Tragedies and Verbal Attacks

First of all, yes, I’m still here (if just barely, it feels like!) Things have gotten a bit crazy work-wise, and it doesn’t look like they’ll settle down much until after I move (same city, different house) in July. I also hd a minor motorcycle accident a month ago, and my hands have been in enough pain to make blogging a challenge.

I had a post ready to go on another subject, but then this horrific tragedy happened in Santa Barbara (just about a 90 minute drive away), and…well, it’s been ugly. So the post I had written is being shelved for another day so I can express some of what I’m feeling.

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Survival at What Cost?

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I was reading a blog post recently that talked about the gap between the “feel-good” messages some self-defense instructors teach and the on-the-ground reality of violence. There’s lots of goodness there, but I wanted to pick up on one particular lesson today.

The author writes, in part:

…[Y]ou say…that we can prevail, and you’re teaching us stuff that we ought to be able to work, stuff that some of us can do here and now. And I think that’s great, but here there are no consequences to messing it up. If I fumble my joint lock or don’t punch hard enough it won’t mean a difference between life and death. You are telling us nothing about risk avoidance or damage control. You are telling us nothing about how to pick our battles and when to admit defeat. With you it’s just fighting until victory or death.

There’s more there, and I’ll let you read it, but this is the point I’d like to talk about: You can do everything right, practice situationall awareness and avoid going to “stupid places with stupid people” and deploy your unarmed defensive skills and even your weapon. You might do all that and still lose the fight. And you need to be ready for that eventuality, and you need to have made some decisions about that situation ahead of time.

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Creatures of Habit

The music in the bar was loud, and the air very cold. It was crowded, and the lights strobed in dizzying flashes of red and blue. I’d love to be able to claim these factors disoriented me, clouded my judgment and slow my reflexes. I’d love to be able to say that, because of them, I wasn’t in my right mind, that my faculties had temporarily deserted me.

I’d love to be able to fall back on those excuses for why I didn’t respond more immediately and forcefully when the man who reeked of sweat and stale beer got far too close to me. I’d love to use them to explain why I didn’t say “no”, clearly and unequivocally, when he touched the back of my hand. I’d love to rationalize away all the reasons why it wasn’t until his hand had skimmed past my knee and was disappearing under the hem of my skirt before I finally responded.

And why, even then, my response was soft and quiet and meek, all things I try not to be, so that even after that point he followed me around for another hour, right up to the moment that my friends and I left the bar.

I’d love to be able to say that ths encounter took place long ago, back before I had the training and knowledge I do now. Back before I knew better. But I can’t even say that. In truth, the incident I described was appallingly recently, and I’ve done a lot of thinking since about lessons (re-)learned, and about why I responded the way I did. And why you might respond that way, too, even though you too know better.

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I Love My Guns

By MamaLiberty

Some recent comments on various message boards frequented by shooters indicate that a few people are either changing their minds or are bowing to the politically correct pressure of the day. They have begun to assert that they do NOT “love their guns” and only view them as necessary tools.

While I couldn’t agree more that guns are simply tools, pretty much like any others, I don’t know why that would make them unlovable. Most men love their tools, all different kinds, and men have always loved their guns. I’m certainly not ashamed to join those men.

But, you might ask, just what is it that we (who still profess it anyway) actually love about guns? Aren’t they killing machines, good only for harming others? We hear that a lot.

So, why do I love my guns? Let me count the ways.

To start with, about 30 years ago I was attacked and would likely have died if I had not been armed.

At that point the man started to walk toward me, in a few words telling me just how he would hurt me. I raised the shotgun, but he just sneered and said confidently, “you won’t shoot me” and kept coming.
He was still too close to my car, so I aimed the .410 shotgun just over his head and pulled the trigger.
I saw the shocked look, just before I saw the blood on his face and chest where the tiny #6 birdshot had hit him. He turned and ran away, destroying a low ornamental fence in the process, but never even slowing to untangle it from his legs.

How would the world be better and more peaceful if I had been raped and murdered instead, simply because I had no gun?

I love to take my guns apart and clean them, usually after a satisfying day at the range or out on the wide grasslands. I love their mechanical simplicity and elegance, the engineering miracle that really has not changed much for hundreds of years. I love the smell of the cleaning products and the silky sound of the action when it is oiled properly. The crisp “snap” of the trigger release is music to my ears.

Though I protect my hearing religiously, I love the sound of gunfire on the range when I’m there, and in the distance as others shoot. I’m about a mile from the range and can hear it often. It is the sound of freedom to me – other men and women both enjoying themselves and practicing a useful skill.

