About Police Shoot Outs and Spectators

Hopefully this advice is superfluous for my audience, but it’s so well written it’s worth reading nonetheless:

7. SO, the bottom line is this: If you are in a place where you hear steady, and sustained, and nearby (lets call that, for some technical reasons, anything less than 800 meters) gunfire, do these things:

  • Go to your basement. You are cool there.
  • If you don’t have a basement, go to the other side of the house from the firing, and leave, heading away from the firing. Do not stop for a mile.
  • If you do not think that you can leave, get on the ground floor, as far from the firing as possible, and place something solid between you and the firing. Solid is something like a bathtub, a car (engine block), a couple of concrete walls (single layer brick…nope).
  • If you are high up (say 4rd story or higher) just get away from the side of the building where the firing is taking place. You will, mostly, be protected by the thick concrete of the structure.

8. But for cripes sake, do not step out on to your front porch and start recording a video on your iPhone, unless you actually have a death-wish, or are being paid significant amounts of money, in advance, as a combat journalist/cameraman.

Posted on April 21, 2013 at 10:48 AM74 Comments


Phocks April 21, 2013 11:25 AM

He left out what is by far the most important thing to do…get prone, fast. This, more than any other single thing you can do, will reduce your chance of being hit, regardless of range or cover. Unless of course the shooter is right next to you, then running is probably in order.

kuroro April 21, 2013 11:25 AM

I’m not sure if I schould be scared or amused to live in a planet were this announcement are necessary

Joe bukka April 21, 2013 11:47 AM

after you have found your hiding spot, the next thing to do is pray they are not using 50 cal.. 50 caliber bullets will shoot through concrete walls. After you find your spot, and have prayed for small caliber bullets, then if you have ice cream or chocolate in the house, now is a good time to eat it.

Mario Diana April 21, 2013 11:58 AM

People aren’t using .50 caliber rifles in crimes. I’d like to see someone carry one to a crime.

A-Ron April 21, 2013 12:07 PM

Remember, we live on a planet where hair dryers require a label saying “Do not use in bathtub” and McDonalds coffee has to have a “Caution: Hot” label… If I didn’t think it would make me a bad person, I’d say let them cull the herd. However, I’d say the recommendation is aptly put and clear.

anon April 21, 2013 12:16 PM

Just to add.. if you hear the shot you’re safe.. most rounds are supersonic for a great deal of their flight and will arrive before the ‘bang’…

the swede April 21, 2013 12:31 PM

Or move to a country where there are some gun control. Outside of the firing range I have never heard live gun fire in my entire life, though I grew up in what is considered “rough” neighbourhood.

I’d go so far as to say that in the country I live, if some one would go about and do “continuous gun firing” people would most likely only ask where the military excerzise is, then go about their lives as usual.

BlueMagoo April 21, 2013 12:33 PM

I understand the bad people will shoot at anything but is there any after incident review on the police to make sure they are only firing at the proper targets? Some of those audio recordings sound like a return to Dodge city in the days of the Wild West but you have no idea who is actually doing most of the shooting.

Alan April 21, 2013 12:34 PM

Personally, I say, do whatever you want. It’s your body and your life. It’s not everyday you get a chance to witness a shootout. If you want to go out on the porch/balcony and watch, be my guest.

wumpus April 21, 2013 12:48 PM

@anon: “if you hear the shot you are safe…”

That is your que to get prone before the next one perforates you.

Larry Sanderson April 21, 2013 1:03 PM

One might also add: do not stop to film fertilizer plant fires with children in the vehicle…

Stephan Zielinski April 21, 2013 1:20 PM

The fellow doesn’t know the difference between momentum and kinetic energy, quotes an equation that doesn’t match either, claims to have “converted a sedan into a convertible, quite easily, using bullets”, doesn’t bother to distinguish between hollow points (which are designed to be stopped by sheetrock, which is why police use them) and ball rounds, and doesn’t bother to distinguish between pistol fire and rifle fire.

This is not an expert. This is a blowhard. His advice to go cower in your basement comically exaggerates the threat at hand.

Ken April 21, 2013 2:25 PM

I’d like to point out this article assumes you live in an urban environment.

If you live in a rural environment, hearing gunshots nearby may be nothing to worry about, unless they are literally right outside your home.

My neighbors target practice in their back yards every weekend. It’s actually quite comforting to know that they’re all armed, as it keeps the would-be burglars away. They typically shoot all day long, and said gunshots can be heard from the main road.

As a result, my neighborhood has never had a break-in for as long as I’ve lived here. By contrast, there have been multiple break-ins in homes in our surrounding area.

But I digress – let’s assume you’re in an urban environment. To agree with Stephan, hiding in your basement or bathtub is not only overkill, but could also be less than ideal in that you are putting yourself in a location where you may not have situational awareness. Your best bet is to simply go to a center room, away from openings near exterior walls and windows, and have some means of defending yourself. Make no mistake, if someone is firing at police officers, they won’t think twice about taking you hostage and using you as a human shield. I don’t care if it’s a gun, a knife, or a baseball bat, you need SOMETHING to defend yourself with. You stay out of sight, and if someone breaks into your home, and don’t announce themselves as police officers, you do what you have to in order to protect yourself and your family, then immediately drop whatever you were using to defend yourself. If you don’t, there’s a good chance the police may mistake you for the subject they were pursuing.

Ultimately it’s a terrible situation to be in, and hopefully you’ll never have to experience it. But most importantly – refuse to be a victim.

