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Escalation Of Force: How To Choose The Appropriate Response To Potential Violence

Authored by Daisy Luther via The Organic Prepper blog,

“I’ll just pull out my Glock/HK/Ruger and deal with those punks. Once they see their buddies drop, they’ll back off soon enough.”

“We could end this by just killing anyone who sets foot on our block.”

“All good Americans need to do is start mowing down protesters with their cars if the roads get blocked.”

Chances are, if you ever read the comments or visit any type of social media outlet online, you’ve read some comments pretty similar to the ones above. After all, this is America, land of the free, home of the brave. It’s up to all good patriots to defend our property and our country from scumbags with deadly force.

But not so fast…

Things are never as cut and dried as people with 3-second solutions like to make it seem in the comments.

You can’t escalate directly to lethal force in every situation.

Let’s take a look at the situation Terry Trahan wrote about the other day, where the lady was sitting in a restaurant having dinner when she got surrounded by an unruly mob who insisted she raise her fist in the air in support of a group of activists. The comments section is filled with people who are apparently ready to open fire on a city street into a crowd of people.

Is that really the appropriate response? While I absolutely agree that the behavior of that mob is horrible and that these things shouldn’t happen, is this a moment that requires the use of uncensored deadly force?

Have any of these folks stopped to think about what happens after they open fire?

Because I can tell you what is very likely to occur if you unload a magazine in a public space in the middle of downtown Washington DC. At best, you will be arrested and charged with brandishing a weapon or illegal discharge of a weapon. At worst, one of your bullets will go through its intended target and hit an innocent bystander – maybe a child – maybe even your own child who is making his way back from the bathroom.  Or you’ll kill a member of the angry mob and someone will take the gun away and turn it on you and you’ll be dead. Or you’ll valiantly take down three attackers and find yourself awaiting trial for homicide, among other charges.

And you know what else? Every idiotic off-hand comment you ever made online about blowing people away will come back to haunt you in court. If you think you’re anonymous online, I assure you that you are not. Even when you use a VPN, your actual IP can be traced given enough resources and time.

Choosing how you escalate your response

We’ve all heard the saying, “When your only tool is a hammer, you treat everything like it’s a nail.”  The same is true when your only tool is deadly force.

Obviously there are life and death situations in which deadly force is the only possible response if you want to live. When someone bursts into your home waving a gun screaming that they’re going to kill you, when someone in a mask is trying to drag you into a van with dark-tinted windows, when someone is clearly intent on beating the crap out of you until you’re dead – all of these things are situations in which your use of a lethal response is entirely justified.

But… a lot of situations require more finesse unless you want to risk a) spending the rest of your life in prison and praying you don’t drop the soap or b) vengeance from your adversary’s friends or family or c) criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits forever and ever until you die.

You need to have an understanding of the appropriate escalation of force.

A book I read last year has a place on everyone’s shelf during these times in which a conflict can arise for just about anyone, just about anywhere. That book is Scaling Force: Dynamic Decision Making Under Threat of Violence and it’s by Rory Miller. If you’ve been around here for a while, you may have seen my review of another of Miller’s books, and you may have seen Toby Cowern and Terry Trahan reference him as well. That’s because, in my opinion, nobody knows more about the science of violence than Miller. As well, he spent years working in law enforcement settings, so he knows a lot about what happens after the violence takes place.

Identify what the threat actually is.

If you are in a situation in which you may have to defend yourself, it’s important that you understand what the threat really is.

  • Are you just being yelled at or mocked?
  • Are people just trying to intimidate or embarrass you?
  • Are they trying to have an actual discussion or just shout over you?
  • Are you outnumbered?
  • Are they threatening to physically attack you?
  • Are they capable of physically attacking you?
  • Are they armed with firearms, items that could be used as bludgeons, or knives?

While all of these things may make you angry, if you are not in physical danger, you have to temper your response accordingly.

Part of the book is a detailed description of pre-assault indicators that can help you identify a potentially violent encounter before it happens. This goes a long way toward reducing the likelihood of you being injured, killed, or imprisoned due to your response.

Here are some key steps to take during a potentially violent encounter.

In Miller’s book – which I strongly recommend – he suggests a pattern that begins with simply leaving the situation, to verbal de-escalation when you are not in imminent danger, with other steps all the way up to and including lethal force. He discusses in detail how to rapidly assess your situation to see where you should start. You can find these steps on the internet but they’re not detailed. You should truly read the book to get a deep understanding of them – and you need that now more than ever.

This is my personal take on what he wrote. Any mistakes or misinterpretations are mine alone.

