Stop practicing shooting!

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:

  1. You have to be focused enough to avoid potentially bad places, events, etc.
  2. You have to have a gun with you.
  3. You have to be aware enough of your surroundings to notice that something isn’t right.
  4. You have to assess what’s not right to determine if it’s a threat.
  5. You have to – in real time – decide if it’s a deadly force threat.
  6. 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).
  7. You have to give appropriate instructions to anyone with you.
  8. You have to access your weapon in time.
  9. You have to employ effective challenging techniques, if appropriate.
  10. 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.
  11. You have to track what’s behind the BG so you don’t potentially hit an innocent.
  12. You have to be aware of anyone else in the area with a gun who might mistake you for a BG with a gun.
  13. If you have to shoot, you have to hit the BG, preferably COM.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. You have to get yourself and loved ones to safety.
  17. You have to get your gun out of sight.
  18. 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.
  19. You have to initiate first aid to any innocent injured.
  20. You have to make sure you’re not shot by responding police.
  21. You have to know how to interact with responding police: how to act, what to say, what not to say, etc.
  22. You have to call your lawyer.  Do you know who’ll you’ll call?  Bail will come later.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.

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20 thoughts on “Stop practicing shooting!

  1. Great article. Thanks for sharing the list. It’s a very good reminder for us old folks too.

    I’m with Sherman, people don’t even need a gun to “practice” most of that list. But it’s just not cool. I need to shed a few tenth of a second off my mental triggers of lethal force but, but, but, that involves a book and then some scenarios. ewwww. Get the timer and let’s shoot.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Practice mental scenarios all the way through (’til your lawyer arrives) Do it at least one a day. Every day. Vary the situation.

    Practice QUICK presentation of your weapon because you want the adversary to stop without your needing to shoot. Suprise is a very important tool. So is “command voice”.
    Try this as an idea. Don’t move, Drop your weapon, … RUN. You do not want to shoot OR capture. A runaway is a victory for you.

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  3. Solid piece of work. Validating and challenging at the same time. I’ve tried for several years to sell this sort of training and consistently lose out to the “high round count” instructors. Still I’m going to keep at it, and this article has really helped me focus on parts of my program I need to buttress.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Craig Douglas’ ECQC covers 1-18.

    #19 is optional—there is no “have to” or “must”. Greg Ellefritz covers this as do several others.

    #20-25 are covered by Mas Ayoob’s MAG-40 class. #20 is post-shooting assessment (area and self).

    MAG-20 classroom covers #21-25.

    So there it is: Attend MAG-40 and ECQC. Repeat every two years.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. From Marcus Wynne. He had trouble posting this so I’m doing it for him with a little editing. I go back and forth with him. Scan the whole exchange – his stories about crime in South Africa, although about LE, illustrate the difference in danger between there and here and why training is evaluated so differently there. There geeky gun fanboys don’t survive.
    ——————–

    MARCUS:

    You should listen to those recorded police radio calls from South Africa — listening to two cops (good friends and former students) pinned down in their squad car fighting 17 AK-armed criminals in an hour and fifteen minute long gunfight is a good education about the level of violence police AND civilians face in RSA. Which was and remains the primary reason I went there to train gunfighters back in the 90s, because I wanted to go where the gunfights were, and it wasn’t in the US civilian or LE sector. I was always refreshed by the no-bullshit attitude of the South Africans. The level of experience vs training is significant there. I had in one of my classes a 22 year old who had been in 22 gunfights (not one on one, not shooting to stop, but full blown gun battles with multiple armed opponents) as a private sector security guard. First in a supermarket, then on an armored car. His first major fight in the supermarket as a 17 year old armed with a shotgun was against 8 men armed with pistols and R5 rifles. They were police officers come to rob the payroll.

    The point is that people who have experienced violence, violent crime, seen it and had it dealt out to them, and/or dealt it out to others, see “training” in a real different light. And the “spectrum of the event” gets very short shrift here, IMHO, because it’s not as easy as shooting, and, frankly, the American audience isn’t willing to pay to train it.

