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Tom Givens

Why You Should Carry A Concealed Weapon

Whether you already carry a concealed weapon or are thinking about starting, here are some bulletproof reasons supporting why it’s a good idea.

For many of us, the question of “why you should carry a gun” seems silly, given the current state of affairs in the United States early in the 21st century. Carrying a concealed weapon allows one, regardless of gender, age or physical ability, to control his or her own immediate environment and thereby have options in various emergencies that unarmed people simply do not enjoy.

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Carrying a gun is simply part of recognizing and accepting responsibility for one’s own actions, one’s own safety and the security of one’s own family. Indeed, with the level of lawlessness evident in today’s society, it might be the social duty of decent, intelligent people to arm themselves.

A cursory review of recent statistics is all the justification we need:

1.  The No. 1 cause of on-the-job deaths in the United States is homicide.

2. One of every six on-the-job deaths is a homicide.

3. Each year in the U.S., there are about 15,000 reported murders. This figure does not include homicides not reported, including persons who just vanished without a trace. The true figure is thought to be closer to 30,000 to 40,000 persons.

4. Advances in trauma care mean fewer than one in 10 people who are shot with a firearm actually dies from that injury. In 2017, there were almost 1 million people shot, stabbed or bludgeoned seriously in the U.S. Although these did not become homicide statistics, thousands of them were left blind, paralyzed or otherwise crippled for life.

5. In Memphis, Tennessee, for instance, in 2013, there were 154 homicides. There were, however, 9,165 incidences in which someone tried to kill someone else; they just were not successful. The main trauma center there, for instance, which is only one hospital out of 20 in the metropolitan area, treated 3,100 people for gunshot wounds that year alone.

6.  According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), almost 6 million people a year in the U.S. are victims of some violent crime each year. Therefore, this is not some arcane, esoteric threat that occasionally happens. Violence and violent crime are an everyday fact of life in modern U.S. cities.

07. The annual BJS report for 2017 showed the following numbers, for just that one year: total violent crimes, 5,612,670; rapes, female victim, 393,980; robbery, 613,840; aggravated assault, 993,170; serious violent crime involving injury to the victim, 643,760; stranger violence (victim and offender unknown to each other), 2,034,100.

Daily Threats

According to the BJS, you have a 1-in-49 chance of being the victim of a violent crime in a single year, not your lifetime. So, the odds are not “one in a million,” they are “one in a few dozen.”

CCW-Mugger
As of 2014, all 50 states in the U.S. have at least a theoretical system for private citizens to acquire a permit or license to carry a handgun on their person for self-defense.

If we only consider aggravated assault and no other violent crimes, there were an average of 2,721 aggravated assaults per day in 2017. The FBI’s definition of aggravated assault is “an unlawful attack involving serious bodily injury to the victim, or the use of a deadly weapon or other means likely to cause death or serious injury.” In other words, that’s almost 3,000 times each day someone tries to injure someone else in the United States. Taking sensible precautions against something that common is not being paranoid, it’s being smart.

Each year, fewer than a dozen people die from snake bites in the United States, and around 50 are killed by lightning. Almost everyone takes precautions against snake bites and lightning strikes, although statistically the threat is insignificant. Criminal violence, on the other hand, takes place every day, in every sort of place, all over the nation, and effects one in every 50 people every year.

Why then doesn’t everyone carry a gun? Everyone likes to think, “Violent crime only happens to someone else.” Well, to everyone else on the planet, you are someone else!

Consider this data from the FBI uniform crime report for 2017, a sadly typical year. In that one year, there were 1,247,321 violent, interpersonal crimes reported by police agencies to the FBI. These are murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault and assault. Please note that this is a voluntary reporting system, and many police agencies do not report totals to the FBI, so this number is actually much lower than the true total. According to the FBI, aggravated assault accounted for 65 percent of these violent crimes, while robbery accounted for 25.6 percent.

These are the crimes that require us to go armed.

Many people are what I call “willfully ignorant.” Not only do they not know the actual level of crime indicated by these statistics, they don’t want to know. If they knew, they might actually have to do something about it.

Carry-a-concealed-weapon-church
The author sees nothing wrong with wearing his concealed pistol to church. Anywhere there are people gathered, there’s a potential for lethal violence.

