Tuesday, July 8, 2014

What Advice Would I Give My Younger Self?

What advice would I give my younger self?

Man, that's a hard one.

I've been trying to answer that question ever since Baz Luhrmann came out with the song "Everybody's Free" in 1999. I still don't know what I'd tell my younger self in regards to life to prepare myself for the future. Maybe that's as it should be. I probably wouldn't have listened to myself anyway. My life has been a journey of ups and downs, failures and successes, surprises of all kinds. And not knowing has always been half the fun. Overall, I have nothing to complain about.

Today, however, A Girl And A Gun challenged those on her facebook page to reveal what they would tell their younger selves in relation to self defense.

That, I can do!

It's a narrow enough scope that I can pinpoint specific areas where I could have been better prepared to face the evils of life.

The original challenge was "what would you tell your 20 year-old self?" Well, I'd have to go a lot younger than that to really do much difference in the scope of protecting myself or preventing some of the worst tragedies in my life.

How young? That's a tough one, too.

I decided to look at it from the perspective of a mother. I look at my two sons and my daughter and I think, "When should I start teaching them these lessons?"

The answer is now!

So, if I could go back in time and teach my younger self some self defense lessons I'd go back to the times of a little girl who was terrified of flushing toilets, learning how to tie her shoes, how to write the number "4" and stealing her mother's high heels out of the closet to wear around the house and these are the things I would tell her:

- It's okay to say, "No!" 
In fact, you need to say no. You need to have boundaries and it's good to have boundaries. People who don't respect your boundaries aren't people you should have in your life.

- Your body is your own. PERIOD!
With EXCEPTIONALLY few exceptions, no one has the right to touch you, hold you or ask you to do something with your body that you don't want to do. You don't owe anyone your body.

- Your parents are wrong.
A lot of society will be wrong, too. They will tell you things like, "You are safe here," "This person is okay," "Stay in public places. The public will protect you," "Good girls don't hit." It's confusing, I know, when people you trust tell you things they believe to be true and they turn out to be wrong. It doesn't mean they don't love you, it means they were human. You'll have to learn to discern the truth for yourself and that's where your own instincts, life experience and feelings will have to come in.

- Listen to your instinct.
When that inner voice says, "Something's not right," listen to it. Don't try to talk yourself out of it. Don't let other people downplay your feelings or talk you out of them. You're having those feelings for a reason. But here's a newsflash for you, sweety, you'll be wrong from time-to-time, too.

- It's okay to be angry. 
There are people who waste their lives on anger. They are consumed by it and use it for minor issues where it has no place or they use it disproportionately to the offense. Or they dwell in it, wallowing in it in misplaced comfort and failing to use it as the tool of action it should be. There are also people who never use anger for fear of it. They allow people to misuse them and abuse them and never get angry enough to change their situation.

Don't be either one of those people. Don't misuse or neglect anger. Don't be afraid of it, either.

Anger is a tool of action when you have suffered a legitimate hurt or injustice. Get angry--even if you need to get angry at someone you love. Use that anger to cut through the fear, the societal norms, the lies you've been told about how you or a "good girl" should act. Use it to give you the courage to act, to stand up for yourself, to do something about your situation. If you need to, use that anger to act immediately to save yourself. If it's after the fact, use that anger to give you courage to seek help. Learn to use it appropriately and to the right degree. Then, learn to put that anger away. As useful of a tool as it can be, it will destroy you and your relationships with those you love if you overuse it.

- Learn to hit.
Despite what you've been told, good girls DO hit. They hit hard and in the right way and at the right time. Be a good girl. Learn to hit!

- Get strong.
Seriously! Do it now. Lift weights. Screw running! Your life and the defense thereof will be way easier the younger you do this and the better you maintain it. You'll probably save yourself a lot of aches and pains and open up a lot more opportunities for yourself, too.

