Dealing with an Active Shooter Situation In Densely Populated Areas

Active shooters are a threat in modern society, and it pays to ensure that you’re prepared to deal with this type of situation. Time and time again we see that responsibly armed citizens are able to respond to an active shooter in a fraction of the time needed for law enforcement to arrive.

To put it simply, a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun and save countless lives (and they have!) But what should you do to ensure that you’re prepared to deal with an active shooter?

In this article, we will discuss actionable steps you can take today to ensure you’re better prepared for an active shooter and the decision tree you should employ should you find yourself in such a situation.

Proactive Steps

Although the intentions of active shooters can never be completely predicted, there are some things you can do every day to be proactive in case this situation arises. The three best practices to help prepare yourself for an active shooter are to practice situational awareness, know your exits, and always have your EDC on you every day.

Let’s dig into those a little deeper!

Situational Awareness

One of the best things you can do to prepare yourself for any potential self-defense situation is to constantly be aware of your surroundings.

The truth is that most of the public will aimlessly walk through their day unaware of what’s happening around them. However, if you want to be prepared for a potential shooting, you need to keep your eyes open and your head on a swivel. This doesn’t mean that you need to be constantly watching everyone like a hawk, but simply keeping your eyes and ears open to what’s happening around you gives you a massive edge should the worst happen.

In the aftermath of many shootings, witnesses often report that the shooter was “acting strange” prior to shots being fired or they just got a “bad feeling” about them. When you are out in public, make sure you take note of these people and listen to your intuition so that you can identify potential threats before the lead starts to fly.

Know Your Exits

Another excellent practice is to always have an escape route (or two) planned out ahead of time.

Whenever you enter an area where large groups of people often congregate, it’s a good practice to start identifying exits and paths of egress should a shooting event occur. During these emotionally tense situations, panic often ensues as the masses are ill-prepared to deal with life-threatening situations.

Knowing what your exit plan is before an active shooter starts to open up on a crowd gives you an edge when the herd of innocent bystanders starts to panic. Instead of joining in the stampede, you’ll know exactly where you need to go and, preferably, have several different escape routes planned out ahead of time.

Everyday Carry

Regardless of what side of the fence you sit on regarding gun control, the simple truth is that it takes a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun. Responsibly armed citizens can respond to active shooters considerably faster than it will take law enforcement to arrive on the scene.

Take for example the Greenwood Park Mall Shooting in 2022 where Elisjsha Dicken engaged an active shooter and ended the event 15 seconds after it began. Dicken had no formal military or law enforcement training and was taught how to shoot by his grandfather. Within seconds of the shooter engaging the crowd, Dicken drew his Glock 19 and landed 8 out of 10 shots of 9mm Luger into the suspect from a distance of 40 yards.

Although three innocent bystanders lost their lives that day, Greenwood Police Chief Jim Ison said of Dicken’s actions, “Many people would have died last night if not for a responsible armed citizen that took action very quickly within the first two minutes of this shooting.”

This incident is a perfect example of why it is so important to ensure your everyday carry (EDC) is squared away. If it is legal to do so in your area, concealed carrying (CCW) a handgun is the preferred method for responding to active shooters in a quick and efficient manner.

However, it is your duty to be aware of your state and local laws regarding concealed carry and where it is legal to do so. If carrying a firearm is not legal in your area, then always ensure you have some form of self-defense (knife, pepper spray) on your person at all times.

Reactive Steps: The Three E’s to Survive an Active Shooter

No matter how much you plan and prepare for an active shooter, it’s always a possibility that the situation will take you by surprise. If this happens, always remember the three E’s to deal with an active shooter: Escape, Evade, Engage


It is always preferable to escape a potential casualty event and not become a victim. If you hear shots being fired, quickly evaluate what direction they are coming from and begin moving away from them.

I know that as a responsible citizen, you are prepared to protect those around you. However, the wisest course of action is to exfiltrate from the situation as quickly as possible and avoid it entirely. Not only will this increase your odds of survival exponentially, but it also avoids any potential legal issues of having to use your firearm in a defensive manner.

When escaping the area, do your best to stay away from walls as to avoid any potential ricochets and move in a quick and decisive manner towards the exit (which you are already aware of because you checked for exits when you entered!)


A situation might occur in such a way that there is no way for you to escape. You could be in a small area with only one exit and leaving would put you directly in the line of fire.

In these situations, evading the shooter is your second course of action. Make sure to stay away from windows and don’t draw attention to your position. Barricading yourself in a room and placing large objects in front of the entrance (if possible) is a great way to encourage the shooter to ignore your location.

As active shooters are typically looking to cause the maximum amount of damage possible, they will typically ignore barricaded doors as this will take too much time and effort for them to enter. Using heavy items like tables, chairs, and vending machines makes it difficult for a shooter to gain entry to an area and give some minor ballistic protection as well.

If you are barricaded in a room and the shooter is nearby, make sure to keep silent as put your cell phone on vibrate. In this situation, you want the active shooter to pass by and you should remain barricaded until law enforcement arrives.


According to a study done in 2019, the average police response time in the United States can vary between 5 and 10 minutes depending on your area. No matter how you slice it, a lot can happen in 5 minutes during an active shooter situation!

If you find yourself in the middle of a casualty event, it may happen such that you cannot escape or evade the shooter. In this case, you must engage the shooter to protect your life and the lives of those around you.

In these cases, it’s always a good practice to remember this rule of firearms safety: What’s your backstop?

No matter how good your intentions are, if you strike an innocent bystander attempting to stop a shooter there will be legal consequences to deal with afterwards. Make sure you know what is behind the shooter and adjust your angle of fire to avoid any additional civilian casualties.

Make sure to practice regularly with your EDC handgun so that you are fast, accurate, and precise should the worst possible scenario ever unfold.

You Can Survive

Although active shooter events are bound to happen in the future, that doesn’t mean you have to become a victim. By following the steps outlined in this article, you exponentially increase your chances of survival and can even help those around you get through it as well.

However, mental preparedness is just one aspect of the equation…Keeping your body fit and dangerous is another and if you haven’t checked out all the workout plans at Freedom Fitness America then you are really missing out!

No matter what happens stay frosty and strapped, because you never know when you may need to protect innocent lives against all threats…foreign and domestic.


~ Written By Sam Jacobs: A 2nd amendment advocate, lead writer, and chief historian, at Ammo. As a self-proclaimed outdoorsman, it’s his responsibility to use his knowledge and experience to educate others about the use and safety of ammunition.