Single Points of Failure

Kathy Jackson over at Cornered Cat had a reminder today about firearms safety and the consequences of complacency. She shared the tragic story of a small child seriously injured when he was able to get his hands on his father’s Glock.

Kathy writes:

It’s tempting to think that simply keeping the guns locked up will always be enough. But even responsible adults make mistakes sometimes. When there’s an unplanned failure in your lock-it-up system, the lessons you’ve taught your children can help avoid a tragedy.

I wanted to share Kathy’s post, both as a reminder that we can NEVER take safety for granted, and to talk about the larger issue of “single points of failure” and how that concept applies to our personal safety.

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Preparing For Trouble: Probable vs. Possible


I was listening to the latest episode of Bob Mayne‘s “Handgun World” podcast this morning on my way to the range. In this podcast, Bob talked to Jon Hodoway of Nighthawk Custom Training Academy about vehicle carry and every-day preparedness. Jon brought up a subject which I think bears talking about: What sorts of threats we prepare for.

In his talk with Bob, Jon drew a distinction between preparing for what’s possible and preparing for what’s probable. There are people who feel they need to carry six AR-15 rifles, a dozen handguns and enough food and water to resupply a small garrison in their vehicles because, hey, space aliens, zombies, and al Qaeda terrorists could attack simultaneously while a hurricane, tornado and earthquake are all happening. Could this happen? Anything’s possible, I suppose, but Jon made a good point: Lots of things that are technically possible aren’t likely, and so tailoring our tools, training and gear to these improbable events means two things.

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Hardware or Software?

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m going to be getting a bow for my birthday. I’d done a fair amount of digging online, and thought I’d identified what I wanted. But then, I discovered there’s an archery store about 20 minutes from my house. I dithered. Should I go over there? I asked myself. Surely I know what I want, and anyway, the price will be better online.

In the end, I decided to go. After all, it was only 20 minutes away, and I had an appointment nearby anyhow. So, I left early for my appointment and drove over there. Boy, am I glad I did!

For one thing, I was able to lay my hands on several different bows, and thereby to clarify my thinking about some features I needed (and didn’t need), accessories, and so forth. I was able to be properly and professionally measured for my draw length and weight, and to shoot a few bows on the store’s indoor range. I was able to answer some questions about stance and technique.

Better yet, the store had a special going on a bow that was of much higher quality than the one I’d been looking at, and will be able to essentially match the online price I’d found but deliver a better product. The bow is one or two model years old, a fact that bothers me not at all but which enables me to pick it up for a great price.

But do you know what? Even that fact isn’t a deal-clincher for me. What sold me was that the shop offers a free lesson with every bow purchase, as well as good prices on training and range time.

I’ve said this before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again: My gun, knives, flashlight, and (soon) bow are just tools. But the real weapon is the grey thing between my ears. Without our amazing human brains driving our perception, motions, reflexes, and responses, my bow is just a chunk of aluminum and composite. My gun and knives are just lifeless pieces of steel and polymer. Without my brain, all my efforts toward shooting, self-defense and safety are for nothing. Without the brain, I might as well not even bother.

Consider this next time you catch yourself saying, “I can’t take that class – it’s too expensive!” Think carefully next time you’re planning a new gear purchase. Do you really need that fourth gun, sixth blade, third bow? Or will you get more bang for your buck by spending that money upgrading your software to better use the tools you already have? I can justify buying a bow, because it’s a useful tool that I don’t already have. But you can bet that once I buy it, I’ll be spending some time and money on training and practice before I buy a second one.

The pages of American Handgunner and Bowhunting and dozens of other magazines are full of glossy full-color ads showing us all the latest and greatest guns and bows and gear. Their call is seductive: “Buy one of THESE, and you’ll shoot better.” And you know what? It might even be true. But is it really the best use of our money if we’ve not maxed out the capability of the weapons we already have?