- Don't mistake your skill or defensive tool as a talisman.
I know you won't, but here's a reminder anyway. As you get older you will learn the hard lesson that there is no magic talisman against evil. Saving yourself will mean hard work. It will mean exercising your boundaries, your anger, your common sense, instincts, avoidance and learning proficiency with whatever tool or discipline you choose (Hint: choose as many as you can and take time working them all when you can). It will mean working that tool or discipline as regularly as you can which will demand money and time. You will need to keep working those tools and skills and it will become a part of who you are but it won't define you and it shouldn't. Avoiding or defeating evil is a tiny, TINY part of what will make up your life and the joys therein (as it should be), but that doesn't mean you should neglect developing and maintaining your skills in that area.

No one is as devoted or available to defend yourself as you are. You need to be in a condition--physically, mentally, skillfully--to do the fighting for yourself.

- Not everyone is out to get you.
There will be people you trust who will betray you. They will hurt you. They will make you question everything you thought you knew about life, love, trust and who you are. You won't be right about everyone and you will be hurt. Sometimes more than others. Sometimes just emotionally, sometimes physically. But there are other people who do love you. They legitimately want to help, encourage and support you. They won't test your boundaries, instead they will help you build new, stronger ones. They will love you. Rest securely in the love of those people. Seek out those people. Appreciate them, as I know you will. It will be your relationships with those people and the people you meet (and even create with a special someone down the road) that will make it all worth it in the end.

Friday, April 25, 2014

How Are You Going To Do That?

Anyone who's been in the gun community for any length of time has come across this scenario.

Someone reads a news report or hears a story and the conversation abruptly turns into a "What Would You Do?" situation.

Good, conscientious gun-carriers do this all on their own. Asking themselves what they would do in any number of given situations is part of the mental training that goes along with carrying a gun in self defense.

Sometimes those questions lead to revelations about gaps in training. If the answer is, "I don't know," to any particular scenario situation, it becomes wise to seek out training to fill that gap.

But every now and then and sometimes far too often, there's a jump in track of the logic train.

A scenario will be presented and the answer becomes, "I would shoot."

It may be a very reasonable and justifiable answer but there is a whole lot missing--the how.

The other day I read a scenario of a woman being run off the road, pulled from her vehicle and beaten.

The levels of avoidance when coming to road-rage incidences being discussed, the scenario was whittled down to being run off the road, not being able to flee and the driver of the aggressor's car is coming after you.

The go-to answer was, "I'd shoot."

Legalities aside, I begged to ask the question, "How?"

You are sitting in your vehicle, presumably seat-belted in and you want to shoot someone who is walking towards your vehicle, (again, presumably) from a vehicle that is in front of you, cutting you off.

How, physically, are you going to accomplish this task?

Where is your gun? Is it accessible with your seat belt on or do you have to take it off? Once you get your seat belt off, how do you draw your gun? Do you shoot through the windshield or try to get out of the car or roll down your window? Do you know what a windshield will often do to handgun bullet trajectory? How many bullets are you willing to waste through a windshield before you switch to another tactic? Is there a better alternative to shooting in the first place or a better way to shoot out of a vehicle if you have to?

This isn't the first time I've talking about the "how" and it won't be the last.

I'm on a campaign of sorts to getting others to start thinking about the how as well.

When you approach scenarios don't start and stop with "what would I do?"

Start with "What would I do?" and finish with "How would I do it?"

Think it through and then practice it. Even if it's just a matter of walking through it with your hand as a finger gun. You might even be surprised that discussing the "how" might actually change what you would do in the first place.

Many times new carriers don't know what they don't know. Influenced by bad television, biases, misinformation and pure ignorance they may have no idea that there are so many variables in any given situation.

I stood in slack-jawed amazement the first time I watched what happened to handgun bullets being shot through a windshield. I really had no idea they could be deflected so much. It's something I didn't even know to consider when it came to the dynamics of shooting in and around cars. Now that I know it's something I must consider when it comes to vehicular incidences.

Scenarios are (and should be) a lot more than simply deciding whether or not to shoot. They should be an exercise in determining the steps you may or may not take given that scenario.

Next time you read or ask what others would do in a given scenario, add "And how would you do it?" in there.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Equipment And The Point Of Diminishing Returns

One of the most common questions I get is, "What gun should I get?"

