Considerations for Lethal Force Part 1

Considerations for Lethal Force. Varg Freeborn.

Developing Capabilities and Mindset

So you’ve purchased your gun. You may have even attended a local class and obtained your carry permit. But are you ready to use that gun to defend yourself? Have you deeply considered the ways that a lethal force event could impact your life? In this article, we’ll take a look at a few important considerations and how to prepare yourself for them. The two aspects that matter the most are capability and mindset. First, let’s talk about capability.

Fighting and Shooting are Not the Same

Let’s clarify that fighting is an entirely different activity than target shooting or hunting. You can target shoot, shoot competitively, and hunt your entire life and still be unprepared to perform well in an actual fight with one or more violent humans. This is where the “I’ve been shooting my whole life, I don’t need instruction” crowd goes off the rails.

There are many problems and requirements involved in fighting with a weapon. Usually, these considerations are only considered when you train for it or when you actually get in a fight with one.

Some of those considerations are:

● Muzzle control in crowds while moving around innocents and no-shoots, while also managing family members or loved ones — ALL of this while under extreme stress.
● How to move through structures and maintain control of the muzzle, the weapon, and the space. This must be done while positively identifying everyone who gets in front of you BEFORE you react — also while under extreme stress.
● How to change mechanics and manipulations based on environment and distance between yourself and the opponent. Are you able to make these adjustments while under extreme stress?
● How to make the gun accessible, get the best draw safely and reliably within the shortest time possible, and carry in a manner that serves those purposes well.
● How to move efficiently and safely while engaging in a fight maintaining control of your weapon and muzzle direction in all forms of movement —there will likely be innocents around.
● When to draw, when not to draw, when to use the surreptitious draw, when to “go for it”, and how to manage the situation when the gun is not accessible (sometimes, it’s not an option at the moment).
● …this list goes on

One consideration of lethal force: maintain and control your weapon's muzzle direction while moving.

Consider how to maintain control of your firearm while moving in a safe and efficient manner — while engaging in a fight.

Fights happen very quickly and they produce extreme amounts of stress. Most likely this is a type of stress that you have never experienced before. Physiologically, you’ll be elevated. That makes it even more difficult to rapidly solve all of these problems while simultaneously analyzing real-time events and making good decisions. You’ll need to be able to make good decisions because they’ll help you win the fight without hurting innocent people in the process.

That’s a lot to ask of yourself if you’ve never given lethal force some serious thought, let alone if you’ve never trained for it.

The best way to fix the capabilities problem is to get some training from vetted, reputable instructors who have experience with the complexities of fighting. Follow this up by setting some standards of performance for yourself and maintain them.

Varg Freeborn - Lethal-Force Considerations - Get training with vetted, reputable instructors who have experience with the complexities of fighting.

Get training with vetted, reputable instructors who have experience with the complexities of fighting.

Take some of the likeliest demands of a fight:

● How fast can you reliably draw your pistol from concealment and hit a target accurately within a 6” or 8” circle at 7 yards?
● How many shots can you score within an 8” circle at 25 yards?
● How reliably can you rapidly raise your weapon from low ready and place repeatable shots into a 6” circle at room distance? In what time frame?
● How reliably can you collapse to a safe position to move and pivot around active innocents, with a weapon in your hand, without muzzling them?

These same standards can be modified for your home defense rifle as well. These are actual demands that will be placed on you, under extreme pressure, in an average fight inside or outside of your home. This is just a starting point, and you can tighten those standards up as you improve. But, if you don’t have a measure of how you perform on a range with these demands, how can you rely on your unknown capabilities to keep you and your family safe?

Knowing your real capabilities installs true confidence, and true confidence is the basis for a strong mindset.


More thoughts on the matter: Self-Defense Mindset | When is “Good Enough” Actually Good Enough?

Mindset: the “Before, During, and After” of it All

Mindset begins and ends with Mission. What is your mission? For most civilians, the mission is something like this, “To make it home, every night, with my family, for the rest of my life.” So, what is your mission? To fight evil? To respond to distress signals, screams, dispatch calls? To be prepared to protect yourself and your family? To protect literally anyone, anywhere, at any time? Clearly identify your mission and stick to it.

What is a wrong answer to the question of mission? It is wrong when it contradicts your OWN goals. For example, someone who trains to protect themselves and their family, but intends to run head-first into a fight for a stranger when neither that person or his or her family is endangered. Noble or not, if your mission is to protect yourself and make it home with your family every night. So running into any random deadly situation you see is not in line with that mission.

You could lose your life, and it would not have been in the defense of you or your family. Your family is left without protection. At that point, you have failed in your actual, stated mission. I would rather hear someone proclaim their mission is to fight evil wherever it appears, like Batman, than to hear them contradict their own stated mission like that.

When you get into any situation in which you begin to go outside of the lines of your mission, you will get into trouble. Your chances of failure increase exponentially. You are in a territory that you have not planned or prepared for. If you have an in-the-moment rush of clarity to consider the consequences of engaging in a fight that doesn’t involve protecting yourself or your own, you have a higher chance of hesitation. The other actors may not be who they appear to be and the fight could take you from your loved ones. Too many things can go wrong to make this a blind gamble.

It’s not for me or anyone to pass judgment on your own version of mission. I just strongly advise you to be clear with yourself about what that mission is so you can prepare yourself and your family for it appropriately. If you plan to jump into any fight at any time, then properly prepare yourself and your family for the potential risks of that mission. Likewise, if you only intend to protect yourself and your loved ones, prepare your capabilities and mission-clarity accordingly.

Lethal Force Considerations - Meme - Violence of Mind.

