Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cold Weather Carry

I live in Iowa. I grew up in Wisconsin. I'm also 100 lbs of skin and bones. I'm also one of those unfortunate people who can freeze an Eskimo out of an igloo with her feet even if I wear socks and slippers.

In short, I know cold.

That's a lot of layers.
In the winter I wear more layers than my grandmother's rainbow jello. Because of this I've discovered that getting to a concealed carry firearm under all those layers can be difficult.

It all started at IDPA last year. It was cold. Really cold. I was wearing enough layers to keep me comfortable but I noticed an interesting trend. Even though all shots had to be taken from concealment, right before shooters came to the firing line they would unzip their coats, take off their gloves or additional sweaters and otherwise get themselves in the most favorable position to draw from concealment. Make no mistake about it. I was doing it myself. It is a game and everyone wants the best chances of winning. Even with all that prep the cold weather gear still slowed plenty of people down.

Once the stage was over you would see people putting gloves and sweaters back on, putting on their gloves and zipping their coats back up while they waited for the next stage.

Most people aren't standing on ranges for several hours in the freezing cold. Lots of people do run around with their coats unzipped, no gloves or multiple layers to fight with. But that's not always the case. If it's particularly cold people wear gloves and zip coats. They wear layers and many don't consider what that means for drawing their firearms.

So, I set out to find a good way to deal with cold weather attire and carry.

The Pocket Gun
The hands-down fastest and most practical means of cold weather carry is the pocket gun carried in your coat pocket. You have almost immediate access and can even walk around with your hand on your gun. Coat pockets are usually larger and can accommodate a variety of guns and give you time to access your primary carry gun if you choose to carry both.

Be sure you are following all of the rules of pocket carry such as getting a pocket holster, making sure the pocket is empty of any and all other debris before putting the gun in the pocket and making sure your pocket gun is snag free.

Not everyone can carry in a coat pocket, however. Some coats don't have pockets (ridiculous, I know), some pockets (particularly pockets on women's coats) can be too small or people may only have one gun that won't fit in a pocket. Whatever your reason, if you can't pocket carry be aware that cold weather gear is likely going to slow down your access to your gun but there are ways to maximize access and still stay warm.

Concealment Isn't the Problem
A benefit of cold weather carry is that the larger coats, shirts and sweaters allow for better concealment of a larger variety of guns. The only problems can be if you go somewhere hot and want to shed layers or if you put on so many layers you significantly down your access to that gun.

Before you leave the house make sure you can be comfortable at room temperatures so you're not the odd man out sweating in a heavy jacket because you carried a gun you couldn't conceal without it. If you choose to pocket carry make sure you have a plan for stowing that gun or transitioning it to your body if you are going to end up putting your coat in an unsecured closet, etc.
Coat and Vest: Dressed for the Range

Waistband Carry
Second to pocket carry, waistband carry seems to give the best access and speed.

To test this theory I met my good friend, fellow training junkie and Krav instructor, Dave, at the shooting range. We ran a total of eight very simple scenarios. With a shot timer we timed how long it took to draw and put one good hit on target about four yards away from concealment with a coat on.

The scenarios were as follows:
  • Draw and shoot (D/S) from Appendix Inside the WaistBand (AIWB) with coat on and zipped.
  • D/S from AIWB with coat on and unzipped but concealed under shirt. 
  • D/S from strong-side Outside the WaistBand (OWB) holster with coat on and zipped.
  • D/S from strong-side OWB with coat on and unzipped.
  • D/S from OWB positioned under an additional layer of clothing under a coat (zipped and unzipped).
  • D/S from OWB positioned over an additional layer of clothing under a coat (zipped and unzipped).
  • D/S from the flashbang bra holster under a shirt and coat (zipped and unzipped). No, my Krav instructor did not do the Flashbang portion of these scenarios. And because he didn't have an additional cover garment his shooting OWB was included in "OWB over an additional layer" since he didn't have to get under two cover garments.

We also had very different coats. His was more of a cotton jacket with a zipper that came down a little lower than his waist. My coat was an insulated Columbia coat that came down to below my hip. When zipped mine was considerably tighter on me than his was around him. Even accounting for the differences in coat styles it was still slower to draw from his zipped coat than unzipped or my zipped vs unzipped coat and the numbers seemed to represent that between the both of us and our averages.

It's also important to note that I've spent eight years drawing and shooting from behind my hip and only about two weeks and four range days (max) drawing and shooting from AIWB. I've spent many more days drawing from the flashbang than AIWB. Conversely, Dave spends almost no time shooting OWB from behind the hip or strong-side and the majority of his practice and training is from AIWB. We hoped that mixing the data would cancel out any biases for any one particular form of carry.

We also performed each scenario without any practice sessions to keep the data in its rawest form. This is the beginning of our cold weather season. We were both pretty slow while adjusting to our cover garments. Our times improved as we continued to draw and shoot but we limited ourselves to 5 shots per scenario.

