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?

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?

“May” vs. “Should”

20121209-151003.jpgI’d like to talk for a minute about choices. Specifically, I want to talk about the difference between things you may do because they’re technically authorized by the statutes of your state, and the things that you should do as an armed citizen.

This topic has been on my mind because of some discussion on my Facebook page about the man and his son who held a burglar at gunpoint waiting for the cops. Several of the commenters pointed out actions that legally could have been defended but which I think would have been unwise.

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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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Studying the Cop Killers

Greg Ellifretz over at Active Response Training had a great post today analyzing the 2011 FBI Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) report. The LEOKA report, which I was not previously aware of, compiles stats and case studies of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, as well as stats about assaults on cops.

Greg’s post does a great job of breaking down the statistics, so I strongly encourage you to read his post. I wanted to talk about one specific case study from the piece of the report which summarizes the circumstances of each officer who was killed, and about some lessons we can learn from it.

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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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Practice Not Shooting

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Robert over at The Truth About Guns has a good reminder today: One thing we should include in our training is practice not shooting.

Robert discusses the tragic case of Jeffrey Giuliano, a Connecticut man who recently shot and killed a masked intruder in his home, only to discover the hooded figure was his own fifteen year old son. And he points out something interesting and, I think, important.

Robert writes:

One thing is for sure, if you shoot every time you clear leather or aim a gun at a gun range—which people do tens of thousands of times over decades— you’re most likely to shoot when you clear leather in a defensive gun use (DGU). Regardless of whether or not you should.

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Teachable Moments

I’ve had a few people ask me lately about teaching firearms safety, safety and self-defense to kids. I’m working on some stuff specifically about teaching gun safety and shooting to kids, but it’s also important to me that my daughter learn the skills of personal safety and awareness.

Nutmeg is almost 17 and she’s at that age where she finds sport in calling me an “old lady”. (I’m on the near side of 40, though barely, and this seems terribly old to her). So, she’s not yet learned the lesson that kids seem to forget between the ages of 12 and 25: namely, that the way Mom survived to be “an old lady” is because she actually knows stuff.

Because of this, Nutmeg tends to be impatient when she perceives that I’m “teaching” her stuff. She’ll say things like, “I have to listen to blah-blah-blah all day at school; I don’t want to listen to it at home too.” If she’s feeling especially flippant, she’lll say “learning stuff causes cancer.” There’s no question Nutmeg is growing up to be a spirited young lady, which is a good thing, but which means Mom has to be a bit cleverer about taking “teachable moments” where I can find them.

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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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Long-Range Shooting and Risk Assessment

Bob Mayne over at the Handgun World podcast has been having a running debate in his forum (starting here, and continuing here) about the wisdom of training to make shots at longer distances – 100 yards or more – with a handgun. Bob argues this is a skill worth having because there could, indeed, be situations where you need to make shots at longer range to defend yourself. Some of his listeners argue that you should never take shots at long distances because, if the threat is that far away, there’s no immediate danger to your life.

The topic was resurrected because of a news report from Texas about a citizen whose long-range (about 165 yard) shot with a handgun saved the life of a cop locked in a battle with a man who’d already shot and killed at least two people. Bob asked on his forum about whether this report changes people’s views about the wisdom of being able to make a shot at long ranges.

Here’s my response:
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