Sometimes the best self-defense is avoiding the situation in the first place. But how?
You have a concealed carry permit and a gun, which means you’re ready for anything, right? Wrong. While those two items are a must for everyone who wants to protect themselves, they are just the start. You could argue the gun is the last thing you need because if the situation has reached the point where you need to use it, things have gotten out of hand, and you are now down to your last option.
The goal of self-defense is exactly what it says, to defend yourself, not to kill everyone in the room Rambo-style and leave a mess of destruction in your wake. It is to escape the situation with your life intact, preferably free from injury. Often, that is best accomplished by avoiding the situation in the first place. But how do you do that?
Remember in Drivers Education class when your instructor told you always to be aware of the drivers around you in every direction? That’s because bad drivers are everywhere, and accidents can happen from all angles, not just in front. The same principle applies to situational awareness. Bad guys are more likely to attack from behind, where you can’t see them coming. But if you’re always checking your surroundings and looking around, you won’t have a blind spot. For example, when you get out your car to pump gas, look at who is around you. While you’re waiting for the tank to fill, stand facing away from your car, watching all the activity nearby.
As tempting as it is to bury your head in your phone with Facebook, Snapchat, and other all-important social media (insert eye roll), real life needs to take priority where your safety is concerned. So get your head out of your phone. If you need to check social media, return a phone call, or text your significant other, do it with your head up and alternating between your screen and the world around you. Remember, bad guys are looking for the easy hit. When you look down at your phone, you lose sight of what is happening around you, and you won’t see the threat approaching until it’s too late.
As weird as it may feel at first, especially if you’re a woman, making eye contact with people around you is a great way to deter them from doing bad things. Just knowing you see them can be enough to discourage potential threats from taking action. It can also help you remember more about them if they attack you anyway and you have to tell the police, or they attack someone else, and you can identify them for the victim. If you’re not used to it, making eye contact can seem awkward, but it gets easier the more you do it. The awkwardness is worth it if it could save your life.
If you look weak and vulnerable, you become an easier victim. But if you look confident, bad guys will likely skip over you and move on to someone else. One way to help with this is to know where you are going before you get there. If you look lost, you look vulnerable – easy prey. Avoid this by mapping everything out ahead of time. Walk with your head up, keep up a good pace, and look the part of a person who is supposed to be there. Criminal spot weaknesses and exploit them. Make yourself look like a hard target.
Bad guys are looking for isolated victims. They have a much higher chance of success if you are alone with nobody to help you. To counter that, go places in groups. Even if you’re by yourself, hang close to a group of people or blend into a crowd. There is security in numbers. Think of sheep and wolves. A wolf is looking for the one sheep that wandered off away from the flock. Stay with the flock, and you have a much higher chance of staying alive.
When you enter a restaurant, convenience store, Walmart, mall, or anywhere else, look for the exits and quickest evacuation routes. This will prepare you for evading any armed confrontations, but it might also help you escape a fire or natural disaster. There is a reason exits are clearly marked with lighted signs. It’s mostly for fire evacuation, but you can also go out that way if bullets start flying.
This may seem obvious, but don’t go places you know are prone to high crime. For example, if you’ve been out drinking with your friends in a sketchy neighborhood, how safe will you be in the dark alley by the bar? Use your head. If you get a bad vibe about a place, it’s probably for a good reason. Don’t go there. Don’t take unnecessary chances for a thrill. You may end up dead.
Playing hero can get you killed. Just because you have a gun doesn’t mean you have to use it. The best way to defend yourself is not to need to. The greatest tool you have at your disposal is the grey matter between your ears. Use it. Think before you act. The point of self-defense is not to kill people. It is to live to tell the story. More often than not, that means backing out of the situation. Be smart and go home in one piece.
David Workman is an avid gun guy and a contributing writer to several major gun publications. As an NRA-certified instructor, David trains new shooters on basic handgun skills and CCW requirements and is a strong advocate for training as much as possible. “Real-life shootouts don’t happen at a box range.”
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