The 13 Rules Every Gunfighter Should Know
A viral video making the rounds on TikTok outlines "13 Rules To A Gunfight" as taught by the United States Marine Corps. Posted by user @zachman8, the short clip lists practical advice for surviving a deadly encounter should you ever find yourself in that terrible situation. As someone who enjoys recreational shooting but hopes to never need to use those skills for self defense, I was curious to learn more about these rules and how they could help keep someone alive.
The Original Rules
The TikTok breaks down each rule concisely but leaves some open to interpretation. Let's take a closer look at each rule and provide some context:
Rule 1: Be courteous to everyone, be friendly to none.
First impressions matter, even in a life-or-death scenario. Remaining polite but keeping your distance prevents escalating tensions. Don't get too chummy with strangers as it could leave you vulnerable if things turn violent.
Rule 2: Decide to be aggressive enough, quickly enough.
Hesitation can mean the difference between going home that night or not. If a fight is unavoidable, end it decisively through overwhelming aggression and force before the other guy gets the upper hand.
Rule 3: Have a plan.
Going into a gunfight with no strategy is a recipe for disaster. Mentally prepare potential tactics based on the environment and assess your strengths/weaknesses compared to your adversary.
Emerging Victorious Through Preparedness
As the old saying goes, failing to prepare is preparing to fail. The Marine Corps rules stress having backup plans and contingencies no matter what the situation throws at you.
Rule 4: Have a backup plan, because the first one probably isn't going to work.
No battle plan survives contact with the enemy. Expect adjustments need to be made on the fly. By thinking through alternative approaches, you won't be caught flat-footed by an unexpected curveball.
Rule 5: Be polite, be professional, have a plan to kill everybody you meet.
Staying calm under pressure is key to keeping a level head. But you also need to maintain situational awareness and assume any threat is real until confirmed otherwise. Going home means neutralizing all hostile targets through decisive action.
Maximizing Your Odds With the Right Tools
Technology can boost your chances of surviving a violent encounter, but only if utilized properly. The rules provide tactical guidance for making the most of your gear.
Rule 6: Do not attend a gun fight with a handgun whose caliber does not start with a 4.
While compact for carry, smaller pistol rounds like 9mm lack stopping power for a lethal force situation. The .45 ACP, .40 S&W, and .44 Magnum rule the day according to this standard. Power is key to overmatching the threat.
Rule 7: Where you find anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice.
In a gunfight, one well-placed shot may not be enough to neutralize the target. Follow up your shots to ensure the threat is eliminated, especially with handgun calibers that may not deliver immediate incapacitation.
Rule 8: Move away from your attacker. Distance is your friend.
Maximizing space between you and danger boosts options and reaction time. Diagonal or lateral movement is preferred to straight back-pedaling that moves you in a predictable fashion.
Camouflage, Cover and the Element of Surprise
Survival rests on using concealment, taking cover, and preserving the cloak of anonymity for as long as possible.
Rule 9: He's committed, so you'd better be committed as well.
Half measures do not survive a gun battle. Once the fight is joined, fight to win with every ounce of will and do not quit until the threat is gone. Leaving anything left in the tank means potential to be overwhelmed.
Rule 10: Always target the freshest and most alert looking opponents first.
Eliminate threats in order of reaction time – those most ready to respond pose the most danger. By taking them out swiftly, you tilt the odds in your favor and destabilize the coordinated enemy response.
Fight Dirty and Fight to Win
When survival depends on it, fight without rules or restraints to ensure you go home, by any means necessary.
Rule 11: Flank your adversary when possible.
Attack from an angle rather than facing head on. This denies them full cover, may disrupt communication/cohesion with allies, and allows engaging additional targets simultaneously for a numbers advantage.
Rule 12: Always cheating, always win. Young man, the fight is never fair.
Fights are not won on points but by victors who seized every edge, broke conventions, and stopped at nothing to defeat the enemy. Play to maximize your chances of living another day rather than fighting fairly or fairly.
Rule 13: If you lose the first fight, survive to fight another day. 10 years from now on the street, no one will remember the details of the fight, but they will remember if you won or lost.
If defeat seems inevitable, extracting yourself in one piece to re-engage later when odds are back in your favor through superior preparation and positioning is the wise move over a pointless last stand. Live to fight another day and ultimately win the war.
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