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Responding to an Attack


Everyone responds differently when they are under attack, regardless if it's a verbal, physical, or other attack. The purpose of this section is to help students understand there are appropriate ways to act when under attack depending on the actual threat that exists. Common sense tells us a verbal disagreement shouldn't be settled using a firearm, and yet, there are far too many occasions when a firearm is used

Self-Defense Against Popcorn

The only way to recognize how and when we should use a firearm is through education, training, and mental preparation.

Psychological Responses to an Attack

When someone feels they are under attack, verbal or otherwise, there are certain physical and psychological reactions that occur. Our reactions depend on a number of factors: Is the attack a simple argument? Is the attack escalating to a physical fight? Is the attack life threatening? Has this occurred in the past under similar conditions? How did we handle a similar encounter in the past? How is this encounter different? How should I react?


It may be difficult to imagine yourself "freezing" during a life threatening attack, but it does occur more often than you may think. People who report this describe a feeling of helplessness, confusion, and despair that a life threatening event is unfolding in front of their eyes--what started as a simple disagreement, a stroll in the park, or simply coming home late at night has turned into a catastrophic, life-changing encounter.

Freezing is a natural reaction in any situation where an argument, verbal, physical, or life-threatening event occurs; but it should be very short lived. If you do not recover from the initial disbelief or shock of the situation, you may find yourself becoming a victim.


It is generally better to submit to an attackers demands than it is to resist them. Anything you have on your person can be replaced, regardless of its sentimental or monetary value.

Of course, submission depends on the circumstances, and only you can determine the correct response when being attacked. If the attacker does not have a weapon but can clearly over-power you, perhaps the best response is to submit to the threat and give the attacker whatever he or she wants. Even the most violent of predators will not cause harm to their victims if they comply with their demands. Bowing your head, looking towards the ground (to avoid identifying the attacker), placing your hands up, and verbalizing you don't want any trouble and you don't want to know what the attacker looks like; can oftentimes end on a positive note (you survived). Simply surrendering your wallet, purse, jewelry, and cash (never give up your concealed weapon) and escaping without physical damage or loss of life is a win-win for everyone concerned.

On the other hand, if the attacker has a knife, a gun, or some other instrument that can cause great bodily harm (pipe, baseball bat, hammer, other) and appears focused on causing great bodily harm or death regardless of cooperation--your reaction should be completely different. Studies show that an armed, law abiding citizen, when faced with this scenario, is more likely to survive an encounter using their weapon over choosing to be submissive. This is because current law enforcement intelligence has proven criminals are more likely to cause injury or death even when the victim is completely compliant to the demands of the attacker. This is a very difficult position to be in because no self-defense instructor can guess or tell you how to react --it depends on the circumstances, your training, experience, and capability to defend yourself.

Counter-Action Responses

Anti-gun activists want citizens to believe law enforcement is everywhere, at all times, when a crime is being committed so therefore, law abiding citizens should never be armed. Unfortunately, law enforcement does not have Superman's ability to be everywhere a crime is committed, therefore, you are left to defend yourself in most cases. In fact, law enforcement will tell you they are called to the scene after a crime has been committed, not before, and seldom during such an event.

Crime statistics show that today's, modern criminal is armed with a deadly weapon more often than not and are willing to maim or kill their victims needlessly, even after they have complied with the criminals demands. Your only choice is to fight for your life, especially when the criminal displays a weapon and appears to be willing to use that weapon to quiet or eliminate someone who can identify them in court. Submitting to the criminal may actually be worse than defending yourself, unfortunately, this is a case-by-case judgment call of the situation, the risks involved, and your assessment for success. Never go with a criminal if they demand you get into a vehicle!

Even under the best of conditions, self-defense training is your best defense. Attend regular firearms training sessions, practice techniques, develop a mindset to never become a victim, and include alternative methods (such as a close contact self-defense course) in your personal self-defense strategy.


Criminals do not expect you to resist. Posturing consists of using words, body language, positioning yourself in a boxing or karate stance, or using another intimidation method. Depending on the circumstances, the size of the assailant, the weapon in play, or the nervousness the assailant is portraying, posturing may work and frighten the criminal into submission and retreat. Posturing is a very dangerous option in most instances as the criminal may view this as a challenge and escalate the situation even worse, especially if they have evidence of a gang affiliation, a knife, or a gun.
Practice Your Self-Defense Options
You would not be attending a conceal carry firearms class if you were not contemplating carrying a firearm. Always know where your weapon is locates and practice retrieving it as quickly as possible (with the gun empty).

