The Defensive Mindset

evade barricade arm

Being truly armed means thinking beyond the gun! Photo: author

In the spring of 2008, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. with a couple members of the F.B.I. Cyber Division based in Indianapolis. I recall walking with them down the streets of D.C. and realizing I was the only one in the group without a firearm. I made an offhand remark about being the only one of us who was unarmed. One of the Special Agents stopped walking, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Being armed is a mindset. You don’t need a gun to be armed.” The discussion we had after that led me to see the need for training to fill in some gaps in my defensive skills. It was a lesson I needed to learn and I am thankful he corrected me.
indoor range

Just because you own a firearm and go here doesn’t mean you are prepared to use your firearm in a fight! Photo: author

Pulse Nightclub Shootings

Fast forward to the morning of June 12, 2016. I was up late working when I heard the news about the terrorist attack in Orlando. Even before the situation was over and the details of what happened were out, I predicted what I would see on TV and social media. I knew we would hear people talking about gun-free zones and how if one armed person had been there, it could have been stopped (although we did later learn an armed off-duty officer was there). I don’t disagree that several armed people could have made a difference and I don’t disagree that one should carry a firearm at all times. However, I do say this to make a point: just because you have a firearm doesn’t mean you are armed.

I looked up several definitions of the word “armed” and found that many included the word “weapon.” Our ability to think and reason is what puts us at the top of the food chain. One of the better definitions I found was, “furnished with something that provides security, strength, or efficacy.” Our best weapon is the mindset of strength, security, and efficacy! What is efficacy? “The capacity for producing a desired result or effect.” So to paraphrase, being armed is being furnished with something that provides strength, security, and the capacity for producing a desired result. What is that something? Allow me to propose to you that it’s knowledge.

firearms training
Proper training helps develop the correct mindset. Photo: author

Through my interactions at a local gun store and affiliation with a range, every day I observe people who carry firearms. Their comments and actions reveal that many of them are not mentally prepared to use their firearm. Many more haven’t taken a single training class to learn how to use their firearm properly for self-defense. How many people do you know who have a firearm in their purse or in a glove box because someone else bought it for them and said they needed to have it? How many of those people would remember they had the gun if they were ambushed? Giving a gun to an unskilled and unwilling person doesn’t make them armed, just as giving a guitar to an unskilled and unwilling person does not make them a musician.

scenario training

Instructor Chad Christy is tackled by female student. Photo: author

Active Shooter Training

When I attended an Active Shooter Training course at Endeavor Defense and Fitness in Columbus, Ohio, with Aaron Jannetti and Chad Christy a couple months ago, that message rang loud and clear. I watched as instructors with Simunitions guns were taken to the ground by tiny young ladies and out-of-shape middle-aged men. I saw students fighting back with every weapon they had, including improvised weapons, against someone with a gun. It was fascinating to watch the light bulb come on in the students when they started discovering they are a weapon. Aaron and Chad did a great job explaining Recognize, Evade, Barricade, Arm, and Fight principles to the class. The students who left that class felt much more capable of stopping an active shooter regardless if they had a firearm or not. Although some didn’t have a firearm on them, no one left the class unarmed.

active shooter response

Students hold down instructor who had been the active shooter for the scenario. Photo: author

Tools + Mindset

Having the tools to fight evil – firearms, knives, improvised weapons – is just one part of the equation. Being prepared to fight evil wherever it may appear is the other part. Ask yourself a question and be honest, as your life may depend on it. “Are you as ready as you should be if you need to confront evil?” Sadly, many in the Pulse nightclub on June 12 chose to hide, and that decision cost them their lives. We all need to be armed regardless of the tools we have to protect ourselves. Are you going to be the person who is armed and ready to fight, or are you going to be the person hiding in the bathroom? What you do today will influence that decision. Being armed is a mindset.

For a list of qualified instructors who are capable of training you to be truly armed, go to the training resources page here on the Personal Defense Network. It’s a directory of instructors all over the country who can help you prepare to defend yourself and your loved ones.

