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Tactics and Decision Making In A Self-Defense Situation

From Preppers Will:

Almost all shooting school instructors teach that the conditioned reflex is supreme in a self-defense situation. In armed confrontations, you will, under stress, react as you've programmed yourself to do. This is true, as repeated practice builds a set of conditioned reflexes which can serve you well in deadly danger. Conditioned reflexes have their problems, though.

Often, a self-defense situation requires decision making, not a reflex to open fire. If you're awakened by a noise, it may be a night intruder or a member of your family moving about. This is why giving yourself a space-time cushion is vital. You need time to observe, think, and decide on a court of action. There are tactics to give you this space and time you need to evaluate the situation.

The following won't give you the answer to every self-defense situation, but some useful guidelines to help you improvise.

Deadly encounters don't usually burst upon you. There are warning signs prior to an attack. Recognizing these, interpreting them properly, and giving yourself a margin of safety will often help you avoid the two dangers: becoming a victim, or using deadly force without justification.

The need to avoid being a victim is obvious, but the aftermath of a shooting is unpleasant for the survivor, too. Unlike in the movies, he doesn't holster his gun and walks away into the sunset. He has to explain the incident to the police, and often has the unpleasant feeling of being treated like a suspect himself. He might find that, under the law, his shooting didn't quite fit the legal definition of "self- defense situation" making him open to prosecution.

Tactically, space and time are very interchangeable. An assailant needs time to cover the space between himself and you and to develop his attack. You need to put enough space between yourself and him to give yourself time to forestall, block, or ward off the attack. Delaying an assailant's progress can give you the time to escape if that's the best course. There are practical ways to enlarge your space-time cushion, ways which will enhance your safety in a self-defense situation.

In traditional military terms, the defender has the advantage because he's dug in, and the attacker has to advance, exposing himself, to carry out the attack. This doesn't translate well into civilian life, where the defender's not behind fortifications and is often as exposed as his attacker. The assailant tries to employ surprise, closing in before showing his intention, to gain every possible second of advantage. If the aggressor can approach without alerting his intended victim, space translates into time.

Space equals time. Therefore, the more space you can keep between you and danger, the more you have working for you. It's not always possible, because real life rarely follows a prepared plan and you must be aware of this and cope with it. A subway car or staircase, for example, gives you little room to move. In such situations, you must be more alert and aware, as a substitute for distance and time.

The weapon you have available in a crisis is the one with which you go to war. Despite all of the information and the various opinions about which caliber has the best "stopping power." individual ability to use it is still the most important factor. It's not what you've got; it's what you do with it that counts.

Being familiar and proficient with your weapon. whatever it may be is vital. This includes being able to draw and fire without taking your eyes off the target. An armed confrontation is not a shooting match. There's no place for focusing on the front sight or some of the other techniques that are useful in competition. You need to watch the threat as it develops, and to scan the area for other dangers, as from accomplices.

Gaining Early Warning (If you attended one of my classes at HLS in NC or TMI in AL, this should sound very familiar)

A felonious assault can occur anywhere: at home or outside the home. The victim taken by surprise has a grave tactical disadvantage. If he is able to resist at all, it's only by quick reflexive action. This jeopardizes his chances of making the right decision, endangering him and perhaps his family. This is why it's essential to get an early warning before an attack comes with sudden danger.

At home, it's not enough to keep the doors and windows locked. It's wise to do so, but intruders can break in regardless. An alarm system helps, but few people have them. There are simpler measures which will give early warning. The key elements are sound and light.

Outside lighting helps If anyone's awake to see it. It can silhouette an intruder against a window or doorway. More important is sound.

Inside your home

Venetian blinds on every window will rattle in case of forced entry. Intruders have tricks, such as using duct tape or wet newspaper, to suppress the noise of breaking glass, but Venetian blinds are not as easy to overcome.

Small items, knick-knacks, on the windowsills, will make noise when an intruder knocks them to the floor. So will potted plants.