Buy all means, buy that new gun or bow or scope or whatever, if you can afford it. But along with the new hardware, add to the software that is your brain and spend the time and money it takes to become proficient with the new gear. You’ll see huge dividends in the long run.

Modern Self-Protection Podcast

I wanted to pass along a great new resource: Ben Branam over at Modern Self Protection has joined the world of podcasting. If you do the whole podcast thing, you owe it to yourself to check out his show. The first episode is about mindset, and it combines a lot of good information with Ben’s no-nonsense straightforward style.

Check it out at

Where Do You Draw the Line?

Over at Active Response Training, Greg Ellifritz has a terrific post today about where we draw the line in terms of decisions we might make in the face of a violent crime. Do we hand over our wallet? Our car? Our clothes? Our children?

These are decisions we should think about ahead of time, because prior thought and planning displaces the “fight/flight/freeze” response that arises from circumstances catching us off-guard.

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EDC: In My Purse

Some time ago, I did a post about the things I carry every day in my pockets or on my body. In it, I promised to talk about the stuff that I always keep close by but not necesarily on my body. For this purpose, I’m using the phrase “in my purse” somewhat loosely. Depending on the situation – where I am, who’s with me, what’s around me, these items might not literally be in my purse. But they’re almost always close at hand.

Ready to take a look? Here’s what I’ve got:

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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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TTAG on Lessons Learned from Aurora

Brannon over at TheTruthAboutGuns (or TTAG) has a great article today about lessons learned from the Aurora shooting. Here’s one part I wanted to highlight:

Escape or Retreat is always an option. One must always weigh the cost vs. benefit of standing and fighting versus turning and extracting themselves from the encounter. Clearly escape was the option most obvious and chosen by many.

That said, when you enter a public place, do you look for alternate exits? Do you look for those exits that the other 99% of people who are not as aware as you will not default to? I do. That said, once the shooter murderer started specifically targeting those he noticed were attempting to flee, he certainly removed that option from those without a back-up plan.

Escape in the context of a large confined space like a movie theater, sports stadium, large restaurant, or auditorium adds additional cause for concern. Where are you seated relative to the exit? Is it possibly better to hide and shelter in place, hidden among the chaos? This was not an option for those in the first few seats of the rows the murderer decided to target. For those higher up and deeper into the seating, perhaps it was.

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Preparation, Paranoia, Peace of Mind

I was having lunch with a friend recently, and she noticed the bezel of my flashlight poking out of my jeans pocket. (I’d been using it earlier in the day and had tucked it there rather than returning it to my purse. While fishing it out to put it back where it belonged, she also noticed the knife I had clipped to the inside front of the pocket. She asked about them, and I said something about my decision to be more active in safeguarding my personal safety and that of my family.

She asked a few questions, and then came back with response I imagine might be familiar to some of my readers: “Isn’t that a little paranoid?” she asked me. “After all, what are the chances of you needing to defend yourself with a weapon?” She drew out the last word to make it sound ominous.

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Stacking the Deck

I had the opportunity to do a ride-along for half a shift or so with a deputy from my local Sheriff’s Department last night. We had some interesting conversation and experiences, about which I may share more later, but one thing stood out for me that I wanted to talk about.

At one point, we stopped a vehicle for minor traffic violation. As the deputy walked up to the car, I noticed that he touched the back of the trunk with his hand, and that he walked all the way around the vehicle rather than approach it from the side where the traffic was passing. Nothing ended up being amiss, the driver of the vehicle was given a warning rather than a citation, and we fairly quickly got back on the road.

When I asked the deputy about his actions afterward, he told me that touching the trunk is a habit he’s gotten into, that the main reason he does it anymore is so, if there’s someone hiding in the trunk, he’ll feel them trying to open the trunk before they can jump out and ambush him. “I know, that’s not something that’s very likely,” he admitted. “Still, it does happen, and since I’ve decided to do everything I can to come home at the end of my shift, anything I can do to stack the deck in my favor helps.”

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