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36 Responses to “The Defensive Mindset”

  1. Philio=p

    I looked through the list but did not see anyone from NC or SC listed. Anyone have any info for these two states? Thanks

  2. Crystal

    I am a beginner, beginner and require training on the defensive mindset. I know of one or two local venues, but am interested to see if there are any you would recommend. Also, being in AZ, I am not required to have a concealed carry permit, but believe it is best to have one so I am looking for a class or instructor.
    Thanks, Crystal

  3. mark anthony c yap

    i was once invited to asses the training of a personal protection group. in one of the sessions the instructor asked a a question regarding a drowning swimmer in a public swimming pool. he asked who would most likely jump in the pool and save the drowning victim, he continue to say that it would most likely be some one who had previous training in saving a life in that situation. an off duty police man or some one with life saving skills acquire in a work setting.
    so i guess being armed is about being equipped to handle a certain situation or a situation that you might encounter as a law enforcement officer.
    so this article just made me look at the word armed in a whole different perspective.


      Interesting example.
      And being “Equipped to Handle the Situation”.
      As a former World Class Kayaker and
      Having had a Great Deal of experience at saving drowning people in serious White Water,
      the 1st and usually best solution is to NOT – Jump In to save them.
      What to do ?
      Throw them a rope and HOLD ON – bring them to shore.

      “In Short” – Yes – LIsten to the people who have “Been There – Done That”.

  4. William

    As an NRA and State Certified Instr in several disciplines, including Defensive shooting, I assume I am on the list?

    What concerns me is the great number of CCW Holders out there now who have been to the Range a few times and now think they are “Good to Go” in a real fight. Uhh NO. They mostly actually don’t have a clue about what it will take to actually shoot in a real Defensive encounter – either Home or Out.
    How do we convince them they “Really Do” need further training for a Real Encounter ?

    • Customer Service

      Hello William,

      Thank you for contacting us.

      Check USCCA training site ( and look for a DSF instructor near you. The Defensive Shooting Fundamentals program was developed for the USCCA by Rob Pincus and his team.

      If you have any other concerns, please contact us at 1-855-231-0650, or chat with us on our site.

      We greatly appreciate your business!


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  5. Steven Singleton

    They said being armed is a mindset, yet each of them had a gun…interesting.

  6. Alan

    I am completely puzzled why instructors in self defense have students stand face on in either the Weaver or Isosceles stances. Also two hands on gun.
    I do not think any intruder will wait until one gets up, gets gun out, gets into their preferred stance, then says “I’m ready”.

    Such weird training.

    I practice one hand both left and right, from various positions and being partially handicapped can get on sight much faster and much safer than what is being taught.

    Can someone tell me where I am wrong, please?Alan Carnell

    • William

      First my Qualifications/Certifications
      State & DHS Certified Pistol Instructor
      Certified Defense of the Home Instr
      Certified RSO – Range Safety Officer
      Weekly Combat Competition Shooter for 10yr +
      Been “Shot At” a few times/Had to defend myself
      Fundamentally – there is a LOT you don’t know.
      And “Most” Instructors don’t teach “Combat Shooting”.
      Since most are either not certified to teach it or don’t want to take the time.
      It takes more time and costs more than basic range shooting.
      AND most students don’t want to take the time or pay to learn real “Combat Shooting”.
      Most instructors teach 2-Hand shooting because it is the most accurate way to shoot.
      ie Most likely to hit your target and not an innocent by-stander.
      Works well at the Range – which is what most shooters do – Range Shooting.
      NOT – Combat Shooting.

      “I” Teach “Combat Shooting” – ‘AFTER” – The Fundamentals:
      After a table discussion of Safety, Ammo issues, Security Issues, Conflict Avoidance Techniques, etc
      I teach Fundamentals of Shooting in Self Defense
      On-Student – Strap a Training Gun on Right or L. Side in a holster.
      1 – Teach the 5-Step “Combat Draw”.
      2 – Establish a firm grip before you ever “Draw”.
      3 – Pull the gun up and out of holster just enough to “Clear Leather”
      (Gun Hand will be resting on your hip) OFF HAND – Flat on High Center Chest.
      4 – Rotate Gun to the threat – Forward – Aim at threat High Center Chest
      Gun “Canted at say 45deg toward threat” High center chest.
      You can shoot from there if you “Need To”. ie Threat is within arms reach.
      (ie “From the Hip”)
      (Recommend you practice this under Instructor Guidance – it is not intuitive and
      can be scary – 1st time especially.
      5 – Fire if needed.
      This is called “Shooting From Retention” – You are in a “Gun Retention position”.

      If threat is farther away – bring gun up to under your chin – still aimed at the Threat.
      You can shoot from there if needed, or any point in-between(on your way up).
      All “Retention Positions”.

