A Swing And A Miss.

flinch_smallShort Barrel Shepherd has a take on the startle/flinch/response thing that merits some further discussion.

I have never been startled in real life physical confrontations or in force on force training scenarios. This is not because I am super tough or really switched on.

It’s because the encounters I’ve experienced have had a ramp-up period from observation to action. Sometimes the period is long, sometimes short, but I’ve never been startled in a fight.

And that’s been my experience as well. I’m not a professional badass, so my experience is limited at this sort of thing, but every time something did happen, there was something that set me off ahead of time that allowed me to ramp up from “Huh, that’s not right” to “Oh boy, bad things are headed my way, and fast!”. The amount of violence may have surprised me a couple of times, but there was something in the situation told me that I’d have to think fast, run fast or hit fast in order to deal with what was headed my way.

That photo over there on the right has been used in some classes to show that a flinch/startle response is natural for we primates, and therefore, we need to train that exact move into how we draw our gun.

Except what you don’t see in that picture is all the other people in the ballpark who know something is wrong, but are not throwing up their hands around their heads because, sonuvagun, they’re smart enough to realize that sort of thing is not the proper response because there is not a bat headed their way.

Yes, they were startled. No, they didn’t flinch.

How long we would have lasted on the African veldt if all the monkeys in the tribe reacted the exact same way to one of their number getting eaten by a leopard? We would have never made it out of Olduvai Gorge, and the world would have been ruled by sentient house cats, or something.

We vary our response by the nature and proximity of threats around us. Always have, always will, and your training better darn well reflect that.

Fear Leads To Anger. Anger Leads to Mogul Munching.*

Some more thoughts about the role fear plays in motivating people to protect themselves and maybe buy a gun. Yes, there is an element of fear to it, especially at the beginning. I am quite fearful of getting shot to death.

Duh.

But more importantly, I was (not am, was) fearful of being helpless in the face of danger. I had no plan, and a man without a plan or the means to execute on the plan is a dead man. Fortunately, thanks to my dedication and training, things are different now. My fear of the unknown, of what we *might* do in the face of a armed home invader or other violent crime has been replaced with a confidence that helps create relaxation where before, it was impossible to relax.

It’s like learning to ski. If you look at it on the face of things, skiing is a stupid idea: You are throwing yourself down the side of a mountain on two planks of wood.
But then you do it, and you get good at it, and then you can have confidence in your ability to throw yourself down a mountain and not hurt yourself.
Much.

It doesn’t have to be training that takes away the fear. It could also be competition or well-structured range time. It does, however, need to be something that turns a gun from being something outside of your experience into something you know and understand. An unloaded gun in a box under a bed is a talisman of self-protection, more about warding off evil than it is about proficiency, and therefore it is still an object of fear.

When we first learn to drive, we are fearful of what we can do behind the wheel. We learn to conquer those fears (most of us, anyways) through repetition and experience. We face our fear of water by taking swimming lessons,  and we eliminate that fear by swimming regularly and often.


* Never did like moguls. Too jarring. I preferred pure downhill, where you go like a bat out hell for the bottom of the run.

A Single Point Of Failure Will Fail Every Time.

The Maginot Line was a marvel of modern engineering. The French military, drawing on their extensive experience getting their collective asses kicked by the German Army in both The Franco-Prussian War and World War I, decided to put an end to the pesky Hun menace by building the most fearsome system of fortifications the world had ever seen.

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And they didn’t just build a thin, brittle line that would snap like a twig when pressure was put on it. They built the Maginot Line to be a miles-wide system of interconnecting forts, lookout points, barracks and supply lines that would stop the Hun dead in his tracks.

Not content to draw on just the lessons of World War I, they upgraded and added more features to the Maginot Line as the nature of the German Threat changed. The French military leaders added layers and layers of anti-tank guns and vehicle barriers to deal with the increased threat of tank assaults, and the entire line was protected from air attack by an umbrella of anti-aircraft guns all over the line.

And none of it worked. When the Germans invaded France during World War II, they did so by doing an end-run around the Maginot Line and rolling their divisions to the north, through the Low Countries and into France itself. Despite all their preparations, France was taken out the fight in World War II in just over six weeks.

  • The next time someone tells you that gear trumps preparation, remember the Maginot Line.
    It was the state of the art in defensive warfare, and it was trumped by the superior tactics of the Wehrmacht.
  • The next time you assume you’re safe because of all the preparation you’ve done, look around for your weak spots, and remember the Maginot Line.
    The defenses of the line were built on the assumption that a mechanized army would be unable to quickly pass through the thickets of the Ardennes Forest, and the Germans proved them wrong by… quickly passing their mechanized army through the thickets of the Ardennes Forest.
    Whoops.
  • The next time somebody tells you that you don’t need to go to another firearms trainer because what they teach is “constantly evolving”, remember the Maginot line.
    It too was “constantly evolving” to meet new threats, yet it failed, and failed spectacularly. Yes, it was highly evolved and adapted itself to new threats, but it was still just one system, and it failed.

