I was having a conversation with a friend the other day. He asked me an interesting question. “How does someone get started in self defense?”
The first thing that came to mind was, “They got scared.”
That’s not what he meant, though. He meant, “How would someone start taking their personal safety seriously?”
Now that’s a great question. Such a great question, I had to think on it for a few days.
There are a lot of issues to address. I could write a book on it. I might, but for now this primer will do.
Below are 17 tips to improve your personal safety. Start taking self defense seriously. No one’s going to do it for you.
#1 – Don’t Status Signal
The very first thing you should do is stop status signalling. Before any guns or training enter the picture.
The very best thing you can do to become safer is stop being a target.
Signalling you’re high status has several social benefits. It’s worse on your bank account and your personal safety.
Why would someone rob, mug, rape, or kill you if you just look like an average person? They wouldn’t.
Think about it. They can choose any victim they want. Why would they choose you?
Make yourself an unattractive prospect. Am I saying you should live like a bum?
No. I’m saying you shouldn’t LOOK significantly higher status than your surroundings.
If you want to drive a luxury car and wear tailored suits every day, have rich neighbors. Live somewhere that considers your lifestyle normal.
#2 – Build Your Body
Remember the number one way to increase your personal safety? Don’t be a target.
Fat fucks and pencil necks are targets. You don’t have to look like Arnold, but you shouldn’t be a target.
This is really simple. If you want specifics, here’s a check list:
- Have less than 20% body fat
- Carry more muscle than average for your weight
- Walk like a man – have good posture
It’s simple. Don’t make simple things complicated.
#3 – Be Situationally Aware
Situational awareness is a topic that gets beaten to death. It’s beaten to death for good reason.
Most people THINK they are situationally aware when they aren’t. There’s a simple solution.
Cooper’s Color Code is a handy tool. Use it.
Most people think they are living life in code yellow. In reality, most people are either living life in code white or code orange.
If that doesn’t make sense, read this and it will.
#4 – Install Lights Outside Your Door
If you rent or own a home, this one’s for you. If you live in a building, it’s probably already well lit.
Being caught unaware is called a “disadvantage”. Nothing is worse than having to clear the fatal funnel that you used to call your front door.
Having lights installed outside isn’t going to win any gun fights. It can help prevent them, though.
Criminals are cowards. When the odds are high that they’ll be seen, they’ll probably pick another target.
If they’re too stupid to realize this, at least you’ll have witnesses.
#5 – Ask Yourself The Question
What is the question? The question is something every person should ask themselves before becoming armed.
No one can answer this for you. If you aren’t ready, you aren’t ready. Becoming armed is a good way to become dead if you aren’t prepared to take action.
Consider this, though. Defending your own life isn’t just for you. It’s for all the people that depend on you. All the people that love you.
Very, very few people on this earth are truly alone. If you aren’t willing to take that step, there isn’t much I can tell you.
It’s a decision you must make for yourself.
#6 – Learn How to Use The OODA Loop
Before you even buy a gun, you need to learn The OODA Loop. You need to learn how to leverage it.
This goes beyond self defense. The OODA Loop is a strategy you can use for everything. From Business, to fighting, to sex.
It’s a strategy to use in any situation between one human and another. It works, and it works well.
It might just save your life one day. Read about it here.
#7 – Learn Your Local Laws
The odds of you getting screwed by Johnny Law? Actually, pretty high. Let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time, Lloyd didn’t have a concealed carry permit. He already took the class, and was waiting on his permit to arrive.
Lloyd was “carrying” a pistol legally anyway. Lloyd had been robbed at work and didn’t feel safe without a gun.
In the state Lloyd lived in, you could legally have a pistol in your glove box. All was well in the kingdom.
Then, one day, Lloyd was pulled over by a deputy who looked like a young Sasquatch. This young deputy didn’t know the state law very well.
The young deputy asked Lloyd where his registration was. Why, it was in the glove box! Lloyd informed the deputy of this, and went to retrieve it. Blissfully ignorant of the gun he had put there earlier.
Twenty minutes later, Lloyd was on the ground with a hefty young Sasquatch on his back. Lloyd knew better than to strike an officer of the law.
The hefty young Sasquatch only let go when Lloyd rattled off the Open Carry provisions and asked Sasquatch to Google it.
