How to Deal with a Confrontation With an Unarmed Assailant

New member and poster here. By introduction, I am an attorney (commercial law), so I should arguably know the answer to this question already.

My thesis is that facing an unarmed opponent may very well be your most dangerous encounter. I offer two scenarios for consideration: (1) situation where you have not revealed your weapon; and (2) situation where you have in some form revealed the fact that you are armed, including but not limited to attempting to use the threat of deadly force to scare off your opponent.

Scenario #1: Assume no safe escape option. You are confronted by an unarmed assailant who is doing his best to draw you into street fight. Maybe you have some martial arts training, and maybe you are confident you could some kick some butt as needed with your bare hands.

But if you get pulled into a grappling match on the ground, e.g., then even if you are “winning” the fistfight, there is nonetheless still a deadly weapon involved: yours! A fistfight presents an opportunity for your adversary to capture your gun and use it against you.

How would you handle this? To the extent deadly force plays a part in your self-defense, one could argue that this is your fault – you are the one who “brought a gun to a fistfight”. In other words, you are the one who introduced deadly force into the equation, so your hands are not completely clean of responsibility vis-a-vis the outcome.

Scenario #2. Same setup, except now you have (intentionally) revealed that you are armed. This could be you presenting in a low-ready, showing your holster, or by giving a verbal warning you are armed, or anything along those lines. You had hoped that introducing your firearm would scare off the bad guy.

Instead, your adversary becomes more aggressive, essentially “calling your bluff.” He says something along the lines of, “I’m gonna take that gun away from you, shove it down your throat, and kill you with it.” Then he begins walking towards you, seemingly unfazed.

Again, if this guy gets your weapon, then your life will be endangered.
But, until that happens you would be shooting an unarmed assailant. Not a good look for when the cops show up.

So, any thoughts or suggestions? This is just a though experiment for now, but I can very, very easily envision that scenario – especially if your opponent is under the influence of PCP, e.g.

You have now affirmatively introduced deadly force, but you can’t exactly shoot an unarmed man (absent additional factors). And if you do shoot because you now fear for your life if your weapon is taken , you will have some tough counterarguments. Why did you reveal your weapon in the first place? You threatened lethal force against an unarmed (for now) assailant, so arguably you set this chain of events into motion.

This is just a though experiment for now, but I can very, very easily envision that scenario – especially if your opponent is under the influence of PCP, e.g.


Scenario 1, we do not get into fights. We avoid confrontation. Using situational awareness is quite effective in avoiding conflict. If you are unable to get away, and that person attacks, if there is a disparity of force, and you have a fear of great bodily harm or death, then drawing your firearm, if you can do so safely, is legal self-defense. In some states brandishing to stop the threat of violence is also legal. If the person is coming toward you, you can yell commands to get away, stop, etc., if the person continues toward you in a threatening manner, then drawing would be a legal self-defense. At no time is fighting a good scenario. The intent of a self-defense handgun is to neutralize the threat, not to get into a fight. When you get into a fight, you could be charged with assault. Laws are quite clear, breaking the law while in possession of a firearm, whether or not it is used, is still commission of a crime while armed.

Scenario 2, essentially is the same as scenario 1. One only draws when one has the legal justification and intent to use the firearm. Typically brandishing is illegal. If the threat of great bodily harm or death is believable, then use of the firearm to neutralize the threat is legal self-defense. Disparity of force makes use of a firearm in self-defense legal, whether or not the assailant is armed with anything or just his/her bare hands.


I do not know the other party so I do not know their level of training.
I have no means to escape of evade.
I am not getting into a fist fight.
If I fear for my life I am justified in pulling my weapon.
Pulling my weapon does not mean I have to fire it if the other party retreats.
If the other party advances to do me bodily harm I will stop the threat.


George Zimmerman lost this kind of exchange in the court of public opinion.


I have never started a fight. I avoid the situation the best I can. I have never had to draw my gun on anyone. But, when the other person makes a decision to fight and my life or someone I love is in danger… I am not looking for a fair fight. I am looking at an overwhelming advantage. I will shoot to stop, not to neccesarily kill. That’s entirely to the perp, it’s their action and decision that warrants an action from me. I pray daily I never have to use my firearm on another human.


First of all, He is very mad at me? Why? What brought this on? This is were the whole thing start. What did I do to escalate this to the point of a fight? Then if I defend myself with a gun I am guilty of murder. The details of what brought this on in the first place is a key factor. Did you egg it on? The first thing a person has to do is avoid. To escalate a situation makes you guilty of the first factor of use of deadly force. Rule two is escape but, if you placed yourself in an inescapable situation, you failed to avoid the dangerous scenario. To use your gun would not fit in the category of a good and legal self-defensive response.


