Tuesday, June 14, 2016

"Assault Rifles" and the Truth

So the People Who Care have determined it wasn't an Islamic madman who killed 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando.

It was an "Assault rifle."

Since no one knows exactly what that is, we'll assume an "Assault rifle" is a rifle capable of shooting a continuous stream of projectiles ("automatic") and is used by military forces.

Those Mean Black Guns

Military M-16

The usual bogies are the "AK-47" and the "AR-15."

AK-47s are an ancient Russian design long-since surpassed in accuracy, capacity, longevity, and all the other -ities.


In the last 80 years, legally registered machine guns have accounted for TWO deaths.


In 80 years.

Not one person has been killed by an AK-47 in the United States.

Automatic weapons are typically collectors items, expensive to shoot, and restricted by highly regulated and expensive fees for transfer.

"But what about the AR...?"

The AR-15 looks like the military M16, but is NOT an "Assault rifle."

The military M16 has a selector switch that enables Single Shot, 3 round burst, and Automatic fire.

The AR-15 is a single shot firearm.

AR-15s have become popular as many of us were issued M16s in the military. We know it, appreciate its ergonomics, and like shooting something that is familiar.

The M16 was the product of millions of dollars of R&D on the initial design. The rifle was refined with variants after feedback from tens of thousands of soldiers who have carried them all over the world.

Like the M-16, the AR-15 platform is very customizable. There's an entire industry devoted to AR platform upgrades and add-ons. Many hobbies thrive on the quest of the hobbyist to revise and improve his or her boat, bike, plane, jet ski, skateboard, car, skis, scooter, train set, interior decor, cooking utensils.....

"They're only meant for killing..."

Most (not all) AR models fire the .223 or 5.56 NATO cartridge. It is no more "powerful" than any other hunting round. Few knowledgeable riflemen would describe a rifle as more or less "powerful," anyway. All rifle rounds are a compromise between weight, trajectory, expansion, speed, ease of manufacture, material availability, etc. "Power" is usually the ad hoc assessment tossed out by amateurs.

AR-15 shoots a .223. A popular hunting round is the .30-06
Some states require a minimum caliber to hunt big game, as the smaller calibers -- such as the .223 -- are insufficient to humanely harvest elk, deer, caribou, moose, bear, and mountain goats.

The Military choose the 5.56/.223 as it was small and light enough to permit soldiers to carry more rounds then the WW2 era .30-06.

Some have argued that the 5.56 is intentionally less "powerful" as a wounded soldier removes two enemy fighters from the battlefield -- the wounded and the one caring for the wounded.

Why do civilians need military rifles anyway?

Notice the .30-06 round in the image above?

It was the primary round used by US military force since World War Two.

Guess what all those soldiers used for hunting, target shooting, and self-defense after the war?

Yep -- the .30-06.


They were used to it. People like what they're used to.

The round worked, factories could crank out many rounds cheaply (keeping costs low), and the caliber became a standard by which all others were assessed.

So the .30-06 was the most popular rifle round for several decades.

Doesn't AR mean "Army Rifle" or Automatic Rifle?"


The AR in AR-15 stands for Armalite Rifle: the company that designed the original in 1957: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ArmaLite


...even the New York Times had to admit there's an "Assault weapons myth.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Better Shooting

There really is no "secret" to accurate, rapid shooting.

While there are a few prodigies like Jerry Miculek who can shoot a wheelgun full auto, most of us will never equal this level:

Yet, even non-prodigies can improve and become competent, fast, and accurate shooters through regular, focused, and deliberate practice.

Shooting well (placing bullets exactly where you intend each to go) is a great feeling.

The Basics

The shooting basics are: Grip, Sight Picture, Trigger Manipulation, and Recoil Control.

That's it.

You have to practice each and every component of a successful firing sequence to actually improve the overall outcome.

So -- how do we do that?

First, break the sequence down to the smallest parts:

  1. Draw: The entirety of the motion of seizing the firearm and moving it from carried position to fire position as efficiently as possible, with the least possible chance of unintentional discharge, snag, delay, or fumble.
  2. Grip: A repeatable, firm  and controlled grasp of the firearm so that the muzzle points towards the target, controls recoil, permits an aggressive yet nimble posture, while enabling manipulation of the trigger, safety, and any other mechanisms (lasers, lights).
  3. Position: A body posture that enables a firm grip and sight picture while permitting nimble and rapid movement forward, back, to either side, or down.
  4. Sight picture: The clear alignment of the bore axis with the front sight such that a round will strike the intended target.
  5. Trigger press: The controlled movement of the trigger such that the sight picture is undisturbed throughout the firing cycle (press -- bang -- recoil -- return).
  6. Recovery: The control of the firearm immediately after a shot is fired to enable a second shot on the same target in the shortest time possible.
  7. Rest: A body posture that maintains positive control of the firearm and muzzle alignment while enabling recovery from a firing sequence.

Second, practice each one of those steps.