I have an old M1 .30 carbine. The scratches and dents in the old wooden stock have a serious story to tell… though sadly I can’t read it and the man who could is probably long gone by now. I love to shoot that gun, and imagine the story it might tell if it could. It’s a good old gun, and would certainly help me to defend myself and my neighbors if necessary.

My old Marlin 30-30 lever gun is just about perfect for hunting, which could keep me alive if things ever got to that point. That might mean bringing down deer for food, or holding off predators who would take my food away from me.  The scarred old stock has another and just as beautiful tale to tell, of hunts and shooting matches and the companionship that both can bring to all kinds of people.

The Springfield XD 9mm I carry on my belt each day, everywhere I go, is part of the ongoing story of my life. I’m 67 years old, and not able to run or fight meaningfully with my bare hands. The tool in that holster gives me the power to overcome my physical shortcomings and equalizes my opportunity to save myself or others from aggression and great harm or death. That is a heavy responsibility and one that most armed people take very seriously.

A Ruger .357 magnum revolver is my back up and concealed carry gun. I carried it openly for years, but found I had better control of the semi-automatic. Concealed carry is good for certain situations, but I’m glad that it’s not necessary all the time.

The most important reason I love my guns is something quite different, however.

They represent self ownership, and true independence. They mark me as one who is responsible for myself and willing to risk everything to protect myself and others. It also marks me as a free human being and not a slave. Slaves are not “allowed” to own and carry guns. Free people can’t be stopped from doing so.

I love my guns, and the liberty for which they stand.

******

*NRA Certified instructor and other certification for handguns, self defense. Thirty years teaching and shooting experience.

I Am Not A Victim” is available as an e-book free. Read the story at the link and follow the directions to get your pdf copy by return email.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is somewhat of a bittersweet day, for it’s my first Thanksgiving in more than a decade on my own. But I’ve been spending the day nourishing my soul: a good friend and I took a trip to the range earlier, and I’m going out for dinner with friends this evening. It’s a different way to spend the holiday than I’ve done in years past, but that’s all to the good.

Over the course of the day, I’ve been thinking about all that I have to be thankful for on this holiday. My divorce is underway, and that’s bittersweet but ultimately to the good. I’m blessed with an amazing new job and coworkers, friends who love and support me, and the space and resources to pursue the things that matter to me. I am intensely grateful for all of these things.

And I’m intensely grateful for you, my dear readers. You enable me to write about things that matter to me, you listen and provide your feedback and share your experience and ideas generously, and together we grow. It is a distinct privilege to have this forum, and I couldn’t do it without all of you. Thank you, thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. May this day be full of joy, love, and enjoyment of the people and activities that matter to you.

Making the Choice Not to Carry

1070609_65995437On a recent trip to Seattle for business, I had a chance to have lunch with the inimitable Kathy Jackson. As you might imagine, our conversation touched on all sorts of topics, including armed self-defense. At one point, I commented about how I think it’s important to encourage other women to become responsible for their own safety, but that it’s also important to let women come to that decision on their own and not be pushy about it.

Kathy said something which surprised me, but which on reflection I totally agree with. “I’d go farther than that,” she replied, “and say that I think it’s irresponsible to pressure women into making that decision.”

Though we didn’t talk in depth about Kathy’s reasons for feeling that way, I’d like to talk about the reasons why I wholeheartedly agree with her sentiment.

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More Than Just Self Defense

The students in my basic pistol classes are usually too overwhelmed with new information to ask many questions, but I often get good ones from the intermediate and conceal carry students. This last week I got an exceptional one, and it caused me to consider rewriting a part of my book.

We had been going over situational awareness, and she asked if I had any suggestions, beyond the exercises in the book, to help practice for that. We discussed some, and then went on with how that could contribute a lot to other areas of our lives, giving us both the motive and opportunity to actually practice it all the time.

The implications for self defense are important, obviously, so that we may be aware of danger as early as possible and can avoid it or respond otherwise as appropriate. We agreed that it was very important to teach this to children early, since they are even more vulnerable.

So, in what other ways would the constant practice of situational awareness benefit us and those around us?

We can become much better, safer drivers. Now this might seem contradictory a little, since distraction is a major cause of accidents and we are proposing to be aware of a great deal more than we might otherwise be, but if we integrate that awareness into other safe driving habits, consciously weeding out the irrelevant things that are so often distractions, it only seems logical that we become a better driver. We train ourselves to observe what we see around us, the actions of other vehicles and pedestrians, and assess them for potential problems. We also would be thinking of simple plans to avoid problems. The key is to be aware and prepared, rather than surprised when danger strikes.

