Beyond the Gun: Overview Of A Street Encounters Class

When you think concealed carry and self-defense, what do you have in mind?

For most people, it’s about the gun. What gun to carry? How to carry it? How to get it out when needed? How to shoot it?

Those are important questions, but they’re only a tiny part of the puzzle for the responsible armed defender. After all, wouldn’t it be great if we never had to go to guns in the first place?

I thought so, and to learn more about the non-gun part of self-defense, I took a trip down to FPF Training a few weeks ago. John Murphy, Lead Instructor, had invited me to sit in on his Street Encounter Skills class so that I could review and learn more about the wider world of self-defense, and how to integrate it into my shooting skills.

Looking for Trouble

It’s impossible to understand the problem of self-defense without understanding what we are defending against. While many classes do an excellent job with talking about the legal elements of what makes defensive action justifiable, they don’t necessarily talk about the human elements – the hallmarks of violence and how to avoid it in the first place.

Murphy addresses this by spending a significant amount of his lecture time in describing different types of social encounters that we participate in, with video examples to help illustrate. While most people have a pretty good sense of common, everyday interactions, it can be educational – even shocking – to see what true violence looks like.

Overwhelming violence can happen quickly and without much warning.

We also discussed how pre-attack indicators can be identified, and general tactics for addressing different types of encounters as they progress from harmless, if uncomfortable, conversations through and past violent attacks.

That range of encounters was then matched up against specific appropriate responses. Legal justification for different levels of force is only one piece that should be considered. It’s also important to know the soft and hard skills that you need to know in different kinds of situations, and how they can be applied to respond to or de-escalate a potential threat.

Murphy’s Incident Funnel, summarized. Want to understand what it all means? Take the class!

Knowing all of the different ways you can respond is only one step. You need to be able to assess your ability to identify when those skills are needed, and whether you are able to successfully use them.

That means you need to take a realistic look at how prepared you are today: how aware you are of the world around you? How do you respond to threatening situations? What skills and tools do you have?

The Fight

The best place to be in a fight is anywhere else. Murphy offered a number of strategies, starting with the commandments of concealed carry:

He then continued with a brief overview of Craig Douglas’s materials on Managing Unknown Contacts. It was just enough to cover a few basic strategies, but also make it clear that further training is necessary.

Craig Douglas explains the basics of managing interactions with strangers.

A few exercises to practice those physical and verbal de-escalation skills were followed by instruction in how to use one of the most common less-lethal tools available: pepper spray. We didn’t just learn how to carry, access, and use pepper spray, though. We also integrated it with previous content through scenarios that required us to use a variety of skills to address a confrontation.

Here, Murphy played the bad guy while a student practices de-escalation and less-lethal skills using inert pepper spray.

Only after we covered these skills did we move into what should always be the last resort: the use of firearms in self-defense.

What’s Next?

Street Encounter Skills was an excellent overview of many topics, but being a one-day class limited the depth of what could be covered. Instead, it provided an introduction to the knowledge and skills that every concealed carry – and anyone else interested in self-defense – needs, and gave some helpful guidance on self-assessment and how and where to strengthen the skills that can help you avoid ever needing to go to guns.

Have you ever been in a situation where self-defense was needed, but didn't use a gun? Do you have anything to add? Please do so in the comments below. Finally, did you know you could get your out of state Virginia permit online and carry a concealed gun in 29 states? It's cheap and easy to do, and highly recommended so you can defend yourself in more states. Of course, nothing takes the place of a qualified instructor.

About Annette Evans

I spend my weekends making things go boom. Pistols are my first love, but I spend plenty of time with rifles and I've made friends with my shotgun. I compete in USPSA, 3-Gun, and IDPA and have trained in both defensive/tactical disciplines and competitive shooting. I'm a former USPSA match director, and have been found on the teaching range with a special focus on women's shooting and defensive needs. Look for the purple-and-gray gear to find me on the range!


  1. charles on July 26, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    the very best fight is the one that didn’t happen. (failing that, always advance. keep changing the tempo. having and using a gun is tool and technique, not guaranteed victory.)

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