Developing and Understanding A Strong Defensive Mindset

Concealed Carry Mindset

There is little doubt in the professional firearm or self-defense community that mindset is the most important aspect of preparing for and surviving a defensive encounter.

Over gear, tactics, or skills, one's mindset has the greatest bearing on a positive outcome.

The Big Challenge? A defensive mindset or concealed carry mindset can't be purchased. And it is hard to practice, and or measure.

In thinking about my own level of preparedness as an armed citizen I began to ask myself what makes up a good mindset and how do I develop one?

The Importance of a Proper Mindset

In trying to answer that question I embarked on some research. I searched through a few websites and blogs written by professionals who I respect.

I went back to some YouTube videos from some of the best trainers in the business. I watched past interviews I have conducted in our Guardian Live series and on the Concealed Carry Podcast.

I found that the most valuable thing I did to better understand mindset was to go back and review our collection of Defensive Gun Use (DGU) stories. Documented incidents where the gun owner failed either the physical or legal fight.

Identifying where a fellow gun owner may have failed due to a less than adequate mindset led me to better understand what makes up a good mindset.

Through this research and with the help of some experts in the field I've identified the following 6 components of a strong mindset:

self-defense concealed carry mindset

The Six Components of A Concealed Carry Mindset:

An Armed Citizen is Defensive Only

A defensive mindset means being focused on the survival, victory, and ultimate outcome of yourself or the innocent people you are defending.

When we focus on our own outcome we act in ways that meet our objective of survival, rather than bringing someone to justice.

Behaviors of a Defensive Mindset

  • Letting a threat escape when they are clearly no longer an imminent threat to yourself or others
  • Not shooting warning shots
  • not aiming to injure a threat but instead acting in a way most congruent with stopping the threat, thus maximizing the odds of your own survival or the survival of a loved one

A defensive-minded person prioritizes their actions to put the positive outcome of the innocent party first above all else.

An Armed Citizen Avoids Potential Conflict

A mindset of avoidance means one lives their life consistent with minimizing the odds of a life-threatening encounter.

Behaviors of a Mindset of Avoidance

  • Apologizing when a stranger thinks you have said or done something offensive
  • Not picking fights and being in control of your emotions
  • Avoiding high crime areas, darkness, and isolation
  • Proactively following best practices of physical security and generally not appearing as an easy victim

An avoidance mindset is about making proactive decisions that minimize risk.

Defensive Handgun Training

Handgun training is only one aspect of the proper self-defense mindset.

An Armed Citizen Is Aware Of Their Surroundings

A mindset of awareness means one is paying attention and isn't distracted. They are also always aware of simple things that help them better respond to emergencies.

Behaviors of a Mindset of Awareness

  • Not engrossed in one's phone when in public
  • Positions oneself so as to maintain visibility on points of vulnerability
  • Moves through transitionary spaces quickly and with increased vigilance
  • Works to be familiar with entry and exit points, streets and neighborhoods, and emergency procedures and systems wherever one goes

An aware armed citizen knows where the fire extinguishers are at their office building, where the first aid kit is at their church, and where all the exits are at the grocery store.

An Armed Citizen Is Determined To Win

A determined mindset means one is committed to doing whatever is necessary to guarantee the desired outcome.

This means there is no hesitation the moment it becomes clear that action needs to be taken.

Behaviors of a Determined Mindset

  • Takes place in force-on-force training to study how defensive skills are applied in a self-defense context
  • Participates in competitive endeavors including competitive shooting which helps to inoculate against stress and tests your performance automaticity levels
  • Studies and reviews real-life news stories and videos to better understand the criminal mindset along with the nature and violence of a real-life attack
  • Cultivates an attitude in other areas of one's life consistent with not giving up, always pressing forward, unwavering in your dedication to your craft

A determined gun owner has a deeply held willingness to do whatever is necessary to prevail. They seek to better understand what might be required to survive a life-threatening encounter.