    I’ve taken the liberty to add some “fleshing out” beneath each that helps refine the necessary skill set to accomplish all that.

    You have to be focused enough to avoid potentially bad places, events, etc. (this presupposes that you know how to focus, and that you know what a bad place or event is, which presupposes experience, training, and or research)

    You have to have a gun with you. (Presupposes that you know how to select a firearm, or know someone who genuinely has the skill and/or experience to help you select one, that you’ve trained with it, that you understand carriage as a civilian including gear and clothing considerations, and that you’ve adopted the lifestyle of always being armed)

    You have to be aware enough of your surroundings to notice that something isn’t right. (Presupposes that you know how to be aware, how to scan and process in real time, and that you know the difference between right and not-right in real time in your area of operations, i.e. baselines and variations)

    You have to assess what’s not right to determine if it’s a threat. (Presupposes you know right from not-right, and that you know how to do a threat assessment, which may vary dramatically based on who you’re with, how you’re armed, time of day, weather conditions, your physical state, etc. etc.)

    You have to – in real time – decide if it’s a deadly force threat. (Presupposes the assessment process which must be trained and tested and the knowledge of what constitutes a deadly force threat in real time which can change from imminent to non-existent in a heart beat, and vice versa)

    You have to act on the threat. Most people freeze or don’t believe what’s actually happening. (Not only must one recognize real threat, but you must have greased the mental skids with visualization, force on force, high stress so your response goes from WHAT THE FUCK to I KNOW THIS AND I’VE ALREADY WON

    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). (This presupposes you’ve learned appropriate tactics, can execute them under stress — for a parent, can you move your child screaming in fear…or pain…while executing a fight under fire?)

    You have to give appropriate instructions to anyone with you. (Assumes you know what to say and what works)
    You have to access your weapon in time. (Assumes training, carriage, clothing, positioning…none of which is learned static)

    You have to employ effective challenging techniques, if appropriate. (Assumes you know effective challenges and when it’s 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. (Something that has to be taught and tested under pressure, the cognitive process while inborn in a tiny fraction of the population les than two percent, must be developed in most socialized Westerners)

    You have to track what’s behind the BG so you don’t potentially hit an innocent. (This is HUGE. So few instructors ever address this in “firearms training” since they’re on a square range shooting at a backstop. Training to see past/through the threat and assess backstop in real time under stress is a fundamental skill for a gunfighter — how many people teach that and test it?)

    You have to be aware of anyone else in the area with a gun who might mistake you for a BG with a gun. (Assumes you know how to ramp your adrenaline response up and down so you can scan effectively and DISCRIMINATE)
    If you have to shoot, you have to hit the BG, preferably COM. (Supposedly addressed by most but actually addressed by few — point a finger at a moving human and see how hard it is to see something beside the hands holding the weapon and how rarely you have a full frontal shot)

    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. (Assumes you can control your response to the point that you put them down AND can then dominate the scene to do so)

    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. (Assumes you can control yourself, you have a prearranged script and know what to say and to whom and to how)
    You have to get yourself and loved ones to safety. (Assumes you know how to identify a “safe” spot within shouting distance of the crime scene)

    You have to get your gun out of sight. (Addressed more often these days)

    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. (Armed Citizen Defense Network, and consult with an attorney in their roster — I have Jim Fleming and sing his praises everywhere)

    You have to initiate first aid to any innocent injured. (Assumes you’re trained and equipped to do so)

    You have to make sure you’re not shot by responding police. (Very hard to control, especially when you may be dealing with off duty, plain clothes or undercover cops — your point below is the main point)

    You have to know how to interact with responding police: how to act, what to say, what not to say, etc. (ACDN)
    You have to call your lawyer. Do you know who’ll you’ll call? Bail will come later.(ACDN)

    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. *(Have a script written out in bullet points behind your CCW and attorney card

    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. *(worked out in advance and on your card)
    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. ACDN

    RALPH:

    So, the question naturally arises: how does a single 17 YO hold off 8 armed robbers by hisself? How do 2 guys pinned down not get killed by 17 AK-armed BGs? And where the hell was back up all that time? It sounds unbelievable.

