Sunday, March 29, 2015

Training - Being Deliberate when you shoot


I have a couple of words and phrases that I am fond of when talking and teaching defensive shooting. If you read my posts at all I suspect you can bring a couple to mind: Foundational . . . Fundamental . . . Just the Basics . . . Practice with purpose . . . I find that a new one is creeping into my vocabulary . . . deliberate.


1. Done with or marked by full consciousness of the nature and effects; intentional 2. Arising from or marked by careful consideration

3. Unhurried and careful

I’ll want to say more about that word over time, but for today, I will apply it to my range trip. I had two purposes in going. First – I wanted to shoot a “Dot Torture” drill with my new sights. During my last range trip I thought I might have to move the rear sight to the right a bit and the Dot Torture drill is a great way to push the limits of your sights and your ability to use them. Before I actually moved the sights though, I wanted a few more rounds down range to confirm that the sights needed adjustment . . . and not the shooter. (After this trip I suspect it’s more the shooter than the sights . . . )

Second, I’ve let my Blackhawk leather IWB go and replaced it with a Blade Tech Kydex Nano. A friend noticed while he watched me shoot a drill at Rangemaster’s Tactical Conference that it simply didn’t remain in place very well. This was affecting both my draw and my ability to holster reliably after the completion of the drill. So, I went looking and the Nano is what bubbled out. Today was my first time working on the range from that holster. I’ll put up a separate review post in a few weeks but my preliminary impression is very good.

Dot torture incorporates all the fundamentals of shooting . . . two hand engagements, draw from concealment, multiple targets, accelerated pairs, dominant hand only engagements, support hand only and shooting to slide lock with a magazine change. Your time limit is under 5 minutes with 100% accuracy. Your beginning distance is 3 yards and you only move back once you can consistently shoot 100% from your current distance. Please take a moment and review the drill or print out a copy for a reference.

20150329_143408 (Large)

To successfully complete the drill – each and every shot must be “deliberate” in its execution. For example, Dot 1 is 5 rounds, slow fire. You draw and engage the dot with a string of 5 rounds. Each shot is a separate and complete shot in and of itself. Proper sight picture, proper sight alignment, firm grip, smooth trigger press straight to the rear . . . repeated 5 times. I recommend you shoot this drill “cold” . . . make it your first drill on the range at least once a month. As you can see I was -1 on Dot 1, my last shot. And I knew it, I felt the “hurry” in the trigger press . . . I wasn’t deliberate for that specific round.

Dot 2 is five single round engagements from concealment. There are a number of “deliberate” acts to make these shots . . . clear your concealment garment from your defensive weapon, drive to a solid grip, draw, drive straight to the target, move to the front sight, get a proper sight alignment, sight picture, press the trigger smoothly to the rear. If each action is deliberate . . . you get 100%.

Dots 3 and 4 adds in the requirement to change targets. You draw from concealment place 1 round on 3 and 1 round on 4. This is repeated 4 times. All the deliberate acts you performed on Dot 2 are performed for each and every shot going forward.

Dot 5 is your dominant hand only. You draw and fire a string of 5 rounds. My mind momentarily separated from my body on this one. You’ll notice a reasonable group of 3 just below and slightly to the left of the dot. It took until round 3 for me to realize I had too much finger on the trigger. Once I noticed that rounds 4 and 5 dropped in. It is also an example of loss of focus – I was having a fairly heated discussion with myself in my head while sending rounds down range . . . and it’s obvious that it took a toll on my accuracy.

Dots 6 and 7 are similar to 3 and 4 but accelerated pairs on each. Again ALL the deliberate actions must be completed successfully for a 100% on these dots.

Dot 8 is support hand only with a 5 round string being fired. I had a real squeaker at 2 o’clock but I’ll take it. I always notice I shoot better with my support hand only than I do with my dominant hand only and I suspect it’s due to the fact that I am much more deliberate with the engagement because it is my support hand. Obviously stuff to work on here.