Throughout most of this past century, as the population became more urbanized and government began playing a larger role in everyone’s daily life, more and more cities/states adopted laws against the carrying of weapons in a misguided attempt to prevent violence. It hasn’t worked very well, has it?

In addition, the populace has been taught for several generations now to depend on the government for everything, including education, social mores and personal security. The problem is, the government cannot and will not guarantee your personal safety. The police, except in extremely rare cases, will only come along after the fact to make a report. Your personal safety is, as it always has been, your responsibility.

You’re Not Helpless

Over the past decade or so, a number of states have recognized that a disarmed citizenry is at the nonexistent mercy of sociopathic criminals who often engage in mindless violence even after the victims have submitted. The proliferation of drugs, youth gangs and highly disturbed persons has created a call from citizens that they be allowed the means to protect themselves and their families; and this call has been answered in every state.

Carry-a-concealed-weapon-city
Throughout most of this past century, as the population became more urbanized and government began playing a larger role in everyone’s daily life, more and more cities/states adopted laws against the carrying of weapons in a misguided attempt to prevent violence. It hasn’t worked very well, has it? In Chicago (pictured) alone, more than 530 people were murdered in 2018.

As of 2014, all 50 states in the U.S. have at least a theoretical system for private citizens to acquire a permit or license to carry a handgun on their person for self-defense. Illinois, the last holdout, was forced to come online in 2014. In fact, states that have enacted reasonable carry permit laws have since seen a decline in the rate of homicide and other violent crimes. It should be obvious that citizens who go to considerable time, paperwork, and expense to legally carry a firearm will not be a problem. The problem is the population of thugs who ignore laws against murder, rape, robbery, drug peddling, etc., and who should not then be expected to obey laws against carrying guns.

One thing I would like you to consider: In our culture, there is always a lot of media-generated noise about civil rights and human rights. What do you suppose the most basic human right or civil right is? It is the right to self-defense. Without the right to self-preservation all of the other rights are meaningless.

Carry-a-concealed-weapon-office
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports 1,000 workplace homicides per year, but that does not include a huge number committed at businesses too small to come under OSHA reporting guidelines. More Americans are murdered at work than die from any other on-the-job cause.

You have a right to be alive, and to live without being killed, crippled or raped in an unlawful, immoral attack by a sociopath. Telling you that you have the right to self-defense, but that you may not possess a weapon is ludicrous. It is just like telling you that you have the right to a free press, but that you may not possess ink or paper.

If you have the right to self-defense, you have the right to be armed.

Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt of Concealed Carry Class: The ABCs of Self-Defense Tools and Tactics.


More On Self-Defense:

Honing Your Situational Awareness To A Razor’s Edge

Check your rearview mirrors frequently every time you make a turn when driving home. If you have made three turns inside your neighborhood and the same ragged, old car you’ve never seen before is right behind you, you might have a problem.
Check your rearview mirrors frequently every time you make a turn when driving home. If you have made three turns inside your neighborhood and the same ragged, old car you’ve never seen before is right behind you, you might have a problem.

Situational Awareness is your most powerful defensive tool. Treat it that way and enhance it for a life-saving advantage.

Concealed-Carry-Class Cover
This article is an excerpt from Concealed Carry Class: The ABCs of Self-Defense Tools and Tactics, now available at the GunDigestStore.com.

The single most important element in your survival is a cultivation of your situational awareness skills. Many people don’t realize their situational awareness skills are more important than their marksmanship skills. Well, you can’t shoot something you don’t know is there or don’t know it needs to be shot.

Situational awareness and alertness are not, for most people, innate behavior traits. This is a learned behavior pattern and, like most skills, it is best learned through repetition. Make a conscious effort at first to be more aware and see the details around you. After a few weeks of effort, it will become second nature.

You should have been taught this as a child, but unfortunately, most children now are not taught this or other vital social skills. One thousand years ago, all children were taught at a very early age to be situationally aware, alert and in tune with their surroundings. If they were inattentive, they might get eaten. One hundred years ago, children were taught to be aware and pay attention to their surroundings, or the hay bailer might tear off their arms and legs. In our time, if you fail to pay attention to your surroundings, someone might cut your throat. Each example is simply a different manifestation of the exact same problem.

On the street, you must be aware of your environment. If you know who is around you and what they are up to, you are in charge. If you do not know who is around you and what they’re up to, you are meat. It’s that simple.

