17 Statistics On Gunfights Backed by Actual Statistics

89% of statistics are made-up, or so the often repeated joke goes. Unfortunately, the tongue-in-cheek remark is all too often true, with various sources making statistics up, changing their meaning, or cherry-picking the data for a personal or political bent. A classic example of this is various “definitions” of “school shootings” that distort perception on a critical issue.

Fortunately, there are those who take the time to toil through the hard-wrangled data to provide solid facts for others to base informed decisions upon. In this case, my hat is off to Tier Three Tactical, who searched for and cited their data on 17 various facts on actual gunfights. Further, they use data from all sides of the debate and provide solid analysis of the implications.

The First Four Facts:

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)

First Paragraph of Analysis:

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.

The full article is a fascinating read and the reader can go as deep as they want by following the source trail. For anyone wanting to see actual numbers, I highly encourage you to go check out the article over at Tier Three Tactical. 





Nathan S.

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

Nathan can be reached at Nathan.S@TheFirearmBlog.com

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


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  • EdgyTrumpet

    “4. National Crime Victimization Survey estimates that about (…)”
    “Actual Statistics”
    Come on now.

    • Cal.Bar

      Great point.

    • Lead Kisses

      The problem with the NCVS is that it is a survey,and that people may not be 100% honest. Non of the statistical databases widely accepted by CJ professionals are perfect.

      • h4rr4r

        CJ professionals accept all kinds of BS data. Sessions is shutting down scientific research because he does not like the conclusions it is getting. Rifling marks for example are not a reliable science.

        • Wow!

          Science today is mostly political propaganda since everyone is scrambling for the funding money and can be bought out. People rely on single sources as fact, rather than waiting for a peer review to sift through the bull.

    • valorius

      Would’ve been nice to include the year that the NCVS estimated that figure as well.

  • Don Ward

    17 MOAR STATISTICS!

    1) Have a gun
    2) Have a gun that works mechanically in some manner
    3) Possess ammunition
    4) Have that ammunition inside the gun in some manner
    5) Possess a rudimentary understanding of where the muzzle is in relation to one’s body.
    6) Have at least one finger
    7) Manipulate the firearm mechanically so the weapon’s firing pin is cocked and put under spring tension whether by cocking a hammer, racking a slide or disengaging a safety.
    8) Align the gun in such a way that the weapon’s chamber and muzzle is pointed at a target in which you wish to shoot.
    9) Take the finger that is in your possession and place it on the trigger. (If weapon does not have a trigger but is a Colt Single Action Army built in the 19th Century or similar variant, obtain a large rock with which to strike the hammer)
    10) Squeeze or depress the trigger with the finger that is in your possession.
    11) Do not drop the gun.
    12) Do not scream like a woman who has seen a spider
    13) Observe the effect that step 10 has taken.
    14) Is the target in step 8 dead or in the process of no longer being a threat?
    15) If no, repeat steps 1 through 10.
    16) If Step 14 occurs, cease steps 1 through 15.
    17) Call the police or wait for them to arrive.

    Congratulations!

    You too are now a Gunfighting statistic.

    • Frank Fr

      If the gun you have is a pistol, use it to fight your way to your rifle !

      • That might be a long fight if you’re out and about and left your long guns at home.

        • GaryOlson

          They have medications these days to ensure you remember to bring a long gun.

          • I don’t think they have medications to cure Stupid, so I’ll pass on OCing a rifle in public, thanks.

      • Major Tom

        Only if at extended distances. At 15 meters or less, a pistol will suffice for often the entire duration of the gunfight, if not perform better than the situation needed. We’re not talking about Afghanistan here and a PKM on the side of a mountain hosing you down from half a mile away.

      • nonobaddog

        Yep, a pistol is OK because it is more portable. But a rifle will stop the threat.

        • valorius

          Sometimes.

      • John

        If you only have a pistol in a gunfight, fight your way to the gun store, then you can argue for hours with the salesman about what caliber/barrel length/capacity is most effective in close quarter combat.