You do not need to practice each in sequence. For example, you can practice draw one day, focusing on placing your hand on the grip, pulling the firearm form the holster, and moving into firing position.

Don't worry about sight picture, trigger press, recoil -- just practice the draw.

Practice doesn't need to be on the range. in fact it's better if you don't.

The "Secret": Dry Fire

Chris Sajnog, a former US Navy SEAL, considers dry-fire the foundation of better shooting. I heartily recommend his book, How to Shoot Like a Navy SEAL.

Dry fire is an excellent way to practice the basics in a safe, inexpensive, yet ultimately productive way.


Set up targets in the basement or garage.

Make that area a NO AMMO zone.

Clear when you enter, clear BEFORE you pull the trigger.

Work on draw -- SLOWLY -- then position -- SLOWLY.

Hold the position. Work on sight picture. Work the trigger (squeeze, pull, press -- whatever the word du jour is...)

Go back to rest position.

Reset if you're using a striker. DA/SA work on DA pull only this first week.

Recover, then repeat.

STOP when you lose interest or cannot concentrate.

Command yourself to do that 15 minutes every day for at LEAST a week before going back to the range.

Range Time

While it defies every shooter's impulse, limit yourself to a box of ammo (50 rounds) for a few range session.

(If you just blast away you will re-institute bad habits. Do you want to get better or just blast ammo? There is a huge difference in approach!)

Leave the range without judgement. You're not there to hit bullseyes -- you're there to associate your perfect dry fire practice with the full experience (sight, press, bang, move, return to sight).

Then another week of dry fire.

I guarantee improvement (IF you do it).

It worked for me.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

How Should the Church Handle Threats?

I haven't posted as frequently as I've been working on a few long-form posts. One that has absorbed most of my time is an analysis of threats to the church and what churches can -- and should do in response.
A Church

There has been a significant shift in public perception of Christianity, Christian ministry, and churches. Various scandals have tarnished the reputation of an institution once hailed as the bulwark of American civilization.

To an ever-increasing portion of the North American and European populace, church is a club some less-than-enlightened people belong to, with a questionable or even sordid past (few make any distinctions between the crusades, child abuse, religious wars, ethnic cleansing...)

Is this a "hate crime"?
While they may concede some benefits, they just don't get it, and wonder why some people would constrain the rights of others, or insist on certain behaviors, or expect more than tacit assent to deeply troubling assertions ("There's only one way to God?")

Add to this mix an ever-virulent strain of aggressive anti-theism: the New Atheists, satanists, Flying Spaghetti Monster snarks, and technological superiors advocating The Singularity.

Floating inside this Sargasso Sea of muddled thought are a few real whack jobs looking for a cause:

Consider this from Christianity Today:
Amid national debate over gun control reform, new data from church violence researcher Carl Chinn shows that 75 deaths from attacks at faith-based organizations occurred in 2012–a 36 percent increase over the previous year.
Chinn's tally of 135 "deadly force incidents" (DFIs) in 2012 brings the total number of DFIs to 638 since Chinn first began recording them in 1999. Guns were used in 389 (58%) of incidents. According to Chinn's website, the data "includes abductions, attacks, suspicious deaths, suicides and deadly force intervention/protection." Attacks prompted by domestic violence spillover, personal conflict, and robbery account for over half of all reported DFIs.
Oh really?
Did you hear the one about Mohammed, a donkey, and a goat?
Stir in the worldwide call to violent militant Islam, and it doesn't take an intelligence analyst to recognize the problem.

We may think we live in quiet places where bad stuff happens "somewhere else" but there is no such place.

Just ask the residents of King Salmon, AK, Harrisburg, PA, Little Rock, AR, Garland, TX, San Bernadino, CA, Boston, MA, Wichita, KS,  and Toledo, OH.

Uh, Okay. So....?

Such Thoughtful People...
Church members expect churches to be safe places -- an oasis of peace in an otherwise unpredictable and often violent world.

That's a bit of a false hope, as every church has internal tensions and issues due to interpersonal conflicts, resentments, or even doctrinal clashes.

Christian leaders need to acknowledge there are threats to the church that are not merely doctrinal or practical.

Wise leadership cares for the flock by continually assessing potential threats and adequately responding.

Since adequate response must be prepared beforehand, it is essential we talk about this stuff before it happens. Defensive postures are always reactive, and the initiative is held by the attacker.

We need to reduce the time between Assess and Act, and that can only be done through practiced motions that have been been prepared beforehand.

An Army of Benighted Souls... God help us!
The essay is long -- but will be worth it. Please check back!


Note on Jim Jones: By the early 1970s, Jones began deriding traditional Christianity as "fly away religion", rejecting the Bible as being a tool to oppress women and non-whites, and denouncing a "Sky God" who was no God at all. In one sermon, Jones said that, "You're gonna help yourself, or you'll get no help! There's only one hope of glory; that's within you! Nobody's gonna come out of the sky! There's no heaven up there! We'll have to make heaven down here!"

