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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The Element of Surprise

470636_85894802If you are ever the victim of a crime, I can make this prediction with some certainty: Whatever happens will catch you off-guard. You will be taken by surprise, and you will have to move through the reaction loop before you can respond to it.

This news is probably not a surprise, but there are implications to this that bear thinking about. But first, we need to talk about why you won’t be ready for the criminal assault.

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The Choices We Make

2013-11-26 07.34.18“What about a gym? I’m not sure I’d want people to concealed carry in a gym!”

I looked curiously at my friend. We’d been discussing gun stuff, and he offered the thought that there are some places that should be off-limits for law-abiding citizens to carry a concealed weapon. When I asked him for an example of such a place, that was the one he came up with.

“Why a gym?” I asked him.

“Maybe this isn’t a problem for women,” he replied, “but I know the testosterone gets pretty thick in a gym, and I’d hate for someone to see a gun under my shirt and make a grab for it. It’s just not worth the risk. I mean, what would you do?”

I thought about it for a second. “If I felt that having someone make a grab for my gun in a gym was a serious risk,” I answered, “I’d probably choose someplace else to work out.”

His next question threw me for a loop. “Don’t you feel like your focus on safety and self-defense is limiting your life too much? Where’s the point at which you say it’s not worth it?”

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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.

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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Self Defense or Revenge?

Man Faces Prison for Shooting Carjackers 
A Houston man is facing a pretty severe penalty for defending his property, after shooting and killing one carjacker and wounding another.

He’ll probably be ok under Texas law, but this was clearly not self defense. Since they had the drop on him, he did the smart thing and let them have what they demanded. Now, if he’d been openly armed, they probably would never have approached him, of course. But that’s a separate issue. He may have had no chance to access his gun during the confrontation, though many do… and succeed. He’s the only one who knows what the actual threat was at the time.

Fail on several other counts, however. He let his situational awareness lapse, for a big one. Houston is a big place, and I have no idea what the reputation of that particular area might be, but it’s probably not all that wise to go out alone, in the evening, and not have someone to watch your back.

Shooting up your own car doesn’t really seem like a good idea anyway. I’m assuming he was insured for the loss. Since the criminals already had everything else… what was the point? Revenge alone accounts for it, not self defense.

Now, whether or not he should face any particular penalty for this, I won’t be the judge. He needs to answer to his own community and family for it.

Do you think this was self defense? What would you do?

On The Other Hand

I sprained my left wrist last week and can’t even remember what happened, but the experience has given me some food for thought and reinforced some things I’ve done and taught through the years.

All my life I’ve been ambidextrous, able to do most things with either hand, but since we live in a world with mostly right hand dominant people, most things are set up and more convenient to do with the right hand. This, of course, is a problem for people with a true left hand dominance, but usually not much concern to me.

But I did notice right away that I was having trouble because I would reach for things or, especially, try to lift things with that left hand and even dropped a few of them. Not good. I hadn’t really considered how much I count on having both hands to work with until it became very painful to use the left one.

Then I went to the range and discovered I could not shoot with the left hand as I always do. Of course, I could have done so if my life depended on it, but what if it were broken and in a cast, or damaged severely some other way that prevented me from drawing and firing the gun?

That’s easy for me, I can just use the other hand. Sure, but what if I had never practiced shooting with the right hand? What if I were left hand dominant and believed I couldn’t do anything much with my right hand? What if I broke my right arm, was right hand dominant, and had never trained to use the left?

In the course of many years giving the handgun and self defense classes, I’ve only encountered a few people who insist that they “can’t” use the non-dominant hand to do anything, and most of them are hard to convince to even try shooting that way. For those who are left dominant, I suspect it’s at least partly due to the extreme pressure so many of them encountered in childhood about their left handedness, especially older folks. It used to be treated almost like a minor crime, or at least a character defect.

I don’t find quite so much resistance among the naturally right handed, but it can still be difficult to convince them to even attempt to shoot with the left hand, and a great deal of persuasion is sometimes required to get them to consider shooting with either hand alone.

But it is important to learn to do so, and to practice it consistently. The reason seems self evident, but I’ll repeat it. What happens if you hurt your dominant hand and can’t draw or fire then, even if you use both hands? If you’ve got a cast or sling or brace on your hand/arm, you will also be seen as even more vulnerable than ordinarily, I suspect.

Seems to me to be important to at least consider learning to shoot with either hand, and either hand alone. You can’t pick and choose the time or place you will be attacked, so you have to be ready for whatever comes. If you’ve never fired your gun with your non-dominant hand, or never practiced shooting with either hand alone, you are due for another trip to your friendly firearms instructor and need to add a few more things to your regular dry fire and range sessions.

I Am NOT A Victim… even with only one hand available.

Are you?

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.