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Old June 2, 2019, 08:48 AM   #1
Bartholomew Roberts
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Psychological vs. Physiological

I was watching a discussion of bladed weapons vs. impact weapons. Someone pointed out (correctly, in my view) that while bladed weapons had a strong psychological impact, they were very bad at stopping a fight in physiological terms and that impact weapons like blackjacks or saps were more effective on the physiological level.

A lot of my self-defense focus has been on the physiological because that works regardless of the mental state of your opponent. But I’m reminded of a conversation I had with JohnKSa and Glenn Meyer after a Firearms Law CLE where John made a very observant remark on the psychological value of weapons.

So I wanted to start a discussion on the aspects of firearms that have a strong self-defense deterrent but are maybe less practical in their physiological effects.
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Old June 2, 2019, 10:37 AM   #2
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That is an interesting discussion idea.

I suppose a larger firearm might be more intimidating than a smaller firearm, even if the smaller firearm is more powerful. A full sized .22 auto pistol might be more intimidating than a 9mm single stack subcompact.

Muzzle flash and blast might have a psychological effect. The blast from a .357 magnum or a 5.56 rifle might add to the effect of a shot fired in defense.

The looks of a black rifle might deter an attacker. An AR might be more frightening than a Mini 14

A larger bore might be more frightening than a smaller bore. A shotgun's large bore could scare off an attacker. A lever gun in .45 Colt might seem more intimidating than a lever gun in 30-30.
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Old June 2, 2019, 11:20 AM   #3
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Some weapons may have a stronger psychological effect on an attacker than others. A defender producing a weapon (any weapon) on an attacker will often have a strong psychological impact on the attacker since no one wants to be shot/stabbed/bludgeoned. However, when choosing a defensive weapon I want the one that is the most effective (objectively) that I can legally and feasibly carry where I am. You can only control what you can control. Most people will give up the attack and leave you alone when you pull a weapon, but not all will. Some people will run from the gun, but not necessarily the knife or club, others will stand and fight with either. Some will stop attacking with one shot from (pick your caliber), others you will need to shoot until they physically can't keep going.

So, I pick based on my practical choices. I'm not carrying around a 12ga shotgun or AR even when in a state where I can carry. At work (I'm a teacher), the best I can do is improvised weapons (I love a good solid metal pen). When off work, but home in MD, it means pepper spray and a pocket knife. When in VA, DE or WV shopping or camping, or many other states on vacation, I can carry a mid-sized or subcompact pistol or revolver on my UT non-resident carry permit (plus usually a knife and pepper spray to cover the gamut of possible self-defense scenarios). But, in each case, I bring the most potent option that I can practically carry with me. I can control how physiologically effective my self-defense weapon will be, I can't control my attacker's psychological reactions.
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Old June 2, 2019, 11:32 AM   #4
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Oh, what I said above only addresses what I choose and why I choose what I do. It is very true that in the vast majority of instances, if you draw a gun (any gun) that is likely to end any attack on you. A knife or some kind of club may be a little less likely to end it, but that too will probably end most attacks since most people are reasonable enough that they don't want to be stabbed or bludgeoned. Still, most here carry when/where we can on that 1% chance that we will need it in our lifetimes (made up number, but of course, the chances of actually needing it are quite low). I want to carry something as capable as I can for that minority of times when you need it that just pulling it out won't be enough.
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Old June 2, 2019, 11:56 AM   #5
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I read an article some years back about a police officer who was shot at but not hit. The incident was a face-to-face confrontation, so the officer had time to consider that he was about to be killed. The gun fired at him was a .22. When he heard the bang, his psychological state was such that he collapsed, thinking he was a goner, even though the shot missed him.

As for me, the psychological effect of a threat with any weapon, including clubs and knives, but especially guns, would be enough to make me stop what I was doing and go away. I think a huge majority of crooks would feel the same.

I read another article, that I also cannot cite,that said that citizens had prevented over 65,000 crimes in a year. It also said that about 250 would-be perpetrators were killed by citizens defending themselves against crimes. The article did not specify when guns were used and it did not state how many crooks were injured. But about 99% of crimes that year were stopped without killing the would-be perp. The article seems to say that the psychological effect of force is enough to deter a crook in many cases.

