Latest update: 01/08/18
Defensive firearms training has long been based on police training. The law enforcement base gives firearms training the credibility it needs for the marketplace. In truth, civilian self defense and law enforcement training could not be more different. Civilians do not have a need to apprehend criminals and deter crime. Civilians need only to avoid crime, and survive another day with minimum injury and/or legal entanglements.
The purpose in this document is to try and present information, using different words, so that each of us can think about how we need to prepare ourselves, for something we seriously hope never happens; being involved in a self defense shooting.
Your personal protection is up to you. What your planning can do for you, when coupled with proper equipment and ongoing training can easily be the difference between surviving and not. Your money, your time, your life, your choice.
Your priorities are, in this order:
While using a firearm for personal protection is a right that we have, it is a right that must be exercised responsibly. That is to say we can NOT just shoot someone and call it self defense. To use our rights responsibly we must remember:
This is a decision you - MUST - make before you take up a firearm! Anyone who has moral, religious or personal objections to possibly taking a life should not use a firearm for personal protection. The consequences are far to significant.
You must ask yourself the following:
Even when justified and and with no other choice, shooting a criminal is a lousy experience. You WILL spend hours/days/weeks explaining why you had no other choice. This reliving of the incident over and over and over, must be accepted and at least prepared for, as part of your mental preparation.
Mental preparation and training is at least as important as marksmanship. Visualization is a training technique that many, if not most, use. You should visualize possible scenarios and then envision how you would/could best solve your problem. The visualization will be more effective if you include the entire encounter. Start with when you first become aware of the threat, how you could AVOID the confrontation, what options are available to you besides deadly force, and how you could deal with the threat. If you MUST shoot or draw your weapon, how will you initiate the contact with police once the incident is handled. REMEMBER you will have no choice in if you deal with the police should you use any type of weapon to defend yourself or others.
Mindset: what you think/believe.
Mindset is how you will, from this point on, conduct yourself, in relation to your personal safety.
If there is no way to avoid a confrontation, you must present the most determined defense possible. Think about how a wild animal, that is cornered and unable to run, defends itself. They intuitively understand that their life depends on how effectively they defend themselves. You must defend yourself even more effectively.
While "survival" may be an adequate mindset for some, if you have made the decision to use a firearm you must prevail. An indecisive response to an attack invites continued attack. You must NOT give up. Injured or not, DO NOT GIVE UP!
Take your training seriously! If you are unwilling to do that, leave your gun in the safe, for recreational purposes. Training goes far beyond simply learning how to operate the gun and put holes in paper. You must learn to shot effectively from awkward positions, while moving, and under significant stress. For anything less, leave your gun in the safe. Remember, planning and practice help you be decisive.
Develop a plan for - your - defense. This plan must be well suited
to your unique needs and must include strategies for avoiding
confrontation and how you plan on escalating your response. You do not
go from relaxed and calm to shooting, without having transitioned
through multiple levels of escalation. Just as the police do not go
straight from calm talking to shooting, you need to have well thought
out progression. Will voice commands lesson the threat? Will physical
intimidation handle it? Will the presence of a weapon calm the incident?
Will presenting the weapon in a manner that strongly implies "one more
step and" . . . . handle your situation?
You see what I mean.
Visualizing scenarios you may encounter help you devise/develop plans to respond to them. This is NOT being paranoid, it is part of planing how you want to handle incidents. As a side note, you will NOT be able to think of every possible situation, so don't even try, but to have multiple -possible- scenarios already thought out and planned for, will help you remain calm in an emergency.
Just like home fire drills, practice your plans. After that, practice them again. The more you have considered/thought-out the easier it will be, should you ever need these plans.
Both mental and physical training are essential for you to be in a position to prevail during an incident. Just as learning to ride a bicycle when you were five and not riding it again until you are fifty does not prepare you to ride in heavy traffic, initial firearms training and mental preparation must be an on-going process to be truly effective.
If you must shoot, what would your target be? Do you instinctively shoot center of mass? Have you ever NOT discounted the non-gun philosophy of "just shoot him in the arm/leg"? Have you prepared for moving targets? Have you learned to shoot on the move? These are all considerations you need to have addressed and practice for. REMEMBER, paper targets do not shoot back.