Friday, April 22, 2016

Why New Shooters Give Up

Shooting is similar to other skill-based hobbies -- such as golf, bowling, flying, and archery -- in that it is much harder to master than anyone admits.

Many guns sit unused after the initial enthusiasm wears off and there's no evidence of improvement.

The cycle is predictable:
  1. Buy a new gun
  2. Learn all about it
  3. Finally get to the range
  4. Set up target at 25 yards (like everyone else)
  5. Scatter a few hits, send most bullets somewhere into the backstop
  6. Leave, happy to have finally shot, a bit disappointed that the accuracy was so poor

"I'm bored with this...."
Repeat steps 4-6 until the novelty wears off and other interests take over.

"Good riddance to bad rubbish, I says..."
When asked "You ever going back to the range?" the response is usually, "Yeah, I need to get out there..."

The old-timers keep shooting, the new person drops off, and the shooting sports lose another enthusiast.


There are many reasons people drop a hobby, but I'll propose the a common reason is no sense of improvement.

After all, it's pretty easy to assess improvement target shooting -- you either get more holes inside the ring or you don't.

If you spend several hundred dollars on equipment, targets, range fees, and ammunition you expect to improve.

Sadly, the new shooter "practices" a few times yet sees very little improvement.

Since the assumption is every American is a Natural Born Marksman the new shooter is embarrassed to shoot with others. He/she does not join a group or league, avoids busy range times, and refuses to ask for help as it is an admission of failure, or at least weakness ("Who would I ask? How should I ask?").

Isolation makes the sport even less attractive.

So the gun gets put away, the gear gathers dust, and we lose one more potential trained and armed civilian defender.

How to Fix the Problem

First, we have to stop claiming that "shooting is easy!"

While the fundamentals are certainly simple and readily learned, it takes a lifetime to master consistency, speed, and accuracy.

Shooting is a complex sequence of actions that all have to be accomplished well to get a good result.

If you've been shooting long enough you forget how hard it is to do all the required actions -- it's become instinctual.

But even the best shooters fight mood, stress, lack of focus, tiredness, distractions, that conspire to widen groups or cause a flyer.

So let's admit shooting well -- defined as "Shooting accurately at the maximum effective range of the firearm within a set time frame" -- is a skill to be mastered over time, and that the mastery of the skill is its own reward.

Tight groups at distance reflect the skill mastered, but are not the ultimate end. The value of any hobby is the camaraderie of like minded people, the challenges and new vistas it opens, and the sense of progress and accomplishment it provides.

If it was just about tight groups we could set up a gun in a vise and blast away at a target 5' away.

Second, let's allow people to move up gradually.

We all love new gear. When a new person starts asking about guns we're quick to help sell the latest and greatest.

But perhaps what he or she needs is a .22 auto pistol such as the Browning Buckmark or Ruger SR 22.

Sure, it's heavy, not concealable, doesn't sport a Picatinny rail, and shoots a puny rimfire round.

But the new shooter won't flinch at recoil, won't be subject to painfully loud noise, and won't burn $50 worth of ammo every trip to the range.

We should also reduce the tendency to blather about arcane trivia to prove how much we know. Sure, you just finished conducting ballistic gel test for all .357 SIG factory ammo available for sale in North America, but does the new guy really understand -- or even care?

Squelch the urge, simplify the vocabulary, avoid jargon, and let them feel smart about deciding to shoot a gun.

Here's a short post about "Training Guns" that expands on this point.

For more, check out "Which Gun? Part One" and Part Two

Third, we need to take a long term approach to shooting. It's a lifelong skill with a wide variety of applications. Often new people have very narrow or even warped views of what guns are and what they can do.

What I THINK I will be doing at the range....
Often disappointment sets in when the reality doesn't quite match the movie playing in the mind.

That's fine and normal.

Our job is to help the folks who want to get past that.

Some don't -- and we can't change that either.

Fourth (and finally), we need to be able to move form novelty to training and skills acquisition with the new shooter.

... what it ACTUALLY looks like.
Novelty wears off. Sure, it's fun to expose a new person to firearms and let them see how much "fun" it can be.

But this is a recruiting event, a movie trailer, a free sample at Costco.

IF they express interest in continuing, it's time to lay out a plan that demonstrates that the cotton candy phase is over.

If they decide, "You know what? I really don't want to invest more in this..."  That's fine.

You at least helped reduce the anti-gun phobia of one person.

But most adults (and even mature adolescents) will appreciate a mature, methodical approach and buy-in to the acquisition of a simple yet ever-challenging skill.


In a subsequent post we'll explore how flight training can offer some important lessons to those interested or currently teaching new shooters.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Lifecycle of "The Truth"

Some scientists make claims.

A few celebrities make the claims a cause.

Media reports on The Truth.

The chattering class endorses The Truth.

Documentaries, news broadcasts, talk shows, podcasts, and articles present The Truth.

Popular books, magazines, newspapers publish The Truth.

Studios release movies that capitalize on The Truth.

Politicians use The Truth to expand power and influence.

Government is compelled to embrace The Truth.