I used to spend a lot of time responding to these inquiries because I genuinely love helping people. I loved being in gun sales. I love finding guns that fit people and I love helping them find that good fit. I love taking them to the range and helping them take their first shots even more.

Through the years, however, I've come to the conclusion that internet-based advice is more-often-than-not a waste of everyone's time. I have nothing new to add to what has already been written about what kind of gun is ideal for any number of different specific situations; be it jogging, home defense, deep concealment, etc. Without seeing someone shoot and seeing them with the firearm and having the opportunity to assess them in action, it's nothing more than a best-guess anyway.

That being said, it's still the reigning question for a few reasons:

1) The volume of options is overwhelming and people want to have it narrowed down for them, presumably by someone they consider to be an authority on the subject.
2) People generally overestimate the role of equipment in performance and therefore want to get the "best" gun, ideally at the lowest cost.

I'm going to skip over the first point for now and just hit you with a few general truths regarding the second:
  • What gun you choose doesn't make as much of a difference as you think it does. 
  • Your first gun will likely be the wrong gun, purchased for the wrong reasons.
  • You'll more-than-likely not put enough rounds through it to figure out whether or not it is right/wrong for you. 
  • You'll go on your merry way possibly advising others on what they should get based upon your limited experience training/shooting with a gun that probably isn't the right one for you.
The end.

You may be thinking that what I said was contradictory. How can your gun choice not make a difference but be wrong?

Allow me to explain...

A gun is a gun is a gun and even an ill-fitting gun put in the hands of someone who is skilled in shooting will perform adequately. He will get accurate hits at a good rate but he would perform better and more comfortably with something that fit him better. So also, if your skill were the same (or as it increases) you would be able to better assess the fit and feel of your firearm and what makes it right or wrong for you and adjust accordingly.

Skill is far more vital to performance than your equipment (presuming, of course, your equipment is quality enough to last). And eventually, as you get skilled enough, you can better gauge whether or not your performance will be augmented by your equipment and through what change--a small-handed person having better control with a single-stack firearm or having the grip reduced, a cross-dominant shooter getting better sight picture with a red dot, an individual with arthritis getting a trigger job, etc.

Most people do not seek out enough skill to where their equipment choice matters that much. There are exceptions, but that's the general truth. They buy a gun, they put maybe a box or two of ammo through it a year (if that) and whether or not it is the right one for them is irrelevant compared to their lack of skill.

So what does that mean for you? 

Well, it means nothing if you aren't committed to gaining skill. If you are committed you've likely already purchased a firearm, trained with it to the point where you've figured out what is working and what isn't (or your about to) and you might even be on your way to your next gun or a modification of the one you already have. Or you are lucky enough to be one of the few who bought a good fitting gun the first time but found you have a preference you'd like to change (sights, a cleaner trigger, an extended magazine release, etc).

I caution you! There is a point of diminishing returns. It happens all the time. A new shooter buys a gun. As he gains skill he finds what he doesn't like about his firearm and he changes it or modifies it. He gains more skill and changes or modifies his gun again. He often attributes his increase in skill to the modifications or new firearms he's purchasing. Then one day he finds out that a modification or new gun doesn't help. In fact, it hinders or he improves slightly in one area but worsens in another. The new gun doesn't shoot the way the old one did. He had better sight picture with the last sights. If he's not careful he can get stuck in a rut of cycling through gun after gun, throwing hundreds and thousands of dollars of equipment at a skill problem.

The solution? Find the gun that fits you best, make any modifications you have to (if any) and then leave the gun alone. Work on gaining more skill.

Now, there are a lot of people out there who say you should never (ever, Ever, EVER!!!!!!!) modify a carry gun. A lot has been written on that subject so go read it and make up your own mind on the matter. If you make a modification to your carry gun make sure you have a good, logical explanation for why you did it. If you have the disposable income, time and inclination to go nuts on a competition or range gun? Go. Be wild, my friend! But keep your carry gun as close to stock as feasible and avoid the equipment rut.

