My Story: My Defensive Gun Use and My Worst Nightmare

If you carry a firearm for self defense, or have one in your home to protect your family, I hope you've taken the time to learn how to handle the gun safely and how to use it effectively as a defensive tool. But if that's all you've done, I suggest you consider the importance of deescalation and avoidance as the first and preferable self-defense tool. And if that doesn't work, or isn't feasible, then use the firearm appropriately, morally and legally.

What is your mindset?

The Proper Defensive Mindset—

Sometimes people question why I focus so much on avoidance and deescalation when teaching defensive pistol classes or writing content for the website. Some assume it comes from a pacifist's approach to violence, or my questioning of the individual's right to defend themselves. The truth is my view has everything to do with having personally used deadly force, and how these incidents deeply impact more than just those involved.

If we look at any potential use of force in light of the aftermath, we may make better decisions, and avoid needing to use force even when it would have been legally justified.

The Aftermath of Using Deadly Force—

In a gun forum, I recently saw a post in which a man shared his personal experience in which he used deadly force to protect his daughter and himself. He did a great job of explaining the incident, as well as the aftermath. A portion of the story we almost never get from the news. Because he did such a great job writing, I reached out and asked him for permission to post his story for others to learn from.

He was gracious and said that he wanted to tell his story for that very reason. He wanted others to learn from his experience.

He wanted to remain anonymous and there were some things he was unable to answer because of privacy or legal considerations. Even with those limitations, there is much to gain from reading his story. Also, I only made minimal spelling/formatting edits and censored some of the words to make it more family-friendly.

A Self Defense Story—

To prereq, this is a hard —–‘ post to make. I have barely visited this website in the past two years, much less this subreddit. My experience is not one that I enjoy typing narratives about, causing me to relive particularly painful visuals, noises, and general sensations. This experience has set me back physically, mentally, and emotionally in a variety of ways – to some extent, it always will.

“However, sitting here years later, I have inevitably come to the conclusion that if I am able to articulate my experience properly to an audience that will listen, perhaps I can give some guidance to those who will come behind me. Maybe they can understand my rationale*, observe my mistakes*, and draw their own conclusions so that they will be better prepared in the event that they encounter an issue similar to mine. I've had a lot of time to think about everything involved, and as we're just passing the three-year mark I believe I feel ready to talk about it a little bit more – even if it's with internet strangers.”

Setting the Scene—

To set the scene, it's important to know a little bit about who I am and what led me to the situation I'm in now. While I won't give too much details away, it's relevant to know that I am older than your average internet-dweller (upper 50's), and I have been involved in some sort of firearm scene for nearly thirty years. I've kept my collection pretty modest, and since I only use firearms for Home Defense and Personal Defense, I've sold my long guns and slimmed down to two handguns – a Glock 43X MOS for an EDC CCW, and a Glock 23 Gen 3 for home defense by my nightstand. I've trained on all different kinds of manufacturers, calibers, firearm classifications, you name it – but I prefer to keep it simple, so those two have been a great combination for me for the recent years.

In addition, I'll add that I cannot emphasize the notion of deescalation enough, even more extreme than some would be comfortable with here. I will always prioritize ANYTHING over getting injured or killed, be it myself or someone I love. If someone happened to demand my wallet with a weapon pointed at me while I was carrying, I wouldn't hesitate – you can have the wallet. I will not brandish my firearm over whatever is in there, especially in this modern age in which I can cancel credit cards within two minutes. It will not be removed from its holster unless I am near confident an individual is intending to cause serious bodily harm to myself or someone I care about. Some people disagree, some people are in my camp. It's simply how I am.

However, in mid-2020, I was met with a situation that left me no choice but to draw my weapon, knowing full well I would most likely need to fire. It is the day that has fundamentally changed my life permanently, and has led me to some dark places in the past. I'll give the rundown the best I can below.

