by Dan Brady of Apache Solutions
In policing, there’s been a list of “Best Practices” with regard to officer safety for decades. The purpose being to give officers an outline to follow in training while establishing officer safety habits that should last an entire career with minimal training upkeep. So, while there are tons of articles and YouTube videos on different aspects of everyday carry gear and to a lesser extent mindset, there’s not much available from reliable sources for a quick reference guide to best practices for the everyday armed citizen.
What I want to encapsulate here is a quick set of guidelines to reference as you start or expand on a personal security journey. This will not be an exhaustive list and I’ll avoid recommending brands, people or other specific resources as much as possible while still giving you a framework to validate gear, people, and resources.
1. Avoid, Evade, Escape, Deter.
Using defensive force of any kind carries with it inherent risk. No matter how skilled you are, there is always a risk that you lose. Even when you win, there is a risk of legal proceedings that may or may not turn out in your favor. You will win every fight you don’t engage in. Leave your ego at home. Deterring someone intent may take some verbal engagement. Cops get “Verbal Judo” training, it would be wise to seek similar education. You’re unlikely to be as eloquent as usual under duress.
2. Have a usable level of fitness.
There is always room for improvement but if you can’t sprint 100 yards, run up three flights of stairs, do 25 push-ups without stopping or grapple for 1 minute. You absolutely do not have an acceptable level of fitness. The less fit you are the lower your chances are of prevailing in any stressful set of events. Also, heart disease and obesity kill way more people than violent felons. Be wise and get a little more fit.
3. Carry an intermediate force option.
Having something available for using force that falls “in between a harsh word and a handgun” is probably wise. For most people, in most instances, the most useful option is pepper spray. There are a couple manufacturers that make quality, low profile, carry friendly, effective pepper spray canisters. Get one and get some training on its use.
4. Get some empty hand training.
Self-defense is not strictly about the use of tooled force. Being able to use your body to aid in defending yourself is crucial. In addition to technical skills gained, having a familiarity with physical problem solving in real time, with real opponents, even in a safe training environment, is a skill whose importance cannot be overstated. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Boxing, Wrestling, and Muay Thai are recognized as highly effective by most trainers.
5. Carry a quality, effective, reliable firearm.
Opinions vary on what make and caliber are “best”. However, there are manufacturers that have long standing reputations for quality, reliability and accessibility at a reasonable price, start there. Gun store clerks are there to make sales NOT help assure your personal security. The vast
majority of them are not subject matter experts, so be cautious about taking their advice. Generally speaking, firearm price is related to quality control. Most quality handguns cost $450 or more for the most basic model. If you’re buying cheaper than that, you’re venturing into more risk. When it comes to ammunition, select one that passes the FBI duty ammunition testing protocols. Say what you want about the FBI, no other organization on the planet does more pistol ballistics testing than they do. Make certain the ammunition you select is accurate and reliable in your chosen gun and then carry it as close to 100% of the time as possible.
6. Buy quality holsters.
A good holster should be: Reasonably Comfortable, Completely Concealable, Secure, and Provide Fast Access from any position your body might be in (standing, seated, supine, etc.) A good belt and a gun specific holster that completely covers the trigger and trigger guard and retains its shape when the gun is removed is of critical importance. True everyday carry is not as simple as buying a cheap holster online and slapping it on your regular belt. Understanding the principles of concealment will make the adaptation of carrying a gun daily much quicker, more comfortable and less expensive by reducing the number of holsters you end up trying out.
7. Carry a pocket light
A pocket flashlight is an incredibly useful tool for everyday tasks, it is a necessity for anyone taking personal security seriously. There is a great deal of internet debate as to the need for a weapon mounted light on an EDC firearm and there are pros and cons to them. There is no debate on the legal and moral requirement to have a positive target identification for
self-defense, which under many circumstances will require artificial lighting, the light on your cell phone is not sufficient or ergonomic enough for this task. Quality pocket lights that provide sufficient lumens and candela can be found in the $75 range and up. Certain manufacturers even within this price range have had catastrophic failures causing injury and even death, due diligence is advised.
8. Get training and practice
Yes those are two different things. Training is the acquisition or improvement of a physical skill under the direction of a trainer, teacher, instructor, or coach. Practice is the concentrated repetition of those skills to build a pathway to automaticity, often on one’s own. There are any number of tests and standards within the self-defense shooting community that have objective relevance to life saving abilities. Instructors you train under should be able to articulate why the standard or test they use for measurement is relevant.
9. Locate vetted resources for more information
The problem is not locating information, the problem is identifying a resource as reputable to obtain quality, helpful information. We are awash in information from all manner of people who market themselves as experts, but many of them are not. Proven sources of quality information will reference where their information came from and be able to articulate why their information or technique is important and/ or relevant.
10. Basic medical training is important
You’re more likely to use medical training to save a life or make an impactful difference in someone’s survivability in dire circumstances than you are to use a firearm to do the same. Learn CPR, take a “Stop the Bleed” type class and carry a tourniquet at a minimum.
11. Don’t advertise your armed status
Don’t open carry. Don’t put gun stickers on your vehicle. Don’t wear gun branded clothing. Don’t have visible gun racks in your vehicle. Don’t use your car as a holster. Yes, there are awesome pieces of gear to show off, funny slogans on tee shirts and hoodies, and the patriotic desire to support and defend the second amendment. Do it with your friends at the range or competition or in the game lands and with your vote at the polls.
12. Have quality legal representation available
If the terrible and unavoidable circumstances arise that you must physically defend yourself, especially with deadly force, even when you win, your troubles might just be starting. Have immediate access to quality legal representation that has experience with self-defense law. This might be a familiar family attorney or one of the popular self-defense insurance programs that are available throughout most of the country. Understand that even basic representation in legal self-defense matters can cost tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
There are thousands, probably tens of thousands of books, articles, videos, training classes, and subject specific schools that cover each of these major points in a breadth and depth it is impossible to see the end of. There are in subject nuances to each of these that could nearly be another bullet point unto themselves. There are also times and circumstances that violating some of these best practices is the thing to do under that specific circumstance and for a specific reason but you’ll need to get a fair way down the path to start differentiating what those circumstances might be for you.
Daniel P. Brady
Instructor at Apache Solutions LLC