Self-Defense: How to Rapidly Assess a Situation

18 Sep

The act of defending oneself with a firearm is not a skill you are born with or taught as a kid. Since it doesn’t come naturally, self-defense must be learned by conscious repetition and instruction.

hand holding gun

Drawing, aiming, and firing a handgun is a motor skill.

Like other actions requiring coordination such as bicycling or swimming, skills related to shooting can be learned and honed through repetitive practice.

Repeating the same movements over and over helps solidify the muscle-to-mind connections and partially automates the process.

With enough practice, gun handling movements can become almost unconscious. Have you ever automatically put on your seatbelt to move your car across the yard a few feet? It wasn’t necessary, but the automatic part of your brain took over from habit.

This type of automatic mind response can be dangerous if you allow it to take over your perception of self-defense situations.

Unlike motor skills, you don’t want your mental assessment of threats and self-defense situations to become inflexible. If you train as though you’ll always be approached and threatened in the same manner, you’ll seriously limit your ability to act in real time to a legitimate threat.

Any preconceived notions of how things “should be” will add several seconds to your response time. You’ll have to first realize that events aren’t going according to your preconceived model and then adjust yourself in order to respond to reality. This lag in response time can give an attacker an advantage.

Author Bruce N. Eimer, PH.D. discusses this in his article “Mental Rehearsal in Combat and Firearm Training” on USConcealedcarry.com:

“The most common delay is when a conflict develops between what one observes and one’s expectations upon orienting the information. Thus, one of Boyd’s rules was: ‘Reality’ always trumps expectation! Reality is always ‘right.’” (Read more at USConcealedCarry.com)

Self-defense training is mostly action, usually involving reactions to threats. Inaction can be deadly, but so can taking an incorrect action. It would be a mistake to train yourself to draw on a threat no matter what because some threats are far enough away or simply don’t warrant deadly force.
Fine-tuning your ability to quickly assess threats in real time and responding appropriate by calling on your learned motor skills is something that takes dedication and practice. Learning these skills will allow you to respond appropriately to threats without losing ground or reacting too aggressively.

What to Do When Using Your Firearm Isn’t an Option

10 Sep

In the real world, remaining vigilant 24/7 and never being surprised or caught off guard is impossible. None of us has eyes in the back of our heads and like it or not, many situations that call for you to employ deadly force probably will start off as a surprise.

self defense practice

Of course, it’s always important to remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings. It does help you anticipate many problems that would otherwise sneak up on you.

What is important to keep in mind is that many self-defense situations can escalate from your eating an ice cream cone to having to defend your life in a matter of seconds.

In a life-threatening standoff, there is a good chance guns will be pointed at you and there may be more than one shooter. Getting your own gun out, if someone is already pointing theirs at you, will probably get you shot no matter how fast your draw is. This probability is of course, compounded if there is more than one firearm pointed in your direction.

At the end of the day, you’re primarily concerned with not getting shot. This is why you carry in the first place — so you can shoot before someone shoots you. 

When weapons are already leveled in your direction, your focus becomes the best way to avoid getting shot. Sometimes, this means getting away from the scene or jumping behind a solid object. Movement is also useful as author Gabe Suarez illustrates in his article “Some Notes from Force-on-Force” on USConcealedcarry.com:

“Most guys get shot when they stop. They initiate movement and avoid the first few shots, but then they stop to take a precise shot. At that point, they get hit. Keep moving until he’s down, you have escaped, or you are behind cover. Movement is life; stationary shooting (in the open) is death.” (Read more at USConcealedCarry.com)

When it comes to movement and agility, your physical conditioning is also a key factor. Being in good shape means you can run, jump, and get away from danger faster than if you’re overweight and in poor health.

Also as you age, your senses can gradually dull. This can happen so slowly that you aren’t even aware that your vision and hearing aren’t what they were in your twenties. 

Make regular hearing and vision checks a priority. If you need vision correction, wear it. The same goes for hearing aids. Having your senses sharpened up means that you can detect threats earlier and respond effectively.

How to Accurately Hit Your Target without Using the Sights

21 Aug

In most self-defense situations, your target will be close enough that traditional aiming by using the sights won’t be necessary. For the most part, the threat will be there right in front of you, no more than a few yards away.
hands aiming pistol
Generally speaking, this is the case because an attacker wants you or something you have.

To get what they want, they must approach you within speaking and grabbing distance and as a result, they are close enough. 

They have said or done things that let you know they are a true threat as opposed to someone making threatening gestures from across the street.

There are very few times that shooting an attacker at a distance such as across a street is appropriate. You carry to defend yourself and most threats must be up close and personal to warrant deadly force.