On That Day—

The day began like any other – a quick 6:30a walk with the dog around a park near my house that get active, and helps my old bones avoid their creaking. My daughter, still in her undergrad at the time, had joined me and I can vividly remember our conversation about her studying abroad – she was on the fence, and I was pushing her to explore the world. It was a beautiful conversation, and I wish it hadn't been cut short.

A younger man stumbled out of a woodland in front of us, roughly 30-40ft or so. There is a modest homeless population who often frequent this park, the majority of whom are extraordinarily friendly and nonchalant to anyone else there. However, from the moment I laid eyes on this gentleman I could tell something was fundamentally wrong. I was never actually given the detailed tox screen, but I can only assume some sort of amphetamines were involved due to his dilated pupils, aggressive and twitchy movements, and erratic behavior.

Without realizing, I made a 180-degree turn back on the trail, putting my own body in front of my daughter's. She initially seemed confused as to what was going on, but picked up on it pretty quick. I made sure to keep an eye on the individual who was now behind me, thinking it was the end. However, I would assume he took my abrupt turn as some sort of insult or weakness – without a second thought, he began speedwalking in our direction. I began to pick up my pace as well, attempting to ride a thin line between a fast walk, yet not an obvious ‘run' that would give him all the motivation he needed. There was a clearing ahead of us, in which I planned to slow down, turn, and re-evaluate the situation should it require one.

My Mistakes:

—In my opinion, this was my first mistake. Once he made a beeline and then a speedwalk towards us, I should have immediately recognized the danger now approaching me from behind. Doing a ‘speedwalk' and hoping he ‘wouldn't notice' was far beyond the window at this point, and I should have taken quicker steps to ensure my daughter's safety.

—The clearing described in the above paragraph was roughly a football field away. Way too big of a gap to cover safely with only occasional checks behind my back.

The individual's pace slows down, and I feel relived momentarily. Upon arriving at said clearing is when my world begins to turn upside down. Upon jutting to the side, I instantly notice some sort of crude blade in his right hand – it's not a Shun Knife, but it'll cut right through anybody in its path. I don't think I really even comprehended what it was entirely before I was forced to react.

And… this is when it happens. This is what they don't tell you in the CCW course, the training videos, anything. The guy was 100 feet away, and decided he was going to charge us. Unprompted, unmotivated, no clear hostility from either of our ends. It's just what happened – full speed, I'd say he would have put that piece of metal in one of our hearts within four seconds had I not been aware, a thought that haunts me every waking moment.

I nearly froze – pure shock. This cannot be allowed to happen, I cannot allow myself to lock up in this split second decision. I am eternally grateful that I was able to nearly instantly snap out of this state and do what I've trained to do my entire life, yet hoped I never would. I remove my 43X from its appendix holster, use my left elbow to move my daughter all the way out of my range zone, and fire multiple 9mm HP rounds into the center mass. He was down in a second.

After the Shooting—

Now, I wish the story ended here. But it's only the beginning – take a quick water break or intermission if you need to. As typically cliche as it may be, those seconds in overdrive truly are an absolute blur. I remember locking my weapon on him after he had fallen, attempting to clear any additional weapons from his person. I remember seeing my daughter's horrified face staring at me as I held a gun over top a bleeding sack of a man, all of which I caused. That's an image that doesn't go away very quick.

After those images, I am unable to recall the next ten or so minutes extremely accurately. I remember myself violently shaking, as I released my mag and cleared my chamber, racking the slide so that when the police got there they wouldn't shoot me. I remember half-sitting, half-collapsing to the ground, trying to breathe and not pass out. The adrenaline had completely worn off, and I was slowly entering a hybrid-shock state of feeling nothing and the ‘murderer' whispers that were internally all over me. It wasn't until later that I learned he actually survived, the only significant damage being a kidney main imploding.

