Caleb Giddings [above] has taken me to task. GunUp gun guru’s annoyed at my less-than-flattering take on Old Fat White Guy training. “Robert, we’ve seen videos of you shooting. Perhaps you could benefit from a little more of the OFWG training.” Point taken. Mr. Giddings is a highly-skilled, competition-proven shooter with a staggeringly comprehensive knowledge of firearms. I am a schlub with a gun. More to the point, you can’t get too much firearms training. Or can you? Caleb has thrown down the proverbial gauntlet—thankfully leaving his rhetorical handgun in its symbolic holster. So I’m here to to paraphrase Ferb. Yes. Yes you can . . .

Caleb and I agree that shooting on the move is an absolutely essential self-defense skill. As the rabbi says, if someone’s coming at you with a knife, which do you want to do first: move or shoot? Yes. You want to move and shoot. Unless you practice this art, you stand a good chance of getting caught flat-footed with your firearm. That’s an ambulance gurney full of not good.

Caleb’s first piece of advice: stay low. Remind me not to enter the ace shooter in a limbo contest; that’s not what I call low. But Caleb’s crouch creates a stable platform for shooting on the move. As we can see from his performance. Props to The Man for crossing his legs as he walks. That crab-walking nonsense really gets my goat.

Double taps all ’round. Keep moving. Stay put. This video is a wonderful demonstration of competition excellence. Can you bet on IDPA? But Caleb’s demo has sweet FA to do with self-defense. As Caleb himself would admit.

In a self-defense situation you don’t need to move as much as you need to RUN. You’re not likely to face eleven closely-grouped bad guys. Truth be told, if you shot them all, you’d have some serious ‘splainin’ to do.

Your “field of fire” is hardly likely to be open. There will be good guys around and no backstops. Perps will be moving towards you. Or away. Or sideways. They may be firing bullets at you. Flanking you. You will probably have unarmed friendlies in tow. The cops will show up, perhaps sooner than you think.

And then there’s the serious lack of a buzzer indicating it’s time to begin. The chances of being fully prepared to draw your weapon and fire accurately at the exact opportune moment are slim.

So, well-trained European extraction dudes exercising your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms and their ethnically diverse equals, will you be able to assess a lethal threat properly, think on your feet as the situation evolves and react appropriately?

Maybe. Can you train to do that? That depends on the training. Here’s the kicker: armed self-defense training can program you to do something that will get you and/or innocents killed.

My pet peeve in that regard: training where you ALWAYS draw your gun and fire. Thousands and thousands of times. What if you need to draw your weapon and NOT fire? If you’ve programmed yourself to draw and fire in a single seamless motion, you could end up shooting the wrong person. There could be a more pressing lethal threat nearby.

Besides, threat assessment isn’t a one-two-three-go-OK-now-stop deal. It should begin before you draw your weapon (for sure), continue whilst your drawing, as you’re firing (if you fire) and after you’ve fired.

Most OWFG firearms training has a set start and end point. In the original QOTD video (since removed), the participant completes the drill and ambles back to the firing line. The element of surprise—which creates a concomitant adrenalin rush—is notable only by its absence.

OFWGs and other consumers of self-defense firearms training (including basic range time) don’t stop to think “should I be programming myself to do this?” They surrender to authority figures and perceived wisdom. They favor simple bang-bang training over force-on-force training.

There are three basic components to armed self-defense: gun handling, marksmanship and strategy. If you know how to load, carry and deploy your weapon safely, well done. If you can shoot a fist-sized group at a target whilst moving from combat distances, excellent. But if you’re training doesn’t include real-world strategic thinking, you’re missing THE critical element.

Worse, if you’re programming yourself to do things you shouldn’t do in a gunfight, or neglecting to include drills that create life-saving options, you may be preparing yourself for disaster. I say “may” because the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

Would you prefer a bad self-defense plan executed well, or a good plan executed poorly? How about a good plan executed well? Make sure your training is sound before you make it your own. It’s one sure way to raise your odds of survival. Which is about as good as it gets.