Finally, there are reportedly those out there who get lucky. They go into carry and shooting with a committed and realistic mindset. They wisely choose a stock firearm that fits them well, they train with it extensively and they gain in skill until they perform masterfully with the first and only gun they've ever bought. I have yet to personally catch said unicorn. Though I have met many who have been issued firearms for duty and gained skill to a very proficient degree with that duty gun that they apply to a personal firearm that fits them better when off duty. Even the best of the best out there have their stories about the guns they started out with and the changes they've made along the way.

In summation, if you're serious about this gun/carry thing, put the effort into getting a gun that fits you well. Take a class, rent, shoot with friends, ask for advice and (please, I implore you, FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE!!) listen to what that person tells you. Purchase a firearm and then commit yourself to gaining skill. Make note of what you like or don't like about your firearm as you train with it, talk to others about it, have an instructor critique you and make an educated decision as to whether or not it is an equipment problem or a YOU problem.

Adjust accordingly.



PS... If you are somehow misguided into thinking I have it all figured out, let me assure you that I am still struggling with my own likes, dislikes, frustrations, biases, stubbornness, changes, adaptations, learning curves, etc. If I ever figure it all out, you'll be the first to know.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Why Read Words


I'll share a little secret with you: I don't particularly love to read. But I love to learn. Amazingly enough, the two often coincide. Therefore, I love to read. I am a very slow reader so sometimes it takes me a while to catch up but I keep plugging away at it and I'm better off for it because I do learn a lot.

That being said, I'm always astonished how few people are interested in reading about the topics of self defense. Some may follow the occasional blog or visit forums wherein reading is presumably necessary but from time to time it's made very clear that even those are not actually read to be digested before they are commented on.

Worse still is the idea that reading is unnecessary to the understanding of the principles of self defense.

I've seen many a comment to self defense book recommendations that go a lot like the Snotlout quote from How To Train Your Dragon:

"Why read words when you can just kill the stuff the words tell you stuff about?"

Or, as one person commented to a Rory Miller book recommendation, "I don't need to know what makes a criminal a criminal or how he thinks, I just need to know if he's a threat."

There is a certain sort of logic to that but it's also pretty naive. I may set people up for assuming too much or too little in any given encounter and in every aspect no less.

A Mindset Aspect:
Mindset is pretty driven into people who carry guns these days. But there are still a lot of people out there who carry guns who ".. don't want to hurt anyone." They will just, "shoot someone in the leg." They have no concept of awareness, avoidance and they can't recognize a dangerous situation unfolding until it's already gone past the point of no return. Yes, you can get this information from classes but a lot of it comes from sitting down and digesting the written material of those who've already been there.


An Equipment Aspect:
Many people base their carry setup choices based upon the recommendations of those they know ("My friend, who is a cop, told me I should get..."), feelings ("I got this one because it has pink handles"), cost ("It was between this one and that one but this was cheaper") and assumed reputation ("The military carried the 1911 for 70 years (with an empty chamber, no less). If it was good enough for them, it's good enough for me.")


So much has been written about what makes a good, civilian fighting/carry setup it's impossible to list all of the resources. Despite that fact, many people still skip absorbing the seasoned advice of people who've been there and done it in favor of pink handles and cheap accessories.

Why read? So you don't end up with crap.

A Tactical Aspect:
You may not have $500 to go to the class you want, but you can afford a $15 book on the principles of carry or gunfighting. You may not be able to sit under an instructor who will demo for you the ways to utilize cover, set up your equipment, think about how you walk down the street, clear a room, etc. But you can get the basic gist from a good book or two on the subject.

One of the best students I've ever had came directly to our intermediate class and had never taken a firearms class in his life. All he'd ever done was read, test what he read at the range, watch a few videos online and take what he learned to heart. He was a FINE shooter and had a great rudimentary grasp of everything we were trying to teach. With a few tweaks he was flying and started competing in IDPA the next day.