      • missourisam

        Except at long range I’d prefer a 12 gauge 18 inch barrel shotgun, loaded with 00 buck. For real close range I prefer a 1911 in .45 ACP.

      • Stuki Moi

        Or better yet, to fight your way to a radio. So you can call in an airstrike…. Those work much better than a rifle.

    • jonjon7465

      Hey thats just a bunch of facts, opinion, safety rules!

      • Don Ward

        YOU’RE NOT MY REAL DAD! YOU CANT TELL ME WHAT LISTS I CAN MAKE!

    • art frewin

      from your writing you do not know much about guns. if you have guns i would tell you you need to study the subject more. all guns have a trigger a lot of gun now do not have a firing pin but a striker. place the finger not in your possession on the trigger, WTF.

      • Don Ward

        From your writing you do not know much about satire. If you have satire i would tell you you need to study the subject more.

        • art frewin

          i guess i was to busy in college. i was just commenting on the incorrect terms. i know what satire is, it is a tire on a car that has stayed in that position for to long.

  • Charles K

    #3 is a red herring. Many dgu are with handguns. Handguns suck, so many people survive bullet wounds if they just get to the hospital. Often getting enough shots off to injure or force the retreat of the bad guy is good enough.

  • Vhyrus

    “1. Each year there are roughly 300-400 police officers that fire their weapons at a threat ”

    This number seems extremely low given that last year over 1000 people were killed by police. Unless each cop is killing 2 to 3 people every time they shoot this number needs to be checked for accuracy.

    • gunsandrockets
    • FT_Ward

      Yes and given most rounds fired by the police miss, the ones that hit are far more likely to wound than kill and at times multiple police shoot at one subject the “300-400” figure must be wrong probably by at least a factor of ten.

      • Wow!

        Most rounds by anyone who encounters combat will miss. You may be a good marksman (precise) but in reality you are unlikely to be accurate. People in the real world move, and while we can lead, people move erratically. Unless you have a crystal ball and are able to predict when a person will move back into cover or change directions, you are going to miss and be inaccurate when the target movement is not the same as your prediction.

    • John

      You must understand that when police shoot, the can now actually curve the bullet to hit as many innocent bystanders as is allowed by law.

    • Anonymoose

      You forget about batons and Maglites!

    • valorius

      Agree.

    • Ark

      You’d probably get that result if you used exclusively federal, voluntary data provided by police. But yeah, police aren’t killing 700 people a year with swords, here.

      This is terrible data.

    • Sunshine_Shooter

      There was a cop in Tulsa recently who used his cruiser to kill a lady.

      Don’t feel too bad for her, she was holding a gun at the time, which she had just emptied at another officer,

      • Rodford Smith

        As a transportation engineer I note that in the US more people die in traffic accidents than from being deliberately shot.

        Or, as I tell folks at the range “Remember, it’s safer here than it is out driving.”

        • Sunshine_Shooter

          True that.

        • h4rr4r

          That is only true if you spend the same amount of time doing both.

          US traffic statistics are nothing to be proud of. Getting unfit drivers off the road would solve this, but then we would have to invest in alternative methods of transportation for them.

          • L Cavendish

            half of car crash victims died because they did not use a seatbelt…17,000 of them

          • h4rr4r

            Interesting, but not totally relevant.

            If you are trying to compare risks of two things you have to consider the time spent doing them.

          • guest

            UBER, LYFT,, available cheap transportation very quickly.

        • Dave Cockayne

          More people in the US die from antibiotic resistant bacteria than from guns in the US.
          https://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/

    • raz-0

      Lots of those winding up dead by police aren’t shot.

      Looking at just one example, that 1000 person number includes prison guards (presumably in places where the guards are actually leo, but who knows given the quality of data vs. spin on any given stat). Most of those are not going to involve firearms because of the nature of the situation.