PresenceThe encounter requires your presence and there are two components to this. First, is, don’t be there. Any time you ask Selco and Toby what you should do in a dangerous situation, their immediate response is “don’t be there.” And that is true of many of the things happening right now. Going to a protest, for example, is automatically putting you at high risk of being involved in a violent encounter.

Your second option is to leave the situation. If you find yourself in a scenario in which you could be embroiled in a violent encounter, leave. This is like “don’t be there” but in action form. If you see a crowd gathering up ahead chanting and raising their fists in the air, turn around and go a different way. If you are in a setting in which someone makes you feel uncomfortable, trust your instincts and leave. Don’t talk yourself out of listening to your gut. You’re not being silly. (This is especially true for women.)

Use your voice. First, you can try to de-escalate the situation. If you can’t avoid it and you can’t leave, verbal de-escalation is your next best bet. This depends heavily upon your understanding of psychology. You want to calm the situation down and one of the best ways to do that is setting up what Miller refers to as a “face-saving exit.” If you are dealing with one member of a crowd, that person will have a lot of personal investment in not being embarrassed in front of his or her friends. You’ll want to think of a way to defuse things while sparing the person from that humiliation. This, of course, sucks, because we all want to kick the butts of someone who is treating us unreasonably. However, your goal is to get away from this encounter without being hurt or killed. If you are alive and uninjured, you’ve won.

Your other voice option is a sharp command if you seem like the kind of person who can back this up. Take me, for example, a middle-aged mama. A command from me is unlikely to have a huge effect on an angry group. However, a command from me backed up by a gun in my hand would be a lot more convincing. (This is something that has actually happened to me – you can read about it here.)

Touch. In some situations, touch can be used to de-escalate a conflict. Touch can be soothing, it can help to distract someone fixated on potentially hurting you, and it can help to defuse situations that haven’t gone too far. If you are not stronger than your potential opponent, this should be used very cautiously, as touching them puts you within their reach as well. For many women, this is not going to be a viable option.

Physical control. This is another thing that won’t work for everyone. But if it is within your wheelhouse, you might be able to prevent the violence from escalating by physically controlling the attacker. This prevents them from harming you or anyone else around you.  At this point, you’re beginning to get into territory that could have legal consequences.  This is also another thing that may not be particularly viable for women against a male assailant.

Use less than lethal force. The next step up the ladder is less than lethal force. This might mean pepper spray, a taser, or a physical blow, to name a few options. This can be a defensive preventative that will work in some cases. If you are able to stun your attacker, it can be the thing that allows you to move back down the ladder to step one – not being there. Physically overpowering an assailant and injuring them to the extent they can no longer hurt you is an option but, again, you’ll very likely face legal consequences unless it is well-witnessed or provable that you had no less violent options.

Use lethal force. The final solution in this hierarchy is lethal force. This should not be your first choice unless your life is in imminent danger. You can’t just shoot someone because you decide they “deserve” it or because you feel they’re inflicting an injustice upon you. Well, you can, but you can also expect a trial that will empty out your bank accounts and cause your family to potentially lose their home and any other assets while you finance your defense. Then, if you win, you get to start all over again economically. If you lose, you spend five years to the rest of your life in prison. Lethal force must be legally justified and even then, you can end up suffering immensely for having used it.

Again – I strongly recommend you read Rory Miller’s book on this topic, as it is far more detailed than I can be in a quick article and filled with personal anecdotes that make it a very interesting read. You really do have far more options than just killing someone and most of the time, the other options will be better for your future as well as the future of your family.

How do you plan to respond to the threat of violence?

We’re living in a world where unruly groups of people are spending their evenings out trying to intimidate people who they feel “deserve” it, without actually knowing anything about their targets. Any of us could become a target.

Understand that I sincerely believe in the right to armed self-defense. It is our basic human right to protect ourselves, our families, and our property. But I urge you to use temperance when making rapid decisions that could have long-term consequences. These aren’t problems with three-second solutions, and to look at them that way is both ignorant and short-sighted.

Have you considered how you would respond to the threat of violence? To intimidation by an angry mob? To the looting of your property?

It’s good to think these things through ahead of time and consider what your own options are. You’ll need to weigh your personal abilities and limitations against these steps. Remember that your response to potential violence can affect the rest of your life and make your decisions with this in mind.

Riot Intel

There is an ongoing thread over at ARFCOM discussing the ongoing riots and the people and their methods. You are gonna chuckle at some of this but in my opinion it should still be taken seriously. It’s a lot of stuff and I am going to post some highlights below, If you want more say so in the comments.

