How to Fight an Active Shooter


Active shooter situations are chaotic, fast, deadly, and panic inducing. Even the most trained professionals like police officers and military personnel will struggle to get their Adrenaline under control in order to respond in a clear-headed manner. The key to fighting an active shooter is to harness that Adrenaline, and use it against the shooter.

Let me explain.

Have you ever experienced an Adrenaline rush? I have. A few years back I was sleeping in my bed in Tempe, Arizona when I heard the wood pile that is directly on the other side of the wall where my head was laying topple. It was three am and I bolted upright in my bed. I felt it all - cold sweat, tingly hands, short breath, and tunnel vision. My wife looked over at me, we knew immediately that something was amiss. Then, I heard it again. Only a human could move a pile of wood that large - somebody was in my backyard. I jumped out of bed, called Zoe, our large dog, and stumbled toward the back sliding door. I let Zoe out knowing she would spot anyone creeping around before I could. After 30 seconds, she confirmed no one was out there.

Later, we learned it was the aftershock of an earthquake in California that toppled our wood pile. I also learned what Adrenaline coursing through my body feels like. Reflecting back, the whole episode is still very dream-like. According to Medical News Today, here’s what happened to me when Adrenaline was released in my body:

  • My heart rate increased.

  • My blood was directed toward my muscles, which caused my shaking.

  • My airway relaxed, which is why I was short of breath.

  • My pupils widened letting more light into my eyes.

Basically, I turned into a real-world version of Spiderman for a few short seconds.

When it comes to how to fight an active shooter, you need to harness that Adrenaline rush and use it. Let me be clear, fighting should always be your VERY LAST resort. Your first response should always be to run. If you can’t run, you should barricade. If the shooter finds your hiding spot, or if you’re caught out in the open, then it’s time to fight. Here are a few things you can do to maximize your chances of surviving the engagement.

If you’re in a situation where you are forced to fight a person firing indiscriminately with a high-powered rifle, you are at a significant disadvantage. This will not play out like a scene from your favorite kung fu movie. So here are the five things you can do to increase your chance of survival if you are forced to fight a shooter.

1 - Attack from a blind spot.

If you’re in a building, there will be blind spots. The most common blind spot is at the entry of a room, next to the door. When a shooter comes through a doorway, there will be a small moment where he won’t be able to see you. This is the ideal location to attack from.

2 - Use a hard object.

Grab something that will help and use it. An object will create an extra barrier and can serve to enhance your ability to inflict damage. Here are a few things you could use:

  • Fire extinguisher

  • Heavy book

  • Laptop

  • Stapler

  • Lamp

  • Paper weight

Look around your current physical space and think about what you could use.

3 - Use Adrenaline to attack with extreme violence.

This is where you really lean into that Adrenaline response mentioned earlier. Your attack will NOT be pretty, coordinated, or movie-worthy in ANY way. It will likely be messy, desperate and extremely violent. In a situation like this, you are fighting for your life - scratch, bite, claw, stab, and do whatever you can to put the shooter on the ground.

4 - Attack the vulnerable spots.

Humans have three primary vulnerable places that can be leveraged to quickly incapacitate: the eyes, throat, and groin. These three areas should always be the focus of your attack. If you attack the eyes, he won’t be able to see. If you attack the throat, he won’t be able to breathe. If you attack the groin, he’ll double over in pain.

Here’s a video clip of the training that specifically addresses where to attack an active shooter.

5 - Attack as a group.

If you can attack with the help of others, it will greatly increase your chances of survival. Ideally, have multiple people use the blind spot mentioned earlier using various objects. This is a simple strategy that may overwhelm the shooter.

Remember, this situation is going to be incredibly stressful. Your Adrenaline response will take over - there is absolutely no stopping this. The key is to recognize the rush of Adrenaline and try to work with it. Again, I want to reiterate that you should always fight as a last resort.

If you are interested in taking the full Safehive active shooter prevention course, please click here and tell us a little about your organization. The course is perfect for training large numbers of volunteers and staff on the basics of how to prepare and respond.