Friday, September 7, 2012

Gun Centric Much??

On the third day of Handguns 1-3 at TDI this spring I was introduced to a sort of force-on-force portion of the class taught by Bill Posey. In this exercise he made up scenarios and randomly selected students to interact with to see how they would respond to the unfolding scenario. There is, of course, no right answer but the point of the drill is to get people thinking about scenarios and what they may or may not do in said scenario.

While waiting for my turn to get picked on there was a scenario where Bill had his hands in his back pockets and was walking toward a student about twice his size while asking for money. The student, a former Marine, started to insist that Bill stay away but Bill ignored him. When Bill got about 15 ft from the student he pulled out a dummy knife and charged him.

The student dropped to his knee and pulled his gun (this was a force-on-force scenario, not a live-fire drill, obviously) but of course Bill was able to "stab" the student several times while the student attempted to even retrieve his firearm. This is the Tueller Drill at its finest. Of course, we talked about the Tueller Drill and Bill asked what we thought of the scenario.

I chimed in that had it been me I would not have attempted to go for my gun. Instead I would have gone for control of the knife. The former Marine interjected with, "There is no way you are going to be able to take a knife away from someone like me."

"I'm not trying to take it away," I said. "I'm just trying to keep you from stabbing me with it. That's my first goal. Then, if I can control you enough or gain enough distance to get out a weapon of my own I'll go for that. At least that's what I learned in the knife class."

Bill said, "Well, you've had additional training in these kinds of scenarios but not everyone has that same level of training."

There was a look of confusion amongst some of the other students and later I got to talk to a few who seemed concerned by the scenario in that the student went for his gun and was so easily stabbed. Of course, in that scenario he got no more than touched by a rubber knife, but in real life he put himself on the ground and would have easily had 3-4 hilt-deep knife wounds in his head/neck area before he even got his gun out of the holster. Doesn't seem like a winning situation to me.

I thought about this for a moment and it kind of bothered me.

I had to go to a knife class to learn the fundamental rules for drawing a weapon (gun, knife, what have you). I did not learn this "additional training" from a gun class.

What I've learned from gun class after gun class is, "GET YOUR GUN OUT FAST!"

Whether spoken or not there seems to be a predominant theory in the gun community that alertness, speed of draw and movement (or getting off the x) will save you in 100% of questionable or deadly scenarios. Yes, those things are an enormous factor in successful gunfighting, but no matter how fast you are, if your first indication of a threat is facing a weapon and your first thought is to get your own, then I speculate there might be some holes in your training.

And I'm speaking to myself as much as anyone here. I have gun class trainings coming out of my ears but still feel horribly inadequate when dealing with certain scenarios and, truth be told, the more I learn and the more I train, the less and less confidence I have in firearms as the defensive weapons they are hailed as. They have their place, no question about that, but it is limited and often secondary to good common sense, hand-to-hand skills and flat out luck!

Sure, I can be alert. I can practice my draw stroke until I can draw and fire accurately in 1/2 a second. I can even draw while moving but still end up with a knife buried in my throat because I'm putting too much effort into the wrong thing. I'm gun-centric instead of self-defense-centric.

And isn't that the point? Isn't that what we are here to do and learn? Defensive training? Why then, are we learning how to attack our guns and move and shoot with our guns when our guns are an afterthought?

Of course, you don't pay gun schools to learn about non-gun options and good gun schools recognize this. They give you what you pay them for--good gun training--and beg and plead with you to go out and flesh out your training in other areas knowing full well that most of their students will ignore that advice. Many will never take another self defense related class in their lives, thinking, as one man told me, "I already have my permit. School's out."

Don't get me wrong. The training I'm receiving is phenomenal. It's unbeatable and it's exactly what you need if you are going to carry a gun but it's not the beginning. Or, at least, it shouldn't be.
I can't help but feeling it's like a lot of people are rushing to first grade without first completing kindergarten or even preschool. We're trying to build sky-scrapers without learning to add 2 and 2 and trying to paint masterpieces without learning our colors.

What's worse is that there seem to be so many people who rush people off to first grade and don't even tell them that kindergarten is an option. They are rushing them off to gun schools and pushing them into ranges and off to apply for carry permits without a single mention of things like hand-to-hand defense or critical thinking and mindset preparation. Those who do recommend those things are drowned out by the droves of people who seem to believe a firearm is all one would ever need to be properly defended in this world. Inconsequentially, these are also the people who often say they will not even visit states or places where their firearm is not welcome.

Beginners to the field of self defense who consider a gun as an option are thrown into labyrinth of gun-centric idealism, conversation and training that carries them like a zealous wave. And like a wave they are swept away by the newness and the sensationalism of carrying that firearm; by, perhaps, the power they may feel and perhaps even by the enjoyment of the sport of shooting and the great friends made along the way (because, yes! gun people are some of the greatest people on earth... no doubt of it!)