When you walk into a room, scan around and see who is in it besides you. Don’t be surprised by someone you did not see. When walking on the sidewalk, glance into storefront glass and see who is behind you. Get your head up, open your eyes, and look around.


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Real Life Situational Awareness

Let’s look at a couple of examples. Carjacking is a very common problem right now. In fact, in my city, there are about 1,000 carjackings each year, and roughly half of the victims wind up seriously hurt. This is a perfect example of how passive attempts to fight crime just make it worse, by the way. By putting steering-wheel locks, kill switches and car alarms on your car, it is now easier to drag you out of it while it is running than to steal it from your driveway as you sleep. Where do most carjackings occur? At intersections, as you wait for the light to change.

When a typical driver pulls up to a red light, he sits and stares at the light, as if it is going to sing and dance. He then hears a tap on his window and turns to look into the muzzle of a gun—too late to fix it now. To avoid this, all he had to do was scan his surroundings instead of staring at the light. If you see a guy standing on the corner looking at your car the way a hungry man looks at a steak, start thinking. You saw him because you are in Condition Yellow, and you go to Orange and start thinking, “What am I going to do?” “If he steps off that curb toward my car, I will accelerate around the car in front of me and be gone.” Problem solved.

Most carjackings occur at intersections as drivers stare at the stoplight, waiting for it to change and not paying attention to what is going on around them. It is best to keep your head up, scanning your surroundings, looking for someone who might be acting suspiciously.
Most carjackings occur at intersections as drivers stare at the stoplight, waiting for it to change and not paying attention to what is going on around them. It is best to keep your head up, scanning your surroundings, looking for someone who might be acting suspiciously.

Another crime that really annoys me is the practice of following people to their homes in the suburbs and robbing them in their driveways as they exit their vehicles. This happens two or three times a day in my city. It cannot happen unless the victim is a willing accomplice. You have to go out of your way to have this happen to you.

I say this because not one of these victims lives on a major thoroughfare. By definition, they live in residential neighborhoods. I don’t care where you have been: bank, grocery store, ATM, theater; when you turn off the main drag into your neighborhood, look in the rearview mirror. It’s not there so you can shave on the way to work or put on makeup; it’s there specifically to see what kind of car is behind you. If you make a turn into your neighborhood, again, look in the mirror. If you turn onto your street, again, look in the mirror. If you have made three turns inside your neighborhood and the same ragged, old car you’ve never seen before is right behind you, you might have a problem. It is, however, a relatively small problem at this point. You are still mobile and in control. If, on the other hand, you are too damned lazy to look in your mirror three times, pull into your driveway, open your door and find a guy standing there with a gun in your face, you have a much bigger problem. Fix it the easy way: by being alert. Every fight you avoid, you win.

Honing Situational Awareness

There are some exercises to help you become more situationally aware. As a car passes you in traffic, look away and quickly describe it to yourself. What was its make, model, color, two or four door, license number? What was the gender, race, age of the driver? Of the passenger? Look back and see how much information you got right. When you walk past someone in the mall, mentally describe them to yourself. Hair color? Glasses or facial hair? Shirt, pants, shoes? Turn around and look. How much did you get right?

Right now, close your eyes. Visualize your own living room. Describe every detail to yourself as you visualize it. Describe the paintings on the wall. What is the title of the book lying on the floor by the couch? What color is the coffee cup left on the table?

What most of us refer to as “vision” is actually a two-part process, which involves sight and observation. “Sight” refers to the actual physical process of having light enter your eyes and make images on your retina, which are then transmitted to your brain. “Observation” refers to the process of sorting, prioritizing and making sense of these images. This is where the typical person falls short.

In a retail environment, such as a fast-food restaurant, the cash register is the center of likely problems involving criminals. Be away from it, in position to see it and behind anyone who might be planning a robbery.
In a retail environment, such as a fast-food restaurant, the cash register is the center of likely problems involving criminals. Be away from it, in position to see it and behind anyone who might be planning a robbery.

Human beings are visually oriented creatures. Our eyes have been elevated off the ground with our upright posture; they have been moved to the front of our head for stereoscopic vision; we have color vision; and our visual acuity is among the best of all living creatures. For a typical person, roughly 70 to 75 percent of all sensory input is visual. The average person, however, consciously processes only a tiny fraction of the total visual input the brain receives from the eyes. This is pathetic.