Take The Down Escalator.

My high school was not on the good side of town. We were not an athletic powerhouse, nor did I see a lot of luxury cars in the school parking lot. What I did see was a lot of low-level drug use and a bunch of losers who thought they’d lift themselves higher by putting other people down.

This was an… interesting environment for short skinny kid with glasses* to grow up in, and I soon learned that something other than fisticuffs was my key to survival in that environment. I learned to avoid the people who wanted to push others around, and when avoidance was impossible, I found that a little bit of humor and some quick thinking** prevented a beat down.

I figured out early on how to avoid the monkey dance, but in case you didn’t have the same (painful) experience growing up, Greg Ellifritz has a great article on why de-escalation is so important and he gives some excellent examples of soft words that turn away anger.


* Yes, I was a wimp growing up, and now I’m into guns. Figured that one out all by yourself, did ya, Sigmund?
** Never tell the starting left tackle on the football team that he should call himself a necrophiliac because that meant he loved to kill things. TRUST me on this.

… But Fear Itself

There’s an interesting discussion popping up on the Gun Culture 2.0 blog on the role that fear plays inside the civilian armed defender community. On the one hand, you have the experience of those who don’t carry a gun on a regular basis who are fearful of the gun itself, as if it, and not the person wielding it, is reason for violence, and on the other hand, you have people inside the gun industry using fear to market their products.

A certain amount of fear is needed to sell something that may save your life. AAA sells roadside service on the basis of keeping you safe from a flat tire on a lonely road late at night, so of course Comp-Tac is going sell holsters based on keeping your gun safe and secure until you need it.

Speaking for myself, yes, fear does play a role into why I carry a gun. One of the reasons why I started this journey was becaue there was a violent home invasion in Central Phoenix and a three year old boy was briefly kidnapped.

My oldest son was three at that time, and it brought the reality of things (literally) home to me. My wife and I were both very familiar with the neighborhood where this happened (4oth and Thomas) and while it had been going downhill for a while, it wasn’t one of Phoenix’s worst neighborhoods. We had been hearing about gang activity on the West Side and around South Mountain for years now, but we were not concerned because those were not the neighborhoods we knew about and lived in. But 40th and Thomas? I used to work in a store on that exact corner, and my wife lived a mile and a half away on the edges of Arcadia. We knew that area of Phoenix well, and that brought it home to us.

Was it fear that drove me towards becoming an armed civilian defender? Yes, that was some of what’s behind this. Knowledge, however, is fear’s Kryptonium, and knowing that I am now sufficiently trained, prepared and aware to shift the odds in my favor more than there were ten years ago removes the fear of random attack and lets me live a happier life.

This One Time, At Band Camp…

This was posted in a gun group that I belong to on Facebook.

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What’s interesting is that when people commented about him escalating the situation by “yelling out the car window” his response was “I normally do that, but this time, it happened in a school zone.”

Think about that for a second. You can follow the rules 99% of the time, but that one time you don’t, you almost have to shoot someone.

“I do it all the time, but this time, I didn’t” means, well, you DON’T do it ALL the time, you make exceptions.

Was there any reason not to de-escalate here? Was he in fear for his life?

The prosecution doesn’t care about the 99 times you did it right. They will convict you on the one time you did it wrong.

It’s Not The Choreography, It’s The Stumbles.

We learn situational awareness by establishing a baseline for the environment and noticing what’s out of place. A mini van or an SUV with handicap plates idling by the front of the pharmacy is not out of place. A beat-up pickup truck or a tricked-out street racing car idling by the entrance to the pharmacy would be out of place, however, and if that happened to be at a pharmacy I was about to walk into, you are DARN RIGHT I’m not going in.

In that same way, we shoot matches because we get used to dealing with what’s out of place and unusual when we are dealing with stressful situations with a gun in our hands.

The very best thing that can happen on the stage is we do everything exactly the way we planned. As Steve Anderson is fond of saying, practical pistol is speed biased and negatively charged. This means that unless we pay attention to things, we tend to go too fast on a stage and not get our hits, and we tend to notice our screwups more than we notice what we did right.

Emptying a gun in a few seconds is not hard. Emptying a gun in a few seconds and getting your rounds on target? That’s hard. Also, noticing the screwups that happen on a stage lets us become accustomed to correcting for them as they happen and come out on top of things.

Isn’t that also what training is about?

The value of competition is when things don’t go well on the stage and we are forced to make things up on the spot, and that carries over 100% into firearms training. For example, we were doing a drill in a Combat Focus Shooting class where the instructor would call out a number from one to six, and then we’d put rounds into the corresponding number on our targets.

