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Mindset of Self Defense

by Harley Swiftdeer "Gunnie" Reagan


What are the mindset qualities that armed citizens must possess in order to achieve the willingness to use a firearm and possibly seriously wound or kill a criminal in defense of their own lives?


People cannot truly make a 100% determination that they are ready, willing and able to take a human life if necessary in defense of their own lives or the lives of others until they have been in the saddle and as we say in the business "the elephant is trumpeting and the red flag is flying." Therefore, the first aspect of Mindset is one's attitude in relationship to not only the sacredness of life, but the reality that self-defense and self-preservation are the Keys Attributes of Spiritual Integrity. The one and only thing that most human beings can change when learning any new arena of knowledge is the Attitude. Nowhere is it more critical to have an "attitude adjustment" than in the arena of the possibility of taking a human life. (More on the attitude and what underlies the appropriate self-defense attitude in a moment.)

Following one's attitude is one's approach to critical, life-threatening situations. Attitude + Approach = autonomic response in times of stress and crisis situations. Therefore, practicing "what if" scenarios must include the actual visual impact effects of gunshot wounds with all the blood, gore and the lifelessness of a body laying at your feet. I know this is harsh, but I am speaking from personal experience both in combat in Vietnam and as a law enforcement officer. No sane person would constantly dwell on such things, but any fully prepared person must at least consider the harsh realities enough to be fully prepared for their unfortunate potentiality.

As an LEO in civilian life, I had to use my firearm with justifiable use of lethal force on two occasions where death of a criminal resulted. Notice that I am emphasizing death of a criminal. While a criminal is indeed a two-legged animal, they are not nor do they deserve to be referred to as a human being. A human being is someone who shows humanness, is contributor to humankind and shows genuine care to humanity, devoting part of their life to humanity: humans in unity. Enough said.

What we are really dealing with in a personal confrontational crisis situation of a life-threatening nature is the preservation of our life or the lives of innocent citizens from the forcible violence of a predatory two-legged animal. Therefore, I'll use an analogy that should be clear to all but the most ignorant of the two-legged animal clan:

Most humans love animals, especially our dogs and cats -- our house pets. But now you come home one evening and discover that your wife and children are trapped in your back shed because your lovely pet bozo has been bitten by a rabid coyote and is there foaming at the mouth, trying to attack the very humans who have fed and cared for it and loved it very dearly. But you must understand, this is no longer bozo the pet; it is a rabid dog (the violent criminal), and therefore, you must destroy it in order to preserve the sacred memories you have of it.

"Hesitation on your part may and frequently does result in death..."

One's attitude must be predicated upon a realistic assessment that a violent criminal is a predator -- a malevolent predator who has absolutely NO regard for the sacredness of life. They are, in essence, rabid. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that you understand this clearly: Just as in the above analogy where a sane person presented with choosing between a family member or a rabid dog must shoot the dog as quickly and safely as possible, when presented with a "your life or his" choice, you must also drop the criminal as quickly as possible. Hesitation on your part may (and frequently does) result in death anyway, only it could be the death of a human -- instead of the death of a violent criminal.

Mindset Quality

1) Clear sober perception of the reality at hand.

2) Positive attitude that you will survive at all costs.

3) Approach to a quick, autonomic presentation of your firearm up into "the shooter's box" and a distinct inner voice that says, "Front sight, press."

Nothing more, nothing less, leads to ultimate survival in a gunfight.

How do you develop the mindset that you will shoot to stop a violent attack?

You must realize that your duty, obligation and responsibility is just that: to stop the attack. It must never be to "kill" the attacker. NEVER. You are trying to stop them, no matter what. One of the ways that you can analyze your mindset is, if you have used your firearm in self-defense, notice if your hands are sweating, heartbeat increased, respiration shallow... You were operating in fear for your life. Therefore, you had no choice but to defend your life. However, and this is crucial in the mindset, if you acted in anger, your hands will be dry, your breath will be calm, and your respiration will be only slightly higher.

Therefore, what I am speaking of is the after effects of having used a firearm in a lethal situation. Back to mindset. A clear, sober perception of the reality at hand is a quick biofeedback monitoring of the above. In every single instance where I have used a firearm self-defensively -- as a civilian or law enforcement -- I "reality checked," albeit quickly, my basic palm/moisture feedback mechanism, heart rate and breathing -- quickly -- drawing in a deep breath, relaxing it and holding part of the breath in my lower abdomen, forcing myself to have a clear front site with a hazy target in order to make my shots hit in the center of critical body mass. This requires practice, practice, practice and training, training, training in order to become autonomic as part of your marksmanship.

Mindset, marksmanship, and gun handling are the trinity principles for proper bearing of a firearm. Of the three, mindset is crucial, marksmanship comes with training and practice, and gun handling comes by thorough indoctrination in the cardinal rules of firearm safety:


1) Familiarity with your weapon
2) Method of carry
3) Proper fit of holster and belt, ie. The leather/rig
4) Comfortableness in hand Proper sight/picture alignment
5) Trigger control
6) Breathing


1) All firearms are always loaded all the time. Treat them as such.

2) Always keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

3) NEVER, EVER point the muzzle at anything you are not willing to destroy.

4) Keep finger off trigger at all times until you have clearly identified your target and what lies behind it and to both sides.


Read the book "Lead Poisoning, 25 Stories at the Wrong End of a Gun" in order to understand the reality that you can be shot and survive. This is crucial in establishing the mindset necessary in order to bypass the panic response factor (PRF) that allows you to transcend your fear. (My story of being shot is one of the 25.)

See the video "Deadly Effect of Weapons".

I highly recommend you read Unintended Consequences by John Ross for this reason: it shows you in a clear and very graphic way what could become necessary to defend your life and liberty if the anti-constitution government continues assaulting our rights. No rational human being wants such things to happen, but a rational patriot must face the fact that it might.