Monday, May 19, 2014

Just the Basics - Preparing Your Defense


Most instructors have favorite sayings that they like to sprinkle throughout their courses . . . I am no exception. Those who have taken one of my courses have heard my phrase . . .


Typically this is applied to the act of reholstering their weapon. There is no need to reholster quickly – take your time, make sure the holster is clear of bits and pieces of clothing and then make sure you weapon is firmly and fully reholstered.

There are many times in preparing for a defensive encounter that it makes sense to take your time and be thorough. Let’s chat about one of them . . . your legal defense.

An attack on your person by someone intent on doing you real physical harm or killing you brings about two separate and distinct points of survival. The first is the attack – you must have the will and skills needed to survive the attack. Once the attack is over – assuming you are still standing – your second survival point is reached . . . can you legally defend your actions? As the Zimmerman case so clearly shows – there are many forces that can come into play in the “court” of public opinion as well as a courtroom where you will be tried and judged by your peers. While there is little you can do if swept up in a political and media firestorm – there is a great deal you can do NOW, TODAY, THIS INSTANT to help you in a courtroom.


We’ve had this discussion in the past – but just a reminder, continuing education is simply a must. If you are one of the folks who took a quickie 4-hour lecture or on-line course to get your carry permit . . . and that is the full extent of your coursework . . . you are going to have a much more difficult time defending yourself in the courtroom.

The use of a weapon in personal defense, the ability to quickly and accurately engage a threat, the ability to be aware of developing situations, the ability to fully evaluate the environment prior to – and during – and engagement takes training, takes coursework taught by knowledgeable instructors. An ANNUAL (at a minimum) advanced training is simply a must. And, if you’re the “4-hour guy” – please, find a reputable trainer that is nearby and do yourself a favor this summer – start your advanced training journey!

What type of coursework should I take?

An obvious place to start is with your defensive handgun. You course work should teach you how to run your gun, quickly and accurately engage your threat, how to draw from concealment and how to “live with your gun” on a daily basis. As I said above – this type of coursework should be an annual event – not just a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.

The same can be said for a defensive shotgun course. If a shotgun is part of your home defense options – find a defensive shotgun course. While you may well be a “lifelong hunter” there is a world of difference between taking a pheasant on the wing and using a shotgun to defend your family.

Coursework can also include the use of On-Line training, DVD material and any number of excellent books and magazines that cover a broad range of topics on the defensive use of firearms. This is NOT a substitute for live training – it IS a great adjunct to your training process.

How will this help you should you go to court? It shows you are a serious student of the gun. It confirms that it is important to you be able to use your defensive weapon in a responsible and effective manner.

Document This Coursework

Should the worst happen and you take a life in defense of your life, the defense of your family or someone in your charge – having certificates showing that you took training from instructors with professional certifications (NRA trainers, LE trainers, time spent on military ranges or nationally knows trainers) will go a long way in providing evidence that you are serious about the proper use of a firearm for your defense. That said – the flip side of the coin is that it also implies you should know better than to do something stupid as well. Massad Ayoob suggests you take your certificates (make copies for your bragging wall), lists of the books you’ve read, the DVD coursework you’ve watched, the magazines you regularly read and send them to yourself via certified mail. Keep them unopened unless they are needed for your defense – then have the certified package opened in the courtroom and entered as evidence in your defense. I believe this is very good advice.

Document Your Training

A point of personal definition – I define “coursework” as that taken from professional instructors. I take a course to learn new information, new techniques, and new ways to use my weapon effectively. I then bring this information home and integrate it into my own personal range “training”. When I use the word “training” – I mean the time I spend on the range practicing my individual skill set and integrating new skills into my overall skill set. Document this process.

If you are the “I’ll just to the minimum” kind of guy/gal – you probably have taken a quickie course and then go to the range a couple times a year to send a box of ammunition or so downrange making holes in paper. While this gives you some training time in the very basics – it does nothing to advance your defensive skill set.

Make a training plan – then follow it. “Practice with purpose” should be your catch phrase. Why are you going to the range? What are you going to work on? How will this trip enhance your ability to defend yourself? Have a range notebook (or blog for that matter) and write up an AAR for your trip. What worked? What didn’t? What do you need to focus on and do on your next trip? Use your phone to document your training trip. Fire enough rounds to make the training effective. A typical trip for me begins with around 100ish rounds of .22 from my Ruger 22/45 and ends with between 100-200 rounds from my Glock 17 EDC weapon. I may work on movement, my draw stroke, accelerated pairs, cognition drills . . . and a whole host of other items. I write it up and many times post it to the blog. If you get in this habit – it too can be used in your defense to clearly show you are a dedicated student of the gun and are intent on knowing how to properly use your defensive weapon.