Hopefully someone with a better memory than mine can cite these articles or show us where I erred.
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Old June 2, 2019, 12:02 PM   #6
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Some folks suffer from what is called Blood Injury Phobia (we might have been talking about such). IIRC, maybe two percent of the population have an exaggerated stress response to a perceived injury and faint. Interestingly, it was studied most by dentists who saw it in many patients getting the needle. Might be a genetic predisposition to such, IIRC.
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Old June 2, 2019, 01:34 PM   #7
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Can I write a rebuttal to my own comment?

In the thread on this forum about the convenience store shootout, there was a guy who was not psychologically intimated by having two guns pointed at him, and didn't stop even after being shot. Someone pointed out that he was on meth and had mental issues, and we've seen many statements here and elsewhere to the effect that drugs and mental issues can make bad guys very difficult to stop.

So while I stand by my first comments about most bad guys being psychologically stopped by the sight of a gun, here's an example of that one per cent who would not be.

Please don't label me sexist for this next comment. I have a wife and daughter and many friends who are very capable women. And in the video, those two women WON THEIR FIGHT. But I know many men who would have the attitude of "I'm not gonna let a woman beat me" and I wonder if their attacker was thinking that. It would not have mattered what kind of guns they pointed at him, he wasn't going to let women intimidate him. If so, that was stupid on his part, but we're talking about psychology here, and you can't always apply logic to psychology.
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Old June 2, 2019, 02:58 PM   #8
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Many years ago, my city had just started vast enormous Halloween parties on the main campus street. A friend and I were watching the street, packed with revelers. Packed solid.

Suddenly, the sound of a chainsaw erupted.

In a densely packed crowd- suddenly a person dressed as Jason, holding a revving chainsaw, stood alone inside a 50 foot radius circle. The circle was expanding as fast as people could scramble.

To say we were alarmed is an understatement.

The kid realized he had mad a huge error in judgement and was shouting “Hey! Hey! It doesn’t have the chain on it!” However, constabulary took him in to custody fairly quickly.

There is my nomination- chainsaw and goalie mask. My nomination for most psychologically intimidating!
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Old June 2, 2019, 05:25 PM   #9
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People have a predetermined “script” when they have planning on their side. A weapon produced can throw that script far enough that an aggressor fails to act and flees. Think of the bank teller who tells a would be armed robber simply no and, at a loss on how to change to use, said robber walks out fleeing the scene
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Old June 2, 2019, 05:53 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Lohman446 View Post
People have a predetermined “script” when they have planning on their side. A weapon produced can throw that script far enough that an aggressor fails to act and flees. Think of the bank teller who tells a would be armed robber simply no and, at a loss on how to change to use, said robber walks out fleeing the scene
It can go the other way.

I've said it before, but I was in a day long force on force class based on active shooters. In one scenario I watched two different people produce a firearm to stop some violence. They expected compliance. When they didn't get compliance in one case one of the attackers and in the other case both of the attackers were killed. It was possible to go through the scenario without killing anyone. At the end of the day we watched everyone go through the scenario on video and did an after action report. The people that had killed were visibly shocked when they watched others go through the scenario without discharging their firearms.

Is that a class and not real life? To an extent, but there are plenty of reports of police officers not getting compliance, and these are people with significantly more authority than a private citizen. Many assume that a gun gives them some authority, but in the age of cell phones and just some humans in general there will be those that don't play by the rules. My point is just as it's possible to throw off an attacker by deviating from his script, you have to be able to adapt when your script doesn't go to plan and consider the consequences of that decision before you act.

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Old June 3, 2019, 06:26 AM   #11
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It can go the other way.
There is no doubt on this. I watched many self defense "lessons" where an attacker with a knife took long, lunging type stabs. Good for the student to be easily overcome. Bad for the student if someone actually simulated slashing and stabbing without blatantly telegraphed movement.

When students in a particular martial arts class would decide to show up to the advanced classes where contact went beyond point fighting to "medium" contact it was always a surprise how many people went from exceptional point fighters to not wanting to do that again. Apparently the concept that they might actually get hit did not play into the minds of many students.

There are a good number of reasons why psychological stops work. A non-compliant victim may simply throw the expectations of the attacker so far off that he or she has a hard time adjusting and retreats. The threat of a weapon does inspire fear of injury or death that may result in compliance of the attacker or retreat. Being hit may shatter the idea of invulnerability - after all few attackers intended to pick a victim that would fight back and create risk. Your hope, should an attack occur, is that your attacker stops due to psychological reasons.