A Performance Aspect:
What will your bullets do? What won't they do? How far will it travel if you miss? What is cover? What is concealment? What is the penetration of your particular caliber choice in your particular gun? What about your target? What are the best areas to target?

What about your body? How does it work with things like adrenaline? How can you expect to reasonably perform under that kind of stress?

Guess what... There are books about that.

A Potential Threat Assessment Aspect:
So, you don't think you need to know how a criminal thinks or works but when some guy comes up to you and compliments your shoes you have absolutely no concept as to whether or not this is just a nice guy paying you a compliment or a predator using charm as a way to get close enough to victimize you. You have nothing to do but wait until the situation escalates or attempt some sort of immediate shut down.

Why read? Because being able to distinguish between the types of criminals and how they operate can tell you how you might be able to assess them and even be deselected or deescalate the situation.

Why is that important? Because it's always better to deescalate than let it progress to a fight and how you deescalate a situation with one type of criminal is different from how you may deescalate from another.

An Emotional/Psychological Aspect:
So you had your day. You shot someone. There are people out there who are unaffected by this. But a lot of people go through a whole gambit of emotional and psychological stages. Knowing about and/or being prepared for them can help one process and heal. And there are lots of good books on the subject.

A Legal Aspect:
It still astounds me how many people don't care to read about self defense law in general or in their own state.

"I was in fear for my life," is not the begin-all and end-all of your defense.

You do need to know when it's legal to engage and (sometimes more importantly) when it's necessary to disengage. You do need to have a sense of the law so that you can articulate why you were justified in doing what you did.

You do that by reading. If you don't have your state statutes bookmarked on your internet browser yet, what are you waiting for? Get reading!

And I'm just scratching the surface. There are so many more subtopics and theories and principles laid out by great minds worth exploring.

If you're serious about it, you should be reading about it.

Want a good place to start? Greg Ellifritz's "Recommended Reading" link on his website and all of his "free book" links.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Are Your Beliefs/Training Valid?

--> When I was twenty I got myself in an online debate about "knockdown power." Of course I didn't know what the hell knockdown power was. But I truly and genuinely believed that if you shot someone with a handgun bullet they would instantly fall down.

No, I didn't believe they flew across rooms or anything but I remember watching a movie where a man got shot in the shoulder with a handgun, doesn't even twitch, looks down at his wound and then charges the shooter in rage and all I could think was how unrealistic that was.


I was that naive.


So when I entered this debate, I did so under the premise that knockdown power was not only real but something to be relied upon in armed confrontation.


When my opinion was not sufficient to persuade I figured I would overload my nay-sayers with data.

So, the search began. I went to the interwebz and spent non-stop hours searching for a shred of irrefutable proof that a handgun bullet would physically knock a human being off of his feet reliably.

 
The problem was I couldn't find any data to support my argument.

 
I was wrong.

 
And if that weren't bad enough. The people I learned that from, who I thought were more knowledgeable than me in these matters were also wrong.

 
And if they could be wrong about knockdown power what else were they capable of being wrong about?

 
Holy plastic nutcracker, they could be wrong about .... EVERYTHING!

 
This meant only one thing: I would have to verify everything I ever learned. I would have to test it. I would have to do my best to make sure it was valid, not only if I were going to use it or allow it to influence in my own decision making regarding my own safety but especially if I chose to pass that information on to others.

 
The problem with that is that it's time consuming and exhausting and sometimes there is misleading or dated information out there that needs to be updated. Another problem I've seen is with public opinion. They get used to the way it is and resist change, new ideas or tactics. Instead of looking at those things dispassionately, they resort to rejection.

 
How was/am I to know what's valid, what can be changed or updated, what's worth considering, what I'm willing to change my mind about and what I'm not?

 
1) Question everything.
Yes, even the basics, the rules, the absolutes, the truths. If they are worthy they will stand up to scrutiny. If they aren't, they will crumble or will be improved upon.
 

No, this doesn't mean you have to be the jerk in the back of a class who is interrupting every five seconds to ask, "Why?" (Here's a hint: Most good instructors will already tell you why.) Use some common sense, ask valid questions as they arise, take good notes and go home to research and get your second opinion.

