When it comes to the time it takes to effectively react to real life personal defense situations, the odds can be stacked against you. When every second counts, you’ll want to be prepared and ready to safely engage.
Being physically attacked is always a serious matter and your primary objective must be to gain control of the situation by either getting yourself to safety or stopping the force of the aggressor. There’s no advantage in trying to be a hero if it’s unnecessary, and if there is sufficient time for you to safely retreat, then that is often the best plan. Also keeping in mind that your opportunity to retreat can be an important point legally in some jurisdictions. One more thing – your life is not worth the contents of your wallet.
Having said that, most physical attacks happen with little to no warning and your time to effectively react will be minimal at best. In cases where an attacker is mentally unstable, intoxicated or in serious rage mode, you’ll likely have some more warning (provided your situational awareness is reasonable). It’s the premeditated attacks by a motivated criminal that typically catch people off-guard. They count on the victim being surprised, shocked, confused, scared or unable to react quickly enough and this is oftentimes exactly what happens. This can happen whether you’re armed or not. Before you know it, you’ve been robbed or assaulted and there’s not much you can do about it. Even the most seasoned of us can get caught flat-footed.
So what are we talking about in terms of actual reaction time? Well, all you’ll typically have is about one second(ish) to react to an aggressor who means you harm. Doesn’t seem like much, but that’s about all the time you’ll have. Some studies have shown that it takes approximately one quarter of second for your brain to fire based on a stimulus, but then you also have to consider making a decision, drawing your weapon and firing (notice that I didn’t mention anything about aiming). Obviously these scenarios are dictated by distance and the time it takes for an opponent to launch whatever attack they were intending. We all know the example of the 21 feet and the 1.5 seconds that it takes an individual to get to you. Remember that an aggressor’s action will always be faster that your re-action.
This is Really Happening
To complicate matters, there is also the issue of how the body/mind react when subjected to extreme and sudden stress. We understand that we would have very little time to react overall, but surprise, fear, panic and increased adrenaline can cause a variety of responses that will hinder your ability to effectively counter. These can range from increased heart rate, muscular tension and hyperventilation to decreased motor skills and the potential for a ‘freeze’ response. Add to that the momentary confusion that can occur when someone who isn’t used to physical confrontation or contact is attacked, and the need for preparation is even more evident.
The Reality of it All
Aside from those in law enforcement, the military or security services, the vast majority of regular folks won’t have to deal with this type of situation (thankfully). It’s good to be prepared, but there’s no sense walking around being completely paranoid about some impending potential assault. Some people will obviously take their preparedness to a higher level than others, however there are a variety of personal defense fundamentals that should be viewed as basic knowledge. These would include, but are not limited to:
The Right Weapon
Ensuring that your concealed carry gun is the right size and type is critical for effective defense. Anything too big for instance, and you’re likely to struggle with a smooth draw.
The Right Set-Up
Cross draw, ankle or underarm holsters are good in certain cases, but not so much for fast defensive movement. Stick to the more standard waistband or appendix carry format if you’re concerned about time.
Training & Instruction
Forget YouTube and get some specific professional training from an instructor that fully understands tactical and reactive shooting. There are facilities out there that specialize in this type of thing.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Once you have a grasp of how defensive shooting works, you’ll have to consistently drill the movement until enough muscle memory is developed. This isn’t a one-&-done deal. You need to be able to execute these movements in your sleep.
Wear what you would normally wear on the street so that you can account for garment clearance – and unless you’re a member of a SWAT team, perhaps avoid using a thigh holster or any other tactical gear. You can also employ the use of shot timers to be able to determine what your reaction times are and if you’re making any improvement with practice.
Without being overly fixated on your surroundings, most people should have some sense of what’s going around them. Middle of a sunny day at the mall? Probably not an issue. Walking out into the parking lot late at night? Maybe keep your head on a swivel.
Self Defense is Messy
Defensive situations are often sudden and in close quarters, offering you very little time to make a clean response. There are specific techniques for these scenarios and you may find yourself having to shoot with one hand while using your free hand to fend-off an attack. There’s also a good chance that you’ll have no opportunity to aim and you may even be on your back. This isn’t Hollywood. Just something to keep in mind.
While not wanting to scare the heck out of anyone, the point here is that it’s important not to underestimate the speed and potential viciousness of a physical attack. Your reaction times can be minimized with the right training and if you can get it down to a ‘One Mississippi’ response time, then you’re in better shape than most.
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