Finally Dots 9 and 10 are two mags, each loaded with 1 round. Send the first round to Dot 9, do an emergency reload and send the second round to Dot 10. You repeat this 3 times.

I gotta say, Todd Green’s Dot Torture drill is probably the best use of 50 rounds on the range in the shooting community today.

Here is my challenge to you . . . I want you to shoot this drill during the first week of every month and post it so your shooting friends can see it. Challenge them to do the same. When you have shot 100% a couple of times from a distance . . . move back. Start at 3 yards, then 5 yards, then 7 yards, then 10 . . . until you’re happy. I suspect that if you are doing range work in between, you are going to be quite surprised with your progress.

Finally, I sent 45 rounds down range from 21 feet with a timer. 1 to 4 round engagements with recorded split times. This was primarily to begin to wring out the Blade Tech Nano holster. Like I said up top, I was pretty happy with the holster. The rounds were all within the 9 ring with the exception of 2 flyers. And that’s why we all go to the range . . . to eliminate the damn flyers.

20150329_145031 (Large)

Speed without accuracy is of little value . . . in fact it may well be a true liability. Being deliberate from clearing your garment out of the way to your follow through for a 2nd or 3rd or 4th shot is what will win the day.

Work on it . . . then share your progress!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Just the Basics . . . Be A Thinking Shooter . . .


I categorize my posts on my NAS drive by a couple categories – Just the Basics, Training, Commentary . . . and a handful more. So when this post bubbled up during the day and I sat to put it to “paper” I wondered where to put it.

The catalyst was this video that made the circuit of the gunny community this past week. Take a moment to watch it, then we’ll talk . . .

I’ve not tried to track down the actual IDAP meet . . . I will make the assumption this is real video and not some staged event. Even if it is, lessons can be learned. Primarily . . . be a THINGKING shooter. Hence the category – “Just the Basics”. Keeping your head in the game, thinking . . . is a basic requirement of any shooter. If you’re unwilling to develop that skill please . . . sell your defensive weapons . . . we’ll all be a lot safer.

So how did things go so badly “off the tracks?” Well, let’s roll through the players.

First – the guy down range taping a target. If this is like most IDPA matches I’ve been to, he’s a shooter. Time between running the stage is typically filled by helping and taping a target is one of the endless tasks that need to be done for a match to run smoothly. But that’s all he’s doing . . . taping a target. He’s obviously not observing his surroundings, following the progress of the stage, keeping his head on swivel . . . thinking. One would wonder why since there are likely dozens of folks around him with loaded firearms and live fire can be heard in the background. I suspect where the comfort for him . . . the “safety” for him comes from is that this is an IDPA match and he “knows” it’s safe.

The lesson here? YOU, the shooter is what makes things safe for you! Your attention to detail, your attention to your surroundings, your willingness to keep your head in the game. Should you fail, you can die just as easily in a shooting bay as you can in the “wrong side of town”.

The Timer/RSO. Again, if this match is run like most, he too is a shooter. The assumption has been made in many of the comments that he is also a RSO. That may or may not be true. Regardless his standing it’s his demeanor that’s important. He’s focused on the shooter . . . and only the shooter . . . until the very last moment when it appears to be him that hollers STOP! He is obviously “timing” . . . not thinking. He appears to be paying little attention to his surroundings and I fear luck may have played a larger portion in noticing the shooter still taping a target than his powers of observation. He had a job to do – timing. Because that is what he was assigned to do . . . in a match . . . and that was pretty much all he was doing . . . because shooters “know” they are safe at a match.

Finally, the shooter. If you have a loaded weapon in your hand. If you are sending rounds down range . . . or placing them center mass on an imminent threat . . . YOU are responsible for every damn round that leaves the muzzle of your weapon. Period.

If you watch him he’s focused on loading his weapon and getting ready for the first stage. There is no pause to take in the stage, to glance through it, to even think to check if it’s clear. Because it’s an IDPA match . . . it’s safe.

