Levels of Escalation and Defense


By Adam Scepaniak

Something that we always discuss in regards to defense is the use of a firearm. Concealed carry, holsters, cartridge choice, round count… all of that minutia encompassing handguns gets debated, argued, and researched to the Nth degree – and for good reason. Firearms are an important and valuable tool for everyone for defense because they can be an equalizer. A frail/elderly man or woman can effectively defend themselves against a much larger assailant with the use of a firearm. While we would always support the idea of trying to be healthy, fit, and having the ability to take care of yourself, a firearm is a great option to ensure the safety of your family and loved ones. It is also important to talk about levels of escalation. A firearm should not be used for all unsavory encounters with strangers. A man I met a while ago (Chuck Haggard) used to say: “You need to have something between a harsh word and a gun.” So, it is important to discuss the various levels of escalation and potential “tools” you could have at your disposal – some hard tools (physical objects) and some soft tools (verbal and mental assets).

Self and Situational Awareness

So, what are your options between hard and soft tools, then?… It can vary from person-to-person as to what everyone is comfortable with, but you have more options than you think. The #1 element of defense we all have is awareness. Be aware of your surroundings. If something seems suspicious or “off,” listen to your gut and avoid it. Don’t be caught up in your phone and be an easy victim anywhere in public. Always maintain awareness of who and what is around you. This doesn’t mean you can’t “live in the moment and enjoy life;” that you always must maintain a supreme level of awareness like a lion in the grass. It does mean to be aware. Don’t make yourself an ignorant, soft target in public by being oblivious to your surroundings.

Stern Word

Did your mom ever tell you as a kid that if someone tries to abduct you that you should scream, kick, and holler?… Same rule applies as an adult. If someone sus is approaching you at a gas pump start talking to them. (They continue to approach…) Start talking to them loudly and sternly. (They continue to approach…) Begin hollering, get downright belligerent, and angry. People get uncomfortable in public when others make a scene. It draws more eyes (more witnesses). Assailants want silent sheep, not loud boisterous victims who will draw a crowd and observers. Those are interactions attackers flee from because they’ll get caught. So, you should do all of that. Be loud, stern, angry, show them your crazy eyes! Now, bear in mind not everyone that wants to talk to you in public is an axe murderer, but if you get the creepies and red flags going off as they approach, listen to your gut.

Stern, loud, “No” with a stopping action is a proven tactic.


Another tool could be a flashlight. I carry a powerful Surefire Stiletto Pro pocket flashlight every day. Criminals like to hide in the shadows and conceal their unscrupulous behavior. If you are in a parking ramp or garage, shining a blinding light on a suspicious person that is approaching you can be a huge deterrent where they might leave you alone. Bad guys do not want to be seen. They do not want to get caught. If someone approaches throw a light on them. If their intentions are good, they might calmly respond, “Hey, I’m sorry to bother you, could you help with [insert reasonable request].” If a flashlight gets them pissed off, defensive, and more apt to attack, then you did the right thing. You disrupted their OODA loop and now have a better view – metaphorical and literal – of the situation.

Surefire Lights Have a Chisel Styled Tactical Bezel

Many tactical, handheld flashlights have a striking tool around the bezel. These style flashlights are great tools and allowed pretty much anywhere. Surefire makes a plethora of strike bezel designs. They are allowed into concert venues, airplanes, and just about anywhere else you can think of. Tactical flashlights can also be used as a “fist pack”, or tubular support for the fist when striking with the hands. They are a fantastic defensive tool for locations that you cannot be in possession of a knife, or firearm.

Pepper Spray

Something else you could consider carrying with you daily aside from a firearm would be pepper spray. Pepper spray can be handy in a self-defense scenario because you have distance between you and your attacker – you can deploy pepper spray from aways away. With pepper spray, there is always the potential you could miss your attacker, and then your efforts are rendered ineffective, but you could easily miss your mark with other tools as well (how many of your buddies think they’re John Wick and they can’t hit the broadside of a barn). Also, pepper spray is a must-have if you are a dog walker. Reason being?… If another dog attacks yours, you can spray the bad doggo, keep on walking to safety, and almost have a zero percent chance of criminal charges. The bad doggo runs away, cries it out for a couple hours, and is fine by dinner time. Role play the same scenario with a gun in defense of your dog, and you’re likely going to jail and/or getting sued for shooting somebody’s Fluffy McFluffy Buns.


