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Active Killer Advice Compendium | Active Response Training

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Written by Greg Ellifritz


After three large scale active killer attacks in this country last week, people want answers.  People want to know what tactics and strategies will help them prevail should they be present during an active killer attack in a public place.


I’ve been writing about the topic for almost two decades.  Other folks have been studying the problem for even longer than that. 


I’ve written 400 articles about active killer attacks. I’ve linked to over 1000 more articles on the same topic written by other authors. This is a compilation of the best of all that writing.


It’s not a quick read.  There are several books’ worth of words written in these links.   This is a topic that can’t be understood with a cursory amount of study.


If you read and understand the concepts in the 90 articles I’ve linked here, you will be a true expert on the topic.



 This list is in no real order.  It’s simply a curated list of the best active killer survival advice I’ve seen on the internet.  Scan through the articles and descriptions.  If one strikes your fancy, open it up and start reading.  By the time you get through most of these articles, you will be better informed with regards to active killer response than 99% of the people on the planet.  If you know about a great article that I didn’t include here, send me a message through my contact page and I will add the link.



What Should You Do if You’re Threatened by a Mass Murderer?


The author of this piece contacted me before it went to print. He got a lot of information from my website. It is a very in-depth analysis of the best strategies for dealing with an active killer. Great information.



Playing Dead?

Should you pretend to be dead in an active killer attack?  Hiding is not a good option either.



33 Active Shooter Statistics for Armed Citizens

Thirty-three fast facts for those of you interested in researching active killer events.



Field Medicine for Terrorist Attacks- Bleeding Control and Chest Injuries

Medical skills for active killer attacks.



Study of Wounds in Civilian Mass Shooting Fatalities: Few Who Die Could Have Been Saved

Read the previous linked article.  Now recognize that those skills may or may not be of use to you in an active killer attack,  Our plans to provide medical care in an active killer event may be a bit optimistic.  Some stats to consider:

– Only 7% of victims in civilian mass shootings had a potentially survivable wound. No fatalities likely occurred secondary to exsanguination from extremity hemorrhage
– The majority of wounds in civilian mass shootings occur primarily in the head, chest/upper back compared to combat environments where the majority of wounds occur in the extremities.
– The case fatality rate for civilian mass shootings compared to military data was much higher, and associated with lower number of potentially survivable injuries



Weapon Malfunctions in an Active Shooter Event

A comprehensive list of active killer attacks where the attacker had a weapon malfunction or an empty gun.




“If we can deprive him of the ability to make his internal psychodrama a shared public reality, if we can break this ritual of violence and our own ritual response, then we might just banish these dreadful and all too frequent acts to the realm of vile fantasy.”



Should I Pull the Fire Alarm During a Mass Shooting?

Why pulling the fire alarm during an active killer attack is a bad idea.



What Training is Sufficient for Civilians in Responding to an Active Shooter?

What kind of training might you need to prevail in an active killer attack?



Surviving a Movie Theater Shooting

Tactics for surviving a shooting at a movie theater.




Some considerations for intervening against an active killer.  His equipment list is good, but unlikely to be used.  These events generally are finished in less than four minutes.  Unless you are wearing your plates and kit everywhere in public, you aren’t likely to be able to get to them in time to stop the shooting.



Recognizing the Sound of Gunfire

A very important skill to have in today’s world.  You should also read Are Those Really Gunshots?



Single Officer Response in Active Shooter Events


Chuck makes an excellent case for the single officer (or citizen) response to an active shooter.



Don’t Evacuate into a Parking Lot

A critically important concept to understand.



Inside the mind of a mass killer


A fascinating study of some of the most infamous active killers.  It showed that paranoia and intense rage drove their actions, not the “bullying” that is commonly reported.  I’ve written many times that most of the killers I’ve studied were not bullied.  It’s nice to see people with letters behind their names coming to a similar conclusion.

“The researchers also dispelled another myth of mass murderers – that bullying plays a huge part in their development after finding no references to being teased by classmates or colleagues.”



Deep Concealment Options for the “Non-Permissive Environment”

Some options for protecting yourself in “non-permissive” environments.



Surviving an Active Shooter


Great advice from Michael Janich about surviving a confrontation with an active killer, even if you are unarmed.