Except the time the instructor called out “seven”, and then things changed. Almost all the class reacted to the vocal command, but they didn’t process the data in the command until their gun was pointed at the target. The other students did not shoot competitions so they were not used to the unexpected happening on the firing line and reacted on instinct.

Me? I heard “seven”, saw that there was a “one” and a “six” on my target, added the two together, pressed out my gun and put rounds into both of them while the rest of the class stood there dumbfounded with their dicks guns out. The unexpected did not faze me, as I’d had to deal with missteps and altered plans with pretty much every stage I had shot.

We have spent thousands of years developing sports like javelin, judo, jousting, and other sports that don’t begin with a “J” to prepare our bodies for combat. Using sport as a way to prepare for war has worked for centuries, so why do we think that pistol competition are no help when it comes to pistol combatives?

Pocket Protection.

There’s some really interesting ideas in this post from 2007 by noted terrorism expert John Robb.

“Cities have long maintained centralized police forces, but gangs can often overwhelm them. Many governments are responding with militarized police: China is building a million-man paramilitary force, for example; and even in the United States, the use of SWAT teams has increased from 3,000 deployments a year in the 1980s to 50,000 a year in 2006. But militarized police may too easily become an army of occupation, and, if corrupt, as they are in Brazil, they may become enemies of the state along with the gangs.

A better solution involves local security forces, either locally recruited or bought on the marketplace (such as Blackwater), which can be powerful bulwarks against small-group terrorism. Such forces may become a vital component in our defense against bioterrorism, too, since they can enforce local containment—and since large centralized services, like the ones we have today, might actually accelerate the propagation of bioweapons. Still, if improperly established, local forces can also become rogue criminal entities, like the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia and the militias in Rio de Janeiro. Governments need to regulate them carefully.”

I agree. A decentralized threat like terrorism or other non-government violent actor demands a decentralized response. Not only does it cost less and allows for more freedom, we know it actually works. The modern smartphone is nothing if not a decentralized and networked communication device, and we have other options for staying safe in an unsafe world that don’t require an often painfully slow response from state-approved “first” responders.

More thoughts on this over at Ricochet.com.

To The Gentleman In The White Pickup Truck Driving Eastbound On Immokalee Road Wednesday Night,

Dear Sir,

You’ve festooned the rear window of your truck with stickers that extol your favorite firearms and have augmented those with even more stickers advertising the NRA’s “Stand and Fight” campaign and all this is topped off with another sticker with an exhortation that reads “Don’t Tread On Me”.

I’m glad you enjoy guns and are willing to tell other people about your involvement with the Second Amendment.

However, you would be a better ambassador for firearms in general and the NRA in specific if you weren’t driving like an absolute maniac on a crowded rush-hour street. Dodging in and out of traffic and tailgating everyone who wasn’t going fast enough for your liking might be your way of letting the world know you’re “take charge” kinda guy and not a sheeple, but to me, it says you have no idea how to behave safely while in charge of a potentially dangerous instrument like a motor vehicle. Your reckless actions behind the wheel makes everyone around you (including me) very nervous, and in particular, it makes me wonder if you act as recklessly when you have one of your beloved firearms in your hands.

People read your stickers, and they watch what you do. One thing that was drilled into my head as I was preparing to be a missionary in Latin America is that I would be a missionary 24/7, not just when I was in missionary HQ.  People would look at my actions as a model of how Christians are to behave, and use how I behaved (or misbehaved) as a ruler for what being a Christian was all about. I learned the sometimes painful lesson that consistency and sincerity are better advocates for a cause than stickers and loud noises.

This is a lesson that you need to learn, Mr. Pickup Driver. Your stickers show your passions, but your behavior behind the wheel shows us your inability to control them.

Sincerely, and with great affection,

Me.

Outsource Your Security.

The personal empowerment brought about by the internet is changing the way society works. As I said earlier this year,

The world’s largest bookstore, Amazon, has no stores, and the worlds largest armed force, the American gun owner, has no generals, ranks or chain of command.

WISO-Wireless-Emergency-Whistle-Safety-AlarmSo how can the American gun owner self-organize into something larger than just one or two people? What would happen in a Ferguson riot if a shop owner had something like this, with a half-dozen or so respectable, committed, responsible gun owners in their network?

This wireless whistle instantly notifies your friends and family in an emergency. WISO uses a combination of Bluetooth technology and GPS tracking.

The whistle sends out pre-selected SOS messages to your friends or relatives via SMS or email. It also includes your current location and can even contact up to seven people at once. The whistle weighs only 12 grams and has batteries that last two months. WISO is available now and costs $51.

Would that help someone survive the riot or a flash mob? I think so…