Sunday Rant

Jeff Cooper; The Principals of Personal defense.

Principle Three:


In defense we do not initiate violence. We must grant

our attacker the vast advantage of striking the first blow, or

at least attempting to do so. But thereafter we may return

the attention with what should optimally be overwhelming

violence. “The best defense is a good offense.” This is true,

and while we cannot apply it strictly to personal defensive

conduct, we can propose a corollary: “The best personal

defense is an explosive counterattack.” Those who do not

understand fighting will at once suggest that numbers, size,

strength, or armament must make this instruction invalid.

They will insist that the aggressor will not attack unless he

has a decisive preponderance of force. This is possible, but

it is not by any means always, or even usually, true. Consider

the Speck case, in which the victims outnumbered the

murderer eight to one. They disposed of far more than

enough force to save their lives, but only if they had

directed that force violently and aggressively against the

murderer. This they failed to do. There are countless other


The victory of an explosive response by an obviously

weaker party against superior force is easy to observe in the

animal world. A toy poodle runs a German Shepherd off his

property. A tiny kingbird drives off a marauding hawk. A

forty-pound wolverine drives a whole wolf pack away from

a kill that the wolves worked hours to bring down. Aggressiveness

carries with it an incalculable moral edge in any

combat, offensive or defensive. And the very fact that the

assailant does not expect aggressiveness in his victim

usually catches him unaware.

If the intended victim is armed, skill becomes a factor

more critical than numbers. A man with a powerful, reliable

sidearm, and who is highly qualified in its use, can ruin a

rifle squad at close range if he can seize the initiative by

instantaneous aggressive response to a clumsily mounted

attack. Of course such skill is rare, even (or perhaps especially)

among our uniformed protectors, but it can be

acquired. Great strides have been made in recent years in

the theory of defensive pistolcraft. The results are available

to respectable parties. But never assume that simply having

a gun makes you a marksman. You are no more armed

because you are wearing a pistol than you are a musician

because you own a guitar.

In a recent case, a pupil of mine was assaulted by four

men armed with revolvers as he drove into his driveway

after a late party. Being a little the worse for wear, he

violated (or just forgot) all the principles of personal

defense but one and that was the principle of aggressiveness.

At their first volley, he laid down such a quick and

heavy barrage of return fire (twenty-two rounds in less than

twenty seconds) that his would-be assassins panicked and

ran. He did most things wrong, but his explosive reaction to

attack certainly saved his life.

Now how do we cultivate an aggressive response? I

think the answer is indignation. Read the papers. Watch the

news. These people have no right to prey upon innocent

citizens. They have no right to offer you violence. They are

bad people and you are quite justified in resenting their

behavior to the point of rage. Your response, if attacked,

must not be fear, it must be anger. The two emotions are

very close and you can quite easily turn one into the other.

At this point your life hangs upon your ability to block out

all thoughts of your own peril, and to concentrate utterly

upon the destruction of your enemy. Anger lets you do this.

The little old lady who drives off an armed robber by

beating on him with her purse is angry, and good for her!

The foregoing is quite obviously not an approved outlook

in current sociological circles. That is of no consequence.

We are concerned here simply with survival. After

we have arranged for our survival, we can discuss sociology.

If it is ever your misfortune to be attacked, alertness

will have given you a little warning, decisiveness will have

given you a proper course to pursue, and if that course is to

counterattack, carry it out with everything you’ve got! Be

indignant. Be angry. Be aggressive.

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