How To Avoid Confusion?

How would you, as a concealed carrier, avoid confusion with other carriers during an active shooting? What would you say to let others know that you are not another shooter but a civilian trying to protect yourself and others? How would you avoid being shot by a confused, carrying bystander who sees you brandishing your weapon/shooting at an active shooter? I wonder this because I do believe that if more people carried on them, they would be safer in situations such as this. (It beats the alternative of hiding and hoping you don’t get shot.) That is my only qualm with the whole thing. If I’m out with my wife at the mall, and in the shop we’re in someone begins shooting at people, and I deem it necessary to put them down to protect myself, my wife, and others, how do I avoid being shot at by someone else who is ALSO carrying, simply trying to protect themselves and others? Should I announce my intentions to those in the general vicinity? I suppose an off-duty cop would have this same problem.

Thanks everyone.


You’re not going to like this but there is no hard and fast rule for you to follow here.

GENERALLY the good guys won’t have much trouble identifying each other because they will all be pointing their weapons in the same direction.

More importantly they won’t be the people firing randombly in a crowd hopefully.

All you can do is assess the situation look for other “Responsibly Armed Americans”, try to establish communication with them in some fashion and then if not work in concert with one another to resolve the situation at least you won’t be shooting at one another errantly.

Just like you identify bad guys by their actions you can GENERALLY identify the good guys by their actions.


awesome, thanks. yeah, i didnt suppose there would necessarily be a hard rule to this. use your best judgement seems to be the best thing to do.

This maybe an unpopular approach but for me, I’m not going towards the gun fire. I’m going to be looking for an exit or a good defensive position so initially I’m going to look like everyone else (only calmer) if I cross paths with the shooter I’ll engage.

The reason I take this approach is for the exact reason in your question. People are going to be panicking and most are so oblivious to life that they’ll call 911 and report the first person they see with a gun as the shooter. The cops will be responding full of adrenaline and alot of bad information. I’m there to protect my family and myself, I’m sure that sounds selfish but everyone has the same opportunities for self awareness and self defense I do whether they take advantage of that or not is their personal decision.


That’s what I was thinking as I wrote this and before. The best option might be to get out if you can and protect your family. Going out of your way to find and put down the shooter wasn’t even on my mind. Get out with your family and help as many people out as possible would be my one and only priority. And if confronted with the shooter, obviously using lethal force (thus saving the life of more than just your family) would be the best option. I would never suggest or recommend anyone go out of their way to act like a vigilante and find the shooter themselves. That only risks hurting yourself and your family, when the goal would be to save as many people as possible. Very interesting situation with a lot of angles, that’s why I want to hear everybody’s point of view.

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I’m going to quote this and highlight the above because it cannot be emphasized enough.

As we’ve seen in some very unfortunate very high profile shootings, one in a Walmart and One in a city park involving shooters who had toy or airsoft guns and weren’t actually a threat to anyone we have no idea what information or how accurate that information is that arriving officers will have.

We expect cops to be Omnipotent and Omniscient but in truth they are just men and women trying to do a job who never have the full picture and frequently are operating on very bad information.

If you’re ever involved in any sort of self defense or public/mass shooting incident, armed or not please people keep this in mind.


In a mass shooting at say your office, mall, Big Box Store etc you have a whole lot of things to consider.

Can you get out without exposing yourself to fire?

Even if you have a good line of sight in all that confusion could you safely put shots on the bad guy or guys without harming innocents?

How many assailants are there? A few years back a good Samaritan in Las Vegas tried to intercede by following a would be mass shooter that had entered the store. He was doing a good job of getting himself in position to get a shot at the bad guy but suffered from “target lock” and failed to properly assess the situation and paid with his life. Why? The bad guy had a trailing accomplice who picked up on the Good Sam’s actions, snuck up behind him and put a bullet in his head.

Now the hard numbers, the average mass shooting is over in 3.5-4 minutes so unless police are already on the scene when it begins it’s probably going to be over before they can arrive. As such, you have to decide as an individual if the lives of a half dozen or more strangers are worth risking your own and you have typically only a few seconds to decide.

The more time we spend considering all these possible scenarios and playing “WWID” (what would I do) the better prepared we’ll be should we ever find ourselves facing such a situation.

We’re not cops, we’re not vigilantes, and we cannot be held liable if we don’t intervene, only if we do and make a mistake.

