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All my favorite gun gurus are fatalists. They believe an armed citizen can do everything right in a gunfight and still die. As the rabbi reminded me the other day, “We are at a huge disadvantage. We’re the good guys. We’re always reacting to what the bad guys are doing. We can’t get ahead of the curve.” True dat. I reckon a successful Defensive Gun Use (DGU) is nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time and somehow managing to do the right thing. Or, alternatively and additionally, being lucky. How much do you think luck has or will figure into the outcome of a DGU? Do you feel lucky? Or are you a fatalist as well?

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  1. Luck? Fate? I don’t know. Way too many variables to give a decisive answer. I’m not a fatalist, I’m a realist. I would like to think that I will be quicker on the draw, the better shot, always calm, cool, collected when the SHTF. Alas, I am not delusional. I can only hope to exercise the best judgement that I can, which includes knowing when to hold ’em, fold ’em, and knowing when to run. The rest will have to take care of itself. It always does, even when the outcome is not what we want it to be.

    Or maybe this is just the Hoppes #9 talking.

    • Agreed, too many variables but I think most bad guys are inherently cowardly and a commitment to fight, and fight hard, will give me the winning edge. There are of course exceptions.

  2. The way I like to put it is this: “stopping an assailant occurs at the intersection of physics, physiology and luck.”

  3. I’d like to think that I’ll make my own luck. Don’t go places that are high risk areas. If I have to, then go prepared. Keep up situational awareness. Don’t live life in condition white. Don’t be stupid. And for whatever reason, in the past when I’ve found myself in a crisis I’ve discovered that I don’t panic. I think clearly, I make quick decisions and I act. So far I’ve acted correctly. Maybe it’s because I was sucker punched once. Didn’t like it and I plan on it never happening again. That was 33 years ago. So far so good.

    • +2

      If you’re somewhere people run the risk of being killed, you shouldn’t be there.

      Seen enough people die growing up to know how it happens. Scum tends to have a territory, heaven help you if you don’t know where it is.

      It’s easy enough to avoid human predators, but avoiding idiots is a bit harder. Car accidents kill enough people that you should flinch every time you see one. A metric ton of common sense is perhaps the strongest survival tool out there.

  4. Some of the toughest guys I know who have been in many life and death encounters admit to only being alive today due to luck. I’d like to think that the better I prepare the less luck will matter. It will always still be there, but I’d prefer to not need to rely on luck saving my life when it counts.

  5. “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” -Thomas Jefferson

  6. People who are involved in a lawsuit should ask their lawyer the following question: “If you could represent either side in this case based solely on the merits, which side would you choose?”

    It’s a good question for a lot of conflict situations, including violent ones.

    The bad guy wants my money, but he doesn’t want to die for it. I like my life, and I’m willing to kill for it. There’s an important difference in motivation that makes me more dangerous than him.

    In most confrontations between a BG and an armed citizen, the armed citizen wins. Based soley on the merits, I like my chances.

  7. I’m an optimist mostly but a realist about many things. Sure, people do bad things and are unpredictable at times but most people are not a threat and only a few are truly the problem.
    I don’t see the world as a nihilistic person in a negative way. But since we don’t know what is around the corner in life we have to be prepared and that’s where self defense comes in.

  8. Awareness, preparedness, control, and luck. Usually in that order.

    On the side of the good guys, the guy who comes out with no extra holes in him is generally the one who got through is if/thens first, and didn’t hesitate when “then” meant bang.

  9. Luck is just the moment when preparation meets opportunity. The only part that you can really control is the preparation. That’s why we spend so much time training (or should) but the opportunity part is left (at least somewhat) out of our control. Even the best preparation is no guaranteed defense; just ask Wild Bill Hickok.

  10. I think it’s obviously impossible to separate out the luck and skill in an encounter. Even success in putting our skill to work is a probability issue. You can be tremendously skilled but be attacked just after you’ve contracted food poisoning. In poker it helps to have skill, staying power, impulsive opponents, and good cards, but no one factor is conclusive, is it? In fights it pays to have fitness, skill, and experience, but chance will still be involved. It doesn’t make sense to count on luck, yet I’ll take all the luck I can get. See, e.g., “Investing.”

  11. Cover your own ass, and prepare for the worse pray for the best. Two sayings that I think fit my outlook best in any situation not just DGU.