Arrange the furniture so that every window is obstructed, and the intruder can't simply climb over the sill and set foot on the floor. Anything light that's easy to knock over and that makes noise when falling will serve the purpose. In this regard, the worst thing to put under a window is a couch, with soft cushions that will take an intruder's weight without alerting you. If there must be a couch next to a window, leave a large enough gap so that the intruder will find it easier to set foot on the floor.

Keeping some items, such as roller skates or a vacuum cleaner, behind the couch will make a booby trap for the intruder without causing any danger for those who live there. A houseplant in a large, fragile vase will also make noise.

Don't overlook the advantage of a small but noisy dog who barks when anyone approaches. A dog can serve as a deterrent because the intruder has to consider the prospect that the householder's been awakened and may be lying in wait for him or calling the police.

Use the space inside your home to best advantage, combining the layout with obstructions to delay the intruder's getting to you.

If your bedroom is upstairs, a folding child's gate across the stain will delay him, and if there are some bells on it. he won't be able to negotiate it without noise. Keep your bedroom door locked. This can be troublesome for you, but it's more troublesome for the intruder because it will give you time to get fully awake and to get a weapon in your hand.

Keeping the bedroom door locked is best if there are no children in the home, but if there are. it can be counterproductive. An intruder, if he gets to the bedroom doors without awakening you, can try each door-knob, and he's more likely to go into an unlocked room to avoid the noise of breaking in. This can direct him into the children's room, which dangerously complicates the situation.

Outside your home

Outdoors, your alertness will vary with the situation. If you have to go into a high-risk area, take precautions. If driving, keep your doors locked and try to avoid being boxed in by traffic. Street gangs face a serious problem if the motorist stays in his car and if the situation deteriorates the car itself is an effective weapon.

The kinetic energy of a moving vehicle is far more than that of a bullet from the most powerful weapon. If walking, stay away from the building line, avoiding doorways and entrances to alleys. Parked cars can also conceal an assailant, and walking down the center of the sidewalk is the best compromise. Crossing the street often to the other sidewalk helps prevent an attacker's predicting your path and planning an ambush.

In buildings, be especially wary in closed spaces such as hallways, elevators, and staircases. If followed on foot, turn around suddenly and walk in the other direction. towards your "tail." He may be an innocent passerby, but scrutinizing him closely as you approach is far better than waiting blindly as he catches up to you from the rear. This seems to contradict the principle of keeping your distance, but tactically it's better to scan the person carefully and elevate the situation than to wait blindly.

The about-face also throws a potential attacker off his stride as he will lose the advantage of approaching his intended victim from the rear. He'll have to decide quickly between abandoning his plan or making a frontal attack, under the watchful eye of his victim. If an attack develops, get something between yourself and your assailant. This is critically important if he has a contact weapon, such as a club or knife. Distance means safety in such cases. A car, bench, mailbox, or even a phone booth will keep him from getting to you easily. If possible, get behind cover, but even if no cover is available, anything which will obstruct him will give you a few precious moments to think.

Cover and concealment in a self-defense situation

Tacticians view cover as protection from gunfire, and concealment as protection from being seen. They're also more than that. Both can buy you time in a self-defense situation. If an intruder's unaware that you're there and watching him, he won't have a target. Without a threat to your life, there's no urgency to open fire. This is extra protection against a mistaken identification and helps to prevent the tragedy that can follow when a householder shoots at a moving shadow in the dark.

Staying behind cover or concealment gives you not only time to identify the target, but to evaluate the situation. This is the moment to plan whether or not to open fire and when. Not all situations require deadly force, and much of the decision hinges on the individual's inclination, apart from the law. A defender may decide not to shot if the offender is young or if he's about to leave. A defender taking cover or concealment gives him time to think and denies it to the aggressor. This is using surprise against the intruder.

Skilled gun handlers have a technique known colloquially as the "stroke" drawing and tiring in one quick, fluid motion, pressing the trigger as soon as the weapon comes up into line. This is very fast and efficient, but it's tactically unsound in many cases. It can lead to shooting someone who's merely reaching for a handkerchief and the distasteful complications that follow such a mistake.