A Flashlight on Your Gun?

Two posts at Autrey’s Armory, What’s the Deal with Tactical Flashlights? and How Do You Hold This? sparked a dialog, and then some serious thinking on my part as well.

I start, as always, by considering my own place in the self defense continuum, and any potential hazards. Not every technique, piece of gear or tactical idea is right or necessary for everyone, but most of them are certainly worth considering. I won’t be repeating anything much that is in the articles, so please do read them if you would like to join the discussion here.

First, then, is thinking about potential attacks in your home or during the evening or nights when you are out and about. Close your eyes and imagine as many as you can. And I mean real possibilities. Nobody can anticipate everything.

In how many of those potential attacks would having a light be imperative to locate, identify and aim at your target? How might using that light make you MORE vulnerable, more of a target? If you have not been to a comprehensive tactical class, you might want to consider taking one because a lot of these questions are covered.

Of course you don’t want to put yourself into the position of possibly shooting anyone unnecessarily or, heaven forbid, a family member, so the second consideration is making sure your plans for lighting are integrated with all of your other self defense necessities: barriers, alarms, and so forth. The neighborhood drunk going into the wrong house isn’t going to be a problem for you if you always lock your doors. The family member, guests, renters coming home late at night would have a key, turn on lights, and convey agreed on signals to demonstrate that he/she is not an intruder. Children who can’t be trusted to do the same probably shouldn’t be going out alone at night anyway, I’d think.

Where light would be an absolute imperative, can you think of anything besides a flashlight that would do the job and not work against you? Motion detector lights on entrances, with smaller ones (and/or regular night lights) in hallways would be good if you have people wandering around at night.

If you must be out of the house at night, either in the car or walking, what precautions could you take to minimize being alone in the dark? Where would you need a flashlight, and would there be any way to avoid that place and time? If you had to draw your gun, would you have time or presence of mind to draw a flashlight as well? If you had the flashlight already in your hand, could you draw and fire without hesitation or fumbling? See an older article of mine to consider the necessity of being able to shoot well with one hand.

One suggestion in Autrey’s article is to mount a flashlight on your carry or home defense gun. She goes into the problem of that making you a greater target, of course. My contention is that I would not want, ever, to point a gun at someone before I had identified them as a threat; as one I would be willing to actually shoot. Some folks might be more comfortable with that possibility than I am.

Holding the flashlight in the other hand is the subject of the second article. Lots of good ideas and plenty of expert input there. Try them all, and see how they might fit into your own self defense program.

Lots to think about, and plenty of things to try. What would you do if you found yourself in a situation where you needed to be holding both a flashlight and a gun? Or, even better, what has worked for you so far? Any real life experiences to share?

Preparing for Self Defense – The Next Steps

We’ve talked about why a person needs to defend themselves, and more recently we’ve covered quite a bit about gear and dry fire exercises. But there is so much more.

Those who own a gun, and especially those who carry it for self defense, need to do at least the minimum necessary to develop and keep skills relevant. A comprehensive class and no less than one range session a month is seriously minimal, but I doubt many even go that far.

Owning a gun makes you ready for self defense about as much as owning a horse makes you a cowboy.

First, have you made up your mind that you WILL survive, that you WILL fight as long as you can breathe, and that you can and WILL do whatever is necessary to the criminal in order to stop the attack. Have you decided that you are NOT a victim?

No matter how well (or how often) you shoot at targets, your gun will be of little or no use to you if you don’t develop the other skills needed for self defense. If the bad guy gets his hands on you, gets close with a gun or other weapon, or grabs your children… you have lost any advantage the hardware might have given you.

Tactical training is another step in learning gun handling. You get a physical work out, and a much better idea what it is like to be in a shooting situation. The ideal tactical training would include possible situations in your home, office, shopping and other aspects of daily life. I’ve only been to one such session and, I’m afraid it was more geared to things MEN and cops might encounter and wasn’t too helpful to me. So I had to come up with my own. In any case, few of us could afford either the time or money to attend one of these expanded classes very often, yet the skills are no less perishable than shooting accuracy. They need to be practiced at least some every day or as often as possible. So, even if you enjoy such classes and participate often, you might want to consider this practice on your own.

Are you ready?

Situational awareness

Are you aware of your surroundings every day, every time you hear a knock on the door, and especially every time you leave the house? Have you taught your children and others about this vital skill? Or is it simply an intellectual acceptance of an idea, but not something you practice seriously? I’ve covered the subject in detail at the link. Take some time to read it and come back.

First do the drills outlined in the Situational Awareness instructions above for a while. This will give you the basic idea and some experience doing this kind of drill as you go through your ordinary daily activities. As good as a “tactical class” might be, and as terrific as it is to go to the range, real life attacks will be very, very different… they will come out of the blue, when you least expect it, and while you are doing other things. So, it makes sense to prepare, to practice your responses WHILE you are going about your everyday life. And, since you are not apt to get much warning under the best of circumstances, you need to be prepared with as many options as possible.

