When someone is defending himself by shooting at someone with a weapon. The enemy doesn't necessarily has a weapon, there may be a certain threat for the person defending himself.

So, we have a person who wants to defend himself by shooting at someone or an animal.

Is there a word or phrase in English that would describe this situation precisely?

I thought of 'shooting back' or 'firing back' but it's not clear from the definitions in some dictionaries whether I can use any of these in my situatuion.


I'm trying to translate a story which is about a man being under drugs who sees creatures and wants to shoot them (they are angels). It has a catchy title which I'm trying to translate as accurate as possible. Since they're angels and he is being overdosed I want to preserve the whole meaning of the story in the title (It's not being said but I think they want to take him with them).

It's a fiction, no need to bind it with laws.

Would 'shoot out at angels' fit?

  • I've never encountered such a word, and I imagine if there were one it would have surfaced during the 'Stand Your Ground'/Trayvon Martin hoo-ha. – StoneyB Sep 28 '13 at 19:42
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    How about "Shooting at Angels"? – Jim Sep 28 '13 at 23:28
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it's "writing advice" – FumbleFingers Sep 29 '13 at 0:02
  • Did you hear about the angel dust drug? "Dust" is also the underworld verb for "kill". – Rompey Mar 13 at 18:23

The word I'd use is self-defense, which does not require that the person you are attacking be armed, although it also encompasses self-defense where you are not armed either.

When Mr. Green ran towards the police officer with a baseball bat, the police officer shot him three times in self-defense.

Ms. Hart shot the bear in self-defense because it tried to attack her when she was at the picnic table.

Shooting back and firing back always refer to the other person being armed, and a more idiomatic way of saying this is returned fire:

When one of the criminals shot at police from his window, the police returned fire, killing both suspects and rescuing the hostages.

The militants shot towards the compound, and the government forces returned fire, killing all of the militants.

  • Is " shot him three times" really okay? Not "at him"? – Rompey Mar 13 at 18:15

You could always say he shot his way out of trouble.

In the UK you'd probably have a hard time convincing a judge that you were acting in "self-defence" if you shot an unarmed attacker, but obviously things are different in other countries.

In practice, regardless of whether your attacker is an unarmed human or an animal, you probably wouldn't need to actually shoot at them. It would normally be enough to...

fire a warning shot [over their head, for example].


There is no specific, everyday term in English for using a gun in self-defence. So you're not going to find one.

What term you might use, not so specific but still catchy, is a matter better suited to another website. This isn't a site for writing advice.

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