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42 Responses to Self-Defense Tip: Be Careful What You Pretend to Be

  1. Robert, on the web, it seems like you and Mas Ayoob are the only guys who ask the probing questions to get to the bottom of how and why one average, everyday person left a gunfight alive, and the other dead. Just about everyone else is a phoney boloney SWAT or Special Forces tacticool wannabe living out their video game fantasies.

    Check out the NRA’s Armed Citizen Blog:
    http://www.americanrifleman.org/BlogList.aspx?cid=25&id=21

    There are plenty of regular schmos and little old ladies who defend themselves just fine with minimal training and the rarely-fired 38 special (and even .22!) kept in the night stand, “just in case.” The tacticool wonks don’t want you to know (or think about) this as they try to sell you the latest semi-auto pistol, hi-cap mag, training video, etc. that their sugar daddy sponsors want them to pimp.

    G-d bless TTAG for Keepin’ it Real!

    • Well put, Sir! I get sick of the ads of everything from making you a black belt in one week for $5000, to having you ready to free lance in Somalia after the 2 week extended course. By the time they’re done, they are only trained enough to watch “rastling” on tv and pull the morning shift at the mall.

  2. RF says: “My pet peeve in that regard: training where you ALWAYS draw your gun and fire. Thousands and thousands of times. What if you need to draw your weapon and NOT fire?”

    +1.

    • I’m sorry to say it, but I really think you guys are living in a fantasy world. This is the kind of thing teenagers do with video games, big-boy style. And I wouldn’t mind so much if it didn’t cause the harm it does. It encourages others to live in fear and paranoia when they really don’t have anything to fear or be paranoid about. That’s bad.

      I’m not saying you should love everybody and submit to all aggressors, like you guys are getting ready to accuse me of, I’m not saying that at all. I’m all for situational awareness and being prepared. When I take money from the ATM for example, and I’ve instructed my wife to do the same, I make sure to put the money away before moving away from the machine, all the while keeping aware of what’s happening around me.

      Normal simple precautions are what’s required unless you go copping drugs in the ghetto or unless your job takes you into dangerous places.

      For the vast majority of you, guns are unnecessary to your survival. And when you train and plan and fanticize about fighting some imaginary foe to the death, you’re making yourselves sick and you make others sick too.

      If there are any of you who are not too far gone, I urge you to start reading my blog every day and get rid of your damn guns. They’re bad news.

      • Does having a fire extinguisher or insurance make you paranoid.

        I don’t walk out of the house terrified and clutching my gun, it is in my pocket on IWB and will likely stay there until I return and go to bed. No fear or paranoia here

        Having a firearm and the knowledge to use it is just another tool, you are trying to turn it into some mystical monkey’s paw that will turn on us and put us in the grave…it’s just silly talk

        • Well Ralph, it certainly would if you practiced twice a week with the fire extinguisher and thought about it constantly. Car insurance is a bit more passive, so, no on that one.

        • I have practiced with a fire extinguisher. I’ve read the instructions, and I have watched fire safety videos fairly frequently…I guess I have an irrational fear of fire

          I don’t think it really is less passive. I practice driving every day, and I often consider what I would do if someone swerves into my lane. I guess I have an irrational fear of cars as well.

          Or maybe I am not the irrational one

      • Why on earth would I want to get rid of one of the most useful tools ever created by Man? It’s fun to play with, challenging to master, and fun to share with the family. It’s just like my golf clubs axcept it has the added bonus of being able to secure food ,if need be, or save my life. Two abilities my 5 iron sorely lacks.

      • I train kung fu. It is highly unlikely to ever be used to actually fight bad guys trying to come at me. So I suppose that makes me paranoid and I should fu-ling around lest I snap and start spear-handing the necks of innocent children or something.

  3. All this tacticool training: “Talk about pissing your money away. I hope you kids see what a silly waste of resources this was.” Frances, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”

    In the highly unlikely circumstance you find yourself in a real life gun battle with a person or persons actually shooting back at you, it’s in God’s hands at that point. Maybe you’ll live, maybe you won’t. If you don’t, it was your time to go.

