In the last issue of Tactical Retailer, we examined the where, how and what of self-defense. That included looking at the myriad locations where moments requiring self-defense occur, examining how those situations unfold and looking at what actions are taken to save lives and property when every second counts.
In doing this we saw there is no place off limits to an attack, and the main characteristic for how such situations unfold could be summed up in one word — quickly. We saw the “what” people used in responding to attacks was sometimes a handgun, sometimes a shotgun and at other times an AR-15 or similar rifle. The key was just having a firearm close at hand — whether it was a handgun or a long gun — and being familiar with it and prepared to use it should push come to shove.
A practical, real-life example that brings all of these things together took place in a semi-rural area outside of Detroit, Michigan, in 2012, when Matt Smithers and his wife Holly were headed home after dinner in the city. They had not had much time together because of work, and a sitter was watching the kids for the night so they could enjoy each other’s company.
Returning home from dinner, Matt said they traveled on a number of roads, each of which became a bit smaller — a bit more rural — as they drove toward their house. Eventually, they came to a dirt road that took them through the final couple of miles to their home, and it was on the dirt road, in the pitch black of night, that Matt came across something that made an indelible mark on his outlook toward self-defense.
Matt and Holly were rolling along in their pickup truck and listening to the radio when they crested a hill and saw another pickup truck sitting in the middle of the road with no lights on. He slowed down and inched up beside the truck. He saw there was no movement in the cab. He continued to gently pass by, ready to get home, pay the sitter and go to bed.
However, his plans for the night came crashing down when he looked in this rearview mirror and saw the headlights turn on just as he passed the parked truck. He then noticed the truck was moving and began barreling toward the back of his truck. He told Holly to be sure her seatbelt was on and asked her to brace herself. Just as he said these things, the truck rammed his back bumper and forced him to take evasive maneuvers to keep his truck on the road.
Once he was running straight again, Matt floored his truck to cover the last half of a mile to his driveway. When he got there he decelerated somewhat, then cut the wheel sharply right, locked and unlocked the brakes and managed to get his truck to turn so he was facing his house when he began accelerating once more.
Matt said his drive is about 75 yards long, with a circle at the end — just before the front door of their house. He saw the pursuing truck made the turn as well and was coming down the driveway behind him.
When he got to the house, Matt told Holly to get the kids and call 911. He then jumped out of the truck and reached into their car parked in the driveway and retrieved his .40-caliber FNP pistol as the strange truck pulled up on him.
Matt said he was standing about 10 yards in front of the truck. The headlights of the truck blinded him from seeing how many occupants might be inside or what the occupants were doing.
The driver kept revving his engine the way someone might do at a stoplight if they were trying to get another driver to race them.
“Get off my property, the police are on the way,” Matt yelled as he fired two warning shots into the ground. The driver just kept revving the engine. Matt raised the gun and pointed it at the windshield, hoping the totality of warning shots, the call for police and now the gun pointed at the windshield would convince the driver it was time to relent.
Without saying a word, the driver floored the truck and it lunged toward Matt, who responded by opening fire and diving to his left. He continued to fire all the way to the ground, putting three shots through the windshield and shooting out both windows on the passenger side of the truck before the vehicle stopped. He learned later that the driver bent down under the level of the dash before flooring the vehicle so the dash and engine block could protect him from gunfire.
Still, the barrage of bullets seemed to make an impression, and the driver hit the brakes, reversed until he could turn around, then sped down the driveway and back onto the dirt road. He did not get far before being captured by police, who were rushing to the house in response to Holly’s 911 call.
The suspect was intoxicated and was charged with felony assault, which he later pleaded down to a misdemeanor.
We asked Matt what lessons he took from the event that might be good to pass on to others and he said the key was to always have the gun with you. He stressed that his night could have ended far worse if the perp in the pickup truck had been able to sideswipe him and knock the Smithers’ truck into a ditch. That would have left Matt and Holly trapped and unarmed.
Matt said his handgun now goes with him in whichever vehicle he is driving.
Secondly, Matt said the higher the magazine capacity, the better. He stressed there is no way to understand the relief you feel and the confidence you gain from having four or five rounds of ammunition in a magazine during a life-and-death situation.
Lastly, Matt talked about the fact that he knew where those bullets were going when he pulled the trigger. He said he knew because he had taken time to shoot a lot of rounds through the gun, so he was familiar with it.
“Everything happens in the blink of an eye,” he said. “In that blink, there isn’t time for you to train yourself on how to use the gun. That’s something you have to do beforehand.”