Back to Basics: Are You Prepared to Defend Your Family?

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Last Updated on January 11, 2021

In the continuation of my Back to Basics series that has stretched out a little longer than anticipated, I want to address another of the most common subjects preppers ask about when they are just getting started prepping and that is around the topics you need to consider to defend your family or others. What are the things we as preppers should consider as part of a holistic view of common-sense actions you can take now to be better prepared in an emergency?

Before I begin, as a review the first article covered Why and How to Stockpile Water for Emergencies. The second article in this series dealt with How to Stockpile Food for Emergencies and the latest will assume that as a prepper that is getting started, you have covered the first two bases of food and water and we are ready to move on. I will address shelter in an upcoming article but assume that unless you are trapped in the wilderness, finding someplace to stay out of the elements for almost anyone should be possible.

This article will try to answer many questions around self-defense for preppers. I have written a fair amount on the subject in other articles, so this will have links to other information for more detailed analysis and opinion. As always, I welcome your comments below.

Why do you need to plan to defend your family?

Many years ago when I started prepping the world wasn’t radically different. We didn’t live in any Nirvana of goodwill and peace, but the idea of preparing to defend your life from bad guys was met with much more resistance than it does now. We would talk about fortifying our homes, purchasing firearms, and enrolling in training to hone our skills but frequently you would have someone comment to the effect that we were all paranoid, crazy, and disillusioned idiots who saw fear lurking around every corner.

Flash forward to today and there is much less push back when we talk about self-defense. People have seen far too many incidents in the news of violence happening. All over the world, we witness mobs going out of control, of riots after natural disasters, incidents with police, or even sporting events where innocent people are hurt. The world can be a dangerous place now and I don’t believe a majority of people anymore think it is foolish to consider being prepared to defend your family.

Read More: Top 5 Firearms you need to get your hands on NOW!

What we do have is a lot of arguments about the best means, equipment, practices, and policies. I won’t be able to debate all of those here, but I will lay out my plans and suggestions below.

What are your self-defense options?

The dictionary defines self-defense as “the act of defending one’s person when physically attacked, as by countering blows or overcoming an assailant”. I believe that each of us has a right to defend ourselves when attacked. No one has a right to take my life that trumps my right to stop them from doing so. The threats faced run the gambit though when we enter the world of prepping. My suggestions will almost exclusively focus on situations where your life is on the line and the imminent threat of deadly violence is what we are talking about.

Psychological Self Defense – Can you talk or bribe someone out of violence against you? Potentially, yes but that requires skill and luck and the right set of circumstances. Assume you are out one evening and a man tries to rob you. Could you talk him out of it by appealing to his humanity or shaming him? Maybe, but I don’t want to risk failing. When it comes to self-defense I want to escalate appropriately to deal with the threat immediately. Some may feel that this is the first level you should try.

You could be called to defend your family from any number of threats.
You could be called to defend your family from any number of threats.

Physical Self-Defense – If talking the bad guy out of hurting you doesn’t work you may still have options. Can you run? Do you want to fight this person? Could you win? Are you sure? Do they have a weapon? Can you overpower them and what if you do? I strongly believe that each of us should as part of a well-balanced approach would be physically fit, mentally sharp, and experienced in hand-to-hand combat, but that simply isn’t a reality for many people. Could a strong, fit man take out another strong fit man of approximately the same weight? Sure. Could a small diminutive woman take down a much larger attacker with martial arts? Of course. Is that you?

Read More: How to select the best handgun for home defense.

Physical self-defense in a life-threatening situation for me would not be my first option either because I don’t want the bad guy anywhere near me. If I have no other means to defend myself it will come to this, but I wouldn’t use this by default.

Weapons based self-defense – To me, this approach is far superior for more people in more situations than the other two options. For starters, weapons are the great equalizer. A 110-pound female can defend herself with a weapon effectively against a 300-pound man or even two. Could she also go ninja and bring him to his knees? Sure, some could but could you? Firearms with proper instruction used to defend your life give you great advantages. It goes without saying there are drawbacks too, but as the saying goes. I would rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6.

What is a balanced approach to self-defense?

Obviously, I advocate the responsible use of firearms for self-defense but there are times when I can’t carry a firearm or I simply don’t have one on me. When those scenarios appear, the other two options have to be looked at. Can I talk this person out of violence? Can I run and escape the situation? Can I overpower them with some other inanimate object like a fire extinguisher or baseball bat across the back of their head?