 
If the information your questioning is in a written or online form use your google-fu.

 
2) Consider the source.
In this world where anyone can have an opinion and publish it in one forum or another or get some credentials and teach a class, it can be difficult to narrow down whether something is a trustworthy source. There are a LOT of people out there who are vary well-respected (even if that's just locally) and very wrong. There are also people out there who are generally unknown but very knowledgeable. Determining who is worth considering can be difficult. Resort to step 1 and then move on to step 3.

 
3) Find someone (preferably more than one someone) you can trust.
I have been very fortunate to get acquainted with and even become friends with some great instructors and leading individuals in the gun community. Perhaps one of the reasons I've been so fortunate is because I've sought these people out. I have hunted them down and not been shy about asking them questions.

 
They base their opinions on experience, they know how to distinguish between tactics that work for police, military and the civilian sector and they aren't intimidated when asked, "What makes you believe this is better than that?" They have been gracious enough to take my questions and give me the time of day to at least point me in the right direction when it comes to information. I've been sent books, given links, had amazing discussions, learned about biases, and even been told, "I don't know."

 
And that last one should be a big clue. If your trustworthy source isn't willing to say, "I don't know," I doubt their trustworthiness.
 

Many of these people have been around long enough to know and/or trained with a good number of other instructors and aren't afraid to recommend other classes and instruction or steer you in the right direction to meet your goals.
 

Be leery of instructors who discourage you from taking classes from any other source but do consider their warnings if they tell you a certain class or instructor isn't particularly up to par. Yeah, every instructor out there wants business and there are feuds so keep an open mind. Do independent research and come to your own conclusion.

 
But remember step 2. Every instructor and writer and trainer, no matter how good has their biases and/or flaws. Some are biased against certain types of guns or training or methods. It doesn't make them invalid sources but it may be important to see through their bias to avoid casting aside their valid information or instruction.

 
4) Test it.
It's really easy to take something you learn and think it's the begin-all and end-all of what you need to know, especially if it seemed to work well in a certain environment such as a classroom. I've seen this a lot in women’s' self-defense classes. A technique will be taught as "guaranteed to work" but then I go home and test it on a non-compliant partner and it falls apart.
 

Some things being taught are just bad all around. And some are just not right  for you. I've seen lots of techniques (or gear or ideas) that work really well for most everyone that just don't work for me. I will give it an honest try but if it doesn't work for me, it doesn't work. It doesn't mean the technique is completely invalid, just not for me. Sometimes it means that the technique just needs to be worked more to be perfected or adapted to your size and abilities. If it can't be adapted and you've given it an honest effort and it's still not working for you (or not working reliably) it might be time to ditch it.

The only way to know that, however, is to test it as often as you can.

 

This step goes hand-in-hand with step 1. If it's valid, it will work. If it's not it will fall apart or need changing or adapting.

 
5) Don't stop going through the steps... Ever.
Even if something has been tried and tested one hundred times or you've done it this certain way since the first time or you heard it from a hundred different sources, doesn't mean you stop questioning it, updating it, reevaluating it's place in how you prepare, train or think.

You may just learn a new way to apply that same principle or you might find something that works better. But you won't if you aren't willing to open up to different avenues of learning and training.


 
In a world where everything changes, the ones who fall behind will be the ones who think they have it all figured out.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Stripping Vs Dumping Magazines

If you train at any number of shooting schools long enough you will find that even if they agree on certain aspects of shooting where they can almost violently disagree is in the small stuff.

How many forum death matches have been waged over whether or not to use the slide release or rack the slide; whether to use to the strong side thumb to release a magazine or the support hand; whether to bring a gun to a low ready or high, SUL or something else?

Just as hotly debated is the sequence of events surrounding magazine changes.

For the first four or five years I carried and trained in firearms I traditionally hit the magazine release with my strong-side thumb while retrieving a fresh magazine and pretty much expected the magazine well of my gun to be empty by the time I got back with my fresh magazine.

