Verbal engagement; the rarely talked about first line of self defense


Early into my California CCW process some years ago I was taking my required classroom hours. One of the co-instructors, a retired LEO said something profound that has stuck with me. He said; “Your voice is your best self defense weapon.” He went on to explain it as a multi faceted tool I had never considered.

A loud, commanding challenge with your support hand extended, palm up creates an instant psychological barrier; “HEY! STAY BACK! STAY BACK!” That alone might stop a potential assailant.
It also brings the attention of potential witnesses to your situation. If the confrontation evolves, verbalizing the identity of who you are and who the potential attacker is very important; “I DON’T WANT ANY TROUBLE! I’M THE GOOD GUY! I’M THE GOOD GUY”

Witnesses, who are notoriously terrible at remembering things, now know who, is who. Rather than the first thing they hear is a gunshot, and the first thing they see is you, with a gun in your hand and a guy on the ground with no context.

If it evolves to the point of brandishing your weapon he suggested a warning and identfying yourself as a legal CCW holder; “BACK OFF! I’M ARMED, I’M ARMED! CCW, CCW!”

You’ve established a verbal barrier, identfied yourself and the bad guy to witnesses, issued a warning and established you credentials as a legal gun carrier. If the treshhold of the imminent danger doctrine is crossed, you can now articulate to law enforcement, with your lawyer present(as per instructions on your USCCA wallet card) and with corroborating witnesses, the events that led to the deployment of your weapon.

Of course, this scenario is the ideal and not always possible in the real world. I found it a great starting place for my training. When I’m on the ranch range, I practice out loud and I mean LOUD, my verbal engagement with live fire. If that’s not possible in your situation, a closet and dry fire works. I felt very uncomfortable at first doing it but, now it comes naturally.

Does anyone else practice defensive verbal engagement? If so what verbage do you use?

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Actually, in Missouri, this could get you a murder charge. I was taught to avoid conflict at any cost. Brandishing a weapon is illegal here. If you pull it, you better be intending to use it because you are in fear for your life . A friend of mine used to PA of our County. I was asking her about the law. She said it is pretty clear. We have no duty to retreat or warn someone. As in the scenario I posted in about the bar, dude left and got his gun and came back! Things were great, the guy he had been arguing with even got his business card and was going to do business with him yet came back and stirred it and then shot him. If you are a man, bigger than me, or if i am just scared for bodily harm or fear for my life, bang bang! NOW! In certain liberal cities the PA might prosecute still. I have to be in fear for my life in order t pull and shoot. If I mess around with warning him , they can and will argue that I must not have been very scared if I took all the time to do that. y instructor did say to try to avoid conflict or get out of the situation because you will go to court and that alone is very stressful and very costly. Everyone likes to say they could easily kill someone but when it comes to it, could you live with yourself? That is the only thing I worry about. But my laws and your laws are way different. I’d still want a really good attorney in case I was in a liberal court system.


I live in a completely liberal state. I understand what your saying. The ex cops point was, 99 out of 100 times your defensive verbal engagement ends the situation right there. If it doesn’t , it alerts witnesses to what’s happening and identifies bad guy vs good guy. It enables you to articulate your fear of imminent danger as the assailant kept advancing. He said, if possible, the last thing you want is the first thing wintnesses hear is the gun shot and the first thing they see is you holding a gun. That makes perfect sense to me and it’s the reason police practice verbal commands


I hear ya, but It would also work against you in my state. You do live in a completely liberal state. I won’t even go there anymore. I have several friends who are mothers of police officers in Cali and they hate it! My doctor lives there too and is about to bail.

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Every case is different. What @Wilfrid suggests is a great course of action if the situation warrants it; someone has a weapon other than a gun pulled on you from a threatening distance, which justifies you drawing your weapon along with the opportunity to talk them down, possibly without shooting them, then I would absolutely do that. Someone kicks your front door in and comes charging at you, the time for talk isn’t there and you shoot. If you can de-escalate a situation without firing a shot, that’s the best outcome. @Wilfrid, I feel your pain my friend, just on a different coast!

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Yep, coming through the front door doesn’t leave us much to chat about. Thanks man.

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I believe you would be up a creek using that demeanor. Talk down someone if you can but if they’re threatening you by pulling a weapon on you just shoot em. You feared for your life. Don’t say a word to anyone. Wait for the cops and tell them you feared for your life. Say you want to talk to your attorney. Call the number on your card (probably should add that to my phone).


If the threat is imminent, like coming right at you, with a knife, bat etc. then sure, take action. But if someone is standing still and not coming at you yet but has a weapon, other than a gun and says “I’m going to kill you!” you don’t think it would be a good idea to draw your weapon, let them know you’re armed and try to get them to reconsider? I’m not talking about someone who’s five feet away, but someone within threat distance but also a distance which allows you to safely consider your options, other than retreat. In other words, enough time to draw down on them without having to fire right away.

A large number of self defense scenarios including a firearm end without a single shot being fired. Probably even a majority of them. Just the revealing of a gun ends up being enough to change the assailants mind quickly. Again, we’re not talking about someone coming at you from a few feet away trying to kill you.