An Armed Citizen is Disciplined In Their Approach to Improvement

A disciplined mindset means one is committed to continuing forward in their journey of gaining better knowledge, skills, and tactics.

Behaviors of a Disciplined Mindset

  • Subscribes to quality podcasts, YouTube channels, magazines, or whatever one prefers
  • Engages in both training and practice as often as possible
  • Measures one's skills against recognized performance standards
  • Is well-rounded in not only studying shooting and firearms but also other skill areas such as strength conditioning and health, martial arts, hand-to-hand combatives, medical and trauma care, survival, and emergency preparedness
  • Makes a serious study of self-defense law

A disciplined gun owner can tell you about 3-5 courses they want to take or trainers they want to train with and why. A disciplined gun owner has a list of books they want to read and can tell you what defensive skills they need to work on the most.



Most importantly a disciplined gun owner is not just aware but is also proactive in their development. They are enrolled in a future class, they are in the middle of a book, and they are conducting practice to address their weakest skills.

An Armed Citizen is Diligent In Daily Preparedness

A diligent mindset means one never relaxes or chooses to not engage in a prepared defense.

Behaviors of a Diligent Mindset

  • Carries defensive tools including one's firearm as often as possible–even daily–and wherever legally able
  • Doesn't take a day off from learning and practicing

A diligent gun owner doesn't wear clothing or participate in activities that exclude the gun or whatever defensive EDC tools and actions they feel are important. A diligent gun owner doesn't fall out of the habit of learning, practicing, or training.

How to Strengthen Our Mindset

Like shooting skills or any skill or attribute it is often helpful to identify just one area of focus to work on in your journey to improve.

From the 6 mindset attributes above, identify the one in which you feel you are the weakest. Then set simple goals to work toward in improving that aspect of your mindset.

For example, of the 6 attributes, my weakest is Diligence. I often become complacent in my learning and my general preparedness. I have set goals to work on specific routines and habits so I can be more consistently diligent.

What will you work on next?

Ever wonder what the common errors concealed carriers make?

Or what about the challenges facing anyone who responds to a mass shooter threat? Consider these 5 points.

If you are interested in working on your shooting skills, check out this new course called Shooting Fundamentals. It is a fantastic resource that challenges what you may have learned in other handgun training classes.

shooting fundamentals

About Jacob Paulsen

Jacob S. Paulsen is the President of provides in-person and online firearm training for American gun owners. The Company is currently teaching in-person classes in 25+ states with a team of more than 55 instructors. Jacob is a NRA certified instructor & Range Safety Officer, USCCA certified instructor and training counselor, Utah BCI instructor, Affiliate instructor for Next Level Training, Graduate and certified instructor for The Law of Self Defense, and a Glock and Sig Sauer Certified Armorer. He resides in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado with his wife and children.


  1. Michael on March 19, 2021 at 4:54 pm


    How can I get a hard copy of this artical?

    • Jacob Paulsen on March 19, 2021 at 5:10 pm

      I think your best bet would be to copy/paste the text into a document on your computer and print it.

      • Cary Kozberg on March 21, 2021 at 8:17 pm


  2. James E Puckett on March 21, 2021 at 6:54 am

    Can I use this information as part of my concealed carry defensive training?

    • Jacob Paulsen on March 21, 2021 at 8:25 am

      No problem James. Just provide a reference/link back to our site. The site is already referenced in the graphic if you just want to use that.

  3. Anthony Palacios on March 21, 2021 at 8:09 pm

    This is a great source to reference for my personal life and defensive training 👌

  4. DEFENDER on March 22, 2021 at 3:08 am

    I agree with All your points above and as an Instructor and weekly Competition Shooter practice them – a lot.

    Here is an example of one issue:
    Apologies are cheap and cost you Nothing.

    Control YOUR Emotions

    Don’t turn-over control of “Your Emotions” to other people.

    Most of you are smarter than this but:
    I have a friend, an actual Real – Bad Ass.
    He (for example) would stop in traffic, get out of his car, go up to someone who “cut him off” and cuss him out – ie “Straighten him out”. Finger Pointing, etc.

