a bad idea.

If the threat is real, draw from your concealed carry holster and fire – and stop the threat.

Warning Shots Will Only Land You In Jail

Warning shots sound great on paper. The gunshot will frighten the bad person enough so they give up or think better of what they’re doing and cheese it. Sounds good, right?

It’s likely to send you to jail instead.

There are two primary factors that will put you in a prison uni because of a warning shot. First is that a prosecutor will argue that since you weren’t threatened enough to actually shoot the person in the first place, you weren’t really threatened sufficiently to merit pulling a gun in the first place.

The act of drawing a pistol in the first place is an act of deadly force before the eyes of the law. Use of deadly force without the requisite reasonable belief of imminent death or dismemberment is a felony.

Second is what the bullet does after it leaves the barrel, which is part and parcel to why police officers don’t fire warning shots. If the threat is real, they tend to shoot to stop the threat and that’s exactly what you should do if confronted by a violent criminal.

Granted, a bullet into dirt will likely stay there, but pavement and other materials can cause a ricochet. Firing up into the air is equally reckless; what goes up, after all.

It Might Just Get You Killed

A recent tragic reminder about why warnings and warning shots are often fruitless is the recent case of Pedro “Pete” Cain of Norfolk, Va. Cain was visiting with some neighbors when a young woman came up to the group and asked to use a cellular phone on in late May of this year, according to the Virginia Pilot. She was told there wasn’t one available, but Cain was concerned that she was actually casing for a robbery and went back to his apartment to retrieve a handgun.

Cain’s suspicion was correct, and soon after returning with the gun, a man wearing a bandana appeared with a handgun. Cain aimed at the man and told him to drop it.

The man began to comply, but suddenly fired, hitting Cain in the abdomen. Cain was taken to the hospital but died of his wounds. Five people have been arrested for their roles in the robbery. The alleged shooter, one David Barrington, is facing a charge of 2nd degree murder as well as ancillary charges.

This isn’t to say it’s Cain’s own fault he was killed; it was the murderous criminal’s fault. However, it may well have turned out different had Cain merely fired. The shooter may have wound up on a slab, Cain’s fiance wouldn’t be mourning his loss and his son won’t be growing up without remembering his father.

Shoot To Stop The Threat

If you are confronted with a real and honest threat to you or someone else’s life or posed with a threat of serious bodily injury by a person bent on doing evil, shoot to stop the threat. Don’t try trick shots to the kneecap, don’t resort to warning shots. Verbal commands may work, but as can be gleaned from the Cain case, won’t always.

It certainly isn’t the case that you should shoot first and ask questions later. The threat has to be real and reasonable. But it is the case that if presented with a real clear and present danger, shoot until they stop.

If the danger is real, drawing and shooting will be justified. Since the best place for bullets is inside an attacker, there’s no danger of ricochets or bullets landing somewhere they shouldn’t after being fired in the air. Best of all, you’ll probably get home alive.

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Sam Hoober is Contributing Editor for Alien Gear Holsters, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. He also contributes a bi-weekly column for Daily Caller. In his free time, Sam enjoys camping, hunting and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.
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I know people want to avoid killing anyone if at all possible. However, this article is 100% correct. The biggest advantage you have carrying a concealed weapon is the element of surprise. If you announce yourself, that advantage is gone. The maniac that forced you to pull your weapon in the first place was obviously not rational in his thought process, or he wouldn’t be putting you or anyone else in a life threatening situation. This is the same concept as racking the slide on a shotgun thinking that will cause the bad guy to flee. It doesn’t work. Just have one in the chamber and get to work. The only thing the bad guy should hear or see is the round going off and the muzzle flash from you weapon right before he hits the ground.


You raise a point. Its middle of the night and you wake to a noise. You come down the stairs and see an unidentified person roaming slowly around. Do you shoot? Do you turn on lights? Do you yell, HEY? You want the element of surprise but where was the threat to your life first? A person walking around the house (and yes its a robber, not your son) has done nothing to threaten you yet. Whats your next move if you dont want to announce yourself in order to keep the advantage? Let him walk around while you go back to sleep and wait for a real threat to you?

