Let your attacker worry about his life

Monday, June 10th, 2019

The sixth of Jeff Cooper’s Principles Of Personal Defense is ruthlessness:

Anyone who willfully and maliciously attacks another without sufficient cause deserves no consideration. While both moral and legal precepts enjoin us against so-called “overreaction,” we are fully justified in valuing the life and person of an intended victim more highly than the life of a pernicious assailant The attacker must be stopped. At once and completely. Just who he is, why he has chosen to be a criminal, his social background, his ideological or psychological motivation, and the extent of injury he incurs as a result of his acts — these may all be considered at some future date. Now, your first concern is to stay alive. Let your attacker worry about his life. Don’t hold back. Strike no more after he is incapable of further action, but see that he is stopped. The law forbids you to take revenge, but it permits you to prevent. What you do to prevent further felonious assault, as long as the felon is still capable of action, is justified. So make sure, and do not be restrained by considerations of forbearance. They can get you killed. An armed man, especially if he is armed with a firearm, is dangerous as long as he is conscious. Take no chances. Put him out.

If you must use your hands, use them with all the strength you possess. Tapping your assailant half-heartedly, for fear of hurting him, will indeed make him mad, and since he has already shown that he is willing to kill you, he may try even harder now that you have struck him a painful though indecisive blow. If you choose to strike, by all means strike hard.

This also applies to shooting. If you are justified in shooting you are justified in killing, in all but a few quite obvious circumstances. Don’t try to be fancy. Shoot for the center of mass. The world is full of decent people. Criminals we can do without.

We often hear it said — especially by certain police spokesmen who, it seems to me, should know better — that in the event of victimization the victim should offer no resistance, for fear of arousing his assailant. Perhaps we should ignore the craven exhortation to cowardice made here. “Honor” may in truth be an obsolete word. So let us consider only results. The Sharon Tate party did not resist. The Starkweather victims did not resist. The La Biancas did not resist. Mitrione did not resist. The next time some “expert” tells me not to resist I may become abusive.

Apart from the odds that you will be killed anyway if you submit to threats of violence, it would seem — especially in today’s world of permissive atrocity — that it may be your social duty to resist. The law seems completely disinclined to discourage violent crime. The sociopath who attacks you has little to fear, at this writing, from either the police or the courts. The chief of police of our capital city has stated in print that, “The greatest real and immediate hazard that the hold-up man faces is the possibility that his victim may be armed and might shoot the criminal.” (US. News and World Report, 8 December 1969, page 35.) The syntax may be a bit garbled, but the meaning is clear. If violent crime is to be curbed, it is only the intended victim who can do it. The felon does not fear the police, and he fears neither judge nor jury. Therefore what he must be taught to fear is his victim. If a felon attacks you and lives, he will reasonably conclude that he can do it again. By submitting to him, you not only imperil your own life, but you jeopardize the lives of others. The first man who resisted Starkweather, after eleven murders, overcame him easily and without injury. If that man had been the first to be accosted, eleven innocent people would have been spared.

The coddling of murderers has brought us to an evil pass. If it is truly a wise and just policy (which we may have serious reason to doubt), leave it to the courts. When your life is in danger, forget it. If you find yourself under lethal attack don’t be kind. Be harsh. Be tough. Be ruthless.


  1. Dave says:

    Truer words were never spoken. This man was writing when the explosion in criminality and violence that was to engulf major cities in the 70′s and 80′s was just sparking off.
    More people should have listened to him.

  2. Adar says:

    1. That paradigm of not resisting the armed robber and “just do as he says’, etc. was probably a rational and sound idea at one time but has not been so for at least a fifty year period if not before that.

    2. Criminals are by nature latent cowards. They choose perhaps without even knowing so the prey that is the weakest and least capable of offering resistance. Animals in the wild do so also.

  3. Kirk says:

    A hugely important part of the “issue” begins with the victim selection process on the part of the criminal: If you look like a good victim, you’ll be one. Look like someone who’d put up a fight, or who is actually threatening? You get passed over, and they go to someone else that’s easier prey.

    The crooks of the world are looking for easy meat, not to get themselves hurt.

    There’s also the factor that when they’re looking to do their little “tough guy” routines, they’re usually not thinking past their threat display, and when lethal force is deployed against them instead, then the ground shifts beneath their feet, and they’re put off balance past the point where they can cope.

    I can’t remember where the hell I watched it, but there was a CCTV camera that caught a guy who was trying to assault/rape a woman, and she pulled out this gawdawful big knife from her purse, and proceeded to slash the hell out of him and stick it in him about a half-dozen times. The bastard was in such a state of shock that he just stood there and let her, with a look on his face that clearly expressed his bewilderment at the way things were not following his script. End of it all, he’s on his knees, bleeding out, and she’s calmly wiping the knife off on his shirt, sheathing it, and walking off.

    Cops found the body there awhile later, after the corpse was thoroughly looted, and spent some time trying to figure out what the hell had happened to this guy. CCTV showed it from start to finish, and it wasn’t any more than about sixty seconds–The knife chick looked like she knew what she was about, and the knife she used on him was definitely some kind of purpose-made fighting knife. From what I could see, it looked about like a Randall # 1, or one of those copies they used to sell. Far as I know, they never identified the woman.

    If you’re looking to kill someone who attacks you with the intent of “just” beating you up or hurting you, the difference in mindset is going to throw them waaaaaaaay off their game, once they realize what’s happening–Although, ideally, they should not figure that out until it’s too damn late.

  4. Kirk, I suppose you do not subscribe to the Gray Man idea wherein you act like nobody but stay prepared and armed?

  5. Kirk says:

    There’s Gray Man, and then there is Gray man… You look like a harmless nebbish, you’re actually going to draw more of the wrong attention, and you’re not really being “Gray”. What you want is a balance, one where the criminally inclined choose to look elsewhere, and you still remain an overall enigma to everyone else.

    This means you eschew the “Shoot Me First” styles, but ensure your body language says “Don’t F**k With Me”. The average non-criminal eye should slide right over you, and the average criminal eye should say to its owners that no, we really don’t want to follow that guy down yon darkened alley…

    It is, I grant, a subtle distinction. You want to be un-Gray in terms of sending out the signal of “prey animal”, but you don’t want to be signalling anything noticeable or flamboyant, either.

    Of course, once some idiot has opened up the ball, and is attacking you…? By all means, be noticeably flamboyant in your response. There is no such thing as excessive violence, when someone attacks you for no reason.

    There was some attempted kidnapping awhile back, I think in Italy. Latin country, 1980s… The kidnappers were used to grabbing soft little kids from nannies and so forth, ones that would not resist. Then, they grabbed a little girl who turned out to be absolutely the Wrong Kid. She gouged eyes out, bit, screamed, clawed, and when it was done, two adult males were getting their asses beaten in by a crowd of little old ladies and children whose attention she’d drawn. I’m not kidding about the eyes, either–She hooked one guy’s eye right out of his skull, with malice aforethought. He went down, screaming, and stayed down. The report I read had pictures of both of the kidnappers after they were taken into protective custody, and it was not pretty. Ever see someone who has had their eye taken out? Optic nerve dangling, eyeball gone? A little girl did that, all by herself.

    You do that when you’re attacked, you may well wind up dead, but you’re also not going to be dragged off to be murdered or raped somewhere else, either. Your choice–Be a victim, or be the person that your attacker really, really regrets cutting out of the herd.

  6. CVLR says:

    Move slowly, carefully — and then strike like the fastest animal on the planet!

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