Avoidance: A Key Self Defense Tactic

Most self defense firearms training focuses on shooting tactics: grip, stance, draw, trigger control, clearing drills, and so on.

This is all important stuff. When you make the decision to own or carry a firearm, you’d darned well better make sure you know what you’re doing when you decide to use the gun to defend yourself or others.

But because firearms instructors exist to teach you about using firearms, they tend to focus on the gun as the answer to self defense. And sometimes the purpose of self defense gets lost in all the talk about calibers, holsters, and magazine capacity.

Here’s the crux of the matter: Self defense is not about shooting, but about surviving a threatening situation unharmed. It’s about doing anything it takes to survive. Yes, that often means shooting someone, but “anything” covers a lot of ground, including avoidance.

American Hangunner ran an interesting article titled On Avoidance. Here are some excerpts:

Defensive shooting is more focused on what doesn’t happen to you than on what happens to your attacker. The other person getting shot is not how we define success — that’s not the goal. Shooting with that as the sole end in mind is “offensive” and not “defensive” in nature. The purpose of defensive shooting is to avoid the serious bodily harm someone is trying to inflict on you or those around you. Avoiding that harm is the only thing justifying shooting another human being and removes it from the realm of murder.

“Winning” an armed confrontation is defined as survival, whether or not the other person is even hit at all. By this definition, you win every gunfight you’re not in. Ego and pride might suggest otherwise, but those emotions tend to send people to prison or the morgue. Sometimes wisdom is knowing when to walk on the other side of the street, or when to say “check, please” and slip out the back door.


… there are hard, practical realities in why you should avoid an armed confrontation if possible. Simply put — you may lose. While armed citizens have a great overall track record, there are never any guarantees, and reading the fact patterns of capital murder cases shows a lot of murder victims who died trying to defend themselves.

Defensive shooting means you’re coming from behind in a fight someone else started. Most criminals will not attack someone unless they feel they already have the advantage of numbers, surprise or whatever. While willing to be part of a shooting — they’re not interested in being in a gunfight. By the time it turns into a fight, you may very well already be hurt and therefore less capable. Your gun may jam, which happens surprisingly often in shootings. You may miss; also very common. Your bullet may not perform as you expect. Your assailant may be on drugs and unable to realize how badly they’re hurt. There may be several suspects and one may be in ambush behind you before who you think is the primary attacker even approaches you. A thousand things can go wrong, and it only takes one to turn the cards against you.

This is not the kind of advice many gun owners want to hear. It runs against the gut feeling many of us have that bad people should not be allowed to get away with doing bad things to good people. Owning or carrying a gun can be an act of defiance in the face of evil. It’s our way of saying, “We will not cower. We will resist.”

But in the real-world, the fact remains that self defense is about “defense” against aggression or threat. So the goal of self defense is to remain unharmed, not necessarily to shoot the bad guy.

Don’t misunderstand the point here. If you honestly believe you’re in danger of death or great bodily harm, and that using a firearm is the only way to survive, by all means shoot until the threat is neutralized. But also remember that shooting isn’t the goal. It’s merely one option to achieve your real goal, which is to live another day.