People among the gun community, law enforcement, military, and gun production companies tend to speak rather frequently of stopping power. It is almost the buzzword of modern self defense. They design or seek cartridges that will be most able to transfer a lot of energy to the target in a very short time. The two schools tend to be light and fast, and slow and heavy. While fast and heavy certainly exists, very few people are capable of using .50 BMGs effectively.
When I view stopping power, I don't focus on the cartridge. While a .45 will certainly be more likely to put a criminal out of commission than a .22lr, it will make no difference if you either have no gun to hand, or have not the willingness to use it. If I ever find myself in a position where I must defend my own life, I will pay attention to the stopping power of the particular gun I am using. It would be foolish to not be aware of the potential and usage of the piece in your hand. However, the stopping power of your prized .40 S&W or .357 is irrelevant in a situation of need if it's sitting safely in the safe at home. Additionally, even if you are carrying at the time, if you cannot make yourself use the piece at hand to save yourself, then you will die.
I prefaced this post several months ago, when Kaleb Eulls saved a busload of schoolchildren from an armed assailant. He did it empty-handed, without any loss of life. For the full story, head here: http://mississippistate.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=983337 What Kaleb's story portrayed for me was one of a man who was willing to do the right thing at any cost. He could have sat back in his seat, said a prayer, and hoped that he survived the encounter. Instead, he deliberately put himself in the line of fire in an attempt to save everyone else. He was quoted as saying "She was pointing it back and forth at other people and the little kids that were sitting at the back. I just thought real quick and tried to grab her attention before she pointed the gun at anybody else. I wanted her to point it at me so she wouldn't point it at anybody else." People speak most often of 'self defense'. What Eulls did was not self defense. It was defense of everyone around him.
Kaleb had the mental fortitude and courage to put his own life on the line to save those around him. If he had not acted, odds are good that he would have survived the encounter. Others may not have. That kind of risk is too much to ask of most people. They would not be able to effect the necessary results, or couldn't move under the fear. Yet, without action, death or serious injury is a very likely outcome. In a defensive situation, you have to be willing to take the risks associated with intervention. These risks are extreme. If you fail, not only are you likely to die, but everyone else around is likely to follow. Therefore, the first priority in any defensive situation is conflict avoidance. There will be times when this is impossible, but when possible, avoid injury. This may happen one of several ways.
The first is to simply give the attacker what they want. People often forget this as an option in the heat of the moment, but a wallet is not worth a life, either yours or your attackers. Most muggers will also realize this, as armed robbery is a significantly lower offense than homicide. A method for this I have been told about suggests taking out your wallet (perhaps if you live in a particularly risky area, you should carry a spare 'fake' wallet for this purpose) and throwing it behind the assailant, then running like hell. Hopefully, they won't be interested in you once they've achieved their goal.
Failing avoidance, then intimidation can get you through. In most crimes halted by guns, not a single shot is fired. The presence of the ability to end a life is more than enough to carry the day most of the time. Draw the weapon, and let the assailant know full well that you will kill them if they try and hurt you or anyone. Let them run. After both these eventualities, it is important that the police be informed, on the chance that they may be able to help the matter, and apprehend the criminal. Apprehension should not be your priority however. Leave that to the police.
A third brief thing to consider is to make yourself appear to not be a worthwhile target. Being with other people, being confident, and avoiding traveling at night are all easy things to do for that.
There will regrettably be times when conflict avoidance is impossible. In cases of mentally unstable people who's goal is violence, or rape, there is no way to give them what they want without compromising yourself. In this case, the only option is to remove the threat. This has to be a last resort. Kaleb removed the threat with as little damage to all involved as possible. That becomes the new priority after all other options have been explored. Occasionally, it will be necessary to kill or be killed. In that situation, you must be the one left standing. Hope you never find yourself in that position.
It is not enough to just know what to do. There are people who train very hard on the practice of defensive firearms usage, but when the time comes to use that training, they cannot. They have not the willpower to make themselves take the necessary actions. There is the thing people should pay the most attention to. All preparations and contingencies are dependent on having the will to use them. It does no good to carry a handgun if you don't use it when you need it most. Have the will to use it. That will serve you more than any amount of training. Couple will with training, and you can make your life a much safer place.
P.S. Apologies for the long absence. The presence of 'School' kinda caught up with me. And just a note, this blog will probably not remain serious all the time. I will be posting random bits of life now, in theory. Or I might just forget. In which case, see you in 3 months.