… And You Will Be Invincible

… And You Will Be Invincible

During the spring and summer months, it’s common practice for Euro fashion catalog shooters to come out to the U.S. to shoot the fall / winter catalogs. They liked AZ because of 300 days of sun a year, and I’d make a decent amount of $$ off them as their RV Driver / local guide. There was one guy I assisted, Bob somebody, a Welshman (funny as hell… a rarity amongst fashion shooters, in my experience), who was shooting for one of the German catalogs. The results from a week-long shoot out in Arizona was riding on his shoulders, and expenses involved included a dozen Euro models (HOT Euro models…), an art director, me, his assistant, three stylists… and he shot everything on Kodak 100 chrome using (wait for it) a half-dozen Nikon Quicktouch point and shoots. Yep, not an F4, not a Hassie, a consumer-level compact 35mm camera, about as basic and boring a camera as you could get at the time.

No manual settings. No external light sources beyond fill cards and reflectors. His assistant would get an incident meter reading, they’d note it, and then it was off to the races.

He shot that way because he wanted to focus (no pun intended) 100% on what the model was doing and how she was interacting with the camera, and didn’t want to bump something and have a whole session ruined. And it worked for him. He got some great shots from his models, and the chromes looked really good when all was said and done.

He could do this because he knew every single step before, during and after the shot, and knew how to play within the limits of his gear.

I’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to figure what all this has to do with your gear, how you use it and what’s the “right” gun for self defense.

Prep Work.

Prep Work.

I picked up an assignment, many years ago, to take pictures of Magic Johnson right after he gave a speech at a luxury Phoenix resort. I knew his time would be limited, so I arrived early, scouted a good location, and my assistant and I set up four high-powered strobe lights to properly expose him and wonderful Arizona sunset that would happen just as the shot was scheduled to happen.

But what DID happen was that the resort’s circuits weren’t up to the task of handling my strobes and their outdoor lighting at the same time, so my first test shoot blew a breaker and everything went dark.

I had to take a picture of Magic Johnson, and I had to take it NOW, no matter if my primary light source just went into the crapper.

Fortunately for me, I knew that resort pretty well and I knew the outside breezeways looked pretty good and went east-west so there was still light in them even as the sun was going down. I grabbed my assistant, my tripod and a flex fill, and away we all went for an impromptu available light shoot as the light slowly faded in the west.

And the chromes turned out pretty good. Good enough that I picked up two more assignments from the agency who assigned me.

Now think about it… if I hadn’t been familiar with the environment around me and I didn’t have that reflector and/or assistant with me and was inexperienced at slow shutter speed photography, I’d be completely out of luck and would have p!ssed off a basketball legend and not gotten paid by my client for the job.

Familiarity with your surroundings… having a backup plan and backup gear… recognizing what the issue is and working around it on the spot… why does that all seem so familiar? ūüėČ

Oh, and if you get a chance to take photos of Mr. Johnson, do so. He was, BY FAR, the most approachable and laid-back celebrity I’ve ever photographed. It’s not an act with him.

Las Vegas Will Viva Once Again.

Las Vegas Will Viva Once Again.

Yes, I’ve heard about the horror in Vegas.

No, I will not comment on it. Not for at least another 24 hours.

I will say that the people shot were fish in a $@!%ing barrel, and that the LVPD had a breaching team on-site in under 10 minutes.

That’s a helluva response time. Well done.

And as usual in situations like this, people banded together to save lives. Hotels used shuttle vans to send people to the hospital. People stood up when it mattered most, and once again, they realized that they, and not the cops or the paramedics, were the first responders.

I love you Americans. I really, really, do.

We’ll get through this. But right now, pray for healing and comfort.

And watch your six.

Know When To Say When.

Know When To Say When.

Say when.

John Correia of Active Self Protection brought up an interesting idea in the midst of a recent interview on the Safety Solutions Academy podcast: For the armed citizen, it’s usually going to be us who initiates the fight, not the bad guy.

“In a law enforcement setting, the cop initiates contact with the bad guy. The fight starts when the bad guy decides to start fighting, and the fight ends with either the bad guy in cuffs or the cop is dead. In a CCW gunfight, it’s almost the exact opposite. The gunfight in the middle is almost the same, but as a CCW holder, it’s your actions, in a territorial violence situation, that initiates the fight, and the fight ends when you break contact with the bad guy.”