Occupy Chicago Street Medic Handbook (current edition)

2020 Riot Medicine Manual

Tear gas tactics and defense

Building a cell
Building an affinity group

How rioters are mass producing shields
How to set up blockades
How to make molotovs

Medication exchange network operating out of Minneapolis

Tear gas neutralizer device

Analysis of the Siege of the Third Precinct, as told by a protestor
The Basics of Direct Action
Manual of the Urban Guerrilla, 1969
Direct Action (Pamphlet Version)

How Anti-fa cells work

Each antifa group consists of a solid core of trusted members. Usually with many years of fighting for ideological causes and bona-fides. Almost impossible to infiltrate. Outside members are kept separate from these groups and are simply called upon for various actions.

Proper wear of Hard Armor (with anatomical diagrams)

Originally posted by Panzerr on ARFCOM . It is a good time to review this again.

This is often a misunderstood topic so I thought I should share a bit of knowledge.


Body armor is meant to keep you in the fight.  That is, armor is meant to protect your vital organs which, if hit, would immediately take you down and prevent you from putting rounds on target.  The possibility of saving your life is a secondary benefit of body armor.

What to protect

With this purpose in mind we must understand those structures we need to protect which we can realistically protect while still maintaining a high degree of mobility.  Our primary concern is the heart and the large blood vessels which sprout from the top of the heart:  the superior vena cava, the arch of the aorta and the pulmonary trunk.  I will refer to these vessels simple as “related vessels” from here on.  A hit to the heart and its immediately related vessels will very quickly take you out of the fight and kill you within a minute or two.

Second in importance to the heart is the respiratory diaphragm, the muscle which, when contracting, allows you to decrease air pressure within your lungs and thus take in air.  Destroy the diaphragm and you destroy one’s ability to breath.

Protecting the vertebral column goes without saying -we wish to protect as much of this as possible without sacrificing mobility for obvious reasons.

It is important to note that a hit to the lungs may prove to eventually be lethal but is not nearly as lethal as quickly as a hit to the heart and its immediately related blood vessels.  The liver and kidneys, while highly vascular, are also not immediately incapacitating.

Front/chest plate

The top of your plate should be at the level of your suprasternal notch aka jugular notch. If you follow your sternum towards your head, the soft spot you reach at the top of it is the suprasternal notch. Your plate should ride at least level with the top of your sternum while standing.

The importance of positioning the plate at the top of the SN Notch is that you have a bundle of large blood vessels which rest on top of your heart and lie behind the manubrium (the uppermost portion of your sternum), most notably the aortic arch. The aortic arch receives blood from your left ventricle and will have the highest velocity of all the blood in you systemic circulatory system. Get hit here and you will be done. So, make sure your plate is riding higher, rather than lower because protecting your aortic arch is much more important than protecting your guts.

Also, as you can clearly see with the image below, a smaller plate allows for more comfort and mobility to the shooter will not necessarily mean you will leave immediately incapacitating areas unprotected -large plates will only cover a little more of your peripheral lung tissue and guts.

Reference image (anterior view)

Red is your heart and related blood vessels
Dark Grey/Yellow is a properly positioned plate
The sternum and clavicle are white with black outline

Positioning of rear/back plate

Find the most prominent bony eminence at the base of your neck. This is your vertebral eminence. Count down two bony spinouses (or measure down about an inch) and that should be above the level of the superior aspect of your sternum.  Positioning at least this high will ensure your entire heart and its immediately related blood vessels are protected.

Reference image (posterior view)

The vertebral eminence is marked in the diagram below in blue.

Side plates and shoulder plates

Side plates are intended to protect the highly vascular elements of your abdomen.  Side plates were introduced to prevent troops from bleeding out in the chopper on the way to the field hospital.   Side plates are not necessarily intended to protect the heart, but if you wear them high up into your armpits you can protect some of the lower portion of your heart.

Protecting your heart from a shot to side is accomplished by shoulder plates, such as the ones manufactured by Crye Precision.

To sum it up

Here are general guidelines to follow at a bare minimum.  As always, the more protection you can have without sacrificing mobility the better.  This is just the bare bones.

Front plate:  should be even with top of the sternum while standing, extend at least 1.5 inches past the bottom of your sternum and should cover the entirety of your nipples

Rear plate:  should lie no lower than an inch below your vertebral prominence

Side plates:  the higher they ride the better

Gun handling for survival

By BurnedOutLEO

Things have gone pretty crazy this year. A lot of violence and rioting. Also a lot of firearm sales and I would imagine a lot of firearm carrying by people who usually don’t carry. I have seen a lot of videos of encounters where people are not handling their firearms in the best way. Remember, survival is a triangle. The three sides are Physical, Legal, and Mental survival. A failure in any of the categories is a total failure.

