July 31, 2006

Violence Begets Violence Part Two: Ensurance

"One bleeding-heart type asked me in a recent interview if I did not agree that 'violence begets violence.' I told him that it is my earnest endeavor to see that it does. I would like very much to ensure — and in some cases I have — that any man who offers violence to his fellow citizen begets a whole lot more in return than he can enjoy." -Jeff Cooper, "Cooper vs. Terrorism", Guns & Ammo Annual, 1975

I used that quote in the first post of this series. If you haven't read that yet go take a glance.

Now let's talk about ensuring that violence begets violence.

A firearm isn't magic. Nor is it magick. It isn't even magyck. A firearm is a mechanically simple tool but not so simple as to negate any need for training. True; some models are simple point & click interfaces. Others require a little more info on its workings to operate efficiently.

At its simplest you can go to a range once to familiarize yourself with your firearm & never touch it again. Odds are you'll be sufficiently trained for 90% of what could happen to you in your home as long as you have enough time to retrieve said weapon. Most (not all, but most) gunfights happen within 21 feet of the combatants & is over in a few seconds. If you're huddled behind your bed in your bedroom when the miscreant breaks down your bedroom door then 5 or 6 shots from a revolver should be more than enough to decisively hit a human sized figure in your doorway.

Just for the heck of it go measure from your bedroom door to the side of the bed farthest away from it. Not even 21 feet is it? Think you could hit an object 18 inches tall by 12 inches wide if it was in the doorway? You probably could with the barest amount of training.

Most men have a torso roughly 18" tall by 12" wide. That's definitely not an absolute but it's close enough for government work. You want to aim for & hopefully hit the torso. That'll give you the biggest target with the best chance of incapacitation.

Incapacitation. That's what we're going for. Killing someone intent on doing you harm is a good thing but it's not the immediate goal, only a possible side effect. Ya see the human body is a wonderful creation. It can take a lot of damage & still keep going. Even with a fatal wound someone can still perform seemingly amazing feats, like killing the person that killed them. (Animals are the same - many folks have been maimed or killed by lion's & buffalo's who had been shot fatally.)

So what we try to achieve is an injury so drastic that it instantly ends the person's ability &/or desire to harm you. That's the tricky part.

Geek With A .45 did the yeoman’s work on a subject called "The Golden Triangle". Go read his piece as it contains a lot of very very good info that I have no chance of reproducing here nearly as well.

So the ideal target has become a bit smaller. It went from 18" high by 12" wide to 12" high by 9" wide. Still it's doable with minimal training but when you add stress & a moving target & a few other variables (such as extreme drug use or body armor protecting the burglar) then it starts getting trickier.

Keep in mind so far this has all been about shooting a known intruder from your bedside as he enters the bedroom. You have not had to draw a weapon from an open or concealed holster & the range hasn't been a full 21' let alone longer from you to your target. Once we start talking about defense outside of your home then it's not as simple as pointing & clicking. It requires practiced pointing & clicking, hopefully with a little aiming thrown in.

So yes, you can buy a revolver & take it to the range once & sleep a little better knowing that most of the time you'd be able to repel any boarders. But that remaining 10% of the time is what you're not ready for as well as going armed outside the home or outside your bedroom for that matter.

This is very important: even a well trained person with a firearm can be killed by an assailant. As I think I mentioned guns aren't magic. They won't kill someone for you & even if they could they might not be able to stop that person before he takes you with him.

So you train. Practice. & not just practice but correct practice. You start off with the basics - weapon safety, sight alignment, sight picture, breathing, trigger control, etc... Then you move on to timed shooting, shooting with reloads involved, double taps (two rapid shots to the same target) & other multiple shot drills, malfunction clearance drills, using cover, using concealment, shooting on the move, shooting from unusual positions, etc... You keep doing this forever. Or until you die. I'm not really sure if there are shooting ranges in Heaven. I damn sure doubt there are any in Hell.

Sounds like a lot of work doesn’t it? Not really. Most of it can be fun. There are different shooting sports that will cover the basics all the way to having to shoot a terrorist who is hiding behind a hostage. It's the competition (& the way the stages are set up) that make it fun. It's challenging to best your own time, or in some cases just get all the way through the course.

But it's not absolutely necessary to be shooting 90% while you're upside down & rolling under a moving car to knock out the "shoot" target wedged partially behind the "don't shoot" target at 43.7 yards. Unless you're with the SAS or you're an actor who insists on doing his own stunts it's probably not going to be something you come across in your lifetime anyway.

But going through some type of "real life" simulation a few times a year will put you above 99.9% of the ne'er-do-wells out there that you may face. Going to a known distance range once a month should keep you grounded enough in the basics to maintain an acceptable level of proficiency. After all, you don't have to be the baddest gunslinger in the New West; you just have to be better than the guy who's trying to kill you.