As he moves from stage to stage he is doing just that . . . moving from stage to stage. It costs little to broaden your vision, take in more of the scene. Just like you would need to so in a real fight. If you become hyper focused . . . you die. Honestly, I don’t think he even saw the guy before the timer called STOP! And, at the very end of the day . . . it’s the shooter who is responsible for the round. Not the RSO/Timer. Not the guy pasting the target. The shooter.

So here are my take-aways from this little video.

You – the shooter – are responsible for every round.

You – the shooter – are responsible for being aware of your surroundings . . . whether it’s a shooting bay on the range, at a match or in a darkened parking lot late at night.

You – the shooter – simply must remain aware regardless of your task . . . be it timer, RSO, shooter or simply helping tape up targets.

You – the shooter – must be a THINKING shooter . . . whether on your shooting range, at a match or in the fight of your life. Because if you stop thinking, if you’re hyper focused on a single task, if you allow yourself to not be aware of your surroundings . . .

. . . you may well have a very bad day.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Range Trip – 3-19-2014 Remember . . . It’s YOUR trip . . .


The range has finally dried, snow is gone, water is gone and it’s only muddy is patches. Temps in the 40s . . . about time to break out the beachwear!! I finished up with a client in town and had about an hour of spare time . . . and only 2 miles to the range. What to do . . . what to do . . . RANGE TRIP!!

Some thoughts . . .

Practice with purpose

I’ve pretty much made this phrase the intro to any discussion of a range trip. Why the heck are you going? What are you working on? How much time do you have? Does the purpose fit within the time frame? Decide these things before you go. Remember – this is YOUR trip. This is YOUR training. It needs to fit within YOUR parameters for what you want to work on.

For me personally, this year’s focus is simply accuracy. At least half my range trips this year will focus on that. The folks at put a post on their blog containing the response from 20 well known shooters on what their favorite drill was to work on their accuracy. It’s a very good read, take a few minutes to roll through it . . .

My secondary purpose today was to keep evaluating the installation of my new set of sights for my carry Glock 17. I’ve not sent many rounds down range with them yet, so part of my evaluation was to see what my grouping looked like and use it to evaluate if adjustments needed to be made.

Time constraints being what they were, here’s my drill for the day:

  • 5 rounds – 5 yards
  • 5 rounds – 7 yards
  • 5 rounds – 10 yards
  • 5 rounds – 10 yards
  • 5 rounds – 7 yards
  • 5 rounds – 5 yards

Total round count – 30 rounds. The target is a standard B-8.

I checked off each distance as it was completed and took a photo. The results look like this . . .

20150319_163320 (Medium)  20150319_163505 (Medium)20150319_163645 (Medium)  20150319_163758 (Medium)20150319_163905 (Medium)  20150319_164002 (Medium)

Doing this type of record keeping is for YOUR benefit. It lets you track progress. It highlights your “issues”. It allows you to see progress. It holds you accountable. The results are YOURS – good and bad.

And, this type of documentation shows that you, as a person who carries a handgun to defend yourself – take your responsibility to train seriously.

My goal was to keep all my rounds within the 9 ring. I dropped 2, a 93%. It’s a starting point for this year. It is also a 3 inch-ish sized group. Again, a starting point. It seems to indicate that I need to move the rear sight to the right a tad since the group was fairly well defined. I’ll make a final decision on that after my next range trip.

The major component of accuracy is trigger press. It felt smooth today, we’ll see how the next trip goes. That said – unless you document your trip, it is all too easy to talk yourself into pretty much anything you want to as far as progress goes. Images, Range Trip reviews go a long way towards keeping you honest as a shooter and as an instructor.

I did some work with a training group I joined at their facility this past weekend (there’s a post floating around in my head, it’ll work its way out soon) and I had taken my Springfield 1911 along for a bit of range time. We had some surprises during out 2 days together and the range work never happened. However, my .45 was still in my bag along with a box of ammo. And, I hadn’t done anything past 10 yards on this trip . . . why not. So, I posted a new target, loaded 2 magazines with 5 rounds each and moved to the 50’ line. My personal goal for today, keep everything within the 8 ring.

