How to Survive a Sniper Attack

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By the author of Be Ready for Anything and the online course Bloom Where You’re Planted

Of a tragic necessity, we’ve all read articles and watched videos about surviving an active shooter terror situation. But an entirely different set of rules apply when it comes to surviving a sniper attack.

The thing with an event like the one in Las Vegas is that a great deal of your survival depends on nothing but luck. If you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, skills won’t necessarily save you.

The Las Vegas shooting was different than many previous mass shootings because the culprit was not right down there in the thick of things, as in the Pulse nightclub shooting. He was a sniper, 400 yards away from his target of 22,000 people attending a concert.

This situation was different from other mass shootings due to the distance. The standard advice of run, hide, or fight was completely useless. People had no idea where the shots were coming from, which meant they didn’t know where to run. Hiding is not easy in a wide open space that is similar to a giant parking lot without the cars. And finally, you can’t fight an enemy that far away – even if you were a concealed carry holder, your carry firearm won’t shoot far enough, and identifying the threat from that distance while everyone is panicking would be all but impossible.

As well, because of this distance, none of the evasion techniques like running in a zig-zag pattern or getting down were likely to make a huge difference to a person so far away whose apparent goal was only to hurt or kill as many people as possible. He was not aiming at specific people from that distance. He was firing at a general area. Here is a photo of the shooter’s view, from the window of his room to the concert area.

As you can see, the target was a general area, not specific individuals.

Firsthand Stories

This is a report from the Washington Post that quotes people who were there. You’ll see how this information is applicable when you read the tips below.

The typical advice for reacting to an active shooter — ‘run, hide or fight’ — was rendered moot, as many in the packed crowd could not easily run or hide, nor were they able to fight back at someone firing from so far away.”

  • In video footage, concertgoers can be seen screaming and running for cover — though they did not immediately know from what. “We thought it was fireworks at first or trouble with the speakers,” said Kayla Ritchie, 21. “[Then] everything went dark.”
  • It wasn’t until [singer Jason] Aldean fled the stage and the lights came on that 21-year-old Taylor Benge said he realized that “about five feet to the left of me, there was a man with a bullet wound to his chin.” “He was just lifeless on the ground,” Benge said.

— “Outside, The Strip, always a blizzard of dazzling lights and honking horns, almost instantly turned into a frenzied hive of pulsing police lights and sirens,” Michael Lyle, Heather Long and Marc Fisher report. “People fled every which way, many taking cellphone video of their run to safety. [Former minor league baseball player Todd Blyleven, who traveled from Dallas for the concert with his wife and friends], helped carry out the lifeless body of a young woman. He saw a police officer who looked like he had taken a bullet in the neck. ‘Young girls and guys, older folks, just people walking out of a country concert with bullet holes,’ Blyleven said.”

— “Aldean was barely five measures into ‘When She Says Baby,’ when the shots started,” Avi Selk and Amy B Wang report. “’Is that gunfire?’ [Singer Jason] Owen remembered thinking[.] The gunfire continued, steady against the beat of the song … Shot after shot, faster and faster. Aldean sprinted off the stage. Owen ran, too. So did other singers, workers and all the thousands of spectators — fleeing and screaming, falling and dying.”

— A fire alarm triggered by gun smoke let first responders zero in on the shooter’s location. SWAT team members then used explosives to get inside, where they found [Paddock] dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. “We believe the individual killed himself prior to our entry,” the sheriff said. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)

— “I realized people were dying”: Photographer David Becker spoke to The Post’s photo editor MaryAnne Golon about witnessing the attack and capturing some of the most haunting images from the night: “ It had been so dark outside I couldn’t see the details. I just saw a lot of people laying on the ground thinking they were playing possum, but now I could see people covered in blood and I thought, this is real. When I saw the image of the woman lying on the ground covered in blood, that was when the impact of what I was experiencing hit — when I realized people were dying.”

How do you survive a sniper attack?

A sniper attack is very different from any other kind of mass shooting, so the rules for surviving those attacks don’t apply here. This is what I learned when researching a horror scenario like the Las Vegas massacre.

Know what gunfire sounds like.

A lot of people who were interviewed said that when they first heard the shots, they didn’t realize what it was. They thought it was fireworks. There were precious seconds when people were frozen targets while they tried to wrap their brains around what was actually happening. During an event like this, a pause of a few seconds could mean the difference between life and death. The faster you take action the more likely you are to survive.

Always have a plan.

