Self Defense in a Post-disaster World

One of the easiest things to overlook when putting together a survival plan is the need to defend ourselves. In a perfect world, the only thing we would have to defend ourselves from in a survival situation is lions and tigers and bears (oh my). But in the world we live in, we are much more likely to be attacked by two-legged predators, than we are by four-legged predators.


There’s something about a disaster that brings these two-legged predators out of the woodwork. Some are of the more benign sort, limiting themselves to mere looting. But others are much more dangerous; using the cover of a disaster to prey on the innocent, especially women.

On top of these sorts of people, there’s the problem of people who get desperate when they run out of food, water and other basic necessities. With the average family only having three days worth of food stored in their kitchen, we can expect there to be a lot of these desperate people in the aftermath of a disaster. Desperate people do desperate things, it is said, so we can count on these people doing desperate things to get their needs met or even to feed their children.

The Legalities of Defending Home & Family

security camera

Pretty much every state in the Union allows you to kill in self-defense. Many states add the defense of others to that. Some even allow you to take a life in the defense of property. What is known as the castle doctrine basically falls into this category. It says that you don’t have to abandon your home, if it is invaded; you can stand your ground. Not all states have passed this into law, so you need to know what your state’s law says about it.

But even in the states were the law is fully on your side, there’s a huge caveat that goes along with those laws. That is, the courts have to agree with your actions, after the fact. In other words, you’ve got to make a life-or-death decision in a split second and they can take as long as they want to deliberate on what you’ve done and determine whether they are in agreement that it was “reasonable and necessary.”


Basically, the law is concerned that two conditions are met, when you kill in self-defense. The fist is whether you were “in imminent danger of life and limb.” Broken down, that basically means that you had to take action to avoid being seriously hurt or killed. If the danger hasn’t manifested, such as the person being too far away to harm you, then there wasn’t imminent danger. If the person has turned away from you, after threatening you, there isn’t any imminent danger either, as they are no longer a danger.

The second condition is known as the reasonability test. That basically means that the court agrees that a reasonable person would see your actions as reasonable. This is tricky, because different people and different states define “reasonable action” differently. A more liberal state might think that taking another’s life is never reasonable, even in self-defense, while a more conservative state would be more likely to side with the victim, against the criminal.

Much of what I’ve seen written about survival self-defense seems to be written from the point of view of a total collapse of society. The writers seem to surmise that you will be able to do just about anything, because there will be no organized law to haul you before the bar of justice.

But, and again I say but… there are few disaster scenarios where things will not return to some semblance of normal. When that happens, you can be sure that there will be those who are calling out for the blood of those who were forced to defend themselves. With this being the case, you must make sure that whatever actions you take to defend home and family are clearly defensible from a legal sense. If you can, get video, pictures and written statements from the witnesses.

Preparing to Defend Yourself

There are many different ways that you can attempt to defend yourself, but it makes the method that has the greatest likelihood of success. That means firearms. While there are people in our country today who are opposed to the ownership and use of guns, they are the most effective weapon we have available to us. Guns have long been referred to as the “great equalizer” because you don’t have to be especially big or strong to use one effectively.

This basically means two things: owning guns and becoming proficient in their use. Sadly, there are many people who think that owning a gun is enough. They never go to the shooting range to practice, refining their skills. So if they are ever forced to use that gun in self-defense, they are just as likely to hit the wrong person, as hit the right person.

shooting range

While guns are fairly easy to use, using one effectively and accurately requires considerable practice. Added to that, when adrenalin is pumped into the bloodstream, as part of the “fight or flight” reaction, your accuracy with a gun goes way down. You can figure on being only about one-fifth as accurate as normal. That means that if you can keep your shots in a one foot circle on the shooting range, you’ll only be able to keep them in a five foot circle when you have to do it for real.


So, you’ve got to practice. Not just normal practice on the shooting range, but tactical training as well. I seriously doubt you’ll ever be attacked by a black spot on a white background. But before you even start practicing, you need to have guns to work with. So, what sorts of guns should you have?

Each person in your family or survival group who is capable of shooting needs to have a pistol and a long gun (rifle or shotgun), that they are comfortable with. This should give you a mix of weapons, which is good. The long gun is their primary weapon in a fight, while the pistol gives them something to use, if the task they are doing forces them to put their long gun down.

The best long guns for this are the AR-15 and shotguns (preferably tactical shotguns). Hunting rifles and shotguns are really too long for use in home defense, and you shouldn’t be needing to shoot at anyone who is so far away, that you need to be thinking in terms of a sniper rifle. If they are that far away, they are not likely to be an imminent threat, unless they are a sniper.

What About Alternate Weapons?

A number of people have proposed a variety of different alternative weapons for use in a post-disaster world, instead of using guns. Like anything else, there are pros and cons to the idea, as well as some assumptions in the minds of those who have made these suggestions.

Nothing available today is as effective as firearms. However, there may come a time when firearms are not available or where ammunition is in short supply. In such a case it may be necessary to resort to some sort of alternative weapons. The other time when alternative weapons might be useful is when it is necessary to be silent. Guns are noisy and attract attention, whereas some other weapons are silent.

What weapons you decide to use will depend a lot on your own skill with the various options. Nevertheless, I would recommend taking the time to gain at least some level of skill with all three of the following:

  • Bow – The bow has probably one of the most effective weapons throughout history. It is quiet, can shoot a fair range and can shoot with great accuracy. The longevity of the bow’s use as both a weapon and for hunting testify to its all-around utility. Perhaps its best attribute is that it is a silent weapon, so it won’t attract attention like a gun will.

bow and arrow

  • Knife – Being forced to use a knife as a weapon is an act of desperation. Nevertheless, in a survival situation, you would most likely be carrying at least one knife on you at all times. Therefore, practicing to use it as a weapon, as well as a tool, makes sense. Although knife fighting is a complex skill to learn, you can use one effectively as a weapon by concentrating on cutting your opponent’s knife arm, rather than trying to fight the whole person.


  • Melee Weapon – This is actually a category of weapons; consisting of weapons that are used in a melee (fight). Generally speaking, most of the weapons that we think of, when we think of medieval weaponry are melee weapons (axes, swords, clubs), with the exception of bows and pole arms (spears, pikes, halberds). The big thing that these weapons give you is reach. If you are forced to fight someone with a knife or club in their hand, having something with greater reach, such as an axe, gives you an advantage. Pick one you like and practice with it.


One Final Point

Finally, I’d like to say this; in a survival situation, you want to avoid a fight, as much as possible. No matter how good you are, there is always the chance that you will get injured in the fight. If that injury is severe, it could cause you serious problems doing the necessary tasks of survival.

Appearing strong to potential enemies is a good deterrent. If your family or survival team is obviously well armed and prepared for a fight and your home has good defenses, most people will look elsewhere. That’s a win in my book, and a win that doesn’t put anyone on your side at risk.



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