You’ve heard a lot about the fight or flight response. Well, I’m here to tell you that flight does not get enough coverage when it comes to self-defense options. Yes, we talk about it when we discuss situational awareness and conflict avoidance, but we haven’t really had a good discussion of the elements of a sound tactical retreat.

True, the words “sound tactical retreat” sound much better than “running away.” But I must stress that avoiding a fight is not cowardice; it is just good thinking. Here is the most important thing about an effective retreat: Only attempt a retreat if you are certain you can retreat safely.

I am not asking you to turn your back on a loaded gun and try to run away. That’s just foolhardy. What I am pointing out is that you should be looking for escape options at all times. Then, when things go bad, you should be working out in your head the chances of escape through one of the locations you have already noticed. If the chances of escape are not nearly certain, you need to implement your fighting plan. Did you get that? You need both an escape option and a fighting option. Both of them are integral to your self-defense planning.

Stand Your Ground

Some of you will tell me, “My state has a ‘stand your ground’ law. I don’t have to go anywhere.”

Good luck putting all your eggs in that basket. First up, stand your ground laws are not permission to start shooting without any legal aftermath. Each state has a different interpretation of what the law means, and most also have very specific rules regarding how the law is interpreted and implemented. Two things I know for sure: If you stay and fight, you risk getting killed. And if you win the fight, there will be an investigation.

Getting killed is pretty clear-cut. You know what that means. But do you know what an investigation into a shooting is like? First up, get a lawyer and a pile of money. Then get ready to be questioned about every element of the incident. And if even one portion of your story changes during questioning, that element will be reopened and you will be subjected to more questioning.

Yep, you might be released without charges, but you still have to pay the lawyer and you can bet the questioning will be none too comfortable. Waiting for the official word from the DA will be no walk in the park either. Count on some stressful days and sleepless nights. I don’t care how tough you think you are; waiting for a DA to come back with a decision that could mean a trial is stressful.

The same thing is true with a shooting covered by the Castle Doctrine. Now I’m betting that no one wants to leave his or her house when an intruder comes in. But consider doing just that, or at least staying in a safe place with your family, because once you pull that trigger, your life changes. It matters very little if you are 100 percent in the right when you pull the trigger; the emotional trauma of the situation might just stick with you.

I can’t stress enough that fighting is the last resort, which means you should think about all the other options well before the fight begins.

I’d much rather hear about how you avoided a fight.