You must learn to raise this level of consciousness through actual specific effort. You need to see the gun when it is still in his pocket—not when he pulls it out and points it at you. You need to see him standing behind that column in the parking garage—not when he is in your face. Shame on you if you get a speeding ticket. You should have seen the cop long before he could get a radar reading on you.

Let me give you a recent example of how being alert allows you to avoid problems. My wife and I stopped at a local barbecue joint for a sandwich on a recent Saturday afternoon. We were sitting in a corner booth by the entrance. Anyone who entered the store had to walk past us to approach the counter, giving us a good view and putting us behind anyone who started a problem. In a retail environment, the cash register is the center of likely events. Be away from it and in position to see it. Every time the door opened to admit a patron, my wife and I simply glanced up from our lunch to briefly look them over. This in no way interfered with the conversation or our lunch, but we were simply aware of our surroundings (Condition Yellow).

The third man to come in was a young man of about 20. He was wearing worn denim jeans; clearly outlined in the right rear pocket was a small semi-auto pistol. He had been sitting on it in his car, and the gun’s outline was clearly printing through the material of his pants. As he passed us on his way to the register, I quietly asked my wife, “Did you see the gun?” “It looks like a Lorcin .380,” she replied (she’s very good at this). Go to Condition Orange.

I continued eating, but kept an eye on the young man, assessing him. As the customer in front of him paid for her order, the young man got up on his toes and checked the contents of the till over her shoulder. Condition Red!

It was obvious that he was planning a stickup. I emptied my hands and mentally prepared for possible violence. Before pulling a gun and announcing a stickup, however, he decided to scan the store and take a head count first. As he turned to me, his eyes got very wide, and he ran out of the store, got into his car and sped away—without ever doing anything remotely aggressive.

What did he see that scared him so badly? I looked him right in the eye and smiled. He knew that I knew and that I was prepared to deal with him. This is a perfect example of violence that did not happen because I was alert and aware of my surroundings. Situational awareness is often situational dominance.

The scary part was that no one else in the place, customer or staff, noticed any of this interplay. They did not see the gun, did not notice him checking the till and did not even notice him hustling out of the place. Other than my wife and I, every single person in the store was in Condition White.

Parting Shot

The predators are out there. They are looking for the distracted and the preoccupied. If you shuffle around, your head down, looking at your feet, you might as well wear a sign around your neck that says, “Take me. I am a victim.” Get your head up, open your eyes, and move them around. Take that damned sign off and get rid of it. It’s not up to them whether you’re going to be a victim; it’s up to you.

To learn more about Tom Givens, please visit rangemaster.com/about/tom-givens/.

Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from Concealed Carry Class: The ABCs of Self-Defense Tools and Tactics, now available at the GunDigestStore.com.

4 Qualities Your Concealed Carry Gun Must Have

Concealed Carry Gun 1
Whether selecting a handgun, a holster or other item of equipment the first thing we must ask ourselves is, “What is it for?” In our context, we need a handgun we can discreetly conceal on our person as we go about our daily routine so we can respond to a sudden, unforeseen crisis in which our life is in immediate danger. That is a pretty specific context.

Don’t ask what is the best concealed carry gun, ask if a particular make, model and chambering have these aspects.

What Are The Requirements Of A Life-Saving Concealed Carry Gun:

  • Reliable—It must work every time.
  • Effective—It must be capable of rapidly and reliably putting down a grown man.
  • Wearable—It must be portable enough to carry at all times.
  • Ergonomic—It must be easily operated.

The sidearm is a piece of emergency-safety equipment carried on the person in anticipation of need and intended to immediately terminate a sudden, lethal attack. For various reasons, a lot of people who wear a sidearm seem to forget completely the reason it’s there and focus their attention on features such as handiness, how concealable it is, its weight or even cosmetic appearance. Given the very serious purpose of the sidearm, that is sheer folly.

Concealed-Carry-Class Cover
This article is an excerpt from Concealed Carry Class: The ABCs of Self-Defense Tools and Tactics, now available at the GunDigestStore.com.

If you are truly convinced you don’t really need a sidearm for your personal safety, why bother to wear one at all? On the other hand, if you recognize such a need, doesn’t the fact that you need a firearm for protection of your life indicate that you should have a piece well-suited to the task? You might remind yourself the only reason we would draw our pistol is because we believe our own life or that of a loved one is in grave, immediate, mortal danger.

