Personal security in an age of terrorism

A number of readers have contacted me, asking whether there’s anything extra they should be doing in terms of their personal security precautions, to prepare for the risk of terror attacks.

My immediate answer is that one can’t (and shouldn’t) make specifically anti-terrorism preparations.  One can (and should) prepare in a general sense, so that one is equipped, trained and ready to defend oneself, one’s family and one’s home and possessions against crime.  From that perspective, terrorism is just another form of crime.  In general, one should be careful of where one goes, when one goes there, and how one conducts oneself.  I’ve discussed this in several previous articles, including (but not limited to) these ones:

Terrorists are likely to target public areas where large groups of people can be targeted:  airports, railway stations, bus termini, shopping malls, sports stadiums, etc.  All of these have been attacked before, and they will be again.  For that reason, I strongly recommend minimizing the amount of time one spends in such places.  Be on the alert when you simply have to visit one;  spend as little time there as possible;  and at all times be aware of your surroundings, potential exit routes, choke-points, and so on.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing one can do to protect oneself against a random suicide bomber.  One can keep a look-out for people behaving suspiciously, but one person’s suspicious behavior is another’s perfectly normal behavior.  Consider, for example, the fact that Tuesday’s suicide bombers in Belgium wore a black glove on their left hands.  In future, will everyone wearing a single glove automatically be suspected of being a suicide bomber?  I hope not!  I can just see Johnny Rambo dramatically pulling out his gun, shooting them through the head, and proclaiming loudly over the body that he just stopped a suicide bomber . . . only to find out that his victim had injured their hand and was wearing a glove over the dressings, so as not to be embarrassed by them in public;  or that they’d just taken off the other glove to fish in their pocket for something, and were about to put it on again when they were terminally prevented from doing so;  or something like that.

In an age of terrorism, I think the best defense is not to go where terrorists are likely to be encountered.  If you must go to malls, choose smaller shopping centers.  Choose supermarkets that are not part of larger complexes that make more tempting targets.  Remain alert, keep your head on a swivel, and if you see something potentially threatening, move away from it.  If it proves to have been a false alarm, you’ve lost nothing by your caution and may, at most, suffer a little embarrassment.  If it’s not a false alarm, you’ll be as far away from the threat as possible, giving you more time to make a hasty exit and/or defend yourself if necessary.

Finally, I strongly recommend that you be armed at all times, and that you train with your chosen weapon until you can use it effectively.  That means seeking out quality training (not fly-by-night ninja wannabes who talk a good fight, but have no real-world credentials at all – and military experience is NOT necessarily a credential in and of itself!).  Once you’re trained, keep in practice.  If you’re not expending at least 50-100 rounds of ammunition every month in practice plus at least a hundred draw-and-shoot dry-fire presentations, all over various ranges and scenarios, you’re not practicing enough.  Period.



  1. Carrying a gun is fine for Americans but won't help people where its not legal and won't help much against a suicide bomber especially one with body armor. No amount of occasional training or laser sights is going to make "Joe Citizen." into head shot Harry.

    Situational awareness is also useful and probably more so against Islamic terror but again it comes at a cost in fatigue, exposure to stress stimuli that can cause PTSD and often at an economic costs as well.

    I mean we could stop almost all terror attacks by simply staying home in gated communities unless utterly necessary and not allowing anyone not heavily screened in.Minimize the public culture. This would of course destroy our societies and economies but we'd be safer.

    Really your most important action is to vote every election for the most nationalist, most anti non Western immigration candidate possible. Unless we are willing to stop the flood of migrants and repatriate many our societies will belong to them and in all honestly we deserve it.

    History isn't over, its just starting.

  2. I'll have to take issue with two things A. B. said. One, most terrorists aren't wearing any kind of armor, especially the suicide bombers. And two, reality is head shots are also missed by experts. COM shots may not set off explosives, depending on the type… DO agree that we need to vote for people who WILL take action on immigration, rather than pandering to the base… Sigh

  3. I agree with Old NFO – it is VERY rare for terrorists to wear body armor; the only occasion I have heard of them using it was the attempted attack in Garland TX, where it wasn't sufficient to stop a strong defense (possibly due to age).

    Terrorists in the West go after only 2 things: 1. Body Counts, 2. Symbols, and they really like to combine both, like they did in attacking the Pentagon and the World Trade Center on 9/11.
    If you stay away from large numbers of people and symbols, virtually all of which are in large cities, you will be clear of 99%, or more, of terrorists attacks as currently carried out.
    I personally am far more concerned with crime and accidents than I am with terrorist attacks, so while I carry a weapon whenever I can, I also keep track of exits and carry a flashlight since getting away from other problems (fire, power outage, structural collapse, etc) is something I am FAR more likely to encounter.

  4. Old NFO: A bullet wouldn't set off a decent main charge, but it seems the current bombers tend to use TATP, which is notoriously sensitive to impact, friction, harsh language, phase of the Moon, etc.
    So, a COM shot will most likely result in premature detonation, wherever the bomber may be.
    …Or you could just have your buddy hold him down while you take the head shot, and then find out afterward that he was a totally innocent Brazilian electrician. That's apparently the professional way to do it.

  5. Agreed that right now most of the terrorists aren't wearing body armor however terrorist do adapt to circumstances, if it becomes common for people to be armed, they will get armor.

    I think you misunderstood my point re: head shots. What I was trying to say is they are amazingly difficult and its nearly impossible for civilians to make them. We don't get enough practice.

    In fairness police usually can't either but again most police work doesn't call for gun play either.

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