    I told him – you are a smart guy and an actual Bad Ass – but you are going to get shot.
    So – why in hell do you turn-over control of “Your” emotions to others on the street ?

    Showing you cannot control “Your” Emotions is the sign of a Weak Mind.
    And just might get “You” – Shot.

    Being an otherwise smart guy he said Hmmmm(“Light Bulb Moment”) – you are right.
    He stopped that behavior. ie “Just let it go”.

    Another Conflict Avoidance/De-escalation technique:
    Someone gets out of his car and approaches “You” yelling about your driving etc –

    “Your reaction” – 1st – Just leave if you can. ie Avoidance
    If you cannot leave – Apologize(ie De-escalate) – even if it is his fault.
    I will apologize and try to de-escalate – Even if it was His Fault – although I might have my right hand “on” my gun – just in case.

    Apologies are cheap and cost you Nothing.

  5. Brian Guerrette on March 23, 2021 at 8:44 pm

    Thank you for all the invaluable information. It’s just a reminder to be calm cool and collected in all situations, mental training as well as phy
    sical training. Thank you again Brian G

  6. Mark on March 24, 2021 at 8:41 am

    Solid article, Jacob!!! Something there for all of us!!
    Great job!!!
    Carrying concealed for 20 years

  7. Danno on March 24, 2021 at 1:30 pm

    All very good. But please remember one thing.
    If you ever need to use your gun to defend yourself.
    NEVER, NEVER talk to the police when they come.
    Just give your name. And say. I was in fear for my life.
    I want a lawyer. Then shut up. Don’t talk yourself into jail.
    It’s very simple to do.
    And make them give you the right kind of lawyer.
    Are have one yourself. The law is NOT on your side.
    Just facts.

    • rocky-0305 on March 28, 2021 at 12:41 pm

      I have to disagree with you on the NEVER talk to the police. Beyond your basic info and being attacked, give a description of the attacker (and vehicle if involved), the direction of flight if they are not on the scene, point out any evidence (shell casings, tossed weapons, etc.) and witnesses.

      Don’t go into detail of what you did (that is for after you speak with an attorney).Though it is certainly your right to refuse to speak, you may be making it harder to defend yourself.

      Finally, remember, once you invoke your right to remain silent, stay silent.

  8. Average American on March 28, 2021 at 1:32 pm

    Great points and advice but….
    Unfortunately in today’s America the scarcity and cost of ammo is prohibitive to getting the practice that only a few years ago was easy and cheap. I kick myself for not taking a defensive class in my area several years ago because I didn’t want to expend 1000 rounds of ammo. That ammo at less than $200 then, would cost over $10000 today. And the end isn’t in sight folks. I’m saving my practice ammo for a very real possibility that things may go from sideways to upside down here in the future. If it ever gets back to normal I will be the first on the range to brush up on technique.

  9. Average American on March 28, 2021 at 1:33 pm

    I meant to say $1000 not $10K.

  10. Wally Bishop on May 2, 2021 at 2:07 pm

    Very well done – You put a lot of time into this, Thank you!

  11. Matt Mitchell on May 6, 2021 at 11:51 am

    Very succinct and to the point. You can bet I will be studying this set of instructions. Thank you for this.

  12. Floyd Boyer on July 6, 2021 at 11:05 am

    Be aware, apologize, Be prepared for the unexpected, apologize, Be alert, apologize. Do whatever it takes to defuse the situation, apologize, Be ready for the worst, apologize. Apologize especially if you know you are in the right.

  13. Jim C on July 11, 2022 at 10:34 am

    I was looking for an article like this to have someone look over as they were contemplating getting a gun for self-defense. I wanted to explain the fallacy of getting a gun, shooting 100 rounds, putting it in a safe and never taking it out, vs the CCW/EDC mindset and lifestyle. This is so on point. Jacob and Riley always putting out good stuff.

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