BT April 21, 2013 2:45 PM

a) Hollowpoints do penetrate sheetrock, and thin plywood as used to sheathe cheap houses. They don’t penetrate brick though.
b) FMJ “hollowpoints” for 9mm autopistols as currently issued to police have even better penetration than real hollowpoints as used by .38 revolvers (due to the brass jacket around the lead bullet for easy feeding).
c) Every year, innocent people die due to spray-and-pray gang shootouts. In this case one of the gangs was wearing blue but they were spraying all the same, and anybody who isn’t an idiot needs to respect that and get as far from the action as possible. Running isn’t necessary unless you know they’re shooting at your house, but at least get to the opposite side of the house and get down!

There was a drive-by shooting in front of my house a couple of months ago. I heard it. I did not move from where I was because moving elsewhere would have put me line of sight of the front window, probably a Bad Idea, and I was low and somewhat protected by the length of the kitchen counters (I was in the dining room behind the kitchen), the garage wall, and the front wall. And I most certainly did not rush to said front window in order to iTube the action! I waited until several minutes of gunfire had not happened before cautiously looking out the peephole, then out the front window. Anything else would have been, what’s that word? Oh yeah, STUPID!

I encourage said people to remove themselves from the gene pool by rushing towards gunfire though. The planet will be better for their contribution to evolution in action.

Dan April 21, 2013 4:50 PM

I have a similar story to @pent. I live in at the border of Santa Monica & Venice in southern CA. Weird mix of very rich, gangs, drug dealers and artists… Whatever. Anyway, there was a pissing match between two Latino gangs, one guy pulled out his weapon and fired 8x wildly, bullets going through 3rd story windows, cars, businesses… anyway, like @pent, one bullet went through my sliding glass door, 5 minutes before that my head was (literally) in its trajectory.

I think people don’t understand how wild, out of control, and dangerous gun fights are. It’s not like Robocop or Die Hard. You have a caged animal firing a weapon, probably for the first time.

If you hear shots, get the f*** down, or in a basement if you have one. The newspapers are littered with sad stories of “wrong place wrong time”, I can testify to that.

Mindbuilder April 21, 2013 5:05 PM

I recommend people go and make videos because I think the value to humanity of the videos is more important than the tiny risk of getting hit by a stray bullet. The videos are valuable in catching criminals, including occasionally criminals with badges, and in understanding real life combat situations.

Dave April 21, 2013 5:16 PM

I lived in a rough area during college — one that definitely featured the occasional gunfire, mostly from the big low-rent apartment complex across the street.

I recall hearing the regular, closely spaced pops echoing off the buildings. I’d go to the front door, let my roommates dog in (she always wanted to be outside but hated loud noises), lock the (gated) door, and head into my room in the back of the house to work on the computer for a while.

Never occurred to me to run out of the back of the house.

I don’t think I’ve lived anywhere where I never heard gunfire, at least on July 4th or New Years. Life in the USA.

Ashley April 21, 2013 5:57 PM

@the swede – living in a country with gun control is no guarantee. I lived in Vancouver Canada. When gang members started shooting people in my neighborhood I was glad I watched The Wire and knew to hide in the bathtub.

kingsnake April 21, 2013 6:20 PM

If not for people filming when it might have been safer to head the other way, those two yahoos might still be on the loose …

Nacnud Nosmoht April 21, 2013 8:08 PM

well written? Bruce, you didn’t read it very closely.

“F = M x A. Force = Mass x Acceleration. The striking, or penetrating, power of the bullet is determined by how heavy (mass) it is, multiplied by how fast it is moving.”

What an idiotic statement! The damage caused by the bullet is probably most closely related to it’s kinetic energy, which is proportional to the square of it’s speed. F=MA has nothing to do with it.

Once I read that little bit of non-physics, I concluded that the author was just some yahoo who likes to shoot guns, and has no real idea what he’s talking about.

Clive Robinson April 21, 2013 10:26 PM

A point to note,


It’s realy not a good idea because of a number of reasons.

Firstly many modern baths are made from plastic or glass reenforced plastic not metal.

Secondly many modern baths that are made out of metal the metal is so thin it has less stoping power than car body work (and possibly less than an old style wool blanket that is wet).

More expensive baths may be made of cast metal with a ceramic finish. Such baths are not bullet proof and they also suffer from an issue of “scabs” turning into shrapnel. This effect was seen during WWI with the first tanks, when hit by machine gun fire, although the bullets did not penetrate the armour plate, flakes of metal (often called scabs) would fly off the inside of the armour and cut the tank crew to ribbons.

Now I’m not aware of all US domestic customs when it comes to the internal arangment of peoples homes. But in the UK and most other parts of Europe in multi-storey homes the baths are generaly on the upper floors. As has been noted many “gangster” types don’t know how to fire their weapons and the majority of their shots are likely to “go high” so as a rough rule of thumb the lower down you are the less likely you are to be hit by stray fire.

Even if you don’t have a basement lying down on the lowest floor is likely to be safer than on an upper floor. But whatever floor you are on lying down as quickly as possible is probably your best stratagy then crawl away from the direction of fire.

The construction of most modern homes and their furnishings sugests the most bullet resistant parts is the 2×4 of door frames floor joists and in one or two places in some stud walls. In most cases 1980’s and earlier pine plank dinning tables are more bullet resistant than modern partition and some external walls… Oh and the more “green” or “thermaly efficient” your home the less bullet and criminal resistant it’s likely to be…

At the end of the day six inches to a foot of dirt will stop most easily obtained bullets which is why soldiers get taught to dig “shell scrapes” very quickly then dig “slit trenches”, always pilling the dirt towards the expected direction of incoming fire.

y0te April 21, 2013 11:22 PM

Where I’m from recreational gun fire is common. If it sounds like the cops are in a good fight and loosing; it might be time to grab your buddies and go help out. 😉

Figureitout April 21, 2013 11:47 PM

About police shoot outs and spectators
–Rule #1: Don’t be a spectator.

