The Bad Guys Train. Do You?

Have you ever said to yourself the words “I can’t afford to get training”? How about “Why do I need to train – I shoot well enough?” Are you the sort of gun owner who puts 50 rounds downrange once in a while and calls it good?

If any of this sounds like you, I have a news flash for you: You’re betting your life on your opponent (ie, the violent criminals) being less well trained than you are. And that is a bet you will almost certainly lose.

I came across a fascinating, but terrifying, piece of literature today. It’s a report, published biannually by the FBI’s National Gang Intelligence Center. The most recent version of the National Gang Threat Assessment (NGTA), prepared in 2011, comes in a freely downloadable PDF file of some 100 pages. If you take to heart the lesson that you should “know your enemy”, this is probably some of the best intel you can get your hands on.

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Criminals Don’t Think Like You

I was listening to the latest of Ben Branam’s Modern Self-Protection podcast today, and wanted to underline something Ben talks about that’s important to understanding how to respond to a violent attack: The criminals don’t think the way you do.

When we try to imagine what a criminal will do, and how we can respond to it, it’s only natural to think about what we would do in a similar situation. People tell us “talk about yourself to make the criminal empathize with you”, or “give him what we wants and he won’t hurt you.” I’ve heard some people tell rape victims to urinate or vomit on their attackers. These seem like natural suggestions on the surface. After all, we don’t deliberately hurt people we care about. We don’t deliberately hurt people who give us what we want. We find throwing up a turn-off. If that’s how we would feel, that’s how the criminal would feel too. Right?

Wrong. What would work on us if we were criminals doesn’t work on actual criminals, because actual criminals don’t think the way we do. This is the gap between “the reality of violence” and “the fantasy of violence” that Rory Miller talks about, and wrapping our heads around it is hugely important if we want to stay safe.

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“Stop-n-Rob” Safety, and Risk Assessment

Ben Branam at Modern Self-Protection has a great post up about avoiding robbery at convenience stores, which he refers to as “Stop-n-Robs”. This is not far from the truth – “convenience store worker” is consistently among the more dangerous jobs out there. Especially for night shift workers. I know a woman who used to work in such a place who was raped and stabbed by a would-be robber early one morning. Robberies are commonplace, and I know of at least one shooting locally that took place in such a store.

I especially liked Ben’s suggestion to play the “what-if” game.He explains:
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Do You Know Your Enemy?

Over at, there’s a fascinating post today by Greg Ellifritz. Greg is the tactical training officer for a police department in the midwest, and also blogs over at Active Response Training, where he’s the president and primary instructor. (If you aren’t following Greg’s blog yet, add it to your RSS feed now. I’ll wait.)

Greg quoted in his post from Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher, who wrote that “if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.” For serious students of self-defense and personal safety, Greg argues convincingly, that means understanding as much as you can about criminal behavior, criminal tactics, and how to respond to those tactics. Are you studying this topic in as much depth as you’re studying to improve your own skills? Military and law enforcement units train extensively on the tactics their opponents use and how to counter them. If you’re serious about safeguarding your own life and the lives of your loved ones, this is critical information.

Anyway, Greg decided, as part of this study, to examine and gather data about the firearms seized by his police department from criminals. He looked at 85 such weapons, and gathered statistics about them. And what he found may surprise you. It surely surprised me, and (since I’m also a mystery writer) I do a lot of reading about criminal behavior.

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Process Predators vs. Resource Predators

I mentioned a few posts ago that I was reading an excellent book, Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected by Rory Miller. I’ll do a fuller review of this book soon, but for now I wanted to talk about one of the key distinctions Miller makes, and how understanding that distinction informs our responses to violence.

According to Miller, predators can be divided into two categories: resource predators and process predators. A resource predator uses violence to get a resource – something you have that he wants, such as your purse, your car, or the TV in your living room. Burglary and armed robbery are examples of the sorts of crimes committed by resource predators, and a pure resource predator will use violence only to the extent necessary to convince his victim to hand over the resource he wants. Once he gets the resource and gets away, the attack is usually over.

For a process predator, on the other hand, violence is the point of the exercise. A process predator wants to hurt his victim. That’s what he’s all about. Assaults, rapes and murders are crimes committed by process predators. A sexually-motivated serial killer is perhaps the purest form of process predatory behavior humans can manifest. And, with a process predator, there’s nothing you can give him that will end the violence except for your life.

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