Along with acquiring a good handgun and holster and learning how to use that equipment effectively, there is another aspect of preparing for your individual personal defense.  This is becoming aware of and programming yourself to use a few simple tactics that could give you an edge in any serious encounter.  Most of the good shooting schools cover individual tactics to one degree or another, and this is one good reason for spending some of your hard earned bucks to attend one.  A lot of folks don’t have the ready cash to spend, can’t work it into their schedule, or are just not inclined to do so.  For these people, the thought of developing a few personal habits that would enhance their security as they move through the day may never have entered their head.

The whole subject may seem somewhat mysterious and complex to the uninitiated, but it doesn’t have to be.  With a little thought and practice these simple tactics soon become ingrained in your subconscious mind, and you will follow them from force of habit without thinking about it.  It is not much of a bother, and it is amazing how you will be more comfortable and confident as you go through your daily routine, with a good handgun on your belt under a jacket and this knowledge in your head.  This article is intended to give the average person a few ideas on how to accomplish this.

First of all, maintaining a constant state of awareness to his surroundings is the most difficult thing for the average person to do.  Most people have fallen into the comfortable habit of going about their business without paying much attention to what is happening around them.  There are many reasons for this, and they range from being preoccupied with personal problems, the kids in school, taxes, vacation plans, etc.  The biggest problem is that we all feel comfortable in our familiar surroundings.  We must work hard to overcome this habit.  This will be the most important step you can take to improve your personal security, because if you are oblivious to your surroundings and don’t see a threat coming, you will be at a serious disadvantage.

At first it will be difficult to stay focused.  But with a little practice and time spent on the effort, it will soon become a habit.  As you go about the daily routine make it a habit to keep your head up, and use your eyes.  Know what is ahead of you, but also be aware of what is off to each side, and glance to the rear from time to time.  Be aware of potential danger areas, such as building corners or other blind spots like a large van that could conceal a lurking attacker.  Swing wide around such areas and use your eyes.  This also applies to mall parking lots, which offer a hiding place behind each vehicle you pass.  By keeping your eyes open and swinging wide past such areas, you give yourself a little time and space if a problem should arise.

If you see a character who is lurking about, behaving suspiciously, or looks out of place, you don’t have to walk right past him.  Swing wide around him, cross the street, or go back into a well-lit store where there are other people.  Another good trick is to place an obstacle between you and him.  Walk around the far side of a car so he can’t reach you.  A fence, hedgerow, even a row of trash cans, anything to slow him down and makes it harder to get at you.  Whenever possible keep as much distance as you can.  Distance will give you a little time to react, and if he can’t get close, it may discourage him from pressing an attack.  Things can happen very quickly when the distance is short.  As an example, tests have shown that an athletic young man can from a standing start cover twenty feet in approximately one and one half seconds.  This is not much time for you to react and defend yourself!  Space means time, and that time, even if it is only a couple of seconds could make all the difference.

Another point is that you don’t have to just stand there and meet the attack.  If possible take a quick side step or two as you draw your weapon.  This might get you off the line of attack, and then the attacker must adjust, and give you the time to turn the tables.  In our Paladin Program we often require the shooter to take a quick side step or two before shooting, or before engaging a second target.  This is good practice, because it forces the shooter to think about the dynamics of a defensive shooting situation.  And get in a little practice to meet the problem.

If you can’t avoid the close proximity of a questionable character, keep well balanced on your feet, and turn a bit so your weapon side is away from him, so he can’t block your draw.  If he makes a bad move get your weak hand in his face to fend him off, while your strong hand draws your weapon.  Give back a step or two if you can, and while bringing your pistol up keep it back and close to your side, so that he can’t take it away or deflect it.  This needs to be practiced a bit, because the first few times it will feel very awkward.  It should be practiced enough so that you can sort it all out and become comfortable with it.  This is not marksmanship, it is gun-fighting technique.  The practical shooter needs to understand that being able to hit a target at a reasonable distance is a vital skill, but that being able to cope with a problem at arm’s length is just as important. Maybe more so, because most defensive confrontations occur at arm’s length out to twenty feet or so.  Practicing up close is just as important, so that you will be familiar with it, and understand what must be done.

When in your car you should maintain the same casual awareness of your surroundings that you utilize when walking down the street.  Here again the normal tendency is to relax and let your guard down when in your vehicle.  The familiar coziness of its interior gives a feeling of security, but consider the many stories seen in the news wherein someone is car-jacked or dragged from their car and badly beaten.  The chief reason why this happens is because these folks just simply were not paying any attention to their surroundings.  In observing others I’ve noticed that most people just stare straight ahead when they stop at a traffic light, only waiting for it to change, and completely oblivious to their surroundings.

Make it a habit to glance to each side and look in the rear view mirror whenever stopping at a traffic light or stop sign.  When pulling up behind another vehicle, look over your hood at his rear tires and stop while you still can see where they meet the road.  If a problem arises this will leave enough room for you to quickly turn out and drive away.  Likewise if you have glanced in the rear view mirror and no one is behind you, you can quickly back out of trouble.  Even if you can only move a short distance, this will disrupt an attacker’s game plan and give you a few seconds to respond and defend yourself.  If you have glanced to each side as you stop, and there is no cross traffic and no one in front, you can just drive through the red light to get out of the attack zone.  The point is that you must be aware of your surroundings and see what is happening before you can employ any adequate defensive move, whether to stand and shoot, drive out, or any other option.  Also, keep your doors locked and if in a questionable neighborhood, keep the windows up too.  An attacker can smash the glass and unlock the door, but that will take a few seconds and give you time to react.

There are some common sense things you can do around the house to improve you security.  The most obvious is to have a good electronic security system installed.  A good cell phone is also a good idea.  A home invader will often cut the land phone line, but if you have a cell phone you can still dial 911.  Beyond that, there are a few simple things you can do that could make a big difference.  First of all, it is a good idea to have your handgun on you.  That way you know exactly where it is, and if it is needed it is RIGHT THERE, and not across the room or in the other end of the house where it will do you no good.  Also, if it is on your hip and under a loose shirt, no one is offended, and the inquisitive mind and hands of children can’t get hold of it.  A second point, keep the doors locked.  It is surprising how many folks are lax in this department, despite all the reports of violent home invasions reported on the evening news.  It is also a good idea to close the drapes or blinds over the windows at night so that no one can look in.  This will prevent anyone with ill intent from simply looking in to see where you are located.  It will give you an advantage in case of a home invasion, because the intruder won’t know where you are.  Again, just simple common sense.

If someone invades your home, stay put.  Make the intruder come to you.  Searching the house can be the most dangerous thing you can do.  Dial 911 and wait, or go out a door on the other side.  If you don’t have to go to the other end of the house to protect a loved one, make him come to you.  He does not know where you are.  On the other hand, if he must come through that doorway to find you, you can focus on that spot and be ready for him.

All of the things mentioned in this article are good examples of what you need to keep in the back of your mind.   But in order for them to be of any value, you have to keep your head up and use your eyes as you go through the day, and THINK about what you might do.  If you see a suspicious character, keep an eye on him and make it a habit to ask yourself, what would I do if he does this?  Or what would I do if he does that?  Have a plan, but keep it simple.

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