Training and preparation help you build the skills to defend yourself. Those skills help you build the self-confidence to control a life-threatening situation, rather than just being a participant. It is most often the best prepared combatant that prevails. If you can not avoid defending yourself, who do you want to win the encounter?
The BEST way to stay safe, whether at home or on the street, is to be alert to your environment. This is often referred to as situational awareness. In simplest terms, it is how much attention you pay to what is going on around you. This can be taken to a point of total paranoia, or to none at all. Neither extreme is good, but for your safety and the safety of those you love, it is important that you maintain appropriate awareness of your surroundings to maintain your safety.
Know what is behind you. Most victims of violence are taken by surprise. If you maintain awareness of what is behind you, problems can not come from there. An easy way is to use reflections in windows as a mirror. Another is if you are walking and stop, is your back to a solid object?
Think about this, do you leave golf balls laying all over your living room floor? No, for multiple reasons. One is that they are uncomfortable to walk on and second, you could easily slip and fall from one of them rolling out from under your foot. This is a simplistic look at situational awareness. You do what keeps you safe.
The NRA uses four levels of awareness and we will use their definitions:
These levels indicate what actions are appropriate, based on the perceived degree of urgency.
During what activities are we unaware of our surroundings?
What awareness level are you in when you spend time in and around your home?
You are in an aware condition when you:
A specific potential threat or threats have been identified. This is a heightened state of awareness.
What are some things that may be considered a potential threat around the home?
You are identifying specific potential threats. These may or may not be real threats.
During this stage, it is crucial to take two steps immediately after identifying a potential threat:
A mental boundary must be set. Once the threat crosses this boundary, action must be taken. Some limits may include:
It is absolutely crucial that you set some sort of limit as a signal to take action.
There may be several escalating limits that result in corresponding escalating responses.
This action may be to evade or defend. It is absolutely essential to have a plan. Action is much faster than reaction. The best plan is one that keeps you out of harm's way and removes you from the situation. However, this is not always possible, particularly when the threat has come into your own home.
It is important to have more than one plan of action. Plans rarely unfold as anticipated. Having a second, third, or fourth contingency may be the difference between life and death. Always keep thinking and always be alert to opportunities as they present themselves.
The potential threat is now a real threat to the intended victim's physical safety. Whatever action was planned in the alert level is now implemented.
Again, "taking action" does not necessarily mean using force. The senses are now operating at a super-intense level, far beyond their normal capabilities.
It is difficult to maintain a heightened level of awareness for great lengths of time, particularly in your own home, which is considered a sanctuary from the outside world. Make a conscious effort to remain alert to your environment, where ever it is.
End of NRA include.
The very best gunfight, is not only the one you were
not involved in,
but the one you were not even near!
Thus Rule Number 1 of surviving a gunfight is Don't Get Shot!
When people get hurt, their survivability diminishes. When they get shot their survivability diminishes RAPIDLY! Each bullet that enters the body reduces your ability to survive by a significant amount.
Many conflicts that end in death are avoidable.
Many more of the conflicts that involve the use of a gun end in death, than those that do not.
Therefore . . . . don't get into gunfights!
If you can avoid a gunfight, avoid it. People can get killed in gunfights. They are not healthy environments to be in. The risk factors with lead flying past you are far greater than the risk factors of most other endeavors.
Compromise! Let the other guy win verbal challenges. Walk away with hoodlums heckling you. If you do not have to engage others in a lethal conflict, do not do so. It may be your last day on Earth, and you just don't know it yet. If you are NOT involved in a gunfight the likelihood of it being your last day is diminished.
Tactics consist of making and taking every possible advantage in a fight or potential fight.
If you find yourself face-to-face with intruders, stay as far away from them as possible. If you have surprised intruders and are able to hold them at gunpoint for the police, do not approach them or attempt to frisk them. That's part of what the police do. Let the PD do their job.
Make the BG (bad guy) lie face-down, head away from you, face/chin on the floor, legs spread apart, hands held palms up and stretched straight out from their shoulders.
Shout your commands at them. Do not talk with them or let them try to reason with you. They are only attempting to challenge your authority.
The intruders then have three choices:
Intruders often attempt to appeal to their victims' good nature to let them go, or they talk softly and reasonably while approaching their victims. DO NOT let them get close to you. Remember a person that acts, rather than reacts, has over a full second advantage in their actions. WHY would you let them have the advantage? On the other hand if the intruders attempt to run, LET . THEM . GO! Many a good person has ended up on the wrong side of the law by not letting a BG run away.