      • Vhyrus

        You’re going to have to provide some kind of proof to back up your claim because I highly doubt that 2/3rds of all people killed by police were beaten to death or run over.

        • raz-0

          I wish I could. The only reason I brought it up was because I had been reading up on the various “how many people do cops kill each year” reports and what goes into making them.

          The methodology for how they have been built are questionable, on both ends of the spectrum.

          One clear example I found was death by corrections officer. One “study” had a number that was around 250-ish. A big chunk of how they got there was removal of all CO caused deaths. Their claim was that COs are not law enforcement thus don’t count.

          Reality is that the LEO status of COs usually comes down to state and how the facility is run. Lots of COs ARE LEOs, and lots also are not. Neither side could provide info on how they counted this segment of the stats. This is not something that would be acceptable in peer review.

          But in general, you have death by motor vehicle incident. Operating their vehicles are the #1 risk of death for police, and high speed chases are particularly dangerous. It’s hazard to bystanders is high enough many regions prohibit them. How many of those were counted? Unknown.

          Then there’s the tazer. it’s less lethal, not non-lethal. Some are going to go there, and lots of departments treat the devices as harmless and a preferred option to everything including managing the situation.

          Lots of incidents of death and brutality happen during arrest and are hand to hand, baton, etc. It would not surprise me if a lot more of them fall into that category than shootings. It’s something officers engage in much more frequently period as it is pretty low on the escalation of force spectrum whereas shotting is pretty much the pinnacle.

    • Bradley

      Even if the numbers are off theyour wouldn’t likely match up that way. First I have no doubt that people get bludgeoned, ran over, and killed in other ways by police. Second I’m sure there are single officers killing multiple people in the same year.

    • h4rr4r

      This says at a threat. So any shooting of bystanders or people who were never a threat to begin with would not be counted.

    • Atlas

      These stats are undoubtedly skewed in favor of making police look overall less violent than they are. TFB has a long history of publishing crap articles that put LEO on a pedestal so it’s not surprising here. Many pro-LEO groups are just as willingly ignorant of facts as anti-gunners are.

      • Wow!

        I want my officers to be violent in a violent world with rioters, terrorists, and other criminals. You don’t stop crime with a “please and thank you”. If you want niceties, don’t break the law and don’t sass it up if you are approached. Police are not the enemy, and if you think they are, you need a serious reality check.

    • Wow!

      Averages are misleading things. Whenever statistics are analyzed you always have to start out with the raw data. Someone could say the average of police shootings is only 5 yards, and you think that you only have to train for 5 yard encounters, when the reality is a great majority of those are actually 1 yard encounters, and a small but significant amount of a department’s encounters are 25-100 yard with a rifle. Statistics are more often than not meant to mislead a person into a specific train of thought. Raw data is the only thing that can truly be trusted.

  • EC

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

    Well that explains why the police I’ve seen are such terrible shots at the range. Only 12% actually practice shooting in their entire career!

    • Nashvone

      Most of the training involving interaction with people is based on observing eyes, hands and feet. Turning that training off to get a sight picture on a core body shot in a high stress situation isn’t easy. And they prove this too often.

      • EC

        The explanation officers have given me is that to (some of) them, a firearm is simply a tool and not a hobby or interest. They just need to qualify once in awhile on a relatively simple course which isn’t difficult at all (for a hobbyist at least).

        Now if there were better incentives for police to practise their marksmanship then I think we’d see a change. Instead of being minimally competent, a cash award for the top police shooters would likely improve their training.

        But short of that, I suppose some officers have about as much interest in mastering their sidearms as I have in getting really good at using that stapler on my desk.

        • art frewin

          have you ever used a gun in self defense?? i haven’t, i have pulled a gun twice and that solved the problem. the adrenaline dump makes everything harder to do and when your life is in danger, you just are not going to be at your best. sure police should practice more and if i were on the force i would. that being said no one has all the time to do things they need to do let alone want. i have been busy every day off for 8 to 12 hours for 1 and 1/2 years and i am not sure when i will be done with the project. so i have not been out shooting in a little over that. it bums me out but you have to do what you have to do.