Islamic Terrorist Hostage Sieges

How to tell the difference between a hostage siege and a “normal” active killer attack.





Lots of quality information that will help you prevail against an active killer.  This article has similar recommendations in a more academic format (opens to PDF).



Active Killers Using Fire Alarms to Facilitate an Attack

A complete listing of all the cases where active killers have utilized a fire alarm to increase their body count and some best practices advice for police response to such alarms.



What to Do in an Active Shooter Situation


This isn’t a bad article. I have some issues with the statement “Running away should always be your first line of action.”

If the author said running should “generally” be your first action or “usually” be your first consideration, I would agree.

There are very few “always” statements when dealing with an active killer.



‘Close Your Eyes and Pretend to Be Dead’

FireShot Screen Capture #041 - '‘Close Your Eyes and Pretend to Be Dead’_' - foreignpolicy_com_2015_09_20_nairobi-kenya-westgate-mall-attack-al-shabab

A minute-by-minute account of the events that transpired in the al-Shabab attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya.  This is a long article.  Take the time to read it.



The Ever-Changing Nature of Active Killer Response

A unique look at how cops should be altering their active killer response tactics in order to stop the killing more quickly.



What cops need to tell their families about active shooters

This is basic active killer survival advice that will be valuable to anyone.  It’s not just for cops.



Active Shooter Response for the Armed Citizen

The best article I’ve written on the topic.



Congressional Research Service Releases Study of Mass Shootings


The Congressional Research Service released this study on active killers and mass shootings.  The highlights are in the linked article.  The full study is HERE.  The researchers used data provided by Grant Duwe, the author of Mass Murder in the United States.  If you are truly interested in the subject matter, that book should be on your reading list.



Active shooters: Trends in the United States and perpetrators’ characteristics


A compilation of some of the data we know about active killers.



Naked and Afraid: Fighting an Active Shooter When You are Unarmed

How to set up an ambush to kill an active shooter when you are unarmed or only carrying contact distance weapons.



The New Tactical Reality


Michael Bane shares some advice about the realities of how we must live in an age of terrorism, active killers, and 4th generation warfare.



Armed Citizen Considerations in the Time of the Active Killer

Some things you should be considering before engaging an active killer.



Active Killer Pre-Attack Behavior

Highlights from the FBI’s latest research.



“I’m a Concealed Carrier. Should I Engage an Active Shooter?”


Some important things to consider before you go after the active killer.  If you like this article, you will probably enjoy the author’s book “Safe from the War.



A New Active Killer Trend and Eight Ways to Counter It

The latest trend is for active killers to begin their attacks OUTSIDE and them move inside.  Here are some ways to stop that type of attack.




6a0133ec985af6970b01b8d20e9a67970c-500wi There is a distinct difference in the way one might use a knife defensively against an attacker and offensively against a terrorist or active killer.  Defense against a common criminal will often be centered on doing enough damage to make the attacker stop his attack so that you can make an escape.  When you are working against a terrorist who won’t stop until he is dead, a different strategy is needed.  Check out this article for some ideas.



“Run, Hide, Fight?”- Not Always the Best Active Killer Response

When you should run.  When you should hide.  And when you should fight.



What History Can Teach Us About Mass Killings

A look back at how mass murderers have been treated in other historic cultures around the planet.  It seems that reducing notoriety and depriving the killer or a dramatic death is one of the keys to preventing these killings.



Weapon Handling in an Active Killer Event

How to avoid being shot by the police after engaging an active killer.



“Do bans on large-capacity magazines (LCMs) for semiautomatic firearms have significant potential for reducing the number of deaths and injuries in mass shootings? The most common rationale for an effect of LCM use is that they allow mass killers to fire many rounds without reloading. LCMs are known to have been used in less than one third of 1% of mass shootings. News accounts of 23 shootings in which more than six people were killed or wounded and LCMs were known to have been used, occurring in the United States in 1994–2013, were examined. There was only one incident in which the shooter may have been stopped by bystander intervention when he tried to reload. In all of these 23 incidents, the shooter possessed either multiple guns or multiple magazines, meaning that the shooter, even if denied LCMs, could have continued firing without significant interruption by either switching loaded guns or changing smaller loaded magazines with only a 2- to 4-seconds delay for each magazine change. Finally, the data indicate that mass shooters maintain such slow rates of fire that the time needed to reload would not increase the time between shots and thus the time available for prospective victims to escape.”



