More Than CCW: Self-Defense Beyond the Firearm

posted on February 28, 2019

I was at a local practical pistol match earlier this year, chatting with some of my friends, and one of them mentioned that she had just started taking a close-quarters jiu jitsu training lessons to help round out her self-defense skills.

“Why would you want to do that?” another friend said. “You carry a gun. You won’t ever need that.”

That response set me back a bit. Maybe it’s because I’ve carried a knife on me for years and years, or maybe it’s because I learned long ago that bright flashlight is handy thing to have on you on all times, but I’ve never seen my defensive sidearm as a “one size fits all” answer to life’s big (and little) problems. A concealed-carry pistol is a vital part of being ready to deal with the threat of lethal force against our lives, but one solution will not work for every situation.

This is where having other options such as a bright flashlight, a readily-deployable can of oleoresin capsicum spray (OC spray, or pepper spray) and a quick-access knife can come in handy. Carrying these items with me everyday, along with my concealed-carry pistol gives me a way to a respond to a variety of threats, and they can even stop a threat before it happens.

Consider this scenario: You have to make an unavoidable late-night run to your local big discount store. Walking out to car, grocery bags in one hand, you reach into your pocket and turn on a super-bright flashlight, lighting up the path to your car and sending out a clear signal to everyone around that you know how to deal with a dark parking lot. Does turning on that light also send a signal to any bad guys around you that you’re ready to deal with them as well? I’d say it does.

There are so many situations that can turn out bad for us which don’t require the display of or the use of lethal force, such as drawing and showing your opponent that you’re armed. While I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice, it strikes me as self-evident that display of lethal force in a situation where lethal force isn’t present is a dangerous escalation and can lead to avoidable legal issues.

Therefore, having some way to end an aggressive but non-violent confrontation seems to be a good idea, which is why I carry a can of pepper spray on me wherever I go. Is OC spray a good answer to the threat of lethal force? No. Is it a way to end a pushy, potentially violent encounter that I haven’t been able to de-escalate with words, or one that is following me despite my attempts to leave the area? I think so, which is why I’ve recently realized I need something that isn’t verbal de-escalation but isn’t lead flying downrange.

Another moment of inspiration hit me while I was attending Craig Douglas’s “Extreme Close Quarters Combat” (ECQC) class earlier this year, where I learned how to deal with someone close to me (within grappling distance) who wants to do me harm. Watching my fellow class attendees roll around struggling to get in a position to either get clear of the encounter or end it in someway was a revelation to me. I noticed that students who drew a gun (in this case we were using pistols that fired paint-marking simunition rounds) in a close-quarters situation would rarely, if ever, get off a useful shot at their opponent, even though their opponent was quite literally within arm’s reach. The rough-and-tumble nature of a close-quarters situation meant that it may not be possible to draw a concealed firearm in time to dealt with a threat, or it could be wrestled away, out of the fight, and became irrelevant to the outcome.

A training knife carried on the centerline, however, was a different story. The students in my class who were able to draw a training knife and get it into use when grappling usually emerged as the winner in a life-or-death wrestling struggle. Now, keep in mind that once again, I am not a lawyer, but it’s been my experience that a knife is quite often considered to be lethal force, so inform yourself of the legal ramifications of deploying one when you’re in a violent confrontation.

Having a gun and carrying a gun is great idea, because it means you’ve realized that you yourself are responsible for your immediate self-defense needs. But self-defense means more than just defending your life with a firearm. It means living safely and securely, no matter what happens, by using all the skills and tools available to you.


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