We live in a dangerous world. That statement is not intended to create fear or intimidation, but observant people know that it is a simple reality. Dangerous situations can arise at nearly anytime and anywhere. Firearms are often coined as the “great equalizer” because they provide a lethal means of protection from predators – whether they have four legs or two. Being prepared and trained for self-defense scenarios is not just a precaution—it’s a necessity. From home invasions to street criminals, carjackers, dog attacks or mountain lions on the trail, understanding the nuances of these situations can mean the difference between walking away with your life intact or not at all.

This article covers some of the of the more common self-defense scenarios and the importance of preparing and training for self-defense situations. We will also discuss the importance of CCW insurance which ensures legal and financial protection if you are ever involved in a self-defense situation.

12 Common Self-Defense Scenarios

There are many scenarios where you may find yourself in a self-defense situation. However, some scenarios are more likely to happen than others.  We will go into some of these scenarios and include some of the key points to keep in mind for staying safe.

Bar Fight

Bar fights are much more common than one might expect. Given the common denominator of alcohol, they often start from trivial disagreements or misunderstandings that escalate quickly. Often, they are quickly broken up by bar employees or other patrons before any serious harm is done. However, they can turn deadly very quickly. Keep in mind, that “bar” fights aren’t limited to biker bars and roadhouses, they can occur at your neighborhood family restaurant.  

Defending yourself in a bar fight requires a combination of awareness, restraint, and assertiveness. A bar fight might be easily avoided by de-escalation techniques or simply walking away. If physical confrontation cannot be avoided, prioritizing escape and reaching for help from bouncers or authorities is usually a safer option than reaching for your gun. Keep in mind, if you have been drinking and are carrying a firearm, you’re likely breaking the law to begin with, escalating a fight and using deadly force could negate any claims of self-defense. Bar fights can and should be avoided at all costs.

As of this writing, these states prohibit concealed carry when a person is intoxicated or under the influence and then define what that means:

  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • Texas

Otherwise, it is legal to consume alcohol and carry a firearm. In Ohio for example you can carry in a bar but not consume, but you can walk outside the bar and consume, if you stay under the legal limit of .08 blood alcohol content. Go over the limit and you’re likely in violation of the law.

Dog Attack

There are thousands of reported dog attacks in the United States each year with several dozen fatalities. Depending on the situation, you may be able to take other action to evade the attack or minimize it – or possibly, it’s not an attack at all – be sure before you act.

Techniques to minimize or evade a dog attack include:

  • Avoiding eye contact as it may be seen as a threat to the dog.
  • Stay calm and still, use a soft and soothing voice.
  • Use a barrier to put an obstacle between you and the dog, if available.
  • Back away slowly to put space between you and the dog.

If attacked, use your arms, legs or other objects to protect your face, neck, and torso. If you feel the need to use deadly force, try to be cognizant of your surroundings and bystanders to avoid hitting unintended targets. Aim for the center mass (upper body) or head of the dog to incapacitate. Be sure to report the attack to law enforcement and animal control in a timely manner.

Keep in mind that most states and jurisdictions have a legal line between self-defense and animal cruelty. For example, in one case a Second Call Defense member used lethal force on a Pit Bull that attacked his wife and dogs, which was permissible. It was the shot he fired to put the wounded dog out of its misery that compelled authorities to arrest him for animal cruelty. 

Road Rage

Road rage is a serious issue that can escalate quickly into a dangerous situation. It often begins with aggressive and reckless driving behavior, verbal insults, and sometimes physical confrontations. It’s best to avoid road rage incidents by staying calm, disengaging from the other drive by changing lanes, pulling over or even going into a public parking area, like a police station. Do not escalate the situation with aggressive gestures or comments.

If you can’t avoid or evade the aggressive driver, and you feel that your life or the lives of others are in immediate danger, using deadly force as self-defense may be justified under certain circumstances. Remember that the use of deadly force should always be a last resort and used only when necessary to protect yourself or others from serious harm or death. It’s also critical to understand the laws regarding self-defense and deadly force in your state.