    • GOT12

      and I bet 99% of those cops at the range shot just a tad bit better than you

      a lot of pd are doing requalification every 30 days on pistol rifle & shotgun

      • L Cavendish

        I am a FED LEO…we qualify 2 times a year…used to be 3 and 4
        many local/state do it once a year…unless they are SWAT or other special teams or in a larger city

    • Wow!

      Officers are worse shooters than those who shoot more than them, just like any other shooter, and not all officers are equal. There are some who train much more than the recreational shooter, and others who just do the minimum qualification. Then again, department guidelines differ widely so the minimum may actually still be better than most shooters do.

      Most of an officer’s skill set demands aren’t so much marksmanship but endurance and being able to read situations well. In a way law enforcement is like the role of a sniper, the majority of the job isn’t the shooting but the “fieldcraft” skills.

    • Greg

      EC,

      The stat is during the course of their duty. This doesn’t include regular training and qualification LEO have to complete every year. So, every LEO fires their weapon every year with only only about 12% actually using their weapon during their career.

      • EC

        Yes… it’s obviously a tongue-in-cheek joke at the expense of the writers of the article. 😉

  • Mark Timney

    The first two “facts” cited here are from a single individual who does not cite where he got his information from. We have data here, but not necessarily “facts.” The third “fact” is from an advocacy group. It might be true, but I would not present it as “fact” without further checking. The last “fact,” from the National Crime Victimization Survey,” may be the closest to being true, but criminologists still question the validity of the survey.

  • 22winmag

    Clickbait title.

    Where is the gunfight beef?

  • The biggest problem with trying to draw any hard and fast conclusions from this sort of data is that the overwhelming majority of incidents involving a firearm are never reported to any authority to begin with. The closest you can get to useful numbers is with statistical sampling, but even then you run into the fundamental problem of bias; this is a hot button issue, and you are highly unlikely to find any organization researching it which hasn’t already decided in advance what they want the results to look like, which clouds the entire affair by causing them to ask leading questions and focus on data friendly to their viewpoint to the exclusion of unfriendly data.

    As long as most states consider it a felony (or state jail felony) to brandish a firearm in a threatening manner under any circumstances, there will never be anything even approaching accurate numbers for how often a driver prevents a violent road rage incident by displaying a handgun, or a homeowner prevents a break-in by loudly racking the slide on a shotgun after hearing movement outside, or a woman prevents an assault with a fixed stare and a hand purposefully reaching into a purse, et cetera; none but the foolish are going to volunteer themselves for criminal charges just to report a crime that didn’t happen.

    • Ark

      The flip side is that gun owners have a social desirability bias toward validating their decision to own and carry guns. A stranger crossing the street to avoid you at night turns into “He saw I was carrying and decided not to rape me, thus my gun prevented a crime”. Self-reported data is for entertainment purposes only.

      • art frewin

        not true ark. concealed carry people are the most law abiding people there are. almost all do not want to ever use a gun for protection. it is like insurance. just take a look at all the left people rioting shooting people in the face with pepper spray. masked so they can not be identified. injuring people, vandalism, and theft. all because they lost the election?? WTF!! we could have lost our second amendment if hillawitch666 had won. 4 out of the 9 supreme court justices believe the second is not an individual right. it was 4 to 4 before the election. it got me out to vote. the second amendment is not given by the government, it is an unalienable right, one that cannot be given or taken from you. they are trying to though.

  • John

    68% of people believe the 74% of statistics are 98% BS.

    See what I did there…

    • art frewin

      statistics are only are good as the data used. anyone can be picky about the data used in the statistics and can make them say what they want. to really verify any statistics you need to go back to the data used and study it.

      • Wow!

        Spoken as the truth. That is like the first thing you are taught in any statistics class. Before you start doing anything, begin with the raw data and how it was gathered.