Great feedback, All!

For the record, I am as active at avoidance as possible; escaping before escalation is ideal. However, please “don’t fight the facts in the question.” (They yelled this at us in law school for 3 years.) Dave17 has framed the issue perfectly.

But if you need more, try this: You are at a bar to see a friend’s band play. Big dude bumps into and spills his drink. He immediately goes ballistic, yelling all kinds of threats, because obviously this is your fault as far as he’s concerned. In an attempt to avoid, you go through a nearby door; traversing the crowd is not feasible. Unfortunately, you find yourself in a storage room with no other egress, and BG follows you, shutting the door behind him.

Thanks, guys – this one has been bothering me for a while now. It’s pretty much the only scenario I can envision where a gun on your person could arguably create a more dangerous situation than not having it.

More thoughts are welcomed!

I would never retreat to an unknown location or space. It could be worse than the current situation. I would have gone to the bar manager/ security/ bouncer as soon as the “big dude” started getting belligerent.
My real input… don’t do stupid things, with stupid people, at stupid times. I will never be in the scenerio you described. Ever.


George Zimmerman made a strategic blunder of pursuing a person for a length of time. This is not a part of proposed scenario.

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There is this gang ritual. It begins with a small guy/girl, possible a juvenile, taunting and harassing a larger guy. The heavy hitters stay concealed, and they are grading the punk’s performance. He/she is not going to stop if trash talking fails to get response, then punk will pelt the intended victim with objects. The object of this game is to severely or fatally injure the victim. If the victim gets close, the punk will stab or slash them and run, or his associates will pounce and pound the victim into the pavement.

The only way to win this encounter is to escape. Hand to hand combat is a losing proposition. Using a firearm against a disadvantaged “he is a good boy!” will lead you into a world of trouble. You must recognize the situation for what it is first. Situational awareness of people around you, their attire, tattoos, demeanor, dare I say, profiling people around you, can save you and your family.


There is no proof of that in any testimony.

That is what situational awareness does, it profiles the situation, that includes the people in it. It is not just “attire, tattoos, demeanor”, but seeing if they act differently than others in that scene. I personally do not profile attire and tattoos, but demeanor is an indicator. There’s a lot of people now-a-days with tattoos and they do not dress like they are Wall Street tycoons.


I thought 911 had advised him not to follow, he did anyway.

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Let’s not turn this into a George Zimmerman thread. I know I started it. My apologies.

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No, he was attacked going back to his vehicle as he was requested to do. The initial 911 call was edited to make it appear he initiated contact, but the full 911 call made it clear that he did not profile based on race, nor follow Martin.

Guys, all good thoughts, but we are straying from the issue i am trying to explore. The central issue is the legal implications resulting from an altercation between an unarmed aggressor and you.

Please don’t try to change the question – somehow, for whatever reason, you just are in this situation.


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Ok let’s see - I took 5 years of self defense - I have been in some sort of minor confrontations and never have I felt that I could not work my way out of it - I live in the northeast grew up in nyc - road rage - drunks and just some nuts -

I learned after martial arts that I was confident - that is why I always felt capable of talking / calming any situation down

I am now 62 not so quick as I was in my prime - I own a gun now - even though I have been blessed with no confrontation in the past 20 years I always pray I do not ever need to use deadly force -

My point I think I am trying to introduce

Is in both instances martial arts/ gun you gain an added confident boost of what you are capable of but besides confidence you develop awareness of your surroundings - who - what- where - that’s your defense

A good friend told be one day having power is great knowing when to use it is greater


You initially asked for scenario 1, “How would you handle this?”; and scenario 2, “So, any thoughts or suggestions?”

I believe we are all telling you, we would not get into that situation to begin with. As you notice, there is a similar theme in all of our answers. We do not seek violence. We seek to avoid violence and will not engage in it. We will try our best to avoid it, de-escalate a situation, and if given no other alternative, neutralize the threat. Fighting is not an option. As I stated earlier, once one gets “into a fight”, one could be charged with a crime, and if armed with a firearm, be charged with a crime with a deadly weapon, whether or not it was used.


@Thomas153… an anti-gun troll just looking for a responsible armed citizen to just say “I would shot them”.
Why is this the only thread you involve yourself in? There is tons of reading to learn defensive training if you wanted. But your profile shows this is the only thread you read.

Prove me wrong.

Until then I would highly recommend we all stop responding to this thread. I have received PMs from other forum members concerned about your intentions and thought I would address those issues publicly.


Every situation is going to be unique and everyone will respond to every situation differently than someone else will as we all have varied experience levels.

No two answers will be the same, @Thomas153. Is there a specific type of outcome you’re looking for?


Good call.