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TALKING TO YOURSELF

WE ALL KNOW THAT WE FIGHT like we train.

But do we really train effectively? Think about your last session at the range. First of all, let’s hope it was recent enough that you remember it. Next, did you simply just load up a few magazines and put a few rounds downrange as you focused on the front sight and worked the single- action trigger pull? That is shooting and while we need a foundation in marksmanship, that is not training.

Did you draw from concealment, racing against a timer to add some stress? That’s better, but think about what you are doing. You could be imprinting a training scar in your efforts to improve your skills. You are teaching yourself to draw and shoot; draw and shoot; draw and shoot. Good skills, yes, but that is not the correct sequence for a deadly force encounter. Here is the sequence you should engrain in your head. When you recognize a threat you should do the following: Verbalize, move, draw, and decide if you need to fire.

Before the emails start flowing in, hear me out. The threat does not have to be deadly for you to take control of the situation with words. Perhaps, with a few words, you can de-escalate and never be forced to draw your gun. But the sequence must start with words and a gesture.

Consider this scenario: You are walking to your car in dark, nearly empty parking lot and someone begins to approach you. Of course you go on alert, get nervous and think about your next step. Well, don’t wait for the person to cross some imaginary line. As soon as you feel like the situation could go bad, take control. Extend your arm with the palm facing the threat, fingers up and say, “Stop! Leave me alone.” Do this in a clear direct voice. This is a command, not a request. If you wish to get a firing grip on your concealed handgun, feel free, but there is no need to brandish the gun.

This gesture and these words do two things: They tell the person you are talking to that you are aware of them and ready to respond and they turn any bystanders into witnesses. The gesture is important. Get your arm extended, palm out. No culture in the world sees this as a welcoming gesture and even a deaf subject knows what you mean. And the words might serve to get a bystander’s attention. You want that. If this scenario goes bad and you are forced to shoot and you HAVEN’T given a command to “Stop. Leave me alone!” that potential witness over there minding her own business, she sees nothing until she hears a gunshot, then tells responding officers, “Yeah that guy in the black coat was just walking through the parking lot and then I heard the shots. I guess that other guy just shot him.”

I would much rather have the bystander say, “I heard the guy by the car shout ‘Leave me alone!’ then there was a couple shots.”

Now, we take the scenario another direction. You raise your hand and tell the guy to stop. First off, he has lost the element of surprise and he may turn to bolt or get flustered and start making some furtive movements. If all you have ever done in your training is draw and shoot; draw and shoot; draw and shoot, you might, thanks to adrenaline, fear and confusion, draw and shoot when you don’t have to. He may have been trying to run away, or surrender or reach for a cell phone. Your shot needs to be a conscious decision, not a reflex action.

I know this puts us behind the curve, but we are always behind the curve in a self-defense situation. At least this sequence gets you moving in the right direction, literally and figuratively. It gives you a bit of control in the situation and helps build your legal defense should you need it.

You fight like you train. You won’t remember to do these things in the parking lot unless you do them on the range or even during dry practice in your home. You may want to practice your verbal skills and lateral movement in the privacy of your own home. I’ve gotten some strange looks on the range when I start shouting at the target stand before firing. But I’ve always been able to explain to the person next to me that I’m training for a real fight, not a static event that takes place with a stationary target 7 yards away.

If your gun club does not allow you to practice these skills on the range, find a new club, or go down in your basement, paste a target on the wall, triple check your weapon is unloaded and practice your draw from concealment including making a move toward cover and giving a command to the threat.

In the real world all these things will happen quickly. We know that and we train for it. Remember, these actions will allow you to take command of the situation, get you moving toward a position of tactical advantage and turn bystanders into witnesses. Those are all important elements in a deadly force situation.

Train hard. Stay safe.

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