The role of confidence in fighting

A clearly defined mission plus known capabilities breed true confidence. This isn’t just about how quickly you can shoot a target accurately. There are considerations inside of a mission that can also determine the outcome of your life, like the legal, social, and psychological after-effects of the fight.

When you have a clearly defined mission, you have thoroughly researched the laws of your state. You know, without a doubt, what you are and are not allowed to do to be able to qualify for justifiable self-defense. In spite of what many keyboard warriors will tell you, there are rules in a fight and if you don’t follow them you can end up in prison — which is also a mission failure of the highest degree. You will live your life in horrible conditions, in an environment controlled by the worst criminals. Your family will be left without you, your support, and your protection. Failure.

However, when you have a clearly defined mission and tested capabilities, you can enter into a fight with confidence. You know that you are doing the right thing and that you will be able to perform well while doing it. What this does for your mindset can not be ignored. It is a game-changer for the winning team. The fewer questions you have, the less uncertainty you have, the stronger your mindset will be. You will be more decisive, more determined, and have more conviction in your decisions because they are well informed and thought out, well before that day comes.


So what is a “Combat Mindset”?

There are many definitions of a combat mindset, or fighting mindset, floating around out there. I can assure you that simply thinking about “Being ready for the fight!” does not cut it. In my philosophy, a combat mindset is the ability to maintain self-control under all conditions and circumstances. This requires confidence and preparation to achieve.

No one is saying that you have to become a training junkie to win, or that an average person cannot adequately defend themselves with a firearm. What I am pointing out is that with even a little bit of work in a few range sessions, a little legal research, and some deep soul searching, you can exponentially improve your chances of surviving and winning.

We tend to lose control when we are overwhelmed with variables that we are not prepared for when we are faced with uncertainties, and the stakes are life or death. The goal of preparation is to eliminate as many of those uncertainties as possible. Simply buying a gun is only a step in that process. Understanding your internal parameters (attachments, cultural views, values, morals), your external boundaries (laws), your true capabilities, and your willingness to put it all together one fateful day, is the real process of winning that fight.

Coming up: Considerations for Lethal Force Part 2

In Part Two of this article, I will talk about the social and psychological parts of being involved in a lethal force event, and how to prepare for that important part of being a defensive gun owner.


Shoot Gooder: some of our thoughts on improving skills.

Varg Freeborn: read more of his articles.

Pistol mags: you need some? We have ’em for every conceivable handgun make and model.

Varg Freeborn (@vargfreeborn) is the founder of One Life Defense, Violence Education and Lethal Force Training. He’s a fitness coach, lethal force educator, and author of the book Violence of Mind. That’s a pretty simple one-line explanation for a pretty complicated man. So, read more about Varg Freeborn here.

Varg Freeborn of One Life Defense and author of Violence of Mind

  • Charlie

    My consideration for lethal force is how much mess it will make in the house, because I don’t want to endure my wife’s complaints about removing blood from walls or floors. For that reason, I would be willing to let them walk away to prevent a mess. On the other hand, if the guy or guys damaged any of my $12K Andersen entrance doors they aren’t going to be leaving until the coroner is ready for them to leave. That simple.

    • Booger Fooger

      It’s your blood that she’d be removing. No brain matter tho – you don’t appear to have any. Talk about ‘flapping your lips’.

  • JonSEAZ

    When I clearly determine that I or my loved ones are in immediate danger of being seriously harmed from whatever source I will to the best of my ability do whatever I must with no consideration of associated consequences to eliminate the immediate threat.

    If I can take evasive action, I will do so. If I reliably can remove the threat without use of deadly force, I will do so. If deadly force stands out as necessary, I will apply it without fear or concern in the moment or regret in the aftermath.

    At the core, beyond the mechanics of fighting, survival depends heavily upon a mindset of not being a willing victim, ever, under any circumstances. It is not paranoia to understand that bad things can happen, however rare, and to be always prepared physically and mentally to do whatever you can to survive.

    Like all things in life, we encounter the condition, assess the circumstances, make decisions, take the necessary action to the best of our ability, and the situation will unfold as it will. We will know that we did the best we could to do the right thing under the circumstances as we understood them.

  • reaganisashamed

    When all is said and done… “I’d rather be tried by 12 than carried by 6.”

  • Bill Towell

    I had been in a number of fights but only one fight in which a knife and gun was involved. The former prepared my mindset well for the latter. An eternity is lived in a lethal encounter. So many things go wrong, and some go right, maybe. The most important thing for me was to be prepared in my mind to die, do the right thing, and I got lucky.

  • firemedic2000

    Knowing your state and local laws inside and out will give you the confidence to do what you must if you ever have too.
    Situationional awareness of your environment while out I public is a must.
    Commitment to do what must be done without hesitation if a true threat ever happens. Hesitation can cost you yours and your families life.
    If you carry, carry your weapon properly and locked and loaded. People have been shot while attempting to chamber a round.
    Don’t brag about how you would blow someone away that messed with you. Your mouth can get you into trouble.
    But more importantly than anything. Use common sense. Make sure a threat is a real threat and your not over reacting.
    It never hurts to say excuse me, I’m sorry or just plain walk away. You have nothing to prove. Avoidance is the easiest way to stay out of trouble in public.

    But if attacked by all means use the necessary force to stop the attack. No more no less.
    In other words popcorn is not a deadly weapon.

  • Dave

    It’s something to really think about. So many great points in this article. We can’t expect to perform any better than what we’ve trained for. Think of the times you’ve been under intense stress, hands can shake, thoughts can get muddled, etc.

  • Don Prosser

    Amazing article Varg, and one bred from true experience.