You probably don’t think of yourself as a gunfighter—at least not in the Old West, Wyatt Earp sense. But if you carry concealed or keep a firearm at home for protection, there is a possibility that you could find yourself in a situation that you hope never happens where you’re forced to defend yourself or a loved one.
The thing about defensive scenarios is that you won’t get to dictate the terms. You won’t get to pick who you’re with or what you’ll be doing when it starts. The bad guy gets to pick all of that. The only thing you can control is how ready you will be if your number is ever called. With that said, make sure you’re ready to defend yourself.
1. Don’t Get In a Gunfight
It sounds goofy and obvious, right? But as far as I’m concerned, there’s only one way to truly win a gunfight, and that’s to not get in one in the first place. Once you’re in one, there are no real winners. Everyone loses something. Even if you do everything right and everything goes your way legally, you will not walk away unscathed as if nothing happened.
The point of this funny-sounding rule is to do everything you can to avoid going to your gun. This involves making a conscious effort to stay in condition yellow when you’re out and about, making smart decisions about where you go and what you do when and with whom, using your voice to try to deflect a problem, and being wise about whether or not to get involved in situations that don’t concern you. Don’t fall victim to the gun as talisman fallacy and go walking into trouble.
If you can avoid a gunfight altogether, you win. But if you can’t …
2. Bring a Gun
I’m not even talking about that old cliché about bringing a knife to a gunfight. I’m talking about making sure you have the tools you’ll need to successfully defend yourself if you’re ever thrust into a deadly-force encounter. Have a gun. A good gun, loaded with good defensive ammo, carried where you can get to it.
Your gun is no good to you if it’s not accessible the instant you need it—and remember, you don’t know when that will be. If you leave your concealed-carry gun at home because you haven’t found a holster you like yet, or if you leave your home-defense firearm in a safe in the basement because you don’t expect you’ll ever need it, or if your gun is in your purse and you left that locked in your desk while you ran down to the alley for a smoke break, you’ve put yourself in a position to be without your last-ditch self-defense measure. I don’t want you to be paranoid and feel you must have a gun within arm’s reach every moment of your life, but you do need to consider what happens if you need your gun and don’t have access to it. And now that you have a gun …
3. Know What You’re Doing
“Non-gun people” successfully defend themselves with firearms all the time, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to practice or train. Those people are lucky, and I’d rather you be good.
Hit the range more often, do your (unloaded and safe) dry-fire practice and draw practice at home, and get some training. Get more training if you can. Get a different type of training if you’re able. None of us are ever truly “done” training, although the level we aspire to is limited by the time and budget we have available.
When you face an unexpected defensive scenario, you’ll default to your instincts. If you’ve trained them well enough, your instincts will be able to do the right things in the right order at the right time to give you the best chance of successfully defending yourself. If you’ve strapped on a gun but haven’t shot it much or tested your skills under pressure, the instincts you’ll default to might lead you astray or let you down.
This doesn’t just apply to physical training with the gun. You need to have worked out some mental-game issues ahead of time and be on your way to mastery of the combat triad. You need a solid threat assessment model so you’ll recognize the threat as it’s developing—so you can avoid it if possible. And you need a good self-defense decision-making paradigm. Give yourself the best chance of coming out on top by preparing for the fight long before you’re in it.
4. Cheat If You Have To
If your personal safety is on the line, all bets are off. There’s no such thing as a fair fight when your life is threatened. If some ignorant fool has chosen poorly and thinks he’s going to make you his next victim, do whatever it takes to prove to him just how big a mistake that was. Pull out all the stops. Fight like an animal. I’m not a fan of the “I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by six” cliché when it’s used to justify stupid behavior, but if the fight is brought to you, it absolutely applies. Win the fight by stopping the threat by whatever means is necessary and deal with the consequences later.
Now, that doesn’t get you off the hook for doing dumb or dangerous stuff, but your life and the lives of your family are worth protecting. A bad guy who forces you into a deadly-force encounter is not going to fight fair, and neither should you.