20150319_165258 (Medium)

I met my goal with a squeaker at 10 o’clock. But for today, after nearly a year away from the 1911, I’ll take it as my starting benchmark for the year.

I post these range trips to encourage my students to hit the range, make it count, make a plan, document their training and then look for their weaknesses, note their improvement and keep their feet moving forward.

For instructors – same goes for us as well. And, it shows our students we’re still out there training, we still have things to work on and that we all have room for improvement.

Remember – range trips are for YOU. Have a plan, make it count, focus – work – push – fail – improve . . .

It’s the only way any of us will improve . . .

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Range Trip – New Sights – 3/9/2015


The middle of last month I posted that I had installed new sights on my Glock 17. You can take a quick look at the post here if you like. The primary reason for moving to this particular set of sights was twofold. First, for better visibility of the front sight for more rapid threat acquisition. And, for alternate methods of single handed weapon manipulation using the “claw” style rear  sight.

The past month has been a bit iffy for range time. The last course I taught on the range reached a high of 8*F. My trip to the RangeMaster Tactical  Conference the end of last month saw the range work end in a downpour of ice/rain. And, the real world has demanded my attention until today.

The range was significantly different . . . 52*F, short sleeved polo shirt weather! The footing was typical of the range I use this time of year. At 15 feet there was 6 inches of water and a couple of mud. At 21 feet there was fairly thick ice with a couple inches of slush. At 50 feet there was about 6 inches of crusty snow, as was the case at the 25 yard line. Heavy sigh . . .

The goal today was to just get a feel for the new sights. The rear notch is probably 30% wider. The front blade is BRILLIANT! The clarity was stunning, my eye was simply drawn to it. It was almost like a holographic sight – put the green dot on the target . . . and you are “there”. I shot 5 courses of fire, 40 rounds per course. The first was at 15 feet, the second at 21 feet, third at 50 feet, fourth at 25 yards and the last at 15 feet working on my draw and multi round engagements. Let’s see how it went . . .

My first target was at 15 feet and shot from the High Compressed Ready. I shot a mix of center mass as well as higher precision on colored/numbered shapes.

20150309_170111 (Medium)

For 40 rounds I was down 6 for the course of fire, my first with the sights. Honestly, they were exceptionally clear. The misses, all low left . . . something I traditionally need to keep working on. Another thing I notices was that the precise shots demanded more attention on equal light, equal height. Good to know.

I taped the target, replaced the center and went for my second course of fire – 40 rounds at 21 feet. Again, from the compressed high ready.

20150309_171141 (Medium)

I was down 4 for 40 rounds. I worked on settling, being “deliberate” ( a topic for a future post), worked on my trigger press. A better performance and again, the front sight was amazing.

Let’s move back to 50 feet.

20150309_172440 (Medium)

Obviously my group started to open up and trend left. While the group held slightly less that an 8” diameter, sliding left increased my down count for a total of down 8. At this distance the front blade covered the center black area. Obviously everything comes into play here – from stance, grip, sight alignment and sight picture to managing my trigger press and breathing. But I was encouraged by the performance and will make sure every range trip contains a couple magazines at 50 feet.

Honestly, I don’t spend a lot of time at 25 yards. But, it will be part of every range trip as well this year.

20150309_174223 (Medium)

My group opened more and I ended down 12. So, I have a starting point for the year. As far as the sight performance, it was really good. The misses are not because of not being able to see the front sight, but was due entirely to my trigger press and sight alignment. That said, I am more than satisfied with the sights and look forward to working with them.

Finally, a little time with my draw stroke.

20150309_180517 (Medium)

You can see my first round engagement time as well as my splits. The traditional goal is 2 seconds or less. I nudged that consistently. This was the first time since about November that I didn’t have to work through my cold weather gear to draw. I was wearing my typical summer wear – an un-tucked polo shirt.

