An Individual Responsibility

By Tiger McKee

Protecting yourself, family or close friends requires some thought, research and specific skills. Defensive skills are about dealing with a threat in the safest, most efficient manner. This may be accomplished by avoiding or escaping — or as a last resort being forced to use your gun to stop the threat. No doubt these are things you’re already thinking about. I hope so.

The first step is to accept the need for defensive skills. One of my favorite quotes is from Helen Keller, of all people: “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.” Knowing danger can occur anywhere, at any time, puts you ahead of most people. This doesn’t mean you’re paranoid. It simply means you’re aware — and take precautions.

Most of these precautions don’t even involve being armed. The best way to avoid trouble is to simply pay attention. Watch the people around you since 90 percent or more of our communication is non-verbal. Learn how to read body language to understand what people are “saying.” Large groups of people also have non-verbal ways of communicating. Reading individuals and groups isn’t as difficult as it sounds, and we’ll discuss this, more specifics and some great resources in the future.

You’ll find, in the beginning, this is a conscious effort. Eventually it becomes habit or routine, something you do without thinking.

Self-defense is about problem solving at high speed. The more solutions to those problems
you can come up with in advance — the more predictable the outcome may be.

The #1 Tactic?

Monitoring the environment allows you to apply your number one tactic — avoidance and escape. Physically engaging the threat is the very last thing you want to do. A “warrior” is someone who knows how to make war. Most of us are just normal people whose priority is protecting themselves and their loved ones. When confronting a threat the confrontation may not turn out how you thought it should. Even if you defeat the threat the events following are going to have an immense emotional and financial cost. With this in mind the list of reasons why you would risk your life becomes very short.

To use avoidance and escape requires having a plan. Your plan must include all members of your family, and the people you spend time with. If you’re alone when something happens it might be difficult, but it’s still simple compared to being responsible for more people. You’re likely not a warrior, and your family isn’t a SWAT team. Your “team” probably won’t all be armed. In fact you may be the only one carrying a weapon and is why it’s important to have a plan and discuss possible options — in advance. You likely can’t get new skills in the middle of an emergency. “If X happens,” you explain, “this is what I will do, and I want you to do this.” Keep your response plans simple since simple works best under stress — and simple is easier to modify on the fly.

If you can’t avoid to respond to a sudden, violent attack you need skills to defeat the threat. For this you have to attend training to familiarize yourself with defensive principles and techniques. It should include armed and unarmed responses. Training will introduce you to the fundamentals, including moving, communicating, using cover, shooting if necessary and developing a defensive mindset. These same fundamentals apply whether you’re armed or unarmed. Training will expose you to skills like defensive marksmanship — which is not bulls-eye shooting — how to manipulate your firearm safely and efficiently and more.

The tools you carry for protection don’t have to be fancy — and the simpler they are the
easier it will be to use them.

The Hard Work

After introductory training you must commit to practicing. That’s when the real learning occurs. Very little about using firearms for self-defense is instinctual. Most common instincts are counterproductive to using firearms successfully. It takes the repetition of practice to get to a point where you can apply these skills on demand. Shooting a stationary target on the range is one thing — fighting in the dark against a violent, aggressive attacker on the move is another. Training is more than just guns, it’s also about knowing how to use a tourniquet, understanding the legal aspects of lethal force and much, much more.

Every morning before I leave the house I say, “Today may be the day I face danger.” This prepares me for the possibility of being attacked. If it happens, I won’t be surprised, putting me ahead of the curve to solve the problem. The first thing out of most victims’ mouths when they tell their story to the cops is, “I couldn’t believe it was happening to me.”

Personal protection is an individual responsibility. In the coming months we’ll discuss how to manage that powerful responsibility.

Tiger McKee is founding director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, and is the author of The Book of Two Guns, among other works (www.shootrite.org).


Tiger McKee founded Shootrite Firearms Academy in 1995 and has trained under Jeff Cooper, Clint Smith and a host of others. He has a knack for delivering solid info clearly, honestly and modestly. Tiger will be taking over this column as a regular contributor and I know you’ll soon be looking forward to what he has to say. Tiger questions things normally taken for granted, often discovering new answers, knocking the dusty clichés into the trash can in the process. It’s one of the things I most enjoy about him. —RH

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