Just Run?

Aaron talks about the limitation of running as a response to an active shooter attack.  I agree.  Lots of people aren’t fit enough to run away

For another take on the issue, watch Running Away Isn’t Always an Option.



Is Mass Murder Exceptionally American?

You might be surprised if you actually dig in to the statistics:

“While our rates of firearms mass murder are higher than most other developed nations, we are not at the top of the list.

Including non-firearms mass murders might move us further down the list.”



Why The Vegas Shooting Happened, and Why Men Keep Doing This

Everyone keeps looking for the reason that an apparently successful man would decide to commit mass murder.  This article has a hypothesis.  While the factors mentioned are probably not the sole causative factors in the shooting, I would guess that they played a role.  It’s rare that happy and connected people become mass murderers.



FBI Data Shows Armed Citizens Have 94% Success Rate Stopping Would-Be Mass Shooters

“Of all the active shooter events there were 33 at which an armed citizen was present. Of those, Armed Citizens were successful at stopping the Active shooter 75.8% of the time (25 incidents) and were successful in reducing the loss of life in an additional 18.2% (6) of incidents. In only 2 of the 33 incidents (6.1%) was the Armed Citizen(s) not helpful in any way in stopping the active shooter or reducing the loss of life.”

Want a few more statistics?  How about the fact that 98% of all mass shootings in the United States occurred in “gun free” zones.  These spree killers don’t want a fight.  They want a high body count.  In order to get that, you need to target victims who can’t effectively fight back.



Why Mass Shootings Keep Happening


An insightful interview with a man who was arrested as he was carjacking a vehicle in route to commit a mass killing.  The man served 10 years in prison for his crime and provides a glimpse into the mindset of an active killer.

“I’d be lying in bed wondering what I was doing wrong. Why didn’t anybody like me? Why was everybody against me? I could have thought, Well, I’m a loser. But I didn’t want to think that. So I started thinking they were losers. I started thinking that they didn’t like me because they were afraid of me—because I had power and they didn’t. Because I was special. And that’s when it all really got started:

“When I began thinking I was special.”

It’s a very long read, but it’s quite useful for anyone interested in stopping rampage killings.



What Motivates Mass Murderers



John Lott has a great article about active killer motivation…it isn’t about being bullied.




A critical issue in the context of active shooter response…and one that few people are discussing.  It’s important to be able to identify the bad guys if you are caught up in a mass killing.  It’s even more important not to be identified as a bad guy yourself when you attempt to rescue people.

You will also want to check out Short Barrel Shepherd’s followup article on how not to be confused for a bad guy in an active killer event.



When Running Will Get You Killed Against An Active Killer (With Pictures)


I’ve written an article critiquing the “Run, Hide, Fight” model of responding to an active killer.  In this article, Caleb digs even deeper into the “Run” part of that response and covers exactly when you should run from an active killer and when that would be a poor idea.  Excellent information.



Mass killings and school shootings are contagious


We’ve always warned about “copycat shootings” after a large active killer event.  Here’s an analysis that shows our suspicions are correct.  There is a heightened chance for another mass shooting in the 13 day time period after a previous mass shooting event.  The only problem is that the research relied on databases from USA Today and The Brady Center for Handgun Violence.  Neither of these are unbiased sources.  The original study is reported HERE.



NYPD Active Shooter Recommendations and Analysis


A solid piece of work published by NYPD.  In addition to providing trend data and best practices for dealing with an active killer, the report also provides details on more than 400 active killer attacks worldwide.



The biggest questions about gun violence that researchers would still like to see answered


You might be surprised to learn that we don’t have much formal research on active killing events.  Here’s an article about what we know, and more importantly, what we don’t know.



Malcolm Gladwell: Why mass shootings, like Orlando’s club attack, keep happening


Learn about the “threshold effect” as an explanation for why active killings are increasing.  John Robb has an alternate explanation.  He doesn’t believe “Lone Wolf” terrorism exists.



Aftermath: The Rush to Do -Something-


“In the immediate aftershock of any tragic incident, we feel the need to do something; it doesn’t really matter if it will work, so long as it makes some people “feel safe”. If we’re not careful we lose sight of long term planning, and overrun our headlights.”



