Situations that rely on self-defense are often unpredictable.

Understanding your risk profile will provide an idea of the skills you’ll need to increase your personal security. Generally, these skills fall into the following categories:

Situational Awareness

Self-defense begins with awareness. This skill includes using color codes to assess threat levels, exit route awareness and scanning the environment for threats and multiple targets. It also includes skill in what John Farnam calls “living a stealth existence,” which involves threat avoidance. If you don’t need to be in a high-risk environment, why go there in the first place?

Use Of Cover & Concealment

This skill involves knowing the difference between materials that offer cover against incoming fire and those that only offer concealment. It also includes knowing how to minimally expose your body while shooting around solid objects.

Low Light

Low-light self-defense skills include target recognition, use of tactical lights, light discipline, movement in the dark and target engagement. This skill set also includes mastering the use of night sights, red dots and lasers.

Concealment & Marksmanship

In many states, courses that satisfy state training standards do a good job of teaching basic gun safety, but they do not often include instruction in concealing a handgun or tactical marksmanship. These skills include mastering tactical shooting stances, drawing from the holster, shot placement and shooting multiple rounds at one or more targets.


Gunfights almost always involve movement, and movement can ruin your aim if you don’t know how to move properly. Training in moving and shooting teaches you how to keep your sights level, shoot accurately and avoid falling. It also includes skills like opening doors and moving through stairways, hallways or other spaces where movement is limited.

Emergency Procedures

Regardless of your skill level or the quality of your equipment, emergencies will occur during critical incidents. When they do, you need the skills to contain the problem and get back into action. Emergency skills include reloading, clearing stoppages, dealing with a failure to stop and basic first aid.

After-Action Preparedness

Many trainers separate a critical incident into two tactical problems. Problem one involves surviving the armed encounter. Problem two involves surviving the legal and emotional aftermath. Most people don’t understand that the word “homicide” involves both the justified and the unjustified taking of a human life. Police initially investigate all shooting incidents as if they are unjustified. What you say and how you behave after a critical incident, even if it does not lead to death, will have a significant influence on how your role in the incident is perceived by friends, neighbors, the press and local authorities. For this reason, training in how to act and what to say after an armed encounter is very important for those who carry concealed weapons.

This story was featured in the 2015 HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE. To subscribe to the HANDGUN BUYER’S GUIDE, please visit

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