        • art frewin

          yes i had a couple of statistics class. you can make the statistics say whatever you want. i think i had one in engineering and then one in the pre mba program.

  • Don Ward

    Others have noted their skepticism about the “stats” presented here. I’d like to bring up an observation on some of the stats that haven’t been discussed.

    Namely stats 7 through 11 where it posits that world class shooter Jerry Miculek is only less than one second faster than an “average” shooter in drawing a handgun. And that is after decades of training and hundreds of thousands of rounds fired. Furthermore, trained police officers are only 10 percent more effective than a complete novice at firing a handgun in most combat ranges.

    Assuming these stats are correct, what this tells me is that most of the conventional wisdom bandied about in gun circles in magazines, the Internet and YouTube about gun owners needing to “get training” is kind of hogwash.

    Certainly if you like shooting guns as a hobby, there is no harm LARPing by playing in 3-Gun competitions or taking tactical training courses where you can fantasize about taking down gangs of armed Mexican cartel hitmen.

    But in the real world it doesn’t matter if you can shave off a tenth of a second from your draw time or narrow your shot groupings down a half an inch where in reality, having a decent understanding of yourself and your weapon is good enough to “win” a gunfight.

    A more important factor is developing the street smarts to recognize a threat before it presents itself and have your weapon drawn – or ready to be drawn – before the threat materializes.

    Better yet, have the skills which allow you to avoid a gunfight in the first place.

    • Giolli Joker

      Jerry

      • Don Ward

        Kerrected muh mispellin

        • Giolli Joker

          It’s my fanboysm for JM that made me do it.

    • valorius

      American rifleman’s “Armed citizen” proves every month that even with no training and even in the face of a determined criminal attack, a novice can win the day with virtually ANY type of firearm.

      The single most important thing, by far, is having a loaded gun of any kind at all handy.

      • h4rr4r

        American Rifleman’s “Armed citizen” is basically penthouse letters for a certain set.

    • Cory C

      I generally appreciate the point you’re making, but I think it’s somewhat off target. The FBI has concluded that most gun fights happen within a few feet and that, at such short ranges, skill doesn’t matter, because anyone can point and shoot at a target that is three feet away. They ultimately conclude that a novice who is close in proximity is far more of a threat than a seasoned shooter who is at some remove. Assuming that’s perfectly accurate (and it probably is), that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to train. It means that you only need to train for distances where skill plays a role. If they’re five feet away from you, it does no good to draw, bring it up to the chest, push it out, front sight, front sight, front sight, and then shoot. But at five yards it sure the heck does.

      • Cory C

        Scratch that. I reread what you wrote and I think we’re on the same page. Sorry if I misunderstood you.

  • scaatylobo

    The quoted factoid is ” , America can typically expect only between 300-400 incidents of law enforcement officers firing their weapons at persons annually. Incredibly, it is estimated that in America, less than 12 percent of police officers will ever draw and fire their weapons at another person — in the entire course of their career! ”
    IF that is all you have as “fact” your whole article is nothing but poo ,flung a short distance.

  • John

    Wash post said 986 police shootings in just 2015. This article is B.S.

    Over 1000 in 2016.

    Total B.S.

    Let me clarify…over 1000 people KILLED by police.

    • ODgreen34

      Well that stat came from police one soooo. I would probably trust it before the Washington Post. Edit; I found some articles on the Guardian and fox that corroborate what the post said so it’s like you’re right

    • aka_mythos

      The statistics could be true if and only if the 12% career and 300-400 a year are really unlucky, trigger happy, or just in roles that subject them to greater risk by being involved multiple shootings a year. Consider something like SWAT officers. Or when you consider the disproportionate number of shootings within specific neighborhoods of certain major cities it is possible for a handful of patrol officers to see more than their fair share.

    • L Cavendish

      shootings…not always killings

  • Marcus D.

