the art of war

Defensive Gun Use / The Decision to Defend Oneself

Episode 8 - Defensive Gun Use / The Decision to Defend Oneself

Defensive gun use (DGU) is the use or presentation of a firearm for self-defense, or defense of others. Estimates over the number of defensive gun uses vary wildly depending on the study's definition of a defensive gun use, survey design, population, criteria, time-period studied, and other factors. Low-end estimates are in the range of 55,000 to 80,000 incidents per year, while high end estimates reach up to 4.7 million per year.

There are not this many actual shootings. In the vast majority of cases, an armed citizen brings his or her firearm to bear on the bad guy or guys, the perps think better of their plans for rape, robbery and/or violent assault, and leave.

You must be prepared to shoot someone who poses an imminent, credible threat of death or grievous bodily harm. It is important that you be able to draw your gun quickly and efficiently.

This is a simple matter of practice. Start at home. Wearing normal concealment clothes and your carry system (gun and holster), unload your gun, put the ammo in another room, then return and safety check your gun again. Find a safe direction to aim your gun (what would happen if you fired a round?). If there isn’t one (i.e. you live in an urban apartment), find someplace else to practice.

When interviewed after a DGU, a lot of armed self-defenders say they have no idea how their gun got into their hands. If you practice drawing from concealment, not only will you be fast and efficient, you’ll also have a good firing grip and your sights will be on target, automatically. That’s a big, possibly even life-saving advantage to have.

Train with the following in mind.

1. Be prepared to use deadly force.

This emotional, mental and psychological decision must be made long before the incident arrives. You may have to shoot a man, a woman, pregnant lady or a teenager. Think about it before the time arrives.  Be prepared to stop a co-worker, a neighbor, a teammate, friend or even a relative.  You may have to physically hurt or kill someone that you know, someone you’ve talked with, like, or someone you think you know well.


2.  Action is faster than reaction.

If someone’s pointing a gun at you, you must act fast. He can pull the trigger anytime he wants to, and you’ll be DRT, dead right there. Never, ever get involved in a so-called Mexican standoff where two people just stand there and point guns at each other.  Save that for Hollywood because in real life, if you do that, you could lose with disastrous results.

3. Have a positive ID on the threat/target, then shoot.

Be absolutely sure of your target before pulling the trigger.  If you’re too quick on the trigger, you might shoot the wrong person at the wrong time.

4. Shoot from behind cover, if available.

Know the difference between cover and concealment.  Get to hard cover and stay there until the threat stops.  Of course, shoot from behind cover and move only if you are gaining a tactical advantage without sacrificing your own safety.

5. Shoot on the move.  Shoot then move.  Move then shoot.

Practice all of these. Static shooting will get you killed.  Save that for target shooting and plinking.

6. Don’t turn your back on the threat.

If you need to retreat do so, but don’t turn your back, if possible.

7. Keep your eyes on the threat.

Your eyes are key in battle.  Protect your eyes and keep your head on a swivel.

8. Don’t hesitate.

Hesitation kills. Hesitation is your enemy, but so is shooting too fast.

10. Shoot center mass.

It’s the largest area on the body. Save shooting the gun out of someone’s hand for the movies.  Don’t shoot the leg or the shoulder, shoot center mass.  The next best target is the head and then the pelvis, but first shoot center mass.

11. Shoot until the threat stops.

If you’re justified to shoot, realize that the attacker might continue even after one or two shots, so keep shooting until the threat has stopped.  If you want some insight into this, plan a visit with an ER doctor in a big, violent city.

12. Have an individual first aid medical kit (IFAK) handy.

You’ll need it when you least expect it. Personal first aid kit, a vehicle kit, and a kit at home to be completely prepared. The kit should address blood stoppage, wound dressing, tourniquets, along with basic needs.

13. Be aggressive.

Violence of action is your friend, as long as it is controlled.  Be tactically smart, but aggressive in movement and attitude.  Call it what you will, but in the end, more violence wins.