Working from a speed point of view, sight/target acquisition was smooth and quick. The transition from being focused on the target to picking up and moving my focus to the front sight was very easy. My goal was to keep everything inside the 8-ring. With this in mind I ended up down 7.

In short, if you are looking for a new set of sights to aid in the acquisition of a threat, I believe you’ll be more than happy with the AmeriGlo GL-444 rear claw set with a Trijicon H3-11 front blade.

Hit the range, push yourself more than a little and make sure to document your progress.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Commentary - Cleaning My Glock Is A Lot Like Changing A Diaper


Grandpa here played host to our three granddaughters this past weekend – Miss A (8 going on 17), Miss E (6 and fully in charge of the crew) and Miss L (2 and swinging for the fence every day). While the two oldest are fully self-sufficient, Miss L still requires a bit more supervision . . . and assistance with “personal hygiene”. One such area is that of the diaper change. Grandma Susie was off to a Dressage clinic so such duties were left to the guy in the mirror . . . namely yours truly. Now that said, I am fully trained and experienced is dealing with this particular “biologic weapon system”. I received training in the military as a one-time NCB warfare officer, spent time is a Disaster Preparedness slot, was vetted in “combat” changing the cloth diaper of Miss E’s mom “back in the day” as well as her Uncle Mike’s new-fangled disposables. And, I’ve kept my skills current over the past nearly 8 years with occasional trips to the “weapons range” with her older sisters. I am a fully trained and prepared “defensive diaper changer”.

This weekend, as I was changing Miss L it occurred to me that changing her diaper had a great deal in common with cleaning my carry weapon – a Glock 17. So, for a change of pace on posts – I thought I’d share my thoughts on the similarities.

20150307_081236 (Medium)

A full diaper . . . and a Glock 17 are both deadly weapons.

I carry my 9mm G17 as a defensive weapon capable of delivering lethal force if needed. I know its capability – and I train to use it effectively and properly a number of times each month.

The full diaper of a two year old child, may well approach a lethal level. Though a gas and biologic threat – the attack of a truly potent “load” can mount on both your olfactory senses and your visual senses can be near overwhelming. The thing that typically takes the inexperienced off guard is the ability for such a cute critter to deliver such a deadly “round”. It can be, quite literally, breathtaking!!

Field stripping is required.

For the Glock I confirm the weapon is empty – no magazine or round in the chamber. I make sure the trigger has been pressed, move the slide back 1/8”, pull the little release tabs down and move the slide forward until it separates from the lower receiver. I remove the recoil spring and barrel . . . and that’s as far down as I take it for a quick cleaning.

Cleaning a 2 year old after a fully purposeful “discharge” is a bit different . . . and similar. First, this particular weapon system is ALWAYS LOADED! Keep that in mind. Just because you heard the discharge and picked up on the olfactory cues . . . there is NO GUARANTEE THAT THE MAGAZINE – OR CHAMBER – IS EMPTY. I have, on occasion, received direct fire while changing a diaper – you must always be on guard for this. If their face turns red and the abdominal muscles begin to contract, it simply is not going to end well.

That said, removing the diaper also requires pulling back on two tabs and extracting the diaper and contents for removal.

Clean away excess GSR . . . or poo . . .

It is always best to brush away excess GSR prior to applying your specific treatment for cleaning the barrel, spring and slide. I keep a couple old tooth brushes in my cleaning kit to brush off the excess GSR before I get serious about cleaning the assembly.

The same is true during the diaper change. Once the tabs have been released and the front panel pulled slightly back . . . I will use it as an initial cleaning tool to remove as much of the “residue” I can from this particular biologic weapon. Remember, the more you remove, the easer the cleaning will go.

That said, it becomes clear at this particular point that there is a MAJOR difference between the two different weapon’s systems that is rather dramatic. With the Glock the round is expended out the barrel and travels down range to impact the threat. The particles left behind is truly simply residue.