A word we need to keep in mind in any facet of this discipline is “context.” When we select any tool, the first question we have to ask is, “What are we trying to do?” If you have a screw sticking out of a threaded aperture, you need a screwdriver. If you have a piece of conduit you need to cut in half, you need a hacksaw. When you need one, the other will likely do you no good. The same is true of equipment in our context.


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The true requirements of a personal-fighting pistol run somewhat contrary to fad, fashion and the imagination of certain gun-magazine writers. A good, solid defensive pistol is apt to be less flashy, innovative or sexy than the current fad; but that should not influence your selection. Instead, as with any type of emergency-safety equipment, your selection should be based on the equipment’s intended purpose and the circumstances under which you might need it.

What then are the requirements for a serious personal sidearm? A sidearm must be reliable, effective, portable and ergonomic. Everything else is gravy.

Concealed Carry Gun 2

Reliability is the single most important element in the selection of a personal defense weapon. The only justification for firing a weapon at a human being is to stop that person from killing or seriously injuring you or a third party. If you need a pistol for real, you need it very badly indeed. Your pistol must work each and every time you reach for it. If it doesn’t, get it fixed or replace it.

For the next requirement, the pistol has to be effective. To be of use to you in a real-life fight, the pistol must be capable of rapidly and reliably putting down a grown man with as few hits as possible in as short a time as possible. Many handgun/cartridge combinations are simply not capable of this and should be avoided.

The third requirement for the sidearm is it must be wearable, or portable. If you do not have it with you, it will do you no good. This will not be the same handgun for a 5-foot-tall, 105-pound female and a 6-foot-5-inch, 275-pound man. In addition to overall body size and physique, hand size has a great deal to do with handgun selection. There is no one-size-fits-all sidearm and there’s nothing gender-specific about handguns. We need the most powerful and easy to shoot pistol we can adequately conceal on our person, not some tiny little gun that makes us feel better, but will not allow us to fight effectively.

The last requirement is the handgun must be ergonomic, or user-friendly. Controls such as a manual safety, slide latch, magazine release, etc., must be located so they can be worked easily, quickly and with as little shifting of the grip as possible. Many, many handguns are very poorly designed in this regard. That is because the majority of them were not designed as defensive weapons. They were designed as hunting pistols, target pistols or plinking pistols. None of those pursuits share our extreme need to be able to get the gun into action quickly and reliably.

Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from Concealed Carry Class: The ABCs of Self-Defense Tools and Tactics, now available at the GunDigestStore.com.

7 Steps To Control Fear And Make Sound Decisions Under Stress

A life-or-death situation is no time to freeze up. Here are 7 steps that ensure you won't.

When a responsible person first begins going armed, he is usually haunted by two recurring questions, or self-doubts:

  1. If I’m really attacked, and my life is at stake, will I be able to handle it?
  2. What if I screw up and kill an innocent person?

This is a normal reaction, and to a degree it is healthy. We do, however, need to address these issues and resolve them, before a conflict, so they will not raise their ugly heads when we should be concentrating on winning the fight. Remember, if an unavoidable fight is thrust upon us, we MUST WIN! The alternative can be death, or crippling injury.

Concealed-Carry-Class Cover
This article is an excerpt from Concealed Carry Class: The ABCs of Self-Defense Tools and Tactics, now available at the GunDigestStore.com.

The first issue to face is that of FEAR. Fear is a normal reaction to physical violence for most people. In addition, since most of us no longer have military experience and live in “civilized” surroundings, we might not have ever actually engaged in a true fight before our moment of truth in a criminal attack. This fear of the unknown is, for many, worse than the fear of being hurt or killed.

Unless you are an exceptional person, a nutcase, or a liar and you have actually been involved in armed conflict, you have tasted fear. I’m not ashamed to say I have been scared several times, and I fully expect to be scared again before my life is over. What you must learn to do is control your fear and do what you must to win.


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Fear can be controlled and overcome, even in life-threatening circumstances. This is obviously true, and it is proven every day by hundreds of ordinary people all over the country. Here are some steps you can take to make this process easier:

1. Admit to yourself you are afraid, then move on. Concentrate your mental energies on the task at hand, not on your fear of death, injury, or loss of ego.