Here are the results:

The fastest draw with shot on target was with an OWB holster over a vest (or in Dave's case, over shirt) and drawn from behind the strong-side hip (2.319 seconds) with the coat unzipped. It was a half second (0.669) faster than the next fastest method which was AIWB with the coat unzipped (2.988). Concealment was still a requirement for AIWB, however. I used an insulated vest as my cover garment. Dave used his t-shirt.

When the coat was zipped more than a second (1.379) was added to the OWB draw and less than half a second (0.416) was added to AIWB for a total average draw time of 3.404 seconds.

The difference in drawing between AIWB and OWB with a zipped vs unzipped coat makes AIWB a little more consistent across both scenarios. That's important if you live in an area where you may need to zip your coat in order to stay warm. The fastest draw and shoot time from a zipped coat was AIWB at 3.404 seconds.
 
As you can see, when we timed the flashbang with a coat unzipped the times were within a second (give or take a tenth here or there) even though it was still the longest "unzipped" time of 3.386 seconds. Zipping the coat slowed the down the flashbang draw by nearly two seconds (1.928) for a total of 5.314 seconds. The first couple of draws I did from the flashbang with a zipped coat over top were over six seconds long. By the third draw I figured out that unzipping the coat and drawing was about a second faster and safer and it brought down the average draw time. Taking the time to unzip the coat was not a scenario I found favorable, however.

Gun Between Garments

The other unique scenario we tried was adding an additional garment (one or both used as a concealment garment). Many people wear additional vests or sweaters underneath of coats and jackets and I wanted to see the difference between putting the gun between those garments or underneath of all of them. Drawing and shooting from under two garments with OWB holster with the coat zipped was coming in at 4.288 seconds. It was a half second (0.59) slower than drawing and shooting from the holster under the zipped coat and not under the second garment.

The difference between the jacket being zipped and unzipped was almost a second and a half (1.379) with an average draw and shoot time of 3.166 seconds. 

Towards the end of our five draws both of us were getting around 2 second shoot times with AIWB and OWB carry but when adding the extra cover garment or the flashbang the times stayed solidly in the 3+ second times. I have no doubt that both of us could get those times down with practice but one of the reasons we chose to do it cold was because a lot of people don't practice drawing in different/additional attire and I wanted to reflect that in the data.

Vehicle Carry in the Cold
Where AIWB started to really pull out in front was when drawing from a seated position or in a vehicle while in your cold weather gear. Behind the hip or strong-side carry provided very limited access from a seated, car position with a coat on. Even with the coat unzipped it was a challenge to get to the gun even when I took the seatbelt off.
Behind the hip carry in a vehicle

Seatbelt off, accessing behind the hip

With AIWB, however, I was able to put the gun over a vest and drape my coat over it. Even with the seatbelt on it was far more accessible than behind the hip.

AIWB carry in a vehicle


What It Means
Dave and I are pretty regular folks trying something relatively new to the both of us. We produced our own unique numbers. If you were to run similar scenarios you may get different numbers based on your experience and training. On the surface, if zipping the coat was something that was never required, it would appear that strong-side carry with no additional cover garment was the fastest way to draw and fire from concealment under a coat. However, if the coat ever needs to be zipped then AIWB carry shows a time advantage. If you're looking for the most consistent drawing time with a zipped or unzipped coat AIWB pulls out as being a little faster.

For many reasons people are not able to pull off AIWB carry. If that's the case behind the hip is certainly viable. If carrying behind the hip I would modify my carry in such a way as to attempt to eliminate the need for zipping my coat or try my hardest to find a way to pocket carry. That may mean wearing an insulated vest and making sure the additional garments are securely tucked behind the gun for best access (as seen in the image above). I particularly love the insulated vest because I can shed by coat when getting warm but stay very toasty even with my coat unzipped. It's been a good addition as far as my own personal carry is concerned.

AIWB under vest
If I wear a dark colored shirt I can also get away with keeping the vest unzipped and have an almost as much instant access as open carry even carrying AIWB. It seems to be the best all-around option for me. If that were not an option I would likely go back to IWB behind the hip carry with the same type of cover garment. This type of outfit would also give the most concealment and access for a specialty holster like the flashbang while still attempting to stay fairly warm.

If you do wear a specialty holster, get your coat on and go shooting. Again, with practice you might make something work out but it's worth it to go out to the range with a shot timer and see what happens with your own gun and your own clothing options.

The Other Stuff
Something we didn't test was the addition of gloves, etc. You could go crazy adding additional variables into the mix. It stands to reason, however, that one would do well to do a few practice sessions with gloves on. You'd be surprised how many gloves won't fit into trigger guards or how they might get hung up in some of the controls.