The contents you behold when you pull back the front panel of the diaper IS THE WHOLE FRICKIN’ ROUND!!! And while you are not an intended target . . . you can easily become collateral damage! You must stay focused. One more reminder . . . THE WEAPON MAY NOT BE “UNLOADED” . . . remain vigilant for the signs of a “follow up shot” during the diaper change.

Both require a good cleaning . . .

I’ve recently moved towards denatured alcohol as a cleaning agent for the Glock. It does a good job of removing GSR, seems to have less odor associated with it and leaves nothing behind when I’m done. As a “lubricant” I’ve started using Fireclean on just my Glock for now. This is a new product whose purpose is to treat the metal so less GSR sticks to it during the discharge of the weapon leaving less to clean off during these sessions. So far so good . . . I like how the product is working. Once the cleaning is done I reassemble the Glock 17, do a couple function checks, reload it and return it to my IWB carry holster. I am good to go!

20150307_140704 (Medium)

The same thing happens during a diaper change. The liberal use of diaper wipes insures the “weapon” is clean and that all “residue” has been removed. Depending on the condition of the surface area after cleaning, some type of protective application may be required. This is one of the most toxic areas known to man – and exposure to “expended rounds” may well cause tissue damage requiring some further treatment. If no damage exists – simply reassemble the area with a clean diaper and you’re good to go. Should the area be damaged, use the “mommie approved” meds – apply them as instructed and then reassemble the area with your clean diaper.

Purposeful discharges . . .

Just one more reminder . . . in the firearms community purposeful discharges off the range means that your life has severely slid off the rails. You have been physically attacked and that your last resort has been the employment of your defensive weapon to protect yourself, your family or someone in your charge. It is very serious crap!!

The lovely little bundle I call Miss L is all about “purposeful discharges”. And, when with Grandpa I can guaran – damn – tee ya she has a round in the chamber, a couple in the mag and will “fire at will”! In fact, she’s not hesitant to walk up to me and proudly state . . . “I stinky!!!”

So there ya have it . . .

Cleaning my Glock is a lot like changing a diaper . . .

Friday, March 6, 2015

Just the Basics - AOJP . . . what???


Frankly, one of the issues I have with what appears to be the majority of folks that decide to carry a defensive handgun is their resistance to taking on-going coursework. The primary focus seems to be on acquiring the permit to carry (or whatever the heck your particular state decides to call it). Once the permit is in hand . . . the coursework ends.

Notice I use the word “coursework” rather than “training”. This is a personal differentiation I make. Coursework is that endeavor of going to an instructor – be they range instructors or classroom instructors – and hearing/learning/experiencing what they have to say. Depending on their ability to teach you what they intend for you to learn, knowledge is transferred from them to you. In the case of classroom coursework, most times that is “it” – you heard something new, been presented with take home material . . . the end.

With range work the process is similar . . . and different. You are taught specific techniques: presentation from the holster, grip, rapid sight alignment, recoil management, movement . . . to name just a very few topics covered on the range. Add to this that it is typical that instructors have a set of drills that bubble up as their favorites during a range session. These are many times shared through the coursework material. But it ends there . . . when you leave the range. You have not undergone any “training”, you have been exposed to coursework that you can integrate into your “training” the next time you head to the range (something that needs to be at least once a month or more).

Your habitual coursework, your diligent training is what will allow you to transform from a “permit holder” with the right (yes, yes . . . I know, just roll with it) to carry a gun in your state - to a defensive shooter who can actually use your defensive firearm to defend yourself, your family or those in your charge. Coursework, combined with frequent training will save your life. A permit is a false sense of security without the ability to effectively use it.