When I started prepping, it was with the vision of a world gone bad. My nightmare scenario was some form of economic collapse that brought horrible times and violence right to my front door. In thinking of that, I purchased several weapons that I thought would help me defend my family, and assuming anything along the lines of a full-scale violent uprising happens, I still have those at my disposal.

Practice, Practice, Practice.
Practice, Practice, Practice.

But most of us go through our daily lives without anarchy. We don’t have economic collapse happening now, at least to the scale that we might have imagined it with panic and looting in the streets of our neighborhoods. We go to work, go out to eat, and come home, every day. Does that mean we don’t have to worry about self-defense until some cataclysmic event happens?

Will you be prepared to defend your family mentally?

I advocate being prepared for emergencies. For this to happen, you have to be ready now. It isn’t good enough to wait until something bad happens and then start worrying about how you will defend your family. You have to be prepared to defend them now and hope that you never face that situation.

If firearms are your choice of survival weapon, you should purchase them now and get some good training in now in the proper use and function of whatever weapon you choose. Concealed carry permit applications set records every year for the simple reason that people are getting prepared. What for? Who knows but if something happens you don’t want to be that guy headed to Walmart because you are hoping to buy a shotgun only to find they have been completely cleaned out. Take steps now.

I should also mention that none of the above advice means anything unless you are mentally prepared. Violence usually occurs very fast and hesitation can kill you just as quickly as doing nothing. If you aren’t prepared to take a life, you don’t need to purchase a tool designed to do just that. Whatever you decide you will be left with the responsibility for your actions. It is worth thinking about now while you have the luxury of time.

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Freedom-loving American doing what I can to help prepare and inform others. Editor and creator of The Prepper Journal 2013-2017, 2020 -

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no more shaking for me

Pat: Another informative article – “Psychological Self Defense” – I wish there were more mirrors around so people (especially kids) could see how they are seen by others. (Like the picture you picked in this section; it sends this strong message home.) If one is not aware of what attitude they are putting out; well it can be not only dumb, but dangerous. I myself badly hurt my knee, and (at times; while it was healing) when I was out and about – limping around, I felt vulnerable. Look up, put your shoulders back, & look around. Countermeasures to manage… Read more »


I like your thoughts, Gayle. There are times to be grey, and times when you need to stand out. Its not all just one way. Looking meek on a dark street can be bad for business. Its all a balance.

Head up and aware is key in any situation.

no more shaking for me

BobW Grey is good also; But I also feel like to many people have their face’s in their phones (like the videos of the people walking down the street and falling into a fountain – Oh my! )
Thanks for the comment back. I subscribe to life = balance
Gayle Cz


Too true. When I take the kids camping, all phones but mine (emergencies only) stay in the camper, and off limits until after dinner, when its time to chill. Its not the same as walking down a dark alley in NYC. It was about being aware of our surroundings, seeing what wonder exists in the world outside the i-whatever, etc.

Thomas Paine in the butt

One thing you left out is situational awareness, not being where the trouble is. You can’t possibly avoid all trouble, there’s just too many variables.

The best self defense situations are the ones that never happen. A little common sense goes a long way, like keeping your gas tank topped off so you don’t have to go into that sketchy neighborhood to find gas or walking down the street counting a wad of cash.

Pat Henry

You are absolutely right Thomas! That is a very critical aspect of the entire concept. If you avoid the trouble in the first place that puts you in a better position always.

James E Bailey

Anti-gunner: “What are you afraid of?”
CCW bearer: “Not a damn thing.”

proneshooter nz

Another great article Pat 🙂 Down here in New Zealand the whole “self defense” thing is a VERY grey area with those who have defended themselves (especially if it is with a firearm) facing charges! insane (” no timmy, the Police are NOT your friend and neither is the judisciary”) Still, the truism “rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6 still holds true for me. BobW made a very good point, no you can’t ALWAYS avoid problems but it seems like nowadays, situational awareness is as rare as common sense!. The number of folks you see wandering around… Read more »

Pat Henry

Thank you very much Tracy!


Good article but the entire team should be asking the same question. In shtf of international scale there are no passengers or weak members. Can your children kill and know how to do so? Can your spouse push in both an attackers eyes while being choked? Can you? Can you function with no gun or knife? Technology is nice but makes you dead when it fails

All or nothing here. Kill or be killed and post shtf is no time to start training.

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