2. Avoid dwelling on the chance of failure. Concentrate on finding a way to win.

3. Take control of yourself. Autogenic breathing is the very best and most efficient way to do this.

4. Focus on getting the job done.

5. Have a Plan B. Always, always, always, expect Plan A to fail. Expect your gun to malfunction. Expect the suspect to stay up after being hit solidly. Expect to be injured. If any of these things occur, have a pre-planned option to continue (Plan B).

6. Turn anger into a motivator. Who does this clown think he is? What makes him think he has the right to (rob/rape/kill/pick on) me?

7. Accept an element of fate in every situation. You can get hurt by accident after doing everything right. Control everything you CAN control (selection of equipment, getting adequate training and practice, being alert, thinking tactically) so there are fewer things you CAN NOT control. Stack the odds in your favor, and fate has a lot less impact.

Courage under fire is not a matter of being without fear. It is a matter of being able to control fear and accomplish your mission, which is to stay alive. Only fools are fearless.

Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from Concealed Carry Class: The ABCs of Self-Defense Tools and Tactics, now available at the GunDigestStore.com.

5 Critical Elements Of A Handgun Training Program

Tacticool instruction might be fun, but it won't make you a more prepared armed citizen. Handgun training should focus on the skills with practical tools that will save your skin.

What should handgun training focus on?

  • State of Mind
  • Functional Handgun
  • Handgun Presentation
  • Keeping Your Gun Running
  • Solid Hits

Unfortunately, much of what passes for defensive handgun training these days is “edutainment,” a word coined by famous trainer Pat Rogers. It’s a combination of education and entertainment, and unfortunately, the entertainment side is often more heavily weighted.

Pistol-drill-fouth - handgun training

If you want to go to man camp and spend five days crawling on the ground, shooting thousands of rounds through your AR or AK, that’s fine. It’s great fun. Chalk that up to your vacation budget, NOT your handgun training budget.

When you’re at your office or at the mall, you won’t have a chest rig and a rifle. You’ll have a concealed handgun and a spare magazine (unless you want to be another “forfeit”). The only gear you will get to defend yourself and your loved ones with will be that gear which is on your person when the incident occurs.

So, our handgun training program should be geared toward excellence in the following areas:

1) Develop an alert, aware state of mind, accepting the fact that violence can occur anytime, anywhere. Do not be surprised or astonished that someone is unlawfully attacking you. Instead of “I can’t believe this is happening!,” your mental response should be, “My day at bat.”

2) Acquire a reliable, functional handgun you can shoot well, a good carry system (belt, holster and ammunition carrier), and wear it on a routine, daily basis. You do not get to pick which day you will need your gun. Someone else makes that decision for you, and you will typically be informed at the very last minute!

3) Work on a safe, efficient, fast presentation of the handgun from its concealed mode of carry. Practice in the clothes you will wear daily. If you ever need that gun to save a life, you will need it quickly. You will have a very finite amount of time once the flag flies. The faster you can access your equipment, the more time you have to make life-altering decisions, and if necessary, get good hits.

4) Learn to keep your gun running. If it runs empty, reload it. If it malfunctions, fix it.

5) Do the bulk of your practice on getting solid hits in the 3- to 7-yard range, quickly and reliably. Do some handgun training at 15-20 yards, but not much.

In short, concentrate your handgun training on the skills we are most likely to need.

This article is an excerpt from Straight Talk on Armed Defense.

How-To: Choosing The Right Handgun Trainers

Handgun trainers typically come from a variety of shooting backgrounds. But do these backgrounds necessarily make them the best trainers for armed citizens?

What are the typical backgrounds of most handgun trainers?

  • Handgun trainers have three main backgrounds: military, law enforcement, competitive.
  • A military trainer must make a successful transition to instructing civilian gun owners.
  • LE trainers have experience in dealing with interpersonal violence.
  • But, LE trainers also are sworn to confront violent situations when they see them.
  • Competitors can teach speed and accuracy, but might miss self-defense nuances.
  • Ideal trainers are those who understand the proper application of self defense.

For the purposes of this discussion, our mission will not be military operations nor uniformed police patrol duties. Our task will be to ensure our ability to protect ourselves and our loved ones from death or grievous bodily harm at the hands of an unlawful, predatory criminal attacker. With our end goal well defined, we can look at different training paradigms and see how they fit our needs.

Handgun-Accuracy-Feat

Most firearms trainers in this country will come from one of three backgrounds: military service, police work, or competitive shooting. Some have experience in two of these fields, and a smaller number have experience in all three. This, of course, forms the basis of their curriculum and training methodology.