Everyone who knows anything accepts the Truth.


But there's a small problem.

There's conflicting evidence.

Some evidence contradicts The Truth.


In our post-modern, media-driven culture, "truth" isn't an objective value independent of the observer. Rather, "truth" is malleable -- a mere convention of language, which can be replaced.

Some claim that "power" controls language to create "truth" convenient to power. Others assert "truth" is mere convention -- whatever most of us say it is.

"Celebrity" wades in the midst of this swirling cauldron of uncertainty, swaying the conversation to define truth for the balance of us not possessing a microphone, captive screens, or ten-million clicks.


Sound familiar?

"In her painstakingly researched book, The Big Fat Surprise, the journalist Nina Teicholz traces the history of the proposition that saturated fats cause heart disease, and reveals the remarkable extent to which its progress from controversial theory to accepted truth was driven, not by new evidence, but by the influence of a few powerful personalities, one in particular.
Teicholz’s book also describes how an establishment of senior nutrition scientists, at once insecure about its medical authority and vigilant for threats to it, consistently exaggerated the case for low-fat diets, while turning its guns on those who offered evidence or argument to the contrary. John Yudkin was only its first and most eminent victim.
Today, as nutritionists struggle to comprehend a health disaster they did not predict and may have precipitated, the field is undergoing a painful period of re-evaluation. It is edging away from prohibitions on cholesterol and fat, and hardening its warnings on sugar, without going so far as to perform a reverse turn."
The Sugar Conspiracy 

If you decide to speak out against The Truth, be prepared for some legal action:

Attorneys General worked with Green groups to punish political opponents

Friday, April 8, 2016

The OADA Cycle (Observe, Assess, Decide, Act)

I learned about Colonel John Boyd (1927 – 1997) reading Robert Coram's Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War.

Colonel Boyd was a USAF fighter pilot whose innovative theories changed aircraft acquisition and military tactical planning.

His two greatest contributions to military theory were studies in energy management and the Observe-Orient-Decide-Act decision loop (popularly known as the "OODA loop").

After WW2, the new US Air Force acquisition approach was skewed toward faster, heavier, and consequently less maneuverable aircraft. Military strategists wanted aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons to enemy targets in Europe quickly. They also needed fast aircraft with the ability to destroy Soviet bombers before they reached US territory.

Boyd rejected this premise, believing instead a fighter aircraft's primary trait should be maneuverability, not high speed. Boyd drew his conclusions from his experience in the Korean War, where the ability to transition from one maneuver to another quickly was more important than ceiling or max airspeed.

A maneuverable aircraft allowed the pilot to cycle through the OODA loop faster, giving him an advantage over his adversary. In other words, whoever processed the relevant data then reacted was more likely to win.

The OODA Loop from COL Boyd's Briefing
Boyd promoted his view to anyone who would listen. As is typical in bureaucracies, Boyd's thinking was too far ahead of the herd, so he was relegated to offices away from the Pentagon.

Nevertheless, Boyd and his supporters (the self-styled "fighter mafia") waged a relentless struggle to change Air force thinking.

The result was a series of lightweight, maneuverable fighters, with the F-16 Fighting Falcon the epitome of maneuverable post-war fighter.

What's This Have To Do With Personal Defense?

Well.... it has everything to do with personal defense -- perhaps even more in a civilian situation, since we don't have sophisticated Friend or Foe sensors, radar, predetermined rules of engagement, wingmen, AWACS....

Colonel Boyd very succinctly summarized the key activities in any engagement, and the OODA loop is applicable to many situations besides air-to-air combat.

But with a slight difference.

Fighter pilots in air-to-air combat must continually orient themselves and the trajectory of the airplane with the threat. The opposing pilot's airplanes are moving continuously across three dimensions: up, down, right, left or some combination (a climbing right turn, for example), and at varying speeds (one of Boyd's signature moves required a rapid turn which reduced velocity and changed aspect).

Civilians in defensive situations are typically not moving in three dimensions at high speeds.

We're moving in two dimensions on flat planes with only slight variations in height.

"Orientation" is a constant (except for those rare times when we are disoriented and have no idea where we are -- in this case a defensive shooting posture is probably not an option).

Therefore I suggest we modify the Boyd OODA loop to Observe, Assess, Decide, Act, with "Secure" appended to the end once the cycle is complete.

The Observe stage should be normal every waking moment. Jeff Cooper advocated the color code levels of alertness, but I prefer low, medium, and high alert.

Low alert is most of my day -- in familiar surroundings with known people in controlled environments (If I worked in a convenience store I wouldn't have this luxury).