If you have apprehended intruders and are holding them for the police, put your back to a wall/inside-corner. If that is not possible, have someone else you trust, cover your back. The BG may not be alone.
A life threatening situation causes the body/mind to respond in non standard ways. One is the portions of the brain that control higher cognitive processes seem to shut down. Your brain reverts to a more "primitive" mode so it can protect the body from harm.
Most of us will initially "deny" that an attack is happening. Our parents always told us that people are good, thus we are reluctant to inflict harm on another. Well, some people are good, and some are not. Since every encounter is different, we are forced to make, potentially life altering decisions, in a - very - short amount of time. There is no way to determine how you will react to a given situation, even when you have been in a similar one. This is where training makes it easier to survive.
The following are a few of the possible psychological reactions to a shoot/no-shoot situation. They include, but are not limited to: fight, flight, freeze, posture, or submit.
In a life-threatening situation you will most likely experience at least some of the following reactions. Accept that, and plan accordingly.
Stress, typically results in a loss of fine motor skills. That is to say, your ability to perform movements that require significant eye-hand coordination are impaired, to significantly impaired. As a result, your gun handling techniques should be limited to those commonly referred to as gross motor skills, i.e. movements that use the major muscle groups and are much less precise.
The police have proven that the way you train is the way you will react when under stress. That is why you should NOT be concerned with dropping empty cartridge cases, letting magazines fall to the ground, yet still actively seeking cover, when you are training.
During a potential-shoot situation, your focus will be on the threat. Virtually all of the non threatening surroundings will will "disappear" from your vision. It is still there, but you do not "see" it. This is one of the reasons you should learn to partially lower the firearm and scan your immediate area after firing. This action is to break tunnel vision and help you "see" other threats.
Police have many a tale of sounds becoming so low, they are unheard. Even gunfire is muted to the level that, even without hearing protection, you are not bothered by it. This is part of why you YELL at the BGs in your house. MAKE SURE THEY HEAR YOU! Others in your house may be suffering from the same exclusion and shouting commands will help them respond correctly. Shouting commands tends to break auditory exclusion.
During a life threatening situation, things will appear to move in slow motion. This is why some people tend wait much longer than they should, before taking action. Be aware of this and plan accordingly.
During a shoot/no-shoot situation, you will experience what is known as an adrenaline rush. This allows you to act more decisively, but when prolonged, may also cause muscles to tremble. This trembling can easily make it difficult to hold your gun steady. Both the BG and you may perceive this shaking as fear. YES, fear is part of it, but the trembling is a physical reaction to the adrenaline overload. Do not let this affect your resolve to win the fight.
The adrenaline rush also causes uncontrollable shaking once the confrontation is over. This is normal, and can be reduced to some degree by consuming soda pop, or some other sugar source.
It is very important that you incorporate stress in your training. Learning to perform while stressed is important in your ability to win during a lethal force situation. The better your training, the more times you include at least some type of stress in your training, the more likely you are to minimize your after incident problems. In fact, the BG may actually anticipate you "folding" under the pressure he puts you under. Make your stress training a "minus one more", for the BG's score.
There is an important difference between target practice and defensive
marksmanship training. Make sure you do not just think of defensive
marksmanship as punching holes in paper. Visualize the target as an
assailant. Get the BG, and not the other way around.
Remember, paper targets do not shoot back.
If you are getting shot at, get to where you are NOT getting shot at.
This may involve running away. There is no shame in running away from things that might kill you. It is that instinct that allows grizzly bear cubs to become big bad ass grizzly bears, who may still chose to run away rather than become injured in an unnecessary fight.
Distance is a target's best friend. A shooter's skill is rendered less effective by distance. The more an opponent has to chase and hunt, the quicker he will lose interest.
While most of us do not like to admit it, luck plays a huge part in
A lifetime of building shooting skills of every type can be blown away with just a smidgen of bad luck. Because you are right does not mean you will survive a gunfight. The goal in a gunfight is to survive, and win if you can. It is not to prove you are right. You can prove your argument some other time, but not if you are dead. Avoid gunfights if at all possible.
Here are a few other
things to think about in your training.
Is it legal?
This is NOT legal advise or counsel, but rather some things to consider.
I firmly recommend you talk with your lawyer about most of the content.
Should you intervene? One word answer . . . NO!