In fact, if someone is shooting at you from across the street, your best action at that point would be to get behind something solid and avoid firing shots back. You never want to risk a stray bullet hitting a bystander.

As a citizen carrying concealed, you are primarily interested and licensed to carry for self-defense. Most offensive shooting is best left to the police who are trained for such situations. 

Author Jim Malo talks about how sights are not usually needed in his article “Pistol Perfection” on USConcealedcarry.com: 

“One thing that may save you is the point shoulder (point shooting) method of firing your weapon. You draw the weapon, focus on the center mass of what you see coming at you, point the front of the weapon (the muzzle) at the center mass and press the trigger, using a double tap. You will be amazed at just how close the shots will fall.” (Read more from Malo at USConcealedCarry.com)

The process of lining up the sights adds time to your response and that extra second or two can mean the difference between surviving and getting shot. 

It is important to note that target practice at the range is still incredibly necessary. Using the sights to accurately place shots on targets helps you get to know your weapon better and use it more instinctively.

Practicing with your firearm helps imprint how it handles into your mind. Take every available opportunity to practice shooting both with and without using the sights. You may have to defend your life tomorrow.

Concealed Carry Handguns: You Can’t Just Have One!

31 Jul

Being able to mix up your regular carrying routing without sacrificing safety is a great way to stay sharp and on top of things. This means varying your carry style, holster, and even the gun you carry.

revolver

It can be easy to get stuck in a rut if you only carry the same gun with the same carry method, day in — day out.

Your brain can get so used to this routine that if any part of it changes, you are at a loss.

Failing to change up your routine can lead to complacency, which is dangerous.

In the grand scheme of things, good pistols for self-defense aren’t all that expensive. Their cost is miniscule in comparison to many other things you buy multiples of, such as vehicles. 

Often the gun buying process is approached with the mentality that the gun you ultimately end up buying is the Holy Grail. This will be the one gun you own and the only one you will ever carry. 

Unfortunately, this can pigeonhole your thinking. Some guns are better for certain situations and it is nice to have options when you’re buckling a weapon into place for the day.

Generally speaking, your choices are either some form of semi-automatic or a revolver. Before you discount the capability of revolvers as effective self-defense weapons for the 21st century, read what author Duane A. Daiker has to say about them in his article “Thunder Ranch Model 22: A Serious Carry Gun, Retro-Style!” on USConcealedcarry.com:

“Revolvers have come a long way from the fixed sight, carbon steel, square-butt revolvers of years gone by. New offerings from Smith & Wesson offer high-tech, lightweight frame and cylinder materials, recoil-absorbing soft rubber grips, bright, fiber-optic front sights, and even laser sights.” (Read more about revolvers at USConcealedCarry.com)

If you can afford to purchase one handgun for self-defense, then at some point down the road, you’ll probably be able to buy another one without breaking the bank. It’s sensible to have a few guns to choose from. Much like a selection of apparel, you can pick up the gun that suits you for any occasion on any given day.

And remember that like any other possession, handguns can be bought, sold, and traded for other weapons. This is often the most effective way to learn what guns you like the most since you’ve actually been able to own them for a time and have seen how they work in your day-to-day life.

Winning a Gunfight Means Getting the Most Accurate Shot Off First

9 Jul

For the sake of argument, imagine what it would be like if you learned to dguy aiming at targetsraw and fire concealed handguns from a very early age. At the same time you learned how to use silverware, button your shirt, and open doors, you would also be practicing and learning basic gun presentation skills.

Those acquired firearms skills would become a part of you. These skills would be as automatic as tying shoelaces.

Think about it — when was the last time you broke tying your shoelaces down into small steps and bit your tongue as you tried to remember the right knots? Probably not since you were very young.

Anyone who learned how to draw a concealed firearm at a young age would have a significant advantage in an armed encounter over someone who didn’t learn. For the early learner, the process would become second nature and require very little conscious thinking about the draw, aim, and firing of the weapon.

The point of this theoretical scenario is to illustrate the benefits of practicing your draw and firing skills until they become so automatic that you don’t have to consciously think about the acts themselves, leaving you free to focus on the threat.

Since almost no one has learned these skills as children, the good news is that you can pick them up as an adult with the proper application of practice and instruction.

Draw speed, fluidity, and smoothness all go hand-in-hand. Be careful of focusing only on getting your gun out quickly. The person who draws their weapon first is not always the winner.

The winner is the person who squeezes off the most accurate shot first. Your holster, carry style, and the smoothness of your draw all lay the foundation for that final accurate aim and shot.