  12. Never walk
    away from home
    ahead of your axe and sword.
    You can’t feel a battle
    in your bones
    or foresee a fight.

    – The Havamal

    • And from the same source, “When you enter a room check what is behind the door.” Bunch of down to earth fellows.

  13. I wouldn’t call it luck, just being at the right place at the right time.

    Like that incident where about 30 SEALs and a few other soldiers died in a helicopter crash. They were just at the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Training, Skill, Experience, these things just maximize our chances of success (survival).

    • Both times that ~30 very well trained Navy SEALs died in MH-47 shoot-downs, as well as the losses at the Battle of Mogadishu (and 9/11), were systemic failures, not bad luck per se.

    • They weren’t in the wrong place at the wrong time, they were in a helicopter! Next to friendly fire, those are just about the deadliest places to be in any conflict or training exercise!

  14. Robert, for your non-ebonics speaking readers, can you tell me what “True dat” is supposed to mean?

  15. Luckily bad guys are ….
    not part of the brain trust.
    on drugs and alcohol.
    over confident and almost brazen.
    usually cowards when confronted with real opposition.
    not expecting you are armed or will resist.
    have a poor situational awareness.
    poor shots.
    poorly trained.
    poorly armed.
    Exception to the above for sure, but having encountered ” The Breed” it is not too far away from the truth.

    • Thankfully they are rare, but there is a breed of bad guy that kills first with the idea that they can take what they want off your dead body easiler & quicker than with the usual negotion with the victim, plus leaves no witnesses. But the majority of bad guys pretty much fit your profile.

      As to the question of luck? I have a friend (we were classmates in school) that spent some time in the military, has trained in various martial arts since the age of 10, and has plied his trade in the private sector (mercenary). He talks of having good luck, but my opinion is that he makes his own luck. He is constantly scanning the area assessing what is happening around him, plus he has the fastest reaction time I have ever seen, plus the majority of his life has been to train and be a warrior. I think he sleeps in condition red. I have been lucky a couple of times, and I mean pure lucky, because I wandered stupidly into a bad thing and managed to walk away intact. That happened back when I was young, stupid and a LOT faster on my feet. Now-a-days, I really can’t say fast feet and be referring to myself, top speed is a walk with a limp, so I HAVE to be much more aware of what is going on around me. So for me today, it is force of will, past training, and keeping situational awareness that I hope keep me out of trouble, but I’ll take luck anytime I can get it.

    • In some urban areas you’ll find some highly skilled predators. They’ve been educated by the punks ahead of them, thinned out by constant turf wars, and they have their gun up first. They’ve been in and out of prison. They practice more (surprisingly, and according to the FBI) than many LEO’s, and they are simply devoid of conscience. Avoid those areas and its back to idiots, alcoholics, petty thieves and such, perhaps.

  16. Survival is 2 parts skill and 1 part chance. You learn that lesson well when you have been subjected to indirect fire. You can don your gear, get under cover but if that 120mm mortar round hits you square on the head it doesn’t matter whether you are Walter Mitty or Dirty Harry you still die.

  17. Christ told us: “Consider the sparrow. You can buy two of them in the market for a penny, but one does not fall to the ground that G-d not take note of it. How much more valuable are you to Him than a sparrow?”

    I believe there is a G-d in heaven who has a loving hand upon us. This does not make me bulletproof. Awful things have happened to me, and they will again. What I have is the trust that my forever is secured by a G-d whose love is immeasurable, even as my understanding of that love is frustratingly infinitesimal. I cannot explain why, but “even if He slays me, I will serve him.”

    Don’t get me wrong, I want to die peacefully at a ripe old age, but I am not afraid – at least not so that it matters.

    Not lucky, I suppose – loved.

    • +1

      I’m surprised it took this long for someone to bring up that verse.

      That being said, I recently heard a Marine who saw combat in Veitnam say: “Part of His Divine Providence is what He has put between our ears.”

    • +1

      I’m surprised it took this long for someone to bring up that verse.

      That being said, I recently heard a Marine who saw combat in Veitnam say: “Part of His Divine Providence is what He has put between our ears.”

      A little “common sense” goes a long way.

  18. I figure I won’t have much luck if it comes to having to use a gun, I figure luck has a lot to do with getting into that situation. I think that good luck is the intersection of preparation and opportunity, bad luck is the intersection of unpreparedness and failure to pay attention.