Ongoing coursework, ongoing training will also stand you in good stead should you ever need to use your defensive handgun which results in the death of another person. I covered part of that in a post entitled Just the Basics - Preparing Your Defense. I’d ask that you take just a few minutes to read that article first – this particular post builds on it.
By taking the steps in “Preparing your Defense” you accomplish a couple of things. You are becoming a more knowledgeable shooter, you are becoming a more effective shooter and you are building a history that shows that you take your responsibilities as an armed citizen seriously. You are building your second round of defense – your history of taking coursework and your range training should you ever need to answer in a court of law for your actions. It’s part of the equation for defending yourself as a defensive shooter. One of the primary components of the process was your ability to “articulate” your specific choices – from your firearm, to why you carry, to the ammunition you use, to the coursework you have taken to the individual training you do every month on the range. And, as a reminder, I threw in one of my favorite phrases . . . “you have all the time in the world NOW” to begin to integrate these things into your life.
That said . . . there’s more. Isn’t there always! Standard disclaimer here – I am not an attorney. I am not a law enforcement officer nor do I have any type of criminal justice degree. What I am is an avid reader and a diligent student. I have read hundreds of articles, countless dozens of books and taken untold hours of classroom coursework growing my knowledge base of things I need to know to defend myself – both with a firearm and before the law. The rest of this post reflects my understanding of the terms. As with all things – do your own research, take your own coursework and make sure you understand the laws and statutes in your community, county, state as well as the federal law.
I want this post to focus on what you are accountable for should you use your defensive firearm to defend yourself, your family or someone in your charge. The result may range from frightening the attacker away at the sight of your determined use of a defensive firearm to you actually taking the attacker’s life. What is expected of you other than uttering the internet’s favorite phrase . . . “I was in fear for my life!” Just what the heck does that mean anyway . . . . because it matters. That is where we are going to spend our time.
Reasonable Man
This phrase bubbles up in conversations pretty quick. This is the “test” of your actions, the minimum benchmark you must be able to meet. Would a “reasonable man”, placed in the exact same set of circumstances, done the same as you have done. In the worst case scenario – would a “reasonable man” made the same choice as you, and taken the attacker’s life? It’s a sobering standard and something you simply must put some thought and study into.
Use of Force

A right to live is a natural right. In the vast majority of our country you have the right to use force to defend yourself, your family or someone in your charge. That said, you must only use the amount of force that is necessary to stop the attack. Once the attack has stopped – your use of force against the attacker must stop as well. Remember, you will be expected to meet the “reasonable man” test . . . was the amount of force you used to stop the attacker be the amount of force a “reasonable man” would use in exactly the same circumstances.

Use of Deadly Force

The use of deadly force is limited to very specific circumstances. You are in imminent danger of death or grave bodily harm. You have no other options, no means of escape. Your only option for survival is the use of deadly force. You must not have initiated the incident that brought about the use of deadly force. You must be able to articulate why you had the belief you were in imminent danger of death or grave bodily harm in such a way that a “reasonable man” would have made the same choice as you.

One of the premier expert witnesses in the United Stated, when it comes to the use of deadly force, is Massad Ayoob. He is often quoted and I will take the opportunity to share one of his quotes on this topic.

The use of lethal force that can end in homicide is justified in the situation of immediate, otherwise unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily harm to the innocent. — Massad Ayoob

“I had to shoot!!!” you say in court. “had too” is justified by your attacker having the Ability to attack you, the Opportunity to attack you, you – as a “reasonable person” had to believe you were in imminent danger of grave bodily harm or death – imminent Jeopardy and that the use of deadly force was your only available safe response – to the Preclusion of all other options available.

Ability, Opportunity, Jeopardy, Preclusion are the foundation of your justification for the use of deadly force. Let’s break these down individually.


The person attacking you has both the physical and practical ABILITY to inflict “immediate, otherwise unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily harm”.

What a “reasonable man” would conclude, as well as context – comes into play. A person with a gun has the Ability to inflict grave bodily harm or kill you throughout a broad range of distances

A person with a knife, a ball bat, a hatchet, a hammer, a screw driver when used as a weapon against you has the Ability to inflict grave bodily harm or kill you.

You MUST be able to clearly articulate why you believed your attacker had the Ability to inflict “immediate, otherwise unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily harm”.


