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We were recently at the range for an in-house training day and one of the topics that we covered was the use of a verbal challenge.

The challenge serves two very real purposes. First, it may serve as sufficient warning to the threat that he will back off and disengage. This counts as a major win, as use of deadly force, with all the attending consequences, is avoided. Secondly, it identifies you to any within hearing range as the “good guy”, the defender, and not the aggressor. This can be critical in making your case for the subsequent use of deadly force.

Now that we’ve established a reason for use of a verbal, how do we go about issuing it? First and foremost, even for those of us that are former LEO’s, do NOT use the word “Police” in the challenge. For former or retired LEO’s this may require some re-training, however, stupid as it may seem, there are those who would attempt to make a case on your mindset based on the challenge, or even go as far as to say you were impersonating a LEO, which is a criminal offense in most jurisdictions.

When left to their own devices, most CCW users will shout something like “Drop the weapon” or, more specifically, “Drop the gun”. The problem arises with ingraining a conditioned response to use that phrase IF the threat does not have a gun. “Drop the weapon” is more generic, but again, what if it is several bad guys, none of whom appear to be armed?

I prefer using one of two phrases, either of which are clear and concise; “Don’t Move!” or “Back Off!” are both very clear challenges that leave no doubt about what you want, both also establish you to any witnesses as the VICTIM, not the aggressor.

Another point that needs mentioning is not to use profanity in your challenge. On our first run, one of our group, prior to discussion/instruction, issued the following: “Drop the F*****g Gun!” immediately followed by his well-placed gunshots. As those of us that have spent any time at all interviewing witnesses knows, eyewitness visual and auditory comprehension can be lacking. It would not surprise me at all to find one, if not more, witnesses who would assuredly state, “The one guy shouted “F**K YOU”, and then shot the other one.” While this type of thing can be overcome, why have to deal with it in the first place? Using profanity does NOT add authority to the challenge, nor does it impress anyone who has spent any time in the underbelly of society.

Short, concise, authoritative commands will go much further in getting compliance. Under the stress of a potential deadly force encounter, you want there to be absolutely no chance of anyone misunderstanding your commands.

Structuring a drill for this is simple enough. Whoever is calling your range commands calls out either “Challenge” or “Threat”. Verbalization should occur with either command, the “Threat” command is followed by immediate fire; “Challenge” is not. The “Challenge” command is followed by either “Threat” (non-compliance), or “Recover”, to indicate that the threat fled or complied. You can carry this further, giving concise commands to the threat to keep hands visible, turn away and kneel or prone out, cross legs, etc. The benefit in placing them at a disadvantaged position is also two-fold. They cannot easily respond from these positions, and any responding officers are far more likely to think you are the “good guy” and not a mugging gone wrong. BTW, in the case of holding a suspect at gunpoint, STAY ON THE LINE with 911 until after the police arrive and you are established as the victim, and always comply with any commands the responding LEO’s issue.

Understand that nothing in this post is meant to be legal advice, it consists of common-sense procedures and drills we feel you should be practicing and following as a civilian CCW user. As always, for specific legal advice regarding any procedures you have a question about, contact an attorney in your own jurisdiction.