Getting to your gun in a deadly force encounter may prove more challenging than you might think. Surprise attacks are more like ambushes and without fair warning it may not be the most important thing at that moment.

Empty Your Hands

Following a few rules can put you a better position to defend yourself. Get rid of anything that cannot be used as a first strike weapon. A first strike weapon can be virtually anything. It doesn’t have to be a weapon in the traditional set. A hot cup of coffee thrown in the face of your attacker can have an immediate effect. In today’s world the desire to be connected is powerful. It can also be one of the worse distractions and make for an easy target. An important realization is violent criminal actors are surveying their environment. Using this information to assess a list of probable targets then narrow the list to who they believe will produce the highest chances of success. Invest in wireless ear phones and put your phone away. Instead, consider carrying a benign object like a sturdy pen when ever in public spaces, especially crowded spaces.

Survey Your Route

I know it seems silly, but stop and look. What does your terrain look like and what is the best route to get to your objective; vehicle, front door or an exit. This is probably the singles greatest personal protection technique you can employ. Before you venture off on your route, take a moment to evaluate what you see. What is happening around you. Does it seem normal? Do you see someone out of place, who doesn’t belong? Are they observing you while attempting to not appear to be observing you. Information you gain from this quick little reconnaissance is hugely valuable. You can then decide using real time intelligence your best course of action. If you have items you are carrying, this would be the time to consider your force options. Can you gain access to your firearm. If not, what can you use as a first strike while carrying your packages.

Less Lethal

Now more than ever you have to consider other force continuum options. With so much hostility in our world expanding your response options can have both good and bad outcomes. A good example of less lethal would be a form of OC spray. The most important thing to consider when employing less lethal is it slows down an attacker, not necessarily stops a committed attack. It is designed to break contact and flee or seek cover. While it may actually stop the violent criminal in their tracks it is wishful thinking to expect this in every encounter. A better approach would be to consider it a half measure that buys you time and space. As you continue to survey your situation do you need to move from your first strike weapon to something more appropriate such as OC spray.


Not to state the obvious, but don’t go looking for trouble. If your awareness skills are improved you may identify pre-attack cues allowing you to adapt to the situation. One part of this adaptation is avoidance. Can you avoid the situation. Can you seek a different route, return to your vehicle, or call for help. I can appreciate how this can be an inconvenience. How this can affect your day and so it can sometimes be easy to shut that part of your brain down. In a sense turn off your gut instincts. Try not to do this because I promise you the slight inconvenience will pale to standing trial or worse. Avoidance should be your goal, but adapting and if necessary attacking with your first strike weapon should be an integral part of your mindset. If you get past the first few seconds of your crisis you hopefully bought yourself time to access your firearm if it is still necessary.

Awareness leads to avoidance or awareness can lead to adaptation. When it comes to adaptation thinking outside the box will open your eyes to a lot of options.

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