Secondly many modern baths that are made out of metal the metal is so thin it has less stoping power than car body work (and possibly less than an old style wool blanket that is wet).
@Clive Robinson
–Only you would have that factoid (if it’s true 🙂 stored very efficiently in your mind, it’s why we love you. But yeah this is pretty much common sense, lol. Except some basements actually have a lot of windows w/ even level ground. Plus those light doors you could punch and break through.

One thing I have to add is, at least in my home, while checking out my dad’s antenna setup, a roof is very flimsy w/ a bunch of random 2/4’s. Not built how I would’ve built. Homes in Europe are actually (from what I’ve seen) built w/ a nice layer of concrete, where as homes in the US w/ wood frames. So, get low; duh. Bunker? And honestly, if I were in such a situation, I wouldn’t mind a little ‘saturday night special’ tucked away.

BT April 22, 2013 1:24 AM

For another factoid, most newer homes in northern Europe are built with foamed concrete blocks glued together with a thinbed mortar (Google “Autoclaved aerated concrete”) which a) insulates much better than concrete walls (thus why use them rather than regular concrete), and b) will not stop larger-caliber rounds. You can cut these things with an ordinary hand saw, they’re roughly 80% air by volume. A larger/faster bullet will plow right through them.

Regarding being armed, note that being armed turns you from being a bystander into being a threat to be actively removed from the situation. The best way to survive a gunfight is to not be part of one in the first place, and having a gun makes you part of the gunfight. Guns are tools, in the end, not magic talismans, and while there are valid self defense uses for guns, charging out your front door with your gun to “help” the police isn’t one of them.

Miksa April 22, 2013 1:37 AM

How much do media companies pay for good shootout videos?

I’m wondering how do the risks compare if you video a shootout that mostly isn’t directed at you and then stay at home instead of commuting to the day job with the profits. Bonus points if you can set the camera to record by itself and then hide in the basement.

Clive Robinson April 22, 2013 5:57 AM

@ Figureitout,

But yeah this is pretty much common sense, lol.

Oh that it were… terminal balistics are very complicated for various reasons.

With regards buildings and bullets as you have noticed with,

Except some basements actually have a lot of windows w/ even evel ground. Plus those light doors you could punch and break through.

And @ BT’s comment about “foamed concrete bricks”, we are heading into a problem.

That is both the momentum and penetration of bullets is increasing and the density of the building materials and furniture is dropping…

To give you an idea of how little density is required for a given thermal resistance look up NASA’s “aerogel” whilst it is currently mega expensive the price will drop substantialy with time. On paper it’s density and thus “stopping power” appears not much better than thick fog (OK befor somebody calls me out yes I’m joking slightly but not by much).

I hate the term “stopping power” because it’s devoid of any kind of realistic measurand (much like “IT Security” in that respect).

If things were linear then “conservation of momentum” (m1.v1=m2.v2) would be all you would have to work out and terminal balistics. In effect it would be just like a “Newton’s Cradle” game on an executives desk back in the 1980’s.

Even when you throw in different densities of the bullet and target materials it would still be linear and moderatly easy. But it’s not you need to consider very nonlinear propergation issues and what are in effect diffraction and hydrodynamics.

So you have to move away from the momentum explination and consider it from the energy (mv^2/2) transfer asspect integrated on a point by point basis against a very nonlinear material behaviour profile. Whilst also remembering that energy gets trapped in a highly nonlinear boundry effect when it trys to move faster than the propergation speed of the target material.

Then there is nonlinear compresability and nonlinear shear properties of the materials (why bullets make nice little round holes in glass when the same energy in a thrown rock takes out the whole pane).

Oh and that propergation issue that causes shock waves where the energy is trapped in a surface not a volume starts taking things sufficiently close to infinity to make the maths much closer to chaos in your own back yard than that annoying Brazilian butterfly wing flutter on the clouds above your back yard. Which means you have to start worrying if there is enough bits in the variables your maths library uses… The old way around this was in effect to gamble on the result by Monte Carlo methods over many spins of the wheel, after all it gave us the A-Bomb but… it won’t work 🙁

Jim A. April 22, 2013 6:46 AM

Mario: I agree that worrying about .50 cal is probably silly. But there WAS an armoured car robbery in Canada 30 odd years ago. ISTR that they backed a van into an alley where the armoured car was stopped and opened the rear doors to expose a .50 cal machine gun. The drivers of the AC surrendered and the theives got away with no shots fired.

Jim A. April 22, 2013 6:59 AM

—And if a helicopter is hovering or slowly searching your neighborhood, turn on the news radio to find out what’s happening.

polar bear April 22, 2013 7:34 AM

@ Jim A

Yes there was a 50 cal mounted on top of the to-be-abandoned vehicle, but it was later demonstrated that the gun was non-functional. But who’s going to offer themselves as a test rabbit to see if it works or not while a robbery is in progress?

Winter April 22, 2013 8:36 AM

I once heard about a rule of thumb:
A firearm projectile will stop after displacing its own mass.

That is, you calculate the amount of stuff (cm^3), eg, air, water, dirt, or concrete, that has equal weight as the projectile and divide by the frontal “area” of the projectile (cm^2) to get the path length (cm).

So, if the projectile is 5 times as heavy a water, it will travel 5 times its own length in water.

Is a rule of thumb, so I would personally take large margins.

D April 22, 2013 8:46 AM

@the_swede You mean like Norway? Germany? UK? Finland? France?

All have had very real very dangerous crazed gunman incidents within recent memory. No room here to sit on a high horse.

Winter April 22, 2013 8:58 AM

“All have had very real very dangerous crazed gunman incidents within recent memory.”

Indeed, once in a lifetime incidents for a whole country.

