“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”
Daniel J. Boorstin

An often-asked question by our new students is: Should I fire a warning shot?

Our short answer is no. However, it bears some explanation.

There are multiple reasons warning shots are a poor choice of action.

1) Deadly Force is exactly that – Deadly Force. If we are justified in firing, then we are justified in shooting the assailant. If we are not justified, then we should not be firing. Why? Next point.

2) How does the offender know it is a warning shot? From their perspective, they’re being shot at. Thus, they may very well decide to return fire, turning a confrontation encounter into an actual gunfight. And, that brings us to point 3.

3) How do witnesses know it’s a warning shot? From their perspective, you started shooting at someone who was not presenting an immediate or otherwise unavoidable threat/fear of death or grave bodily injury to the innocent.

All present can claim you fired and simply missed.

4) Our warning shot, when misinterpreted as intentional, may very well result in a “shots fired” call to 911. Which will in turn trigger a Code 3 response by police, who will be racing to the scene expecting to find a shooter matching your description.


5) How do you know where/what you are firing at is actually a safe direction? Can bullets ricochet off frozen ground? Rocks? Concrete? Absolutely!

“Well, I’ll just shoot in the air”, one may counter. To point 6.

6) What goes up must come down. That round you send into the sky will eventually land somewhere. Perhaps even in a baby’s occupied crib.

7) Let’s say we have a guaranteed safe direction to fire – one would still have to take their eyes off their potential attacker to properly aim. An unnecessary risk!

8) Warning shots waste precious ammunition.

9) Warning shots are loud, leaving us, and our potential attacker, with ringing ears – all while we’re attempting to communicate.


“Warning shots” are an escalation, not a de-escalation.

It is proper to issue verbal warnings when time and circumstances allow, but, it is tactically and legally specious to fire any warning shot.

Don’t do it!

Our situation sucks already, let’s not make it worse.

“Stupidity has a price, and it always gets paid.” – Dan Simmons

*The above information represents no original thought. John Farnam and Massad Ayoob have been hammering these points home for decades, and to them we owe the credit.