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  • Writer's pictureBrad Parker

Handgun vs. 2 Rifles: What We Can Learn for Self-Defense?

Updated: May 30, 2021

Glock 21 handgun with standard magazine
What can we learn for self-defense from a cop's shootout with his Glock 21 vs. two terrorists with rifles?

You might never find yourself in this self-defense situation -- facing two rifles in a shootout with only your handgun. But let's look at how one veteran police officer did just that taking on two ISIS terrorists armed with long guns on May 3, 2015.

The venue is an event center in Garland, a suburb of Dallas, the scene of the shootout meticulously covered by Dean Weingarten at Ammoland.

Veteran Police Officer Gregory Stevens was working off duty as armed security at a cartoon contest called "Draw the Prophet" organized by Pamela Geller. It's significant to note that this particular event was five months after the deadly attack on the staff of "Charlie Hebdo" in Paris by armed men in response to the magazine's satirical feature with cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

Not surprisingly, death threats had been received and the event featured the internationally-known Geller as well as politician Geert Wilder from the Netherlands. (Wilder and his security team had left before this attack occurred.)

The attacks unfolds:

  • Stevens, turning 60 in a few days, jokes that his placement at the rear entrance of the event was to "give the old guy the easy job." His partner for the high-profile event was an unarmed security guard.

  • To those scouting for an attack, it appears to be a weak point. There are only two guards. Only one of them is armed. The armed guard (Officer Stevens) only has one pistol and is older than average.

  • Stevens is carrying a Glock 21(.45 ACP) in his duty belt. He has a round chambered, a standard13-round magazine in the gun. He has two additional magazines for a total of 40 rounds of Speer Gold Dot 230-grain hollowpoints.

  • ...a small black car pulls up, and stops, abruptly, facing away from the entrance. Greg’s hair starts standing up on the back of his neck. His “police sense” starts going off. Something is not “right”. The car has out-of-state plates, from Arizona. Immediately, both doors to the car open at the same time.

  • The car is 35 feet away. There is no cover for Stevens and the security guard.

  • As the passenger exits, Greg sees the muzzle of a rifle moving in a sweeping motion. Elton Simpson, the passenger, has an AK-47 semi-automatic clone and brings it into play.

  • Stevens draws his Glock as Simpson levels his rifle. The shots exchanged are so close as to be simultaneous. Greg cannot determine who shot first.

  • Simpson misses. Stevens does not. Simpson goes down with a broken femur, dropping his rifle. Stevens continues to fire.

  • The driver, Nadir Soofi, is firing at Greg with a semi-automatic rifle. The rifle is equipped with a 100 round magazine.

  • Stevens shifts his aim to the driver Soofi and advances one or two steps while firing. Soofi goes down, dropping the rifle.

  • Stevens looks back at the first attacker, the passenger Simpson. Simpson is still moving, still a threat. Greg fires more rounds.

  • Greg directs his attention back to Soofi, who is attempting to get up. Greg fires the last of the rounds in the Glock. Soofi goes down, hard.

  • Greg does a tactical reload, very fast.

  • As Greg starts to approach the vehicle with his reloaded Glock, the reinforcements show up. They yell at him to stay away from the vehicle. Greg is in the zone, focused on the threat. The reinforcements get Greg’s attention, and he backs away from the vehicle, because of the potential of a car bomb or explosive vest.

After Action Points:

  • Stevens alerts on the behavior of the suspects' car. It pulls in 'bank robber style' and stops "abruptly". Pay attention to JDLR ("just don't look right") [H/T Brian Hartman].

  • The car is 35 feet away -- less than12 yards. Not touching distance, but not far. Not far at all.

  • The entire shootout lasted less than 10 seconds. Shootout participants often note they felt they could not shoot fast enough. We must constantly work to become familiar with fast.

  • Greg has fired all14 rounds of 230 grain Speer Gold Dot ammunition from his first magazine (one in the chamber and 13 in the standard Glock magazine).

  • Whether Stevens truly performed a 'tactical' reload or an 'emergency' reload is not really an issue. One would assume the Glock's slide was locked back, as it was empty. We could nitpick that means he performed an emergency reload. This is actually normal for real shootouts. Most incidents see us shooting as quickly as possible until we hit slide lock. We've seen incidents of defenders continuing to try and fire an empty pistol. Stevens did not do this. He instantly recognized the status of his gun and reloaded in a proficient manner. We need to constantly practice keeping our handgun up and running.

  • Simpson and Soofi fired about 35 rounds of 7.62 x 39.

  • The Isis recruits had three rifles and three handguns, with 1500 rounds of ammunition, but no explosives.

  • Stevens was not hit. The security guard sustained a flesh wound to the ankle and was released from the hospital that evening.

  • All three combatants (Stevens, Simpson, and Soofi) are wearing soft body armor. It's not clear if the armor affected Steven's shooting or if he even realized it at the time. However, Weingarten notes, Most of Greg’s shots hit their targets, showing the value of the flash sight picture.

  • Stevens says,“I am a good shooter and I practice, but I am not a crack shot that can shoot quarters out of the air.” “I try to keep my skills at a very high level.”

For his heroism under fire, Stevens was presented with:

  • The Garland Police Department's Medal of Honor (one of only three recipients, the last of which was presented before Stevens was born)

  • The Texas Department of Public Safety's Director Award (the department's highest award)

  • President Obama presented Officer Stevens with the Law Enforcement Congressional Medal of Valor in May of 2016.

What can we learn from the Garland ISIS shooting?

  • Set up and run this scenario for learning and comparison purposes:

    • Two targets at 35 feet

    • Separate the targets about the width of a car

    • At the timer, shoot the target on the right 3 times.

    • Shoot the target on the left 3 times.

    • Shoot the target on the right again 4 times.

    • Shoot the target on the left again 4 times.

    • 14 total shots at a par time of 10 seconds.

  • The bad guys pick the fight -- the time, the place, how many attackers, their equipment, and their motive.

  • We cannot predict our next fight, we can only prepare for it.

  • We can only control:

    • Our levels of awareness

    • Our fighting skills and abilities

    • Our level of physical fitness

    • Our equipment and defensive tools

Finally, practice like your life depends on it.


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