The mental and emotional considerations of using lethal force to protect your home and loved ones after TEOTWAWKI  is not going to be as easy, as you have imagined it.
By way of introduction, I am a retired street cop who spent his entire career on the streets of a gang-infested neighborhood in a large, inner city. I have shot people, though none died. On several occasions, I was myself shot at, and I was hit once. I want to share my thoughts and experiences with you, lest you have naïve and unrealistic ideas, which will prove counterproductive, at best, and possibly fatal.
I am not going to address a shooting incident today, when and where there is effective law and order. The venue we will address here will be strictly for a time and place where society has broken down and the rule of law no longer exists. This is only intended to address a post-apocalyptic scenario.
I know. I know. You readily say, “I won’t have any trouble at all shooting riffraff that’s coming after my food or family.” Really? Let’s explore that thought, because here’s the thing– I know you think that, and I know you believe it with all your heart, but may I suggest that a critical component that is necessarily involved in the act of shooting a human being may have been left out of your thought process? This is the potentially fatal flaw for the majority of preppers in a self-defense scenario.
First, let me say up front that while this is based on my first-hand experiences, it is also covered in much more detail in Colonel Dave Grossman’s excellent books On Combat  and On Killing  and also Warrior’s Mindset  by Asken. All of these are MUST reading for anyone who is prepped up on guns, ammo, and attitude. Unless you have been personally involved in shootouts as a cop or firefights as a soldier, you must read these books, but I will condense some of what’s in them and add my own experiences for those who can’t or won’t read three more books.
We think and believe that we live in our conscious world; that’s wrong. We are more what our unconscious mind thinks than who we consciously think we are. Have you ever tried to break a bad habit? Have you ever tried to lose weight or get into better shape? How about making New Year’s resolutions? How did that work out for you? You lose those battles because your unconscious mind is much stronger than your conscious mind, and the unconscious one usually wins. You can make all the conscious decisions you want, but no matter how much determination and willpower you add to that if you don’t get your unconscious mind on board you will likely fail.
So when it comes to shooting another human being, you need to understand the mental and emotional dynamics involved. When cops are on the line at the range, they will consistently hit a man-sized target every time without fail. Yet, statistically on the street, they will miss 75%-80% of the time, and they will miss a target that poses a clear and present danger when they would never miss a piece of paper. Why is that? S.L.A. Marshall did extensive studies and found that during WW II, 90% of the Japanese and German soldiers that were shot by small arms fire, were shot by less than 20% of our soldiers. Please look that up if you don’t believe it, but it’s documented and indisputable. That doesn’t mean the others were cowards, because many were capable of extraordinary acts of bravery, such as running out into the face of enemy gunfire to get to an injured man, for instance. So, if they weren’t cowards and were good shots, why didn’t they shoot an enemy soldier? The now-defunct Rhodesian army pioneered the system of charging directly into the enemy when being ambushed because they took fewer casualties doing that. At the time, they had no idea why it worked, but they knew it worked. What they did figure out was that when you look into a man’s face, it’s harder to shoot him, even if he’s shooting at you. On the world’s battle fields, strewn with casualties even in ancient times, the vast majority of the slaughter came only after the enemy turned and ran. This is counter intuitive if you bought into what Hollywood has taught us, but the truth is that it’s much easier to shoot an enemy in the back than it is to shoot a man at close range in the chest or face, and fear does not change this dynamic. Most of you reading this article are going to think it’s all wrong, so I’m going to burden you with some statistics, because you need to buy into this documented phenomenon, even though Hollywood has poisoned our reasoning and our true history.
Even back to the time of Alexander the Great, in all his massive battles during which he conquered the known civilized world, he lost less than 700 men. Of the slaughter and carnage that followed, the vast majority of the enemy were smitten from behind after the battle was won. During the battle of Rorke’s Drift during the Zulu wars, the English soldiers fired continuously into the packed ranks of Zulus, literally at point blank range knowing that Zulus never take prisoners. Even a 50% hit rate would seem impossible under those circumstances, but when the bodies and the number of separate wounds were counted and the ammo used was checked, the hit rate was 13%! At the battle of Wissembourg in 1870, the dug-in French fired over 48,000 rounds into the German troops, who were advancing packed shoulder to shoulder at a slow walk in an open area, and hit 404 of them. After the battle of Gettysburg 27,574 muskets were recovered from the battlefield. Over 24,000 of those, more than 90%, were fully loaded. Over 12,000 were loaded more than once and over 6,000 were loaded between 3 and 10 times, with one being loaded 23 times. On the black powder field, a loaded weapon is the most precious of commodities, because 95% of a soldier’s time was taken up with the reloading process and only 5% actually firing. Logic and math would require that if those soldiers wanted to kill the enemy, then 95% of the those who were killed would be found with an empty weapon in some stage of being reloaded. Any weapon found fully loaded and ready to fire would have been pure gold on a battlefield, picked up, and used, which further exacerbates the evidence. What happened was that individual soldiers, who couldn’t shoot the enemy, didn’t want to be seen by their comrades doing absolutely nothing, so they occupied themselves loading over and over. During the civil war, the generals on both sides realized there was a serious problem and saw that their men were shooting too high, over the heads of the enemy. Orders went out to shoot at the knees, but that didn’t help, because poor aim was not the problem.
Sociopaths aside, your subconscious mind abhors the idea of taking a human life, for any reason. This is true, even though your conscious mind has fully grasped the need to take a life in order to save yourself or a loved one. Until I studied this, it always amazed me how many armed women were robbed, assaulted, and raped in their own homes by an intruder who took their gun and had his way with her because she couldn’t shoot. Pointing the gun straight at him, they were unable to pull the trigger. That was their unconscious mind at work. Your conscious mind may clearly see a criminal and imminent danger, but your unconscious mind sees a human being.
However, we don’t want to just shut down the unconscious mind, because in fact it can be a life saver. Any man that has been in a life-threatening situation knows about “trusting your gut”, and many women are alive today because of “women’s intuition”. Both are the same documented phenomena with gender-specific names, but these phenomena are actually easy to explain. What they are, pure and simple, is our unconscious mind picking up on cues from our environment that we did not notice consciously, but it’s what the unconscious mind did notice. So we don’t want to shut down that valuable asset, but we do want to be able to act consciously.
There’s no purpose pointing all this out if there is no solution for the problem. However, in this case, there are. While it’s not quick or easy, the unconscious mind can be reprogrammed. If you’ve tried to lose weight chances are you either failed outright or you succeeded for a time but then gained it back. I’m talking about simply eating less. How can we fail so consistently when we want it so badly? The answer is that if your unconscious mind has a picture of you being a certain weight, it will fight to maintain stasis, because “that is you”. Your unconscious mind always wants to feel comfortable and will fight for that comfort.