    MARCUS:

    1) he was above the floor on an armored catwalk in the supermarket (standard anti robbery security architecture which is a result of high levels of crime which we haven’t seen here yet) which gave him a great downward angle and more cover than the squad of crooked cops (not from Illinois — the South African crooked cops have more balls 😂😂) and started shooting them as soon as they came in and deployed. So they were taking 00 buck as fast as he could shuck it from a downward angle and he had bullet resistant metal protecting him from waist down. He emptied the shotgun and transitioned to his pistol (17 year old and like most Afrikaaners shooting since he was 3-5, the boyhood ritual for an Afrikaner boy is to get his first real rifle at age 8, and he better know how to shoot it). The cops ran and shot back as they did. He killed at least one, wounded a couple of them.

    And he had big balls and a cool head.

    2) it started with two cops, they did eventually get back up right about when they ran out of ammo for rifles and pistols and what extra they had in their squad car— fight went on because the armed robbers were trying to fight their way out of the warehouse they were in and the cops wouldn’t budge.

    Dude,that level of violence IS unbelievable because we only see scattered incidents like the Miami shootout or Hollywood. It’s a daily occurrence in South Africa— when I was there in the mid 90s they lost on average 230 dead cops A MONTH out of a police force of just over 120,000 – gunfights, car crashes, grenades, pangas, suicide and heart attacks.

    Very formative experience in my life going there then. Probably why I’m such a cynical curmudgeon about the new generation of “master firearms instructors” and “tactical trainers.”

    Liked by 3 people

  6. […] Personal protection – defending yourself and those you care about that are with you – is the more appropriate mission for almost everyone not sworn and on duty.  We know from the data that this requires a minimal loadout, black swans notwithstanding.  It does require, however, a significant set of skills that have nothing to do with loadout, or even shooting – see here. […]

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  7. Contact and Control… YOU GOTTA ‘CONTACT’ the BG in order to keep those you suspect of trouble at that safe distance (think Tueller drill). You can’t work that at the SquareRange (go ahead, yell out, “Drop the knife or I’ll shoot’ at the top of your lungs and notice how long it takes an RSO to come around the corner for a little re-direction.
    BUT!
    THAT’S WHAT WE SHOULD BE WORKING ON!
    Notice ‘their’ 1. Eyes, 2. Hands, 3. Direction of Travel… 2 of the 3 necessitate I contact ‘him’ in order to determine if indeed he is a threat (2 of 3… eyes NOT on me but hands in pocket and walking towards me… “hey man, for my safety please stop right there. What are you looking for?” They attack us because WE LET THEM GET TOO CLOSE!!!
    My FA is a tool, just like my flashlight. I hesitate to ‘think FireArm’ when I come across a problem since if I think FA, then everything’ll look like a Target’. My scenario training teaches me real world tactics including the combat effectiveness of my platforms (FAs, lights, FirstAid, tools). My first low light shoot my flashlight walked off the rail during (was my first 200Rs through an AR a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away). Okay, $39.95 on eBay for light AND bracket… OOPS!!! Lesson learned, ZERO ISSUES with new (and proven with practice) WeapLights now!!!
    You’re right… WE ARE NOT LEARNING THE MOST RIGHT THINGS related to shooting. Tactics is a big’ n and they MUST BE TESTED with Scenario Training [I mean really shooting at other Trainees with less lethal AirSoft, UTM, Simunition, PaintBall (to some degree)] AS WELL AS PLAYING THE BG (this way you know how the BG thinks because in order to ‘find him’, you gotta think like him, right).

    Conscious Competence can be achieved, but not by JUST improved marksmanship… THERE IS SO MUCH MORE TO KNOW (1 – 25 listed and THAT’S ABBREVIATED)!!!

    EXCELLENT ARTICLE AND RIGHT ON POINT; WELL DONE!!!

    Like

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