The Police—

If you're tired of reading, all I ask is that you read the next part. I promise:

The police are not your friends. I will say it once again – THE POLICE. ARE NOT. YOUR FRIENDS. I universally support our LEOs and all that they sacrifice for our civility to function, but I will never understand how my diligent legal understanding went out the door immediately upon police arriving. The usual process followed – I was placed in handcuffs, my 43X was immediately confiscated + bagged, and I was hauled off for questioning. I was being questioned in the car ride and actually ANSWERING, not realizing that I had never been Miranda'd, and for some reason AGREED to ride along and help the police out.

This is a great podcast episode where we discuss some common questions surrounding concealed carry and what police ‘can use against you‘.

I was questioned in the station for roughly an hour, after which I snapped out of it a bit and left. I will say that the brightest part of a horrifically dark day was being able to hold my daughter the second I arrived home. That was my last bright moment for a long time. That's when the real pain begins.

Over the next three months, I constantly feared charges being placed on me. I was unfairly pushed by police, who used me nearly-incapacitated and in full shock mode to bully things out of my mouth. Strictly legally-speaking, I felt strong-armed by law enforcement, had several of them call me multiple times a month (even after CLEARLY instructing all communication would go thru my attorney), and figured that a manslaughter or second-degree murder charge was happening any day. From reading this, you can probably see how that's impossible, but my mental was all kinds of f—d up.

The Mental Toll—

And lastly, there's the mental. I saved the worst for last. I know that I saved my daughter's life and my own, I really do. But then there's that part of my brain that f—s with me as I attempt to sleep, off and on for years now. That part of my brain who sees a body with punctured holes, oozing blood, a constant reminder of what I inflicted on another human. It's just f—g hard.

I received notice that there was no reason to continue my involvement in the investigation roughly four months after the shooting, and I received my 43X back from Evidence. I only took it out of the bag about a month ago. It took me over a year just to HOLD a gun again, must less hit a target due to my shaky hands clamming up and sweating. It will genuinely take a toll on a man, the effects of which I still feel to this day. The fear of wondering if I did the right thing. If we could have reasoned it. Flip the switch, if I had waited a second too late, watching my daughter get stabbed in front of me. If I had missed my mark, allowing him to puncture me. Every possible scenario, regardless of how unlikely, has consistently run through my head.

Alan Lenhart explains his emotions after surviving a home invasion.

Time Heals Some Wounds—

It's better now, it really is. I have been going back to the range, forcing myself to face my fear of the tools that I used to know front-to-back. I am so beyond fortunate to have a supportive family, friends, and coworkers who can sympathize with my outcome, but my battle with my own brain will exist for some time. I am just glad enough I am at a place where I feel okay to share with you all.

Thanks for listening. Be aware, look around. God bless you all, may you all stay safe and healthy!

Some Additional Questions Answered—

In addition, I'll clarify some additional things below from folks asking questions so I won't have to go respond individually:

—The individual I shot did not succumb to his wounds. I was only provided a limited amount of information regarding his condition (per HIPPA), and that criteria was determined on anything that could help my case, should a criminal inquiry be opened.

—I pulled the trigger six times. The police and the medical community did not disclose to my lawyer how many times I struck him, but I would guess no more than 3 based on the description of his wounds: multiple exit wounds, with a lodging in his kidney.

—The range of the striking was roughly 30-ish feet from the first shot, and I believe no more than 20-ish from the last. It looked like he was three feet from me at the time. As I stated in the OP, I believe he began his sprint from roughly 100 feet away, and the 70+ feet he covered from my first fire just demonstrates how quickly he was able to move compared to my initial shock and reaction time.

—I did not have a sight or any accessories on my 43X besides aftermarket grip tape. I prefer to use Glock weapons in their pure stock format. Some find this silly, but being as the 43X was also my EDC, I wanted to cut down on any additional material on the weapon.

Do you have a home defense plan? Does your family know it?

I Reached Out and Asked The Author Some Questions—

First I wanted to ask how the author's daughter was coping after the incident. He said:

“My daughter is doing as well as she can – obviously, there will always be residual issues, but she's handled it better than I would have imagined. There have been some specific things, but I'd prefer not to get into them, as it's her story to tell, not mine. Hope you understand.”