By the same token, we become much safer pedestrians.

We can become better shoppers. I had not thought about this before, but it seems clear. If we are practicing being aware of our surroundings, why would that not extend to examining, assessing and evaluating the things we propose to purchase? Did you ever get home with a rotten potato in the bottom of the bag? Did you determine to lift the bag and LOOK for one next time? Cracked eggs? Out of date milk? Dented cans? A tear in a shirt, or a missing hook on a boot after you got the items home? I’ve done them all at one time or another, but I’ve done that far less often since I began to practice awareness… and I wasn’t even thinking about it that way. It was just a part of the whole process.

Might we not become far better friends and neighbors? Before I began to carry a gun, I could not have told you much about the normal happenings in my neighborhood to save my life. I literally was not paying attention. After several years, and consciously practicing the drills, I can actually look out my windows and  spot a car, truck or person that doesn’t “belong” because I’ve invested the time and effort to know who and what does belong.  That doesn’t mean the stranger is up to no good, obviously, but they are worth a second or even a third glance. If I see a stranger hanging around, with no evident purpose, I’ll watch even more closely. And my neighbors commonly do the same now since I suggested it to them years ago. I live alone, and one neighbor has called me many times when strangers drive up here, just to be sure I’m OK.

Now, some people might not appreciate that part, and in a crowded neighborhood it would be impractical, but it works out well here. Another neighbor called once this summer to let me know my sneaky horses had gotten out on the other side of my property. I would not have known about it until I went out to feed otherwise, and they might have gotten into real trouble by then. So the exercise of awareness can help to build safer and more friendly neighborhoods.

Obviously, you don’t want to become a nosy parker, and interventions like the phone calls would be reserved for serious situations or questions, but the very practice of observing and assessing is what is most important for your own development and safety.

We came up with a good list, I think, but I would be very glad to get your feedback so I can add as many practical suggestions as possible to my teaching material. How would you go about expanding your own practice of situational awareness, and how do you think it would it affect your family, neighborhood and safety? What might be a downside or problem with those listed here?

[The book, “I Am NOT A Victim” is still available free to anyone who sends me an email and asks for it. Please let me know where you saw the offer. I am sending it only in pdf format now, so if you can’t open a pdf document for some reason, or would just rather have something else, let me know that too.]

And…She’s Back!

It seems fitting today to be writing this post announcing my return to the blogging world. You see, today I’m celebrating a milestone. Today’s my birthday. But not just any birthday. Oh, no. Today I turn 40. I know in the scheme of things 40 isn’t that old. But still, this is a milestone for me, and it’s got me in a contemplative mood. So I hope you’ll bear with me, dear readers, while I reflect upon some of the lessons of the past year, the changes in my life, and the insights I draw from them:

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I Can’t Believe I DID That!

Did you ever walk out of a bathroom and discover later that your holster was empty? OOPS

I’ve only done that twice in all the years I’ve carried a gun, and both times were at home, thank goodness, but it is something to think about seriously, and something to add to our training and conditioning.

But how?

I can’t remember the details of the first time, shortly after I started carrying, but the most recent episode of total dumb was just the other day. I sat down immediately to analyze it and see what I could do to prevent it from happening again. I absolutely, positively refuse to ever let it happen at the library or someone else’s home.

The first problem I could identify was the fact that I’d given up carrying ALL the time last year when I hurt my back. After a bad fall last autumn, the weight of the gun and tightness of the belt was just too difficult to bear all the time. That was about the time I started carrying concealed a lot when I went out, and the CC “fanny pack” just isn’t as heavy or tight as my belt rig. The worst of it was that I stopped carrying either way, pretty much completely, when I was home alone. So, I was simply out of the habit of being aware of the gun at my waist all the time.

Just recently, I got a new gun belt that holds the holster properly and doesn’t need to be so tight, so carrying OC became a lot more comfortable and I went back to it most of the time, including in the house. Now I need to get back into all the habits I’d cemented years ago when I started this.

The second problem can and does happen to us all, no matter how well we train: distractions. I realized that I’d just finished washing my hands when the phone rang. I went out to answer it, and just never thought about the gun until half an hour later when I noticed the empty holster.

So, what can we do about that sort of thing? First, there was no earthly reason why I HAD to answer the phone right then. If it had rung a few minutes earlier, I wouldn’t have thought a thing about ignoring it and letting it go to the answering machine. Why we react like Pavlov’s dogs to a ringing phone or the doorbell, I’ll never really understand, but all kinds of distractions are something to think about and most are certainly under our control.

