The Law of Self Defense- 3rd Edition

Written by Greg Ellifritz

Topics: Book Reviews

  • SumoMe




I recently finished reading the updated third edition of Andrew Branca’s book The Law of Self Defense. This is a book that belongs on the shelf of any of you who are interested in defensive firearms use and self protection. Buy it. Read it.


In 2014, I reviewed the second edition of the book.  My review for the third edition hasn’t changed.


I don’t know how I can give it a more glowing recommendation except to say that I have been teaching use of force law to police officers for more than 15 years. I can’t tell you how many hours of legal update training I’ve taken in my career. Despite all my legal teaching qualifications and knowledge, I was amazed at the facts learned when I read the book. I learned a lot. The average gun owner without a legal background will learn exponentially more.


The book is logically divided into chapters that explain how the criminal “justice” system works, the five principles of a successful self defense claim, how and when you can use force to defend others, the defense of property, and what to do after a shooting.


I found his information on “thresholds” especially useful. The author describes appropriate reactions (backed up by case law) for when a defender is verbally insulted, is insulted along with a slight physical contact, is physically attacked, and is engaged in mutual combat. His advice on “regaining innocence” is an important bit of information that isn’t often covered in other legal writings.


Even more useful are the charts that accompany every chapter. These charts provide guidance for certain legal situations on a state-by-state basis. The appropriate statute is provided along with additional case law for reference purposes. He has numerous charts in the book, but the ones I found most valuable were the ones that explained:


– When a person can use a “battered spouse” defense
– State laws covering “duty to retreat.”
– The legal presumption of reasonableness
– Justifiable use of force in defense of others


Additionally, the author discusses use of non-deadly force, defense of property and exactly what to tell investigators after a shooting.


The third edition has more clear phrasing and less “legalese,” making it even easier for the novice to read.  He’s added an appendix that includes a summary of each state’s laws and updated a lot of the case law sections.  The latest edition seems like it has about 25% more information than the previous edition, in spite of both books having roughly similar page numbers.  The efficient re-write and moving the state laws to the appendix gave the author more room to expand the text.


The majority of the previous edition is still valid, so you don’t have to run out and buy the latest one, but this update is worth $25 to the serious practitioner to have the more organized and updated information.  I highly recommend it to all of you.



The Law of Self Defense is available in bookstores at the author’s website, and at







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FTC Disclosure:  The author provided me with a hard copy of the book to review.  I am not being compensated by the author in any way for sharing this information, nor do I have any financial interest in the author’s company.