Unarmed Against the Active Killer

[This is an archived post from Mad Science Defense, currently on indefinite hiatus, and may not reflect the usual tone and content of Author J.R. White and/or the Storyteller at Large Blog. If you have arrived here via links from a website elsewhere in the tactical and combatives training community, we wish you the best in your skill development journey.]


*-The above image is the work of cartoonist David Pope and was first published in The Canberra Times (Australia)

In light of the recent and horrific attack by Islamic Terrorists on the headquarters of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, I had a friend ask me what they could do to take out an active killer if unarmed.

Now, to be clear, I would never recommend going unarmed against an attacker with a rifle if there was any other option. I am a big proponent of the Evade, Barricade, Engage protocol taught by Rob Pincus over at I.C.E. Training. I think Evade (escape the area the attacker is in), and Barricade (lock yourself in a room, block the door or otherwise use items from the environment to block the attacker’s access to you) are the best options when unarmed and conditions allow. However, that last one “Engage” (fight them, any way you can) is there for a reason. Sometimes we can’t flee or hide, and it’s that kind of situation I want to look at here.

So if you can’t evade the attacker or barricade yourself against the attack, here are some things you can do to even the odds.

Develop the Will to Fight NOW!

The most important thing you can have as a fighter, warrior, or anyone in a self-defense situation, is the will to fight. I believe this so strongly that the Will to Fight has an entire post of its own. More important than the skills, the tools or the tactics is the will to fight for your own self-preservation. And the same applies to the preservation of others, like our children, spouses, friends and even strangers.

So make sure you have the will to fight, and the mindset that entails, before the worst can happen. If you already have the will, outstanding! Keep doing what you’re doing. But if you suspect you lack the will to fight for your life, then you need to find the reason you feel that way and you need to crush it.

Arm Yourself

If you’re unarmed in an active killer scenario, one of the first things to do is try to arm yourself with something from your environment. There are plenty of everyday items that make decent improvised weapons. Anything heavy and easily swung makes a good bludgeon, anything hard and pointy can be a shiv. If the attack comes in the grocery store, slip some canned goods into a sock or grab a wine bottle by the neck as a club. If there are kitchen knives in your aisle, grab a big one. If you’re in a sporting goods store, grab a baseball bat. Especially good are improvised weapons that allow you to attack from a distance, like spraying a fire extinguisher into an attacker’s face to distract them while you run up and crack their skull with it.

You are already in a situation where the odds are stacked horribly against you. Step one is to find a way, however small, to start tilting things back toward even.

Use Teamwork

If there are other people willing and able to help you take out an attacker, let them do so. If one person can distract while the other attacks, or if several can attack at once, you stand a better chance of success. One example would be if one defender grabs the gun and just keeps the muzzle away, while another defender chokes, stabs or clubs the attacker. If you are successful in taking down an attacker as a team, you also immediately have people present who can tend to wounded, contact outside help by calling 911, and keep a watch out for more attackers

Choose Your Ground

If you can’t evade an attacker, try to hide in an area that restricts the ways they can approach you. Choose an office, a storeroom, anything with a door that you can close (and preferably lock or barricade) and have room to stand offline of the door (in case they fire through it). If there is only one way into a space, you know they have to come through it. And if they’re intent on defeating a barricade, you’ll have plenty of notice of their arrival.

Ancient Viking houses had low doors, forcing men to stoop as they came inside. This was so one woman with a sword could defend the house if it was attacked while the men were away; She just waited and took off the heads as they came through the only entrance. You can employ a similar principle against an active killer.

Close the Distance Unseen

It’s better to choose your ground and let the attacker come to you, but you may not have that choice. If you know the attacker is advancing on an area where they will have access to more innocent victims, you may choose to act.

If you choose to advance on an attacker, you need to get as close as possible without being seen. This is one of the big disadvantages of taking on someone with a gun when you’re unarmed: If you see them across the room, there isn’t much you can do, but if they can see you from a distance… they can kill you.

Make use of corners, concealment (even if it means staying low) and approach from the rear or as close to it as possible. You want to get as close as possible unseen so they have the least time possible to react to your attack.

Don’t Hesitate

When the window opens for you to counterattack, it may be very, very small. Do not hesitate. That person is there to kill you, and you need to come down on them like the hammer of an angry God. Now is not the time to consider their humanity, or their background, or whatever terrible teary-eyed bullshit excuse they have about why the world ‘made them do it.’ Your window is too small for that.

You have to get in there and go to work. It’s going to suck. You might hear bone crack, you might take damage, and you will likely see blood. You are not there to mildly inconvenience them, you are there to wreck their day, and that means either killing them or injuring them so badly that they no longer pose a threat. You may watch their last convulsive agonal breaths, or you may just injure them enough to stop them and then have to listen to them screaming. You may have very mixed emotions about it and maybe learn some things about yourself that you didn’t expect. But all of that, all of it, is better than dying.

More Posts