So lets talk about gun handling in potentially lethal encounters. Most people will never amass enough experience in potentially deadly encounters to get good at it. A normal person may be in one or two potentially deadly situations in a lifetime. Many will never be in one at all. They happen all the time to someone though and there have been lessons learned. What we are seeing now is mostly failure in Legal and Mental areas.

Lets talk about how to apply your gun as weapon in a way that will give you the best chance of surviving Physically, Legally, and Mentally.

First, know the laws in your area. They vary widely from state to state. If you don’t understand when deadly force is justified in your jurisdiction your chance of legally surviving is low. Don’t guess. Don’t listen to gun store lawyers. Find the people in your area who know the law and learn it even if you have to pay for it. Most concealed carry classes cover that stuff but some of them are better than others. Remember this though, most of the time no fight means you win. Don’t be baited into trouble by shit talkers, etc. Don’t let your emotions get the better of you if you are confronted with hostile individuals. Your only concern is if they pose a deadly threat to you. No one is going to change anyone’s mind any more and who needs a bunch of hassle.

Lets talk about the couple in Missouri who defended their home with a rifle and handgun. Their tactics have been roundly criticized because they sucked. Now they are in a bunch of shit because of their gun waving. While they physically survived and seem to be legally surviving, they are mentally and financially suffering because of the incident. They confronted the mob and stirred up stuff when they didn’t have to. The man could have maintained a position of advantage from which he could have watched the mob with his rifle and himself out of sight. If someone lit a Molotov cocktail in front of his house, he could have dropped him just as easily from a position of advantage as he could have out in front of his house. Plus he had no cover where he was and could have easily been shot by someone in the crowd. Think the prosecutor would have been OK with that? I bet she would have been. An AR shoots flat out to 300 yards no problem. You don’t have to close with people if you have a rifle and can see them. They went out there with guns as a warning to the mob. Guns are not an instrument of warning. They are a tool of killing. Do not use your gun to warn people. That is almost always a mistake.

This brings me to an important point about gun handling in the street. That is keep your gun out of sight. That is what fast draw is all about. If you can not make fast hits from the leather your pistol is of little use to you. You must be able to place 2 fast hits into the sternum area of a target in 1.0-1.5 seconds to be effective. This is what gives you the ability to seem non threatening and maybe deescalate while still being able to conclude the encounter at the moment of your choosing in your favor if necessary. If you can’t do this start working on it. It is the main skill you need.

If you are at home or a place of business and there is not a full blown riot going on don’t showboat with your rifle. Have it slung at your side or back low key while you maintain a position of advantage. It only takes a second to bring it into play. If a shit talker singles you out and starts giving you a hard time just smile, wink, and blow him a little kiss. Don’t say a word. There is nothing to be gained by it. But ideally he will never see you.

I saw the guy in Philly today pointing his gun at a guy with a bike lock. I’m not sure exactly what happened in that situation but it appears it started with some shit talking and dude ended up taking the bait. Most of the stuff I am seeing is not worthy of drawing, but people are pulling their gun because they either have no draw so they have to get their gun out way ahead of time, or they are warning the person. That guy may have legal survival problems due to the hostile climate he is in. That is not going to be good for him mentally and probably financially either.

I also saw the video of a guy on a motorcycle having an AR pointed at him in Michigan. That is a clear shoot situation. The rifle wielder has no legal justification for threatening to kill the rider. However, that is a classic no fight/ you win situation. The rider is not suffering from physical, legal, or mental failure to survive even though he was justified in handling that guy.

These are turbulent times no doubt. All the more reason to be careful. So do your best to stay out of trouble. Do not allow yourself to be baited into a no win situation. If streets are blocked just go around. There is nothing to be gained by giving the leftists what they want which is conflict and martyrs. They don’t have widespread support and that is why they are trying to use fear to attain their goals.

Do not draw until it is time to shoot. And remember just because you can shoot doesn’t mean you have to shoot. If you are truly forced to fire then so be it. It is a lot easier to articulate a situation in which you are forced to fire than a grayer situation esp if you live in an area where you may be politically prosecuted. It is a fine line when it comes to the moment to fire. Most of the time though if you have a lot of time to think about whether or not you should shoot you don’t have to.

Do not draw on people and then have conversations with them. That is a loser for you. Maintain advantage at all times. Do not be baited into mess. Do not warn/threaten people or tell them to drop their weapon. Do not be a gun waver. I can not stress that enough.

Hopefully things will get better and we will be able to live in peace. As an American I do not see how shooting each other is going to solve our problems, and there does seem to be a faction who are all about creating the “why don’t you and him fight” scenario in America. It may not get better and we may find ourselves in increasingly difficult times. But whatever happens make sure you are not manipulated into making a bad decision with a gun.