For men, carrying a small pocket pistol in your front or rear pocket (on your strong side) is an excellent alternative to attempting to draw from a holster. During an encounter, when its clear you'll need your weapon, simply pretend you are submitting to the criminals demands. Tell the criminal you are getting your cash or wallet while appearing to be meek and afraid. Reach into your pocket, turn off your safety, and draw your weapon, firing immediately (if necessary) into center mass. Remember, you have determined your life is in danger and there are no other options available but to neutralize the threat.

For woman, carrying a purse specifically designed for a concealed weapon allows you to appear to be removing your purse off your shoulder under the pretense of giving it to the criminal. Practice retrieving your pistol as you appear to be pulling your purse strap over your head. With your hand on the pistol, violently throw your purse at the assailant while maintaining your pistol in your hand, aim for center mass and neutralize your threat. As with men, you have determined this is a life threatening moment where you must eliminate or incapacitate the threat to save your life.


As always, you must assess your success if you choose to run from the threat. The option to flee from the situation is always a preferred method of avoiding a confrontation. Remember, a firearm is a tool of last resort! Unfortunately, the assailant has likely thought of this option ahead of time and has chosen the optimal opportunity to strike, which includes considering your option to run away. If you are fortunate enough to run into a store, gas station, or other building where potential witnesses are present; run inside shouting there's an assailant or criminal with a (bat, pipe, knife) and immediately lock yourself in the first available bathroom. Prepare yourself for the worse outcome by drawing your weapon and focusing it on the door.


If you believe you can fight yourself out of a life threatening encounter, by all means take action! If you have attended a personal, self-defense, close-combat class, such as boxing or karate, and you feel you can "beat-down" the assailant, by all means do so if you believe you will win. It is far better to defend yourself through the use of a martial art than it is to present and use a firearm. Remember, you always have the option to present your weapon if necessary.
Do Not Antagonize the Situation!
We are all too familiar with the Martin-Zimmerman case. Zimmerman was a local "Neighborhood Watch Captain" who approached Trayvon Martin and asked him to leave the neighborhood. For whatever reason, a conflict occurred shortly thereafter, causing a fight where Zimmerman was pinned down, his head pounded against a set of concrete stairs, where he felt it was necessary to present and use his firearm in self-defense. After months of investigation, an arrest, and a trial, Zimmerman was exonerated of all charges.

Unfortunately, minority communities wanted to make this verdict an issue of race. During the Zimmerman trial, it was clearly a case where George Zimmerman, an American of Hispanic descent, was defending himself from Martin. Zimmerman was accused of killing Martin because he was an American of African descent; the African-American community refused to accept Zimmerman was nearly beaten to death; that didn't seem to matter to the African-American community. This can, and will, repeat itself if you are an American citizen defending yourself against a member of a minority community. "Justice for Trayvon" (justice was served--the accused was acquitted) and yet, some members of the African-American community can't accept the outcome. Had Zimmerman been found guilty, "Justice for Treyvon" believers would have been praising the jury; but for the wrong reasons. The jury did their job--they examined the evidence, they heard from witnesses, they acquitted George Zimmerman based on facts, not prejudice.

At the "end-of-the-day", we will never know what truly transpired between Zimmerman and Martin. Perhaps Martin felt threatened by Zimmerman. Perhaps, Martin felt "threatened" by Zimmerman's "white" appearance. Perhaps Martin felt he should fight Zimmerman based on the color of his skin and not on the principles in which Zimmerman was enforcing.

In retrospect, Zimmerman may have been equally guilty of enticing and antagonizing the situation. Zimmerman had the option to return to his vehicle, report a "suspicious" person, and wait for police to respond. Unfortunately, Zimmerman or Martin may have "postured" themselves driving either of them to respond in an inappropriate manner.

At the end-of-the-day; Zimmerman was completely in the right, as determined by a jury of his peers. Zimmerman protected himself from an obvious, intentional threat against his person (life)--like it or not. The color of Martin's skin was not a factor (the jury went so far as to say race was not a consideration). If Martin had been white (Caucasian), the arrest would have never occurred, the trial would have never taken place, and the race card would have never entered into the picture. Unfortunately, the African-American community found a perfect opportunity to make this an issue of race, forgetting, they are not African-American citizens, but rather, Americans of African descent. If their community looked upon themselves as Americans first, the prejudice card could not be played.

