Owning and Carrying a Handgun 101 Part Five

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

With an up coming “fundamentals” handgun course coming up soon, I decided to step back to the very basics of owning and carrying a handgun for self-defense reasons. Here is a very brief look at the very basics of this very important decision and topic.

This take on these basic concepts are geared toward Nevada state law. Please check the laws in the area that you live.

The Use of Force Continuum

When responding to an attack you need to respond in a manner that is both “reasonable” and “necessary”.

Reasonable use of force means that the response is within the guidelines dictated by the danger level.  While you may be able to shoot someone who is trying to hit you with a baseball bat, you can shoot someone just for yelling at you.

Necessary use of force means that you have no other safe response available.  If you are in the position to be able to avoid the attack by fleeing and you choose to stay and fight, the use of force would not be considered necessary. It is always best to not depend on force for your protection.

  1. Evasion of Danger: The best solution to a confrontation is to avoid the confrontation. If you can flee safely, that is usually the best solution to the problem.  But then again fleeing may put you in a very bad position.  You must be able to flee safely!
  2. Verbal Commands: If you cannot avoid the threat loud verbal commands may be enough to stop the attack from taking place. Commands that allow the criminal to flee may be the best way to go.  “BACK OFF, OR I WILL SHOOT!” type of commands, give the attacker the option to flee.  We must look at our mission as CCW holders.  Our mission is to go home at night.  It is not to try to apprehend criminals.  Holding a criminal at gun point has extreme risks.
  3. Going Hands On: If the situation is one that you can handle due to your size or skill level, if you are able to control the situation without the need for excessive force, this could be a very option. What we are talking about is the ability to restrain by using “soft hands” techniques.
  4. Pepper Spray or OC: Pepper spray is another option inside of the force continuum. The effectiveness of this option is not 100% and does raise some risks that you should know about.  Roughly 15% of attackers are able to fight through pepper sprays.
  5. Impact Strikes: Kicks, punches, open hand strikes, knees, elbows, or strikes with objects that are readily available are another set of options available. Your ability to use this option is once again dependent on your physical ability and skill level.
  6. Deadly Force: The use of a gun to shoot an attacker will always be seen as the use of deadly force. As will the use of a knife.  The use of deadly force will only be seen as reasonably or necessary if it fits into the category of “in defense of life or grave bodily harm.” The decision to use deadly force is a personal decision that should only be entered into after a thorough understanding of the laws pertaining to the use of deadly force.  Know the laws and get your head straight well before you have to make that decision for real.  Deadly force means “That force which under the circumstances it is used, is readily capable of causing death or substantial bodily harm.”

Nevada Law states:

NRS 0.060 “Substantial Bodily Harm” defined.

Unless the context otherwise requires, “substantial bodily harm” means:

  1. Bodily injury which causes a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ; or
  2. Prolonged physical pain.

The Use of Deadly Force:

Three things must be in place in order to justify the use of deadly force. It is easily remembered by the acronym AOI. It stands for:


Does the attacker have the ability or the means to present a serious danger to you? Does he have the weapon, the size, and/or the strength to cause you death or grave bodily harm?


Does the attacker have the opportunity to cause you death or grave bodily harm? Does his proximity put you in serious danger?


Does the attacker have the intent, right now, to do you grave bodily harm? There must be imminent jeopardy of death or grave bodily harm.

If anyone of these three things are missing, you do not have the justification to use deadly force.

Your Last Option

The use of deadly force should be used as the last resort. Attempt to exhaust all other options before you use deadly force. The use of deadly force without the proper justification can ruin your life. You could lose your freedom, your money, your job, your family and friends if you do not handle things in the appropriate manner. The very best fight is the one that is avoided.

Shoot to Stop

Our ultimate goal is to shoot to stop the attacker from doing whatever it is that he is doing. Once the attacker has stopped his attack due to inability or lack of desire to continue to pose a lethal threat, you must stop shooting. To continue to shoot after the threat has been stopped would be murder. Remember this is all about self-defense. Once you have successfully defended yourself or another innocent you must not cross the line from defending to murdering.

On the same token, we must make sure that we have successfully stopped the threat. Criminals lie and deceive. You must guarantee that their ability to continue to pose an imminent lethal threat has been stopped. Be very careful inside of this balance, it could be the difference between life and death, freedom or imprisonment.

Warning shots should never be utilized because firing a weapon can have an effect on your ability to think clearly. Also rounds shot into the air return to the ground at a high velocity and can cause death or injury.

The Reality of the Fight

“The fight will be what the fight will be” The attacker is the one that dictates the circumstances of the fight. You are only left to deal with the circumstances the very best that you can. The “I carry a gun and I know how to shoot” mindset is an extremely sub-optimal mindset. The dynamics of a fight come down very different from target shooting on the square range. The vast majority of self-defense fights come down when you are behind in the reactionary curve, at very close distances, with extreme urgency, in low light, with both you and the attacker moving, while dealing with the typical physiological effects of a life threatening encounter.

This is the reality, If you have not trained for this reality, you may not be as ready as you think that you are.

We also need to understand that handgun rounds are extremely under powered. You may need to make multiple hits to stop the threat. The number of shots that are required to stop the threat can vary immensely. It could be none, it could be one, or it could take dozens. Many people who have been shoot do not even realize that they have been shot. You must keep shooting until the threat has been stopped.

When we look at the reality of a typical encounter it is plain to see the difficulties of the situation. We must come up with a targeting method that will allow us to be the best that we can be inside of this difficult situation. Center of Mass (COM) is this targeting method. COM means that we should target the center of whatever mass is available. This will increase our ability to get the hits on the attacker and mitigate our chances of missing the attacker.

The generally accepted National hit ratio for Law Enforcement Officers (LEO) is between 15% and 25%. This is the reality of the difficulty of the situation.

Defensive Accuracy

When we realize the difficulty of the situation, it is clear that simply carrying a gun may not be good enough. If you want to guarantee victory and mitigate liability, you should seek out additional training that will deal with the reality of the fight. Learning “target shooting” may not be enough! You may want to seek out professional training that focus on the “reality of the fight.” Theses instructor will teach you the perfect balance of speed and accuracy inside of the reality of the fight. At the very forefront of this perfect balance should be “defensive accuracy.” A 9” by 11” piece of paper or a 9” paper plate are both an excellent representation of defensive accuracy. Small tight groups of “target shooting” are not a realistic representative of the reality of a fight. This type of shooting has too much emphasis on accuracy and not enough emphasis on speed. Remember it has to be a perfect balance between spend and accuracy.

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