Clive Robinson April 22, 2013 9:22 AM

@ Winter,

A firearm projectile will stop after displacing its own mass.

It’s what you would expect when their velocity vectors match from,


And it’s the reason why your boat floats and hotair ballons fly.

BUT… it’s only a very rough first aproximation. That is the “working fluids” of the system (both target and bullet) have both a very high viscosity and high friction coeficient as the second aproximation and thus looks more like a solid in short time spans.

The friction also robs the system of energy in the form of heat, which in turn effects all sorts of other things. Likewise the shock wave which causes both elastic and inelastic cavitation of the target “working fluid”. There are other issues as well such as structural issues, balistic gel being boiled up animal skin etc might well be a good aproximation to density of muscle flesh etc but it lacks the structural integrety and elasticity of skin and muscle fiber etc. There are some reports form animal tests that indicate that the very thin layer of skin can have as much penetration resistance as 200mm of balistic gel or actuall animal flesh.

There are basicaly three type of bullet, those like bean bag rounds designed to give up all momentum an energy on the surface of the target. Secondly those that are designed to penetrate and lose all momentum and energy inside the target very quickly often by the bullet expanding, fragmenting or tumbling. And thirdly those designed to penetrate the target and not deform or even tumble and thus impart only some of their momentum and energy in the target and make it out the otherside of the target unless the target is very thick (like big game rounds). Most of these charecteristics are based on velocity and momentum models not energy models.

It’s all quite complicated so it’s the sort of design tginking you leave to tge likes of amunition manufactures such as Namo and gun designers like National Rifles or Accuracy International.

Winter April 22, 2013 9:31 AM

@Clive Robinson
The question is: Does this rule of thumb overestimates penetration debt (good rule) or does it underestimates penetration debt (bad rule)?

From your explanation, it seems to overestimate penetration debt.

Bioscene April 22, 2013 9:39 AM

What the hell is that lady holding in the middle window- from esquire article? It looks to me like a laptop. Eveyone wants to be photographer these days a publish pics on the internet I guess instead of ducking for safety from stray bullets.

Anselm Lingnau April 22, 2013 9:58 AM

It is true that we have occasional »crazed gunman incidents«, although much fewer than in the US of A.

What we generally do not have on a regular basis is protracted gun battles between criminals and the police. Here in Germany the entire police force of the country taken together generally expends less ammunition »in action« per year than seems to be used in any single shootout in the US (I read »300 shots fired« alone for the Boston incident where the elder of the two guys was killed, and possibly not even by police gunfire). It does make one think …

DH April 22, 2013 10:02 AM

I would recommend against leaving your house. 1) There is no guarantee that the gun fight is going to stay in one spot. By leaving you may end up in the middle of the battle. 2) In this case, you would interfere with the police cordon. Imagine if you were a guard and saw someone running from the gunfire. Good way to get shot by friendly fire or at the very least detained. 3) In an urban, populated environment, large amounts of people running in one direction would give the shooter extra targets or a means to escape. 4) Something blocking the bullet is better than nothing. Roads have little cover, which means taking the full impact of the round.

SJ April 22, 2013 10:22 AM

@Stephen Zielinski
doesn’t bother to distinguish between hollow points (which are designed to be stopped by sheetrock, which is why police use them) and ball rounds, and doesn’t bother to distinguish between pistol fire and rifle fire.

I applaud you for bringing some good points to the debate.

However, I encourage you to enter the phrase Box of Truth into a search engine.

It should lead you to a website full of photos. The experimenters set up several tests of common perceptions (and misperceptions) about bullets, penetration, and various materials.

The upshot includes something you’ve mentioned: rifle bullets typically have much higher kinetic energy than pistol bullets.

However, they also showed many pistol rounds penetrating more than 2 layers of sheetrock.

BT April 22, 2013 11:17 AM

Regarding the recommendation against leaving your home: leaving your home makes you visible, whereas lying prone on the floor of your home you are effectively invisible and people will not fire bullets deliberately at you because they don’t know you’re there. Security by obscurity isn’t much security, but still better than standing up and making yourself a target. Especially since most gunfights are over within a minute or two, long before you could run far enough to be out of range of stray bullets (unless you are Usain Bolt, but I presume you’re not because you’d be training rather than reading this).

Wayne April 22, 2013 11:18 AM

When it comes to shooting you should be asking yourself “why do I need to risk my safety to be here?” If you are not a first responder or attempting to help someone then get the hell out of there. A moving target is tougher to hit then a standing one so MOVE.

Me April 22, 2013 11:31 AM

Funny, when I hear gun fire, my usual thought is, must be duck season opener.

I have heard plenty of gun fire in my time, all of it (to the best of my knowledge) has been either hunting of sport shooting.

I did just have a shooting down about 5 blocks from my house, but I never heard any shots. This is the closest I have ever been to gun violence.

LongtimeReaderFirstimePoster April 22, 2013 11:57 AM

I always wonder why the word “gun” turns the comment crowd, that is usually rather bright and insightful, so mind numbingly partisan and stupid.

D April 22, 2013 12:10 PM

@Winter The number is irrelevant, the OP implied that in countries with stricter laws this information isn’t useful. The vast majority of people in a great many places will never need this information, to imply that there’s such a great gulf between the US and (I assume) Sweden is arrogant and dishonest. I’m not debating the relative rates of gun violence only the attitude that somehow civilized Europe is immune to such problems.

You’re also wrong for what it’s worth, between the ones I mentioned, which combined are still smaller than the US there has been at least a dozen in the last 20 years, hardly once in a lifetime.

Derp April 22, 2013 12:44 PM

I was in Houston once at a suburb by the airport nicknamed gunspoint and while at a hotel was told the gunfire was a usual nightly event from drunk revelers living in a sprawling trailer park/shanty town not far from where I was staying.

