Concealed Carry & Home Defense

The Five “A’s” of Self-Defense

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By Tom Givens, The Shooting Channel

Many are familiar with the “Seven P’s of Project Management.” It occurred to me that are five “A’s” of defensive firearms training. As trainers, we must make our students aware that all of these essential elements must be recognized, trained for, and skill developed in order to ensure a successful outcome in a crisis. As students, we must recognize that owning, or even carrying, a gun is not enough. We must work on or prepare for all of these “A”’s.


Doing nothing can lead to a place that you never want to find yourself.

ACCEPTANCE: For many years I worked as an investigator. While interviewing victims of violent crime, I was struck by how many of them just froze up when attacked, and did nothing to defend themselves. In questioning them about this, they usually said that they were stuck in a mental denial loop, with “I can’t believe this is happening to me” the only thought they could manage. I firmly believe that this is the direct result of spending so much mental energy over the years trying to convince one’s self that “it will never happen to me.”

After years of self-delusion, when the event comes the victim is stunned into inaction, which can have very bad results. The Bureau of Justice Statistics, part of the US Department of Justice, counts four crimes as the “violent crimes.” These are Murder, Aggravated Assault, Robbery and Forcible Rape. I would suggest that these are the exact crimes one would use a handgun to defend against. According to the BJS, there were 5.8 million of these four crimes in the US in 2011 alone. Thus, instead of “I can’t believe this is happening to me,” your mental reaction must be “I knew this might happen, it’s my turn at bat.”


Always be aware of who is around you, where are they, are they paying too much attention to you and are they alone or with others.

AWARENESS: It doesn’t matter what the subject involves, one cannot fix a problem until one is aware that he has a problem. The one action that most people could take to enhance their personal security would be to become more alert and aware when out in public. Stop talking or texting on the cell phone while walking across the parking lot! Get your head up, open your eyes, and look around. Look for people, activities or circumstances that look odd, out of place, or out of character and are, therefore, suspicious. Watch for people who seem to be paying attention to you. Thugs do not beam down from the Mother Ship and attack you.


If it comes down to taking action, you must be prepared to do whatever is necessary to prevail.

AVOIDANCE: I will give you a double your money back guarantee that you will win every single violent confrontation you don’t get involved in. Don’t go to specific places while armed that you would not go to unarmed. Resist the temptation to flip off the jerk who just cut you off in traffic or took the parking space you were waiting for. It’s not worth it. Remember that as an armed citizen, you will be held to a higher standard of judgment and discretion than an average person.

ACTION: If, despite your best efforts at awareness and avoidance, you are faced with an imminent deadly threat, you will have to act swiftly and decisively to end that threat. This requires skill at arms. Skill requires work, in the form of training and practice. At a minimum, you should be well versed in these physical skills with your sidearm:

  • The ability to quickly, safely and efficiently present your handgun from concealment, or to quickly and reliably access your firearm from its storage space at home
  • Achieve rapid, multiple hits at realistic distances in short time frames
  • Reload your pistol quickly and reliably
  • Be able to fix common malfunctions and keep the gun running

The police will always be skeptical of any shooting, especially if you are the one who is still alive.

AFTERMATH: One of the dumbest things I see repeatedly and often in TV/Movie crime dramas is when the hero is involved in a fatal shooting and is back on the job the next day, with no further mention of the incident ever made. Life just goes on. In real life—not so much. In all jurisdictions in the United States the shooting of one person by another will be, at least initially, treated as a criminal investigation. You may be taken into custody, searched, handcuffed, even taken to a police facility for questioning. Your gun will be seized as evidence.

Depending greatly upon where in the US you are at the time, you may or may not be charged with a serious crime and have to hire an attorney and a bondsman to assist you. If you are fortunate enough to live in a more self-defense friendly part of the country, you may be released at the scene after the initial on scene investigation, but that does not mean it is over. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help, whether legal counsel or treatment by a qualified psychologist. Regardless of how justified and necessary your actions may have been, this will be a traumatic experience for you and your loved ones. Be prepared to deal with this.

So, to be fully prepared to defend yourself or loved ones against an attack by violent criminals, remember the Five A’s.

Acceptance, Awareness, Avoidance, Action, and the Aftermath should all be given serious consideration before the event, to make successfully dealing with the event more likely.

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