The Messy Reality of Self-Defense

By Rob Morse

Slow Facts
Slow Facts

Louisiana- ( This is an adult discussion.

It’s neither fit for college students who major in the art of being perpetually offended, nor other sensitive children.  I report on self-defense – the good and the bad.  I talk about the messy reality when we defend ourselves from criminal attack.

I mean real physical harm, not the emotional “trauma” of seeing the name of a Presidential Candidate written in chalk.

This is what I’ve noticed as I studied civilian self-defense.  First, thousands of ordinary people defend themselves with a firearm every day.  These people are our friends, neighbors, and relatives, who were simply going about their lives when they had to defend themselves.  Second, successful self-defense isn’t magic.  The people who studied and practiced seemed to do a better job at it.  Third, the reality of self-defense is very different from what we see from Hollywood.  That means we are carrying around some bad ideas unless we’ve taken enough training to replace Hollywood fiction with fact.

Here are some simple facts that leave this student of self-defense wanting to learn more.

If we study self-defense for very long, we’ll see that robbers practice and plan ahead.  The sooner we interrupt their plans the better.  Right there is where training and practice can give us an advantage.  It is too late to start your home study course in self-defense once you’re being attacked.  The people who trained for self-defense chose better options than those who had to learn through on-the-spot, in-the-moment, on-the-job training.  Good training before the fact can help us avoid being attacked in the first place.  I like that.. a lot!

We are most likely to be attacked when we are away from home.  That means the arsenal in our gun safe is useless most of the time.  Think about that for a minute.

What we have on our body right now is what we will use to win or lose a self-defense encounter.

It is unlikely that we will have time to go to our car or safe room and get our gun, cell phone, flashlight, and trauma kit.  That is why criminals attack people who are, for example, on jogging trails.

Sorry, but there are no magic tokens to save you.  This is reality as opposed to a role-player video game.

Our options are limited.  Sometimes you can run away and escape.  Sometimes you can’t.  You will have to stand and fight if you are with your spouse, your children or your friends because you won’t leave them behind to face the attackers alone.  That leaves us to defend ourselves from the threat, summon help, and provide aid to the injured.. with what we have in our pockets and in our minds.  The thing we need most of all is a plan, and training lets us make good choices on the spot.

Self Defense vs Home Invasion
Self Defense vs Home Invasion

It isn’t a fair fight.  Criminals want to outnumber us and they come prepared to overpower us with knives and guns.  Unless we train, we suffer a huge disadvantage because we won’t believe this is happening when we’re attacked.  Precious seconds pass as we process the situation and which options are available to us.  The criminals have already practiced and rehearsed for this moment with the intent to win at any cost.. while we are trying to mentally catch up to this violent and shocking encounter.

Let’s say that we’ve thought about protecting our self and our family, and we decided to buy a gun.  That helps a little.  Suppose we’ve even gone to the local shooting range and practiced a few times.  That is better.  Unfortunately, in a real attack we will not get the sort of shot we practiced.  The criminal will be moving.  We should be moving too.  Innocent people will be moving everywhere.

  In reality, the situation is a chaotic mess, but it will feel like less of a mess with training and practice.

Lots of people defend themselves every day, but here is the bad news.  You and I perform at the ability we demonstrated on our bad training days.  Fortunately, that seems to be good enough most of the time.  An attack is a chaotic situation for both the defender AND the attacker.

There is a lot to learn from the messy realities of self-defense.  Of course there are the techniques and mechanics of self-defense.  We should also learn how to talk to the police, and how to have a legal plan in place after we’ve been attacked.  You don’t want to face that alone.

You are not alone.  There are almost a million new gun owners every month.  The number of defenseless victims is shrinking as more of us become well-trained and responsible gun owners.  Training classes with skilled instructors are a Google-search away.

Our neighbors have done it, and we can do it too.  We can learn to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe until help arrives.  The urge to defend yourself is both urgent today.. and it is timeless.

Remember: “You will not rise to the occasion; you will fall back on your level of training.”
-Archilochus, Greek Soldier, 650 BC


Rob Morse: Rob writes about gun rights at Ammoland, at Clash Daily and on his SlowFacts blog. He hosts the Self Defense Gun Stories Podcast and co-hosts the Polite Society Podcast. He is an NRA pistol instructor and combat handgun competitor.

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Rene Castillo

Mr. Morse, I truly enjoyed reading your article about the messy after mass of self defense. The start of your article very quickly put ALL of your audience in their place like it or not. You took the philosophy of Archilochus and put it in perspective for everyone today. How the situation ends is directly affected by either the training one takes seriously or did not take at all.


I like police officers (I was one for many years). However, if I’m on the other side of that conversation I know to never ever talk to the police without an attorney present (the police are not your friends). I know, I know – we all want to tell our side of the story, particularly in a self defense shooting situation when you know you did what is right, but if you must say anything, only say, “I was in fear for my life” and let it go with that. Identify yourself, give your name and address, and IMMEDIATELY say,… Read more »

Lawrence Benner

Great info! Thanks


From the horses mouth… Can’t beat that! Thank you.

Terry Higginbotham

I agree with telling the truth. When you actually say something. Unfortunately, most encounters with the police require us to make minimal statements without counsel present.
Sad, but true.

2nd Amender

So………the best advice is to be in a constant state of training………practice makes perfect !!

and never tell lies…….no one has a memory that is so good they can remember what they said to each and every person they meet…………..


In a stressful situation you will do what you have been trained to do. If you have not been trained you will panic. Keep it simple stupid.

Clark Kent

Mark Twain provided the best advice on how to talk to the police (or anyone else for that matter): ‘If you tell the truth, you never have to remember anything’.

Frosty J. Hammer

Telling the truth is recommended _EXCEPT_ when speaking to the police after a shooting, when remaining silent is much more advised.

Witold Pilecki

No talking to the po-po until the attorney is present. Just give them your drivers license for identification.


I barely take a piss without my lawyer standing next to me.

Chris Wagoner

If you want to see just how many Defensive Firearms are used, check out this page – we post daily the stories from around the nation of people defending themselves with firearms, even though some will tell you this never happens, we will show you it does.

Pantera Vazquez

Archilochus was absolutely correct.

Pantera Vazquez

Archilochus was absolutely correct.