Author Bruce N. Eimer, PH.D. talks about the theory of speeding up your draw in his article “The Need for Speed” on USConcealedcarry.com:

“Just because it happens to be a gun that you are pointing, [it] does not change the fact that the fastest path between two points is a fluid, smooth line. Drawing a gun just happens to be a natural human ability that does not have to be and should not be overcomplicated.” (Read more about speed and accuracy at USConcealedCarry.com)

As you are training and working on speeding up your draw? Try reversing your thinking on the process. Instead of thinking about how you can draw faster, try to identify what is slowing you down.

By removing things that slow you down, you can just as effectively speed up your draw.

Educating Yourself about Modifications to Your Handgun

11 Jun

glockSooner or later, you’ll probably want to affect modifications to your handgun. Mods can range from something as simple as different grips all the way to custom sights and metal work.

Many modifications and upgrades can be done at home. At the very least, you’ll need a set of basic tools to remove fasteners.

Many aftermarket upgrade items come with instructions for installation. It’s worth the time to read any instructions and familiarize yourself with what you’ll be doing before you start.

Much of the time, there are also YouTube videos or how-to articles with pictures available online that detail the processes you’ll be going through.

Or, if you know someone who has already made the modifications you have in mind, it may be worth asking them if they ran into any unforeseen problems.

Research doesn’t have to take hours. These days, a simple Google images search for your gun model “+desired modification” will yield hundreds of pictures of the very same modification you’re planning to do.

Image searches are helpful for taking the guesswork out of things and ensuring that you have all the information you need before starting a project.

Internet research is especially important if the gun being modified is your primary carry weapon. You don’t want to have your gun taken apart and in pieces only to find you are missing a part or special tool needed to complete the job.

Some firearm modifications should only be performed by a qualified gunsmith. This is doubly true if metal is going to be removed or added or if work is to be done on the firing mechanism. A good gunsmith will have tools and experience that most people haven’t been trained for.

Research is just as important when picking a gunsmith. If you have a person you trust who has already done good work for you, then definitely stick with them. Even if their waiting list is weeks in advance, it’s worth the wait and a good sign if a gunsmith is busy.

Author Duane A. Daiker talks about choosing someone to do gunsmithing in his article “Ross Sporting Goods Glocksmithing” on USConcealedcarry.com:

“As good as the Glock platform is, there is a lot of room for improvement and personalization. The basic Glock can definitely benefit from some attention by a quality gunsmith. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who think that owning a Dremel tool qualifies them to start grinding plastic off of your G-17.” (Read more about finding a good gunsmith at USConcealedCarry.com)

If you don’t have a gunsmith in mind, start by asking around for recommendations. If possible, find someone who has already had the same work done that you want done. Visit a few gunsmiths before making a final decision. Some may even have photo albums of their work for customers to look at.

And of course, if you are a daily carrier you probably don’t want to be without your gun for a week or even a couple days. Plan in advance and invest in a backup gun to carry while yours is in the shop.

Managing Your Increased Responsibility While Carrying Firearms

22 May

When you consciously make the decision to carry a concealed firearm, you are entering a new state of existence that is quite different from normal non-concealed carrying life. Image

On one hand, being in possession of a firearm leaves you better prepared to successfully defend your own life.

On the flipside, you are not even close to having military or police levels of backup, training, and engagement.

Soldiers and officers are trained and carry weapons for their jobs and as a result, the jobs come with all sorts of protection. They are allowed to do things that civilians are not.

Police are paid to engage, chase, and apprehend dangerous people. They are trained to do these things and hardly ever operate alone. As concealed carrying civilians, it is rarely if ever legal or even a good idea for you to pursue someone.

In the course of their jobs, police officers are sometimes required to shoot people. There are reports on the news every week about a police shooting somewhere and details about the resulting investigation.

In the event of an investigation, officers involved are usually put on paid leave pending the outcome, given access to mental health counseling, and have legal representation courtesy of their police union.

They have far more assistance after a shooting than the common civilian, who can quickly find themselves paying thousands upon thousands of dollars in legal fees. This is before they even have to potentially post a sizable bail.

You cannot operate as a vigilante. Your primary reason to carry a gun in the first place is to stay alive. Focus on doing what keeps you alive and out of prison. Most of the time, this means running or getting away in some form or another.

It is also important to pay close attention to how being in possession of a firearm changes your attitude and perception of your place in the world. Author Cope Reynolds talks about this in his article “Ross Sporting Goods” on USConcealedcarry.com:

“… just because you’re carrying a gun, [it] doesn’t mean that you somehow have new-found powers or that you are any braver or tougher than you were before. If anything, it should probably make you a little more humble.” (Read more at USConcealedCarry.com)

This is an oft-mentioned point that bears repeating. Being in possession of a lethal weapon puts you into a much higher tier of responsibility. You must hold your ego in check and abandon all ideas of machismo and tough guy behavior.

Missing this critical step is nothing short of courting disaster.