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Posted on November 12, 2018 by in Training

Core Elements of Deadly Force: Opportunity


Opportunity might be described as a set of favorable circumstances that that makes it possible for a person or persons to accomplish a desired objective. In a previous article entitled “But All I Had Was a Hammer” we addressed the following three core elements that concealed carriers should be aware of before using force, lethal or otherwise, against another person or persons: 

  1. Does the party have the ability to use force capable of causing severe bodily injury or death?
  2. Does the party have the opportunity to use force capable of causing severe bodily injury or death?
  3. Does the party have the intent to use force capable of causing severe bodily injury or death? 

If we believe that indeed the other party has the ability to harm us in the manner described above, we should then turn our attention to opportunity.  Most violent crimes in the United States involve the use of handguns, edged weapons, fists and feet, and blunt instruments. In order to achieve a favorable outcome, a violent person or persons  will have to either create an opportunity or exploit an opportunity to get close enough to the concealed carrier and have a clear path to bring a handgun to bear or stab, slash, strike, stomp, or bludgeon. With the rare exception of occasional handgun use, almost all incidents take place at distances that can typically be measured in feet. This would suggest that at greater distances, the opportunity to harm or kill another person becomes diminished. 

Maintaining distance is typically easier to achieve than it may appear, although proactive action upon the part of the concealed carrier is required. One of the easier things to do is not allow a potentially violent person to exploit an opportunity to quickly close distance. One method for achieving this is to scan the environment when leaving a known area for an unknown area, avoiding blind corners or other vision barriers, and avoiding choke points such as walking between parked cars in a parking lot or parking garage. If I go to a restaurant, I will typically select a table and seat that is close to an exit that further allows me to see people coming and going from every door that opens to the outside.  In essence, I am making a concerted effort to avoid any area where I might be ambushed.  In the event that a questionable party approaches me in order to ask a question or beg for money, I will advise them that I can’t help them and walk off, followed by an assertive command informing them that they need to stay back if they continue to press.  A common way for persons intent on robbing others is use ruse to close distance and then initiate an assault once they are close enough to successfully accomplish their objective.

Another method of impeding opportunity would be the use of a barrier, which is nothing more than a tangible object between the potential threat and us. If the other party does not have a clear pathway to bring force to bear, then the need to respond with force is not warranted.  Examples of physical barriers could be a table in a restaurant, closed windows and locked doors when inside of a vehicle, and keeping a locked door between ourselves and other persons. However, it is important to understand that barriers can usually be overcome given time, so looking for exits, creating distance if possible, and being prepared to respond to a possible deadly force action by another person or persons is highly recommended.

The next article in this series will address the role that Intent plays on determining where force or deadly force is a reasonable response to the actions of another. 

Steve Moses

Steve is a long-time defensive weapons and instructor based out of Texas who has trained hundreds of men and women of all ages for more than two decades on how to better prepare to defend themselves and their loved ones. Steve has completed over 80 private-sector and law enforcement-only defensive weapons and tactics classes, and has trained civilian and law-enforcement officers in six states. Moses is a reserve deputy, former member of a multi-precinct Special Response Team, competitive shooter, and martial artist. Steve has written numerous articles for SWAT Magazine and other publications. Steve is a licensed Texas Level 4 Personal Security Officer and Instructor who was Shift Lead on a mega-church security detail for seven years, and has provided close protection for several former foreign Heads of State. He is currently an instructor at Relson Gracie Jiu Jitsu/Krav Maga in Tyler, Texas and Director of Training for Palisade Training Group (