Medium alert is the balance of the day -- driving, shopping, walking, bike riding. If I'm in public I'm aware of my surroundings, people in the immediate and moderate distance, and what my options are if something unexpected happens.
This should be everyone's approach to driving, but Lazy Boy Recliner seats in rolling infotainment centers with theater surround sound have all conspired to insulate drivers from the reality. Today's cars are so quiet and comfortable that we forget we are hurtling down roads at deadly speeds.
Anyone who rides a motorcycle on public roads for a few years will tell you "They're all idiots." The low regard for the majority of drivers is based on observing stupidity daily. They don't look, they're distracted, and they have no concept of speed, effective braking distance. maneuver capabilities, or traction.
Since they're all idiots you have to ride as if EVERYONE is about to swerve, brake, tailgate, run red lights, pull out in front of you, cut you off. If you assume that you ride ready, because you don't have to think, "What just happened?"
You KNOW what' just happened and you react appropriately because you've considered it.
See kids playing fetch with a dog in the front yard?
Be prepared for the dog or kid to run out in front of you.
See the cell-phone distracted mother in the minivan waiting to pull out from the CVS lot?
Yep, she's going to "not see you" and pull out when you're 50' away.
You can only drive defensively when you are engaged and actively assessing the situation, conditions, potential threats near and far.
A safe approach is the get to medium alert the moment you step out the door into the public -- whether driving, walking, riding. Whatever places you in proximity to unknown people with unknown intentions exposes you to threats. Not all are criminal. in fact, most threatening situations are due to negligence or inattention.

High alert is reserved for situations that are rapidly evolving towards threatening.

Back to OADA....

The Observe, Assess, Decide, Act loop can be used in all threat levels. In fact it's best to make it a habit so there is no mental overload those times when you shift from low to high in moments (it happens).

Observe: be aware of your surroundings, people (known and unknown), posture, and anomalies -- things that don't belong or look out of place: a person leaving a backpack unattended, a car idling with lights off, people looking nervous or glancing at you then quickly away...

Assess: Your eyes and ears are open (there's a reason many muggers and assaults happen to people wearing earbuds), you're processing information, and you're making assessments every moment. The frequency and intensity of the assessments are situation dependent.
In our hypersensitive world we're NOT to "assess", judge, predetermine, profile people unknown to us. There is some good intent here in that looks can be deceiving, and the "rough looking dude" might be a teddy bear whose only flaw is not calling his mom every week. Therefore the assessment must be done fairly and appropriately.
Assuming "all black young men" or "guys with tattoos" are threats is useless -- you will not be able to distinguish who actually is a threat.
Conversely, predetermining that "all Mormons are peaceful' might be a nice sentiment, but it's useless because you can't look at a person and determine if he or she is Mormon.
"So how am I supposed to assess if i can't pre-judge?" 
Here's how: Become a better observer of people -- ALL people. 
Good street cops know how to do this from long practice. Have you ever walked in a city where patrol officers are still on foot? You might be surprised to meet a gaze. They are assessing you -- your walk, demeanor, body type -- everything -- constantly. They're like tellers at a bank handling real money all day so that an anomaly -- a counterfeit -- is easy to spot. 
Therefore carrying a defensive firearm should make you less prejudiced, less bigoted, and less close-minded because you take people one at a time, on their own terms, and not wrapped in a bunch of preconceived notions.
This assessment is not merely "Is this situation dangerous?"

Civilians are constrained by practical (available weapons, ballistic protection, sensors), intelligence (Who is a threat? Where is the threat? What is the intent?) and legal constraints.

The legal analysis is critical, but necesary. Your assessment must include "Would it be legal to take [whatever action you're considering]?"

Legal justification will require that you can demonstrate:

  • Opportunity (the attacker was within range of causing harm to you or a person who was defenseless)
  • Jeopardy (the attacker had to ability and intent to cause harm by wielding a "deadly weapon" or significant disparity of force)
  • Ability (the act was about to happen -- there was no chance for avoidance or delay in responding).

In other words, you or a defenseless person were subject to an immediate threat in a way that placed your life in jeopardy, and there will be a reasonableness test applied.

That is, would a reasonable person come to the same conclusion as you did in the situation, given what you knew at that time?

You are walking down a city street, notice a man with a knife or gun acting strange one block away. In the eyes of the law the reasonable act would be to stop, not approach the man, and summon law enforcement. You should be in condition red, but if the situation changes: the man approaches you, aims the firearm at you -- either of these would place you in immediate jeopardy.

Decide: The decide step is thought (action comes next). We've all had the experience where time seems to slow during a crash or a game or a fall. The 'slowing" is the brain rapidly processing huge amounts of information. Therefore it's very important to practice the decision process so you can use that time to make a quick decision.

We've all had moments where we just "froze," unable to act as we observed something happen. That's the natural reaction -- but we can train to not freeze.

Training means practice.

Fortunately it's easy and no one will know. You can work through scenarios anywhere: at work, at the mall, in a convenience store, in line at a grocery store, sitting in traffic, walking down a street....
For example: You drive up to the Gas Mart at night. There are three other cars at the pumps. What type cars? Who is in them? Look around the lot as you get out -- is there anyone walking? Standing in front of the storefront? Certain you've spotted everyone in proximity you pull out your wallet to use the pump  what would you do if someone came behind the pump and demanded your wallet --and he is holding a knife... or a gun...
What if a car raced into the lot and three guys wearing masks jumped out with guns and ran inside the store?
This isn't far-fetched. Here's Massad Ayoob discussing "Stop and Rob"

You can run these mental exercises constantly, gaming out what you would or would not be able to do. But you can't stop at "I think I might..." You have to decide that you would act.

