7 Steps To Control Fear And Make Sound Decisions Under Stress

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Dealing With Stress
Carrying a concealed handgun requires mental preparation in addition to the physical preparation needed to draw and fire a handgun. Recognizing ahead of time that you will experience fear and stress in an armed conflict gives you the chance to address these issues ahead of time so you can control and overcome these emotions when the need arises. (Photo courtesy Galco)

A life-or-death situation is no time to freeze up. Here are 7 steps that ensure you won't.

When a responsible person first begins going armed, he is usually haunted by two recurring questions, or self-doubts:

  1. If I’m really attacked, and my life is at stake, will I be able to handle it?
  2. What if I screw up and kill an innocent person?

This is a normal reaction, and to a degree it is healthy. We do, however, need to address these issues and resolve them, before a conflict, so they will not raise their ugly heads when we should be concentrating on winning the fight. Remember, if an unavoidable fight is thrust upon us, we MUST WIN! The alternative can be death, or crippling injury.

Concealed-Carry-Class Cover
This article is an excerpt from Concealed Carry Class: The ABCs of Self-Defense Tools and Tactics, now available at the GunDigestStore.com.

The first issue to face is that of FEAR. Fear is a normal reaction to physical violence for most people. In addition, since most of us no longer have military experience and live in “civilized” surroundings, we might not have ever actually engaged in a true fight before our moment of truth in a criminal attack. This fear of the unknown is, for many, worse than the fear of being hurt or killed.

Unless you are an exceptional person, a nutcase, or a liar and you have actually been involved in armed conflict, you have tasted fear. I’m not ashamed to say I have been scared several times, and I fully expect to be scared again before my life is over. What you must learn to do is control your fear and do what you must to win.


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Fear can be controlled and overcome, even in life-threatening circumstances. This is obviously true, and it is proven every day by hundreds of ordinary people all over the country. Here are some steps you can take to make this process easier:

1. Admit to yourself you are afraid, then move on. Concentrate your mental energies on the task at hand, not on your fear of death, injury, or loss of ego.

2. Avoid dwelling on the chance of failure. Concentrate on finding a way to win.

3. Take control of yourself. Autogenic breathing is the very best and most efficient way to do this.

4. Focus on getting the job done.

5. Have a Plan B. Always, always, always, expect Plan A to fail. Expect your gun to malfunction. Expect the suspect to stay up after being hit solidly. Expect to be injured. If any of these things occur, have a pre-planned option to continue (Plan B).

6. Turn anger into a motivator. Who does this clown think he is? What makes him think he has the right to (rob/rape/kill/pick on) me?

7. Accept an element of fate in every situation. You can get hurt by accident after doing everything right. Control everything you CAN control (selection of equipment, getting adequate training and practice, being alert, thinking tactically) so there are fewer things you CAN NOT control. Stack the odds in your favor, and fate has a lot less impact.

Courage under fire is not a matter of being without fear. It is a matter of being able to control fear and accomplish your mission, which is to stay alive. Only fools are fearless.

Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from Concealed Carry Class: The ABCs of Self-Defense Tools and Tactics, now available at the GunDigestStore.com.


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