It took me awhile to figure it out, but I can see his point. The bad guy is going to want something from us that, unless we run into an asocial predator who wants nothing more from us than our death, is NOT going to be our life and limbs. They are using the threat of violence to get our money or car or something else from us, and they don’t expect us to fight back. As such, while the bad guy initiates the threat, the fact of the matter is, it is US that initiates the violence.

Is that empowering? You better believe it is.

You are no longer the victim in this scenario: YOU get to decide how the scenario will play out, and by being patient and then willing and able to counter the threat of physical violence with an overwhelming amount of actual violence if needed, we take away his (or her) power in one swell foop.

Waiting your turn for violence fits in well with a de-escalation strategery which should be (and is) our preferred method of dealing with “monkey dance” violence, but it also adds in another fear-reducing element: WE are the ones who are in charge of how violent an encounter will get. The crook is NOT expecting violence:¬†He’s expecting that the threat alone will be sufficient to produce the desired reward, and the minute that doesn’t happen, WE have the upper hand.

That’s hellaciously empowering.

Lessons From Garland.

Lessons From Garland.

Garland Attack

“When a man with a .45 meets a man with a rifle, the man with a pistol will be a dead man!”

Ramon Rojo 

“The hell you say.”

Garland Texas Police Officer Greg Stevens 

Stevens immediately drew his Glock 21 pistol and engaged Simpson with four to five rounds as Simpson fired at him and Joiner with the rifle.

As Stevens fired, he slowly advanced on the suspects from 15 yards away, pressing the attack on the pair as he fired ‚Äúrhythmically,‚ÄĚ obtaining a ‚Äúdecent sight picture‚ÄĚ for each round. Stevens was conscious of the fact he had to make his hits count, and his deliberation was rewarded with the sight of Simpson falling to the ground and dropping his rifle.

Switching to the next threat, Stevens pivoted to the left and fired at the driver, Nadir Soofi, who also wore soft armor and LBE, and had a backpack and a pistol. As Soofi rounded the back of the car with his rifle raised in the firing position, his left side was exposed to Stevens, who drew careful aim and shot Soofi in the elbow, above the elbow, the side of the chest and the shoulder, as he continued to advance and fire at a controlled pace.

Read the whole thing:¬†It’s an absolutely rivetng after-action report, full of lessons for all of us.

One thing I will note is how “situational awareness” played a part in Officer Stevens’ success.¬†He knew that because of the detail he was on, there was an increased chance of an attack, so he was in a more-alert state than if he was processing paperwork in his patrol car. As such, when a car rolled up with out-of-state plates and blocked an entry to the venue he was watching, he was on high alert, knowing that the potential for trouble was even more greater now. When the balloon eventually did go up, he didn’t hesitate: There was no ramp-up time to combat mode because he had already crossed those bridges way before two guys with AK’s popped out of the car.

There are those who say that situational awareness is of marginal use in a self-defense situation, that when lightning strikes, you should learn how to react quickly, and not worry about what happened beforehand.

I say that lightning only strikes after the thunderclouds have rolled in, and if you’re paying attention, you can see (and hear) those clouds coming in from miles away.

Your Own Personal Gaston.

Your Own Personal Gaston.

On a recent episode of Mike Seeklander’s podcast,¬†Gabe Suarez said, in response to some rather fierce criticism he recently received online, that some people “treat this stuff (firearms training) as if it was some kind of religion.”.

But here’s the kicker: Firearms training actually IS a religion.

At least it should be.

Firearms trainers are telling their students how to save their lives from the evil people around us, and they also tell people how to change their lifestyle and live a better, happier life.

Isn’t that what a religion tells you to do? Religions tell people why bad things happen in the world, and how to have a mindset that “delivers us from evil.”

All the great martial arts have an element of religion in them as a way to focus one’s energy and calm the soul. Chi, Zanshin, Eye Of The Tiger, whatever you want to call it, the martial arts understands that, to quote The Bard, all things be ready if our minds be so.

