A reader recently reached out to our Member Services department asking why we publish information about legal costs and other such downsides of self-defense actions. The person was suggesting that those who know such things might hesitate during a self-defense incident because they would be thinking about all the potential risks involved.

I responded with this: “We present the information concerning legal costs, emotional trauma, family concerns, civil litigation and the other negative elements of self-defense because it is our responsibility to present the most complete picture of every aspect of a deadly force incident. For the same reason, we published photos of an actual gunshot wound. People need to know what they are getting into. They need to think first about conflict avoidance. If we truly believe deadly force to be the last resort, we need to honestly and openly tell people why it must be the last resort. I do not want people to hesitate at the moment of truth, but I want them to reach that moment with a full understanding of what they can expect.”

Using deadly force is not something anyone should do lightly or without lots of forethought. At the time of the incident, you need to act quickly, but you also need to act correctly. Your life, your freedom and your financial well-being depend on the decisions you make under extreme stress. You must have a full understanding of the potential downside before you press the trigger, swing the knife or bludgeon someone with a frying pan.

You’ve heard the saying, “I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by six.” True words. But that statement presents only two options: kill or die. It does not include the full spectrum of the event. That spectrum begins well before the fight starts and does not conclude until you have emotionally come to terms with your actions. If you only train to fight, you are ignoring the greater part of the entire battle.

About a decade ago, Massad Ayoob told me a good portion of my training should include drawing, acquiring the sight picture and keeping my finger off the trigger. “If you train yourself to press the trigger every time, you will press the trigger every time,” he said. “But what if the person sees you reach for your gun and surrenders or runs away? You have trained your body to draw and fire, and that is what your body will do when you are under stress. You may have to fire, or you may not. You will have to decide quickly, but you still have to decide.”

There are a lot of bad things that can happen to you after you win a fight. You need to know about them precisely because knowing about them might prompt you to avoid a fight more actively. I want you to actively avoid fights. To fight is to risk death. There is no need to take that risk if you are not forced to do so.

Do all you can to avoid the fight because the fight sucks. The aftermath sucks. The entire situation sucks, and the more you know about it, the more likely you are to actively take the steps that will keep you out of harm’s way.

Don’t get me wrong. I still want you to fight effectively and ruthlessly when the time comes. I just want to make sure you have done everything you can to ensure your ruthless actions really are the last resort.