Book Review: “The Law of Self Defense”, by Andrew F. Branca

bookindexIf you’ve been in the gun community long, you’ve probably heard the Internet lawyers. They’re the guys who say, “if it’s a righteous shoot, you have nothing to worry about” and “better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6.” They tell you, “shut up and don’t say a darned word to the cops” and, sometimes, even things like “drag his body inside and put a knife in his hand.”

Unfortunately for you, the Internet lawyers are not going to be there to pay your legal bills if you’re involved in a deadly force encounter, and they’re not going to be sitting in the jail cell next to you if you follow their dubious advice. It is absolutely true that surviving the encounter is the first problem you have to solve, but if you make it through alive, it isn’t the only problem. And, if I may say so myself, surviving a deadly force encounter only to lose my freedom and bankrupt my family is a decidedly hollow victory.

For that reason, if you’re a law abiding armed citizen,The Law of Self Defense, by Massachusetts lawyer Andrew F. Branca, might just be the most important book you can read this year.

Andrew is one of that rarest breed: a lawyer who, well, doesn’t write like a lawyer. You won’t find dense and complicated prose or opaque legal jargon. You also won’t find the kind of dubious advice of Internet denizens. What you’ll find, in plain and easy-to-understand English, is a comprehensive guide to the ins and outs of surviving the legal battle that will, quite likely, follow the battle for your physical survival and safety. If, like many gun owners, you’re not intimately familiar with the ins and outs of the justice system, it will be an eye-opening read.

Andrew’s book begins with a look at the basic components of a self-defense claim: Innocence, imminence, proportionality, and reasonableness. Using actual self-defense cases and his own extensive experience, Andrew explains how the legal system will view your actions in a deadly force encounter. He explains, on a state-by-state basis, how the general principles he discusses translate into the real world body of statutes and case law that will govern the law’s judgment of your actions. He also discusses the use of deadly force in defense of others and defense of property.

All of this is hugely important, and if you take your rights and responsibilities as an armed citizen seriously, you need to know this stuff cold. But the true gold in Andrews book, in my view, comes in the last two chapters: “After the Fact” and “Crafting a Legally Sound Strategy”. Andrew outlines, clearly and persuasively, what to do and say (and not do and say) in the immediate aftermath of a deadly force encounter, and talks about things you can do to stay out of trouble and minimize your legal exposure if there is trouble.

I’ve been trained, and have worked, as a paralegal, so I love this kind of stuff anyway. In fact, I confess that I actually turned to the LEXIS legal database to read a number of the court decisions Andrew cited in his book. But you don’t have to be a law geek to read, enjoy, and learn from him. The Law of Self-Defense is well-written, crisp and comfortable like a long and comfortable conversation with a knowledgeable friend. Underneath that easy style, though, the information Andrew has packed into his book is pure gold.

We train and practice with our guns and knives and flashlights and bare hands, because surviving the deadly force encounter is the first and most critical hurdle you’ll face. But once you make it past the hurdle, the vast machinery of the criminal and civil justice systems will turn its attentions to you, and you need to be ready for that as well. Run, don’t walk, over to Andrew’s Web site and check out The Law of Self-Defense. I can’t think of another book I’ve read this year that’s as important.


  1. Wow, I’m blushing. Thanks for the kind review.
    If any of your blog followers would like a discount on the print version of the book, they can use the discount code LOSD2-MOM at my web site. It’ll take $5 off at checkout (ONLY at my site,, so bringing the print book price to ~$15. (They can also request an autograph at check out, if they like.)
    If they prefer the book in electronic form, the Kindle version is available direct from Amazon ( I can’t discount that, but it’s already only $10. (Nook is also available, $15, at
    Thanks again!
    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

  2. This sounds interesting, and I will certainly get the kindle version. I’ve read a number of these books and found them all wanting badly in some way, so I’m in hope that this one is something I can recommend to my students. I’ll be back to comment once I’ve read it. 🙂

  3. Hmmm, well I bought it and downloaded it. Can’t read it right now. Must be a coincidence, but my android reader died immediately after the download. Dead as a doornail. Bummer…

    • andrewbranca says:

      Ah, wish I could help, but I actually don’t have anything to do with the electronic versions, that’s all Amazon or Nook, whichever. A lot of both have been sold, though, so I doubt it’s the book that’s the problem.
      –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

      • Oh, of course it has nothing to do with you – and not with Amazon either! I didn’t mean at all to imply that. 🙂 It is just unfortunate that my android decided to die just as I was about to read your book. I may go ahead and order the paper one, simply to HAVE the darn thing. Electronics are great… but not all that reliable. 🙂

      • andrewbranca says:

        Well if you order a print copy from me, it’ll be REALLY brand-spanking new–poor UPS guy just fought his way through a blizzard to get me my most recent bulk order. Books were printed days ago.
        –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

  4. Thanks for the tip. I’m off to buy it.

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