“There ain’t no rules in a gunfight!”

That is a popular lead-in from low-level novice shooters justifying why they cower from competitive shooting. As with their other excuses, this one is also plain wrong. Yes, there are rules in a gunfight.

Rules of Engagement (ROE) are rules or directives to military forces (including individuals) that define the circumstances, conditions, degree, and manner in which the use of force, or actions which might be construed as provocative, may be applied. They provide authorization for and/or limits on, among other things, the use of force and the employment of certain specific capabilities. In some nations, ROE have the status of guidance to military forces, while in other nations, ROE are lawful commands. Rules of Engagement do not normally dictate how a result is to be achieved but will indicate what measures may be unacceptable.

The current Law of Land Warfare has also been with us for over a century.

A list of the treaties relating to the conduct of land warfare which have been ratified by the United States, with the abbreviated titles used in this Manual, is set forth in the abbreviations section of this manual. The official English texts or a translation of the principal treaty provisions are quoted verbatim in bold type in the relevant paragraphs throughout the Manual. It should be noted, however, that the official text of the Hague Conventions of 18 October 1907 is the French text which must be accepted as controlling in the event of a dispute as to the meaning of any provision of these particular conventions.

Click to access law_warfare-1956.pdf

These types of gunfight rules also apply to law enforcement and other civilian encounters.

A use of force continuum is a standard that provides law enforcement officers and civilians with guidelines as to how much force may be used against a resisting subject in a given situation. In some ways, it is similar to the U.S. military’s escalation of force (EOF). The purpose of these models is to clarify, both for law enforcement officers and civilians, the complex subject of use of force. They are often central parts of law enforcement agencies’ use of force policies.

Oh, and I hear tactical timmy in the back scoffing. There are always the laws of physics at hand as well. Despite the various lies you may soothe your ego with, the physical laws at play to get a launched projectile to impact a given target on purpose in a timely manner apply identically on the range as they do in the field.

I guess there are rules in a gunfight afterall!