When I went to the Tactical Defense Institute for the second time (the first time was a knife class so there wasn't a lot of talk about magazine changes) I was introduced to the concept of "stripping" an empty (or troubled) magazine from the gun before retrieving a fresh one.

With stripping the magazine, once the firearm is empty and the slide locks back, or if the gun jams to the point where a magazine change is required, one hits the magazine release with the strong-side thumb (or however they hit the release for lefties) and physically rips or "strips" the magazine from the auto-loader with the support hand before retrieving a fresh magazine.

The reasons the instructors gave for this were primarily three-fold:
1. Your magazine can get hung up and doesn't always drop free.
2. You could be in a strange position where gravity will not help your magazine out of the gun.
3. If your gun is jammed with what is commonly known as a "double-feed" (or, more accurately, a failure to extract). Your magazine will not fall free and you will have to physically tear it from the gun.

I've always appreciated the attitude of the TDI instructors. They don't go to any deep lengths to force you to do things their way (as long as you are being safe) but they do ask you at least try their method, see if it works for you and move on. If it doesn't, no big deal.

I can respect that. So I tried it. It was a heck of an effort to back pedal and unlearn just hitting the button.

It took some effort but it's become my standard reload to the point where I would have to unlearn the practice if I tried to change it again. I don't see that happening because I've seen the benefits of it several times, especially since I have been going to different classes that require shooting from strange positions with firearms and have higher rates of malfunctions because of said strange shooting positions.

The most glaring example was while I was at ECQ last fall. We were practicing drawing and shooting from all sorts of strange positions on the ground, one of them being flat on our back, shooting over our heads. I'd taken shots from all sorts of strange positions before so that wasn't particularly new and when my slide locked open upon empty, I didn't even think about it, I stripped the magazine, retrieved a fresh one, reloaded my gun and just kept shooting.

My husband happened to be taking video and took a quick screen shot.
Stripping the empty before retrieving a fresh magazine

Now, I'll be the first to say this isn't a perfect magazine change. I could have brought it back to my chest so I didn't have an empty gun just sticking out over my head, my hands wouldn't have had so far to travel, yada, yada, yada, but for the purpose of getting more ammo in the gun it was enough. I was reloaded and shooting again before it really even dawned on me that my newer practice of stripping a magazine vs dropping or dumping it made a change in a position like this a total non-issue.

Being able to strip my magazines more effectively (especially if really jammed up) is also why I have cutouts in the bottom of both of my Glocks.

Try it out. See what you think.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

All Is Lost

I stopped at the library on my way home from my CPR renewal class last night and picked up the movie All is Lost with Robert Redford. The librarian warned me it was boring but I wasn't looking for spectacular, just something to relax on the couch with and my son loves ship wreck movies.

She was right. It was pretty boring. My son--the lover of ship wrecks and storms--fell asleep on my lap ten minutes into it and my daughter just snuggled next to me and would rather look at text on my cell phone that she couldn't read than watch the movie.

When my husband got home I was telling him about it and though I admitted it was boring I said, "But it has some good learning points for pretty much anyone." I fell asleep thinking about them and figured I'd share this morning.

Don't worry. I won't spoil anything if you actually want to watch the movie but for those of you who don't (or have never heard of the movie), it's the story of a lone man on a sail boat who has an accident out at sea and pretty much everything that can go wrong eventually does. I'm no sailor so I can't tell you what the character did technically right or technically wrong, etc, but I can say there were a few things that stood out to me.

1. He had the equipment on-hand to handle almost every emergency he faced. 

And it wasn't a bunch of McGyver fixes either. The movie opens with a hole being smashed into the side of his boat. He is able to patch it with what looked to be a legitimate hull-patching kit. When he's forced to navigate without a computer he digs out a sextant (yep, I had to google what that was).

At every step of the way, when a new emergency arises the character rather calmly goes to this or that nook or cranny and pulls out this or that tool which was made to assist in that particular emergency situation. Yes, the movie could have been made more interesting if he had to make up all of these emergency preparations along the way but I was far more impressed with a movie portraying a prepared individual vs a clever fool.