Also, in the interest of having the most access to their guns some people dress lighter than they should for cold weather. If you are constantly in and out of stores or just going from a warm car to a warm office you may be tempted to leave the heavy coat at home. In emergencies extreme temperatures can be deadly. Even if you don't wear the coat all the time at least bring it with you. You're far more likely to get into a cold weather emergency than need a gun. Not having adequate protection from the elements (particularly if you live in the northern states) can be dangerous. You can have the best of both worlds.

How do you make cold weather carry work?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Situational Awareness With Children

There's a funny advertisement about how children are time thieves and parents are willing victims. It's a humorous ad that rings with quite a bit of truth. In addition to time, children als
o steal attention, energy, patience, and maybe a little sanity.

Situational awareness has been a hot topic on my facebook page of late. My goal has been to better represent its purpose and limitations. While talking about situational awareness a mother asked whether or not situational awareness was possible with children in tow.

My two oldest being goofballs
My answer, I presume, was not much help to her.

I said, "Yes. No. Maybe."

I promised to clarify and herein is that clarification.

In order to answer the question more thoroughly we must define what situational awareness is. At its core, it is a skill. Like any skill, it must be practiced.

Some people are born gifted with situational awareness, most are not. Training can be acquired to help people interpret what they are seeing and what to do with that data. Like any other skill, however, practice falls to the individual attempting to be more aware of their surroundings.

Can you be situationally aware with children?

Maybe.

That depends a lot on the person attempting to be aware--in this case, the parent.

What kind of situational awareness did that parent have before they had children? Were they the type to walk down stairs or into water fountains or did they have a sense of their surroundings and what was going on? What was the focus of their situational awareness?

People interested in self defense tend to look at their surroundings in a far more critical light of potential danger from violent crime and other environmental hazards.

It makes sense that people are are already alert and aware are easier to guide toward defensive situational awareness. On the other hand, there are the No people who couldn't tell you the color of the car they drive to work every day. They might have a little further to go and must first practice awareness in general before it can be directed to any one area such as self defense. They may be completely overwhelmed when asked to be aware while also caring for a child.

Take an aware individual, train them what to look for and give them children and I say, Yes! They absolutely can be aware with children--although there may be an adjustment period.

Children, especially really little ones, suck attention as easily as they suck milk. If they aren't demanding it with screams to be fed, changed, burped or held we are giving it to them willingly while we lovingly watch them sleep, smile, coo and play. It is easy (or should be easy) to allow your child to get 100% of your attention. A parent (in my opinion) should specifically structure times when they purposefully give their children 100% of their attention. In general, however, that time and place should be of the parents time and choosing as to make sure it is appropriate and you are secure.

One cannot simply kneel down in the middle of the street and give their child 100% attention to look at the pretty penny on the ground when a truck is barreling down on them. It may also not be wise to gaze playfully at your child at the park while overlooking the strange individual stalking you or to put your full attention into your child's temper tantrum and miss exit signs and safe havens for emergency situations like fire and weather.

Before you give your child all of your attention ask yourself these questions:
  1. Are we reasonably safe?
  2. Who is near me?
  3. How do we get out of here?

In the example I gave above, the middle of the street is not a safe place to stop and talk about the joys of copper. Another example might be going to the park. It may be a safe place provided it is well maintained but you may take a moment to mentally catalog the individuals there, who they are with and what they are doing. Other parents with children are to be expected. Make note of people who aren't accompanied by children (male or female). Note any and all escape routes (particularly unconventional ones) and take moments to periodically update that information.

There are times and places where it's far easier to give your child your full, undivided attention because you have far more control of the place and time. At home where the location can be secured, you intimately know the individuals in that location and you have already devised a fairly unchanging escape plan is one of the best places to exchange quality attention time with your kids.

Do you have any situational awareness to speak of? If not, now's the time to start practicing. It's impossible to have perfect situational awareness at all times, so don't get frustrated when you find yourself struggling. There will also be times when your kids will steal your attention unexpectedly. That's okay. Keep working at it.

If you're already situationally aware but not sure how to incorporate your kids, here are some tips that might help:

  • Think of yourself as your child's bodyguard. 
Hired bodyguards don't spend a whole lot of time looking at the person they are guarding because the threat doesn't come from that individual. The threat comes from around you. Be looking around you.

  • When your child is demanding your attention, decide if it's an emergency or something that can wait until you are in a better location.
A child who has fallen and broken his arm is having an emergency. He needs to be dealt with. A child who is screaming because you aren't allowing him to have a candy bar can be dealt with somewhere else (even if you have to drag him there).

  • If you can't look at your children, touch them or have them touch you.
Hold hands. If you only have two hands and more than three children or want a hand or both hands free have your children hold your bag, the stroller, a cart or your clothes.

  • Incorporate your children into your awareness.
Play awareness games like ISpy. Have the older children tell you everything they see behind you while you strap the younger ones into seats or load groceries. Make games out of finding all of the exit signs, fire extinguishers and AEDs. Ask them to count how many people are in the room or cars in a parking lot. Ask them where they might hide if there was a bad guy, etc.