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Great conversation going on here. A few things to consider:

  • Every situation is going to be different
  • Your location may play into the legal ramifications, but doing what is best for your physical self-defense is crucial. The legal self-defense won’t matter if you’re not alive to defend yourself.
  • Continually yelling STOP! STAY BACK! LEAVE ME ALONE! Type of things can startle the attacker who is expecting easy prey and help the witnesses understand what is going on. (Even yelling as you have to draw).
  • If you are in imminent, unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily harm most states agree that you can use deadly force to protect yourself.
  • Never draw your gun unless you have to use it, conversely, if you draw your gun and the threat stops you cannot shoot in self-defense.

Please do not use Liberal as a replacement for Anti-Gun. Liberal can mean a lot of different things and I know a lot of liberal people who are not anti-gun. Lumping all liberal people as anti-gun does not advance our conversation about self-defense and gun ownership. It causes tension and frustration and does not allow for productive, educational exchanges.


I guess I want more clarity on the legal deifinition of brandishing. There is difference between drawing your firearm and waving it around, and drawing your firearm, preparing to shoot, only to have the threat, retreat or flat out turn tail and run…leaving you with a firearm in your hand and no threat to shoot at…you clearly are going to get in trouble if you end up shooting a someone in the flank or the back because you followed through with a shot. Our instructor (active duty LEO) talked about the AIM principal Access Intent Means…A man shouting at you while swinging a baseball bat for across the street, may have intent to harm and means to harm, but he is lacking in Access, he can’t actually reach you from there…you verbally engage at that range, clearly if he then starts charging at you the situation has charged…likewise if he then turns off and charges a tree as you are drawing you clearly can ‘t shoot, but you would have the firearm n your hand, so brandishing doesn’t make sense…

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Brandishing? I’m not sure that’s it in your scenario.


Not talking about a guy across the street just standing there. I don’t like doing scenarios per se because I have it in my head what it is, but it doesn’t necessarily come across that way. I’d never take out a gun just to scare someone off, and have actually told people who think that’s ok or that it will work that they should sell their guns. If I pull it, it’s with the intention of using it, if I have to.

What I’m trying to describe is someone with a deadly weapon, other than a gun, that is gaining space on you, in a deliberate aggressive manner and has verbalized their intentions. Are you just going to wait until they get into what you think is justifiable range, then just pull your gun and shoot them, or are you going to work to keep safe distance and try to verbally talk them down, yell for help, do whatever you need to do to stop the situation from going down, eventually realize you may need to pull your gun with the intention of using it if need be?

Not talking about pulling it on the person when they’re completely across the street standing there, but as they’re closing ground aggressively there’s a point where you would be justified doing so. Doesn’t mean you pull it and do a Mozambique Drill on him when he’s fifteen feet from you, but once he’s close to striking distance with a deadly weapon and you fear for your life, then certainly. The whole gist of this topic from the OP is that if you have the opportunity to de-escalate a situation verbally without drawing your weapon, or without firing it, you should.

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If someone is dashing towards me with what looks like they’re going to beat me with a bat by the time they’re 15 feet from me I’ve already pulled and aiming. You won’t have enough time to pull if you wait that late.

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Correct, which is why in multiple replies I have stated that the persom is not charging at you. I’m trying to describe a situation that is progressing, is obvious, allows you the opportunity to do more than just draw and shoot, but without the opportunity to get away from the person.

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Liberal does not mean anti gun, it means the laws are a lot different on using them. For instance, as far as pulling a gun and telling someone to stop or I’ll use it. In Missouri, a conservative state, you just gave someone the right to shoot you. But as they are saying on the coasts, that is what they were taught to do. But then it can even get further complicated because I am in a conservative state but we have two major liberal run cities and those counties they are in and the cities have their way of doing things and all of that have to be taken into consideration before you pull a gun in defense. Where I live the whole county used to be Democrats. But Democrats used to be a lot like Republicans and the older Democrats out here are very conservative and very pro gun. St. Louis wanted to restrict magazine size at one point. That could get you in a lot of trouble . They also wanted some other restrictions. Their county prosecutor is an activist from Ferguson and has made several changes in the way he allows the police to respond to calls since he took office in January. So using the word Liberal is not derogatory just like the word conservative isn’t It is a word used to describe the difference in laws.


We were told in our class that if you pull you it better be to shoot. Not to point t someone and say get back or i’ll shoot or it could be considered brandishing . Now, as far as the rest of your scenario about the dude across the street swinging the bat and no access and shooting in the back.PFFT! This is crazy, I can’t even believe it happened, I can’t believe the guy got away with it and it all got wiped under the rug, BUT, In my little town, RIGHT in the middle of town during a color run 5K with about one hundred people about a half mile away, some guy ran from his house, through his back yard, his neighbors back yard, to his neighbors front yard, all while chasing some guy from his house, and shot the guy in the back one the next street over. He was arrested and booked in jail My son booked in jail and he told my son that he knew he screwed up. Well, the whole case is magically gone. It was considered justified somehow, and just dropped. Not sure why… Or how… Our laws do not support that, but the there is the other case I posted the the link to the other day. Did you see that?


Lumping all liberals together or all conservatives together doesn’t help our discussion about gun control. Not all liberals are against guns and not all conservatives are for guns.

Specifically identifying the group of people who are anti-gun will help clarify our position instead of muddying the waters by being too general.


They called it verbal judo in our CCW class

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