Home Invasion

According to the Bureau of Justice, there are about 1 million home invasions each year in the United States. Knowing how to react can make a critical difference. The first and most crucial tip is to have a plan in place before an invasion occurs, including a designated safe room or area where you can retreat and call for help. During a home invasion, it’s essential to remain calm and avoid confrontation if possible. It is better to let intruders walk away with your television and money than risk a deadly confrontation. Material possessions can be replaced, but your life and the lives of your family cannot. Try to assess the situation discreetly, gather information such as the number of intruders and their locations, and communicate silently with family members if they are present.

If you cannot safely escape and confrontation becomes inevitable, using deadly force may be necessary to protect yourself and loved ones. You should train and be proficient with the use of the firearm you would use during a home invasion. Also, be aware of the legal ramifications of using deadly force in your jurisdiction. For example, do you live in a Castle Doctrine state, or do you have a duty to retreat? Ignorance of the applicable laws could put you in legal jeopardy.    

There are a number of ways you can reduce the risk of being a victim of a home invasion, here are some.

READ MORE: Do You Have a Home Defense Plan?


There are about 35,000 carjackings each year in the United States according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Carjackings are dangerous situations that can occur suddenly and without warning, leaving individuals highly vulnerable. In a carjacking, the most important tip is to prioritize personal safety above all else. Remain calm and comply with the demands of the carjacker without resistance. Avoid making sudden movements or reaching for weapons unless necessary for self-defense. It’s crucial to remember that material possessions can be replaced, but your life and well-being are irreplaceable.

If attacked, use your arms to protect your face, neck and torso. If you believe that your life is in imminent danger and there are no other options, using deadly force as self-defense may be justified. If you must, shoot for center mass. As with any shooting, there is a risk of criminal charges and civil lawsuits even if you feel you were in the right, defending yourself, especially in urban jurisdictions more likely to have prosecutors unsympathetic to gun ownership and self-defense.

Just like the Home Invasion scenario, it is critical to be familiar with the laws of your state – do you live in a Castle Doctrine state, or do you have a duty to retreat? In some states, the Castle Doctrine applies to motor vehicles. The Castle Doctrine is an expansion of legal justification, or in some cases, a legal presumption that someone was reasonable in using force or deadly force to protect themselves or others. Under Castle Doctrine, if a person unlawfully and with force enters your house, or vehicle, the presumption of needing to use lethal force is reasonable.

Street Criminals

Street criminals engage in a range of illegal activities, including robbery, assault, theft, and drug-related crimes. You can reduce your risk of being a victim of street crime by:

  • Being always aware of your surroundings (mental condition “yellow”).
  • Avoiding high-crime areas, especially during late hours.
  • Using well-lit and populated routes when walking alone.
  • Being cautious of strangers who approach you with suspicious intentions.

In the event of a confrontation with a street criminal, it may be best to avoid escalating the situation through provocation or resistance and comply with the criminal’s demands. Hand over your wallet, you can replace your credit cards and money, you can’t replace your life or livelihood. However, it’s unknown what the criminal may be willing to do, even if you do comply with their demands. If it becomes clear that your life or the lives of others are in immediate danger, use of deadly force may be necessary. Given you may be in a public area with bystanders present, awareness of what and who is behind the target is critical. Train for these scenarios, both in terms of safe gun handling and mental awareness. It’s also critical to understand the legal consequences of using deadly force in your state and local jurisdiction.

Store Robbery

Retail theft and store robberies have spiked in recent years. If you are caught up in one, how you react may depend on if you are the store owner, an employee or a patron. If you find yourself inside a store during a robbery, regardless of your affiliation with the store, your safety is paramount, and the best course of action may be to remain calm and cooperate with the robber’s demands to avoid escalating the situation. Chances are, the robbers simply want money and want to make a quick escape.

However, if you decide to engage, it’s important to assess the level of threat posed by the robber. If the robber is armed and actively threatening your life or the lives of others, and there are no other options for escape or de-escalation, using deadly force as a last resort may be justified for self-defense. As in other scenarios presented here, it’s critical to understand the legal implications of using deadly force in your state or local jurisdiction. Many prosecutors would frown upon shooting a robber to prevent the theft of a six pack and cash. Even if you feel you were in the right to act, you may face criminal charges or even civil litigation.