Purely physiological stops, at least those that are quick and decisive, with a defensive handgun are pretty hard to come by and rely to some degree on luck. Even great shot placement is not enough to assure a quick physiologically induced inability to continue aggressive action. Yet some people train for them or have no back-up plan when they fail. How many times have you watched in an advance / retreat drill where a student fires two or three rounds and then lowers his or her gun to observe while the target still clearly races towards them? The attacker that continues, after being shot, is likely the most dangerous type of attacker in that he or she has demonstrated a level of commitment to the attack that goes well beyond what is "normal." Asking how prepared one is to deal with such an attacker is a valid question.
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Old June 3, 2019, 06:55 AM   #12
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In error, I think some of you guys may be using yourselves as a template in regards to how you think a violent predatory criminals mind works. Its not as easy as all that.

I can tell you that hard thugs are not so easily impacted by the display of a weapon. To back away or show fear or any sign that they are intimidated by you - would be very damaging to their status. People who deal in violence are no stranger to weapons, fighting with weapons, being shot at or having guns and knives drawn on them. I wouldn't count on pulling a gun or knife to be anything other than a likely escalation. Could it scare someone away or shake their nerve? sure, but you have to remember who you are dealing with. The people who would likely find a drawn weapon to be un-nerving would probably not be threatening you with significant violence to begin with.

Just food for thought.
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Old June 3, 2019, 08:20 PM   #13
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Fire Forged - good points. Very true that the "hardened criminal" doesn't think the way most of us do. Otherwise, we wouldn't see so many (usually) urban shootings as is the case in my area in the DC and Baltimore locations. However, the significance of your comment is that if one does identify a threat, and chooses to display a weapon, there must also be a strong commitment to actually using it, otherwise it increases rather than decreases the danger. I have worked in enough E.R.'s to know any weapon I choose to make obvious is one that I am very willing to employ without reservation.
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Old June 4, 2019, 02:06 AM   #14
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Quote:
In one scenario I watched two different people produce a firearm to stop some violence. They expected compliance. When they didn't get compliance in one case one of the attackers and in the other case both of the attackers were killed.
It's important to understand that every action both opens up new options and closes others off at the same time.
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Old June 4, 2019, 06:45 AM   #15
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Psychological deterrence only works on coherent rational people. It does not work on many violent offenders because they do not see things as we do, they do not consider the consequences beyond the moment. They have already sized you up before they decide to act. Sometimes the concealed pistol offers a tactical advantage when it is unexpectedly brought to the party.

Nothing cools off a party like a 12 gauge, but have also dealt with people that are not impressed. It is you for the most part that will be able to de-escalate a situation not the shock and awe of your favorite blaster.

The problem we face is that do not usually have the luxury of knowing who or what we are dealing with at the moment. Even when we do have fore knowledge sometimes external forces are at work and they change the attitude or sometimes even the personality of who you are dealing with.

I have been dealing with criminals for 40 years in September. Having crossed paths with everything from shoplifters to serial killers. For the last 7 years I have been working as a contractor for the USMS and primarily handling convicts. They have a totally different mindset.
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Old June 4, 2019, 06:50 AM   #16
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People have a predetermined “script” when they have planning on their side. A weapon produced can throw that script far enough that an aggressor fails to act and flees. Think of the bank teller who tells a would be armed robber simply no and, at a loss on how to change to use, said robber walks out fleeing the scene
You are almost as likely to get shot in the face for refusing. My guess in your scenario though the teller saw a weakness to exploit.
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Old June 4, 2019, 07:26 AM   #17
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We are all different so any answer is likely wrong, but for me, seeing someone with a revolver says "It's very likely that person would hit at POA."
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Old June 4, 2019, 08:33 AM   #18
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For all the talk about criminals that do not care about being endangered we seem to be ignoring something that used to be true: most encounters where a would be victim draws a firearm end without injury to the victim and without a shot being fired.

Is this no longer true?
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Old June 4, 2019, 09:16 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Lohman446 View Post
For all the talk about criminals that do not care about being endangered we seem to be ignoring something that used to be true: most encounters where a would be victim draws a firearm end without injury to the victim and without a shot being fired.



Is this no longer true?
I think there's a possible caveat with that. I don't imagine someone already beating you senseless will immediately stop just because you produced a firearm. If the act of drawing a firearm is going to stop a person you likely need to do it before the other person physically assaults you. So then there's a question of when you drew that firearm was your life really in danger? Was the person squaring off with you about to physically hurt you, or just posturing? How many "fight" videos are out there where it's really a half effort based on ego? In that case drawing a firearm would appear to stop that person because you're showing a willingness to take the fight further than that person was planning to go in the first place.