Know your laws, kids.
#9 – Buy a Handgun
Most recommendations are pretty generic here. Unlike most, I’ll actually give you a recommendation.
I recommend you get the Glock 19 if you’re not a gun guy. It covers the widest range of needs you might have.
If you go to the gun store and the Glock 19 doesn’t fit your hand, no problem. There are a slew of guns almost exactly like it. Find one that feels good in your hand and approximates the Glock 19.
If you don’t know enough about guns to know what that means, here’s a check list.
- Chambered in 9mm – Cheap, plentiful, powerful enough to get the job done.
- Full sized gripping surface – Meaning you can get a full hand on the gun.
- A barrel below 4″ – A concealed carry gun doesn’t have to be a cannon.
- Polymer frame – Light weight, reduces felt recoil, proven material.
- High Capacity – So you can use it as part of your home defense strategy.
- Corrosion Resistant Finish – Minimize your maintenance time.
If it meets these six criteria and fits your hand, it’s fine. Don’t obsess over this choice.
#10 – Buy a Good Holster
People will buy a $550 gun and stuff it in a $25 holster. This is why they never carry their $550 gun.
As a general rule, your holster should cost at least 20% the price of a service pistol. Service pistol is Gun Nut Talk for Glock.
I recommend Crossbreed Holsters.
I’m not going to link them, because they probably wouldn’t like what I’m about. I let businesses I like remain free from association.
The crossbreed is a hybrid holster. Some people don’t like hybrid holsters. I like them. I have 17 of them.
The back of the holster is leather. It will mold to your body over time. The part that holds the gun is kydex.
Mine is cut differently from the standard model. The cut makes it easier to draw. Crossbreed offers this service, or you can do it yourself.
Kydex can be molded with heat, so you can adjust how tight the holster holds your gun. There is a downside, though.
Leather holsters wear out. The part close to your body, the part that gets sweat on it, is leather.
You don’t buy a holster once and use it forever. It’s like the air filter in your car – you can keep it running a long time, but eventually you’ll need a new one.
It’s a well made holster and the price reflects it. Don’t put a price tag on self defense. Life is priceless.
#11 Buy a Lot of Ammo and Shoot A Lot
Pistols suck as weapons. Partly because they’re hard to shoot.
Don’t believe the hype on television and movies. It takes a lot of shooting to get good. Then it takes regular shooting to stay good.
What’s more, you’re going to need different kinds of ammo. Here are my exact recommendations.
- Buy 5000 Rounds of Federal American Eagle Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) 124 Grain Ammunition.
- Buy 500 Rounds of Federal Hydra-Shok Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP) 124 Grain Ammunition.
The point of aim, point of impact of these two loads are going to be nearly identical. You can practice with the cheaper American Eagle ammunition and carry the Hydra-Shok.
You still need to practice with what you carry. Ensure the Hydra-Shok is reliable in your gun.
A word on Over-Pressured Ammo
There are a lot of people who won’t carry 9mm +P or 9mm +P+ because they wear out guns quicker. There are a lot of people who won’t carry a 9mm handgun unless it’s got +P or +P+ in the magazine.
+P and +P+ ammunition are loaded to higher pressures. That’s all. You get a little more zip.
If you want to carry them, that’s fine. Your call. You’ll need to find a different practice round, though.
#12 Practice Your Draw
I don’t mean quick draw, either. Drawing quick is the least important part. Here’s a simple four step draw.
- Clear the cover garment. T Shirt in this case.
- Draw pistol from holster and level at target. Drop garment.
- Bring pistol to center of body, connecting support hand as you do.
- Present pistol toward target. Note position of front sight relative to dominant eye.
When you draw like this, you can fire from step two if you need to. Careful not to shoot your non-dominant hand.
Shooting from step two or three is only a good idea if your attacker is diving on you. Full presentation (step 4) is where you’ll do your best shooting.
This might seem like something basic. Remember, the best is just the basic done better.
If you carry in a different position, like appendix carry, that will change your draw somewhat.
The steps are the same as what I wrote above, it will just look different. Find what works for you.
Develop muscle memory with your draw. Get comfortable with the movements before you start attempting them faster.
Obviously, you should do this with an unloaded gun.
#13 – The Back Up Plan
Okay, you’ve got your gun and you practice with it. It’s still a pistol, and a pistol is still a shitty weapon.
