Warning Shot? No Way…

Gun News

Despite what Joe Biden said when he recklessly recommended grabbing a double barrel shotgun and firing it in the air to scare off a would-be bad guy, warning shots only serve two purposes—getting you killed or killing the unlucky recipient of a stray bullet that should never have been fired in the first place.

A gun for self-defense is an emergency tool, only to be employed as a last result in the most dire of situations. Most likely, we have all heard, and likely recited, the mantra “I’d rather have a gun and not need it than need and gun not have it.” Have truer words ever been spoken? I am not sure, but I am sure about warning shots and when not to use a gun.

Everyone who has been through a course for concealed carry, hunter safety, or basic firearm safety, knows that you never shoot a firearm unless you intend to destroy anything the bullet strikes. Likewise, we have all been taught to know our target and what’s behind it. A warning shot violates each of these tenants of firearm safety.

In addition to likely being illegal, what would you hope to accomplish with a warning shot? After all, merely pointing a firearm at an attacker provides about as much intimidation as a warning shot. However, once you fire off a shot, the dynamic changes and you will become the one accused of a crime and facing Lady Justice. You better be in the right and have done everything according to the law.

Firing a Shot

There is a time to fire your weapon, but when is key. For instance, you (or someone in your immediate vicinity) are being attacked, and you have a reasonable fear that the attacker will cause great bodily harm or death. However, even then, your response must be proportional and reasonable. The mere fact the someone said they are going to “kill you” with kindness, certainly would not be reasonable. Pulling out a gun because a little old lady kicked you in the shin would not be reasonable or proportional.

Proportional is rather easy for most to understand, but reasonable often gets people in trouble. Some people believe no one can read their mind, so simply stating they were afraid and in fear of their life will fulfill the reasonable standard and allow them to draw their weapon and maybe snap off a shot. Not true. There has also been more than person who has taken their cue from Hollywood and popped a round into the ceiling in an attempt to break up a rowdy crowd or fight. Neither of these scenarios would pass the reasonable person standard.

drawing a pistol from a concealed position

The presentation from concealed carry should be practiced often.


Brandishing is another no-no. If you draw your firearm, be prepared to use it. Pulling up your shirt or opening the flap of your jacket to show you are packing will earn you a one-way ticket to the Gray Bar Hotel—if you are lucky. If you are unlucky, someone is going to observe your attempted bravado and beat you to the draw… Remember, good guys use a firearm as a last resort to preserve life (yours and the innocents around you); bad guys use firearms to intimidate and take life.

Have a Plan

When you are already faced with a situation where you may have to deploy your firearm is not the time to have a debate in your head about whether you are in a shoot/don’t shoot scenario. You certainly do not want, “Hmmm… will I get in trouble if I shoot the creep?” running through your mind. Those questions should have been answered long ago. You should already have several action plans, covering a multitude of senarios worked out.

International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) shoots at a local gun club or range are excellent places to work through many of these issues. IDPA shoots present you with multiple scenarios meant to mimic real life situations you could face, and include live fire using a concealed firearm. Purpose driven classes from credible trainers are another recommended method for developing your self-defense plan and knowing when to use your firearm, but warning shots… Warning shots are not a strategy or a tool in the toolbox.

What other tips would recommend for self-defense situations? Share your answer in the comment section.

The mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!’s blog, “The Shooter’s Log,” is to provide information-not opinions-to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

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  1. Not always true. I had moved into a new home and some local kids that it a good idea to ring my door bell and run. At he second attempt I put 2 9’s into the ground at the edge of the porch and the doorbell quit ringing. I had better sense than to shoot into the air because what goes up must come down, but 9’s into the ground, at my feet, stayed there and stopped the ringing in my ears.

    1. Let me get this straight. You fired two rounds into the ground outside your door because some kids were ringing your doorbell and running? So, you drew and fired a deadly weapon in response to pranks by unarmed kids. You probably violated numerous laws such as brandishing, discharging a weapon within 500 feet of a dwelling, disturbing the peace, creating a public nuisance, etc. It’s people like you who give the idiot Liberals ammunition to push for more gun control. As for not firing into the air, I give you credit for that. When working in Baghdad, we had expended bullets on the grounds around our villa every morning so you are certainly correct there. But do you know where the underground gas lines, electric lines, water lines, etc. are? You said you had just moved in. Frankly, if my kid came home and told me about this I’d have kicked his ass for being an idiot and ringing your doorbell, and called the cops to go talk to you about being a irresponsible gun owner. You sound like a crazy man.

  2. I agree a warning shot is “absurd” (so is Joe), no one wants to telegraph their SDA (self-defense appliance) movement. The only warning would be verbal ………….. hey see that laser dot on your chest ….. that is where the bullet is going! You have 3 seconds, face plant on the ground OR go in the ground, your choice. Obviously we would never want to be in this condition, but I’ll be OK with what the jury decides.