And you have to rehearse that action mentally, and eventually physically.

A Note about De Escalation
A critical part of the "decide" step is to determine if the situation can be avoided by not escalating the situation from a mere encounter to a physical confrontation. De-escalation is a combination of:
  • Posture: Defensive, but not aggressive.
  • Verbal: Establish boundaries: "Don't come any closer."
  • Position: Establish Distance -- keep space between you and aggressor
So if in the example above you decided you would "Draw my pistol from concealment and shoot him twice in the chest" can you draw your pistol and put two shots on target in less than a second? If he's at arms length holding a pistol on you it's likely he can squeeze a trigger before you draw.

"OK, well then I would head butt him..."


Have you practiced that? Wearing street clothes?

It's very important to be able to decide quickly, but then you need to act just as quickly in a way that is possible. You may have watched Bruce Lee movies but unless you've practiced 10,000 roundhouse kicks it's unlikely you're going to kick your way out of a mugging.

Billy Jack can. Can you?
Act: Finally, you must act. The action may be "Here's my wallet."

But whatever you do, do it with intent.

Nothing emboldens a criminal more than weak prey. Indecision is weakness in that world and if you seem frazzled, uncertain, hesitant -- well, the wallet will probably be the first thing you lose.

If you chose to take defensive action: a punch, kick, head butt, gun draw -- do it with commitment. The deciding part is over -- it's time to do.

Few things are more disorienting to an attacker than a sudden, vicious counter-attack by a committed opponent. Thugs, punks, banger, and trash are not used to victims responding aggressively. You might shift the balance very quickly in your favor.

I grew up in a pretty nasty part of industrial corridor New Jersey. I had a friend, Glen, who was not particularly big or strong. But no one would fight him (there was a fight every day after school -- it was expected, like dinner).

A kid pushed him too far one day at a local park and I quickly learned why no one fought him.

He became enraged -- completely, totally committed to destroying his opponent. He threw punches, screamed, kicked, bit. his eyes were wild and he looked like a demented rabid badger.

That fight ended when the other kid broke free and ran for his life, screaming, "You're crazy! He's crazy!"

I learned two very important lessons that day:

  1. Don't make Glen mad.
  2. Crazy can be very effective.

Secure: It's not over until the scene is secure.

If you have used deadly force, immediately call (or have someone else call) 911.

Tell the 911 operator you were attacked, you defended yourself, your location, and your description,

Then hang up.

There is NO BENEFIT to staying on the line with 911 (ask George Zimmerman).

Maintain vigilance as you wait OR move to a safe space and await law enforcement. Your job is done when the attack is ended. You're not justified in chasing down suspects or meting out justice.

Observe, Assess, Decide, Act -- practice it daily and you will be better prepared if evil comes your way.

Here's a good discussion of "What to do after a self-defense event:"

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Deciding to Defend: A Christian Position on Self Defense (Part One)

This blog is intended to explore and present a cogent, supportable position on defense rooted on Christian theology and ethics.


Every argument begins with assumptions. "Christian thought" is not monolithic or totally consistent. therefore I'll lay out several assumptions that should apply:

  • "Good" is whatever God says is good. Human conceptions of "good" or "right" are tainted by self-interest, cultural myopia, personal experience and preference, peer pressure, societal expectations, explicit and implicit philosophical assumptions, and sin.
  • Christians understand that we live in a fallen, greatly disfigured and misaligned world. Sin has warped the "good" of creation. Sin is not mere misbehavior -- it is an assault on God's rightful place as Sovereign Lord. Sin began when Satan asked Eve, "Did God really say...?" Sin describes the vast conspiracy of mankind to create himself in his own image, reject God, and establish himself as lord.
  • Christians appreciate and revere the Law of Moses and the Old Testament. Jesus told his Disciples that the entire old testament testified about Him. However the advent of Jesus changed the means God used to convey Grace. Jesus also replaced the standard of behavior from rule-adherence to love -- a far more exacting and comprehensive "rule."Love is not mere conformance -- it is all encompassing. Therefore an act of love can appear to conflict with a moral rule. While law accepts "good enough," love expects and demands all.


First, lets define terms: For this discussion we'll define "defense" as an individual using force --up to and including deadly force -- to prevent or end an attack on self or others. Defense in service to the nation or the law is beyond the scope of this discussion as each presents a unique set of circumstances and challenges not relevant to civilian self-defense.

