Thursday, January 3, 2019

Stop Practicing Shooting

That's the title of a thought provoking piece on The Street Standards back on 12/12.  If you don't know the blog, as I didn't, the author is Ralph Mroz, and according to his "About This Blog" page, he writes from the standpoint of having been involved in training for over 20 years.
I’ve been training in the self-defense disciplines for some time, writing about them for the major firearms and law enforcement  magazines since 1994, and even teaching them a bit at international law enforcement conferences.  I am the principal presenter in many of the Armed Response DVDs, and many of the video programs of the Police Officers Safety Association (I have no association with nor financial interest in either today).  My Paladin Press books are still, I think, largely  relevant and now free downloads here.  A position as a writer afforded me the opportunity to meet, train with, and pick the brains of many of the top people in the field.
Hat tip for the link to this blog post is to Michael Bane's Down Range Radio podcast, which I've been listening to for a long time - maybe the first podcast I ever listened to.  I recall listening to it on my October 2010 trip to Salt Lake City and was a regular listener then.  I'm not sure which episode it was, but somewhere from 601 to 603 and I think it was 601.

Now an instructor telling you not to practice shooting is more than a little strange, and Mroz conditions that recommendation by saying he's assuming you can already shoot reasonably well, where "reasonably well" is not defined as being "being able to put a full magazine into a half-dollar at ten yards at .20 splits".   It's just that in his view, and that of others he calls up for backup, American shooters prefer to train in shooting because that's the easy and fun part of all the training someone carrying for self defense should prepare for.  He makes a couple of points I found to be very impressive.

In the last month or so we've had more than one story where the "Good guy with a gun" was killed by police responding to an incident.  Around Thanksgiving, Hoover, Alabama police shot and killed Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., who was in the mall and allegedly with a gun in his hand.  Mroz says part of his motivation for the thoughts that led to the post was the December 6th shooting of 73 year old Vietnam vet Richard Black.  Black very appropriately shot a bad guy who had broken into his home and was trying to drown his grandson.  When responding Aurora, Colorado officers ordered him to drop his gun and he didn't, officers killed him.

Mroz started discussing the Richard Black shooting with South African trainer Marcus Wynne
In discussing this story with Marcus Wynne* he said (among other things): Some of my previous students in South Africa observed that American tactical training is for the most part not taken seriously in South Africa because we [Americans] focus too much on one tiny piece of the total problem.  I should note here that they have real crime in SA: real, violent, regular crime. 
From here, Mroz goes into this paragraph, followed by a list of 25 things we need to know or at least thought of and prepared for if we should ever have to pull that gun.  I'm going to list a few to give you a flavor of it, but as always, RTWT.
So, instead of doing the easy thing and buying another gun, or doing the fun thing and blasting away to shave a tenth off your splits, lets see what falls out from considering the (chronological) elements involved in surviving a violent attack:

1. You have to be focused enough to avoid potentially bad places, events, etc.
2. You have to have a gun with you.
3. You have to be aware enough of your surroundings to notice that something isn’t right.
4. You have to assess what’s not right to determine if it’s a threat.
5. You have to – in real time – decide if it’s a deadly force threat.
6. You have to act on the threat.  Most people freeze or don’t believe what’s actually happening.  You have to employ appropriate tactics such as moving, sheltering a loved one, etc.  Of course you have to be aware of your environment to make the best  choice here (see 1. above).
13. If you have to shoot, you have to hit the BG, preferably COM.
15. You have to communicate effectively with the now-shocked/hysterical bystanders to keep them safe, let them know what just happened, and make it clear that you – the guy that just shot someone – is in fact a good guy.
16. You have to get yourself and loved ones to safety.
22. You have to call your lawyer. Do you know who’ll you’ll call? Bail will come later.
23. You have to call your spouse, partner, parents, whomever, if they aren’t with you to let them know you’re OK and won’t be home for dinner. Or maybe for a few days. And to let them know that the press will soon be pounding on their door. And how to handle that, if you haven’t already discussed it.
I think it's entirely appropriate to copy down this entire list of 25 things, print it out, and seriously contemplate them.  Engineering nerd talking:  maybe list in a spreadsheet so you can score how complete you think you are, list if there's something you need to do and figure out when you're going to do it.
And yet, almost all American training focuses only on element 13.  That is, one out of 25+ things you need to be competent at to truly survive a violent encounter.  This out-of-whackedness has only gotten worse over the last 20 years.  One of the pioneers of civilian deadly-force encounter training, Massad Ayoob, did (and still does) teach almost all of these elements in his flagship course.  But almost no one else does, certainly not the plethora of young “trainers” these days with no real-world experience at all.  They can shoot (in some cases), but they aren’t teaching you how to survive: they don’t know how to; they don’t even realize that they aren’t.
So why do we (Americans) focus almost exclusively on just shooting? I submit it’s because, unlike our South African friends, the high level of safety in most of our country allows us to get away with it.
It's an interesting read.  Perhaps the most interesting aspect is that Marcus Wynne commented on the post, adding more content to all 25 lines and telling some stories from his time in South Africa.  (If you follow the link to his blog, you'll find he's a writer now.)

I've copied the 25 items into a Word document and am going to do what I said above.  Print it out, keep it somewhere prominent, and give it some time.  Yeah, a spreadsheet will probably be involved.  I'm not saying to cancel your "Tactical handgun 12" class, or give that sort of practice up.  There's nothing wrong with training to shoot more accurately faster, and there's nothing wrong with working on the skills of a competition shooter, but these things Ralph Mroz outlines need to be addressed, too. 