The take away of that is, of course, to have the right tools for the job. When it comes to self defense not everything can be solved using any one tool. Having things like flashlights, spare magazines, pepper spray, medical supplies, guns, knives, give you options for all sorts of emergencies that may come up.

2. What broke he tried to fix but didn't dwell on it.

When the hull is damaged he attempts a patch, when the radio breaks he attempts a fix. This pattern repeats itself quite a few times throughout the movie. But what was interesting to me was that the character didn't obsess over one particular repair for any undue length of time. If his repairs weren't successful and it wasn't vital to life he moved on.

This has an application to many different aspects to self defense starting with the equipment we use or even the way we handle the initial contact of a potentially dangerous person.

Your gun jams. You clear the jam. It jams again. You clear it. You repeat the pattern over and over again instead of changing to something more useful.

You see someone approaching and you tell them to stop. They don't stop. So you tell them to stop again and again and again and again. You get stuck in a rut of commands instead of moving on to something that might actually put you in a better position.

You shoot an assailant in the chest 16 times but he still doesn't go down it's probably time to target another area.

When something doesn't work the way it's supposed to work or doesn't go the way you planned it to go, it's okay to try to salvage that equipment, technique, command, etc, but only a very limited number of times. Getting stuck in a rut is unproductive. Move on.

3. He prepared in advance.

When he saw the storm coming he got on his wet gear, he tethered himself to the boat, he buttoned down the hatches, he filled his emergency water container, prepped his life raft, etc.

It goes without saying that most of us carry guns because we want to be prepared in advance for a self defense and/or lethal force emergency. But there are so many more emergencies out that that we don't prepare ourselves for that pose just as much or far greater risk to us.

If you see a questionable situation, avoid or put yourself in better position to get out or respond. Don't wait until it's all crashing down around you to act.

And this goes a lot further than self defense, too.

As winter is approaching, prep that car for snow and ice. In the summer, prep your car or house for heat related emergencies. Prepare for the common natural disasters in your area.

Prep your body to withstand the rigors of running and fighting if you can.

4. He had resources on hand for and to learn skills he didn't already have.

When the main character accepted that he would no longer have modern navigation at his disposal, he retrieves a nautical navigation book and starts to read.

Lot of people like to think certain things will never happen to them or that certain information isn't relevant to them. A lot of articles and discussions, classes, etc, are ignored because they deal with issues that aren't very unlikely. A good example of this is medical issues and supplies, law, abductions, etc.

Many don't carry medical supplies because they aren't trained and think it's useless to carry supplies they don't know for certain how to use.

I remember the moment I got a tension neumothorax needle. I told my friend, "I don't think I'll put this in my bag because I don't know how to use it." He said, "That doesn't mean there won't be a paramedic or nurse or someone else on scene who does."

He had a good point.

Just because you don't have a skill doesn't mean someone else doesn't. It also doesn't mean you can't learn a few things and put them into the back of your brain for the unlikely or have some other resources on hand to learn.

We all have spare tires in our cars. Many of us have no clue how to change a tire. But in the event of a need we all know we can go in our glove boxes, get the owner's manual and figure it out.

Invest in a few self defense law books. Get yourself gunsmithing manuals for the firearms you own. Get an emergency medical textbook. Have resources on hand to learn and supplies for those who may already be educated.

5. When his survival was on the line he improvised. 

Despite all the pre-planning, the equipment, the skills and resources there were a few situations where the character had things go wrong, he wasn't as prepared or his preparations failed and he had to make it up as he went along. In which case he improvised and came up with ways to survive.

Sometimes, when it's all coming to pieces we have to make it up as we go along. It may not be perfect. It may not be pretty but it might just get us out alive.

6. He put it all on the line. 

Again, without going into any spoilers, there comes a point in the movie where the main character pretty much throws all caution to the wind and puts everything on the line to be rescued.

Sometimes, despite all of our preparations and planning and equipment we have to make a bold move that will mean life or death. When that time comes it's no one's decision but your own and you'd better have made your peace with outcome either way.