Our first duty is to ourselves and our families and if we’re going to ever find ourselves in such a situation we’re all better off if we’ve already decided under what circumstances we’re willing to risk not going home or possibly end up in jail for defending people outside of our own tight circle of friends and family.


If you were in a scenario where escape wasn’t an option but you could set up a good defensive position, I would get on the phone with 911 and keep the line open. Being very specific with your location, how many people are with you, what you’re wearing let them know you are armed and are staying put and update them as things progress. As stated before, the officers responding are human they’re getting a ton of information and the adrenaline is pumping the better you can communicate the better chance they have of responding as efficiently as possible. Also letting them know of casualties you can see, basically keep the line open and paint a picture.

This tape could also be used if you were to encounter the shooter so stay calm be descriptive but not opinionated. As @WildRose mentioned, a lot is going to happen fast you gotta have a basic plan now and adapt as the scenario plays out.

Example: In the mall scenario I keep aware of exits or service entrances and exits(plan a), then comes what stores would be best if the exit was too far or the shooter was in that direction (plan b), then the kiosks in the middle or structures.Obviously last resort but still might be the best option.(plan c)
Once I’ve made a decision on what plan is best once you’ve made it to cover or as you’re taking cover you’ll be assessing the next moves. At that point the scenario is going to dictate your options. The key is you didn’t waste brain power(causing hesitation) thinking of where to go. You used that brain power to assess the situation and evolve your plan.

Great job. “Have a Plan, Work the Plan and Always have a way out”.-My Grandad. Best and Wisest man I have ever known and WWII CB who served in the Pacific.

It can’t be reiterated enough, mental planning and preparedness along with commitment add up to about 90% of a successful self defense encounter.

As the USCCA Teaches "Recognition is what differentiates Warriors from everyone else.

Unless you’ve first set your limits on how far you are willing to go to prevail in any given situation, and run through every reasonable scenario you can imagine, and prepared basic reaction plans for them should they arise, you will always be one to three steps and seconds behind the bad guys and those steps and seconds can end your life or lead you into acting out of panic instead of appropriately.

A warrior instanly assesses, evaluates, and recognizes what is gong on and is already enacting their plan while everyone else is still trying to catch a clue.

This gives the mentally prepared and committed defender a decided edge greatly enhancing your chances of survival along with those of anyone else you may be defending.

“Fight, Flight, or Freeze” the latter is usually skipped even though it is how the average civilian reactions in a dynamic critical incident unless and until they are forced or prompted by others to take some sort of action.


I really like this forum. It’s my first day here & it already has provided me with so many different perspectives and a wealth of options to consider. Getting my family/friends and myself out of harms way is number one and then assisting others number two and engaging shooter only if they’re engaging me or possibly very close and I can catch them by surprise and stop the threat which would be number three

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@Sheepdog556 & @WildRose

Make excellent points given a dynamic situation such as a public shooting. The reactions of 99% of the sheeple will be to Freeze or Flight and will become a heard mentality when they begin to move. The effects of a mass exodus have been documented and studied for several years and are very enlightening, a lot of the data coming from soccer matches and fire incidents as well as “Black Friday Stampedes”. I saw a TV show a few years ago that showed a digital algorithm that was used in the design of building sports stadiums and their exits. Rather fascinating stuff on it’s face, but if you look just a bit deeper you can almost pick the “ebb” areas outside of the “crush” of the mass people movement.

A well planned terrorist attack or military ambush will have a trigger to cause the panic and movement towards a concentration point which will be the primary kill zone. Not being part of the heard mentality is generally effective at not entering the kill zone. A random shooter he!! bent on causing destruction may or may not have an actual tactic in mind but in general will be “FOLLOWING” the heard as they are running from the shots.

To borrow a name, the Sheep Dog’s, are facing the gun fire. They are kind of easy to identify as they are moving or facing AGAINST the flow. These are the guys/girls walking backwards (increasing space to either engage or defend), hunkered down facing the threat (waiting to engage or actively defending) or moving forward (moving to engage).

If you find yourself in an active shooter situation and notice a “pointed” gun it’s a pretty safe bet that if it’s pointed toward the fight that he’s on your side, That said I don’t trust anyone. I believe in gun control.

If there is a gun in the room I want to be in control of it.




Glad you’re getting so much out of the Community, @TX_M! Feel free to invite your family and friends to the Community as well. If they’re not USCCA members they can create free accounts for the Community!