Defense against the dark arts dirtbags

It is an accepted article of faith among people who carry guns for personal defense that there are bad people in this world, and sometimes the paths of those people intersect with ours. We also accept violence as a solution, and while we hope that we’re never placed in a position where violence is our only recourse, we all know it could happen. But one of the things that’s been on my mind lately is “shoot/no-shoot” situations, and how a lot of times we focus only on the gun as a tool of self-defense, often at the avoidance of other more useful skills.

One of the most useful skills that we frequently ignore is threat assessment and managing unknown contacts. To get into detail on that, I want to talk about the three broad categories of “bad guys.” Not everyone requires the same level of force/response, right? So understanding what you’re dealing with is important.

Decent folk who messed up
This covers a lot of people, because decent folk make mistakes. A great example of this is someone with a DUI – not a habitual drunk driver, but someone who once got behind the wheel of a car and made a mistake. They’re not what you’d generally think of as a bad person, but they did something wrong and paid the consequence for it. This can even apply to folks who have done other sorts of crimes. Sometimes good people get desperate, or sometimes people who’ve come up through bad circumstances make a mistake, and turn their lives around.

Probably the biggest category of them all. Knuckleheads are not smart people, and they do crimes and other dumb things because they’re not really smart enough to find a better way of life. They’re not really deliberately violent – a knucklehead doesn’t get out of bed thinking about hurting people, but sometimes they do because “consequences” are difficult for them to grasp. Knuckleheads often like drugs, and frequently end up in jail for dumb, petty stuff. They can be unpredictable as well; generally when I’m in a MUC scenario and someone on the street is, for example, aggressively asking me for a cigarette I assume they’re probably a knucklehead and handle it appropriately. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve drawn my gun in genuine fear for my life, but I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said “hey, stop right there” or “no, I can’t help you, but I’ll call a tow truck for you.” Knucklehands can absolutely be dangerous, and sometimes you will need to use actual force to stop them, but often the best tool for managing people in this class is to simply be smarter than they are.

Actual Bad People
The 1% of criminals are actual, genuine bad people, and they actually make up much more than 1% of the criminal population. That guy you saw on the internet who walks up behind a stranger and sucker punches them in the head? That’s a bad guy. These are people who are aware of the consequences of their actions and don’t care. They want your TV or your life or your money and they don’t really care what happens to you during the process. If you get killed or injured or if you surrender, none of it matters. They’re obviously the most dangerous type of person, because when they got up that morning they already knew that they were going to be fighting someone today.

Obviously this doesn’t take in to account people who are mentally ill, because mental illness is hard to quantify in terms of behavior, so I’ll (conveniently) for this post not get into that.

If you follow CCW/self-defense oriented content, the majority of preparation for self defense focuses around dealing with genuine bad people. The armed robber who breaks into your house at 2am, or the guy who walks into a gas station and shoots the cashier the same way you’d step on an ant. It’s well to be prepared for this sort of violence, because frequently (and sadly) the only appropriate answer to it is more violence. RH wasn’t kidding when he wrote that naked force has solved more problems than anything else.

But what about everyone else? That’s where the often neglected skills of threat assessment and managing unknown contacts come in to play. I don’t need to shoot a knucklehead if I’m smart enough to recognize a come-on when I see it, and I know how to get out of it. It’s why, on the advice of smart people, I strongly recommend Craig Douglas’ Managing Unknown Contacts class, of if you’re in the PNW InSight Training Center’s Street and Vehicle Tactics. I’ve taken the latter and it was excellent.

What I’m driving at here is simple: yes, carry your guns. But don’t let you self-defense training focus become so myopic on “shooting stuff” that you neglect to train areas that will be far more useful in every day life than being able to shoot a sub 2.00 second bill drill. I guarantee that most people will be put in far more situations that they should manage with verbal judo than they will ever need to manage with a gun.


  1. There is much truth in what you say here. If the only tool you have is a hammer, more and more, if not all, problems start to look like nails. Every possible self defense scenario is not a gun solution. Most, in fact are not. You are to be commended for writing this post. I would recommend a show like The Best Defense, that focuses on a complete self defense plan. But I would caution you and others from spending too much time, or in some cases, any time, analyzing what category these potential bad guys fall in to. The why of a bad guy and/or what category you, I or Tom, Dick or Harry thinks a potential bad guy fits in, matters NOT! In all potential self defense scenarios, the key element is TIME, and you can not waste it. Judge the potential bad guy/gal on their actions and act accordingly. Have a well thought out self defense plan and system, and WORK YOUR PLAN! Listen to or read stuff by guys like William Aprill and Tom Givens. It is truly eye opening. This comes from my perspective as a 20 year FED LEO, with 8 years prior as an MP in the Army Reserve. Keep up the great work.

    1. The point of explaining the categories isn’t so people can’t think about when shit’s going down, but rather to understand what kind of threats are out there well in advance so they can train and plan appropriately.

      1. Roger that brother. In case you didnt notice I am applauding you, for what I see as the main point of your post, i.e., have a lot more than gun skills in your self defense plan/system. But creating categories and subjective clasifications does not matter, period. Using all the tools/skills available to correctly assess the objective threat presented by a bad guy, and acting accordingly to stay alive, is all that matters. I challenge you to check out Mike Seeklander’s podcast, with the interviews of William Aprill and Tom Givens. Two guys who have extensively studied actual bad guys and actual civilian self defense shootings. Why or how a bad guy arrives to the point of putting a threat on you, doesn’t matter. How you assess and deal with the threat is what matters. Just throwing out some constructive thought on your post, not hate.

    1. Amen to that! Avoid as follows: 1) Stupid places 2) at Stupid times of day 3) with Stupid people. Wash, rinse, repeat. As a former violator of all three of these Stupid’s, it is a great thing when we finally realize how easy it is to follow these simple rules of avoidance. It makes life a lot easier to navigate.

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