I’ve often written that instead of buying a new gun you should spend the money on few cases of ammo and practice. But let me go one further and suggest that you not spend any money at all on more guns or ammo; put the money instead in your retirement account and focus on what I suggest below, because you are much more likely to want more money in retirement than you are to need a slight incremental improvement in your shooting. Plus what I suggest working on will actually dramatically improve your chances of surviving the bad thing.
This of course assumes that you can already shoot reasonably well. And by “reasonably well” I don’t mean being able to put a full magazine into a half-dollar at ten yards at .20 splits. I mean reasonably well.
This post was inspired by this very sad article. Give it a quick scan. Basically, a 73 year old Vietnam vet who appropriately shot a very bad man who had broken into his home and was trying to drown his grandson was himself shot by responding police who mistook him for the BG when he didn’t drop his gun when ordered to do so. This is not a tragedy – not in the classical literary meaning of the word – it is the opposite of that. But it is very, very sad.
In discussing this story with Marcus Wynne* he said (among other things): Some of my previous students in South Africa observed that American tactical training is for the most part not taken seriously in South Africa because we [Americans] focus too much on one tiny piece of the total problem. I should note here that they have real crime in SA: real, violent, regular crime.
So, instead of doing the easy thing and buying another gun, or doing the fun thing and blasting away to shave a tenth off your splits, lets see what falls out from considering the (chronological) elements involved in surviving a violent attack:
- You have to be focused enough to avoid potentially bad places, events, etc.
- You have to have a gun with you.
- You have to be aware enough of your surroundings to notice that something isn’t right.
- You have to assess what’s not right to determine if it’s a threat.
- You have to – in real time – decide if it’s a deadly force threat.
- You have to act on the threat. Most people freeze or don’t believe what’s actually happening. You have to employ appropriate tactics such as moving, sheltering a loved one, etc. Of course you have to be aware of your environment to make the best choice here (see 1. above).
- You have to give appropriate instructions to anyone with you.
- You have to access your weapon in time.
- You have to employ effective challenging techniques, if appropriate.
- You have to track the BG’s movements in real time – we’re talking fractions of a second here – to understand what he’s really doing at that exact fraction of a second.
- You have to track what’s behind the BG so you don’t potentially hit an innocent.
- You have to be aware of anyone else in the area with a gun who might mistake you for a BG with a gun.
- If you have to shoot, you have to hit the BG, preferably COM.
- You have to track the just-shot BG to make sure his weapon is out of reach and prevent same weapon from falling into the hands of his buddies or a bystander.
- You have to communicate effectively with the now-shocked/hysterical bystanders to keep them safe, let them know what just happened, and make it clear that you – the guy that just shot someone – is in fact a good guy.
- You have to get yourself and loved ones to safety.
- You have to get your gun out of sight.
- You have to call 911 while making it clear that you are the good guy. Included in that call, among other things, has to be a description of you so that responding cops know who you are. You want to do this yourself for what I hope are obvious reasons. Also of course, you have to know everything else to say and what to include in this critical call.
- You have to initiate first aid to any innocent injured.
- You have to make sure you’re not shot by responding police.
- You have to know how to interact with responding police: how to act, what to say, what not to say, etc.
- You have to call your lawyer. Do you know who’ll you’ll call? Bail will come later.
- You have to call your spouse, partner, parents, whomever, if they aren’t with you to let them know you’re OK and won’t be home for dinner. Or maybe for a few days. And to let them know that the press will soon be pounding on their door. And how to handle that, if you haven’t already discussed it.
- You have to call some trusted, competent third party to go and be with your spouse, partner, whomever to help them through this stressful time and to deal with the jackals in the press.
- You have to be able to articulate a clear self-defense case to your attorney. This assumes that you know what those elements are, and what things (witnesses, etc.) need to be tracked down pronto because they will disappear in short order.
I’ve probably missed a few things, but 25 is enough. Of course at this point the fun’s just beginning; you still have an investigation, court appearances, and possibly a trial to go through. As well as other things that are even less fun.
And yet, almost all American training focuses only only on element 13. That is, one out of 25+ things you need to be competent at to truly survive a violent encounter. This out-of-whackedness has only gotten worse over the last 20 years. One of the pioneers of civilian deadly-force encounter training, Massad Ayoob, did (and still does) teach almost all of these elements in his flagship course. But almost no one else does, certainly not the plethora of young “trainers” these days with no real-world experience at all. They can shoot (in some cases), but they aren’t teaching you how to survive: they don’t know how to; they don’t even realize that they aren’t.
Ditto most competitively-focused instructors. Whenever I point out the limitations of competitively-focused training, I invariably get someone whose only significant experience is in elements 8 and 13 lecturing me about how those elements are critically necessary. No shit. As much as I admire (indeed, covet) the skill of competitors, it’s not enough.
So why do we (Americans) focus almost exclusively on just shooting? I submit it’s because, unlike our South African friends, the high level of safety in most of our country allows us to get away with it.
*If you follow the link to Marcus’ blog, you’ll notice that he’s a novelist. He wasn’t always.