  • Trust your child's instincts and teach your children to trust them as well. 
When your child shies away from an individual or tells you they don't like a certain circumstance, as much as possible, err on the side of following the child's lead. They have a strong sense about people.

  • Make yourself known.
If you live in or frequent the same areas and see the same people over and over again introduce yourself and your children. If there's an emergency they can be helpful in reconnecting you with your children or feel more comfortable alerting you to strange things happening. They will also be able to better identify strangers around your children.

  • Know your children and plan for their needs.
I have a 5 month-old a 2 year-old and a 5 year-old. My youngest is not mobile. If I want him to move I have to move him or give him to someone who can move him for me. My little girl is independent and opinionated but still requires contact with her mom or dad in public to feel safe. She will not run away from me or her father if she feels threatened. I will need to carry her with me, give her to someone who can carry her or leave her to draw attention away from her if need be. My oldest is able to understand the concepts of danger. If given specific commands I trust him to be able to run, hide or escape on command. As my children get older their roles in their own defense and that of their siblings may change. Determining their levels of understanding and response takes constant evaluation on my part in addition to mock drills. Your child may be old enough to understand making emergency calls or be trusted with getting his or her siblings to safety or they might be handicapped and need more assistance. Take those things into account and plan for them.


  • Strategically place yourself.
Sit where you can see entrances and exits. Sit closer to exits (particularly ones that are not also entrances). Park where you have the best views of both the store and blind spots.


  • Be mindful of what you carry.
Parents (especially parents with kids still in diapers) tend to carry a lot of stuff. As much as possible, try to limit what you carry with you to limit what you are needing to juggle in a time of need or what might potentially attract the attention of someone looking to victimize you.

Depending on the type of emergency of violence coming against you it is important to note that the safest place for your child might not be with you. In order to increase their chance of survival you might have to give them to a stranger or push them away while you draw violence toward yourself and away from them. Start thinking of scenarios where leaving your children might be the best option for their survival and when it might not.


  • Decide if your exit plan will accommodate strollers and baby carriers.
When you enter a building, immediately start thinking about how you and your children might make a hasty exit and whether or not you will be able to do that with the gear you may have brought in. If you have three children or more it might be easier to pile them all on a stroller and run them out. On the other hand, if you need to escape through a narrow or unconventional place that a stroller won't fit through you might have to ditch the stroller. It may mean pushing them so far and carrying the rest of the way, but consider circumstances where you might have to ditch the baby gear.

Situational awareness with children is possible if you can build off of existing awareness and tailor it to fit your needs as a family.

How might you increase awareness while out and about with your children?

A special thank you to Kathy Jackson for all her good advice over the years.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Situational Awareness: The New Talisman

I posted something on Facebook that looked a lot like this:

Situational Awareness
Okay, so it's a phrase, not a word. You get the point.
People got all bent out of shape,  jumping to the conclusion that I am against situational awareness. I challenge anyone to find evidence of me recommending people walk around with their heads firmly planted up their butts.

It's not that I don't like situational awareness. In fact, I love it! It sparks interesting conversations. It allows you to enjoy your environment. It keeps you engaged. It can even save your life.

Situational awareness is a really good thing. It's just being mishandled. Or misrepresented. A lot of weight is being put on its shoulders. Instead of being another great tool, it's becoming something of a talisman that people are pulling out and using as an excuse to berate, to not train, to have sloppy carry methods, etc.

Situational awareness is the ability to scan an environment for items or actions that could be potentially dangerous. It allows us to alert to those items and behaviors and activate one's capacity to make intelligent decisions and actions in regards to that data based on one's training and experience.

Situational awareness does not make the untrained and unprepared better at responding to that data.

If he'd had better situational awareness, that wouldn't have happened.
News flash: people get hurt. They get victimized. Sometimes there's nothing that can be done to stop it.

Yes, there are legitimate cases where having better situational awareness could have at least let someone be aware that danger was close. In regards to people who walk into traffic, down flights of stairs or into fountains because they weren't paying attention, there's not much lacking but situational awareness. It doesn't take a lot of sense and training to walk around a fountain instead of into it. 

In the realm of self defense, however, seeing the potential attack does not mean the outcome would be different.

If you see the truck or the rapist of the burglar or the axe-wielding maniac and you don't have any capacity to do anything with that data and change your situation you'll still get ran over, raped, burglarized or chopped to pieces.

Situational awareness is only as good as it's ability to alert you in addition to activating your capacity to do something with that information.

I use situational awareness. I don't need to keep one in the chamber (or carry a gun, or know hand-to-hand skills, etc) because I'll always have time because I'll always see it coming.
We've discussed what situational awareness is and what it isn't and what its limits are. Now we have to admit to ourselves that situational awareness is not infallible.

