How to Evade Gunfire

This is a guide for the hapless civilian caught up in a gang fight, war, or mass murder. There is a wikiHow on dodging bullets, but this is more practical. If you are a soldier, Marine, or law enforcement officer, move along; there's nothing here you haven't seen before.


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    Keep out of harm's way. The most obvious method of evading gunfire is to avoid places such as war zones and bad neighborhoods where guns are used. But as the world is a place of wonders and terrors, we'll assume you might not, and that the reader is a civilian who just wants to escape.
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    Understand the difference between cover and concealment. Cover is an obstruction or area that blocks bullets, e.g. cars, large buildings, and ditches. Concealment is something that blocks the shooter's view but not bullets, e.g. bushes, large signs, and smoke.
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    Take cover immediately. Upon indication of gunfire -- either hearing it, seeing the shooter, or noticing bullets coming your way -- drop anything you're carrying and sprint for the nearest cover or concealment. Don't bother trying to figure out where the gunfire is coming from unless it's the only cover and concealment and the shooter may be occupying it. The nearest cover may be something lame like a wet gutter or a fire hydrant, but don't pause for your dignity -- it's your life. If there's absolutely no cover at all within a 2 to 3 seconds sprint from where you are, drop to the ground and crawl to it.
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    Keep panic at bay and keep thinking clearly. Once behind cover or concealment, breathe deeply, think "I will live," and assess the situation. Keep your head down. But if you have to expose your head to look, try to look around the side of your cover or concealment instead of over it if it allows, e.g. if you're hiding behind a car, peek around the bumper and not over the hood or roof. If peeking around a building, do so at ankle- to knee-height. Where is the gunfire coming from? Are they single shots or machine gun fire? Are there bullets coming so near you it look likes you are being targeted? Are you injured? Where is the next available cover or concealment the farthest from the shooter? Your next action will be based on what you assess.
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    Decide to move or not to move based on what you feel the danger is to you. Generally if you're hurt, you feel the gunfire is far away and not specifically targeting you, and the cover is ideal, you should stay. But even if you do stay, the situation may change, so stay aware and prepare to move. Ditch any heavy items you're carrying and ladies should abandon their high heels. Removing any bright clothing may help if time permits.
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    If you move, you have three methods that you can vary between as you judge necessary:
    • A) If you think the shooter is really far away and not targeting you, just run as far away from the gunfire as you can. Use this also if you're stuck in a place where there is no other cover for hundreds of meters. Dodge and weave to upset the shooter's aim.
    • B) If you think the gunfire is intense but not necessarily close or targeting you specifically, crawl on your belly to the nearest cover or concealment. If there are slight rises in the ground or street curbs, use them along your route. Provided you're sure the shooter won't run up on you, it may be worthwhile to use them even if they don't go directly to safety.
    • C) The 2 to 3 second rush. This is for if you're really close to the shooter and feel he's either shooting at you or will as you make your move. Determine a route to safety that includes as much cover and concealment on the way. Use it by sprinting in brief rushes that last 2 to 3 seconds at a time from one hiding place to the next. The average marksman can only sight on a target within 3 to 4 seconds. So, ideally, using this technique, you'll be behind the next cover or concealment before he pulls the trigger. Try to stay low and dodge and weave if you miscalculate the distance. It isn't perfect, but it is a proven infantry technique.
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    Keep reassessing. Each time you find new cover and concealment, ensure you reassess the situation. Your enemy is a human being and really may be out to get just you.


  • Finally, one of the sad combat realities is you can do everything right and still get killed. Dithering around earns you nothing. Be decisive.
  • If you have an army surplus wardrobe, you might use it by heading for the bushes. But generally you might consider ditching it if it makes you look like a participant in the firefight.
  • Shadows are concealment, so stay in them as much as you can. Even on a sunny day, a shooter can lose his targets in a building shadow if he's a few hundred meters away or more.
  • Don't silhouette yourself, i.e. putting your darker form between the shooter and a lighter background, like a white building or the sky. It attracts attention to you as an ideal target.
  • If the shooter is targeting you, make sure to peek around your cover at one end to map a route and exit the cover at another end. He will naturally expect you to pop up from where you were looking and you doing otherwise will spoil his aim a bit.
  • Stay away from windows. Obviously they can be shot through, but the shot may blow shattered glass all over you. This includes windows in buildings you're outside too if you're not sure where the shooter is. If running by, duck under them and jump to avoid basement windows.
  • Don't scream. It attracts attention and you'll need the breath.
  • If you have to go over a wall, don't vault over it like an Olympic champion. Get one arm over, the leg on the same side of the body over, and ease yourself over as low to the wall's top as possible. The same idea applies to moving through windows if you have to: stay low.
  • Don't crouch. You may be mistaken for an armed participant.
  • Think ahead. Be sure to renew your life insurance policy before becoming a potential target.
  • Don't assume one side -- e.g. the police, the allied army, your gang -- will recognize you as either on their side or innocent. People make mistakes and people in a gunfight can make a lot of them. By all means, ID yourself as a non-participant if you can. "Surrender" and expose yourself only when it's clear the action is over and you're certain the winner is taking prisoners.
  • If you have to round a building corner, get around it fast. If the shooter is there or there's another one, your quick appearance should surprise him enough for you to find other cover or double back.
  • Be chivalrous if you run up on cover and concealment and it's fully "occupied." Women and children first, so just move on. Anyway, groups attract attention.
  • If the shooter is using long bursts of machine gun fire, take heart. He's an idiot with an action movie fixation. Genuinely dangerous shooters use precise shots or measured bursts. Full automatic fire beyond 100 meters (328.1 ft) is absurdly inaccurate and you can almost stroll out of the kill zone. Don't, because there's still the chance of ricochet and stray bullets if he shoots at somebody else.
  • Your best bet in moving is to move fast with one exception. There is a slight chance you'll encounter your shooter at 10 to 50 meters (32.8 to 164.0 ft) before he sees you. Here you can try to be a hero, but this is about evading gunfire. Instead, FREEZE. Slowly, quietly move to his rear and slink away. Sudden movement attracts attention and if you're that close, he can easily shift his aim and get you.

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Categories: Self Defense