The People of the Gun are nothing if not predictable. Start talking about the philosophy and practice of armed self-defense and it’s only a matter of time before they trot-out what’s called “received wisdom.” A gunfight is a fight with a gun. The only gunfight you’re sure to win is the one you don’t have. Beware of the man with only one gun. No plan survives first contact with the enemy. Let’s take a closer look at the last one . . .
It’s a quote from German Field Marshall Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke. Wikipedia.org opines:
Moltke’s main thesis was that military strategy had to be understood as a system of options since it was only possible to plan the beginning of a military operation. As a result, he considered the main task of military leaders to consist in the extensive preparation of all possible outcomes.
His thesis can be summed up by two statements, one famous and one less so, translated into English as “No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy’s main strength” (or “no plan survives contact with the enemy”) and “Strategy is a system of expedients.”
Monty Python updated the sentiment when the actor playing Cardinal Richelieu announced “no one expects the Spanish Inquisition!” In other words, you can’t know how a defensive gun use will start, proceed or finish.
That means you can’t prepare yourself for every possible defensive scenario. In fact, if you train too rigidly — training yourself to react reflexively the same way to a threat over and over again — you’re training for failure. You’re setting yourself up for an inappropriate survival response to a life-threatening stimulus.
That said, you need certain instinctive or reflexive responses, such as moving as you’re getting your gun out. Or focusing on your front sight. Or squeezing rather than slapping the trigger. But these are baseline responses. To respond to a threat, you need the general ability to observe, orient, decide and act. And then repeat the process (the so-called OODA loop).
As Moltke reminds us, a successful soldier/commander realizes that he or she has a range of options to fight a battle (i.e. a “system”). These include — but are not limited to — shooting. If your plan is simply to perforate the bad guy, the chances are it won’t be enough. To increase the odds of winning, you have to assess and choose from amongst the available options — while under tremendous pressure.
The only way I know to both evaluate and improve this combat mindset: force-on-force training. Not only does FoF [somewhat] inoculate you against debilitating stress, it gives you insight into the chaos that is a defensive gun use, and your abilities and limitations within it. It’s expensive and hard to find and the best investment in self-defense you can make, bar none.
Meanwhile, know this: you can’t know what you don’t know. Be ready to be surprised — and take action.