It’s a Lifestyle

Staying safe requires more than just a gun and some gear.

posted on May 19, 2022
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“You are responsible for your own safety,” is a slogan that applies to all of us whether we choose to go armed or not. When we are faced with a violent criminal attack, there is absolutely no guarantee that anyone will be there to help us—especially in those few moments when lives can be saved or lost.

What, then, can we tell those people, many of whom are new to personal defense or simply don’t take it seriously? You know the folks I’m talking about, the ones who buy a gun, load it and think they are good to go. I have a good friend who did just that; bought a handgun, loaded it and then stuck it under the seat of his car. He actually drove into Canada—having forgotten the gun was there—and then drove back into the U.S., not discovering his error until he was unpacking at home. He was extremely lucky he didn’t end up in jail in either country. Then, there was the city detective who made a bank-robbery call with me and forgot that he had left his gun in his desk drawer, back at the station.

I think what we need to do is to convince these folks that personal defense is a lifestyle. Instead of relying on that fickle mistress blind luck, we accept the fact that violent crime can impact any of us, anywhere, at any time. And, we intend to be prepared to do something about it.

Consider this: My research shows that the average age of a violent criminal is 25 years. There are not so many fat, overweight bad guys, at least not the ones doing the dirty work on the streets. Most of those criminals are slim, trim, overwhelmingly male predators. Now, I’m guessing, but I suspect that the average age of our readers is somewhat older than that. And, again—while I’m not trying to hurt feelings—I suspect that for most of us our slim-and-trim days are past. For these reasons, being prepared to deal successfully with an attack is even more important. We do that by honing our marksmanship and gun-handling skills and our combat mindset.

Defensive marksmanship and gun handling are different from plinking and target shooting. We have to compress the basic marksmanship skills into fractions of seconds. We may well have to deal with moving targets in low light while we are under the most stress we have ever experienced. To deal with this successfully requires lots of practice—by that I mean very focused practice. I am talking about the amount of practice that makes these skills almost second nature because our mind will be focused on the tactics needed to survive such an encounter.

During our frontier days, defensive shooters had to learn from experience, “on the job training,” if you will. A lot of them didn’t learn enough, fast enough, to save their own lives. And that is why you’ve never heard about them—they didn’t live long enough to get famous. Today, we are fortunate to have numerous professional schools to help us avoid that pitfall. We can do a great service to the new defensive shooters—or the reluctant ones—by encouraging them to take advantage of this training. A good training class is a shortcut to survival.

Instead of relying on that fickle mistress blind luck, we accept the fact that violent crime can impact any of us, anywhere, at any time. And, we intend to be prepared to do something about it.

By the same token, it is important to develop a good combat mindset. Combat mindset is simply developing the mental mechanics to spot trouble and know how to deal with it. However, the best gear and training will not make up for poor tactics.

We can explain to our new friends that awareness is the most important defensive tactic. If something doesn’t look right or feel right, it probably isn’t. A well-trained and well-armed friend of mine walked out of a restaurant one night and was headed across the street to where his car was parked. Before leaving the sidewalk, he noticed what appeared to be a number of gang members hanging out in the parking lot he was headed to. Instead of barging ahead and playing John Wayne, he went back into the establishment and requested that police or security guards clear the parking lot prior to his departure. Later that evening, after he and his lady friend had safely left the area, a gang-related shooting was reported in that very same parking lot. Combat mindset is not necessarily about shooting people; it is more often about finding ways to avoid shooting people while remaining safe.

In short, getting serious about our personal defense becomes a lifestyle and a life-saving style. We make the whole thing a serious learning experience and a continuing learning experience. At no point can we honestly say, “I’m good to go.” There is always more to learn and more skills to practice and hone. I think that this thing that we call courage is simply learning to function successfully in spite of our natural fear. When personal defense becomes a lifestyle choice, our confidence and ability increase immensely.


Thompson sub-machine gun in WWII field
Thompson sub-machine gun in WWII field

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