But if put to the actual test, simulated or real, of defending themselves against some of even the most basic of attacks, they fumble for their firearms and flounder at their defense like a 2nd grader whose trying to learn to divide without first having learned how to add.

I got caught up in it myself. When I first started becoming more concerned about self defense I didn't go to hand-to-hand combat classes. I didn't go out and buy pepper spray. I didn't go to a women's self defense seminar. I bought a gun. One of my first "defensive" classes was a 2-day gun class. I've put more hours and money into gun training than I have ever put into any other form of self defense. And when pitted against simulated attacks my inadequacies to defend myself completely are glaringly obvious.

It frustrates me. I feel as though I've wasted my time.

I know that's not true. If forced to go to the triggers I have confidence that I would be a formidable opponent. But if, for some reason, I was not able to get to my gun in the first place, my confidence wanes.

And as someone in the gun community I see it over and over again and I get frustrated for other people who haven't gotten frustrated for themselves yet.

The newcomer asks the question on where to begin and the regurgitated answer is always, "Well, first, go apply for your permit and go get yourself some good gun training." It's like telling your pre-schooler, "Well, first you need to go to high school and then you can go to college." Yes, it's great advice, but there's a whole lot missing before that.

So, what is missing? Is it just hand-to-hand training?


And to be honest with you, I have no idea what all is missing. I'm trying to figure that out, too. I'm open to suggestions.

For one, mindset is desperately missing. The mindset to think, to use common sense, to out-smart instead of just out-shoot. Your options are not limited to shoot or don't shoot.

For another thing, emotional control is missing. I've said it before; emotional responses seem to be in vogue right now. It can be hard not to be emotional in some instances (if not impossible) but it's something to at least acknowledge and attempt to control. As the saying goes, "cooler heads prevail."
Strength and stamina are missing. And, yes, I'm looking squarely in the mirror as I type this. Americans in general are sorely out of shape, weak and diseased with their own poor health choices (myself included). If you're going to be serious about your safety, it only makes sense that you would be serious about your health and be able to at least last as long as or longer than your opponent if forced to go toe-to-toe with him. I can't even go the grocery store and back with two kids without feeling EXHAUSTED!!

Knowledge, skill and understanding of other tools such as knives, medical aid and the like is also missing.

I'm going to be starting Krav Maga this month and I'm excited to be fleshing out that area of my training. I'm hoping and expecting that it will help build my confidence in non-gun-related defense.

We'll see.


  1. I think your absolutely right. I carry a knife and carried a knife for a long time before I ever carried guns. I often say that pulling a gun on someone may just be to distract them while you stab them with your other hand. I also have always realized that a knife can be far more effective and deadly than a firearm in a up close fight. I really want to get some good hand to hand training, but haven't have the time and money yet.

    I think when it comes to self defense there is no one weapon that fits all situations, the key is to have the right tool on you when you need it. I carry a 9MM IWB but also carry a small NAA 22 clipped in my pocket. I can present and fire the 22 much faster and from many more positions than the 9. I kind of look at it as my primary weapon and my 9 is my backup to the 22. If the 22 doesn't eliminate the treat then it should hopefully stun them enough to let me draw the big gun. I also carry a spring assisted knife in the other pocket which is the fastest weapon to present. I also carry a Last Ditch in on my ankle. No real training, but my thought is you want to use any force you can and fight back and respond to the threat as quickly as possible when it surprises you. If what you do doesn't work try something else and then something else, but fight. Many times attackers don't expect someone to fight back and they will run away and find and easier target. I find that since I have been so used to carrying a knife, when I have felt like I may need to react to a situation my hand goes to my knife before it goes to my gun.

    If I am in a potentially dangerous environment. My keys are in between my fingers while I make a fist. Keys can make a good weapon if you punch someone with them.

  2. Another problem I see is guns are the hot item right now and other training is hard to find. I would LOVE to find some self-defense training that is ongoing so I can keep practicing the skills, but outside of taking martial arts or MMA it doesn't seem to exist!

    1. You are very correct. We are drowning in gun training. A lot of it is even very affordable and only takes a small portion of time. Things like hand-to-hand classes and fitness take far more time, energy and (in the long run) money. I agree that there is a lack of other options (at least good ones) out there but there's also a lack of demand. I think that should change if people are really concerned about defense.

  3. I agree wholeheartedly with your post. I worry about the people who think a gun is the solution to all of life's problems. There is a rise of people applying for concealed carry permits, but I wonder how many of them think it's a magic talisman. Additional training should encompass all areas, not just gun training. And honestly, I LOVE other training. The knife class I took in May was one of my favorite classes...I can't wait to take it again :)

  4. Very true. It would be nice to have a self-defense course that started with mind-set and martial fitness, then progressed through hand-to-hand, and finally weapons (in particular, the knife, gun, and weapons of opportunity), each one building on and integrating the other. These things need to be wholly integrated to be effective. I also tend to think that Isolation (gun training without addressing the reality of force on force scenarios, for instance) is the breading place for some of the more unrealistic, Kool-aid oriented classes and techniques out there.