The reason for my question is that we may not give thought to how our use of force will effect those directly involved, like the authors daughter; or even those indirectly effected. One of my friends was involved in a very bad automobile accident. His child wasn't in the vehicle, but he told me that for quite some time after that, his daughter would cry when he left because she feared he would die in an auto accident. These types of traumatic incidents reach further than we might think.

link to comparison of insurance companies

I asked if he had legal coverage and based on the legal aftermath, does he think it is something he recommends.

“By legal coverage, I had in-house concealed carry insurance and have my own personal lawyer on retainer. My personal attorney helped me maneuver the legal field far better than CCI did, but any costs incurred by the state were covered by my plan, so I don't think I paid an abhorrent amount out of pocket. Unfortunately, I am limited in what I can say about this from both a legal and preference perspective.”

Fortunately the author not only had some basic legal coverage, but had a personal attorney on retainer. Not everyone has that resource, and so I recommend you at least consider some sort of self defense legal coverage. We've looked at many companies and created this side-by-side comparison chart for your reference. If you want some more info on this type of service, here are some resources:

Do I Really Need Concealed Carry Insurance?

Comparing CCW Safe VS USCCA: Which is Our Top Choice?

I wanted to know if his experience affected his friend's and family's opinions about gun ownership.

“I believe so – my immediate family and I are very pro-gun, always have been. We're not the typical gun candidates – I won't go ahead and call myself ‘left-leaning', but I'm very independent and have plenty of liberal extended family and friends. I will say that a lot of my anti-gun friends did show willingness to learn more about CCW and defense, and may now better understand the rationale of why I carry. I consider this a great success, even though I have never actually made an effort to persuade them either way – both prior and after the incident. It's not up to me to decide, and I do get why people may not be very gun-enthusiastic. I hope that my experience can help change the minds of those on the fence.”

His answer somewhat, at least anecdotally, confirmed one of my suspicions as to why the popular narrative around guns as defensive tools is either downplayed or said to be a myth. In the very least, when rational people see others use firearms to legally and ethically save life, they are confronted with the reality that not every use of a gun is to shoot kids in a school. It opens doors for discussion or a challenge to the approved public stance on self defense and firearm ownership.

loved one is against concealed carry

The Most Important Question You Can Answer—

And lastly, I asked him if his experience drew him or his family closer to God.

“I've never been very religious, nor has my family. I consider myself agnostic, as not to doubt any religion that may exist, but largely it's just not a personal thing I partake in.”

I appreciate the author's willingness to answer a question many prefer not to. I am grateful for the author's time and respect his decision to defend life. I'm glad he did.

We defend our physical lives, but have you , the reader, thought about where you or your loved ones will spend eternity? If you're reading this and don't know the Lord Jesus Christ, can I ask you to consider that in His perfect sacrifice, He made a way for anyone who would, to know God and spend eternity in His presence.

God says: For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23). For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 6:23).

I'm just a sinner saved by God's grace, and living in the realization that through Jesus Christ, I have peace with God the father (Romans 6:23) and you too can change your eternal destiny today. Today can be the day of your salvation. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Romans 6:23)

About Matthew Maruster

I follow my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who is the eternal co-equal Son of God. I currently live in Columbus, Ohio with my wife and daughter. I served in the Marine Corps Infantry. I was a Staff Sergeant and served as a Platoon Sergeant during combat in Iraq. After I was a police officer at a municipal agency in San Diego County. I have a Bachelors's Degree in Criminal Justice from National University. MJ Maruster Defense.


  1. Christopher Hess on May 5, 2023 at 8:23 am

    I love that you choose to spread the Gospel message through this platform. May God bless your efforts!

  2. Robert Beaman on September 7, 2023 at 4:16 am

    Excellent article. It’s always important to keep eternity in perspective. John 14:6

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