With a taser, your attacker needs to be uncomfortably close to deploy it, but you have an extremely high chance of connecting or making contact. So, a taser as an everyday defense tool is like that hot-crazy chick in high school: high risk with high reward. You could stop Druggy McCrazy Face in his tracks or you could catch a bit of stabby-stabby from your local, neighborhood druggy. So, make the mental and emotional commitment to yourself before you decide to carry a taser on the daily.


This category I do not need to “sell” to many of you. You love firearms just like I do. There is a time and place to use them, and there are instances when you should keep it holstered. Not everyone deserves to be clapped in the face by your HSTs. That is why there are levels of escalation. If someone in a parking ramp approaches, and you saw them far off acting suspect… they approach… ignore verbal commands… ignore a flashlight… are undeterred by your wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/significant other giving ‘em the blasty/blast of pepper spray… they present a weapon of their own… NOW its time to go to work. Remain calm, shoot accurately, swiftly, and preserve your family’s and your own life and safety. After all of this there will not be a ticker-tape parade. There will be jail time (even if your defense is justified), maybe you lose your firearm, have court fees, lawyer fees, half of your “friends” you learn are your enemies and disparage you in public. Life isn’t a John Wayne western, pilgrim. The moment you pull a trigger in self-defense life gets shitty quick. But, on the other side is the fact that you’re hopefully alive… as are your children, significant other, family, your world’s perfectly behaved doggo, all of the above.

Conversely, to this horror story that eventually ends well, we need to remember to not be trigger happy. If someone rings your doorbell at midnight, it could be a drunk college kid passing out in your yard because he can’t find his way home (we’ve all been there). Don’t anoint the guy with hollow-points for waking you up. Understand your levels of escalation and situational awareness of when it is appropriate to take your defense blaster out of its stable for a ride.

Glock 17 with TLR-1 HL in a ANR Design Tactical OWB with QLS

Bonus Tool: Hands

We all loved Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Rocky, and modern-day people like Jason Statham who absolutely kick a$$ at every turn in a movie, but regardless of how much time you spent in movie theatres growing up, that doesn’t translate to perfectly executed roundhouse kicks in the streets. Know your lane. If you’ve never trained jiu jitsu, Muy Thai, wrestling, boxing, or any form of hand-to-hand combat, then don’t unleash some YouTube shit defending your girl’s honor at bar close. I implore all gun owners to be what I would call “fit for defense.” I am not insinuating you need to join a CrossFit cult, have a 300 Lb bench press, or even 5% body fat. Rather simply, you should be able to hold your own. Drag someone your own bodyweight, know your limitations, and be physically capable (train a form of self-defense, lift weights, or be big AF).

You know who is hard to take down?… Someone who is trained in self-defense, is strong, huge, and/or capable. Tools are fantastic. They are cheat codes. We all should aim to cheat and tip the scales in our favor, but if its just you and another dude in a man-to-man brawl, you better win. Your hands should never be your first line of defense. They should be your last and only if you are confident in yourself. All other options afford space, distance, and a less likelihood of your face getting rearranged.

So, while we are all advocates of firearms and they are terrific tools in your line of self-defense you may want to consider other options as well to have in your “defense tool belt.” Until next time, continually check out the ANR Design blog, join our newsletter, and watch the website for new and exciting updates! As always, let us know all of your thoughts in the Comments below. We love it when you participate in our articles and keep the conversation going!

Adam Scepaniak 

@Strength_in_arms IG

AllOutdoor.com | Managing Editor 

OutdoorHub.com | Staff Writer 

TheFirearmBlog.com | Staff Writer 

The Guns And Gear Store | C.M.O./Manager


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