I don’t need to know how to kill people faster

There are now quite a few ex-mil guys, with tons of real-world two-way range experience, many from what we now call “Tier 1 SF groups”, teaching to the public.  That their wisdom and the lessons of their experience is freely available to citizens is a uniquely American prerogative, and we should all be grateful.  We should all avail ourselves of what they have to say, and closely consider their advice regarding…well, everything gunfight-related.

And we should put that information through these five filters:

  1. These guys are not you and not me.  They are young, for one thing, and in peak condition.  They are the beneficiaries of decades of the very best, full-time training that American tax dollars can buy, not to mention the millions of rounds that they’ve been able to expend.  On top of all that they are the product of a world-class selection process and they possess talents and physical and mental abilities that most people don’t.  In short, what works for them may not for us.  Might, but also might not.
  2. They train for and have experience in missions with ROE that differ considerably from that of U.S. citizens simply trying to defend themselves (and their families) within the time, budget, and legal constraints that most productive citizens have.
  3. They come out of an environment in which training and actual missions are conducted while being part of a team that is as high-speed as they are.  On the other hand, you and I are alone.
  4. Their primary weapon is the M4 or similar.  Engagements with the handgun are relatively rare.  As Dave Spaulding has pointed out: police officers are the people that get into gunfights with handguns in large numbers, and in the context of civilian ROE to boot.
  5. My analysis of the gunfight data that Tom Givens has complied (see posts below) leads me to  believe that if you can draw and hit an 8-inch circle at 7 yards in 1.5 seconds you can probably — probably — shoot well enough.  You can add in a little more time once you draw from concealment, depending on the concealment method.  (Tom may not agree with me, but note that I did emphasize probably, as in most of the time.)  After that, your time is best spent on learning awareness, judgement, threat management, verbalization, aftermath tactics, the law, etc.  There’s more to self-defense than shooting, and after I can meet this standard I don’t need to know how to shoot people faster.  Improve your shooting if you enjoy so doing, but do not neglect these other areas!

One of the ex-T1SF guys that I admire greatly (although I’ve never had the privilege of meeting him) is Paul Howe.  He realized that in order to teach cops he needed to live in that world, and so after retirement became an active sworn deputy – with all the civilian training that implies*.  He understands what a cop alone on the beat does as well as he understands what his 1st SFOD-D comrades do.  Since he carries, he also understands the constraints and challenges facing ordinary civilians.  The teachings of MSGT Howe therefore have more relevance and credibility than those of someone with similar military experience but without this additional background.

*He had also been a cop for a little while before enlisting


7 thoughts on “I don’t need to know how to kill people faster

  1. Ralph,

    I am curious what your thoughts are about slow, steady, progressive training when it comes to our self-defense plan. I am concerned that we might be short changing our students by limiting them with our words and theories.

    Every SF soldier/sailor started out ignorant and in need of training. Someone somewhere told each of them the next step(s) needed. They all took those steps. Civilians need different training. But they also can take the next step(s) if they desire. But we as instructors need to be there to offer the next step(s) to them. To motivate, cajole, etc to get them to take that step.

    I would never tell a student that once he’s read his state laws pertaining to self-defense that he has done enough to understand them. Even though most of the time that will be good enough to keep him out of jail in a self-defense shooting.

    I advise him, over time, he needs to study them. He needs to understand how prosecutors interpret them in his state and finally he can take a class to actually practice implementing them in scenarios. These later steps can not just keep him out of jail during those situations that are gray in nature, they also get his reaction time to be faster because he hesitates less when force is needed.

    I also want to be there to explain that they don’t have to practice three times a week to get there. Slow steady progress can win the day after the easy gains are made.

    Good enough is just where we are at any given time the fight comes to us. I personally don’t believe its a destination. Even some of Tom Givens’ students lost and were injured in their fights. It happens. I just don’t want to have a hand in it. Everyone has a next step. Well rounded self-defense students need to change up their training/practice to get faster, smoother, smarter, wiser, stronger, happier, etc. I believe it’s not a zero sum game and progress can happen without training taking over our lives.


  2. Slow and steady is almost always better than trying to get to an advanced state fast. There are exceptions – Marcus Wynne has techniques that truly accelerate learning, and things ingrained properly under real stress tend to stick with you – but slow and steady is always a high-percentage bet to make in training.

    My point in this post overlaps with the points I make from the point of view of constraint theory (see the link to the recent American Handgunner article a couple posts below): you are only as good as your weakest link. If you can shoot fairly well but your legal knowledge, or your judgement, or whatever, is poor, you should bring all those elements up to your shooting level before you spend more time on shooting better. That is if you take a logical, rather than a fun, approach to self-protection.


  3. Reblogged this on CIVILIAN GUNFIGHTER and commented:
    This article largely echoes my thoughts in the two articles I penned for the Civilian Gunfighter blog about Instructor Pedigrees. Always consider your own personal “mission” and whether or not the topics covered by the course and the instructor are congruent with that mission.

    However, I would caution against discarding out of hand the notion of training with some of these “ex-Tier One” types. A glance at our recommended books will show my brief review of the book “Relentless Strike” by Sean Naylor. In it, he outlines many occasions where such operators worked in plain clothes, not relying on M4 or HK carbines as their primary weapon systems. Along these lines, a course like Mike Pannone’s “Covert Carry” class, which John and I both took (both AARs are here on the blog) is highly applicable to the life of a civilian practicing concealed carry.

    I also have to echo that Paul Howe is awesome! John trained with him once several years ago, and AARs of both the courses I took with him are here on the blog.–Robert


  4. “However, I would caution against discarding out of hand the notion of training with some of these “ex-Tier One” types.”

    I hope I didn’t imply that – even a little! Rather: 1) you have to put their (like everyone’s) material thru a relevancy/applicability filter, and 2) that shooting “better” may not be your constraint to prevailing over violence OK (in all senses of the word) – there may be other things you should spend time on after a point.

    Liked by 1 person

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