A study of the principles of armed defense begins with a study of the defender. There are questions you must ask yourself and answer as honestly as possible.
Some states and many cities are hostile toward self defense. In these places, even in the best of circumstances, it will cost you time and money to clear your name. If the circumstances are murky it will only get worse, even in defense-friendly places.
The applicable adage is: Better to be judged by twelve than carried by six. While this is undoubtedly true most of the time, be real sure it applies to you before you strap on that hog leg.
When it comes to protecting yourself and family the best defense is not an offense, it is avoidance. Don't go looking for trouble.
If you are perceived as having had any part in escalating an incident to where firearms are involved, you will be prosecuted.
Furthermore, you are not guaranteed to win a gunfight regardless of how well trained you are. The other guy can always just get lucky.
Deadly force is always a last resort.
The state of your awareness of danger can range from total obliviousness to near panic.
A low level of awareness can be caused by some form of impairment such as tiredness, illness, alcohol or drugs. Or it can be caused by attention to something else such as TV, traffic, conversation, or some attention grabbing event.
Whatever the reason, it may cause you to fail to recognize potential danger. For this reason it is important to train yourself to be aware at all times.
Identification of a specific potential threat should increase your awareness to the alert stage.
Some examples might be an unfriendly looking dog with no apparent owner nearby, or a car full of men driving slower than expected, or the approach of a well dressed stranger.
Of course some criminals will take care not to look like a threat. The situation and your instinct will dictate how worried you should be. The approach of a well dressed stranger in the middle of the day in a busy, safe part of town, probably will not concern SEAL Team Six on leave for some R&R, but the approach of a well dressed stranger in a dark, deserted parking garage in the middle of the night, probably should concern a lone woman.
It is important to understand that potential threats are not yet actual threats. The dog could just be lost and scared, but harmless. The men in the car could be searching for the address of a new friend. The well dressed stranger might only need directions.
But potential threats deserve a little more scrutiny. And a plan of action. Action is faster than reaction. Plan ahead. A backup plan is also a good idea. Things can change.
Your plan might go something like this: If that dog gets too close I will move to the other side of the street. If that car stops I will walk away in the other direction. Since I am alone I will not talk to the well dressed stranger.
Note that the plan has a trigger (the dog gets too close, the car stops, the stranger tries to talk to you) and a response (cross the street, walk away, refuse to talk). You will repeat this process as the situation develops. You will need to pick a new trigger and a new response. In this way you can continue to act rather than react.
The vast majority of potential threats will of course never turn into actual threats. But crime does exist and being alert to, and then evaluating, potential threats is not paranoid, it is prudent, just as being alert to potential fire hazards around your home is prudent.
Being aware and alert may be enough to save you in some cases. Many criminals want the element of surprise. Many seek easy victims, not a fight. You will likely never know if awareness alone has saved you from a crime.
As a situation develops and you continue to use avoidance and evasion in response to a potential threat the time may come when your state of awareness reaches the alarm stage.
When a potential threat has crossed one or more of the threshholds you have set, and your avoidance response has failed to correct the situation, you will become alarmed.
In the example above the car stopped so you walked away in the other direction. Then the men got out and started following you down the street so you turned the corner and walked faster. But when the men turned the corner they pointed at you and started running to catch up.
You still don't know what they want, but you have reason to be alarmed. If you have no further means of escape your next response might be to issue a loud verbal challenge: "Stop! Don't come any closer!"
If this challenge is ignored you may be justified in presenting your handgun. If the situation allows, it might be better to access your handgun without displaying it. For example draw it from a shoulder holster but keep it hidden under your coat. A seasoned criminal will pick up on this and might break off the attack. Meanwhile nobody can legitimately claim you threatened them with a gun if they don't actually see it.
Of course if the men threaten you with weapons and are close enough to use them (more on this later) you are justified in threatening and using deadly force as well.
Decades ago, when my sister was studying for a lifeguard test, she went around the house reciting the definition of panic:
"Panic is a sudden, unreasoning and overwhelming fear which overcomes a victim in the face of real or fancied danger."
It is the unreasoning and overwhelming part that gets you in trouble. You must be able to think and act in order to have a chance to help yourself.
There is no room for panic in a viable self defense strategy.
To be continued...