An attacker may well have the Ability to inflict “death or grave bodily harm”, they must have the Opportunity to do so – right now. They must present an “immediate, otherwise unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily harm”.

While a person with a knife – a football field away has the Ability to inflict grave bodily harm or kill you – he does not have the immediate Opportunity – because he is 100 yards away.

A person with a knife – at a close distance – DOES have the Ability to inflict grave bodily harm or kill you and also has the immediate Opportunity as well because of the short amount of time it takes to cover the distance between you.

An armed intruder separated from you by a safe-room’s door has the Ability to inflict grave bodily harm or kill you, but lack the immediate Opportunity because of the door. A “reasonable man” may not believe you had the right to shoot them through the door.

Should the armed intruder break through the door and into the safe room – they now have the immediate Opportunity to inflict grave bodily harm or kill you.

Again - you MUST be able to clearly articulate why you believed your attacker had the Opportunity to inflict “immediate, otherwise unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily harm”.


Jeopardy is a very subjective component of the need to use lethal force. Would a “reasonable man”, in your exact situation, come to the same conclusion you did – that you were in immediate Jeopardy of “otherwise unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily harm”. Your situation is NOT Potentially dangerous . . . it is Actually dangerous

We are surrounded daily by people who could potentially harm us. Some carry knives, some carry guns, some drive cars – but without an action meant to do you harm – they remain a Potential threat

The person who draws a gun and shoots at us, pulls a knife and attacks us, raises a bat to strike us while screaming threats aimed at us . . . They have become an Actual threat and have put us in immediate Jeopardy

Should your attacker break off the attack and leave – you are NO LONGER in immediate Jeopardy – and would no longer be justified in the use of deadly force against them as they leave

Again - you MUST be able to clearly articulate why you believed you were in immediate Jeopardy of “immediate, otherwise unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily harm”.


Preclusion looks at the attack on you and your response through a “wide-angle lens”. We are expected to use only the amount of force necessary that a “reasonable man” would determine was necessary to stop the attack, and protect ourselves or protect our family.

This “wide-angle” lens of the “reasonable man” would Preclude all other options – and determine that our only possible response to defend our self was our “tool of last resort” – the use of deadly force.

There were no other safe options – you could not run away, you could not use a non-lethal weapon without placing yourself in “immediate, otherwise unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily harm “.

You MUST be able to clearly articulate why you believed you had no other choice but to use deadly force to protect yourself from “immediate, otherwise unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily harm”.

Disparity of Force

Disparity of force – the attacker has a significant size advantage. A 230 pound male attacks a 120 pound female with intent to do her grave physical harm. This is a “Disparity of Force” and plays into the decision to use Deadly Force. Would a “Reasonable Man” decide that the use of Deadly Force was justified by the woman to defend herself.

A home owner is confronted by multiple individuals entering their home – some are armed. Here too the Disparity of Force comes into play. Would a “Reasonable Man” decide that the homeowner was justified in using Deadly Force to defend against multiple intruders – some of which were armed?

Remember, the laws regarding personal defense and the use of Deadly Force can vary widely from community to community, county to county and state to state. It is your responsibility to know the law in your community and the laws of any other community or state you may travel to.

As I said earlier – you have all the time in the world now, today, this moment to begin to think about these foundational blocks to your defense should you need to use your defensive handgun to defend your life, your family or someone in your charge. You will be expected to articulate each of them clearly should the need arise. Today is when you should begin expanding your knowledge of them . . . right now!

Honestly, of all the coursework I’ve taken on this topic, all the books I’ve read on this topic . . . Massad Ayoob is at the very top of the list of experts you should take coursework from and to place on your reading list. His classroom offering is his MAG-20 course. His latest book is Deadly Force: Understanding Your Right to Self Defense. If it is not on your night stand or in your Kindle . . . it needs to be.

You have a right to life. You have a right to go home to family and friends at the end of the day. You have a right to defend your life. That said . . . it is also your responsibility to know how to defend that right both on the street and before the law.

You have all the time in the world . . . .