14. Train hard.

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “Training in all its phases must be intensive.”  The harder you train, the more you’ll begin to conquer your own inner weaknesses and the more confidence you’ll gain.

Defensive Mindset / Personal Assessment - The Decision to Defend Oneself

Episode VII / Defensive Mindset/Personal Assessment - The Decision to Defend Oneself

Surviving is as much mental as physical. Teaching the mental aspects of defending oneself is far more esoteric than teaching the physical and mechanical skills needed to survive . The world Is a dangerous place, and sudden violence can occur anywhere.

Awareness Is critical, the right attitude can save you from a fight you never saw coming. I read an interesting remark on the internet, “being armed is a mindset. You don’t need a gun to be armed.” True words that speak of the value of having a defensive mindset.

I have made a living with a weapon my entire life. In the U.S. Army as an infantrymen, my career in law enforcement, my time overseas as a contractor, and now in my role of general manager at Royal Range USA. Every day I observe people who carry firearms. Their comments and actions reveal that many of them are not mentally prepared to use their firearm. Many more haven’t taken a single training class to learn how to use their firearm properly for self-defense.

How many people do you know who have a firearm in their purse or in a glove box because someone else bought it for them and said they needed to have it? How many of those people would remember they had the gun if they were ambushed? Giving a gun to an unskilled and unwilling person doesn’t make them armed, just as giving a guitar to an unskilled and unwilling person does not make them a musician.

In my previous blog, I spoke about a number of important considerations to develop situational awareness, the foundation of a defensive mindset. Having a defensive mindset is a life choice. Defending oneself, their families, etc. starts with the decision to be mentally, emotionally, and physically prepared and proficient to the threats that we can be faced with at a moment’s notice.

A defensive mindset will help change the way you see at the world around you. Implementing the 5 key points of situational awareness are the first step:

1.     Don’t look like easy prey.

2.     Minimize distractions.

3.     Be aware of your personal area.

4.     Think like a predator.

5.     Listen to your gut.

The next step is to honestly evaluate your skillset concerning defensive tactics, edged and impact weapon knowledge, firearms experience, first aid skills, knowledge of applicable laws (do’s and don’ts), liability issues, and dealing with the after math of a defensive situation. Be honest with yourself, do you have the skills? What level of proficiency do you possess? Many people because they grew up in certain areas, either rural or urban, served in the military, or their relatives had a background in the military or law enforcement, lie to themselves and believe they are prepared.

Don’t make this mistake, do a true evaluation of the skills you possess, or don’t possess and make a commitment to become proficient. The below list of training should be considered by all when they are assessing themselves:

  • Mindset

  • Situational Awareness

  • Threat Assessment

  • Legalities

  • Patterns of Violent Crime

  • Conflict Avoidance & Deterrence

  • Psychology of Violence

  • Verbal and Non-Verbal Commands

  • Neural Psychology

  • Reactionary Gaps & Lag Times


Once you have a clear understanding on the above list, next you must make sure you are proficient in the 4 safety rules of firearms safety:

1.     All firearms are always loaded

2.     Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy

3.     Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target

4.     Be sure of your target and what is beyond it

The next step is assessing your proficiency in the 7 fundamentals of marksmanship:

  • Stance. The stance is the base for the handgun shooting platform

  • Grip. A proper grip aids in control-ling recoil and muzzle flip

  • Sight Alignment

  • Sight Picture

  • Trigger Control

  • Breathing

  • Follow Through

Once you have a solid base in the recommendations above, consider the list below:

  • Weapons Based Combatives (Standing and On the Ground)

  • Dynamic Ready and Dynamic Shooting Positions

  • Defensive Shooting

  • Marksmanship

  • Tactics & Maneuvers

  • CQB

  • After Action and the ramifications thereof

  • Emergency First Aid

  • Threat Recognition

  • Force on Force Scenario Training

In upcoming blogs, I will speak of the items on above and attempt to define them. There is a huge difference between an intellectual understanding and a conditioned and trained response through exposure and repetition.  Common knowledge is not common practice.