Civilian Challenges

Some of the unique challenges presented to civilians include:
  • Use of force must be a response to a proximate (close enough), capable (possessing the capability to harm you or someone else), and immediate (the act is happening NOW and there's no time to wait for law enforcement). 
  • The force must be proportional. While the US Army can call for artillery on an enemy machine gun, we are limited to relatively lightweight firepower. Use of force that exceeds what is necessary to end the threat can be deemed excessive by the law.
  • The use of force is limited to situations where the immediate threat of violence cannot be prevented by the state's agents (police) because no police officer is present.
  • The defender must be reacting to an attacker. Thus, setting up an ambush is not an option for civilian defense.
  • There is no requirement to maintain skills, knowledge, or equipment. While police and armed forces are required to train at some frequency with issued weapons, there is no such requirement for civilians.
  • There is no widespread civil support for civilian defensive posture. While police and military can be deemed "heroes," even the most selfless act of civilian use of force is viewed with suspicion.
Therefore, while the support infrastructures for the civilian are few, the responsibility is greater.

There will be no commander on the radio ordering you to fire. There will be no monthly use of force briefing at the precinct. There will be no firearms qualification test. There will be no mandatory legal briefing.

You will not have a state-funded legal team to consult. You will pay for your own equipment, ammunition, range time, carry gear, cleaning products, and security containers.

And you probably won't be wearing a body cam to record the event and help prove justification should you be accused of homicide.

On Your Own

The decision to defend should not be taken lightly. The consequences of poor decision-making, unpreparedness, or incompetence can be tragic.

Defense requires a high level of dedication to performance in the most unexpected circumstances and has the potential to expose you to life-long guilt or remorse if you act unwisely.

The rewards are few -- in fact your commitment and dedication may never be appreciated by the ones closest to you.

Few will know that your increased confidence and alertness is due to a commitment to defend, to include the concealed carry of a firearm. Few will know the situations avoided or detected before they become life-threatening events. Few will be aware of the costs in time, equipment, ammunition, training, and study.

People that know you carry will ask if you are paranoid. They may not feel safe around you or in your house.

Politicians will call you insane, racist, fearful, uneducated, testosterone-fueled, paranoid...

It's likely that if you are called upon to defend yourself or others, some of the innocents you protect will second-guess your actions (perhaps even during the event).

You may lose friendships, associations, social status, and even employment such as the pharmacist who acted to save his own life and yet lost his job:.
"A pharmacist at a Michigan Walgreens was dismissed from his job at the drugstore chain after he fired his own handgun at an armed robber. Now the man is suing Walgreens and his lawyers have released footage of the incident to defend their client.
Around 4:30 a.m. on the night of the incident, armed robbers entered the Benton Harbor, MI, store and began demanding cash. According to the pharmacist, one robber jumped over the pharmacy counter and attempted to fire a gun at him but it didn't work. That's when the Walgreens staffer decided he needed to use his own weapon, stowed in his pocket holster.
"At that moment, [the pharmacist] reasonably and justifiably believed that the was going to be shot and either killed or seriously injured by the armed robber," says his lawyers. "[He] then fired his handgun several times in self-defense and in defense of his co-workers."
The pharmacist says he had alerted his superiors at Walgreens about possible security concerns at the store, which had been robbed four years earlier.
Walgreens dismissed the man for violating its "no escalation" policy and disagrees with the plaintiff's contention that he had a "right to carry or discharge a concealed weapon on its premises at any time."
"Walgreens had a plausible and legitimate business reason to justify its decision to discharge [the pharmacist]," attorneys for Walgreens have stated.

No Hero

If you kill an attacker you may be marked the rest of your life as a "killer,"  no matter how justified the shooting.

In certain jurisdictions you may be exposed to criminal prosecution and civil legal proceedings by
unscrupulous anti-defense zealots or attorneys looking to get into your "deep pockets."

As long as you understand your status will not improve -- and in fact may be damaged -- you can consider this with eyes wide open.

You choose to become a defender because it is the right thing to do. You will protect the weak, the helpless, and defenseless. They will not pay you back and may not even appreciate your actions.

But you do it anyway because it is right. the consequences may be severe, and yet you stand firm in your convictions and act accordingly.

This does not excuse reckless or careless behavior. In fact you are more careful, more guarded, and more aware of dangers to avoid.

Your commitment to defense may mean you take the bullet intended for someone else. You may need to expose yourself as a target so the innocent can escape. You might need to stay back and prevent the continued attack as others flee.

Doing right in spite of the consequences is the heart of Christian morality.

The Christian understands that God is the ultimate judge who weighs the heart, not merely the "available evidence." He will know your intent and all the cascading downstream effects. Christians are able to plead for His mercy because the finished work of Christ provides absolution.

Still Interested?

So far this doesn't sound like a very good recruiting pitch. Who needs this?

Thankfully a few people are willing to accept all the negatives because there is evil which must be recognized, confronted, contained, thwarted, and in some cases stopped.

Most people walk through life ignoring or blissfully unaware of the evil that swirls about them. Perhaps you know people who have lived next to a drug dealer and are shocked when the police raid the place early one morning.

"He was so nice! I can't believe it..."

Or the parents blissfully unaware of the evil their son was plotting. Every parent winces when they hear the post-mass shooting interviews, where people ask, "How could they not know he was capable of doing this!?"  We wince because we wonder what we have overlooked or ignored, or were too disinterested to ever see.

