In The Gravest Extreme by Massad Ayoob

Ed. note: This is a review on In the Gravest Extreme – a book that largely shaped modern approaches to concealed carry of firearms by regular citizens. Since this article was written, Ayoob published Deadly Force: Understanding Your Right to Self Defense. This new book is a greatly expanded and updated version of In the Gravest Extreme. You can read our review of it here.

Perhaps there is no more an influential book in the realm of concealed carry than In the Gravest Extreme: The Role of the Firearm in Personal Protection written by firearms training expert Massad F. Ayoob. In many ways, this book shaped the current concealed carry landscape.

Since it was first published in 1980, many things have changed in the United States with regards to self-defense and concealed carry. Laws have changed to enhance a citizen’s right to protect himself and quality tools are easy to obtain. Perhaps most importantly, firearms training as it relates to personal protection is widely available.

Even though this book’s date might suggest it has lost relevance, I wanted to do this In the Gravest Extreme review to see what role it might still play in the modern firearms culture.

Gravest Extreme & Deadly Force

Back in the old days, concealed carry wasn’t as common as it is now. Laws that prohibited it were common and many people didn’t fully understand the laws regarding deadly force. Ayoob set out to change things with this book.

At its most basic, Ayoob wrote this book as an introduction to the defensive use of firearms. He discusses the legal implications and practical aspects of owning and using a firearm for self-defense. Although this is not a book to teach you to be an expert with a firearm, In the Gravest Extreme is one of the best first steps anyone can take to learn to defend themselves.

The book is written to a broad general audience.  The information that Ayoob provides is equally useful to the armed citizen and the sworn law enforcement officer. It is also easy to read; you won’t get bogged down in complex theories or terminology.

I often find myself in discussions with other citizens in my city regarding self-defense and the use of force. I try to offer them a broad understanding of the use of force as it applies in my state. I always suggest they read this book.

Much of the self-defense law in the US is common from state to state. However, there are many peculiarities that exist. Nevertheless, Ayoob does an exceptional job of breaking down deadly force law into simple terms that will allow you to better understand your responsibilities under state laws.

Ayoob also discusses styles of concealed carry and some of the basic tools you might need to defend yourself. The tools section of the book does seem a bit dated as a Glock is immensely more popular today than the revolver. I find, however, the principles Ayoob uses in tool selection to remain relevant.

About Ayoob

Although I’ve never trained with Ayoob, I have had the pleasure of meeting him on several occasions.  He is very gracious and exceptionally knowledgeable about firearms and shooting. He teaches regular firearms classes that cover the basics of combat shooting and advance to some fairly extreme levels of proficiency.

The following video shows Ayoob discussing why it is important for people to train with a firearm for self-defense. It is short but very important.

Ayoob’s level three classes are legendary for the unusual requirements placed on students for the purposes of further understanding the dynamics of combat. For example, in one class students volunteered to donate blood just before shooting a high-speed qualification course.  The idea was to measure human performance in simulated combat after receiving an injury that caused a significant loss of blood. Pure genius if you ask me. Don’t worry – the basic classes are much tamer.

Massad Ayoob has distinguished himself as a master trainer, marksman, and writer. I have found all of his work to be worth every penny. Without hesitation, I recommend In the Gravest Extreme to anyone owns or is thinking about buying a firearm for self-protection.

Final Thoughts

In the Gravest Extreme remains an excellent primer on self-defense. It has recently been republished, so new copies can be purchased through Amazon here.

However, Ayoob recently released a new book that is essentially an update of this work. The new book, Deadly Force – Understanding Your Right to Self Defense, is a more comprehensive text on the legalities of using a firearm to defend yourself.

The new tome gives the reader the benefit of more than three decades of additional research and experience as a court-recognized expert that Ayoob has amassed. The book was just released, and mine is on the way to me now. You can get your copy of the new book by clicking here.

If I could only purchase one book, it would be the more recent Deadly Force work. However, the original effort is still very good, and I continue to recommend it.

Last Updated – July 30, 2021.


I purchased this book with my own money years before I began writing professionally. Neither Massad Ayoob nor the publisher are advertisers, nor am I in negotiations at the time of this writing for them to be one. You can read my other firearms book reviews here. is a for-profit website. I do not charge readers a dime to access the information I provide.

Some of the links on this page and site are affiliate links to companies like Amazon and Palmetto State Armory. These links take you to the products mentioned in the article. Should you decide to purchase something from one of those companies, I make a small commission.

The links do not change your purchase price. I do not get to see what any individual purchases.

Comments about this book or my In the Gravest Extreme review are encouraged below. I do ask that you refrain from using profanity and keep things civil. I try to run a family show here. Thanks for reading!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *