You can not be a bad guy doing bad things and claim self-defense. There are three things you can not do and be able to claim your use of Force or Deadly Force was justified. You can not be committing a crime, you can not be at the place you defend yourself illegally, and you can not have provoked the situation.
If you start a fight or an argument you can not claim self-defense.

If you are trespassing you can not claim self-defense.

The use of Force and Deadly Force is a last resort. If you can get out of a situation, retreat from the situation, and avoid using Force or Deadly Force you should.  In determining if your actions were “reasonable” after using Force or Deadly Force, the finder of fact, the judge, will consider if you should have retreated rather than use Force or Deadly Force.
When we talk about the laws around self-defense we will look at a specific exclusion related to retreat often called “stand your ground”.  But, as a general rule if you can retreat from a situation to avoid violence that is the “reasonable” course of action.  A reasonable person will retreat before using force or deadly force unless by retreating they are placing themselves at greater risk for serious injury or death.

For the armed citizen it is important to understand that you have no legal duty to use force or deadly force at any time. You can not claim it was your duty to use force or deadly force as a defense for your actions.

The only time you can claim using force or deadly force was a duty is if it is required or authorized to assist a public servant in their official duty.  Said simply, if a law officer asks for your assistance, and you must use force or deadly force in assisting them, you could claim it was your duty as a defense against prosecution.

The law does not give you authority to use force or deadly force.  The law does define some circumstances allowing you to claim your actions were justified as a defense against prosecution. 

What this means is that if you use force or deadly force the police may arrest you and the district attorney may charge you with a crime. Examples of the things you could be charged with are Public Disturbance, Assault, Disorderly Conduct, Murder to name a few possible charges. 

If you are arrested the first appearance before a judge may be a bond hearing but it will be an Arraignment Hearing that you will be formally charged and enter your plea.

What is an Arraignment Hearing?

The law provide three circumstance that the use of force or deadly force can be justified.  In all circumstances the use of force or deadly force is a last resort only considered reasonable when all other courses of action fail. 

Force and deadly force can be used in self defense. Force  and deadly force can be used to defend innocent others if the act being done on the innocent other would justify their use of force and deadly force. And force and deadly force can be used to protect personal property on in some cases the property of others.

Use of Force and Deadly Force in Self Defense

What is the meaning of Force and Deadly Force related to the armed citizen with a handgun? 
Force is the presentation of the handgun as a threat.  A threat is a action that creates apprehension, fear,  in an individual.  Anytime we draw the handgun from a holster we could be seen as creating a situation causing apprehension, fear, in others that we intend to use the handgun to harm them. Drawing a handgun can be perceived as a threat.

If no one perceives you have an intention to do harm to them than there would be no apprehension created, therefore their would not be a threat, therefore force would not have been used.

How can you get good at shooting  without going to the shooting range? Lets take a look at a couple of shooting programs that trained thousands of shooters that had to prove their skill in real gunfights to answer this questions.

W.E. Fairbairn and E.A. Sykes develop a method of training police to use a handgun in the 1930’s Shanghai, China. At the time Shanghai was considered the most violent and crime ridden city in the world. With nearly 700 gunfight documented their approach to training police in shooting was well proven to reduce injury to civilians and to keep police officers alive.

WE Fairfairn left and a video of him teaching his hand-to-hand fighting method developed in Shanghai, China to OSS agents in World War 2.

The training approach documented d by Fairbairn and Sykes involved one day and one evening of training and shooting only 72 rounds of ammunition. Skills were trained and practices using dry practice and shooting was used to set a starting point for training, validate what was learned, and to familiarize the shooter with the handgun and the shooting experience.

I get asked where is the best place to learn to shoot a handgun for the best price.  Of course as a firearms coach my response is to hire me.  But here is my best answer if you are fairly new to shooting, have never had professional training, or had firearms training in the military.

Number 1 Response  -  Go To Front Sight Training Institute and Resort

Go to Front Sight. It is the most affordable place to get professional training with all the instructors and facilities to learn to shoot, perfect your skills, and to apply those skills in tactical simulations.  You can go to a single course at front sight for as little as $50 and get a lifetime membership that lets you go to any and all courses for only $250.  Front Sight is located outside Las Vegas Nevada making it one of the easiest and affordable locations to get to in the United States.  If you plan your trip well, go as a couple or with a friend, you can spend a long 4 day weekend for less then $575 a person.   I don’t know a better way to get firearms training.

Number 2 Response - Go to a Good Local Gun Club.

Find a local gun club that has a reputation for a quality service to its members.  You can usually get a good basic education on the defensive handgun for around $200 dollars. 

I have had many people show me how they use You Tube to learn how to shoot a handgun. As a firearms coach I have done like most “Professionals” do and rolled my eyes expecting the worst. I have even had one student with a pretty good doctor bill from trying to learn to shoot his five shot 2 inch barrel revolver this way. 

Watch Your Fingers!

However, it is a proven fact that an individual can learn skills just as effectively from a movie or video (i.e. You Tube), from a well-illustrated manual or book, or from live instruction.  The key to being able to learn equally well from different types of material is that they are equally well designed.  The military in 1940’s proved the science of using instruction, manuals, and video for teaching skills and took it to a fine art. 

Having a gun in time of trouble is better than needing a gun in time of trouble. Another example of an Responsible Armed Citizen protecting themselves when the police are minutes away.