It’s been a topic in the news lately. A police officer is confronted by a person carrying a gun. The person points the gun at the officer.

The officer has 1/2 second to decide – does he shoot or not?

Is it a real gun? Does it make a difference if the person holding the gun is obviously a teenager?

How would you do in this situation?

While it’s true that police officers are more familiar with firearms than the majority of citizens, the decision is far from easy in many cases. As an example, look at the two firearms in the photo below.  One is a Colt .45 caliber pistol. It fires a slug almost 1/2 inch in diameter, fully capable of killing a person with one shot. The other is a pellet gun. It shoots a small lead projectile propelled by compressed air. It can hurt you, but isn’t likely to kill you.

You’re a police officer facing one of these weapons. Is it a real firearm or a pellet gun? You have 1/2 second to decide.





A California Highway Patrol officer recently encountered a situation involving one of the weapons shown above. In that case, no one was injured. But that officer still wonders ‘what if?’

Yes, it’s tragic when anyone is needlessly injured by a police action. But when you read about an officer who encountered someone who ‘merely pointed a toy gun‘ at the officer, think about how you would decide if the ‘toy’ looked like one of those weapons above.


(The real .45 is the one on the right.)