    • Well, let’s not go that far…every person is entitled to their own HOBBY. I piss away a lot of time and money on precision shooting sports as a HOBBY. It relaxes me, channels a competitive instinct, camaraderie, etc. But I don’t kid myself that I am a special forces sniper, or that anything I do has much self defense application during a home invasion or street altercation. And I certainly don’t profess to be knowledgeable or skilled at anything other than exactly what I do, and specifically to that application: hitting paper targets of a specific size and shape at known long distances. And even then, I’m just a little above average.

      If guys want to run around and play-act SWAT Navy Seal or Cowboy on the weekend with guns, I think it’s great! All shooting sports HOBBIES are great fun! Spend money, buy stuff, bring in new shooters, it’s all good! But will participating in such sports help or hurt your chances in a self-defense encounter? Who knows? Lots of so-called karate masters get their asses whupped in street fights by untrained bar-brawlers (and vice-versa)…why shouldn’t the same apply to guns?

      The problem is with the delusional sponsor-financed tacticool bloggers spreading their nonsense. To them I say: unless you’ve spent any part of your life getting shot at for a living, or INTENSELY studied under those who have, I have absolutely no interest in what you have to say on the issue of self-defense.

  4. Robert,

    I gotta say while I understand where you are coming from I gotta disagree. This is just another tool in the toolbox. As long as a shooter does not get bogged down in only one discipline aka not thinking about how a self defense shooting might differ from an IDPA scenario I think it can only help.

    The reality is for the average person these types of gun games or training courses may be the only opportunity to get to draw/holster, shoot and move and also add (a minor) stressor/adrenaline. If a person never has the chance to work on it they may find themselves in a situation they can not handle (or worse putting bullets in the wrong place)

    As for the training scars…I think any shooter is just as likely to make those mistakes on their own…so I would say it’s not an additional risk just the same thing we need to watch out for in out own training

    • I remember that well as one of the incredibly rare personal DGU stories on the gun blogs. Now why do you suppose they’re so very rare? I have an idea, but I’m not gonna help you guys on this one. You gotta figure it out yourselves.

      • No one has questioned how rare it is for a criminal and a concealed carry holder to intersect. In fact it was very recently discussed. I believe the consensus was basically better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it (like any other tool)…I’m betting you already knew that though.

  5. 90% of us will never be able to shoot accurately while on the run. Most soldiers can’t do it either. They can wing off a couple of bursts in the general direction of the bad people, but hitting anyone while the muzzle is bouncing around at full run is unlikely. Does anyone teach this?

    For most of us, running is something we need to do before, between and after shooting. Does anyone teach this?

    Most of the time, we should not advance toward an armed attacker. If we move at all, we’ll be retreating. Does anyone teach this?

    My problem with training is that most instructors are teaching us to storm the Bastille. Screw that. I don’t give a flying fart about the Bastille. I care about preserving my ass. So teach me how to get out of Dodge poste haste and I’ll consider laying down my coin. If you want to train me to be a SEAL, I’m ringing the bell right now.

  6. Robert,

    I think I’m with you and agin’ you on this one…

    With you: Most of the training/competing I’ve done has been focused on technique, not tactics. I’ve shot IDPA (I stopped doing so since the program in my state is not run very well) and I regularly shoot IPSC. In both cases, the tactics employed are somewhat “canned”, with the shooter allowed to view the stage prior to their run. In the case of IPSC, shooters are afforded several opportunities to “air the stage” and develop an optimal strategy for shooting the lowest time. At least IDPA requires the shooter to employ tactical priority when engaging targets, as well as requiring that reloads be performed from behind cover.

    But one thing both disciplines lack in terms of tactics is the concept of the “blind stage”. IOW, the shooter doesn’t know what the stage entails until they start into it. (NB: IDPA does this occasionally, but in three years of shooting IDPA, I never once saw a blind stage…) In my mind, the blind stage is what would really challenge a shooter in terms of tactics, especially the on-the-fly good-guy/bad-guy determination. People also need to remember that these competitions are ‘tests’, they’re not ‘training’. You can learn from them, but improving your tactics has to happen somewhere else.

    The one exception to this — in my experience — has been Gunsite. I’ve attended more’n a couple of their classes and their shoothouse scenarios are pretty good. The shoot/no-shoot target ratio is very close to 1:1 and the difference between targets isn’t always obvious, forcing the shooter to stop for a millisecond or three to make a determination. The lighting changes from room to room. There are distractions and false clues. It’s a challenge to get through the shoothouse cleanly — and a real eye-opener!