We will not (cannot) always see it coming. We do not have eyes on the backs of our heads. Our eyes are only capable of focusing on one thing at a time. We also are capable of misreading any number of situations. Even when we recognize those situations as being dangerous we don't always allow that data to activate our capacity to do anything about it via a nifty little trick I like to call DENIAL.

Let's go back to capacity, however. Let's say you see the danger but don't have the capacity to respond to it. That capacity might be because of mechanics--your arm is pinned, shot, broken, protecting your head and you cannot physically put a round in the chamber; your gun is stuffed so far down your pants in ubber-deep concealment to the point it is inaccessible; you are getting your head pounded into the pavement because you tried to go for your gun and got punched in the face and your draw stuffed and now have no idea how to get out of that situation and the lights are dimming.

That capacity might also be because of time--it takes you 2.5 seconds to draw, rack and fire but the guy who's fighting you is going to kill you in 2 seconds.

You don't always see the danger coming. Even if you do, if you lack capacity, you may be no better off with that knowledge.

In short, situational awareness is not a substitute. It is not a substitute for good equipment. It's not a substitute for common sense and it's certainly not a substitute for good training and practice.

Use good situational awareness! But give it substance to fall back on.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Self Evaluation and Goals

It's not quite the end of the year but that's not stopping me from starting to highlight my road map for the future.

I decided about a year ago that I have no greater passion (as far as a vocation is concerned) than that of self-defense, be it armed or unarmed. I also have no greater passion than to share that with others, be that through writing or via instructing. I have made it a goal of mine to become an advanced firearms instructor.

Some life destinations are easier to map out than others. If I wanted to be a doctor I know which degrees I would have to get, the system is pretty well set up. Firearms instructing is a little more fluid. There's no set standard to what makes someone advanced, nor is there clear agreement on what it means to be advanced. Is it high shooting scores in competition? Is it a training resume a mile long? And where do I fit into it all? How far have I come so I might be able to find out how far I need to go?

People have a tendency to over estimate their own skills and abilities and rank in the scheme of things. I'm a regular person. But I'm not a dumb regular person. So, to more accurately gauge my own standing and becomes I'm a very visual person, I made this graph:


I figure myself to be somewhere on the precipice between beginner and intermediate, feeling much safer to assume myself lower in skill than above. Probably because lower is exactly where I am.

Practice
Why am I not further along? Because I haven't practiced the lessons I've learned.

I have a lot of head knowledge that is serving me very well in theory but I've not gotten out there and worked the work enough for it to be recalled as "second nature."

A perfect example was my Extreme Close Quarters class. One year ago this month I took that class fully expecting to be able to glean the knowledge, take it home and work it until I couldn't get it wrong. I was in a perfect place to do so as well. Both my husband and my martial arts instructor took the class with me. We could all go home and be on the same page. We could all work the skills over and over again until they were ingrained. I was so excited about working the work and taking that work to force-on-force scenarios in classes, and even out into competition.

And the day I got home from that class I found out I was pregnant with our youngest son.

Having to drop out of martial arts and any other aggressive force on force work shortly thereafter hit my retention of that class hard. I have more of the theory still in my head, not a lot of the practice.

The same is true of my room clearing skills. Having worked them only a select number of times I still make errors on my drop outs and use of cover. I also have to take far too long to recognize blind spots and favorable angles for clearing obstructions.


I'm not even going into my team-work.

These are all classes I've taken and learned so much from, but learning without practicing really isn't much of an advancement. It's more of a baby step.

Working those skills combined with simply running the gun as fast, aggressively, accurately and smartly as I can, combined with more education in the legal aspects of self defense, less-than-lethal and empty-hand and I feel like I'll be on my way to something similar to my goal.

Truth be told, my plan-old gun work could use some serious fine tuning from time to time.

What I Don't Know I Don't Know
The other reason I evaluated myself as being somewhere in the bottom is because I still don't know what I don't know. And that can account for a LOT. It's really easy to think you're on your way to some place great but once you achieve your first level of success you realize the mile hike you thought it was going to take to your destination just because a double marathon.

I don't know all of the skills I'm missing. I don't know what kind of experience will help me on my goal aside from the obvious experience in classrooms, competition and more classes and practice. I don't know what I don't know.

Experience
And nothing beats experience. Do I have experience teaching? Yep. Quite a bit, but not enough.
Do I have experience competing? Yes. But not enough.
Do I have experience carrying a gun? Oh yes. But many would say it's still not enough.
Do I have experience using the techniques I've learned? Not so much.

Evaluation
One thing I didn't put on that graph that I think is vitally important is evaluation. It's really easy to think you're good in your own eyes compared to no particular standard. It's something else entirely to submit yourself to the evaluation of those you consider to be in authority on the subject.

Over the past few years I've been blessed to have connected with some amazing people in the industry. I've been able to get frank feedback from them and will continue to look to them for guidance and honest evaluation.