One of the reasons why the martial arts includes this stuff is because history has taught us that people who are motivated by a higher calling tend to do more extraordinary things than those who aren’t, and a gunfight (and fights in general) are (thankfully) an extraordinary event in the lives of the average person.
If concealed carry wants to be a martial art, it’s probably going to need some kind of spiritual/emotional mindset development plan as well, something that goes beyond the Cooper Color Code and hazy talk of “situational awareness.”

We want people to react to extraordinary circumstances. That’s going to require extraordinary motivation.

A religion of CCW isn’t going to save your soul, but it just might save your life.

Mama Always Told Me Not To Look Into The Eyes Of The Sun

Mama Always Told Me Not To Look Into The Eyes Of The Sun

But Mama, that’s where the fun is.¬†

B. Springsteen

I remember chatting with a family friend years ago about one of my trips down into Mexico to work with the churches and orphanages in and around Hermosillo. He said he’d never go down to Mexico, for any reason, because he couldn’t carry a gun there. At the time, I didn’t understand his feelings. I’d been to Mexico time after time after time on both vacation trips and church trips, and not only did I not see any reason to avoid Mexico because you couldn’t be armed, I saw no reason to be armed in Mexico (or, if I’m honest, Arizona as well. Hey, I was young and stupid.).

I knew Mexico. I knew what to avoid, and how to not act like a dumb Norteamericano. In other words, I knew how to avoid the acting stupid and going to the stupid places. Also, I was with church people, so the “Stupid people” part of the Farnam Rules was also taken care of.

The Farnam Rule runs into trouble, though, because a significant part of the fun stuff in our lives is usually stupid things done in stupid places with stupid people. For years, the best place to go for New Mexican in Phoenix was in a fairly stupid place, as was one of the best Mexican bakeries. You knew it, you accepted it, and you balanced the risk and the reward. About 10 miles away from where I am sitting and writing this, there are a dozen or restaurants, all of which are in a town that is the epicenter for violent crime in our county.

Am I hungry for la verdera cosa when it comes to Mexican cuisine? You bet I am*.

Am I willing to go to stupid places at stupid times to do non-stupid things** surrounded by people who may or may not be stupid? Nope.

Stupid varies from person to person. What is safe for me may not be safe for others, and what is safe for them might be sheer insanity to me.¬†To quote the 20th century’s greatest philosopher, a man has got to know his limitations.

If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.

Some old Chinese guy

Update: Thinking more about this statement, “I was with church people, so the ‘Stupid people’ part of the Farnam Rules was also taken care of,” it’s not actually true in this instance. Church people in church or in their usual neighborhoods are not stupid, but church people dropped into someplace that’s outside of their comfort zone can do very, very stupid things. Yes, the chances of doing tequila shots off a stripper goes WAY down when you’re with (most) church people, but the chances of being blissfully ignorant about how dangerous the world is goes way, way up.

Stupid is a relative term.


* Here’s a hint: If they don’t have corn tortillas available and there’s no cabbage or radishes for toppings, it ain’t a REAL Mexican taco joint. It may be good, but it ain’t the real thing.
** Eating tacos is never, ever stupid. Ever.

Darkness Falls.

Darkness Falls.

Something I said in the comments of this post got me a-pondering: Why do firearms trainers who have a SpecOps background place such a high emphasis on night training, and is that sort of thing really valuable to those of us who don’t wear a uniform and a gun.

Let’s think about things for a second. If you have to kick in doors for a living, it makes sense to kick in doors¬†at night, when the element of surprise and the grogginess of sleep¬†are on your side. Night ops are a great time for offensive operations, especially if you have night vision gear and the bad guys don’t.

But let’s back up for a second… why would I, a middle-aged marketing guru, have to go onto the offense at night? Yes, there is the 3 am crackhead burglar scenario and the dark Wal-Mart parking lot attack, but if we look at the concealed carry engagement stats from students of Tom Givens, you’ll see that NONE of them used a flashlight in their encounters.

Why? Why are night operations such a priority for the military, yet next to useless for we civilians?