Frank Dracman

You must always know what you are shooting at (and ideally what is behind it). Legally you must be in fear for your life or that of another before drawing your weapon.
I believe you must identify the target before firing your weapon and think flipping on the lights, or tactical flashlight, is the better move. If you’re going to shout a warning, do it at the top of the stairs saying you’ve already called 911, that you are armed and will shoot anyone that attempts to come up the stairs. Train for this scenario to make sure you know your sight lines and any tactical advantages the other guy may have. Also pray that you are never in at situation where you have to shoot someone!

Darryl Hadfield

Regarding the concept of warning shots, I agree. There was a case down in Florida, where a woman fired a warning shot, after having violated the restraining order against her estranged spouse – a minor felony, but Florida’s mandatory minimums meant that she used a firearm in the commission of a felony, which meant she got 20 years for that one stupid act.

Beyond that however, you should be careful how you assert what is legal and what is not.

“The act of drawing a pistol in the first place is an act of deadly force before the eyes of the law.”

While this may be the case in your state or locality, it is by no means correct in all others.

In Ohio, the use of deadly force is the ACTUAL use of the force – i.e. shooting someone. You are within your rights to draw a firearm but NOT shoot, in order to protect property or to address a circumstance where you believe there is imminent threat. For reference, see ORC 2901.01’s definition of deadly force.

Your own forums have a reference case for this, and I’m another.

USCCA certified a local Cincinnati CHL instructor who had already had his NRA credentials revoked, and were aware of it BEFORE you certified him. That, coupled with ignorance about the law (in Ohio, anyway), has me more than a little concerned about the substance of your organization and the content produced by or proliferated by it.

Steve Granlund

USA Carry has nothing to do with the USCCA. I do agree, though, with your sentiments regarding the USCCA.

Darryl Hadfield

Good point, and thank you for the correction. 🙂


“There was a case down in Florida, where a woman fired a warning shot,
after having violated the restraining order against her estranged spouse
– a minor felony, but Florida’s mandatory minimums meant that she used a
firearm in the commission of a felony, which meant she got 20 years for
that one stupid act.”

Am I reading this incorrectly? She violated the order with a firearm and discharged it. Isn’t she, as the violator of the protective order, more likely to have been the presumed aggressor? How would that then be a “warning shot”?


denny crane

the warning shot was for her boyfriend who was abusive


That still doesn’t make any sense. It would make sense if he was the one who violated a restraining order, but then, she wouldn’t have been the one committing the minor felony and wouldn’t be looking at a 20 year sentence.

Fred Miller

A mere second makes the difference between you lying on the ground or the attacker. He has a gun, I fire. Plain and simple. If you carry a gun, you must be properly prepared for that scenario. If you’re not, then you have no business carrying. Your moment of hesitation may cost your life, or the life of an innocent victim.


So you are saying, “Whip out your CCW Badge and start blasting away like Han Solo.”

Fred Miller

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Fred Miller

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I had to explain something related to this topic to a deputy a few years ago, when he asked why I didn’t just shoot a trio of teenagers that had been causing trouble.

Yeah, a cop genuinely asked why I didn’t shoot when the aggressors disengaged.

It boiled down to “because shooting someone in the back is still considered murder in this state, officer, and you were already on your way.”

They presented a credible threat. Gun came out, and suddenly the Suburbs kicked in and they realized that they had pressing concerns to handle with a family member… who turned them over to the patrol cruiser that was combing for them.

At least where I was living, the cops understood that a knife is a credible threat. None of that “they were unaaaarmeeeed” stupidity that keeps popping up everywhere else.

denny crane

Of course if you are a cop you can shoot first and make up a reason later.

Some Rabbit

I sat on a jury to hear a case where a ‘warning shot’ of sorts was fired. The defendant’s sister came by and they argued. Because she wouldn’t shut up he decided to ‘calm her down’ by firing off a .44 magnum into the ground. I was one of several concealed carriers on the jury and we decided his actions were both irresponsible and negligent.