Sexual Assault

It is estimated that 1 in 6 women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Sexual assault is a deeply troubling and traumatic experience that can have long-lasting effects on victims. Perpetrators are often known to the victim which makes the situation very difficult to deal with at the time of assault and even more traumatic in the aftermath.  

Here are some things women can do to mitigate the risks of sexual assault:

  • Be always aware of your surroundings.
  • Trust your instincts.
  • Avoid situations where you feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
  • Be cautious of strangers or acquaintances who exhibit predatory behavior.
  • Utilize safety measures such as traveling in groups, staying in well-lit and populated areas, and having a trusted friend or family member aware of your whereabouts.
  • Most universities and colleges have free escort services to provide a companion when walking across campus.

In the event of a sexual assault attempt, if possible, try to escape or create distance from the assailant. However, if physical confrontation is unavoidable and you believe your life is in immediate danger, using deadly force is justified. Threat of rape, attempting to rape, or reasonably in fear of rape are always justifications for the use of force or deadly force.

You should train for situations that you may encounter including how to gain possession of a firearm when being physically restrained. Cooperation with law enforcement and seeking support from counseling services after such an incident is crucial for healing and seeking justice. As with any self-defense situation, even if you believe you were justified, charges may be filed against you, making you the defendant in a civil lawsuit.

Violent Bully

A violent bully may be some random person on the street, a coworker or maybe even a family member.  Depending on the situation at the time, dealing with violent bullies requires a combination of awareness, self-control, and knowing when to seek help or engage in self-defense.

Avoid escalation by remaining calm, composed and best as possible, avoid engaging in physical or verbal confrontation which can make the situation worse. Remember, the bully may be intoxicated or under the influence of narcotics and/or suffering from untreated mental illness. First, try to defuse the situation by walking away, seeking assistance from bystanders or authorities, or using de-escalation techniques such as maintaining a neutral tone and posture. Remain wary, however, because any threatened violent encounter can escalate quickly and without notice.

If the bully poses an immediate threat to your safety or the safety of others, and there are no other options for de-escalation or escape, using deadly force as self-defense may be necessary. It’s critical to understand that this situation may have a lot of ambiguity involved, especially if there are few or no witnesses. As always, train for these potential situations and keep in mind, if deadly force was used to end a violent bullying situation, legal and civil liability risks remain.

Neighbor Disputes

Neighbor disputes are very common and can arise over various issues including property boundaries, noise complaints, pets, parking, children, shared amenities, and even adultery. To avoid these disputes, open communication and a willingness to compromise are essential. Establishing clear boundaries and respecting each other’s property, family and space can help prevent misunderstandings. It’s important to address any issues calmly and respectfully. Seek mediation or legal assistance if necessary to resolve conflicts amicably.

While disputes may seem impossible to avoid, it’s critical to keep them from escalating into violence. Avoid aggressive behavior, threats, or retaliation, as these actions can exacerbate tensions and lead to dangerous situations. If a neighbor dispute escalates to the point where you fear for your safety or the safety of others, it may be necessary to involve law enforcement or seek a restraining order.

However, there are situations where there is no time to call law enforcement and a long-standing feud may suddenly boil over. Engaging deadly force in self-defense should only be considered as a last resort when there is an imminent threat of serious harm or death to you or your loved ones. If you believe you are at serious risk, you may want to train for a situation that may arise with a neighbor, just in case. Again, it’s critical to understand the legal ramifications of self-defense in your state and local jurisdiction and the possibility of civil lawsuits. There are always at least two sides to a dispute with a neighbor, and as one of the parties to the argument, you may be seen as an antagonist. Finally, if a self-defense situation takes place, cooperation with law enforcement and legal authorities is essential to ensure that any use of force is justified and handled appropriately, but first consult with an attorney to ensure you are not unknowingly waiving any rights.

Here are some examples of neighbor disputes gone bad:



Wild Animal Attacks

When confronted with a wild animal, using deadly force should be a last resort and only considered when there is an immediate threat to your life or the lives of others. However, keep in mind that you cannot reason with a wild animal, as they are governed by instinct and can attack at any moment without provocation.  Even though it’s not a human being, using deadly force on a wild animal when not necessary may result in criminal charges against you.