    Against you: I think the foundation for any good self-defense shooting is, well . . . . , good shooting. If you can’t shoot well, under pressure, with a sense of urgency, the best gunfighting tactics won’t do you a lot of good. (Unless it includes healthy doses of Monty Python’ish, “Run away! Run away!”) A clean draw from the holster, effective deactivation of the safety, proper sight alignment, and a smooth press of the trigger are all prerequisites for a good shot. Doing these four things on the move, from behind cover, from awkward positions, under variable lighting, with time pressure, are valuable skills. And none involve tactics.

    Perhaps what needs to be resolved is the line between learning to shoot (techniques) and learning to fight (tactics). I suspect that most schools teach the former, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The problem with teaching tactics is that few — if any — self-defense shootings are the same. So tactics have to be taught “vaguely” (theoretically?) and I think such things require tons of experience on the part of the instructors. (I also believe — perhaps naively — that tactics could be taught without ever handling a firearm…) Case studies have value when it comes to teaching tactics, but only as it applies to helping the student answer the question, “OK, what do we see now and how will that affect our immediate course of action?”

    My 2¢…

    TCM
    O (Not-F) W G

    • I agree. Shooting well (when needed) should be trained, drilled, and practiced until it becomes muscle memory.

      But WHEN to shoot requires (in my opinion) more training and diverse scenario training. It is the harder part of the puzzle. From our last deployment (2009-2010), the number and variety of scenarios when we could have taken a shot but did not because of situation was staggering. Just too many variables.

      A respected SF officer that I worked for said about range time and practice “you cannot shoot your weapon too much”. He said that knowing that we were a MP unit and the understanding is that we had to know when to shoot.

  7. Meh..I mostly get a chuckle out of those who pay an arm and a leg for high intensity assault training, or spend years getting that black belt, and yet are so fat and out of shape, that you need duct tape to extend that holster or rank belt around the gut.

    But those things are an enjoyable hobby that at least has a more practical application than say, dressing up as a conductor and building model trains, or collecting stamps.

    Honestly though, I’m less likely to peel off 100 rounds in a quick draw with a hand pistol, against a cadre of armed assailants, than I am to grab the nearest woman or child to use as a human shield as I make my way to the nearest Pizza joint; Cuz I personally believe there is never the need to die hungry.

  8. The only issue I have with a some of the training, and all of the formal competition shooting that goes on now, is the insistence on the “modern technique”, always shooting from the two handed position.
    When I practice, I always include a lot of one handed “point shooting” from the same IWB holster I carry every day. I shot IPSC quite a bit in the late 80’s and realize you will never win a match shooting that way (even if they let you), but I’m not a cop, soldier, or competitor. The chance of me getting in a situation that is anything at all like an IPDA or IPSC course is almost nonexistent.
    I carry a gun on the remote chance that I would need one, but if I do need it, it is likely to be sudden and very close range. So I practice for that type of situation. I can draw from my concealment holster and put a round center of mass at 5 yards with any of the three guns I may be carrying. I’m not a great shot and I’m sure a guy like Caleb could beat me in any competition, but I think I stand a fair chance if I had to draw my gun for defense.
    Competition shooting is great fun, and if you did not grow up shooting like I did, by all means, get some training, but I think you can defend yourself just fine without taking a $500 course or being a championship shooter.

  9. What I generally dislike about posts like this is the tone. “I RF, have thought deeply on this subject, I will now pronounce that what everyone else does is silly, ineffectual and probably dangerous, and then I will ask ‘thought provoking questions’ that no one else has ever considered.” Do you really think no one else has ever thought about these problems? And would it kill you to offer a solution once in a while? The “I’m just asking questions/raising awareness/starting a debate” approach is fairly useless when it comes to solving real world problems. What should I be doing during my range time?

    • Fair comment. I will make sure that any further tips include positive suggestions. In this case . . .

