Defensive Encounters Are Difficult

Written by Isaac Chase

July 24, 2022

When I talk to students about defensive encounters in our Free Concealed Carry Classes, I always stress that these fights tend to be difficult. A great many people have zero understanding of this. Many people believe that the gun is everything they need, they do not understand that they need the skill to use the tool, and they are unaware of how difficult these fights are.

There are entire books written about these topics but in the interest of time, I’m only going to focus on one aspect of the WHY behind the difficulty of dynamic critical incidents.

In the hands of a responsible citizen, concealed carry firearms are purely defensive tools. That’s the way the law sees it, that’s the way we teach it, that’s the moral way to use this tool. There is an implied consequence to this distinction. In the moment you have to use this tool you are responding to a life-threatening attack. If you are responding to this type of attack, that means the bad guy acted first. This automatically puts you at a disadvantage in the fight.

Acting first gives a fighter an enormous advantage based on the neurophysiological AND the psychological realities of the human mind and body. It can take the average person more than 1 full second to mentally process a stimulus, make a conscious decision to act, and to implement the reaction that was chosen. Certainly, the body has the ability to react faster than one second, but most of these reactions are instinctive and not within the control of the person. The startle response is an example. When a loud unexpected noise happens, most people will lower their center of gravity, raise their hands in the direction of their heads and orient their eyes towards the direction the noise came from. This is not a learned response; it is an instinct developed through evolution.

The reactions I want to focus on are the conscious actions. These would include moving your body in a chosen direction, fighting with your hands, communicating, utilizing a weapon, etc. In the context of a deadly force fight, it takes a long time for most people to recognize the threat, formulate a plan, and implement the plan. And this is a process that happens usually multiple times within a single dynamic critical incident. It’s a recognition/decision/action loop.

Because the bad guy got to start the fight, he automatically has the competitive edge in the fight until his plan is disrupted. He may very well have other advantages, including physical size, skill, weapons, numbers, etc.

Sometimes when I bring this up with students, they get angry because they recognize the inherent unfairness in this equation. Getting pissed off because the world is not fair is not a useful attitude when it comes to these issues. Focusing on the negative is not going to help you with your preparation, fair or not.

A far more useful way to approach this is to understand these dynamics, and to train for them. How does a professional baseball player train to hit a 100-mph fastball? The pitch covers those 60 feet faster than most people off the street can even see it. In fact, the ball covers that distance in ONE THIRD of a second! How does a batter recognize the pitch, decide whether or not to swing, and get the bat around soon enough and precise enough to hit the ball? The most basic answer is practice.

How should we train for the inherent difficulty of a defensive fight for your life? It’s the same answer, practice. In the future, I will spend more time talking about what that practice and training should look like. The point of this article is to illustrate one factor as to why these fights tend to be far more difficult than most people understand or are prepared for. Not every example of self-defense will be as difficult as other instances, but data and evidence clearly show that “difficult” is the norm, not the exception.

If you bought a gun to defend your life, you also bought a responsibility to be as prepared as you can be for the most likely scenarios. Take that responsibility seriously.

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