Minority communities, who are the first to play the race card, should take a look at themselves, their own prejudices, and the color of our current United State's President's skin. If America (Americans) are still "racist" as their assert, Brock Obama would never have been elected as President of the United States of America--the highest, most respected position in the world; second only to the Pope.

In short, there are a multitude of situations and conditions where a situation can accelerate and get out-of-hand. Americans, all Americans, need to stop using the "race" to explain away every unfortunate and bad situation that occurs when the fight is between two different Americans of different descents. If the attacker were to calm down, consider their objective, and understand what they are doing is wrong, there would be no need to explain their actions. If America, its citizens, and her ethic groups can get over themselves and move into the 21st century, they would realize the word "prejudice" is a word from the past--it has no use or purpose in today's modern, civilized world.

Physical Reactions that Occur During a Life-Threatening Attack

Regardless of how much you train for a life-threatening encounter, there are certain psychological and physical changes that will occur. These traits are inherent with every encounter and are to be expected and anticipated during a violent encounter. By rehearsing regularly, attending self-defense classes, and practicing with your firearm, these reactions can be minimized. The primary purpose for improving your skills is to avoid having these reactions take over; leaving you defenseless. Practice refines your skills, trains your body to react under pressure, and improves your automatic responses.

General Responses to an Impending Attack

Generally, there is a time period that occurs between the awareness of a potential life-threatening encounter and the moment in which you must decide when and how to react. You will notice the tell-tale signs of increased adrenaline in your system, your heart begins to race, your pulse increases, and your muscles begin to tense up in anticipation for having to protect yourself.

During this period of time, you will loose your fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are the simpler actions you take for granted everyday, such as unlocking your door or reaching for your wallet. You will notice this loss when deciding to present your firearm, when readying your weapon, loading a fresh magazine, or attempting to focus your sites on the target.

Tunnel Vision

Tunnel vision occurs when you are completely engaged in protecting yourself against a threat. You will find yourself so focused on the threat that everything beyond your immediate field of vision will be ignored. Because tunnel vision is a natural reaction to any threat, it cannot be avoided, relying instead on extensive self-defense training, muscle training, and memory training gained during practice. Good habits, such as assessing the entire area for additional threats will become second nature and may ultimately save your life; but you won't get there if you don't train on a regular basis.

Auditory Exclusion

You've seen this on television and in the movies--your ability to hear and react to sounds not related to the attack will be greatly diminished as your whole body is focused on defending yourself from the impending attack. Auditory exclusion will also be affecting the attacker as he moves towards you and with witnesses as they watch the life-threatening encounter unfold. It is recommended, through training, to practice yelling your commands, such as "stop or I'll shoot", "get down on the ground", or "drop your weapon". Auditory exclusion is the reason law enforcement yell-out their commands in an effort to be heard and in an effort to combat their own auditory reaction.

Time Dilation

This is another special effect you'll see during an action film where time appears to slow down or even stop during a violent encounter. Minutes feel like seconds and seconds pass by quickly as you react to protect yourself. Time dilation cannot be ignored, cannot be avoided, and must be avoided to protect yourself within the time needed to eliminate a threat. As with all physical reactions, regular self-defense practice is needed to overcome the natural fear to reacting quickly to a physical threat.

Memory Loss

Your mind will attempt to process the attack in a manner in which it can accept an attack has, or is, occurring. Because of this reaction, you must train yourself to refrain from making any statements about the attack to law enforcement other than to state you were under attack, you were the victim, and the criminal was the assailant. Law enforcement knows this is a vulnerable and highly suggestive moment in time and will use this moment to gather as much information about the attack they can. While you need to cooperate with law enforcement, you also need to protect yourself from making any statement that can be used against you in court. Any utterance of anything that suggests you over reacted, fired too quickly, or failed to look for potential avenues of escape and avoidance will work against you. Simply state the most basic facts and ask for an attorney to be present during questioning. As always, consult with your attorney before an attack ever occurs to receive legal instruction on what to say after the attack and how to protect yourself during the investigation. Inform law enforcement you are not ready to provide a complete statement until your attorney has been consulted. You may end up being arrested and taken to jail, however, the alternative if inadvertently incriminating yourself is a far worse outcome.