We can’t foresee all eventualities, like this one, for example, but it helps to always have a survival mindset. It has long been a game with my kids (yeah, we’re a strange family) to identify exits and potential weapons if we sit down to eat at a restaurant or go to the movies. Knowing where to go without having to look for it in the heat of the moment will save time that could be spent acting.  After this incident, I’m adding to that the search for places we could take cover in an emergency.

Understand the difference between cover vs. concealment.

Every NRA course I’ve ever taken discusses the difference between cover and concealment, because in many cases when you are forced to use your own firearm, there’s another person who is ready and willing to shoot back. Concealment is enough to hide you but not enough to protect you from bullets. Cover is something sturdy enough to stop a bullet – a concrete structure like a road divider, the engine block of a car, a refrigerator, a steel door, a brick wall.

When watching the video playback of the Las Vegas shooting, many people were seeking concealment behind flimsy barriers, and that is not enough to protect yourself in a situation with a high-powered gun and a shooter spraying an area.

Separate from the crowd.

In a situation like this one, the shooter was trying to take down as many people as possible, so it was most likely he was aiming at the crowd instead of picking off people who moved away from the bulk of the group. One possible strategy would be, then, to get away from the crowd. You and the person/people you are with would be less alluring than a group of a hundred panicked people all huddled together where maximum harm could be achieved.

Don’t get down or play dead.

Lots of people crouched down and got as low as they could. In many situations, this would be the best bet, but not this one. The person was shooting from up high, aiming downward. Being still and crouching down wouldn’t do much to protect you from a person firing from this angle, nor would playing dead. Action is nearly always a better choice than inaction. As well, getting down would make it more likely that you’d be trampled by a panicked crowd of people trying to get away. Clark County Fire Chief Greg Cassell said that some of a “wide range” of injuries included people who were trampled by the panicked crowds.

Listen for reload.

In a situation like this, there will be pauses in the shooting when the person stops to either reload or change firearms. That is your opportunity to make a dash for the exits. Don’t wait too long to make your move, because it only takes an experienced gunman a few seconds to reload a familiar gun and then your chance is gone.

Do you have other suggestions?

I’m not an expert. I don’t have law enforcement experience or military experience. So, I spoke to someone far more experienced in this type of thing than I am. Scott Kelley is a former Counterintelligence Special Agent, US Army Chief Warrant Officer, and combat veteran, as well as the author of Graywolf Survival,  and was kind enough to answer all my questions while I was researching this article. I incorporated many of his suggestions, but any mistakes are purely my own.

What about you? Do you have experience to add that might help people survive a sniper attack? Please comment with your suggestions and if you don’t mind, let us know a little bit about yourself.


Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • Hi Daisy, real amateur thinking here. (Except for a stint in Paras and Fire Brigade)
    Unless it is a heavy machine gun or a sniper rifle, pretty much anything will stop a bullet at a distance.
    If you are with someone then the best thing to do is to put yourself between them and the threat. If you have no idea where the firing is coming from, it makes no sense to runaround, you may be running into fire rather than away from it.
    Put the wife/child/friend/ all of them, onto the ground and lie on top. If with Mother-in-law, lie on ground and pull her on top.
    If you remember the old westerns, when attacked by indians, the cavalry put their horses down on the ground and lay behind them.
    If you do not have to protect anyone other than yourself, then find a horse, Hippo or other large body and hide behind them. If you see a large man or woman, run next to them, if you see a bunch of people get in the middle and run with them. Grab a large person by the hand and shout ‘come with me’. If you have more than one small child give the excess to a large person/people and tell them to get them to a policeman outside. You can collect them later.
    Remember we are talking survival not ethics.
    The most important thing is to not allow the panic of others to become infectious. Stop and think what is the threat and from where is coming. Always try and stay on your feet and head for the walls, not the doors. The wall gives you 180degree protection and less likelihood of being trampled. When going to such an event but especially in a hall, get next to the walls at all times. You are farther from the stage but much safer.
    I only attend Symphony concerts, small chance of nutters, we are mainly geriatrics, and I can outrun any 90 year old with a walker.
    Save any that you can, learn first aid, stopping the bleeding and CPR can and will save lives.
    Don’t run unless you are saving others.
    Remember, there are worse things than being dead.

    • Taking cover behind a dead horse (or under ones Mother-in-law) surely is better than having no cover at all.
      I wouldn’t count on it just because you might have seen it being used in some Hollywood movie.
      A horse or another human may have been some acceptable cover in the days of Mozzleloaders and Blackpowder, Flintlocks and leadballs – but nowadays? I strongly doubt that.
      Just look around at YouTube, search for terminal ballistics, .308 caliber characteristics, stopping power and how such projectiles just smash through trees , concrete or a Mother-in-law ????

