Remember that you may only use lethal force if you (or others) are in IMMEDIATE danger of death or serious bodily harm. The better you plan and the better you can identify that danger, the better the outcome will be. (From my book: I Am NOT A Victim! Click here to learn how to get it at no cost in email.)
One of the most common… and most serious questions asked in my self defense classes is something like, “How do you know when to shoot?”
How can anyone know exactly when they are in “immediate” danger of death or great harm? How can one plan and practice such a thing?
I’ve given this a lot of thought, and there are no easy answers. Many instructors and others have written much about it as well, but after reading a lot of them, I think most make it far too complicated. When you are faced with a life threatening experience, you will not have time to consider the philosophy of various writers, or even the “law” about it. You will be very fortunate if you have time to react and manage to avoid harm.
So, what can you do? Learn the basics of awareness and use of your weapon, obviously, and especially make up your mind to fight and do what is necessary to stay alive.
Make sure you understand clearly the commonly accepted criteria. (Commonly accepted in the West, in any case, and totally rejected in victim rich zones such as the UK.)
The attacker/aggressor must demonstrate these things:
- Proximity or opportunity. The aggressor must be close enough to you to actually do you harm. If they have a gun, that could be 50 feet or more, but don’t be fooled into thinking a person with a knife 20 feet away poses no danger. (See the video for a graphic example of how fast a person can reach you.)
- Ability to do you harm/disparity of force potential. Obviously, if a person is armed, you can assume they have the ability, but you must not assume that anything in their hands IS a weapon, of course. The police make this mistake often, but you will not get the same consideration. If the attacker is not armed, but is larger, younger or otherwise likely to be able to overpower you, the threat would be real indeed.
- Intent. This is the tough one, and is the gray area even in the “law.” You have no obligation to second guess, mind read or make excuses for anyone who is threatening you. It won’t help anything, and it could easily be fatal, to you or someone you love. But you also don’t want to shoot someone who was not actually a threat, of course. In the end, you have to trust your gut feelings. If you have observed that the previous criteria are in place, and you actually believe that your life is in mortal danger, then you must act.
How can you practice for this? In my experience, that boils down to how well you practice avoiding conflict, awareness of your surroundings, and familiarity with your gun and other tools. It requires a firm understanding of yourself and your actual (rather than ideal) reactions in an emergency, as well as the honesty to accept your limits and the limitations placed on you by others.
Some of this can be practiced by participating in shooting events such as IDPA competition, or taking extra classes in “schools,” such as Gunsight. The depth and complexity of the training you seek is up to you, and needs to be matched with your interests, needs and budget.
Go in peace, but be prepared to meet the devil.