Went back to my room and a bullet went straight through the window into the bed headboard. Turns out some gangsters were shooting at each other wildly from cars a block away and many of them just plowed into hotel rooms.

I survived some of the civil war in Liberia without catching stray bullets yet one night in Houston and was almost killed.

Ken April 22, 2013 12:58 PM

At my old apartment before we moved to our current residence, we actually had someone shot in our driveway, and never heard the shot.

The shot came from the inside of a vehicle, which can significantly muffle the sound.

The shooting was apparently the result of a drug deal gone wrong. They picked our driveway because the landlord did not have any security lighting in place to illuminate the driveway.

One of the first things I did when I purchased my own home was install a spotlight with a light sensor to illuminate my driveway at night.

Never underestimate the power of a well lit area. It will keep away nefarious individuals.

Clive Robinson April 22, 2013 1:03 PM

@ LongtimeReaderFirstimePoster,

I always wonder why the word “gun” turns the comment crowd, that is usually rather bright and insightful, so mind numbingly partisan and stupid.

Well I can think of several reasons but at the root of them there is one major reason.

My view of guns is that they are a tool that I’ve been trained to use, and have used them recreationaly to put food on the table and win an occasional trophy. Thus to me they have little more significance than a power hammer or cricket bat. Unfortunatly this appears to be not so with some other people.

Many in the US see guns as some kind of symbol and imbue them with certain mystical properties.

This symbolism tends to blind people to the simple truth that a gun is no more than a tool that is agnostic to it’s use, it’s the mind behind the hand that holds the tool that decides the use and other minds if that use is good or bad.

As with all tools preventable accidents happen, and occasionaly people use them irationaly. The problem with guns as tools is they can cause damage at significant distance. For instance a badly maintained or adjusted gun could go off if just dropped and the bullet could injure maim or kill some mile distant as has happened on occasion, there are few other tools around that can do this.

Thus the symbolism and effective range make for a heady concoction of thoughts and emotions both pro and anti and these can in many people be closer to the surface than perhaps they would honestly admit. In others it can be almost the equivalent of a religion or faith as well as a political statment. Such strong views and emotions rarely admit to rational argument or clear perspective, which to others appears compleatly irrational or plain silly. But humans have been like this since befor recorded history, if it was not guns it would be something else, it would appear that that’s the way we are so probably there is a genetic advantage in it.

nik April 22, 2013 2:50 PM

@Jim A

And if a helicopter is hovering or slowly searching your neighborhood, turn on the news radio to find out what’s happening.

Well in my neighborhood (East Los Angeles) there are helicopters ~ 3times a week.
in 7 years I had 2 attempted murders, one carjacking, one felon fleeing on foot on the wall, 12 car chases ( including one that damaged my car) and 1 LAPD SWAT raid within 30 metres of the residence.

None of these ( including the helicopter ) were on the news or the radio OR later on the LAPD website OR the crime statistics.

BTW – The LAPD has crime statistics as the only performance metric.

Last year vs. this year “CompStat” is the only thing that matters and lots of “fudging” happens, especially with Muder & Rape.

Anyway – I do have a cast iron bathtub and I chose the bedroom to be away from the steet.

TimH April 22, 2013 4:27 PM

On hollowpoints… just shot some .22LR hollowpoints at 3/4 inch thick very seasoned Australian hardwood, and one hit close to the edge, so the penetration profile was visible. It was funnel shaped, showing clear continued expansion, and exit hole about twice the entry hole.

That’s just .22 – being anywhere near the path of one of the modern defence 9mm rounds that expand but don’t fragment (thus don’t lose penetration mass) would be best avoided.

Howard April 22, 2013 4:38 PM


It may seem superfluous, but it’s not. What is common sense to one already initiated into a body of knowledge is brand-new to your average person.


Insightful commentary on guns as tools. I’ve heard the same analogy given to money: you can use money to help fund a shelter for battered women, or you can use it for your 8th luxury car … and the money doesn’t care. It’s just a tool.

… and yet, it is also imbued with mystical qualities, such that there are many in American culture who immediately assume someone with money is evil, and someone without money is a saint.

What amazes me is how the reporting always talks about how a gun was used to commit a crime, and yet when the perp is stopped via a gun or threat of one, there’s little mention of how a gun was used to prevent more crimes.

bcs April 22, 2013 6:08 PM

If you are crazy enough to want to film stuff, there is no need to hang around next to the camera!

Dirk Praet April 22, 2013 7:02 PM

@ Howard

What amazes me is how the reporting always talks about how a gun was used to commit a crime, and yet when the perp is stopped via a gun or threat of one, there’s little mention of how a gun was used to prevent more crimes.

I would actually love to see some (US) statistics on that, ie. lives saved by guns vs. lives lost by them. Then again, I have given up on this debate quite a while ago. I don’t live in the US, so I’ll leave it to those commentors who do and personally I am reasonably fine with the tough gun control we have here in Europe.

More on topic, I had a live demonstration of the validity of the article’s point when over the weekend somebody called in a home invasion in progress in the building where I live. Not knowing what was going on and what all the noise was about, I foolishly stepped outside only to be confronted with four agitated officers who nearly wrestled me to the floor and two of which – without a warrant, probable cause or my permission – entered my apartment with guns drawn. I filed a formal complaint today because under our legal system they had no right whatsoever to do so.

Needless to say that on the next occasion I will just duck and cover. I can take out an unarmed burglar caught at our premises, but I have no desire whatsoever to be shot by cowboy cops whose training for this type of situations obviously was seriously sub-standard.

Tony April 22, 2013 10:30 PM

Some people are idiots, they will willingly place themselves in the middle of a fire fight to capture a few images or frames of video? The potential that a stray bullet will seriously damage their camera is quite real and such damage will not be covered under the manufacturers warranty.