Possible home invasion is probably a good place to start. You are familiar with your home, its strengths and weaknesses. You are comfortable there, and the actions of an intruder and others who might be involved are easier to imagine than they would be most anywhere else. It’s a learning process, so take it slow and build as you go along.

Think about the power of visualization.

Can you remember the dress you wore to your first Prom, your wedding, or other memorable occasion? Can you remember what you did or didn’t do? If you made a major goof or were embarrassed, I suspect you remember it and all the moves you made very well. And, if you think about it, your mind uses those memories to help you avoid similar negative experiences later.

You can use the power of your mind, the very real benefits of your imagination and memory, to prepare yourself for self defense situations. It is important to plan this some, to avoid becoming obsessed or paranoid about it, of course, but it can be used as a very effective training aid.

So, think about the way your house is laid out, access points, physical barriers and any cameras, alarms or other security measures you have. Oh, you were not thinking that they could do the job alone, were you? Time to rethink all of those things if you’ve been counting on them to keep you safe without having to be a vital part of the whole. These things can be very good, but are no earthly use without serious human involvement. And, as with all tools, they may fail. It’s important to have a backup plan, and a backup plan for that one.

Start with an easy one. Just imagine that you hear glass breaking in the back of your house. You are home alone, it is night, and you don’t expect anyone to come until morning.

What now?

Do you have a “safe room?” (Send for my book if you don’t know what that means.)

Briefly, a “safe room” is one with a reinforced door and deadbolt locks that would resist an intruder.There should be something solid and heavy you would stay behind, in case the intruder fired a gun into the door or the lock.

In that room, quite possibly your bedroom, you would have a gun (if you don’t carry it), ammunition, a cell phone, some water and other things that might be needed if you had to stay there a while. You might want to have a spare gun and ammunition in that room, even if you carry all the time.

If you don’t have a safe room, and can’t think of any way to create one, what would you do if you saw or heard signs of an intruder?

Either way, imagine what an intruder might do. You also need to think of what you might do in each case, his possible reaction, and what you might do next. What might he do that would cause you to shoot? Why wouldn’t you shoot? What would make the difference? You absolutely must have thought about this and practiced it. A mistake in the midst of an emergency could be costly, or fatal.

What would you do next? Imagine it going many different ways, concentrating on what you think might happen and how you might respond. And don’t neglect to imagine that you had to shoot someone! How would it look? How would you feel? It’s a shock and horror to any normal person, but you can’t let it destroy your awareness or your caution. The person you shot might be “playing possum” and overwhelm you if you got too close. He/she might have an accomplice or four, just waiting for you to be distracted and overcome with emotion.

And don’t lose sight of the fact that your attacker could be either a man or a woman, a teen or any other age. Imagine having to confront and defend yourself against even the nice seeming neighbor down the street, the little group of teens with their baggy pants and snotty attitudes, the lady who says she just needs to use the telephone, or almost anyone else.

Do you have a cell phone? Where is it right now? Do you carry it in your purse? Is the purse in the kitchen now? Where might an intruder gain entrance? The kitchen? That plan needs some work, doesn’t it? When would you call 911? Most areas are set up for 911, but some still are not. Do you know for sure about your location?

I don’t have a cell phone (too deaf to use one), and an intruder might cut the land line telephone first thing. I have specific plans made for that possibility. I don’t rely on getting help from outside anyway, and calling 911 FIRST is not something expected here, but it may be very different where you live.

Then, if it was possible, when would you call? What would you say to the dispatcher? Should you tell them you have a gun? The answer to all of those might be very different in various places. You need to know what is best to do long before you need to do it. And you need to practice doing it so you won’t miss things, do things to increase the risk, or say things that would hang you later.

Think about why TV and movie plots are a very poor thing to base this practice on.

Next time we’ll take to the streets and parking garages with our imaginations. But you don’t have to wait for me. Tell me about the imaging you do to prepare for self defense.

IANAL: Burglars, Cops, and Questionable Decisions

A 41-year-old Texas criminal found himself on the wrong end of a defensive gun use incident recently, and actually called 9-1-1 to ask the cops to rescue him from the gun-toting homeowners. The Dallas Morning News reports:

The incident happened around 12:30 a.m. when the homeowner and his wife woke up to find an intruder in the bedroom of their home in the 100 block of Lelon Lane.

The suspect, identified as 41-year-old Christopher Lance Moore of Bedford, left the home and sat in his GMC pickup, parked in the family’s driveway. The homeowner followed him with a pistol, took the suspect’s keys and blocked his getaway with his own vehicle, while his stepson trained a shotgun on Moore, Fox 4 News reports.

“If he gets out of the truck, shoot him in the legs,” James Gerow told his son. “You ain’t gotta kill him; just shoot him in the legs. … If he’d got out, I’d have expected him to shoot him.”

When deputies arrived, both men were on the phone with 911. Deputies asked Moore why he had broken into the home, to which he merely said he had “bad intentions.”

