Start My Family Tree Welcome to Geni, home of the world's largest family tree.
Join Geni to explore your genealogy and family history in the World's Largest Family Tree.

Shooting by firing squad

view all


Execution by firing squad, in the past sometimes called fusillading is a method of capital punishment, particularly common in the military and in times of war.

Execution by shooting is a fairly old practice. Some reasons for its use are that firearms are usually readily available and a gunshot to a vital organ, such as brain or heart, most often, will kill relatively quickly.

A firing squad is normally composed of several military personnel. Usually, all members of the group are instructed to fire simultaneously, thus preventing both disruption of the process by a single member and identification of the member who fired the lethal shot. To avoid disfigurement due to multiple shots to the head, the shooters are typically instructed to aim at the heart, sometimes aided by a paper target. The prisoner is typically blindfolded or hooded, as well as restrained, although in some cases prisoners have asked to be allowed to face the firing squad without their eyes covered.

There is a tradition in some jurisdictions that such executions are carried out at first light or at sunrise. This gave rise to the phrase "shot at dawn".

In the military the method is often the supreme punishment or disciplinary means employed by military courts for crimes such as cowardice, desertion, espionage, murder, mutiny or treason.

In some cases, one or more members of the firing squad may be issued a weapon containing a blank cartridge. No member of the firing squad is told beforehand if they are using live ammunition. This is believed to reinforce the sense of diffusion of responsibility among the firing squad members. This diffusion of responsibility makes the execution process more reliable because the members are more likely to aim to kill if they are not entirely blamed for it, or if there is a chance they did not fire the lethal shot.

Notables executed by firing squad:

  1. Wikipedia – Category: People executed by firing squad (37 people listed)
  2. Wikipedia – Category: People executed by firing squad by country (63 subcategories)

Resources & Additional reading:

jump back to Cause of death portal See under: Capital punishment

this project is in HistoryLink