However, if the seller can actually prove the camera was destroyed in a well publicized shootout it might do well in an eBay auction. The only way to actually authenticate the gun battle damage is that it would need to be captured on video by someone else stupid enough to also be filming the incident and that third party will probably want a share of the selling price.

For sale: Genuine Boston shootout exploded iPhone, NO RESERVE, Bid Now !!!!!!! Or something like that.

Figureitout April 23, 2013 12:04 AM

–Yeah, I didn’t have the opportunity to really get a close look at the material, but it looks familiar. I remember thatch roofs too, I don’t have the ballistics testing on that material, lol. Honestly, if I were making a little homemade shack, it would be nice b/c I could cut and sand w/ my simple means. As a preteen, I’ve seen the innards of a suburban US home, weak. Never really delved into it too deeply. Lots of fun tools to play w/ though.

@Clive Robinson
–Ah yes, m1v1=m2v2. What a comforting equation. What isn’t comforting, like you said and I can physically see, building materials are getting thinner (less resources, more energy efficient) and bullets are getting faster. Many thoughts…

@Dirk Praet
–My favorite Belgie, because under our legal system they had no right whatsoever to do so.
–Not really here either but it still happens so once you see the legal route is the same garbage…what do you do, bend over? Or is it final resort hackashaq time?

Dirk Praet April 23, 2013 4:55 AM

@ Figureitout


what do you do, bend over? Or is it final resort hackashaq time?

I actually have a pretty good relation with law enforcement. A relative of mine is on the local force and apart from being a really cool guy, over the years he has been most helpful getting me in touch with the right people to get things sorted where needed. Living in a red light district does bring about certain problems. About ten years ago, the entire area had been taken over by Russian, Georgian and Albanian mobsters. At some point, the situation had grown so out of control that the then mayor, DA and police commissioner cracked down heavily on prostitution and organised crime, effectively getting rid of all elements that had turned the neighbourhoud into a gangsters paradise.

Unfortunately, much of the then problems have been back since a couple of years, mostly due to a huge influx of impoverished, disenfranchised immigrants and asylum seekers from North Africa, Asia, Latin America and especially Eastern Europe. Lack of marketable skills and knowledge of the local language(s) leaves many of them with no other option than resorting to crime and/or prostitution. As a result, there has been a steady increase in thefts, burglaries, (armed) robberies, vandalism, sexual harassment, “happy slappings” and the like with junkies, dealers and other prowlers roaming the streets 24/7.

Although local police brass is very much aware of the situation and several residents – among which myself – have been working with them to set up a neighbourhoud watch/information network, little progress is being made. The reasons for this are twofold. For starters, local authorities are pretty much refusing to acknowledge a problem that is not only hitting our part of town, and mostly because it’s bad publicity. Especially the former city council was more concerned with all kinds of high-profile events and initiatives meant to boost the city’s image than to keep the streets safe.

The second reason is the utter disconnect of field officers with the local residents of the area they are deployed in. Many of them are very young and unexperienced folks to whom everyone is a potential suspect and who have no interest in reaching out to or working with said residents. On too many occasions, their demeanour and actions are perceived as arrogant, arbitrary, inefficient and unlawful, thus nullifying the efforts of other collegues who are doing their best to reach out to the community. Combined with abysmal communication skills and a total lack of feedback on whatever it is they’re doing, it’s hardly surprising that most local residents consider them part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

It is a pretty daunting task to try and set up a neighbourhoud committee and convince folks to work together with law enforcement when officers in question are doing their very best to alienate themselves from the community on a daily basis, and especially when their brass is closing ranks when abusive behaviour is being reported.

That said, I have no intention whatsoever to cave in to the pressure of moving away or allowing myself to be terrorised either by common criminals or incompetent police officers. Este es mi barrio y me quedaré aquí.

STrad April 23, 2013 5:10 AM

I find the house construction comments interesting, my house is about 10 years old and supposed to be a green design, but rather than the low density designs mentioned it has multi layer walls, the inner most of which is a high density concrete and the downstairs internal, structural walls are all made of the same high density concrete. It makes the house thermally efficient as the blocks maintain a very constant temperature.

I think these blocks would have a surprising amount of stopping power compared to some of the constructions mentioned.

The swede April 23, 2013 6:42 AM

@D Actually, yes. I also mean those countries. Considering the number of shootouts you have mentioned, theyre not many. The most brutal one is of course Anders Bering Breiviks actions on Utøya and Regjeringskvartaler in Oslo. Lets run down how these advice would have applied to his actions:

  1. Blowing up a big home-made bomb just outside the main government buildings.

Hiding in cellars doesn’t help with that.

  1. Hunting a lot of kids in a political convention around a small island armed to the teeth.

Some of those kids hid in bath rooms or under dead bodies, that worked since he mainly shot at people he thought being alive.

There weren’t any cellars to hide in on Utøya that I know of.

Other bystanders were on the main land well out side of the range of the weapons he brought.

The fact that some of those bystanders din’t hide in cellars actually saved alot of lives.

NZ April 23, 2013 8:29 AM


Nice trolling!

@Clive Robinson
To give you an idea of how little density is required for a given thermal resistance
A thermos is made of vacuum mostly, after all.

An iPad with a protective cover?

Dirk Praet April 23, 2013 8:56 AM

@ The swede

Please bring sensible arguments to the discussion. The article Bruce is referring to is about how to react on shootings going on in the neighbourhoud, not on how to protect from surprise bombings. Both are entirely different situations.