Mrs. Graybeard's Sig P238 Equinox and my Springfield XD-s 3.3 in 45. 


  1. Good thoughts. Winning a gunfight is the second to last thing you want. (losing the gunfight is dead last) Situational awareness is King.

  2. A LOT of those other 25 things on the list exist because of the totally f**ked up legal system we have. First of all you have to worry about being killed by the police who ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS show up with a SHOOT FIRST and MAYBE ask questions afterwards mentality. The "go home at the end of your shift NO MATTER WHAT you have to do" mantra that is pounded into their brains from day at the Academy till the day they retire means they think of only one thing when rolling up on a violent call.....SHOOT IT RIGHT EFFING NOW. The need to have a lawyer available, the need to let your family know BEFORE your are handcuffed what happened, the issue of media parasites shoving mikes into faces is ALL part of the mentality of America that the good guy is always evil and the bad guy who got shot was the real victim. America and American society has been turned topsy turvy by the insane left and the political parasites who gain power from this chaos.

  3. He's absolutely right.
    Buuuuuuuuuuut...POINT OF ORDER!

    If you screw up Step 13, Steps 1-25 cease to matter AT ALL.

    Now, re-evaluate Americans' obsession with Point 13 again, in light of that little data point.

    Should anyone who has a gun/CCWs have an O SH*T! Binder, for themselves and family, for when The Bad Day happens?

    O hell yes.

    It should even be on a plastic printed card in your wallet, right next to your CCW permit, with lawyers and bail bondsmen's numbers pre-listed.

    But Step 13 is Pass-Fail, and Fail ends your worries about everything else, permanently.

    So, a wee bit less harshing on folks, and even trainers, for focusing on the most important point is probably in order.

    There are dozens to hundreds of steps involved in safe operation of motor vehicles, heavy machinery, or even hobbyist sports equipment.

    The Prime Directive is still, and always:
    Don't Get Yourself Killed.

    And we're only here blogging at each other about this because we're the products to thousands to millions of years of ancestors who successfully figured this hierarchy of needs out, empirically, on the fly.

    Show a little respect, SiG. :)

  4. This cannot possibly be true. I've had real live Gun-Writers tell me in comments that training is paramount and using a shot-timer and reducing my split times is absolutely paramount, to the exclusion of all else.

    While 13 is, as Aesop says, pass-fail; the best way to survive a gun fight is to not be in the fight in the first place. You don't always get a choice in the matter, but most of the time it really is easy to stay away from where the crime happens here in the USA.

    1. Angus, that right there is some right good strategic thinking -- just stay out of the killing zone! It's easy enough: just look for all the places with a population over 100,000 surrounding a dead urban core and draw a 100-mile circle around them and put a slash through it.

    2. Hear, hear to Angus' point!

      An early gig was as a volunteer clerk in a local ER.
      My job was to take the sign-in printouts from each prior day and enter the name, age, sex, chief complaint, and disposition of the previous days' ER traffic in a bound book.

      It didn't take even me to notice that if you were over 25 and less than 65, and not having a baby, your odds of ending up in the ER for anything dwindled to about zero if you were home in bed by 11PM.

      The 1st Sgt was right: "nothing good happens in town after 11PM".
      It also became rapidly obvious why your auto insurance premiums drop after age 25. (That's when the part of your brain where common sense and long-term thinking finally grows in completely. Really.)

      If you were at home by 11, even if you weren't the problem, you weren't around the other idiots who were the problem, so you didn't get beat up, shot, stabbed, or hit by drunk drivers, because you weren't there at all.

      Statistical verification for that life lesson, for free.

      If you stay away from stupid places and stupid people doing stupid things the rest of the time, you will similarly avoid a world of trouble your entire life with that one weird trick. And generally speaking, everybody but tourists knows what the bad part of town is. Smart people don't play there ever, and certainly not after the sun goes down.

      And then hopefully you'll never need Steps 1-25, except for a statistically miniscule fraction of people.

    3. To be fair to the original author, he did say he's assuming you can already shoot reasonably well, where "reasonably well" is not necessarily defined as being "being able to put a full magazine into a half-dollar at ten yards at .20 splits".

      This isn't a self-defense 101 thing, but he opens his article by saying if you're talking about buying another pistol, you might want to put that money into your retirement account because you're more likely to benefit form that than taking your split time from 0.21 to 0.20 seconds. (OK, I made the example up. A little.)

      If the Prime Directive is "Don't Get Yourself Killed", the Second Directive is "You're responsible for your loved ones - either getting them out of there safely or getting home to them". You're not a cop and you're not obligated to protect anyone else in the area. Richard Black shot a guy trying to kill his grandson. It was a perfectly good shoot, taking out a guy who richly deserved it. And then because of temporary deafness from the gun fire, or adrenaline dump or something he didn't drop his gun for the cops so they killed him. Rehearsing these 25 things in his mind might have saved him.

  5. Insurance, such as Firearms Legal Protection or the NRA's or USCCA's can be a legal and financial lifesaver if you physically survive the encounter. Even if it was self-defense, you might face one or more civil suits by the grieving family of the "good boy who was getting his life together and had such big dreams for the future".

    1. Absolutely. That's on my list to consider because most of them have recommended attorneys to contact.

      On last week's Downrange Video Podcast (15 minutes), the guest talks about a guy who had to defend himself from someone trying to run him over. It was a "good shoot", never got charged for defending himself, but still went bankrupt, got divorced, lost his business, was ordered by the local school board not to come on campus to pick up his son and more. About 10 minute mark in that video.