Fortunately, this defensive gun use incident resolved without shots being fired. The would-be burglar, who has a criminal record including theft and drug charges, was arrested and is being held on $35,000 bond. This is, by all accounts, a good outcome, but I wanted to discuss the incident to talk about a few practical and legal realities for armed citizens in similar situations.

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What is Your Mission?

Suppose you arrive home and notice your door ajar. You might even hear noises inside, or – God forbid, the screams of a loved one who’s been taken hostage or is being harmed by the bad guys. Do you grab your gun and go looking for the criminals, or do you retreat to safety and call 9-1-1?

Kathy Jackson had a great post about the subject of house clearing over at the Cornered Cat blog today. Although I’ve written here before about the limits of our training as armed citizens, and about why we shouldn’t go looking for intruders on our own if we can at all help it, I wanted to revisit the subject in light of Kathy’s post.

Kathy wrote, in part:

The idea of staying out of unnecessary danger didn’t sit well with the tactical crowd. Many wanted to immediately rush in and “clear the house,” playing hide-n-seek with a potential intruder. Some people feel that calling the authorities would mean they were too wimpy to take care of their own homes, and many didn’t (and don’t) realize they could literally die of embarrassment if they let their fear of social awkwardness dictate their actions.

You should definitely visit her post, which includes a great description of how the police respond to a 9-1-1 call for possible intruders in a home – and why an armed citizen shouldn’t attempt alone what the professionals do with special training, equipment, and backup. I want to talk about the subject from a different direction, and discuss why trying to clear your house by yourself may be a bad idea in that light.

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Knowing the Limits of Your Training

When you take a training class, or go out and practice shooting skills on a USPSA or IDPA stage, do you know the limits of those experiences? Do you know where the “real world, applicable to a deadly force situation” skills you’re drilling end?

I’ve commented before on the issue of “IDPA as training” vs. “IDPA as a game”. But I wanted to riff on this in another direction, because of a post Kathy at Cornered Cat made a couple of days ago. She titled the post “Wait for backup“, and talked about two situations where armed citizens entered their homes looking for bad guys. One ended well, thank god, but the other much less so. Kathy pointed out that:

If you are concerned enough to pull your gun out of its holster, you should be concerned enough to pull your phone out of your pocket and call for backup. Except in cases of extreme and immediate need, law enforcement officers won’t try to clear a house by themselves, without backup. Why should you?

I wanted to underline her point because one of the perennial debates in our community seems to be about whether competition shooting sports like IDPA “will get you killed”. I think this is one area where, if you don’t know your limits, they just might.

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Children, Guns, and Tough Decisions

The blogosphere is abuzz with a news story out of Oklahoma about a twelve year old girl who was home alone when a bad guy – with a prior criminal conviction for abducting a 17-year-old – broke into the house. The young lady in question did everything right, in my opinion, calling her mom and then, on mom’s advice, barricading herself in the closet with the family pistol and calling 9-1-1.

When the intruder entered the bedroom where she was hiding, she fired at the suspect, wounding him. He was arrested outside and airlifted to a hospital in Texas.

I encourage you to read what Kathy at Cornered Cat and AGirl over at A Girl and Her Gun have written about the topic, and I wanted to add my own comment here because the issue of allowing kids the ability to gain access to firearms is one I’ve wrestled with for some time.

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Excellent Advice About Home Invasions

Brigid over at Home on the Range has a great post today about home safety and protecting yourself from home invasions,

This bit of her post was a real wake-up call for me:

You’ve all probably saw those old ads on TV showing the guy in the hooded sweatshirt stalking some woman coming home from the store and trying to get into the house. The alarm goes off. The security company is on the phone with her in about one nano-second, assuring her the police are on the way as the would be-rapist runs away like a little girl. Thank you Acme Security Company!

Another one, some young babe wearing small bits of spandex is exercising on her treadmill which is set up in her living room, next to the front door, in front of the open window (sure, that’s how I exercise). Shifty looking guys dressed all in black, including the” Spenser for Hire” dark colored watch caps, scurry in front of the window, leering at her. Then, the front door is kicked in. With one kick, no less, instantly setting off the alarm, out they run.. Thank you Acme Security! It’s a nice idea, but no security device is going to work well if it doesn’t have brain-equipped users linked to it and police VERY close by to respond to the call. It can be a deterrent but not a guarantee. For folks with no other methods of protection, it can be a false sense of security.

Even if the alarm company immediately alerts the police (one time a dog walker sent mine off by accident, they never did show up, probably never called), it could be 15-30 minutes or more before they are there. In that time the criminals could have cleared out any jewelry and electronics I had, stolen all my Terry Pratchett books, raped the yard gnomes and drank milk directly out of the container in the fridge.

The commercials make me laugh. But not at the home invasion scenario. It’s very real. According to a Department of Justice report, 38% of assaults and 60% of rapes occur during home invasions. According to that same report, 1 of every 5 homes will experience a break-in or home invasion. That’s over 2,000,000 homes.

You owe it to yourself to go and read Brigid’s post. Go do it now.