    • Good article and hilariously cynical but helpful comment. When you’re time is up, it’s up, though it’s too bad you can’t take the a$$hole with you.

      • In this instance, we’re talking a$$hole$, as in multiple shooters clearly recorded on multiple Mandalay Bay floors including the 4th and the 12th.

        None of this is as being presented by the mass media. There are multiple, independently recorded videos of muzzle flashes from multiple floors, one recorded directly in front of the hotel by a cab driver.

        This is a false-flag operation intended to justify the same security standards for hotels as airports. Sound crazy? Yes, certainly does, but it’s the nature of the psychopaths in charge.

        Interestingly, Michael Chertoff, former DHS secretary, now a principal in the Chertoff Group, sells the ‘naked’ scanning devices still used in most airports globally. This means a huge market for these parasites:

        We’re being preyed upon, friends, and we better wise up very soon to that very dark fact. Please read:

      • Steve: agree (Notbert: agree ; definitely an infantry assault), but smart people stay out of crowds in this day and age. Simply pay and download the music . Crowds are exciting for the young, as I was decades ago at an Elvis concert , Tina Turner, etc circa ’65,’66. Bad idea today to be at rallies, speaker crowds, concerts, etc. or where crowds gather. Anyone can die of a heart attack in their house listening to a TV concert or playing music CD’s., killed going down the road with all the idiot drivers today. According to the sheriff, there was more than one perp. Alt. news (Mike Adams, etc) has posted about the sheriff, etc. More updates at :

        • Sorry, but I cannot agree with you here. Why should I change my way of living because some lunatics – be they Antifa or ragheads – “hate our freedom” (to quote some infamous character here), believe they’re allowed to change these ways by using deadly violence?
          This is retreat and a big time sign of weakness – at least in the eyes of those lunatics.
          I’ve had enough of this. No more retreat and since they won’t give it: no quarter to the enemy!

    • Yep sniping is by it’s nature, precise.
      But even the infantry teaches to minimize automatic fire bursts to to as few as possible.
      In fact the newer rifles come equipped with limiters to only allow 3 rounds (or so..) per trigger pull.
      Full auto allowed to run out a magazine is either an act of desperation or ignorance.
      I suggest the latter in this case.
      Even if they figure out what this yahoo’s motive was, I’m thinking we’ll be left scratching our heads…
      My prayers to the families of the folks that were there..

  • Hi Daisy. The first thing I noticed in films of this incident was the lack of people seeking good cover. I would highly recommend checking out “Demolition Ranch” on Youtube to find out what kind of cover will stop various calibers coming from both pistols and rifles. The videos are also entertaining.

  • I agree with the gentleman who said this was not a sniper attack. This was a high volume of plunging fire attack on a target rich environment. In this attack or in a sniper type attack, to increase survival chances, you must be aware of your surroundings and first be lucky enough not to be the initial victim. Once the shooting starts, you must quickly locate the vector of fire and move in the most expeditious manner to cover. Perpendicular to the vector of fire makes you the most difficult target. At 400 meters, if a gunner is sweeping an automatic weapon side to side, there can be 7 to 21 feet between bullet strikes meaning there is plenty of room to run between projectiles. Carrying a 106 recoil-less rifle seems a prudent measure also to quickly obtain the asshole as a target and blow the shit out of him.

  • Not shown on most of the “MSM” shots of the hotel was the fact that two windows, a good distance apart, were broken out.
    Might give credence to the theory some have put forth that there was more than one shooter.

    • Not So Free

      I thought that, too, but now they have said this was a two room suite and he moved between the windows. I assume he was using different guns at each window and some one said he probably was giving them a chance to cool down.

      Such a tragic thing. I fear that if I have been there, I would not have survived. I’m in my late 60’s and not especially fleet footed anymore.

  • I’d be interested to know in who’s name the weapons were registered to.
    Purchasing a firearm requires I.D.
    And a background check. Assault rifles require even more stringent paperwork as they fall into a handgun category.
    Also he was in a hotel room…?
    Housekeeping didn’t notice several guns and a catche of ammunition in his room, or how about the front desk seeing him carry in several pacakages…..
    Somethings fishy here….

    • Seriously? Do some research. He smuggled in 17 guns in 10 suitcases. All weapons were legally registered in the shooter’s name. He passed the mandatory background checks (says something about the strength of them) and was not flagged as someone on a blacklist. As for hotel staff, they could have just thought that he had a lot of luggage. There is no known motive and no known trigger for this event.