  3. Simply pulling up your garment so that others can see your firearm, much less firing a warning shot will get you sent directly to jail, do not stop on go. If you show your firearm you had better be able to use it, so go ahead and take it out and if the situation does not immediately change into something non-threatening, you should be legally correct to fire it at the suspect because if you don’t you are certain your life, or the life of another is in IMMINANT danger. It does not matter if you are in or at your home or farm or in the middle of the city during rush hour. Just make sure you hit the target! Which means got to the range and practice, practice, practice until you can hit at least the nine ring every time without really thinking about it, and then practice some more and regularly enough that you keep your skill at at least that level or better.

    1. At least where I live, brandishing means displaying a weapon in a threatening manner. Pointing a gun at someone is “brandishing.,” which may be justified because of an immediate threat of serious bodily injury or death, etc., i.e., for the same reason that one may shoot in self defense. Demonstrating that you are carrying a holstered firearm is not “brandishing.” To put is simply, if you are justified in drawing your firearm, you are justified in clearing your garments in order to be able to do so. The only places you get in trouble for such conduct is where there are open carry bans (such as Florida where even an accidental uncovering of one’s weapon is a misdemeanor, as Texas used to be). Obviously, none of this applies in open carry jurisdictions.

    2. Wait – drawing on the bad guy to make him stop threatening is ok, but merely *showing* him the gun to make him stop is WORSE?!? That doesn’t really make sense…

  4. Uncle Joe Biden is not any kind of firearms expert that I’d get any gun or legal advice from in any contingency. His notion of firing your double barreled shotgun into the air, in ANY LOCALE is probably illegal and it effectively disarms you until you’re able to find shells and reload. Felons know that and would attack immediately after that second blast.

    Another reason Uncle Joe is an idiot, in this case, is that, in my town, I’d be arrested for discharging a firearm within Town limits. Only shooting the life threatening person and nothing else would keep me from arrest in such circumstances. If your life is in threat, you MIGHT be justified in firing upon that threat ONLY SHOOTING THE THREAT AND NOTHING ELSE could shield me from arrest for discharging a firearm within town limits. Even then, you could be arrested for attempted murder or murder or any number of charges that the responding officer could think of applying.

    ONLY IF YOUR LIFE IS AT IMMEDIATE THREAT might you be found to have acted lawfully. Even then, you will probably be arrested and remain in jail for at least a few days while the facts of the case are fully determined. Additionally, if the creep survives, he may just sue you and win. If he’s deceased, his relations could sue you and, even if you win, you could be bankrupted by the cost of your defense.

    That price is only bearable if you saved your life from immediate danger of being taken by a criminal. I’d rather be alive than dead if faced with deadly threat situation.

    I’d rather not fire at all unless absolutely, positively, and unavoidably you are forced by the threat to fire or die. Remember that in Civil Court it only takes a predominance of the evidence to go against you to be paying a criminal “benefits” as long as you both shall live.

    This short missive should prove why Uncle Joe is a special kind of idiot in most places in the contential United States. You endanger your neighbors and put yourself in jail by shooting into the air.

  5. I would expect nothing less than that kind of response from a bleeding heart, anti gun bafoon. He is clearly proving he knows absolutely nothing about firearms and that is exactly why he and the other liberal gun grabbers don’t like firearms, they don’t know anything about them! People fear what they don’t understand or can’t explain and that applies to firearms as well. We in the firearm community have all heard Over and Over at hunter safety courses, firearm safety classes etc. that you never pull a weapon you don’t intend to fire, and you never point a weapon at anything unless you intend on pulling the trigger. Also knowing what is behind your target and just where your projectile is going to end up. Maybe if these anti-gun activists were to take a class on firearm safety they wouldn’t say stupid things like firing a warning shot…, and maybe they would realize just how safety conscious the majority of law abiding citizens who own firearms really are. This would take away a lot of the arguments the tree hugging, rainbow chasing, tofu farting Democrats have in trying to take away our constitutional right.

  6. Ok, lets forget about the Law and Jail for one moment. You go to range and practice and train and tell yourself your ready to protect your family. You tell yourself I will shoot that bad guy if they try to harm them. How are you rapping your head around this? You better figure this out now, because once you cross that line, there’s no do-overs. How you think your going to feel, is not how your going to feel. Especialy after the fact when your by yourself and start thinking about it. Ask any Vet,,, that one moment will change you forever one way or the other. And that’s something you just can’t train for. So be ready for this, because this is one of the side effects depending on how you were raised and what you believe. Good Luck

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