If you have no choice but to shoot a BG, when do you stop shooting? The answer is very simple, yet VERY important. Shoot until the threat ceases.
A BG on the ground may still be capable of attack. As such you MUST be prepared for him to re-initiate his attack. STAY ALERT! But do not just continue to shoot, unless necessary AND you can articulate WHY you needed to shoot again. The P.C. phrase is "What would a reasonable person have done?"
Unlike TV where one shot to the BG takes him out, you may need multiple shots to end the attack. Continue to shoot until the threat ends, AND NO MORE! It is your responsibility, both legal and moral, to cease fire once the lethal threat ends. To continue beyond when the lethal threat ended will put you under severe scrutiny that could easily end up with you in jail, or worse.
With that said, there is a truism from many with far more experience than I have, that is included in the "Ten Rules of a Gunfight". Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice! Many will say "BUT WHAT IF ONE STOPPED HIM?" The answer is fairly simple; statistically, the first shot hits the BG no more than 25% of the time (statistic from NYC PD). As such, if your life is in danger, do you want to wait and see if the first shot did its job, AND have the BG win? Not me.
The current recommendation is to plan for AND train with a 2+1 drill. That is two shots Center Of Mass (COM) and the third to the head. Many will whine that if you shoot two COM and they work, you have just executed him with the third shot. An easy explanation is if you practice with the 2+1, are forced to shoot someone and you automatically line up the head shot, IF the first two did their job, there will NOT be a face looking at you over your sights for the third shot. THAT is your queue to shoot, or not shoot. Is that face looking at you? If yes, you NEED the third shot. If it is not there, the first two did their job and you do not want to take another shot.
It is possible for assailants to be dead and just not know it yet. How can that be? The amount of adrenaline in the BG's system, if he is on drugs, his physical conditioning and his determination all effect how soon he will "go down". The FBI shootout in FL in 1986 proved that. Two FBI agents were shot and killed after their primary assailant had received what was a lethal wound. Thus instant incapacitation should not be expected (see 2+1 drill, above).
All of us regularly see TV and movies where the "hit" is obvious and easy to see. That is Hollywood and is not, in any way, an indication of what you are likely to see. Besides which, if you are spending time looking for hits, how much time are you spending on getting the situation under control?
It is important that you remember paper targets do not shoot back. The natural conclusion then is that in a gunfight, you may be injured. Prepare yourself mentally for this possibility and concentrate on winning the shoot out. NEVER GIVE UP!
Retreat if you can, fire if you must. There are, of course, times when retreat is not an option. Under those circumstances, a choice must be made between an attack and an ambush. If escape is not an option, and a person is hidden with limited resources, the ambush is the better solution. A counter-attack should only be used when the ambush is not an option. The counter-attack is the one strategy that drastically reduces your chances of survival. There are times that a counter-attack is necessary, but it is not the solution to very many defensive problems.
I saved this for last because, while many are paranoid about having one of their bullets go through a BG and hit an innocent person, that is not a real issue. Least you now be shaking your head in disbelief, let me quote from the FBI report on the 10mm evaluation, questions and answers section.
Author: SSA Urey W. Patrick,
Firearms Training Unit
FBI Academy, Quantico, VA
Q: Aren't you afraid of over-penetration?
A: The fear of over-penetration is a misconception, which was created back when law enforcement was trying to overcome misinformed public resistance to the use of hollow point ammunition. In the process, we began to believe it ourselves. First, our lawyers are unaware of any successful legal action resulting from the injury of a bystander due to a round over-penetrating the subject. We are aware of numerous instances of Agents/officers being killed because their round did not penetrate enough (Grogan and Dove, for example). Further, if you examine shooting statistics you will see that officers hit the subject somewhere around 20-30% of the time. Thus 70-80% of the shots fired never hit their intended target, and nobody ever worries about them - only the ones that might "over penetrate" the bad guy. Third, as our testing shows, even the most frangible bullets designed specifically for shallow penetration will plug up when striking wood or wallboard and then penetrate like full metal jacketed ammunition. We are aware of successful legal actions where an innocent party has been struck by a shot passing through a wall, but as we have proven, ALL of them will do that.
As such, I recommend that you not be worried about over-penetration and instead be concerned with assuring your shots hit the BG. If you do . . not . . miss the BG, you are VERY unlikely to hit an innocent.