      At ranges where I can’t move but can draw—wearing normal clothes (a jacket in the winter)—I practice drawing and firing at close range: three to five yards. Smooth as possible (speed comes of its own accord). I fire with two-hands and strong hand. I then transfer the gun (carefully) to my weak weak hand and practice some more. I’ll also fire from kneeling, sitting and lying down. Two hands, strong hand, weak hand.

      At ranges where I can move, I start from close in (bad breath distance), firing as I move backwards and sideways. I also practice shooting from the hip (of course) as I remove the gun from the holster. And I also shoot from as far a distance as possible. If there’s cover, I’ll practice with that.

      I always practice NOT firing. And holstering without emptying the mag. I use regular computer paper or paper plates as targets. I’ll put three pieces of paper up and have someone call out 1,2 or 3. There’s more, but them’s the basics for me.

      Does that help?

      • Yes. Those sound like practical suggestions that someone could benefit directly from, particularly the moving and/or alternate position practice.

      • Good suggestions, makes I wish we had a range like yours around my parts Rob.

        As I said earlier, the only way I will ever get the opportunity to draw/holster, shoot, and move will be at an IDPA event . Ranges around here just don’t allow presentation from the holster or movement…honestly we are lucky if there is not a rule against rapid fire

        • I like it too, it never occurred to me to use my “weak” hand, I’ll have to give it a try next time out. Thanks.

  10. Hmmmm,

    How else is a real world problem solved if you DON’T ask questions and raise awareness of it?

    I’ve never seen anyone else bring this up and it actually made me rethink a couple of things. Will I still go shoot? Yes. But I will now have his points to think about while I do.

    Like it was said…another tool…

  11. What if you need to draw your weapon and NOT fire?

    Then I’m not drawing it. Now in the 1.5 seconds before I fire they can convince me not to fire and have done so on one occasion.

    When I go to the range I go to practice shooting. One group I used to shoot with would hold a surprise match 6 times a year where you had no idea what you would be facing until it was your turn. That was one way to train to think under pressure. Often the match would be designed using real world events that actually happened.

  12. +1 on the Phineas and Ferb reference. My kids love them! I must say it takes pure genius to insert a Disney cartoon seemlessly into a gun blog.

  13. Joe says: “I guess looking both ways before I cross at intersections is paranoia too.”

    I guess it depends how many hours a week you spend training to cross intersections. Or how many thousands of dollars you spend on equipment for crossing intersections. At some point it could start looking like you have an unusual fear of crossing the street.

    • Man if I add up all of those years my parents made sure I looked both ways and held their hands while crossing I’m sure even at minimum wage it would add up to a few G’s pretty quick.

      I always make sure I have my glasses on and decent shoes and make sure they are tied tight with nice fresh laces too…Time, money, and effort all devoted to staying safe…what a bunch of paranoids we are ;o)

  14. There is a huge difference between training and the real world… for most of my teens and 20’s I was a competitive martial artist. I trained like crazy, and eventually became one of the teachers at my dojo… there are moves and katas I have practiced literally 10,000 times or more in the last 16 years… and lord knows how many hours I’ve spent sparring or duking it out in the ring at a competition…

    With that said, the handful of times I’ve actually been in a fight in the real world, it was nothing like being on the tatami mats back in my school… seriously, I walked away (actually, most of the time I sprinted off like a cranked up impala) the victor far more often than I lost: but in no way were my movements anything like the graceful fluidity of my forms. There was no pacing around each other, circling, waiting for an opening. No striking, blocking and counter striking… no sir, not at all. It was quick, and brutal, with as few strikes as possible, with as much power as I could put into them… real fights are quick and nasty, and there’s no ref to call a foul… true, my training in the dojo gave me the confidence that I could protect myself, and a skill set that would save my ass, as well as fit and conditioned body that could sprint for dear life for blocks on end… but there really was nothing I did that could truly prepare me for an actual, knuckle to occipital bone, teeth jarring real world fight…

    I carry, openly around the house, concealed when I’m out and about. I’ve taken the training courses, watched the assorted videos… I go to the range often, I’ve practiced drawing my weapon countless time, I do force on force training (say what you will, but when done right, Airsoft guns are an awesome training tool)… having never had to use my weapon, I can’t really say what gunfight is like: but I kinda assume that a gun fight is to my weapons training what a bar room brawl is to my martial arts…

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