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 Out of date milk?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.]

MamaLiberty – An Introduction

If you’ve been reading Mom With A Gun long, you probably already have a fair idea who I am, but just in case… it seemed like a good idea to write some sort of bio so you’d know better where I’m coming from.

For thirty years I worked in So. Calif. as an RN, the last 14 years in hospice as an advanced practice nurse. I drove and walked the mean streets of San Bernardino, Riverside, and large parts of Los Angeles counties visiting patients in their homes, as well as in skilled nursing facilities. All those years I had nothing to defend myself with except situational awareness and whatever good will my profession generated among the residents of those areas. I got into more than a few really scary situations, but good luck and the good Lord managed to keep me alive all through it.

Would I have been better off if I had been able to carry a gun? What might have happened to me and my career if I’d carried one without “permission” and had needed to use it? Who knows? I couldn’t and I didn’t then. If I’d known then what I know now… I might well do things differently, of course, but even the way it was I learned many very valuable lessons that I’ve put to good use. And I’d like to share them.

Those who have not yet seen it might like to read the story of the man I had to shoot to save my life. That is the dedication, first part of the booklet I wrote to supplement my NRA handgun and self defense classes. If you read the story, you’ll see how to write to me to request the book. I hope everyone, and especially every woman, will take the time to read and learn about how I came to understand self defense and the things I do to develop my skills and maintain my survivor’s mindset.

I’d love to explore that with you, and hope you will leave your questions, suggestions or critique in the comments here. What shall we talk about?

Experience, Mindfulness and Gun Safety

GALs1159_zps256b745aI was at the range all day Saturday, teaching in the women’s shooting program that our range runs. The program began as a quarterly thing with 20 or so shooters, and has now grown to a monthly event with many more students, many more instructors and a long waiting list.

I was there, and teaching, despite the fact that I’d been sick all week and my throat was raw. It didn’t hurt too much, but when I talked it sounded roughly like someone had stepped on a bullfrog. Oh, well.

One thing I’ve noticed as that as we’ve been doing these clinics, we’ve gotten better at it, and things went much more smoothly this time. I did, however, notice one thing I wanted to talk about today, and it’s a lesson which goes right to the heart of Safely Rule #1.

The lesson is simply this: Just because you’re holding a blue gun, a SIRT pistol, or a gun with a training barrel doesn’t mean you get a free pass on where your muzzle is pointing.

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On Instruction and Risk Management

1156423_19045308If you’ve taken training classes, or spent much time at a range, you’ve doubtless seen instructors – or gun owners who are teaching newbie shooters but who aren’t actually trained instructors – do stupid and potentially dangerous things. I know I have.

I’ve seen people pointing muzzles at themselves or putting their hands in front of the end of the gun. I’ve been swept with the muzzle of a gun in a training class. I’ve seen negligent and unintentional discharges that ended up in the berm rather than the shooter’s leg because of accident more than intent. I’ve seen guns malfunction in potentially dangerous ways, including an AR-15 with a malfunctioning trigger group; bumping the trigger while the safety was on would cause a round to discharge when the safety was subsequently disengaged.

I get it – accidents happen, and novice shooters don’t always have the experience and knowledge to know what’s safe and what’s dangerous. But I’ve also seen instructors who do careless, stupid, or even outright reckless things with guns and think that, because they’re the teacher, the safety rules don’t apply to them.

This is my public service announcement to you: Get with the program. You are responsible for your students’ safety, and for managing the level of risk they face. If one of your students shoots themselves, or someone else, saying “they didn’t follow the safety rules; it’s not my fault” isn’t going to be nearly good enough.

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Excitement, Delight, Total and Complete Exhaustion

I’d meant to write this post yesterday, but just didn’t quite have the energy left.

You see, we had another women’s shooting clinic Saturday at my local range, and (like last time) I was helping to instruct. This time, I was teaching basics (grip, stance, sight picture) with a blue gun as well as a .22 pistol, and also helping run some students on a .22 double-action revolver stage.

After the clinic wrapped up, we had just enough time to grab some lunch, and then we were back at the range for a Ladies Night shoot. The combination of the two events on the same day meant I was out of bed at 4:30am, and it was close to 11:00pm by the time I rolled out of the shower and into bed.

