The Risk of Using Your Gun for Self-Defense in a Crowd – Part 1

While having a firearm may provide some sense of security, using your gun for self-defense in a crowd with a bunch of people around comes with a number of added risks. It just so happens there was a shooting in Chicago when I was writing this article. It is a perfect example of how a person just trying to enjoy their day can unintentionally get hit. Two bystanders got shot when someone with a baseball bat got out of a car and attacked someone in a different car. You can read more about it here.

Chicago St Patrick Day Shooting
Chicago St Patrick’s Day Shooting.

Firearm Safety in a Crowd

“Be aware of your target and what is behind it” is one of the basic firearm safety rules. It emphasizes the importance of understanding where your bullet will end up and what obstacles it may hit along its path. This rule is critical for avoiding accidents and reducing the risk of injury or death to innocent bystanders in a crowd.


For example, if you are at a festival or in the mall, you need to be aware of any other people who may be around you and could get unintentionally hurt by your bullet.

Elisjsha Dicken and his girlfriend were shopping at the Greenwood Park Mall in Indianapolis, Indiana, last year when a gunman opened fire in a food court. When he initially engaged the gunman, he was 40 yards away. There were a lot of things that could have potentially caused the bullet not to end up where he intended it to.

Self-Defense in a Crowd Eli Dicken Shooting

It is essential to evaluate the entire situation. This means you have to think about what the bullet will hit if it misses or goes through the threat. A threat does not always have to be a person, and there have been some recent incidents of people defending themselves against an animal. Just last month, in Chicago, a man shot two dogs in a residential neighborhood when people were around.

Another example is if you are shooting at something with bushes behind it, you need to consider what is on the other side of the bushes and whether there are any homes or people you could hit.

Even if you have the best intentions and training, using a gun for self-defense in a crowded place can lead to a stray bullet hurting or killing an innocent bystander. A high-stress situation causes restricted vision. When a firearm is used in a crowded place, it can cause panic and confusion, which can cause bystanders to get hurt.

Let’s look more closely at some risks that come with using a gun in this type of scenario.


When you are under a lot of stress, accuracy can be a big problem, and it’s easy to get tunnel vision. That’s when you lose sight of what’s around you. Maintaining situational awareness is necessary to prevent unintentionally hurting someone.

Even the most experienced shooters can have problems getting a good sight picture when the crap hits the fan. If you miss your intended target, there’s a chance that you could hit someone else.


Another big risk of using a gun in a crowded area is that the bullet could ricochet. If you’ve ever skipped a stone across water, you’ve seen what a ricochet is. That stone might bounce once or more than once and even go to one side or the other.

Let’s look at a typical 9mm bullet moving at 1200 fps, which is 853 miles per hour. That’s faster than sound can travel. Like a rock, a bullet can bounce off of hard surfaces in unexpected ways, increasing the risk that it will strike someone other than the intended target. A hard surface could be a street, a wall, or anything that changes its direction. In the mall shooting, there were chairs everywhere where a bullet could have bounced off. This is not only dangerous but also unpredictable, making it hard to know where the bullet might go.

In part two, we will talk about “panic and chaos,” the possibility of “misidentification and confusion,” and the added “legal implications” of an area with a crowd of people.



Brian Armstrong grew up in a small farm town in rural Indiana and learned to shoot before he learned to drive. His career began as a firefighter and medic in Ft Wayne, IN. Throughout the years, he has owned multiple businesses, from construction to technology. His life has come full circle, and he is back to his emergency services roots, teaching emergency first aid and firearms courses.

Brian believes that the best way to learn “HOW” to do something is to first answer “WHY” you do something. He is an average guy with views like yours and is now sharing the knowledge gained from teaching, learning from others, and researching the topics you don’t have time to explore. Follow him at @LetsTalkDGU





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2 thoughts on “The Risk of Using Your Gun for Self-Defense in a Crowd – Part 1”

  1. Pingback: The Risk of Using Your Gun for Self-Defense in a Crowd – Part 2 | CrossBreed Blog

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