Fighting in Degraded Mode


If you are going to be fighting an active killer who is armed with a rifle, there’s a good chance you’ll get shot.  Do you have a plan for how you will operate your gun if one or both hands are injured?



Fear, Slaughter in Progress and other thoughts…


Dave Spaulding’s thoughts on resisting the terrorist active killer.



Waiting Will Get You Killed

Why it’s especially important to have an armed defender at the scene of every possible attack location.



Facing the Active Killer: The choice is yours.


Dave Spaulding’s thoughts on active killer response.  



It’s the Age of the Active Shooter and We Can’t Talk About It


Some of the challenges involved in creating an effective response strategy for active killer events.



How To NOT Get Shot by Responding Law Enforcement


Excellent advice here for avoiding being accidentally shot by police if you respond to an active killer attack.



Burlingame: Preparing for the next strike


A comprehensive three-part article series about preparing for an active killer situation.  Read Part Two and Part Three as well.



How to Counter Armed Assaults


Information about countering active killer scenarios from Stratfor.



10 Lessons For Armed Citizens

Best practices for civilian active shooter response.



Perspectives: Wishful Thinking & Playing Dead is not a Plan


The question is: “What can the average person do to prevent or respond to a terrorist attack like the one in France?” Breach Bang Clear interviews several tactical experts to get the answers in this three-part series. I was honored to be included in the list with such legendary trainers as Kyle Lamb, Steve Tarani, and Mike Pannone. This is part one of the series. My answers appear in the next installment.  Foe even more opinions, check out Part Three.



Think like a Veteran: Surviving a violent attack


Two experts give specific guidance for surviving active killer attacks across a wide range of different locations.



Ten Ways To Avoid Being Killed During A Terrorist Attack


A clickbait style “list-icle” title, but good information written by a veteran police officer and SWAT magazine writer.



‘Run-Hide-Fight’: Former Navy SEAL Reveals How You Can Survive a Terrorist Attack


Good information from a former Navy Seal.  I don’t like his advice on fleeing.  Zig-zagging is generally NOT the best way to escape.  His advice on defense against hand grenade threats is extremely useful and rarely discussed outside the military





Some basic advice for defense against active killers and a very good list of all the major active killer attacks that have occurred in America since the year 2000.  This article provides some more quality active killer advice.



Preparation to Stop a Mass Shooter

A long interview with Marty Hayes about some of the things you should be considering with regard to stopping an active killer attack.



Everything You Think You Know About An Active Shooter Situation Is Wrong

The information in this article is very useful.  I would caution you, however not to always expect that the active killer is a lone. poorly trained kid with a revolver.  Most current active killers (and virtually all terrorist attacks) involve long guns.  The terrorist attacks also often have more than one killer involved.  Be alert and know what you are getting into before you take action.



Mass Shootings Are Actually Pretty Rare, but Here’s What to Do if You’re Ever in One

One of the best articles I’ve read about unarmed response to an active killer event.



Mass Attacks in Public Spaces

Check out the Secret Service’s report on active killer events.



Why active shooter drills didn’t help in the Florida high school shooting

I’ve written about the need for police officers to respond to school fire alarms. This article serves as a good followup. It has an excellent list of best practices for teachers (and students) to follow in the event a fire alarm goes off in a school.  The expert cited here wrote a really good post-Columbine book about school shootings that doesn’t get the press it deserves.

For some more “best practices” to prevent school violence, check out Gavin DeBecker’s Questions for your Child’s School.



Comparing Death Rates from Mass Public Shootings and Mass Public Violence in the US and Europe

The mass shooting phenomenon is certainly not limited to the United States.  In fact, the US mass shooting rate is below the world average.




Compiling Cases where concealed handgun permit holders have stopped mass public shootings and other mass attacks

A very long list of incidents where armed citizens have stopped active killer attacks



Inside an accused school shooter’s mind: A plot to kill ‘50 or 60. If I get lucky maybe 150.’

This is the single best article I’ve read regarding active killer mindset.  Almost all active killers think exactly like this one.  It’s truly an insight into a very sick brain.

Read Everett Teen Sentenced 22 Years for School Shooting Plot for a very similar perspective.



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