I've been grateful for every word of honest feedback and criticism. I want those people to know every word they've said to me has been taken to heart. Some of them have put me through true tests of my skill. Some I have passed, others I have not. But it has given me more goals to strive for.

So, what will 2015 be? We'll see!! I'm optimistic. A lot of it might be repeat.

Finding a way to fit training and parenthood together has never been easy but my hope is that I will be able to return to combatives soon and work hand-to-hand again. I have my first pistol match since Feb coming up this month and then a handgun class in November. I'm hoping that 2015 Feb will see me back at Rangemasters for their conference for more head knowledge and a host of other refreshers as well.

Above all, I'm hoping that 2015 sees me on the mat, with trainer guns in force-on-force scenarios, at the range and competing again.

Another baby step towards my goals.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Men, Come To My Rescue

An article has made it's rounds on my Facebook page via several instructor friends. It's titled Alpha Game: Protect Yourselves, Ladies and attempts to explain why women and children are being targeted more frequently in violent crime and why men are not coming to their aid.

The crux of the article can be summed up in these paragraphs:
"Men have been subjected to forty years of propaganda telling them that those old codes are outdated no longer apply. They have been taught from kindergarten that men and women are exactly the same. So, women shouldn't be surprised when bad men no longer treat them with kid gloves, but prey upon them as mercilessly as they do upon other men.

Nor should they be surprised when good men won't lift a finger or run any risks to defend them."
 After reading the article and feeling a little sad I started reading the comments to the article and even thinking back on my own experiences.

I've spoken against relying on someone else to save you. I've written countless blog posts about standing up for yourself and taking charge of your own self defense. I seek out the training that would allow me to better my chances against all aggressors--male, female, big or small.

But here's a little secret: I welcome help. I welcome protection. I embrace the kindness of a stranger or friend or spouse or family member who would stand up for me and say, "Leave her alone."

I won't wait for it. But I welcome it.

In the world of self defense things can get a little funny. Women train to fight off their most-likely and damaging attacker (a man) and that can often be translated into the idea that women are 100% equal to men or that she now no longer needs the assistance of anyone, even (or especially) a man.

Sometimes, that philosophy alone is what drives women to self defense classes. A woman, through the guise of feminism or equality, or whatever, decides the best way she can prove her superiority is to learn to defeat men in a physical match-up. Sadly, all too often, that drive comes from abuse or negligence at the hands of men.

Abuse at the hands of any man is enough to drive any woman to feel mistrustful of the gender as a whole. Abuse or neglect at the hands of a man that woman is supposed to have trusted to protect her can compound the issue even further.

I'm no stranger to such abuses and it was that abuse that drove me to the doors of self defense.

I made a decision that I was never going to rely on anyone else to save me ever again and if no one was going to help me then I'd help myself.

My drive for self protection was born out of hurt and bitterness, mistrust and anger. Yet the more I learned (the more I healed) the more I realized that my prejudices against men were planted in the shallow, infertile ground of perversion in a few.

Most men are not interested in hurting anyone. Many, in fact, want to be a protector. They want to be needed, relied upon or trusted to solve a problem. As much as men admire strong women there is a part of them that finds it perfectly acceptable for that woman to have her moments of weakness. Those men are okay being that knight in shining armor who comes to the rescue. If given the chance, many men would put forth the finest of efforts to fulfill that role and feel more like men because of it.

And yet, no one is asking them.

We're shoveling women into self defense classes and telling them that they don't need help. Worse, in many classes, women are being taught that the people they should be fearing the most are those they are invested in trusting. The domestic violence statistics are quoted. The rape statistics. The fact that most attacks happen by individuals the woman knows. And then the seed of mistrust is watered with words like, "Would you be ready to do this against your own husband?"

Don't get me wrong. A woman should very well know how to defend herself from anyone, including her spouse, if the need arises. She should be capable of standing up to the most aggressive and unlikely of foes. She should be able to do her best, with whatever tool is at her disposal, to defend herself. But I can't help but fear we're creating a much bigger problem by breeding that kind of mistrust and an attitude that she can always do it and do it best on her own.

We're breeding men who think they are irrelevant to the defense of women. That they don't matter and shouldn't help even if they are in a position to do so.

Worse still is that we may be breeding women who have a higher opinion of their own abilities than reality would dictate.

Women are plowed through self defense classes often paired up with other women or compliant male partners, given reassuring conditioning through defeating other non-skilled females or compliant males, told they are unbeatable, given a certificate of completion and told they are ready for whatever anyone can throw at them. The truth is that we women suffer a huge disadvantage when it comes to real world encounters with violence--particularly violent men--and we may not be able to conquer every foe out there without help.

Yes, many men can be deterred or fought off when encountering the minimum of resistance. Many women have fought off attackers using basic self defense skills. There are also some highly skilled women out there. Those skills should be taught. They should be learned and they should be applied when necessary. They have and will continue to be successful!