Words Are Forever

In my youth – “words” were easily lost. School papers written, letters to my wife to be, reports, articles, thoughts – unless effort was made to save them . . . most of my youthful thoughts and ideas were lost to history. That’s probably a good thing! That is not today’s world . . . let me say that one more time . . . THAT IS NOT TODAY’S WORLD!!! Every word you post, every email you send, every text your send, every photo you take, every Facebook entry you make . . . is essentially forever . . . and will certainly be used against you in a trial. If you are mature enough to carry a gun for personal defense – make sure you’re mature enough to temper your “voice” be it spoken or written..

Be Able to ARTICULATE your choices

Articulate : able to express ideas clearly and effectively in speech or writing

                   : clearly expressed and easily understood

When you decided to carry a weapon for personal defense – you made a choice. Why? Why are you carrying a tool with the ability to inflict deadly force on your hip or in your purse? While words like “the 2nd Amendment says I can!!” sounds all macho/macha . . . they would carry little weight when defending you against charges in a deadly shooting. Today – now – this moment . . . take some time to work that out in your mind. For me I carry because our society has become a little more dangerous, many folks have chosen to use crime to advance their lives rather that good old hard work, things have become a bit more “frayed around the edges”. It affords me the ability to defend myself, my family or those in my charge. Regardless of YOUR reasons – make sure they are clear, that you are certain and that you can clearly articulate them should the need arise.

When you choose to carry – CARRY. Every day and every place you legally can. First, that just makes sense to me. A predator will never willingly give you the ability to choose the ground you fight on – they will do their best to find a time and place that best fits their needs. If you figured you “didn’t need to carry today” and your paths cross . . . your day will not end well. And, words like “well, I carried today because I was going to a bad side of town, my gun just made me feel safer!” may well be true for you on that day, but in court they lead to many very uncomfortable lines of questioning – “why is THAT the bad side of town?” – “didn’t you have other places you could have gone to pick up that same item?” – “did you harbor bad feelings about people of that color?” . . . If you’re going to carry . . . carry!

Why do you carry the gun you carry? What is it about that gun that allows you to run it better and more accurately than some other choice? If it’s a high capacity semi-automatic . . . why do you need so many rounds? Surely 6 or 7 is more than enough . . . and a spare magazine? Do you really NEED that many rounds just to feel safe?

Can you clearly articulate an answer to these questions? Have you even given it any thought – or have you gotten so wrapped up in the choice of your carry weapon that you’ve not given much thought to the “why” of the choice. And, right behind that, do you spend quality range time on a consistent basis with your carry weapon? My “range gun” IS my carry weapon, one that I send thousands of rounds down range each and every year. Training gives me comfort knowing I can quickly and accurately engage a threat, it gives me confidence that I am intimately familiar with how to run my carry gun and how to keep it running. Do you have the same feeling about whatever is on your hip or in your purse as you read this?

Can your articulate your choice of defensive ammunition? What are YOUR arguments for the specific cartridge you carry each and every day? What makes it a good choice for stopping a bad guy while reducing the risks of injuring an innocent bystander?

Why do you carry where you carry – be it strong side carry, outside the waistband, inside the waistband, appendix carry, shoulder holster, pocket carry, off body in a purse – why do you carry THERE and can you clearly articulate your choice?

Why even think about this stuff?

The simple answer to that question is that your continued freedom may well depend on your ability to “articulate” all the choices you have made – from the training you’ve taken to the weapon you choose to carry.

Spend some time, gather your thoughts, refine your reasons, clarify your choices, document your training, make adjustments to the amount of coursework you take and the training you do . . .

It matters more than you can imagine . . .


  1. Think about it and do something NOW, or possibly pay for that inaction later in a court room...

  2. Hey Jim - yep, all the time in the world NOW . . . Seems like you're off the road a bit?? Hope so, enjoy the down time!

  3. I spend an inordinate amount of time harping on this in the NC DOJ CCH course. Not mandated by the state but just as equally important. Great post!