Photo By: Lance Cpl. Christopher Mendoza
Photo By: Lance Cpl. Christopher Mendoza

Gunfights are awesome to watch on TV.  The good guy wins, and bad guys go flying through the air in a spray of blood.  Unfortunately, these types of images we see on the silver screen rarely have much in common with reality.  This can lead us as armed professionals, and concerned citizens, to make some critical errors if we ever find ourselves on a two way range.  Keep reading to discover the 17 most important gunfight statistics backed by data and real world experience.  

This article will break down a wide variety of statistics by topic, in the hopes that we can clarify some persistent errors in our thinking.  The first area we are going to cover is the likelihood an armed person will even be in a gunfight.

1. Each year there are roughly 300-400 police officers that fire their weapons at a threat (source)

2. In an Officer’s career, there is a 12% chance that they will fire their weapon (source)

3. In 2012 the Violence Policy Center counted 259 justifiable homicides, where citizens defended themselves and killed their attacker. (source)

4. National Crime Victimization Survey estimates that about 67,740 times a year a crime is stopped by the presence of a firearm. (source)

5. In 2012, there were 1.2 million violent crimes, defined as murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault which would justify the use of a firearm (source)

6. When you divide stat 5 by stat 4 you see that about 5% of violent crimes are stopped by the presence of a weapon.

What This Means 

I like to first point out the numbers of police officers that are involved in shootings annually, which is incredibly low, considering the amount of police contact with the public.  This is also important to note because a police officer’s sworn duties put them in dangerous volatile situations, where use of force is more common than would be the norm for your average citizen.  From these stats, we can infer that a police officer is roughly twice as likely to use their firearms as the average citizen.

Next, it’s important to understand that firearms realistically stop a very low amount of crimes, and are present in the commission of many more.  For example, in statistic 3 we see that there were 259 cases of a civilians defending themselves, and killing their attacker. In that same year there were over 8300 cases of homicide, where a firearm was used.

Now, I know some people might think that I’m anti gun because of these stats.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Facts are facts.  A non criminal is much more likely to be killed by a firearm than they are to kill with one.  That does not mean that we should not be ready and well trained to use them, because as we saw in stat 4 they were key in stopping over 67,000 criminal acts.

Statistics from the Holster 

This section will cover some key data on deciding to pull a gun, including just how long that might take.

7. The average time for a police officer to mentally justify using their weapons was .21 sec for a simple scenario, .87sec for a complex one. (source)

8. The average time it takes for someone to draw from a level 1, friction retention holster, is 1.71 sec

9.  World Class shooters can draw and fire from a level 1 holster in .76 sec in this case Jerry Miculek


What This Means 

We can see that there is huge room for improvement in our ability to draw our weapon from a holster.  Obviously level 1 holsters are the quickest, and more secure holsters i.e level 3 holsters, will take longer, as will drawing from concealment.  From the stats above it looks like we can expect that a proficient shooter can draw and fire a weapon in about 1.5 seconds, including the decision to use deadly force.

This means that we need to create at least this much time and distance to employ our weapons once we are in a situations that warrants it.  Check out this video for an excellent demonstration of the utility in creating time and space.

If you like this article and you want to get more like it emailed directly to you, go ahead and put your email in the box on the right.  If you don’t, I’ll just assume your an ISIS sympathizer.  Welcome to the Tier Three Team.  

Key Distances and Times

These stats will cover what we need to know about common distances, and times of occurrence  in gunfights.

10.  The deadliest distances for police gunfights is 3-6 feet. (Source)

11.  Experts were only 10% more accurate than novices between 3 and 15 ft. (Source)

12.  About 60% of police shootings occur during hours of darkness (Source)

What This Means

Often times we assume that skill will make all the difference in deadly force encounters.  This is true, but only at extended distances, where it is truly difficult to hit your target.  If you read the source for stat 11, you will see that even shooters that have never touched a gun before can accurately point shoot a weapon at distances of less than 15 feet.  Alarmingly, they are more likely to hit the head because that is where their vision natural goes; where as trained personnel fire center of mass most of time.

Even if you look as badass as these dudes, you’re still in a shit sandwhich if you are in a 3 ft gunfight because it requires very little skill to be very deadly. So we need some method to create time and distance to enhance our survivability.

Shooting and Moving

This section will cover the stats relating to the rounds fired, movements, and other important factors.

13. If you stand still in a gunfight you have an 85% chance of being shot, and 51% chance of being shot in the torso. (Source)

14. If you move and shoot you have a 47% chance of being hit, with 11% chance of a torso shot. (Source)

15. Seeking cover and returning fire reduces your chance of being shot to 26% with a 6% torso hit rate. (Source)

16. The most common caliber to be shot with is 9mm (Source)

17. Most gunfights average 3.59 rounds per incident (Source)

What This Means 

The vast majority of our firearms practice is flat footed on the range.  While this is a necessary part of practicing fundamentals, it will surely get us killed if we fight this way.  If at all possible you need to seek cover in a gunfight, or at the very least you need to move and shoot.

These skills are very advanced, and the vast majority of folks will need to master the simpler tasks of shooting first.  I highly recommend seeking out force on force training with qualified instructors to practice these advanced concepts.


Resources You Can Use.

There are many good resources you can use to help you become a more proficient gunfighter.  If you are trying to learn the fundamentals, I recommend checking out some of Rob Leatham’s videos on Youtube,  as he very quickly breaks down what you need to focus on an what you don’t.

I also think there is a lot of value in books, imagine that, a Marine reading.  My favorite book on the subject of pistol fighting is, Stay in the Fight!!! A Warriors Guide to Combat Pistol. (affiliate link to Amazon).  The author Kyle Lamb was a former Sgt Maj in the Army’s Delta Force, and he has a rocking beard, which is all the credibility I need.

The book breaks down what exactly you need to look for in a pistol, accessories, and how to employ it from the basics, to the most advanced principles.  If you are more into long gun shooting (Amazon affiliate link), he has an excellent version for that as well.


These stats are interesting in and of themselves, but that’s not really what you should take away from this article.  You should keep in mind how these facts might affect your future safety.  Likewise, you need to be honest with yourself and ask if the type of training you are currently doing actually mirrors the conditions you are likely to encounter in the real world. If you are a 25yd bullseye master, but you’ve never shot on the move, you are in for a rude awakening.  If self defense is your goal, then you need to train realistically, and you need to work on things you suck at.