From “No Second Place Winner” (© 1965), by William H. (“Bill”) Jordan (p.101):

“There is no second place winner in a gunfight!  That sage remark is of unrivaled importance to an enforcement officer. Nothing he can buy from a life insurance firm takes the place of his ability to shoot fast and accurately. Storebought insurance will make his wife a rich widow, but it will be someone else who helps her spend the settlement. Not too attractive a proposition from the masculine point of view. The kind of life insurance he can buy with competent gun handling ability is obviously much more practical.”    [You can read/download Jordan’s book, HERE].

MSW posts urging weapon reliability and “get out and train” (whether specialized classes with the been there done everything hardcore trainers, shooting drills on the clock on your own, physical conditioning, and yes, competing) really speak to one thing, winning a life threatening encounter.  I wanted to write a post to put out my long-held lament on the subject.  It strikes me often: I see streets named after and plaques honoring LEOs killed by the gunfire of evildoers.  (I was casually acquainted with several of the deceased LEOs, and a bit more with a couple).  But I never see what would inspire and make me feel much better —  a street named after an LEO who WON a gunfight.  So here it is, to be filed under the CAN element (mindset) of my paradigm on deadly force.

While making notes for this post, my multitasking addiction set in; I streamed Dave Spaulding’s latest Panteao Productions video, “Concealed Combat Pistol.” Voila! In the second segment, from about one minute in and for the next nine or so, Dave makes the exact point I was thinking about for this post.  With no punches held (typical Dave), he explains (my paraphrasing): Sometimes the more skilled are killed.  “Survival” mindset is not what we should train to achieve, we need a “combative” mind and should train to achieve the “winning” mindset.  “Combative” means absolutely ready and willing (but not foolishly eager) to fight.  Dave’s principal elements — awareness and willingness.  More Dave: Knowing how to shoot is not the same as knowing how to fight.  One must be prepared to do whatever it takes to win.  Me: Winning is coming home intact, not just surviving.  Knowing “how to fight” (and when) begins with the mind. Before the actual life threatening encounter occurs and you have to instantly decide whether and how to go to guns.  Maybe first up is to integrate movement, the use of cover, and closing “the gap” (to go hands on) into your tactical toolkit.

Also on my mind on this subject, a bit of escape from reality — two Westerns (16 years apart) about gunfighters you might want to watch, even if it is for a second or third time.  Good cerebral stuff, serious and light gunfighters’ quips, and of course, blazing gunfights (by dated Western standards):


The title said this would be short.  Stay safe.  But if you can’t, WIN.

Hat tip: Kevin Vickers, Canada.  As I write this (10/26), it appears to have been RCMP S&W Model 5946 against a lever action rifle, in confined space.  See one explanation of how he did it, HERE.

Suggested reads: Reitz/McQueen, “The Art of Modern Gunfighting” (HERE), and Kirchner’s “Deadliest Men” books (HERE) and (HERE).  Also, Gonzales, “Deep Survival, Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why” (HERE)

My current read: Van Horne/Riley, “Left of Bang” (HERE). It’s about the USMC Combat Hunter program techniques for predictive analysis applied to daily life, for both LEO and the non-sworn.  The authors’ related website is HERE.   Listen to a recent podcast on the book HERE.

Link:  To buy the patch above, click on the image.

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About Steven Harris

Steve Harris is an experienced attorney (member of Florida Bar, 1979) who has represented federal agents and local LEOs in duty related matters. He has written and lectured about officer involved shootings, self-defense, and use of force law, including "Stand Your Ground." Steve has been a seasoned and active competitive handgun shooter for over 20 years.


  1. “You just shot an unarmed man!” “Well, he should have armed himself if he’s gonna decorate his saloon with my friend.” From Unforgiven.

    • Back at you:

      “Look son, being a good shot, being quick with a pistol, that don’t do no harm, but it don’t mean much next to being cool-headed. A man who will keep his head and not get rattled under fire, like as not, he’ll kill ya. It ain’t so easy to shoot a man anyhow, especially if the son-of-a-bitch is shootin’ back at you.”

  2. Firearms proficiency and combat training cannot be stressed enough because you will remember what to do even with the stress from the fight. Then the important thing to keep in mind is that you are the good guy and right is on your side. Daily focus on doing “the right thing” in your job will help. This is from an old police officer who survived!

  3. Well stated!

    Add the original short novel, “Shane” by Jack Schaffer to your reading list. It bears nothing other than name and plot to the later landmark movie of the same name. Combative mindset is certainly a theme in the book, while the gunfighting may be more 20th Century Hollywood.

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