For the armed citizenry, unless you’re up at 3am patrolling the streets like the SHEEPDOG! you think you are, defending your life at night, in inky blackness, is probably not that urgent, for three reasons:

  1. If you have time to get a flashlight out, you have time to get your gun out. If you need your gun, don’t get out your flashlight, and vice versa.
  2. Crooks associate high-output flashlights with security guards and cops, and they tend to shy away from said people. Therefore, if you’re¬†using a modern, tactical flashlight, you are SCREAMING to the bad guys that you are predator, not prey. As armed citizens, our job¬†isn’t to hunt others, our job is not to be eaten by the predator.
  3. If you can’t see well enough to recognize your target, either add light to the target (which might make it run away, as per option 1 above), or don’t shoot at it. Fortunately for we civvies, most of the places we inhabit do have at least some modicum of illumination, and that’s usually enough to get a good idea of what’s in front of our muzzle.

So is learning how to use a flashlight and weapon-mounted light useful for those of us who don’t wear a uniform and a gun? Sure. However, in reality, it’s about as useful as a learning how to run an AR-15 as a defensive weapon.

Take that as you will.

It’s Happened Again In London.

It’s Happened Again In London.

Don't hide. Fight.

In “1984”, Orwell talks about how the ultimate goal of Newspeak is to change the language and the culture so that the very idea of rebelling against the state is removed from people’s minds altogether. Britain (and indeed, all of Europe) has spent the last 50 years removing the idea that the people themselves¬†can and should be in charge of their own security: The state is there to take care of you. Soldiers and police stand ready to do violence for you, you don’t need to worry about defending your life, that’s what government is for.

But what if that doesn’t work? What happens when we face a threat like this, which is designed to inflict as much violence on an unaware, unarmed and cowering populace so quickly and so brutally, the horror is accomplished before the call does out to central dispatch? It took eight minutes for UNARMED policemen to show up at the vehicle ramming / stabbing death of Fusilier Lee Rigby, and the armed cops who took out the attackers showed up fifteen minutes after the attack.

Fun fact: The human body usually bleeds out from a cut to a major artery in around 3 minutes, and it’s a matter of policy for paramedics not to treat the victims at the scene until it’s first been secured by the cops (Medics don’t like to get shot at. Go figure.).

My friend Erin Palette of Operation Blazing Sword said it better than just about anyone I know: Concealed carry is a herd immunity against crime. Want fewer victims of horrific terror attacks? Stop encouraging a culture of victimhood.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There are two possible responses to the distributed threat of Islamic-backed terrorism: Clamping down hard on civil rights¬†so you might catch the bad guys in the same net you throw over the general public, or a distributed, empowered response that can react faster than any agent of the state can.

London chose the first option, and it has not worked well. Whether or not they have the courage and trust in their citizenry to try the second option remains to be seen.  Chris Hernandez talks about the history and effectiveness of such attacks, Greg Ellifritz has some great info on what you and I can do right now to lessen our chances of being a victim in these situations, and my meager contributions are over at Ricochet.com.

Learn from this, and stay safe out there.

Pirates Of The Pirates Of The Caribbean.

Pirates Of The Pirates Of The Caribbean.

Sean Sorrentino posted a terrific Marc MacYoung piece on¬†‘The Disneyland State Of Mind“, a mindset that Marc describes as slightly (or more than slightly) out of control and believes that dammit, I have a RIGHT to a good time, and HOW DARE YOU INTERRUPT ME HAVING A GOOD TIME!!!!!

I’ve written about how that applies to the interrupted good times of the Democratic Party over at Ricochet, but it also applies to our personal lives as well. To be honest, I was kinda troubled by how NORMAL it felt for me to carry around a knife and trauma kit inside a theme park. I mean, I’m on vacation, I’m SUPPOSED¬†to be relaxing in a care-free environment with my family, and here I am wondering about how I’m going to smuggle things like a pointy-stabby blade past security.

And then I watched a violent domestic argument break out in front of me. No, I didn’t intervene, (because that’s what park security is for), but yes, it did wake me up to the fact that even though I was on vacation, reality itself was not on vacation, and bad things can and do happen in the happiest of places.

Having the means to¬†defend myself and potentially deal with the consequences of lethal force didn’t affect¬†my ability to have a good time. In fact, keeping an eye out for trouble also let me see the good things around me, like how many people around me were having as much fun as we¬†were having inside the park. Being aware of what’s going around you means you’re aware of the good things going on around you, not just the bad things. It leads to a bigger life that’s more-connected with reality, not paranoia and fear.

Live in the moment. ALL of the moments.


Update: I wrote this post and queued it up for publishing before Monday night’s horror. If anything, it’s any more appropriate now.