    • “……… bad luck is the intersection of unpreparedness and failure to pay attention.” Yep, that intersection is in a BAD neighborhood for sure. I’ve been there, and am now glad to be here.

  19. People die because they didn’t have the foresight or common sense to understand that they were in the wrong area to be in.

    If you can’t understand the risks you’re taking, or don’t give the risk much weight, you won’t fare as well on average as those that do.

    Avoiding human predators is easy. Just don’t go where they are.

    Avoiding car accidents and the like is harder. Idiots are everywhere.

  20. Yes, the problem is that you are behind the 8 ball, taken by surprise. Situational awareness can reduce that potential, but only to a degree. What is interesting, as I was reading earlier tonight, is that our emotions may give us a certain level of “precognition,” a warning of danger that if paid attentiton to may save your life, like when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up for no apparent reason. This is an area of neurophysiological study because it has been recognized that our brains receive much more information that that of which we are consciously aware–our perceptions are filtered. Information flows from the midbrain region (aka the “seat of emotions”) into our higher consciousness functions where logic and other rational processes may act on it. What this implies, and research seems to support, is that the emotional brain processes far more information far faster than our forebrains do. Fortunately, these midbrain functions are pretty good at noticing threats of harm and bringing them to conscious attention. For example (and this happened to me and my wife a few nights ago) although you are fast asleep, your brain hears a gunshot in the middle of the night, recognizes it, and wakes you up quite abruptly–and still remembering the exact sound you heard even though you were asleep at the time. There is some suggestion, as often seen in good combat soldiers, of an “instinct” that warns them of danger and keeps them alive. So we know it can be recognized–the down side is that most of the training is “live fire” so to speak.

  21. How many of you have read “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin deBecker? It’s an interesting read, worth the time, in my opinion. Like Mark mentions above, our brains are processing much more than is making it to our conscious awareness. Part of learning to be safe is a process of learning to trust those “gut feelings”, because what they really are is your brain noticing warning signs, facts out of context, and raising the flags so you have the opportunity to act on it before going through the slow process of rational analysis.

    He gives an examples both of people who successfully avoided being victims by listening to their fear responses, and people who ignored their fear responses, and were victimized, and how their instincts were warning them about the danger they were facing.

    • +1.

      Even though deBecker is not a fan of guns, it’s a great book. If you carry a gun, you need this information, and if you don’t carry a gun, you really need it.

  22. I think a lot of you guys should go back to condition white. The fabricated dangers that you’re continually thinking about are going to be the death of you. There’s a lot of unnecessary stress there pretending to be Dirty Harry all the time.

    • I know Mikey, you think that chances of being attacked are so low that we can treat them as zero. If the probability is zero then no crimes are ever committed right? I think even you can see the fallacy in your line of reasoning.

      Your failure to understand cumulative probability underlines your fallacious reasoning. Insignificant probabilities can become quite large over time. Let’s take three examples from States with a low (Virginia — .27%), medium (Oklahoma — .5%) and high (DC — 1.4%) probabilities of being a victim of violent crime. (Source: Census table 304 for 2007-08)

      The cumulative probability of being a victim of violent crime over a life time of say 80 years is 1 – (1 – probability of being victim) raised to the 80th power)
      Low — .20
      Medium — .34
      High — .68

      My guess is that people who take your advice probably reduce my probability of being attacked so by all means walk around in blissful ignorance. Being aware of your environment doesn’t make you Dirty Harry — it makes you safer especially if you choose to walk around without the means of self defense..

      • Ah, no. Unfortunately, your grasp of statistics is wrong.

        If there is a .5% risk on any given day that you’ll be a victim of violent crime in a certain area, and that amount never changes, and you are in that area for 80 years, it’s not .5% x 80 or anything silly like that.

        You just run a .5% chance on any given day of being a violent crime victim. For 80 years, your risk rate stays at .5%.

        Think about it – for every day you go unmolested, it does not mean that there are missed chances for being molested that pile up every day. There is no ‘counter’, the universe does not keep track of such things. There is simply a constant.

        • Fail:

          If we assume that the probability that you are victim of a crime is independent from year to year than the probability that you won’t a crime victim in a give year is 1- the probability of victimhood.