Regarding the Utøya shooting, what exactly is it that according to you a bunch of unarmed teens should/could have done to protect themselves from a madman armed to the teeth ? Assault him ? Me thinks hiding and trying to get away – as the article suggests – was the only thing they could do. As for the bystanders in or out of reach of Breivik, I don’t recall anyone rushing in to film the event with their smartphones. They only thing they could do was call it in and remain at a safe distance. As the article is suggesting.

B. Johnson April 23, 2013 10:29 AM

Questionable physics aside, the article does point out good general behavior in those kinds of situations. Simple risk/reward. Sure, you have a very small chance of ever getting hit with a stray bullet, but the cost is generally very high. The cost of simply moving someplace safer when it happens is very cheap, so there’s no question that you should be doing it when the situation arises. Spending money to make your house bulletproof would be a huge cost, and you’d pretty much have to live actually on a shooting range to be worth it.

Dan H. April 23, 2013 10:42 AM

One very important thing to remember is that when a gunfight erupts between criminals, you’re normally dealing with a collection of absolutely abysmal shots.

Most people are absolutely rubbish pistol shots; I am no exception in this respect. Criminals, using mostly unserviced weapons with dubious ammunition, no training save for watching Hollywood’s take on shooting and a head full of testosterone and fear, are quite amazingly bad shots.

If you then add in the fact that many of these gun-battles are either held from vehicles as drive-by shootings, or are quite often gang initiation things whereby one moron sprays bullets in the vague direction of the opposition gang’s territory, then the Esquire advice starts to ring very true indeed. A criminal-only gunfight will spray bullets every which way (quite often, the actual target is missed by all of the dozens of bullets fired), so going to ground immediately is a very sensible reaction.

When the police get involved in a gunfight, then things get seriously deadly. If pure firearms officers are involved, then these guys will show a good deal of fire discipline and if they do fire, will mostly hit the target. If on the other hand armed general officers turn up, the general effect is of another gang turning up and pooping off even more ammunition. Once again, go to ground or get out of the way.

Finally, if challenged by police, surrender. Even if they don’t ask you to do so surrender anyway, move slowly and keep your hands in view at all times. Once in police custody you are highly unlikely to get hurt; the paperwork that accompanies an arrested person getting hurt is immense and tedious so police tend to be rather careful of prisoners these days.

SJ April 23, 2013 10:48 AM


What amazes me is how the reporting always talks about how a gun was used to commit a crime, and yet when the perp is stopped via a gun or threat of one, there’s little mention of how a gun was used to prevent more crimes.

The NRA publishes several magazines. Most of them have an Armed Citizen section, containing several news stories of crimes stopped by citizens who are armed. The Armed Citizen stories may also be available online.

Usually, the information given is enough for the reader to find the local news story that was the original reporting.

The stories are mostly prosaic; a selection of shop-owners faced with armed-robbery, homeowners defending against break-ins, and the occasional person-defends-self-against-assault-in-public.

These stories don’t generate the kind of nationwide attention that shootings-in-a-school or shootings-at-a-mall attract.

Thunderbird April 23, 2013 12:52 PM

The fellow doesn’t know the difference between momentum and kinetic energy, quotes an equation that doesn’t match either, claims to have “converted a sedan into a convertible, quite easily, using bullets”, doesn’t bother to distinguish between hollow points (which are designed to be stopped by sheetrock, which is why police use them) and ball rounds, and doesn’t bother to distinguish between pistol fire and rifle fire.

I don’t know about the physics quibbles, but the rest is just wrong. Actually, the reason hollow points are used is to make larger wound channels in the target.
There are standards for penetration of law-enforcement ammunition that ensure it WILL NOT “be stopped by sheetrock.” Here’s a document from Hornady that discusses it in some depth. Page 13 describes the difference between their ammunition that meets the standard (“Critical Duty”–for law enforcement) and that doesn’t (“Critical Defense”–so-named so that the casual customer will assume it’s the same stuff).

The short version–their PISTOL AMMO is tested to go through two 1/2 inch sheets of drywall and then penetrate ballistic gel to a depth of at least 12 inches.

All the information in that article sounded pretty reasonable to me.

Figureitout April 23, 2013 11:03 PM

@Dirk Praet
–Glad you have a good relationship, mine’s terrible; their making, not mine. Largely b/c of the reasons you said, one time I was driving a minivan and got pulled over for a dead light (am I going to try to flee in a minivan?) and I drove up to where (no more than 50 ft after seeing the lights) I could pull over and prevent the cop from stepping out on a busy street, he told me “Next time stop immediately” and walked up to my goddamn minivan w/ his hand on his gun. Treating me like an enemy combatant, go * yourself. Pointing the barrel at me is, well you never point the barrel at something you don’t intend to shoot. Just one of my lovely experiences w/ these…So I think next time I’m stopping right in the middle of the road. Oh and that same cop was involved in some questionable activity later. There was also a big incident here, those “honest” cops let a cop that was driving drunk (~0.19BAC)at 11am (while on duty) and plow into a motorcycle, killing one and permanently injuring others, they let him remove evidence from the crime scene, and just “happened” to take him to a place that wasn’t approved for blood tests, so his alcoholic blood was thrown out as evidence in the case. Just lately I had to go thru the “Rape-i-scan” and take my belt off just to pay for a damn speeding ticket b/c I was late for class (I have never been in a wreck and have avoided many). I should’ve asked if they wanted to spank me w/ it. I could go on and on but I’m not.

Not calling you out, but isn’t it a bit legally unfair to get help b/c of the cops you know? In Belgie, I remember practically never seeing a cop on the street (more hidden cameras) and they never made me nervous like cops in the US, but my first memory of Paris was stepping out the train station and seeing swat teams. I remember a shooting in Belgium, it was a big deal since there’s practically no gun violence, more muggings by (at that time) Moroccans and Albanian gangsters (what locals told me, not making an equal association).

