WHAT TO DO IF YOU EVER FIND YOURSELF AT GUNPOINT
In every course we run, we inevitably get the question: “What should I do if someone puts a gun to my head?”
Initially, we recommend you do whatever they tell you to. Next? There are nuances to consider. Here are 10 tips on what to do if you ever find yourself at gunpoint.
1. STAY CALM
Clarity of thought has never been more important. Calmness begets calmness. If you panic, you’re in turn going to panic a person with a gun to your head. Your assailant has leveraged control of your physical movement by virtue of having a firearm, but you will, almost without exception, be at a psychological advantage in this situation if you stay calm. You will have the benefit of rationality, logic, rhetoric and persuasion.
2. ESTABLISH EYE CONTACT
It sounds simplistic, but looking into the eyes of your assailant forces them to acknowledge, if only to themselves, your humanity. You don’t want this person uncontrollable, but you do want them uncomfortable. You want them to start reconsidering the necessity of what they’re doing and begin looking for an out. If the criminal was determined to murder you, you would already be dead. Remember that, because every second that passes is one passing in your favour when it comes to surviving the encounter.
3. KNOW YOUR ASSAILANT
There are usually very specific contexts in which you’d find yourself with a gun to your head: in the course of a robbery, in a hostage situation or at the inception of a kidnapping. Of the three, a simple robbery is probably most likely.
Each will require a different response, but they have a common denominator: the point of the encounter, in the vast majority of cases, is not to kill you. If the person was determined to murder you, you would already be dead, and every second that passes is usually one passing in your favour.
4. NO SUDDEN MOVEMENTS
A robber is simply using the gun to increase their chances of success and as an insurance policy. The point is still your wallet or purse. Give it to them. Some people recommend chucking your money vessel in one direction and running pell-mell in the other; we don’t recommend this. The goal is to keep the gun-wielder calm, and the sudden motion of you winding back for your wallet/purse toss isn’t going to help your cause.
Telegraph your actions before you do them (“I’m going to reach into my back pocket to get my wallet out now”), reach for your wallet or remove your purse at quarter speed, and calmly hand it over.
5. STUDY YOUR ASSAILANT
During the whole process, study the person. Instead of trying to memorise exact height and weight or article of clothing, try to find something unique about them. As far as clothing goes, what he’s wearing is coming off as soon as he’s out of sight and in a protected environment, so that is not enough.
Instead, imagine if you were to see five people with this person’s general features. What would distinguish your assailant from the others? It might be a hairstyle, scar, birthmark, tattoo, piercing pattern or something else.
6. DON’T GET IN A VEHICLE
If a vehicle is involved, the outlook is grim. If you’re a woman being forced to drive at gunpoint by a man, there’s a high probability you’re driving yourself to the scene of your own rape and/or grave.
If there’s any way of forestalling getting into a vehicle, do it. It may be looking past his shoulder and nodding, giving him the impression there’s somebody behind him, causing him to turn long enough for you to run like hell. It may be diving through the opposite door or window when you’re forced into the car. It may be you deciding to dig in and make your stand, hoping unplanned resistance will cause him to drop the gun or to retreat.
7. IGNORE DIRECTION COMMANDS
If you’re ambushed in your own car or can’t help being compelled into it, ignore direction commands and drive briskly to a police station or the most crowded place you can find, then slow down and start honking the horn. The whole point of his demands about where to go is getting to a place of solitude where his anonymity is preserved and he is in control of the situation. Your assailant has no interest in killing you while everybody looks on in the busy street you found.
Obviously none of these courses of action is ideal, but you’ve been put in a situation where you’re probably going to have to choose between bad and worse at some point. There is no “right” answer, just the “best, considering the circumstances” one.
No two gunpoint situations are alike, and they will all be very dynamic. Our advice is to remain calm, be as compliant as you can, be aware of your surroundings, and do what you need to in order to survive.
8. AVOID THE SITUATION
The obvious best-case scenario is keeping yourself out of any situation that can put you on the business end of a firearm. Try not to travel on foot alone, especially if you’re a woman, and especially if you’re impaired (by alcohol or otherwise).
Most criminals who get a cheap gun to commit crime are cowards, and thus need the gun to gap-fill their cowardice. If you’re with one or two others, you’re introducing too many variables into the equation for their comfort. If you’re alone, though, they know that one versus one plus a gun will usually work out in their favour.
Our final piece of advice is just to FIGHT BACK. When all is said and done, surviving when someone points a gun at you comes down to a decision to stay and fight or to try and escape. In most cases, trying to escape is your best option. If you are unable to do so, and have nothing left to lose, then you might as well give it all you have and fight as best as you can.
10. LEARN SELF DEFENCE
Protect yourself by learning some basic self defence moves, as well as when and how to deploy them so that you have a better chance of surviving and coming out of the situation unharmed.
Learn from the COBRA experts how to build a layered survival defence! Follow us on our blog, Facebook and Instagram, and look out for our next course dates. Because one victim is too many.