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Embrace What You Don’t Know

20121010-175025.jpg“Know your limits.” It’s a phrase people say a lot, so much so that it’s become almost a cliché in our society. In many areas of human endeavor, ignorance of our limits can propel us far outside them. Deliberately pushing our limits, with training and preparation, is a powerful and hugely important thing. Tripping, skidding past the limit without awareness that we’ve done it, veering off the road and crashing into the ditch? Not so much.

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Instructors: Check Your Ego at the Door

I thought about titling this post, “It’s Not All About You”, but decided that would be too inflammatory. But I want to talk about something that’s been on my mind lately.

Over at the Cornered Cat blog, Kathy Jackson had a post today about the fact that instructors are, by the nature of what they do, in a position of authority over their students, and she talked about the limits of that authority. One piece in particular jumped out at me:

[T]hat authority is voluntary, limited, and temporary.

It is voluntary because your students choose to enroll in your classes. The students who end up in your classes get there because they have made a choice to do that. They have lots of other things they could have done this weekend, but they chose to rearrange their time to spend it with you. They have lots of other things they could do with their money, but they chose to buy a class from you. You have to treat them with the same respect a shopkeeper would give a customer, because that’s what they are—customers.

I wanted to highlight this part of Kathy’s post because I think there’s another important aspect to the voluntary nature of this authority we have as teachers: The student who comes to us is choosing to do that because of what THEY want to learn. Your job as an instructor is to meet that need, to help them learn the skills they seek, or to tell them that those skills are outside your area of expertise and suggest the look elsewhere (if that’s true). Although you have the position of authority in the relationship, the relationship is about them, not about you.

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Take a Friend to the Range

20121001-213423.jpgMassad Ayoob had a lovely blog post today about a GSSF match he and Gail shot in Salt Lake City over the weekend. Mas talked about the joy of taking someone shooting and seeing them do well and have a great time. He ends his post by encouraging us to “take someone shooting. On the practice range if they’re new, and to a match if they’re ready. You’ll feel as good about it as I do, today…”

Mas’s post was very timely for me, because I had a similar experience over the weekend. Having just written about the empowerment that comes from spreading our wings and trying new things and pushing our internal mental boundaries, Sunday was a great opportunity to reflect on that in action.

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Steps Forward, and a Request for Book Suggestions

As I mentioned on the weekend, I’m involved with a series of women’s shooting clinics hosted by a local range. I was able to connect with the coordinator of the program today, and found out that, unfortunately, their upcoming NRA Instructor course is beyond full. We talked at some length about my goals, interests and experience, and we now have a plan. I’m going to take an NRA Range Safety Officer class that they’re putting on sometime soon (probably late October) and I’ll be at the top of the list for the next Instructor class, which will likely take place in the spring.

I’m excited to be a part of this program – which they hope to eventually grow into a monthly offering on a larger scale than they currently can staff – and looking forward to the RSO course as a step down the road for me personally.

With that said, I’ve a request of my readers who also teach shooting: Are there any good books you’d recommend? I have plenty of stuff in the “how to shoot” category in my library already, so I’m really looking for “how to teach shooting” type of books. If it’s available on Kindle, so much the better. Suggestions are most welcome…and I’ll continue to update you as this journey progresses.

Enthusiasm, Empowerment, and My First Teaching Experience

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As I write this, I’m sitting in my living room at the end of a 16-hour day, muscles aching, feeling at the same time physically weary and absolutely exhilarated and galvanized. Today, I was part of a group that taught a basic firearms safety and shooting workshop for women. The course, hosted by one of our local ranges and sponsored by a grant from the NRA, attracted close to 25 women, and it was a wonderful experience.

The class gave participants – about half of whom, I would guess, had never shot a firearm before – exposure to both .22 rifles and pistols, as well as a few larger-caliber handguns and revolvers in .38, 9mm, and even one 1911-pattern .45 ACP. Students got to shoot at Shoot-N-C paper targets, cardboard and steel, and even had a chance to try a mini-Steel Challenge stage.

I’m still processing the day’s experience, since this was my first time teaching, but I have a few experiences and observations to share.

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