What I really like, is how you’re trying to get the community to do its own policing or be slightly organized. Saves money and there’s a real incentive to keep sketchy people away. Plus, it connects the community.

The swede April 24, 2013 3:07 AM

@Dirk Praet
It was @D (you) who brought the random terrorist actions into the argument, I simply clarified the actions of the people in the most extreme of those.

On the island those who could ran away; some tried to swim to shore, others hid. The bystanders (on the beaches around Utøya) actually took their own boats and started ferrying kids in from the island, while the shooting was going on.

Autolykos April 24, 2013 5:12 AM

@Winter: What you’re referring to is this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impact_depth
It is based on conservation of momentum and tends to overestimate penetration, as long as the material is rigid enough that it can’t “flow around” the bullet without actually absorbing the momentum.
The other concern is energy. The bullet needs to deform the material it’s traveling through, and expends energy as it goes. A rule of thumb for the upper bound would be that the volume of the bullet hole will be in the order of magnitude of bullet’s energy divided by the material’s shear strength.
For penetration, both conditions need to be satisfied. Excess energy just makes for a wider crater. And, if you picked the wrong cover, spalling. Which may also kill you on a direct hit, but is unlikely to travel far and penetrate a second barrier. Getting multiple walls between you and the shooter is a good idea for multiple reasons.
For practical use, I’d go with the momentum approach. It tends to be more conservative than the energy approach (unless you get to very high velocities), and you’ll have an easier time at guessing thickness and density of materials than at guessing tensile strength.

Autolykos April 24, 2013 5:17 AM

Just noticed that I mentioned both shear and tensile strength. Which is more appropriate depends a lot on the precise mechanics involved, like how rigid the material and how pointy the bullet is.

Dirk Praet April 24, 2013 5:23 AM

@ Figureitout

Not calling you out, but isn’t it a bit legally unfair to get help b/c of the cops you know?

I knew I should have phrased that differently 😉 . Rest assured that my relative would totally kick my ass if I would call him to get rid of parking tickets or similar stuff.

For the average citizen, Belgium is a Kafkaian nightmare in terms of how administration/authorities are organised. Like everywhere else, it definitely helps when you can drop a name that rings a bell when dealing with people and services you’re not too acquainted with. Or when you know someone on the inside who is familiar with who’s in charge of what and can directly point you to the right person/service instead of having to spend an entire day on the phone being sent back and forth between a multitude of people, services and administration levels (municipal/communal/provincial/regional/federal/European), all of which are trying to convince you that you need to be somewhere else.

I personally believe a police force that is utterly disconnected from the citizens it is supposed to protect or from what is going on in a neighbourhood is about as useful and efficient as trying to eat soup with a fork. Many forms of petty crime can be controlled, mitigated and prevented from getting worse when citizens and law enforcement work together in a spirit of mutual trust and respect. Unfortunately, there are way too many people who consider LEO’s trigger-happy, donut-eating monkeys only, and way too many LEO’s who have never been taught that they are not the law, but merely civil servants with a sworn duty to uphold it. Either party looking down on the other is a recipe for failure and carte blanche for crime to flourish.

kingofbattle April 24, 2013 2:11 PM

Infantry combat experience thoughts:

Make yourself as low as possible.

Stay away from exterior walls, the rounds will skip along a wall and tear your face off.

Alternatively, don’t hide behind a car like an idiotic roided-up cop with your head sticking out. rounds will punch right through a car, skip off the ground into your legs or off the hood into your face. Either way, it’s a bad day.

Love the earth – get down and hug her, and get as much earth in between you and the source of the fires. (curbs, burms, micro-terrain, or preferably a mountain, unless they have indirect fire weapons).

Corners of buildings are stronger than walls. If you have to hide behind a building, get down and behind the corners.

Keep a low target profile – don’t stand up in a gunfight, present the smallest target you possibly can.

The majority of combat deaths are due to massive volumetric shock (blood loss). Keep a combat tourniquet (CAT-T or SOF-T) with you always, and know how to deploy it very quickly. You can die in about a minute from bleeding out. Everyone should know how to care for a traumatic injury, whether it be caused by a car wreck, agricultural accident, or a shooting. It’s actually more important than CPR. Check out and study TC3 – Tactical Combat Casualty Care. It’s pretty rare to die from gunfire if you can stop the bleeding. Combat fatalities have gone from 50% to about 6% in the last hundred years.

Stay far away from law enforcement with weapons. I’ve never seen more dangerous, negligent and untrained individuals than those people. If you’re near a cop when they draw their weapon, you’ve got a pretty reasonable chance at being hit by them even if they aren’t aiming at you, if they don’t shoot themselves by mistake first.

The best medicine in combat is fire superiority. If someone is shooting at you, you’re in combat.

If you don’t run to the sound of the guns, you are less likely to be in combat, but TC3 is still a lifesaver for any traumatic life threatening injury, especially in austere environments. Learn it, and keep an aid bag near you always. You or someone you know will most certainly receive some sort of injury sometime. It’s important to know how to save your own life or the life of others.

Ichinin April 30, 2013 12:05 AM

D wrote: ” to imply that there’s such a great gulf between the US and (I assume) Sweden is arrogant and dishonest”

Oh – so it’s ARROGANCE that is the reason why i have never heard a SINGLE gunshot in my life, except once outside a military base. Silly me. And i do live in the nations capital, i never thought i could be so wrong!

As for “getting the hell out of there” mentioned in the thread, it is one of the primary ideas for survival taught in modern martial arts, not to stay and fight – or put up a camera 😛

Leave a comment


Allowed HTML <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre> Markdown Extra syntax via https://michelf.ca/projects/php-markdown/extra/

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.