Justify Your Existence On This Planet.

So the question was asked by a friend on Facebook,

Just exactly what is the purpose and goal of defensive firearms training? It really can’t be based on probability, because the probability is you will never need to use a gun to defend yourself.
So what circumstances should we train for and what should be our priorities?

I have three answers for that question.

  1. Because I can, that’s why.
  2. Yes, the odds are very, very low. The stakes, however, are very, very mortal. It’s like being in a traffic accident. No, I don’t get into an accident every day (even with #FloridaMan as a constant companion on the roads), but despite that, I still wear my seatbelt every time I get in the car.
  3. One of the reasons why I got started in this was because of the perception of increasing violence in and around my city.

Now, though, ten years later, things have changed. I still want to be become a better gun owner, but in the process of becoming a better defensive gun owner, I’m a quieter, gentler soul (because of the need to de-escalate), I’m an active participant in the (fun) sport of practical shooting, gotten in better shape, met some great people, learned how to be a better driver and a better parent thru more awareness and I’ve *definitely* become more aware of the long-term consequences of my actions.
As it turns out, one of the biggest reasons for the journey is not the destination, but rather the journey itself.

The Family That Stacks Together, Attacks Together

What would a “Tactical Gentleman’s Weekend” for Gun Culture 2.0 look like?

It’s an interesting challenge, because let’s face it, shooting stuff from speedboats is FUN, while learning how to de-escalate an angry drunk has a certain “eat your broccoli, it’s good for you” feel to it. It’s been my goal for a while now to eat my broccoli and become a responsible gun owner in every sense of the word. The issue is, though, that society today does not see “responsible” as a desirable thing, so balancing the broccoli and the ice cream is an ongoing challenge.

With that in-mind, here’s what I’d like to see in two-day “tactical gentleman’s” weekend that would apply to today’s CCW holder.

  • A Heavy Emphasis On Concealed Carry
    Ideally, you’d have to commit to coming to class with your primary carry rig, along with a few extra mag pouches for administration purposes.
  • Holistic, lifestyle-based approach to personal protection.
    Concealed carry, home defense, whatever.
  • Defending others as well as yourself.
    Girlfriend, friends, family, whatever. We don’t live on a deserted island, and our training shouldn’t reflect that either.

Some specific topics to cover:

  • Creating a safe room, home security, low-light ops
  • De-Escalation / Situational Awareness
  • Intro to Empty hand / Combatives
  • Basic Trauma Care
  • Shoot / No Shoot (ideally in a shoothouse of some kind

Will I ever see such a thing in my lifetime? Dunno. But it’d be cool when it happens.

 

I’ll Come To Your Emotional Rescue.

Ron Avery has some interesting thoughts on bringing the reality of the gunfight into our training and practice.

Practice with the emotional intensity of a real encounter. You are FIGHTING, not just shooting. Psychological toughness/dominance is a mindset that must be exercised in order to develop it. As part of your training, visualize what you are doing as an actual encounter. Mindset is everything and it starts before you get to the range. Paul Carlson also expressed similar thoughts on a recent episode of The Gunfighter podcast, and that got me thinking about the dog that is not barking inside the training community, namely, creating the emotions we’ll need to win a deadly force encounter.

To be honest, prepping for the emotional portion of a deadly force encounter has not entered my mind in the least. Maybe it’s because there is a fine, fine line between the sense of urgency brought on by an emotional response and the physical and mental shutdown brought on by panic and fear.

The thing is, thought, that my reasons for pursing armed self-defense are pretty much 100% emotional: I don’t want to die, and I don’t want my loved ones to die either.

Emotions, when used properly, can he a powerful, powerful tool. This was brought home to me a few years ago when I trained with Gabe Suarez. He was trying to show us his techniques for shooting and moving, and I, like the good gamer I was, preferred to shoot it in an IDPA duck-walk rather than the flat-out run he wanted. I wasn’t able to muster the speed needed because I didn’t understand the need for speed in that situation.

Then Gabe pointed the frame of his Glock (not the gun, just the frame) at my face, and the reason for speeding up became much, much clearer.

Training with Gabe Suarez

As I said on-camera, having that inert hunk of plastic pointed at me put things in a whole new light. All of a sudden, I went from trying to solve the intellectual problem of absorbing what I was being taught and the physical challenge of doing the required tasks to dealing with the emotions associated with having someone trying to kill me and using thouse emotions to enhance my abliities, rather than detract from my performance.

It’s interesting that with just over 300 hours of formal training under my belt, that has been the one and only time (so far) that an instructor has brought in an element of preparing for the emotional stress of a gunfight, and I think the training community as a whole is missing out on something here. Yes, learning the physical skills needed to survive is important, as is having the intellectual firepower needed to solve problems quickly under stress, but let’s not forget that all of that starts with the will to win, thrive and survive all that might be thrown at us, and that starts with having the emotional fortitude to carry us through to victory.

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.

Besides, you should visit Tread Hunter if you looking for better tire shops.

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.