But those classes and skills should not be a substitute for an able-bodied, and preferably skilled individual coming to help.

My journey into self defense began on the premise that I never again wanted to rely on someone else to save me. I stand by that decision. I do not want to wait for someone to come to my rescue. But whereas I crossed the start line determined to resist all outside offers to help, I've reached a point of this unending journey with the realization that I don't want to do it all on my own anymore. Not only is it impractical, it's foolish. If the bad guys can embrace the need for assistance in victimizing others, why should I try to stand alone in defending myself? 

So, to those who would question whether or not I would ever want any assistance from a man, the answer is, "yes."

Help me. Save me. Rescue me. Protect me.

Encourage me to learn how to do it myself. Congratulate me when I take the next step in self reliance and self defense. But if you see me in a position of need, please, help me. I will thank you for it. I will appreciate you for it. I will not feel less of a woman because you helped me. I will not feel as though you are undermining me. I may be able to do it on my own but I know I have a better chance with your help. I welcome your help.

For those men who have felt like we women don't want you or need you anymore. I'm sorry. I can't speak for every woman but for my own part in shutting you out of my own defense I apologize.

We women will never be as good at defending ourselves from men like you men are.

For those men who have wanted to help but have been hesitant for fear you'd be seen as undermining us and our strength. I, for one, would like to invite you to jump in and help. Again, I can only speak for myself, but I want you to know I'd appreciate your help.

To those men who have never wondered and never asked but have thrown themselves into the mix on a woman's (or anyone's) behalf. Thank you! You are appreciated. Even if it wasn't by the individual you helped, I appreciate your spirit.

To the women who read this. Good for you for learning how to defend yourself. Keep at it. Don't stop and don't wait for someone to rescue you. But don't discredit the ability and desire that men have to help you and protect you, either.

In the world of self defense, it still counts as a win to be rescued.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Judged By Twleve, Carried By Six

The self defense community, like any I suppose, is filled with quips and clever saying. Eventually they all become trite but that doesn't keep them from being thrown around with little thought or consideration to what is actually being expressed.

One such phrase is, "I'd rather be judged by twelve than carried by six."

What is trying to be expressed here is that one would rather be judged in a court of law by a jury (twelve jurors) than die (six pallbearers).

This phrase is frequently used when there is a measure of confusion about a self defense law. Instead of searching for legal clarification someone will say, "Well, I'd rather be judged by twelve than carried by six," implying that they are okay being on the questionable side of the law than face dying at the hands of an attacker.

Firstly, ignorance of the law is never a good defense. 

Shaneen Allen, a PA resident, was driving in NJ when she was pulled over for a dangerous lane change. She handed her driver's license and PA-issued carry permit to the officer and informed him that she had a gun in her car. According to her lawyer she did not know what she was doing was illegal.

She is now facing prison time. As this article, by the Washington Post puts it, "But if she is denied [an amnesty] defense, she will almost certainly go to trial, and under New Jersey’s gun law, she will have no real defense. Unless her jury engages in a defiant act of nullification, she will be convicted, and her trial judge will have no choice but to sentence her to the three-year minimum."

Shaneen's only crime was having access to a firearm in her vehicle and having a specific type of ammunition. She is going through a legal hell because of it. How much more difficult might the situation be if said firearm had been used? What if someone were involved in a questionable act of self defense with a firearm?

If there is ambiguity about a law it is not time to throw up your hands and say, "I don't understand it so I'm just going to hope for the best." It's time to knuckle down and get to the bottom of that law. Your future and freedom may depend on it.

Read your state statutes. If you don't understand them, ask someone who does. Get a few books and start reading, compare what you know about your own state with the states around you. Attend a class geared toward self defense law. Do not leave your understanding of self defense law up to chance, especially if you carry a lethal tool. 

No trial is no picnic.
I believe a lot of people who throw out this phrase really don't think their particular case will ever make it to trial. They are somehow under the illusion that if they ever get into a lethal encounter it will be so black and white that their innocence will never be in question.

Many times that is the case. The evidence paints a pretty clear picture and charges are never filed. That doesn't mean life gets to go back to normal. Sometimes it does. A lot of times it doesn't.

Reading accounts of self defense accounts where shots have actually been fired and especially where there has been loss of life shows a grim reality. Sometimes there are injuries to recover from. Other times there may be a loss of a loved one's life or an injury. Many times there are still social repercussions wherein friends and family distance themselves, no longer wishing to be associated with someone who has taken a life.

There may be threats from friends and family of the aggressor.

Even if the situation itself was pretty clear in the mind of the shooter, however, that doesn't always mean that witnesses or evidence paints the same legal picture. In which case, a trial is at hand.

Finally, death may not be the worst outcome and there are many ways to die. 

What really irks me about this particular phrase is that it implies that death is absolutely the worst outcome and that putting your future in the hands of a jury is always going to be a better option.