Avoiding an Attack

When at home, you are on your territory--you know where your weapons are, you've created a safe room, you have practiced retreating to your safe room and positioning yourself in the safest area of your room for an attack. When an attack occurs outside your home, there's no safe room to retreat too, you may not have any escape routes, and you are operating completely in the dark, in unfamiliar surroundings, where the criminal has likely already planned for your demise. Although you may feel you're in an impossible situation, there are several things you can do to protect yourself.

Practice Awareness

As mentioned earlier, be aware of your surroundings, make a mental not of how you can remove yourself from a dangerous position whenever possible. Plan your escape route, anticipate additional options. Use common sense and avoid getting into an elevator or subway car when there's no one else but yourself and a suspicious looking person. You may have time to react and distance yourself before the actual attack begins, such as when a criminal tells you he has a knife and demands your money. The criminal may be far enough away that you can run into a crowded store, a restaurant, or other public building. If you are running from the attacker, put as many obstacles between you and the attacker, such as trees, walls, corners, or throwing down trash cans while retreating.

Beware of Strangers

Using common sense, being aware of your environment, and preparing for a violent attack can be your best defense in avoiding a confrontation. If the area is void of people, if it's late at night, if there appears to be a situation that could escalate into an attack, be very cautious of a person or group of people approaching you. Even if the person approaching you appears non-threatening, tell them to stop a safe distance away from you, tell them you're happy to help them but that you're uncomfortable with them getting any closer. Always remember the closer they are to you, the greater the chance they can harm you. If they don't stop, be prepared to provide additional distance on your own or to retreat to a better position.

Yell Your Commands

Issue loud, verbal commands if you feel the situation is becoming dangerous. Yelling your commands will attract witnesses, lower your stress level, weaken the effects of auditory exclusion and time dilation, and place the attacker on alert. Criminals are very smart, and some may try to talk to you in a calm voice or may continue to approach you, telling you to calm down. If this occurs, it's a sure sign you may be headed for trouble; be prepared to take whatever self-defense measure is necessary to protect yourself.

Holding an Attacker at Gunpoint

If you must present your firearm, do so in a very affirmative and confident manner, yelling at the attacker to stop, go away, get down on the ground, and inform the attacker you will defend yourself if necessary. Do not prevent the attacker from running away, do not pursue the attacker, and do not get in the way. Numerous studies have shown if an attacker perceives they can be mortally wounded, they will run from the crime scene. Remember, your goal is to eliminate the threat, not to shoot first and ask questions later. It is the job of law enforcement to track down the criminal, it is your job to be a good witness, observe physical characteristics, and any special tattoos or unusual clothing.

Keep in mind you want to eliminate the threat, you want the attacker to run away, you don't want to escalate into having to use your firearm unless there are no other options. Also, keep in mind the situation is rapidly changing--you're in a very volatile situation. The attacker may throw their hands up and shout that you have a gun, making them appear to be the victim. An off-duty officer may draw their weapon and order you to drop your weapon. Unless you are absolutely, positively convinced, through identification or confirmation this is an off-duty officer, do not disarm yourself--it may be the attacker's accomplice. Remain focused on the criminal and shout out for someone to call the police. The worst case scenario is a fellow, law abiding citizen believes he is coming to render assistance to the perceived victim (the attacker) and draws their weapon on you! Again, remain composed and in control, tell the citizen you are the victim and shout for someone to call the police. Off-duty law enforcement officers and citizens rendering aid should be able to reason that a true criminal would not likely ask for someone to call the police. Wait for a marked patrol car or a uniformed officer to arrive before surrendering your weapon.

Should the attacker comply with your order to get down on the ground, pay special attention to any weapons they may have and order them to place their weapon on the ground and to move away from the weapon. Order them to lie down on the ground with their hands and feet spread far apart, and yell for someone to call the police or call the police yourself if you feel you have the situation under control. Do not approach the criminal, attempt to frisk them, or in any way attempt to restrain them. Your job is to eliminate the threat, not to apprehend or shoot the person if it's unnecessary.

Finally, when the police do arrive, keep in mind they have no idea what they are getting themselves involved in--you, in their eyes, are the threat. Be sure to follow their instructions carefully; with slow, deliberate movements, keeping your hands in plain sight at all times.
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