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One of the things that bothers me about armed self defense is what happens after I kill or wound an attacker? What then? Do I get indicted? Get no-billed? Go to jail? Win, but spend the rest of my life paying off an attorney? That leads me to thinking about “if shooting someone opens the door to all these risks, what are the rules that govern what is judged a “good” shoot or a “bad” shoot? Thankfully, I’m not the only one that worries about such things. And even better, there are people out there who know a lot more than I do on the topic, and are willing to share. Enter everybody’s favorite self-defense expert Massad Ayoob.

If you’ve read a gun magazine or watched a show about self-defense on TV, you’re probably already familiar with Mr. Ayoob. An active law enforcement officer since 1972, Ayoub is the go-to guy for not only self-defense information, but also as an expert witness for defense attorneys in self-defense trials. In short, he’s an acknowledged expert in the field.

Today I received an email from a fellow member of a gun range, with details on a course tailor-made to answer my burning questions on self-defense. Billed as the MAG -20, Armed Citizens’ Rules of Engagement Course, the session I was notified about will take place March 5/6 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Here’s how the email pitches the course:

Understanding the circumstances where one is legally justified in the use of deadly force is very confusing given the myths surrounding this subject matter and also the vast sea of convoluted laws that govern its use. This is a very complex, somber, and unpleasant subject that many prefer to avoid all together. Unfortunately though, by not knowing the rules of engagement, many individuals including police officers and law-abiding citizens find themselves being prosecuted for actions that they believed to be reasonable, just, and within the confines of the law. One way to avoid such a predicament is to just avoid self-defense altogether. The best way however, is to become knowledgeable in the intricate inner workings of the legal system with regard to self-defense.

All this knowledge does not come cheap – the course itself is $350, which does not include transportation, food, or lodgings. But given what I know about Ayoob, his background, and his teaching style, I’m betting it would be $350 well-spent. Here’s a link to their flyer for the event.

While TTAG isn’t in the business of endorsing specific events, seminars, or training, it’s hard to argue with the topic, and it’s pretty obvious that our man Massad knows his stuff. I’m sure this course is offered periodically elsewhere around the country, but I was unable to find more information on other sessions that might be more convenient for some of our readers.

When it comes to the rules of engagement, I’ve got more questions than answers. But I suspect Massad Ayoob has at least a majority of the answers I’m looking for.

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  1. This is me thumping the tabletop in agreement. I haven’t encountered many folks who are lukewarm in their opinions about Massad Ayoob; they either love him or hate him. 19 years ago when I got my first concealed carry permit, I thought I had a pretty solid handle on what I needed to know about self defense.

    Then I got my hands on a copy of Ayoob’s In the Gravest Extreme: The Role of the Firearm in Personal Protection. That little book was a huge eye-opener for me and completely changed my mindset regarding concealed carry. It made me far more conscious of when deadly force was appropriate and why de-escalation and avoidance of conflict are the wiser path whenever possible.

    Quality defensive firearms training is something every gun owner should consider a vital (though voluntary) responsibility. Knowing when to use your firearm is as essential as knowing how to to use it properly. Ayoob was the guy who opened my eyes to this truth.

  2. I’ve never taken one of Ayoob’s classes, but his reputation leads me to think he is doing good work.

    An interesting thing that TTAG could do, you know, given that your reputation is to pull no punches. Press Ayoob on his statements that modified firearms are problems for self defense. He has long preached that any sort of modification from the factory spec will lead a zealous prosecutor or litigator to claim that you are a blood-thirsty gun nut out looking to kill someone.

    Sounds great in theory, but nobody (including Ayoob) seems to have presented credible evidence that this has ever happened. It sounds logical in theory (in that it plays on our general mistrust of prosecutors and distaste for litigators), but there doesn’t seem to be any basis in reality.

  3. I’m not sure of the exact date, but IIRC “In the Gravest Extreme” was published some time in the early to mid 80’s. IOW, it’s over 25 years old, and was written long before the current “shall issue” CCW permit became available in most of the 50 states. More to the point, there’s been a lot of legal water under the bridge since then, so unless Massad has updated the book (I read it around 1989 or so) it might need a bit of tweaking.

    As for the question of “will I be charged/prosecuted?” that probably depends on the circumstances around the shooting, which are factors that are largely beyond your control.

    @ GAKoenig: You have a point, I have not heard of such cases recently, and one would expect with the ubiquity of the internet and the way firearms-related prosections tend to attract attention, you would expect to have heard something, wouldn’t you? Ayoob says that same thing about handloaded ammo, BTW. I’m not one to second guess a noted expert in the field, but, as I said above, his precautions may be more suited for the rare CCW carrier of 1983 rather than the much more common CCW carrier of today.

  4. I’ve gotten a response directly from Mr. Ayoub. His email reads, in part:

    For DVDs, I’d look to ACLDN ([email protected]), 360 978 6100 for some of Marty Hayes’ tapes, some of the ones I did with him, and some of the lawyers talking about the same things. Also, my video “Judicious Use of Deadly Force” from Police Bookshelf,, 800 624 9049.

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