The list of bullet points above is obviously an abbreviated list.  However, what is important is how the suggestions above build upon one another and interrelate to create a solid defensive plan.  Understanding that these skills are indivisible from one another in a way that addresses the whole will allow one to achieve a defensive mindset with the skills necessary to apply them.

Situational Awareness

Episode VI - Situational Awareness

As the names implies, situational awareness is simply knowing what’s going on around you. It sounds easy in principle, but in reality, requires much practice. And while it is taught to soldiers, and law enforcement officers, it’s an important skill for civilians to learn as well. In a dangerous situation, being aware of a threat even seconds before everyone else can keep you and your loved ones safe.

If you learn to pay attention to the people around you in public, you will learn to avoid being a victim. Not having situational awareness explains how most people get mugged. When people don’t pay attention to their surroundings, they have no chance to see bad guys coming until it’s too late.

Psychologists tell us keeping ourselves safe is a basic human instinct, however I have found that surviving is something we have to learn how to do. Additionally, if you choose to carry a gun concealed, you certainly want to avoid that worst-case scenario of having to use it to defend your life.

Self-defense trainers often speak of having a defensive mindset; that your brain is your best defensive tool for keeping you out of trouble. Being aware of our surroundings helps us identify dangers and possibly to avoid those dangers. Similarly, being clueless, distracted, and unprepared is far more likely to attract predators. Awareness of what is around you is where your self-defense begins. This awareness of potential danger is something we have to train and cultivate, especially as our world becomes more complex.

An important part of the personal defense mindset is situational awareness. Be alert to your surroundings. Many people go through life asleep and oblivious to the dangers around them. They may sidestep an open manhole cover and not slip on a freshly mopped floor but then miss the street person who is going to assault them for their wallet.

How exactly do we increase our situational awareness? How do we create that “defensive mindset?” I’ve found that concrete exercises help the most—when we have something to actively do, we find it easier to be more aware.

The following tips will help you take in your surroundings and actually register what you are seeing.

1. Don’t look like easy prey

Don’t look easy. Keep your head up and your eyes looking at your surroundings. Research shows that eye contact alone can help eliminate you from a criminal’s wish list. Square your shoulders and try to lift your spine and add an inch to your height. Don’t look like the weak member of the herd.

2. Minimize distractions

Don’t let texting, phone calls, window-shopping, or other activities shift your focus from what’s in your immediate area. Our visual processing seems to decrease when we’re listening to someone talking, or even to music. As a result, cell-phone users make great targets, especially those that have ear-buds stuck in their ears.

3. Be aware of your personal area

Imagine that you are the center of a 15-yard diameter circle. Look all around you—360 degrees—and evaluate each of the people within that radius. Start close and work out. See anything unusual? In that same area, note anything that could be used for defense—something to hide behind and anything that can be used to defend or strike. Lastly, determine your best exit routes.

4. Think like a predator

Pick someone in your personal zone. Now, starting at the head and moving down to the feet, describe that person’s most distinctive features. This exercise helps you look more closely at people; when you do, you’ll naturally process more information about them. Observe if that person is paying attention to their own surroundings and others or not. See if you can pick out the weak and the strong. The confident, and the meek.

5. Listen to your gut

Our intuition is amazingly accurate. Our gut feeling simply represents a different level of our brain monitoring and evaluating our surroundings. When something seems wrong, our brain tries to get our attention. Too often those “feelings” are discounted, discredited, and even banished as we strive to complete the tasks at hand. Criminals know this and count on it to provide them with an advantage.

If the ideal scenario is avoiding a problem, then good situational awareness is your first line of defense. Incorporating these exercises into a daily mental workout will get your mind used to paying more attention to your surroundings. With just a bit of practice, they will get easier, and soon they’ll be a natural part of your daily life. They’ll also help teach you places and situations to avoid.

Stay tuned for the next blog in this series. Be Aware, Be Prepared.