Book Review: Deadly Force, Understanding Your Right to Self Defense

Book Review: Deadly Force, Understanding Your Right to Self Defense

Deadly Force by Massad Ayoob.

Mas Ayoob’s latest work, Deadly Force, hits the ten ring on personal protection and the aftermath of a defensive gun use. Like his perennial classic, In the Gravest Extreme, it’s simply required reading for anyone who carries concealed.

When I was a rookie cop back in the 80’s, a copy of Mas Ayoob’s Stressfire, Gunfighting for Police made it around the graveyard shift complete with coffee stains and doughnut crumbs.   It was also full of real-world gun wisdom in a conversational style that made it seem like this guy was a street-wise beat partner sitting next to me in the unit. In his newest offering, Deadly Force, Understand Your Right to Self Defense, Ayoob delivers again — for the civilian with a carry permit.

Make no mistake. This is not a gratuitous parade of blood-and-guts anecdotes or a shallow skimming of the ability/opportunity/jeopardy triad. It’s a serious and comprehensive treatment of the key legal principles that both enable and constrain the civilian with a permit. As a result, this content-laden book requires disciplined attention because of the tremendous volume of information it contains. Most books in this field (including mine) are good basic treatments. Ayoob’s is grad school for the serious student. Just ponder for a moment the depth in this gem from Chapter 2: “If you act to the standards by which you know you will be judged, you should not be found wanting in the judgment.”

“If you act to the standards by which you know you will be judged, you should not be found wanting in the judgment.”

Massad Ayoob
Deadly Force: Understanding Your Right to Self Defense

Fortunately, Ayoob has a rare ability to cover nuanced points with an economy of words and crisp style that is simultaneously educational and engaging. Especially helpful for the private citizen is his treatment of castle doctrine, furtive movement and what level of force may be legally used against a criminal who attacks with intermediate force weapons, including fists. The author also gives excellent coverage of the “Tueller Principal.” (If you carry a gun and still don’t know who Dennis Tueller is, that’s reason enough to buy this book.)

This book’s comprehensive review of the Trayvon Martin case is the most lucid I have ever read. Ayoob has a unique point of view that can only come from an expert who understands lawyers as well as he understands firearms. The prosecution of this case contains specific lessons for every civilian with a CCW.

My only criticism of the book, and it’s a tiny one, is that I wish Mas would have commented on the pro’s and con’s of retaining competent public relations counsel to try to manage the post-gunfight narrative and supplement a strong legal defense. Otherwise, this book is all in the ten ring.

In areas where politically ambitious DA’s are pimped by anti-gun media, you should presume that you are going to be charged criminally regardless of the inherent rightness of your defensive actions. Although this should never be a reason not to defend yourself — it’s better to be tried by twelve than carried by six — I think the information in this book is just as important to your daily carry as extra ammo.

You might survive a gunfight without either, but why would you risk it?


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