This will largely depend on what an individual can handle and what s/he can take in the way of financial, emotional and personal stressors.

There are people out there who can genuinely say that death for them would be the ultimate, worst case scenario. They don't care if they are bankrupt, in prison with no friend, have failing health and no rights. They are breathing, therefor it's not as bad as it could be.

On the other hand, there are many people who would welcome death before they welcomed bankruptcy or a felony murder conviction, the disgrace of their name, the loss of their wife and kids (even if that loss is only emotional), a substantial prison sentence or the loss of their lifestyle as they know it. To some, losing everything might as well be death. It may not be a physical death but it's a type of death just the same.

That may happen to anyone who leaves his fate in the hands of a jury.

You don't have to look far to find cases of where self defense is used as the legal defense that have gone to trial. Two of the most well known and publicized trials were the George Zimmerman trial and the Michael Dunn trial. One ended in exoneration, the other in conviction and both lives will never be the same.

Court costs and lawyer fees leave individuals hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt if not millions. Homes are sold. Divorce is common. The social repercussions from neighborhoods push families out of communities often resulting in divorce and disassociation of children and loved ones. Jobs are terminated. The trial process is long and even if the verdict is favorable there is the stress of picking up those pieces and moving on. There can even be PTSD or living with life-long injuries. If the verdict is one of guilt (and it may be) you then have a prison sentence to serve and a criminal record for life and the subsequent struggle to find work and a future based on that record.

Very few people know with certainty what kind of pressures they can handle. Could you handle a 20-year prison term separated from your family and life as you know it? Would your family be there for you afterward? Could the person you are survive that? If you physically survived would you emotionally survive? Could you pick your life back up after a manslaughter or murder conviction? Could you find work with a felony record? Is the death of everything you knew something you have considered?

Because I can't answer those questions for myself I choose not to be flippant about the responsibility I have to make sure I don't put myself into a position where such an outcome is probable. Don't get me wrong, a worst case scenario is always possible, not always probable.

To paraphrase one of the instructors at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference, "When you decide you will take on [a lethal fight for your life] you agree you accept the bill and pay for [the trial and any outcome] no matter what the cost."

That's not something anyone should take lightly.

Know your local law. Know the law of any states you frequent or may travel into. Learn the difference between true lethal situations wherein lethal force is justifiable and less-than-lethal situations. Learn when lethal force is no longer justifiable. Seek out training that helps you identify those differences. Understand the gravity of what a trial would likely be.

Are you giving those things the respectful attention they deserve?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Bad Info Prevails

A few weeks ago I went to a jewelry making event. There were a number of women there who didn't know me and I didn't know them. While we formed our pendents we started getting to know one another but I don't always disclose my interest and passion for self defense and firearms.

Somehow, however, the conversation turned to guns and self defense.

I tried to keep my mouth shut.

Someone said she didn't want to get a gun but she was thinking it might be good for her to get some pepper spray.

One of the other women said, "You know what's a great alternative? Wasp spray! It has better range and is more effective."

I couldn't hold it in any longer. I asked, "Would you like to know why that isn't necessarily true?"

She said yes.

After I was done explaining that wasp spray has never been proven effective against human beings like pepper spray has been I explained that modern pepper sprays have a great range and then left it be.

The conversation continued and one of the other gals said, "Well, that's why whenever I go anywhere I put my keys between my fingers so that I can punch with them if I need to."

I winced. "I'm sorry. But would you like to know why that's not a good idea?"

She said yes.

I explained that the keys between the fingers have no stability and punching someone with your keys between your fingers will likely do no more damage than just punching them. In addition, finger bones are not all that strong and if someone stronger were to grab your hand it's entirely possible to break a few fingers around those keys as they act as a sort of fulcrum. If you have any kind of key defense you're much better off getting a kubaton (careful to observe that in some states you need a carry permit to do so) or just swinging your keys on a key chain line a mace and chain.

I shut up again and eventually one of the other gals said, "What I don't understand about these shooting things is why the police can't just shoot people in the arm or the leg or something?"

I put my head on the table and said, "Would you like to know why that's not an option?"

She said yes.

I explained a little about deadly force and when you can and cannot use it and that there is no such thing as a non-lethal shot, not legally anyway.

The girl I came with happens to be one of my former students. She started laughing and finally spoke up, "Just in case you were wondering why she's so passionate about this stuff it's because she's a firearms instructor."

We eventually got the class back on a jewelry making track but this all got me thinking about why the bad information keeps circulating. Why, despite our best efforts, do people still regurgitate the same old myths over and over again? Why do they get shared with higher frequency than good information?

Is it because the information is novel and therefore sticks out as something to remember? Is it because the techniques seem easier or more accessible to common individuals?

Of course it doesn't help that we have national television programs spewing crap, either. Thank you, NBC, you just set us back seven years.