If they came from the police or military world they usually had entry-level training, such as a police academy or military basic training. They went on to more advanced training, with periodic in-service training. If they worked for an enlightened agency or unit, they were sent to outside schools for more training. If not, the best went to outside schools on their own dime and their own time. Coupled with field experience, this forms the core of their training philosophy. Let’s look at the three major trainer groups separately.

Trainers with a military background

Military Handgun Trainers

Let’s start with the military paradigm. There are a lot of trainers coming out of the military right now, especially former Special Operations soldiers with a lot of field experience. Unfortunately, a lot of that experience is totally unrelated to domestic, U.S. self defense, both as to circumstance and to operating under U.S. criminal and civil law. I would caution the civilian concealed carrier to take pains to select a military background trainer who has successfully made the transition to training American citizens operating in U.S. cities. Here are some of the key points that make much military-based training inadequate or even improper for the citizen with a carry permit.

First, the soldier is almost always armed with a long gun, with the handgun relegated to the backup-gun role. This very rarely applies to the private citizen, especially away from his home. In your case, the concealed handgun on your person is the only gun you will get to use in self-defense. You can’t go get anything better once the action starts. If you could go, why would you come back?

Next, the military operator works in teams, not alone. He has friends with long guns with him, each with specific duties and areas of responsibility. Not so for the lone defender.

If your plan involves losing one of your children while the rest of the family escapes, I can tell you now, Mom is not going to go for it.

Once contact is made, the soldier can radio for additional support, ranging from more troops to an air strike. You cannot.

There are two factors, however, that really separate the military world from that of an armed citizen. First, the soldier understands and accepts the concept of “acceptable casualties.” In planning any military operation, from platoon level to corps level, you have to figure in casualties from enemy action, equipment failures, and bad luck. You have to start out with enough men to lose some and still accomplish the mission. In our world, the acceptable level of friendly casualties is ZERO. If your plan involves losing one of your children while the rest of the family escapes, I can tell you now, Mom is not going to go for it.

The other issue is that the soldier understands and accepts the concept of “collateral damage.” This includes the injury or death of uninvolved non-combatants. This is inevitable in warfare, and unavoidable. In our world the acceptable percentage of non-involved bystanders killed or injured is ZERO.

Finally, especially in Special Operations, use of firearms is almost always OFFENSIVE in nature, not DEFENSIVE. One ex-mil trainer for whom I have utmost respect has not really been successful at making the transition to civilian training. I recently saw an ad from his school saying in bold letters, “We will make you the aggressor!” The problem is, in U.S. criminal and civil law, “the aggressor” is a synonym for “the defendant.” Remember that your training resume will follow you into court in any criminal or civil action that may arise from your defensive use of deadly force.

Trainers from law enforcement

Law Enforcement Handgun Trainers
The full investigations that result from police-involved shootings also provide the most accurate and complete information on how various types of ammo performs in real-world situations.

The next group would be trainers from a purely law enforcement background. They typically have a lot of experience in managing chaos, and usually have a lot of experience investigating violent crimes. Thus, they tend to have a pretty good idea what interpersonal violence involves. This does, not, however, ensure that they have made a good transition to teaching private citizens. Here are some key points to consider.

First, the police officer has a sworn duty to seek out, confront, and arrest very bad people for doing very bad things, and to press forward in the face of armed resistance. This is the opposite of what the citizen should be doing, namely avoidance, deterrence, de-escalation and evasion. Using the firearm is a last ditch, desperate measure, as a last resort for the armed citizen.

Other differences include the fact that the officer will usually have a full size service pistol and lots of spare ammo, body armor, armed and trained partner(s), a long gun in the car, and direct real-time radio contact with armed friends. The armed citizen often has none of these advantages. In fact, even if you could call for help on your cell phone (you won’t be able to until the action is over), the average response time to priority one calls in major American cities is eleven minutes! In eleven minutes, responding officers will have absolutely no impact on the outcome of the fight, they will simply take a report about it.