    “From these stats, we can infer that a police officer is roughly twice as likely to use their firearms as the average citizen.”

    Wait just a sec here. If 300-400 police officers fire their guns every year, and there are 259 civilian justifiable homicides, how is it that police officers are twice as likely to use their firearms? Second, the stats from the VPC are heavily slanted to make it appear civilians do not need firearms, which is accomplished by a) relying on news reports, b) ignoring nonfatal shootings, and c) totally ignoring estimates from multiple researchers estimating 60,000 to 2,500,000 DGUs per year in which no shots were fired. The extreme bias of the reporter is readily apparent, and the conclusions drawn patently false.

  • Moonman45

    300 million people in the united states

    Media cherrypicking of darling news stories and overexposure make justified shooting of african americans by police seem like a problem, when you actually look at the data, blacks get off easy considering the soft genocide they seem to commit against whites.

    • L Cavendish

      325M…or more…depending on the illegal count

  • Ark

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

    This is garbage, as is the conclusion that follows it. I can claim anything on a survey, and even if I think I’m being truthful, that doesn’t mean that anything was actually prevented. When you compare that statistic to the number of actual justifiable homicides, it’s laughable.

    A far more likely explanation is that owning or carrying guns makes you THINK you’re making yourself safer and preventing crimes, and there’s a social desirability bias as a gun owner to claim on a survey that your gun prevented a crime, thus reinforcing your decision to carry it.

  • adverse4

    Statistics only matter if you are one.

    • Nashvone

      Everyone is a statistic. The only difference is which column your name is in.

  • RustyNutz

    Sorry, wat?
    “From these stats, we can infer that a police officer is roughly twice as likely to use their firearms as the average citizen.”
    only 2x huh. I have to pass thru a skecty neighborhood less than 2x a year, but cops working 40hr weeks in crap areas are only 2x as likely than your average joe to use their firearm…riiiiiiight

    • L Cavendish

      I am a fed leo at an airport…29 years…have never had to draw my gun yet…
      over 95% of my fellow officers can claim the same…tens of thousands of us
      so we skew to the safer side
      now on the Mexico/US border…whole different story…

  • h4rr4r

    Incredibly low?
    That seems hugely high. There are countries that single digit numbers.

    I don’t blame the officers I blame training and recruitment practices. When we intentionally only train for threat escalation and eliminate higher IQ individuals from recruitment this is what we get.

  • cwolf

    Range shooting is far different than dynamic or what I’ll call ‘surprise’ shooting.

    In one test of highly qualified KD shooters on moving targets, there were zero hits.

    The FBI now qualifies shooting from the draw in duty clothing. Plus they train tactics. Shooting from the draw while moving to cover while being shot at is somewhat more difficult than standing at a range shooting paper.

    All of which is why Simunition training offers some advantages.

    I’d like to see research on the effects of better sights.

    In the meantime, 148,000 folks die every year from trauma (Nat Acad of Sci). The leading cause of death for <40 something folks. Roughly 30,000+ or so of those could be saved by better trauma care. It is the Golden 5 min. So if you want save lives, get trauma first aid training and carry a kit with trauma dressings and tourniquet.

    Cheers.

  • Dragonheart

    “From these stats, we can infer that a police officer is roughly twice as likely to use their firearms as the average citizen.”

    I don’t know how you come up with that one, but as a citizen having carried a gun for over 45 years I have never had an incident that has required me to draw my handgun and I think you will find that is the norm for almost all concealed carry permit holders. Yes, there are some Rambo’s that pull a gun to threaten, which is illegal and stupid, but very few with CC will ever have a need to use their firearm.

  • steve

    is it just me, or do facts one and two seem to completely contradict eachother, considering the huge number of police officers in this country?

  • William Elliott

    any article that references TVPC is IMMEDIATELY suspect.

  • supergun

    Requiring citizens to have a permit in order to bear arms is against the Constitution.

  • supergun

    So many idiots out there. So many guns.