When we learn to drive, the phenomenon of delayed reaction is stressed heavily. When a vehicle is traveling at highway speeds, a one or two second lag time translates to hundreds of feet being traveled before the brakes are even applied.
Needless to say, relying on one’s fast reaction time to prevent accidents is a good way to get into one.
Western novels and movies often focus on this reaction time issue.
In many situations, the gunfighter who drew first has the advantage — even if the other cowboy was mere milliseconds behind, he’s already lost.
This reaction time lag is important to take into account when we are running possible self-defense scenarios through our minds.
The good news is that few, if any attacks will take the form of an old western gunfight with eager fingers hovering over revolver butts.
If another person gets the jump on you, there will be very little you can do to salvage the situation. If someone has a gun pointed at you with their finger on the trigger, there is simply no way you can be fast enough to access your weapon, aim and pull the trigger before they’ve sent a bullet towards you.
The key is learning how to prevent violent self-defense situations from getting this serious and close to the edge.
Don’t allow the aggressing party to control the situation — don’t let your actions always be REACTIONS of what they do.
Author Michael Martin investigates this question in his article “Muscle Memory and Action Versus Reaction” on USConcealedcarry.com:
“If an attacker unexpectedly lunges at you with a knife, can you draw your firearm in time to stop him? Can you out draw an attacker if he already has a firearm pointed at you? When the threat ends, how quickly can you stop shooting? These hypothetical situations all beg the question, “Is action faster than reaction?” (Read more about wisely handling shooting incidents here)”
For most self defense situations, we could all learn a thing or two by going back to that driving training we’ve all had. Things like looking far ahead down the highway and learning to anticipate what might happen by brake lights unexpectedly flashing. Keep an eye on that car waiting to merge, they might unexpectedly decide to merge into traffic.
The same holds true for street encounters in public. Keep both eyes open and remain aware of your surroundings. You will significantly reduce the incidence of surprises which will help eliminate the need for microsecond cowboy gunfighter style action.
Spotting that group of thugs hanging out on the street corner a block ahead of you and actively avoiding any contact with them is preferable to unexpectedly encountering them. This way, you’re less likely to encounter a situation where you’re forced into responding quickly.