Also, most police officer-involved shootings in the U.S. involve uniformed patrol officers, who operate in a world vastly different from that of a legitimate private citizen. The circumstances are radically different, which requires radically different training. Contrary to what you see in movies and TV shows, SWAT officers in this country fairly rarely shoot suspects. Their job is to contain the suspect safely and get him out and into custody. SWAT really stands for “Sit, Wait, And Talk.” Detectives also rarely shoot anyone. They mostly shuffle paper and talk to people in a controlled environment. The vast majority of police shootings involve uniformed patrolmen doing a fairly short list of duties.

Most shootings involving uniformed police officers will take place during the conduct of one of three activities: traffic stops, bar enforcement and domestic violence calls. Patrolmen will stop a car for rolling through a stop sign, believing they will be writing a “routine” ticket. They may be unaware that the driver has a kilo of cocaine in the trunk, a stolen pistol on the seat next to him, and a few warrants for his arrest on file. As the officer walks up, he is suddenly confronted with an armed assault. As a private citizen you should not, under any circumstances, be making traffic stops. That eliminates a huge danger area for you.

Police trainers tend to have a distorted view of engagement distances, because of their duty to arrest.

Cops also have to go into seedy dive bars on a regular basis to enforce a laundry list of statutes. They have to look for violations of liquor laws, gambling laws, drug laws, prostitution, parolees, etc. Seedy dive bars are often full of career criminals who are violating their probation or parole, are illegally armed, are holding drugs and so on. The predictable outcome is that cops are often involved in a fight for their lives in these dark, cramped, crowded spaces.

I have done a fair bit of research in this matter, and it appears that over 99% of bar fights occur in bars. Stay the hell out of bars and you will probably never be involved in a bar fight. This eliminates the second major source of police shootings.

The third group involves calls regarding domestic violence complaints. Officers go inside the houses, apartments and trailers of people who are already drunk and enraged. What a shock—they are then involved in a lot of shootings. I do some training periodically for a small rural Sheriff’s Office that only has a dozen deputies. In the last few years they have been involved in three shootings, and all three began as domestic disturbances. You should not be going into other people’s homes and sorting out their marital problems while they are drunk and fighting. That eliminates the third major danger area.

Next issue. Police trainers tend to have a distorted view of engagement distances, because of their duty to arrest. Whether the arrest is for impaired driving or First Degree Murder, at some point in the process the officer has to physically put his hands on the offender. This is the suspect’s last chance to assault the officer and escape, and the moment of physical contact is the most dangerous for the officer. We have tried for decades to find a way to put handcuffs on a suspect by telekinesis, but it just doesn’t work. This is why such a large percentage of police line of duty deaths occur at a distance of 0-5 feet from the assailant. That’s not where the incident began, but it is where it ended.

Competitive shooters as trainers

Competitive Shooter Handgun Trainers
Then there are trainers with only a competitive shooting background. They may be able to teach you a lot about fast, accurate shooting, and you would be well served to seek out a proven champion shooter in IDPA, USPSA or Steel Challenge shooting to polish up your shooting skills.

Be careful, however, about nuances that may not serve you well in real life self-defense. For instance, we see ready positions in competitive shooting that muzzle everything downrange, all of the time. In many shooting sports, there are penalties for shooting non-threat targets, but not for muzzling them. On the street, muzzling innocents can get you charged with various felonies, from Reckless Endangerment to Aggravated Assault, depending on the jurisdiction. Even if you are acquitted, you lost. Attorneys, bondsmen, and so forth are not free. We see gunhandling that would facilitate getting disarmed in the real world, but not on a shooting range. We also see highly specialized guns and holsters that could not be used on the street.

Lost time measured in scant hundredths of a second mean nothing in a fight.

If you choose to shoot in competition, that’s great. I’ve been involved in small-bore rifle competition in school, PPC competition early in my law enforcement career, and as noted, both IPSC and IDPA matches. You must be careful, however, to mentally separate match shooting and preparation for actual armed conflict.

Finally, the major problem with competitive shooting is a preoccupation with inconsequential increments of time. Lost time measured in scant hundredths of a second mean nothing in a fight, but accumulate and become significant in a match with 10-12 stages. For self-defense, we want the most robust techniques, meaning they work reliably over a broad range of circumstances and under sub-optimal conditions. They may not be the very fastest techniques under optimal match shooting conditions, where you have a clean gun, clean ammo, clean magazines, and are uninjured.

So, in summary, we need trainers who understand the realities of criminal predation against private citizens and understand the criminal and civil legal framework under which we must function.

This article is an excerpt from Straight Talk on Armed Defense.

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