In the past, I have used the term “hardening the target” to refer to the various ways we can make our home less appealing to criminals. However, the real target that needs to be hardened is the one you see in the mirror. Without coming across like Wyatt Earp, Jr., you need to do everything you can to make attacking you the worst mistake a potential threat ever made. It is not about something you read in a book, or what you might have done years ago or even during military service, it’s about ongoing preparation to deal with evil. It is about our continual preparation and our continued readiness to deal with potential violence that could be visited upon us.
I wonder if anyone has ever worn out a quality handgun by continued shooting and working to improve one’s marksmanship skills. The closest I came was with a brand-new 4-inch Smith & Wesson Model 19 I bought as a new police officer. I shot that gun during our department qualifications, on my days off, on various hunting trips and on every other opportunity I had to put lead downrange. I shot that gun with department-issue ammo, with ammo I bought with my hard-earned money and with handloaded ammo when I took up that craft to try to save money.
I wish now that I had kept a record of the number of rounds I fired through that Model 19. For all of that, I never did wear it out; instead, it was just nicely broken in. But, in the process I learned a whole lot about what it takes to hit a target. And I realized that maintaining such skills was an ongoing process, because shooting skills are quickly diminishing skills. Developing and maintaining good shooting skills is one of the ways we harden the target.
Another way is to achieve and maintain good physical conditioning. A violent encounter is also a very stressful encounter. It may not be just about guns and shooting; it can also involve physical contact. And, it is not at all uncommon for victims to suffer heart attacks and other serious physical problems as a result of such confrontations. Let’s face it, a lot of these young punks are in way better shape than some of us are.
Hardening the target also means being involved in some sort of regular physical exercise. Cardio exercise and regular trips to the gym can go a long way toward getting us into the kind of shape where we are able to defend ourselves and deal with the resultant stress. If you have some doubts about your physical situation, it might be a good idea to consult with your family doctor before starting an exercise program. Still, staying in shape is a vital part of personal defense.
We also need to be part of a continuing education program regarding crime, criminals and defensive tactics. When I was a young officer, I took every opportunity to spend time with older, more experienced lawmen and to learn what I could from them. Many of those old-timers had fought to live, and their advice kept me alive in later years.
Today we are blessed with some very good training schools for the armed citizen; schools that not only teach a person to shoot, but also—more importantly—how to fight and survive. They teach a student to recognize the signs of impending trouble and they give him or her good ideas for how to deal with it and/or to avoid it altogether.
After all these years, I still try to attend at least one training school a year. And it seems like I always pick up something new or get reminded of something I have forgotten.
Personal defense is not a skill that we can ever say we have completely learned, just as we can never say we are always alert and aware of our surroundings. It is something we can continually add to and improve, because there is always room for improvement.
Developing these and other personal-defense skills will be an ongoing commitment. The important thing is, instead of relying upon blind luck, we learn and continually practice techniques that will save our lives. It involves a commitment in time and finances, but it is well worth it in terms of protecting your life and your family.
All of this is the reason we say that personal defense should be a lifestyle, not a hobby. In the criminal world, you are the target. It is up to you to harden that target and make any attack on you the worst mistake an aggressor could ever make.