Next I remembered that I had previously put the gun on a shelf directly at eye level when standing at the sink to wash. That shelf got filled with other things, so this time I’d put it on another shelf lower down – and it was out of sight once I stood up! The lower shelf might be a bigger problem for other reasons if I didn’t live alone, but “out of sight, out of mind” was problem enough.

Then, sometimes the habits necessary for one thing cause trouble in other areas. When learning to carry concealed, I’d carefully schooled myself against patting or otherwise touching the gun once it was in place… something I did occasionally when carrying openly before. I’d have noticed the gun was missing instantly if I’d not taught myself not to pat it.

Sometimes you just can’t win.

Has this happened to you? Where were you, and what did you do to correct the problem? I can tell you that I won’t forget to look for that gun and make sure it’s in the holster each time now for quite a while.The shock was pretty good incentive, and I only hope it lasts. I don’t even want to think about how embarrassing it would have been to leave the house like that, or to have a visitor find the gun I’d left behind.

Too Hot To Shoot!

In many parts of the country, it really is too hot to shoot much of the time these days. And then, of course, there’s always the problem of scarce ammunition. What to do? How do you keep your skills sharp under those conditions?

Practice – General guidelines for dry fire exercises:

CAUTION: All of the safety rules must be maintained during these exercises. Remove all live ammunition from the room. Eliminate all distractions as much as possible. Establish specific times and places for exercises. Check to be sure gun is unloaded EACH TIME you begin a dry fire exercise. Exercises done on the range, live fire, should be done with a qualified instructor or experienced mentor and conform with all standard and range specific rules and safety precautions. Ask an instructor for schedule of live fire sessions available or to arrange for one.

What is “dry fire?” This simply means that you use an unloaded gun, dummy ammunition or gun simulation for practice and drills to learn new skills and practice them to a desired level of competence before you shoot live ammunition at the range. [Make sure your gun would not be damaged by dry fire (empty). You may need to use a dummy round or “snap caps.“ Check with manufacturer.]

Why dry fire? Believe it or not, dry fire is far more important for building good skills than live fire. You don’t have the recoil to deal with, and it doesn’t cost anything. The only way to build “muscle memory” is with many repetitions of a PERFECT action, so taking the time to learn things and practice them CORRECTLY from the start will save you countless hours. It takes about 300 repetitions to learn a habit, but at least 10,000 to UNLEARN one. Therefore, if you are not confident that you fully understand the operations called for in an exercise, wait to consult your instructor before you proceed. You’ll save lots of time and money in the long run.

Make specific plans for place and time to practice. If you make and stick to a schedule, you will benefit the most and create safe habits. In the ideal world, you would practice at least 10 to 15 minutes every day. Most people who are serious about self defense manage this about three times a week – at least in the beginning. Your choice.

Choose one place in your home, garage, patio or other for your dry fire exercise. Do not engage in this activity anywhere else except on the gun range. This helps form good habits and reduces risk of accidents. Evaluate the area for hazards such as appliances, fire sources and anything that would make the actual discharge of a gun a danger to you or anyone else. Eliminate those where possible. Choose a “safe direction” for your dry fire and keep your gun pointed in that direction as much as possible, depending on the drill.

Unless the drill calls for it, do not allow anyone else to be in the room. Do not use anything but simulated guns if others are present. Never point ANY gun at another person unless you are being attacked. Use an actual target.

Remove ALL live ammunition from your dry fire area. Check to make sure the gun is unloaded before entering the dry fire area and before EACH exercise. This may seem excessive or redundant, but it is a vital safety habit. The first thing said in most negligent (accidental) discharges is, “I thought the gun was unloaded.”

Maintain the three absolute rules each and every time you handle a gun. Muzzle and trigger control, along with frequent – even obsessive – checking for an empty chamber will go a long way towards guaranteeing that nobody will ever get hurt unless they attack you.

Eliminate distractions as much as you can. Turn off TV or radios, unplug the phone and lock the doors.

When you come to the end of your dry fire session, review what you have done and consciously END your session before you leave the area. Be very aware of what you are doing before you reload and store or holster the gun. This is the point were many unintended discharges occur. Do not reload in your dry fire area under any circumstances.

The above is from my book, “I Am NOT A Victim.” It’s available free to anyone who sends me an email and requests it. Follow the link to find contact information at the bottom of the page.

Next, we’ll look at some specific dry fire drills. I’d love to have comments on the drills you use and find helpful.