When you actually have to stake your life on it, you’ll realize that. It will suddenly feel like a paperweight.
That’s what the back up plan is for. The back up plan is your last line of defense. It’s only an option in the event of a home invasion or similar circumstance.
You and anyone unlucky enough to be with you in the event of a home invasion are barricaded in the bed room.
The drug addled psychopaths are beating on the door. Things can’t get much worse.
You’ve positioned your loved ones out of your line of fire. The door and whatever is holding it are all that separate you from the goblin.
This is where you holster your pistol and pick up an ugly shotgun. For the widest variety of people, the shotgun is king.
A rifle only makes sense for home defense if your nearest neighbors are miles away. If that’s you, great.
If you’re like most people, your neighbors live closer than that. A shotgun is your salvation.
This step is deciding which one is right for you. I can’t tell you that, because I don’t know (or want to know) where you live.
Since only some people can use a rifle but everyone can use a shotgun, that’s the next tip.
#14 – The Shotgun
I recommend a Mossberg 500 with multiple barrels. I believe you can do the same thing with a Remington 870, but I’m a Mossberg man.
#15 – The Shot Shells
Everyone is quick to recommend 00 Buckshot. I don’t.
00 Buck can ventilate a bad guy and still penetrate the exterior wall of your house. Bad news for the neighbors.
I prefer to leave the neighbors out of it. #4 BUCK shot is what I recommend.
No, that’s not a typo. Yes, they do make #4 Buck. You might have to buy it online, because it’s not very popular.
Now, a word on shotgun performance indoors.
Shotgun spread has been over-hyped in showbiz. YES, you do have to aim. NO, a single shot won’t cover a wall.
At social distances, ALL shot behaves as a single column of lead. It doesn’t matter if it’s big buckshot or small birdshot.
Don’t believe me? Shoot a target at ten feet. It doesn’t matter what load you use.
It’s going to make one big hole.
What’s important about the shot shells you choose isn’t POWER. It’s PENETRATION. All shot is going to behave like a single column of lead and hit harder than a heavyweight boxer.
Regardless of how deeply it penetrates, there’s a good chance of causing severe organ damage to the bad guy. Internal bleeding. Hydrostatic shock.
It’ll fuck up their day of fucking up your day.
#16 – The Plan
Actually, the PLANS.
It doesn’t matter who you’re going to roll with. Someone needs to know what will happen if shit goes down.
If you’re out with friends, at least one of them needs to know your plan. Same for your woman. If your kids are old enough, they need to know too.
You don’t want them putting themselves in harms way.
When you go into a bad situation, the worst thing that can happen is the unexpected. Often, that’s exactly what happens.
People do strange things under stress. The best thing you can do is have a plan and share it.
If people logically know what your plan is, that won’t stop their emotional reaction. When you take charge of the situation and enact your plan, that might.
You will all be experiencing a cocktail of chemicals impairing your judgement and motor function. If they logically know your plan and then reality matches that, you become their rock.
Anchor them. This isn’t a guarantee, though. Every situation is different.
No matter how well prepared you are, something is probably going to go wrong.
#17 – The Mindset
The concept of the combat triad (the original one) is this.
There are three factors that will see you through a self defense situation are:
- Gun Handling
Two of these are things you can train. One of these you can try to train.
You can measure your ability to handle your gun under stress. Just time your draw and shooting drills. Become efficient.
You can measure your marksmanship. You can become a fast and accurate shooter.
Neither matter if you don’t have the mindset. What’s worse is that you can’t measure your progress in developing your mindset.
Note that this isn’t the same as a positive mindset. It’s not a winning mindset. It isn’t even a Gorilla Mindset, although that definitely helps.
This is the combat mindset.
If you are the average citizen, you haven’t been exposed to enough danger to develop this. It’s just how it is.
The average citizen will never develop the combat mindset of an infantryman who spent several tours abroad in a time of war.
The tactics and concepts posts linked throughout this post are a good place to start. They damn sure don’t beat real experience though.
The final step I will offer you is to accept this fact. You’re not a bad ass if you’re not a bad ass.
You’re a good person trying to prepare for a bad situation you hope never comes. You will have the rest of your life to prepare for this.
Be ready. Be as ready as you can be.