Avoiding confrontation with wild animals requires additional research on your part depending on where you live, where you recreate, what animals you may encounter, etc. Non-lethal means of de-escalating confrontations may vary depending on the animal. Generally, when confronted with a wild animal that could do you harm, try to keep a safe distance, remain calm, and depending on the animal, it may be best to slowly move away or in some cases, stand your ground.

If you find yourself in a situation where a wild animal poses a threat and there are no other options for escape, using a firearm for self-defense may be necessary. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, you may want to train for these types of encounters. But it’s crucial to understand the laws and regulations regarding wildlife encounters in your state and local jurisdiction. Even if you felt you were acting in self-defense, you may face criminal charges, especially if the killed or wounded animal is a protected species.

After you consult with an attorney, cooperate with relevant authorities after using deadly force is essential to ensure that the incident is handled in your favor.

Active Shooter

While rare, active shooter incidents are unfortunately becoming more common, especially in settings where we traditionally feel safe, such as schools, workplaces, churches, shopping malls, grocery stores, and other public areas. These incidents involve individuals (sometimes groups) using firearms to harm and kill innocent victims.

The “Run, Hide, Fight” strategy is widely recommended as a response to an active shooter situation. It involves escaping the area, if possible (Run), finding a safe and secure hiding place (Hide), and as a last resort, taking action to incapacitate the shooter (Fight), using any available means.

You can train and use other resources to learn the best techniques for surviving an active shooter situation. Although these incidents are rare, perpetrators typically choose locations where they believe most, if not all, of their intended victims will be defenseless. If you find yourself in one of these situations and have run out of options to run and/or hide, and you are armed, engage the shooter with sense of purpose and commitment. Despite the perception that self-defense is justified during an active shooter situation, legal implications may still exist as well as civil ramifications.

Here are just a few examples of active shooters stopped by armed citizens:




Why You Need CCW Insurance

In all twelve of the proceeding scenarios, it is essential to be represented by a competent Defense Attorney. CCW insurance is crucial for individuals who carry firearms or engage in self-defense practices. It provides financial protection and legal support in the event of a self-defense incident.

One of the key benefits is coverage for the cost of mounting a legal defense in a criminal or civil case, which can be substantial in cases where deadly force is used. CCW insurance also typically includes access to expert legal representation, ensuring that individuals have the support they need during legal proceedings. Overall, CCW insurance offers peace of mind and a layer of protection for individuals who prioritize personal safety and preparedness.

Learn more here about who should obtain CCW insurance: https://secondcalldefense.org/who-needs-legal-protection2/

Learn more here about Second Call Defense Membership benefits: https://secondcalldefense.org/member-services/


You may never experience an incident where you need to defend yourself or others. However, as pointed out here, there are several common criminal scenarios that you may find yourself in and you may need to need to employ deadly force to defend yourself or others. It is critical to constantly train and prepare to use your firearm in different situations. It is also critical that you know and understand the laws regarding self defense and carrying firearms in your state and local jurisdictions.

Furthermore, as a practitioner of firearm self-defense, it’s crucial to have CCW insurance such as Second Call Defense. As a Second Call Defense Member, individuals gain access to comprehensive legal and financial assistance, including coverage for criminal and civil defense expenses, bail bonds, firearm replacement, and expert attorney representation.

Moreover, Second Call Defense provides 24/7 emergency hotline support, ensuring immediate assistance in the critical moments following a self-defense incident. With its extensive network of experienced attorneys and proactive legal defense strategy, Second Call Defense stands as a vital resource, shielding members from the potentially devastating consequences of legal battles and ensuring they can confidently exercise their right to self-defense.

*Second Call Defense is not insurance and does not sell or promote insurance products.  Second Call Defense is a membership organization that provides its members access to the “Second Amendment Support Foundation, Inc.,” which provides the means necessary to protect Second Call Defense members from the legal aftermath of exercising their right to self-defense. For an overview of the differences between Second Call Defense Member Benefits and traditional insurance, click here