The “Dead Man’s 10 Seconds”

I’m a strong advocate that you should own a firearm to protect yourself, your family, and your home from a home invasion.

If you’re new to guns, however, you’ll quickly discover that there’s a dizzying array of choices available in firearms.

This is true even if you live in one of the states that has recently cracked down on gun ownership.

There are a lot of handguns and even shotguns and rifles (what we would call “long guns”) on the market.

When you’re choosing a firearm, one of the factors you’ll likely consider will be the power of that weapon to stop someone who is attacking you.

But what is power, exactly… and is there a difference between stopping power and killing power when choosing the best weapon for home defense?

Stopping Power vs. Killing Power

Yes, there is a difference (and it’s a big one) between “stopping power” and “killing power” when choosing the best weapon for home defense.

Killing power is simply the ability of a given round or weapon to deliver a mortal wound, regardless of how long it takes for the person to die.

Stopping power is the ability of a bullet that hits an attacker to prevent that attacker from being able to continue attacking you or returning fire.

This is an important distinction because your attacker may already be mortally wounded – in other words, when his body finally catches on to the idea he’s been gravely wounded, he will die, so you may already have “killed” him.

But this might not happen before he can fire his own weapon and somehow hurt or kill you.

Let me explain…

The Dead Man’s 10 Seconds

In the Old West, the time between shooting a man, and that man being able to return fire or otherwise continue attacking you, was called “the dead man’s ten seconds”.

Someone who is attacking you with a contact weapon like a club or a knife, even after you’ve shot him several times, still has time to continue hitting you or stabbing you before he eventually expires.

The fact is (sorry to say) that most handguns are, relative to the human body, fairly underpowered.

They will kill, yes, and they may even stop an attacker quickly, but in a lot of cases it will take some time for that to happen.

The bottom line is this…

Prepare For Survival AFTER You Shoot

Understanding that if the attacker is coming at you with a club or a knife, it will likely take some time for him to die after you’ve put those bullets in him, unless the weapon you are using has extraordinary stopping power.

Just because you shoot a man, don’t expect he will automatically fall down or stop his attack.

He may not even slow down.

He will almost always have some time, measured in seconds if not minutes, in which to continue attacking you.

That’s the reason good firearms instructors will tell you that you should:

  • Get off the line of attack. This further confuses your attacker and if he reactive shoots where he was aiming, you won’t be in the bullet’s path.
  • Seek cover. Even if you are in a bullet’s path, having something that can stop the bullet will grant you better survivability.
  • Increase the distance between you and the attacker. It’s simple “gun math” that the further you are away, the more accurate your attacker’s shooting must be to hit you. Even more so if he’s in shock from the chaos and his wound.

Bottom line is that you need to prepare not just for getting your rounds in your target and stopping a threat.

In order to survive a violent home invasion, you need to consider that time between when your bullets strike him and when he dies from a mortal wound.



  1. Pete Eldridge says:

    Center mass hits may kill but shooting someone in the hips and pelvic area will stop a person from advancing to you. They support the weight of the body and will stay in a more even sight plane than the chest or head. Plus, you get possible hits into the colon tract ‚3 arteries , lower intestines and the male species most favorite parts. When someone rushes toward you the center mass and head bob and weave too much.

    • 40 Auto fan says:

      I plan to aim for the groin and let the recoil pull the gun up until i stitch them thru the head. Also 15 rounds and a reload. I’ll stop pulling the trigger when it stops moving.

      • Coasty says:

        Do not tell the Police that just say you stopped shooting once it was clear you were no longer in danger! But empty the gun first. Home defense is 9 12 ga #4 Buckshot rounds and I will get them all off in around 10 seconds.

  2. indianmedicine says:

    The adrenalin flow is so great, that your best option for STOPPING & KILLING is the Center of Mass of the Chest at Heart Level.….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….….. If that does not work, because the attacker has a Protective Vest — then “One to The Head”. .….……

  3. conradswims says:


    • SIG45 says:

      indeed, or ‘mozambique drill’ 2 in the chest, 1 in the head, wont last 10 seconds!

  4. derp says:

    or you can live in a country with decent gun control and forget all about the above advice…

    • CmpExpert says:

      Gun control only hurts those who follow the law. a criminal knows no law… hence why they are called ‘criminal’. you know, who would want to rob a house if they knew a gun was inside and the owner knew how to use it ? hell, if i was a ‘criminal’ i sure as hell wouldn’t… this is proven by countries with gun advocacy and training, those countries have the lowest rates of gun related crimes.

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Jeff Anderson

Jeff Anderson is a 10 year veteran of the U.S. Army, a Master Fitness Trainer, and Master Instructor of Close Quarters Combat self defense. A full time fitness and self defense author, Jeff has trained thousands of men and women in the practical application of advanced military fitness methods as well as close combat tactics for "real life" self defense.

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