Apparently June of this year set new records for firearms sales. I’ve mentioned before that I have encountered a surprising number of people with a very recent interest in buying a gun and self defense in general. The sales numbers would seem to indicate that my experience is not exactly novel…but where do those newbies begin? Self defense is a rather complicated matter requiring knowledge and training in several different disciplines. Some of those disciplines are sufficiently deep that you could spend your entire adult life chasing mastery of them. Wouldn’t it be lovely, then, if someone compiled the majority of the information you absolutely need to know from relevant disciplines into a single easily digestible resource?
Drawing on his decades of experience as a police officer and instructor for tens of thousands of students, Tom Givens has done exactly that in the latest edition of his book Fighting Smarter: A Practical Guide for Surviving Violent Encounters.
The book is organized into Fourty chapters, but the book itself is only 318 pages long. Each chapter is concisely constructed around a single topic and says only what needs to be said about that topic before moving on to the next one. Having spent a little bit of time around Tom I’ve noted that he seems to have quite a gift for getting right to the heart of the matter with succinct language. I joked with a friend that he could likely teach an entire 5 day class using nothing but one-liners. Tom’s writing is every bit as clear and direct as his instruction. Some writers use the English language like a dull axe, hacking away in hopes that broad strokes delivered in exhausting volumes is desirable because more words are always better. Tom’s writing is more like a scalpel. Very precise, focused, and effective. In discussing threat assessment for the Armed Citizen (Chapter 11) Tom deals with the idea of how much gun one should carry as effectively as I’ve ever seen it done:
“I have investigated or studied literally thousands of shootings over the last four decades, including over sixty cases involving my own students. I can assure you, in a life threatening crisis you will be zero percent involved, or you will be one hundred percent involved. You will never be forty percent involved in a gunfight!”
The first twelve chapters combine to make up one of the most effective breakdowns of fighting mindset that you are going to encounter. “Mindset” is a term that is much abused in self defense and firearms discussions because people often treat it like it is some sort of magic fairy dust that gets sprinkled on whatever crappy situation you’ve set yourself up for to make it all OK. In reality mindset is the cultivation of mental state, acquisition of skill, and careful selection of equipment well in advance of the fight that allows you to not survive but prevail in a violent encounter with a hardened criminal. In the first section of the book Tom explains:
- How common violent crime actually is in the United States
- The kind of people who commit violent crimes
- The kind of damage those people do to honest citizens on a daily basis
- The principles of personal defense
- Learning to control fear
- Establishing hard lines for lethal response well in advance of a violent encounter
…and a number of other crucial topics relevant to the defense minded individual before going on to provide the same expert guidance in regards to structuring a training program, buying a gun, selecting ammunition, dealing with the immediate and long term aftermath of a self defense shooting, etc.
In Fighting Smarter, Tom has distilled a great deal of knowledge and experience into easily digestible presentations. You could do a deep dive on any topic covered in the book, but after processing all the information you can find you will figure out that Tom’s got the essence of the thing down and laid out in a few concise paragraphs.
In the future when I am asked where someone should start with learning about self defense, I’m going to recommend this book. I can’t think of another non-training resource that will lay a more solid foundation for building a capable Armed Citizen than Fighting Smarter. If you don’t have this book, go get it. Then pass it on to family and friends. It doesn’t matter if you are brand new to self defense or if you’ve had more formal training than I have…there’s much in this book that everyone can learn.
I cannot recommend it highly enough.