      That will work at arms-length distances but not at say 20ft.
      BUT – If Possible – Recommend you 1st Move to “Cover” if available.
      Know the diff between “Cover” and “Concealment” ?
      TTP’s – “Tactics, Techniques and Procedures” of “Combat Shooting”. ?

      If you need to shoot at 20ft – you need to be “Aiming” – Including good Sight Alignment, Sight Picture,
      etc and with a strong grip to control recoil for follow-up shots – if needed.
      The best position for this is to Extend the gun out to full extension.
      To get a Good Sight Alignment, Sight Picture, etc.
      “That is all most people want to know how to do and pay for.”
      AND Why most instructors teach this way.

  7. Phillip James Sr.

    Excellent article on being prepared even if not carrying a weapon. Made me think…”Am I as 100% prepared to defend myself and what gaps need to be filled in order to be 100%”.

  8. Jojo Afable

    We have volunteers armed security in our church. They’re Church members too. I gave a basic safety class to them and some LIVE shooting lessons too. I don’t want to hurt their feeling nags, but out of 14 of them, only 2 persons can shoot. Safety is still an issue for both.

  9. Oldshooter

    Many years ago, after a session with pugil sticks, which we had originally understood to be a form of last resort bayonet practice,
    someone in the group asked the Gunny what he would do if he was completely unarmed and confronted by a dangerous weapon. He said that, first off, he was never “completely unarmed,” and secondly we shouldn’t get fixated on any weapon. He followed this with a remark I’ve never forgotten. I don’t know whether it was original with our Gunny, or if he heard it elsewhere and appropriated it – he said, “Remember people, there’s no such thing as dangerous weapons, only dangerous men.”

  10. G. P. Lucas

    Jeff Cooper has produced a DVD series on Defensive Pistolcraft and one entire volume is dedicated to Mindset. it was available in the past from Paladin Press. I use it in my Concealed Weapons Permit class as
    the 1st Lesson!

  11. Arteest

    Spot on. The you put your finger directly on what I have sensed was my weakness. Thank you for the encouragement on how to remedy.

  12. Crickets

    Yes, this is a well-known principle written by a general many decades ago. His book use to be available at any bookstore. It was deadly.

    It is out of print and even if it was printed bookstores will now ban it. Such is the uh-um, mindset liberals want put on you. To react, not act.


    A very insightful article. It made me think about the real awareness we should learn…and practice every day…”out in the world”.

  14. Connie

    Thanks for this perspective and set of insights, Joshua! Would you please reach out to me at the email I provided. My company would be interested in being listed as a resource and in talking to you about how PDN works and such. Thank you!

    • Joshua Gideon

      Robert, thanks for letting us know! I plan to write some future articles on this subject and go into a little more depth. Thank you for the feedback!

  15. Showmerancher

    Crowded Venue Active Shooter situations are complex situations. I know that coming from an instructor this will sound self-serving, but please, get professional training. Noel Burch from Gordon Training discusses the four stages of competence. In basic terms they are:
    1. Unconscious Incompetence – Not knowing what you don’t know. So many people I run into are in this stage.
    2. Conscious Incompetence – Knowing what you don’t know. These are people who are aware of their shortcomings in knowledge or skill but have yet to do something about it.
    3. Conscious Competence – Knowing what you need to know and/or having the skills you need to have and being able to consciously use them competently.
    4. Unconscious Competence – Being able to react with your knowledge and skills as necessary without conscious thought. At the most basic level this can be equated with driving your car and the brake lights on the car in front of you illuminate. Without thinking about the process, you’ll automatically take your foot off of the accelerator and cover or depress the brake as required. You probably don’t even remember how many times you did that on your last drive. This is the level one needs to reach with their defensive knowledge and skills, especially when the body alarm response (adrenaline response) is involved, and especially in the complex environment of the Crowded Venue Active Shooter situation.

    Seek out a professional instructor who is knowledgeable in the subject and get the training. Help stamp out unconscious incompetence. As Smokey the bear used to say, “The life you save may be your own!”.

    • Jason

      Well stated brother. I often tell people I train that being tool dependent is a crippling train of thought that can work against you in that moment you feel you may need it the most. We need to train mentally, physically & spiritually. We must address situational awareness to avoid a conflict, fear management before the physical fight, de-escalation if possible, the physical aspects of hands on combat, firearms (pistol/rifle), knife, & legal defense for that moment when you may have to defend/protect yourself legally. Being well rounded is an ever evolving process.