Book Review: DEFEND YOURSELF by Rob Pincus

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Home defense is a huge subject, but a recent book by Rob Pincus aims to make the topic more approachable. How well does it meet that goal?

Disclaimer: I contributed part of a chapter in this book; however, I received no compensation for that material other than a complimentary copy of the book.

Defend Yourself is Pincus’ first book that is not specifically about shooting. Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly talk about firearms and their place in home defense, but this book is more comprehensive than typical “defensive shooting in the home” books; it also talks about all of the other things you might need to consider when planning to protect yourself and your loved ones inside of your home!

Pincus is well known for his analytical approach to self defense problems, and this book shows his ability to look at a specific situation and quickly cut through to the best methods and tools to deal with it. This isn’t a simple or simplistic book; while he doesn’t go into extreme detail in every facet (the book would be four times as large if he did), it’s still “information-dense”; there’s a lot to digest between the front and back covers!

The first (and largest) section of the book deals with concepts and practices; the second talks about hardware and how to use it; and the final section talks about practice and realistic training.

Rob starts off the first section by telling the reader that home defense is a large and complex subject, well beyond the “buy a shotgun and keep a cell phone by the bed” shibboleths that so many other works espouse. He explains that his approach is to look first at the specific problems someone may face (what kinds of attacks might happen), and then consider the decisions that must be made to deal with those problems — both before (prevention) and during (response).

Keep in mind he’s talking about a home invasion here; whether one or many, someone has invaded and the people in the home must do something to protect those who live there. Pincus doesn’t mince words: the response may involve shooting that invader, but it may also involve simply running out the back door. This is the basis of his “five survival fundamentals” approach: evade, barricade, arm, communicate, and respond.

Each of those five fundamentals has a detailed explanation, and — as I alluded to earlier — the gun is not always the prime focus. For instance, Pincus talks about improvised or found weapons and their utility to the home defender. “Arm” doesn’t necessarily mean “firearm”!

Still, we all must acknowledge that the firearm is an important part of a total home invasion response. One of the better chapters deals with staging — or pre-locating — defensive firearms. Where to store them, how to store them, and especially how to access them quickly when needed are all part of the staging discussion, and he covers the idea thoroughly.

One of the topics that he mentions frequently is the need to practice pre-planned responses, and that idea gets its own chapter. How does one set up a drill? How to practice the individual components? What needs to be practices? What about the other members of the household? All of that and more is covered in the chapter appropriately titled “Dress Rehearsal”. For most people, this may be the most important chapter of the book; too often people seek a hardware solution to a problem without really considering how that hardware is going to be used. Yes, it’s important to practice shooting, but it’s just as important to practice what’s going to happen before and after the shooting takes place!

It’s impossible, I think, to write a book about home defense without at least broaching the subject of “clearing” a house. It’s a staple of both books and shooting classes, and Pincus takes a very different view of the topic: clearing a house with a trained team is a dangerous activity, therefore trying to do it solo is absolutely a bad idea. As he explains, the first rule of self defense is to avoid confrontation, and moving around a house with a firearm in hand is certainly contrary to that rule! Still, he admits that there are specific circumstances where one might be forced to do so; retrieving young family members and bringing them to the safe area, for instance.

Instead of instructions on “clearing” the structure, he instead focuses on moving through a house with a purpose, an end goal in mind. (Just as I contributed some material, the great Craig Douglas of Shivworks contributed his “10 Tips for Armed Movement in Structures” which backs up the concepts that Pincus has laid out.)

The rest of the first section deals with things like close-quarters shooting, dealing with the aftermath of a shooting (both in terms of interaction with law enforcement and with treating traumatic injuries), how to make the decision to shoot, and more. One of the more interesting chapters was a short one on how home defense plans change in a single-room dwelling, like a studio apartment or a hotel room.

As I said, the second section deals with hardware: how to choose it and use it. The first several chapters of this section talk about handguns, with discussions about size, caliber, and actions. (Yours truly contributed a piece on the revolver as a home defense tool, and it might surprise you to find that I wasn’t necessarily an advocate! There are pros and cons to the use of the revolver in home defense, and I was careful to point both out to the reader.)

He talks about sights and sighting, grasp, trigger control, stance, and all of the other things that go into shooting. One of the longer chapters deals with the use of rifles and shotguns in home defense. He makes some surprising recommendations, or at least doesn’t condemn, such unorthodox weapons such as the .22 Magnum auto-loading carbine and the lever-action rifle. He also goes into a good discussion about the various kinds of shotshells one might pick, along with some analysis of their strengths and limitations.

The section ends with some of my favorite chapters in the book. Pincus goes into detail about how to harden a home against attack, then delves into surveillance and security systems. There’s good coverage about the utility of a bright, handheld flashlight — information that is very useful and often overlooked. Finally he talks about improvised weapons, things that one might have around the house that can be used to deflect or repel an attack. While they might be sub-optimal, he’s quick to point out that a counter-attack is still better than cowering in a corner and waiting for the end!

The last section deals with the area where Pincus is perhaps best known: how to train realistically. He talks about how the mind makes decisions and how to craft a training and practice plan that takes into account how you’re likely to react. Included are some basic drills applicable to home defense that also teach good gun handling skills, as well as an overview of his Combat Focus Shooting program. Another contributor, Ken Murray, has a good essay on the value of imagination and visualization to realistic practice.

Whenever I read a book I ask myself what audience it was written for. Home defense is, as Pincus stated in the beginning, a huge subject with lots of pieces and considerations. A 250-page book like this can only hope to scratch the surface of such a complex topic. I think he’s done a pretty good job — but for whom?

I’d say this book is ideal for the person who has a gun for home defense but has stopped there. With all of the information on things other than the gun, it serves to help the gun-centric person to get a feel for the things that he or she needs to do in addition to just having the gun. It’s also great for the person who is considering buying a home defense firearm, but isn’t sure what to buy or how that gun might fit into a total home defense plan.

I think the book’s subtitle, “a comprehensive security plan for the armed homeowner”, accurately sums up this book. While there is certainly a lot of detail, it doesn’t get bogged down in minutiae; it gives a good “birds-eye” view of personal defense in the home and reinforces the fact that home security is more than just shooting well. It provides the reader with a solid and comprehensible framework upon which he/she can build a complete response plan.

Defend Yourself is available from Amazon.

-=[ Grant Cunningham ]=-

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About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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