My point would be I could imagine preemptively drawing a firearm creating a number of false positives where people produce a firearm because they think their lives are threatened and the threat stops, but in reality the other person wasn't going to get to that point in the first place. We've had threads in this forum where people have mentioned being close to drawing on people they had evaluated to be a threat despite no physical contact. I imagine guns do get drawn to defuse fights that might have petered out otherwise.

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Old June 4, 2019, 10:33 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Lohman446
or all the talk about criminals that do not care about being endangered we seem to be ignoring something that used to be true: most encounters where a would be victim draws a firearm end without injury to the victim and without a shot being fired.

Is this no longer true?
Certainly not universally true. Have you been following the convenience store robbery thread?

https://thefiringline.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=602319

Here the bad guy not only had TWO guns drawn on him, he was shot (or at least shot at) multiple times, yet he still came back for more. Ultimately, he was shot five times before he gave it up as a bad job.

The first rule of a gun fight is "Bring a gun," but a gun is not a magic talisman.
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Old June 4, 2019, 10:41 AM   #21
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I'm not arguing that it is universally true and in fairness to my statement I don't think I made that argument.
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Old June 4, 2019, 11:17 AM   #22
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I'm not arguing that it is universally true and in fairness to my statement I don't think I made that argument.
That's fair. The question becomes how do you quantify how often it does work, and that when it did work it was the only option that would have worked? The problem I see why psychological stops is that they are, from what I've seen, significantly less reliable than physiological stops. I'd obviously prefer to end a situation without causing someone harm, which is where I think avoidance and deescalation come into play. When you display a firearm if you don't get compliance you have escalated the situation. Then what?

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Old June 4, 2019, 11:38 AM   #23
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I think that you have to have the willingness, ability, and preferably equipment to render significant physiological harm to an attacker to be prepared to defend yourself. Willingness, ability, equipment - in that order. Carrying a gun because it is certain to stop an attacker is not a good plan in my opinion but the argument that it will require physical force is also inaccurate.

But we all limit ourselves to some degree or for some reason. We are not, I hope the majority of us, wandering around in tactical body armor with high capacity carbine over our shoulder prepared to attempt to fend off a group of highly competent and determined individuals. We might try and as I have noted before if it comes down to it I'm going to be standing there with a likely empty revolver and a surprised expression looking at the Valkyries and wondering how I managed to die in combat given the relatively peaceful state of the world around me.

In the case of the convenience store robbery we can discuss what was done right and what was done wrong. In the end the concessions made by the women defending themselves were not so great as they could not overcome their attacker.

Should we be prepared to render physiological damage should it come to that? Yes we should. But we should also understand defensive handguns are actually pretty poor at rendering QUICK physiological stops. We need to have, to the best of our abilities and the concessions we make, some plan beyond the use of a handgun the same as we must have some plan in case we fail to produce a psychological stop by display of a weapon.
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Old June 4, 2019, 12:53 PM   #24
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The Gurkha Rifles in W.W. II had a philosophy about the use of their blades to remove sentrys with them making any noise. The Kukri is applied either vertically or horizontally to the sentry's head or neck respectively. Thus removing or bisecting the head entirely. Theory being that a sentry cannot cry out without his head.
It has both a psychological and physiological affect. The physiological affect is obvious. The psychological affect is primarily upon the guy who finds the missing sentry.
A blackjack or sap may have no affect of any kind. Even if you whack a BG up the side of his head, it may not affect him at all. And you need to get up close and in range of the BG grabbing you or otherwise causing you damage.
In any case, people tend to be frightened by blades more than blunt instruments because they're more familiar with what they can do.
"...criminals that do not care..." Mostly about whether or not said criminal is on drugs or not. Affects one's judgement.
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Old June 4, 2019, 12:58 PM   #25
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Some folks suffer from what is called Blood Injury Phobia (we might have been talking about such). IIRC, maybe two percent of the population have an exaggerated stress response to a perceived injury and faint. Interestingly, it was studied most by dentists who saw it in many patients getting the needle. Might be a genetic predisposition to such, IIRC.
I very much dislike seeing a needle in my arm, especially if it is removing blood, I don't watch, potential to make me weak.

In contrast, I've had cuts that required stitches (up to 50) and that view of my blood didn't bother me other than desire to make it quit bleeding.

Needle in arm may make me lightheaded, cuts, injury, are not the same. Probably just me being weird.
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