People have been subject to all sorts of crimes, all the while wondering "How can this be happening? to me!"

Don't Expect a Warm Welcome
Some are aware of the evil that lurks just beneath the superficial veneer of civilization. Some know that anyone is capable of tremendous evil, given a certain set of conditions and circumstances.

Anyone who says, "I would never ..." is fooling themselves.

It's not a pleasant knowledge. In fact it's depressing. But it's also liberating, in some ways, because it frees you from unsupportable hopes. You reduce your expectations and don't need a long processing time to come to grips with reality.

"Of course this is happening --  this is how I will react because I've considered this possibility a thousand times..."

This is yet another way in which Christianity encourages and even enables a realistic approach to defense. We know all people are capable because we have confronted our own failures. We know how low we can go, and we know how capable anyone is of evil. Christianity isn't polish on a statute -- it's a reclamation project -- archeology, where the shard is pulled form the long-abandoned cesspool.

This realistic assessment of humanity enables but also provides hope that even the worst can be redeemed.

What It's Not

For most gun enthusiasts it's not about shooting people.

We really don't want to and most of us never will.

We enjoy firearms because we like well-made machines and enjoy functional design. We like sharing in the history and development of a centuries-old craft. We enjoy being challenged to improve a skill, enjoy the moment the shot hits exactly where we aimed. We enjoy hunting.

We like the feeling when a clay target explodes overhead. We enjoy the camaraderie of a day on the range. We like keeping up with advancements in ballistics, optics, propellants, grips, recoil management, and even cleaning products. We like spending time with, handling, and learning about these complex yet incredibly efficient objects of industrial design.

Gun handling is like many skills that stress precision. We will never completely master the skill at all times in all situations -- but we try anyway. The stakes of failure are high (in certain conditions) but that just adds to the appeal.

(There's a reason gun enthusiasts are often motorcyclists, pilots, dirt-bike riders, hunters, fishermen and other complex and inherently dangerous pursuits -- we like the challenge).

People who describe guns as "killing machines" (such as this article in The Atlantic) simply have no idea.

Its likely their entire experience with handguns has been limited to TV, video games, and movies, where gunfights are staged ballets with none of the real-world noise, confusion, and rapid conclusion.

Movies and TV Substituting for Actual Experience

The few "realistic" gunfights committed to film are notable because they are so rare.

No sight picture, weakened recoil control, likely next round jam...
In most movies and TV the gunplay is clearly impossible. Sadly, many people don't know that the scene is impossible and assume guns can fire endlessly, have no recoil, start vast explosions, kill immediately, cause large men to fly backwards on impact,  can be fired accurately while sprinting, and are more accurate fired sideways.

Many people have a hard time distinguishing between what they saw in a movie or on a TV show and what actually happens in the real world because they have no experience. Worse, some believe virtual experience prepares them for the real thing.

Sergeants encounter this when recruits who have 10,000 hours playing Call of Duty show up at Basic. There's a whole lot of retraining required...

Flight Instructors encounter students who have spent many hours "flying" on a desktop Flight Simulator. Many hours of retraining are required to unlearn bad habits picked up on the simulator (flight simulators can be effective teaching tools with preparation and a complete understanding of the limitations and pitfalls. See more on that topic here).

So what does this mean for those of us who choose to be armed for the sake of defense of ourselves, loved ones, innocents, or defenseless?

  • First, we should do our best to educate and train those who have no or minimal exposure to firearms. We don't need converts, we need allies. An hour so on a range shooting a .22 will do wonders for perceptions. Every person who walks away from a range with a good experience is an ally. He or she has friends, co-workers, family, acquaintances who can be corrected, challenged, or even introduced to firearms.
  • Second, we should be sure we don't have unrealistic views of handgun effectiveness. Maybe more gun enthusiasts than we care to admit are drawn to firearms after watching a super-cool action sequence. That's fine -- we all start out ignorant in a new hobby. But if the foolishness persists -- well, now we have a problem.
  • Third, we need to exhibit all the positive qualities not seen in TV and Movie heroes and villains. Dirty Harry carried "the most powerful handgun in the world," but that's a poor selection criteria for concealed carry. We need to go the extra mile in care, discretion, safety consciousness, competence, self control, trustworthiness, and temper. It takes time but people will learn who can be trusted and who should not. If you are not trustworthy AND they know you have a handgun -- well, you are not helping the cause.

More To Ponder

This post is long enough but it should serve as an introduction to the topic. In a subsequent post I intend to review some key differentiator for the Christian who chooses to be armed:
  • Am I Gifted?
  • Am I Capable?
  • Am I Mindful?
  • What Should I do?
We will also explore key approaches every defender should exhibit:
  • Deliberation
  • Commitment
  • Preparation
  • Practicalities
  • Locations
  • Situations

The Assertion that Firearms are designed to kill

A common "talking point" circulating in the "gun control" debate is: "Firearms are designed to kill." I have s...