          Let’s take case of .5% per year.
          The probability that you won’t be a crime victim is 1 – .005 or .995.
          so what is the probability that you won’t be victim two years running? Because we assume each year is independent than the probability that you won’t be a victim two years in row is .995 * .995 or .995^2.

          How about three years running? That’s .995 * .995 *.995 or .995^3.

          The probability that you remain crime free for n years is .995^n. So the probability that you have been a victim at least once is 1 – .995^n.

          In the 80 year/.5% example there is 40% chance that you will be crime victim at least once.

    • It pays to be wary, but if you’ve done the proper groundwork (don’t hang around dive bars in the worst neighborhoods or work at a convenience store, don’t walk around in areas you don’t know, don’t waltz around after dark, etc), there is no need for the stress of being hyper-vigilant, you are absolutely right.

      But don’t be a Mikeb and throw the baby out with the bathwater. Take an interest in your surroundings and the people around you.

      • You don’t need to be “hyper vigilant” and stressed out–except when circumstances warrant–just aware of the subtle signals your brain “instinctively” pays attention to, and respond accordingly. All good martial artists fight pretty much instinctivly–although you can plan attacks, your response to an attack must happen without conscious will in order to be fast enough to close the perception reaction gap. As an example, watch a cat or dog going after a toy; it will start to move the moment you do, even when you hardly move at all. Investigation has shown that cats’ eyes are designed to react to horizontal movement–the cat naturally reacts almost instantaneously to a rat running by. We too possess these innate abilities, abilities that allow us to play sports, to instantly adjust to intercept moving objects. Our thinking is what slows us down.

      • Oh, really, don’t be a Mikeb. I’ll have you know I have will me at all times one of those nifty car keys that operates like a switch blade. And I’m prepared to use it.

        • I’m assuming that this “key” knife is similar in size to a car key? Then I suggest that you start studying the Filipino style of knife fighting, also known as the “Death of 1000 cuts”. You have handicapped yourself with such a short blade, but it can be used effectively with training.

  23. You have to forget about luck. It’s entirely out of your control. Focus solely on the elements you can control: training, SA, proper gear, etc and the luck will take care of itself… Or not. Again it’s out of your realm of control. That’s solely up to the Higher Power that you recognize.

  24. Luck is a work with many connotations. Even when applied specifically it still comes in layers of mutual influence. In any event the concept of luck is open to endless interpretation.
    One might get ‘lucky’ enough that the person assaulting them isn’t terribly serious about it or capable of it. However one might fight that they’ve encountered someone with more experience in violence than civilized people like to consider possible.
    What’s been said about the good guy always having to react applies heavily. An experienced criminal or even just a thinking person hell bent on your property or your life will usually weight the odds in their favor; surprise, advantageous positioning, armament, deception. It’s incredibly common for criminals to use these tactics to improve their odds of success. Most don’t spend a lot of time selecting just the right gear, or even training as we’d recognize it, but a frightful many have extensive ‘on the job training’ that puts most range work and theoretical meanderings to shame. Their casual relationship with interpersonal violence, even within their social group means that many will hesitate not at all to main or kill, especially an ‘outsider’ for whom there aren’t social repercussions involved. Your attacker may not be all that serious, then again it might be that the only reason he didn’t kill you first instead of asking for money is that he didn’t want to have to work so hard for it, and the only thing stopping him from doing it now is your compliance. A tactical light and a cell phone and a spare mag and high end pistol and 1000 hours of range time are garbage if some skell who’s .22 only fires every third pull of the trigger pulls it 9 times in your face at 6 feet.
    Training and tools are important; in the event we get to use them they may make the difference between life and death. But given that as the good guys we will always be reacting to a threat someone else has presented, we’ll also always be at a disadvantage.
    To close the gap we have to have situational awareness, but that alone isn’t enough. For the awareness to have value we have to assign value to it. That means that if the situation looks iffy, you actually have to endure the inconvenience of avoiding it. It means that if things don’t feel right we change plans and course. It might mean walking back into a store instead of to the car because there is a suspicious looking person loitering on the lot, or cutting out early on a movie because someone keeps entering the theater and leaving again without taking a seat.
    Consider this; which will more likely ensure your survival, always having a M4 in your hand, or a pager that went off 5 minutes before violence occurred within 1000 feet of you?
    Without that pager, luck is always going to play a part in every aspect of our lives, DGUs included. Work situational awareness, and then actually respond to what it’s telling you.

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