Just yesterday, I had the fortunate break in my schedule to allow me to attend Andrew Branca’s, “Law of Self Defense Level One,” class at the Nashville Armory in Nashville, Tennessee. I have been familiar with Andrew’s body of work for several years now, having first read his excellent, “Law of Self Defense,” book (now in its third edition). Andrew is a legal consultant, now in his third decade of practice, with his practice limited to self-defense law consulting. This puts him in a unique niche in both the legal field, and in the, “gun industry.”
I won’t cover the specifics of Andrew’s class word-for-word, because you owe it to yourself to personally take the course, if you carry a gun for self-protection. I wrote, in 2016, about the importance of legal preparation in my essay on, “ BECOMING THE CIVILIAN DEFENDER.” I felt strongly about the necessity of legal training then, and I still feel that legal knowledge among defensive firearm users is woefully inadequate. Andrew Branca is changing the industry with his accessible training curriculum, and helping to legally redefine and clarify the, “rules of engagement,” for civilian self-defense. I would recommend that you read the latest edition of Andrew’s book, which you can order directly from his site, so that you can enjoy the full benefit of the curriculum, without having to familiarize yourself with the terminology and basic framework that Andrew builds the curriculum on.
A few personal take-aways I gleaned from the course:
- Cameras are EVERYWHERE. This is both a good and bad thing. Good in that we (the good guys) rarely have a situation where there is too much good evidence…in fact, there is often a dearth of evidence, that leads to good guys ending up on the wrong side of the law. Conversely, there are cameras EVERYWHERE and thus you must always be on-guard, and know that every word and action you speak or do, can be called into question at a later date, if the need arises for you to defend yourself.
- Avoidance is ideal, and really what you should, “shoot,” (pun intended) for. We don’t carry guns because we want to use them (at least I don’t). I carry a gun in the event of an emergency, where I have no other recourse and I MUST use the gun to save my life or the life of a family member or friend.
- Most people effectively live their life with their heads in the sand…literally. People will either not see/detect obvious context clues OR simply notice them and pay no mind. Paying close attention to the totality of the scene, especially when moving through transition zones, is important to success (READ: not being a perpetual victim of crime) in today’s world.
- Thinking through the legal ramifications of your actions well BEFOREHAND is extremely beneficial. Just like you (should be) thinking about your programmed, heuristic responses to violence against you or a loved one (i.e. winning the PHYSICAL FIGHT), you also need to think about your plan for LEGAL survival (i.e. winning the LEGAL FIGHT). If you don’t plan your response, you may very well survive the physical fight, and then find yourself with no, “legal leg,” to stand on.
- The law is tremendously complex, and varies state to state…even the sharpest attorney that money can buy doesn’t know the entire letter of the law, verbatim! As a regular person, but a Civilian Defender, you will be held to a higher legal standard than the average, “man on the street.” Thus, it is to your benefit to commit Andrew’s algorithms he covers in, “The Law of Self Defense,” to memory, but also understand how they work in the real world, and in a dynamic, self-defense incident.
- Andrew’s scenario simulator training at the end of the class teaches valuable lessons. I have used shooting simulators in my law enforcement training, armored truck guard training, and in the civilian training sectors, since 1991. The technology has advanced, but the value gained in stress inoculation is priceless and indisputable. You simply cannot replicate the stress of a self-defense incident without actually experiencing one…but you can come close. I get just as much value from seeing how others react in their simulator run, than I do in my own.
- As an avid shooter, I don’t spend enough time shooting in live-fire and working in dry practice, from the low ready, or from a, “Sul,” type ready position. Not muzzling everyone on-scene is a helpful way to a) not look like a nut running around with a gun, willy-nilly b) not shoot someone who isn’t a threat c) convey professionalism both during (and also importantly) after the incident is over. As we all know, if we don’t practice it, we don’t own it, and thus we won’t use it when the time comes, so practice from the low ready and other ready positions is important. I mostly just practice from the draw out of the holster.
- Attend courses with your significant other…especially if they also carry a firearm for self-protection. You SHOULD be on the, “same page,” as your spouse or significant other in more ways than just how you will respond in a self defense situation, but this could literally be the difference between life and death. Thus, it’s important to talk these situations out beforehand, so that you can anticipate how the other will act. For example, my, “line in the sand,” as 6’4″, 250 pound rugby player will be quite different from the boundaries of my 5’4″, 115 pound gal. That’s important to know, if you are on overwatch duty at an ATM kiosk, and you (or they) are attacked.
- STRIVE to be the, “Reasonable and Prudent Person.” According to Andrew’s course, the, “Reasonable and Prudent Person,” should be Cautious (looks both ways before crossing the street and avoids trouble) Responsible (doesn’t leave the car running when out on errands, and ensures a high level of proficiency with their sidearm) Sober (may drink in moderation socially, never intoxicated) Slow to Anger (the guy that de-escalates conflict, rather than incite or escalate conflict).
Many folks don’t think of a legal continuing education class as a, “firearms training class,” but it should be seen as the foundation that all defensive firearms training is built upon. Without it, you are all legs and no brain. While you may reach the level of unconscious competence with your handgun, able to solve a myriad of shooting problems with a hail of gunfire, without the legal software running perpetually in your head, GUIDING your rules of engagement, you are a one-trick pony. Sure, you might get lucky and survive the physical fight AND the legal fight, but wouldn’t you rather hedge your bets closer to the winning side? I know I would. I recommend Andrew’s class without hesitation, to everyone who carries a self-defense firearm. Going about with a firearm in your holster AND Andrew’s algorithmic knowledge in your head, you are truly ARMED for both the physical fight, AND the legal fight that will follow!
To register for a course in your area, or buy a copy of Andrew’s book, go to