Safety and Training

Are You Psychologically Prepared?

Pulling out a gun from the holster on belt, close-up.

Are you willing to take another human life? I have a friend who wasn’t. A few years ago, my friend felt her life was endanger to the point of having to use her husband’s handgun in self-defense. Her husband was away for work and she was home alone. Around 3:30 in the morning, she awakened to sounds of someone pulling things off her wall in the living room. She grabbed the gun, entered the living room and yelled at the intruder, “Drop my stuff and leave my house and no one gets hurt.” She said he did in fact drop all of her belongings that he was trying to steal, but instead of leaving, he immediately rushed towards her. Knowing she didn’t want to kill him, she lowered the gun from his chest and popped him in the leg, which fortunately took him down and kept him down until the police arrived.

When I took my concealed handgun license class, the instructors drilled into us to keep shooting until the threat has stopped. The first decision you must make before purchasing a firearm for self-defense is answering the question, “Am I able to make that split-second decision to kill another human being to save my own life?” You may think you are able to answer this question easily. However, will you be psychologically ready if the time were to come? You will never be absolutely sure unless the situation happens to arise. As gun owners, most of us do not want to find out, but there are steps you can take to prepare yourself as much as you possibly can for that moment.

When a life or death situation arises, and you have to make the decision to defend yourself with lethal force, your body naturally responds with the flight or fight reaction. This reaction surfaces as the surge of adrenaline and psychological fear. Your heart beats faster, your breath comes quicker, your fine motor skills diminish, and even your vision changes. One way to gauge your response is to remember a time a crisis or emergency surfaced. Did you freeze or freak out? Did you remain calm, rational, or levelheaded?

You need to be sure that you will be able to pull the trigger when an attacker has threatened your life. If you hesitate, your reaction time might cost you your life. Knowing that your body’s physical response could very easily hinder your ability to defend yourself, Dr. Bruce N. Eimer in “Psychological Preparedness for Combat Survival” writes that you should have a self-defense plan so that when it comes down to it, you will be confident in your plan.

Eimer calls this the Defensive Mindset, and it begins with four steps:

  1. Situational awareness
  2. Positive self-talk
  3. Fear control
  4. Mental rehearsal

In your training, be sure to practice muscle memory with your weapon, quick follow up shots, and breathing control exercises.

We are not naturally inclined to take another human life, but we must also recognize that we are entitled by law to protect our loved ones and ourselves from physical harm and death. There is a difference between murder and killing. If you are considering buying a firearm for self-defense, or you already have one and are not sure, take a minute to sort out your moral convictions of taking a life. For example, learn your states laws on defending yourself, take a concealed carry class, and seek advice from your spiritual leader about self-defense. Decide when it is okay to shoot to kill.

Nobody has the magical words, or the training to ensure that you will be able to use your gun in self-defense. Until you can answer yes to the question, “Am I willing to take another human being’s life to save my own?” then it is not your time to keep a gun for self-defense.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

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