  • I spent my time in the army. Of course they do not teach you to run away or run around aimlessly. The scenarios are obviously very different. That being said. One thing to do is look for cover BEFORE you leave your current cover. 3 to 5 second rushes if possible. and get out of the area as fast as possible. Also thanks for pointing out the difference between cover and concealment.

    I agree this should not be categorized as a sniper attack. If he had fired single shot before going full auto he may have killed a lot more, especially given how many people thought it was fireworks at first.

    My other though is this: in every video I have seen there are people just standing around looking at their phones or holding their beers as others around them run. In my opinion, doing something is always better than doing nothing. Thanks for taking the time to research for your article.


  • Would have been nice if one of the police officers had popped a couple of smoke grenades. I’m not a betting man, but would think the odds are good that the trunk of one police vehicle had some. Advantage: gives concealment to a lot of people. Disadvantage: Could cause people with respiratory problems to have an attack. I would have taken that risk because more people would have been helped than harmed, AND people with pre-existing conditions carry inhalers.

  • All attendees should carry cell phones when going to a big crowd event so that if there is a disturbance and they get separated , they can get in touch when they have made it to safety.

  • Just a thought as I have no experience at being on the receiving end of shots being fired. Please disagree or correct as needed. I noticed in many of the LV videos that the first noise from the rifle was a very high pop like the cracking of a bull whip followed a few seconds later by the more distant sound of the rifle being fired. It is my understanding that many rifles, depending on the amunition, have muzzle velocities that exceed the speed of sound. In fact, a .308 still exceeds the speed of sound at 500 yards. By my reasoning, the victims became aware they were under fire as the bullets arrived and this would have given them no time to react. Assuming that the shots were landing from 7 to 21 feet apart, as speculated in another comment, these mini sonic booms would have sounded very similar to fireworks going off in the crowd further confusing the situation.

    So how can knowing this help if we find ourselves in a similar situation?

    If you are lucky enough to survive the initial burst and you still have presence of mind, you can listen for the direction of the sound of the rifle not the pop of the bullets flying past. This is more pronounced for a second or two after the popping has stopped. This is not easy but if you can determine the direction, then you can run for a safer spot.

    Also, if the popping has stopped, you will most likely still hear the rifle being fired. Starting your run for cover once the popping has stopped but there is stillthe residual sound of gun fire may give you a precious second or two to reach safety.

    Of course echoes, crowd noise, panic, etc. Make all of this extremely difficult.

    Any thoughts?.

    • I will say in general if you hear what you first perceive as fireworks, then don’t hesitate and overanalyze and leave. If you can quickly ascertain where the fire is coming from (and they’re could always be multiple sources) then that helps. But don’t overanalyze. Just egress from whatever venue, arena, theater, etc. If you leave immediately, you’re chances of surviving are relatively higher.

  • One minor pick is that sometimes concealment is just as good as cover. Yes, actual cover is best but oftentimes, and inexperienced shooter/terrorist will not try to fire through concealment. In other words, if all you see is concealment – in the form of flimsy trash barrels and banners, that’s always better than NOTHING.

  • While this doesn’t contribute to staying alive during a shooting, you can save someone else’s life by donating blood. The day after the shooting, native Las Vegas citizens were lining up around the block to donate and help save lives. Please donate on a regular basis, as I don’t think mass shootings will stop anytime soon (too many lunatics have easy access to offensive weapons and ammunition)

    • Let me point out to you though that it’s not the “lunatics”, the “offensive weapons” (is there any weapon one cannot use to attack someone?) and “the easy access” to these tools you should be afraid of but the criminals and their illegal weaponry.

      • Okay.

        1) The shooter in this incident WAS NOT A CRIMINAL. He had no record of previous crimes, and seemingly no motivation or trigger that caused him to start this event.

        2) Name ONE use for an assault style rifle with high capacity magazines that isn’t killing as many people as possible in the shortest time possible.

        3) Criminals wouldn’t have guns if 1) They couldn’t pass a background check,
        2) They couldn’t literally buy a gun on Facebook without a background check and 3) If guns couldn’t be kept in easy to steal from areas (e.g a criminal breaks into your house and steals an assault style rifle from your broom closet).

        Unless you support federal legislature that would prevent criminals from stealing guns (e.g background checks, register of firearms so that someone notices when a gun goes missing, safe storage laws, ban on blacklisted people from buying guns, better mental health treatment centres that are affordable etc.), then don’t complain that criminals have guns.

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