By Lt. Salvador Navarro (Ret), CEO & President, Montana Tactical Firearms Instruction
With the Christmas season, thoughts tend to turn to…the tactical? Well, yes. You may be wondering how focusing on tactics and Christmas are related. Well put on your favorite flannel pajamas and your old wool slippers. Grab yourself a cup of hot chocolate or Jo, turn on the Christmas tree lights and hang on to your cold red nose, ‘cause here we go…
When you mention the word “tactics” or “tactical,” some folks relate it to the 1970’s television show S.W.A.T., or the modern day penguins of Madagascar who hijack a super tanker, disabling the entire crew by hand so they can escape New York City to live a life of ease in Antarctica eating cold sushi daily. If you haven’t watched these little tactical terrors, you might learn a few things from them.
We get the words “tactical” and “tactics” from the Greek word taktika or taktikos, meaning to arrange in order. My favorite definition for these words is provided by Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, which states, in part:
the art or skill of employing available means to accomplish an end, or a system or mode of procedure…
In essence, being “tactical” is a way of life, not an ethereal concept or happenstance occurrence. And wearing the right cargo pants or boots doesn’t have anything to do with it. Rather, it means having a plan well in advance of a dynamic critical incident and putting it into action if and when it’s needed. In law enforcement circles, this is known as “situational awareness and response” or “critical thinking.”
Let’s look at one potential scenario:
Imagine you’re at your local mall with your children doing some Christmas shopping. It doesn’t matter if it is an inside or outside type mall or what the time of day may be. The mall is jammed with shoppers. Kids crying, moms and dads are in line waiting to take pictures of their children with Santa Clause – the typical holiday season hustle and bustle.
Suddenly, you hear several loud “pops” to your left about fifteen to twenty yards away from you and your children. You look over in the direction of the noise and you see a man who is visibly angry, agitated and hostile. He’s yelling and screaming at the top of his lungs that he hates Christmas and is going to kill everyone in the mall.
He’s holding a handgun and several people have obviously been shot and are lying on the ground. The mall erupts in screams and panic as everyone begins to run in every direction. The gunman begins to fire indiscriminately into the crowd and more people begin to fall to the ground. What do you do now?
The answer may not be “what you do now” but what you could have done to prepare yourself before you even walked into the mall. Here’s a tactical thinking checklist to consider:
- First, you have to develop a survival mindset and determine if you are willing to use a firearm in self-defense before carrying a firearm. If not, you need to consider other alternatives.
- If you have a concealed weapons carry permit (CWP or CCW), make sure you carry your firearm, extra ammunition, a small tactical flashlight on a lanyard, along with your cell phone wherever you go.
- If you don’t have a concealed carry permit, locate an experienced firearms instructor who can qualify you to apply for your permit.
- Know and understand the “use of force” and firearms laws in your area before carrying and using a firearm.
- At the mall or store, park your car as close to an entry point as possible and make a mental note of where your car is.
- Preferably, park near a source of light if you’ll be there after dark.
- Scan the parking lot for anything or anyone that looks out of place. This determination is based upon your observations and the use of your five senses. Don’t dismiss the hackles going up at the back of your neck. That uneasy or queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach, or that small voice is telling you that something is wrong.
- Does everything appear normal in the lot? Are there strange looking people or cars there? Perhaps someone is wearing unseasonably warm or long sleeve clothing or trench coats in the summer? A car backed into a parking spot by the front door with the engine running, a driver at the wheel wearing a mask or cap, with the passenger door open? Are there emergency vehicles in the parking lot?
- When entering the mall or store, approach the entry from an angle so as to see inside to insure that everything looks “normal.” Scan the area. Are people running and screaming, or are they shopping and moving about as expected?
- Once in the mall, continue to scan the area to make sure everything is appears alright and look in all directions and at various distances so as to take in the “big picture.”
- Make note of entrance and exit points as you move through the mall.
- Scout out locations for cover and concealment. Cover means a place which is going to stop bullets from striking you; cement planters, curbs, heavy benches, a brick wall, etc. Concealment is something or some place that can hide you, but won’t necessarily stop bullets; a cardboard sale sign, foliage, furniture etc. Use cover and concealment to give you a tactical advantage in helping you decide if you are going to engage a threat.
- Don’t depend on law enforcement – or anyone else for that matter – to protect or rescue you and your family during a critical dynamic incident. In general, law enforcement may have an extended response time and much can happen between the time they are dispatched and the time they arrive on scene.
- Keep in mind that, depending on your local law enforcement agency’s training, policies and their preparedness for active shooters response, you and your family may have to wait an extended period of time before law enforcement even enters a “hot area.” How many people do you suppose can be seriously hurt or killed by a bad guy with a firearm before the police arrive, develop a cogent response and stop the BG?
We could probably expand on this list, but I want to challenge all of us to develop a proactive plan and response options to potential critical dynamic incidents. Doing so can save your life.
Thinking tactically, having an action plan, practicing with your firearm, carrying your gun wherever lawful and being aware of your surroundings will go a long way toward keeping you and your family safe. Your family, friends and even strangers are depending on your ability to think clearly during a critical incident. Remember that those who prepare survive. Those who don’t frequently won’t.
I hope that gives you a better understanding of how focusing on tactics and the Christmas season can be related. But these lessons apply all year round. The next time you head for the mall, leave your flannel pajamas, your old wool slippers, and your favorite hot beverage at home. Instead, take your newly developed tactical skills with you. They will help make sure you and your family come home safely to enjoy the fireplace and the Christmas tree.