Most criminals who kill aren't necessarily expert marksmen. They're simply willing. I discussed this in the first post of this series but it bears repeating. You must be just as willing to kill your assailant as he is to kill you. Being more willing helps.

I grew up in a fairly rough neighborhood & got in a few fights. A buddy of mine who grew up down the street once told me what he regarded as the truth about determining the outcome of a fight. See he was a whole lot rougher than I was & fought a lot more than I did. Well at least at first. When word got out that he beat up, single handed, three older & bigger guys (my pal was always short for his age) when they jumped him most of the bad types gave him a wider berth than the rest of us. Anyway he told me that it doesn't always matter who's stronger or faster or more trained & disciplined - it matters who's meaner. Who wants to beat the other guy more? That’s probably going to be the winner.

& it's possible to be the meanest guy in a fight & still be a decent human being. You don't have to turn your soul into an ugly wretched thing that bears some rough resemblance to a thing once human. You just have to get your mindset straightened out.

An example - Lieutenant General Lewis Burwell "Chesty" Puller was arguably one of the meanest (& inarguably the most decorated) Marines in history, at least to his enemies. I recently re-read a biography of him (which I highly recommend) & read letters he sent to his wife while in the midst of battle. He spoke of his unwavering love for her & their children while telling his Marines "So they've got us surrounded, good! Now we can fire in any direction, those bastards won't get away this time!". The same man who said "Our Country won't go on forever, if we stay soft as we are now. There won't be any AMERICA because some foreign soldier will invade us and take our women and breed a hardier race!" was caught cutting out paper dolls with his daughter on a visit home between assignments. But I digress.

Training. It doesn't take hours a day to be proficient enough for most situations but then again it should command some of your attention on at least a monthly basis. I know; shooting is expensive & that's even if you've got a place to shoot within easy driving distance (say less than 30 minutes each way). We all have lives that seem to suck up any free time we have, & finances are, at least for most of us, not something we can ignore.

I was chatting about something completely different with a friend of mine recently & she commented on an event that "just never seemed to happen". I immediately tried to correct her because most things in this life don't just "happen". If you desire something in this world you have to apply some effort towards it. So despite the myriad excuses that you or I come up with you can make time to practice your marksmanship if you truly think it's valuable.

A couple of hours a week would be great. A couple of hours a month would probably get you by. Throw in some form of organized competition & go to at least a few matches a year in addition to your weekly or monthly practice & you'll be in better shape than most cops.

what's even better in addition to the weekly or monthly range trips is formal training. There's a number of firearms trainers who teach everything from basic weapons safety to concealed carry techniques to keeping in the 90th percentile while you're upside down & rolling under a moving car to knock out the "shoot" target wedged partially behind the "don't shoot" target at 43.7 yards. Some of the more prestigious ones are expensive & probably distant unless you just happen to live close to one. Some instructors travel & if you can pool together enough students for him/her then they'll come to you.

James Rummel put together a nice post on some of the more prominent organized handgun shooting sports. I did a post a while back on the basics of High Power Rifle competition. Wikipedia has a nice page giving a very brief overview of various shooting sports.

Col. Jeff Cooper along with Colonel Rex Applegate, Captain Eric Anthony Sykes, Lieutenant-Colonel William E. Fairbairn & many others have written books on the subject & in some cases (notably Col. Cooper's) started firearms training schools open to the general public.

Gunsite in Arizona, Frontsight in California (a firearms training school in California??? That's kind of like having a course in Lockean property rights theory & the Austrian school of economics in Stalin's Russia - or present day Boulder, Co), the Lethal Force Institute in New Hampshire & Thunder Ranch in Oregon are perhaps the most widely known non-military firearms schools, but there are a host of lesser known schools all over the country. This page has a decent list to give you an idea if one is near you. with any other type of education it's usually best to do a little bit of research to make sure your instruction will be all you wanted it to be but it shouldn't be too difficult for you to find a quality school near you. They're generally pricey but knowledge is always expensive, especially if it's useful to you.

Like on the subject of the first post in this series there have been volumes written on the best training methods. It wouldn't be a bad idea to pick up a book or twelve on the subject. some, perhaps most of what you'll need to know will be covered in some of those books & you will probably be able to practice & refine your skills on your own.

& since this is geared towards the beginner I want to point out five more resources. The first is the Revolutionary War Veterans Association's blog. The RWVA is based in NC (Tarheels – Recognize, send da love) but they travel around putting on rifle clinics. On the sidebar of their page is a series in becoming a better shot with a rifle called The Rifleman's Series. The next is The Gunblogger's Community (brought to you by The Truth Laid Bear). There's over 100 bloggers who mainly or at least more often than not discuss firearms related subjects. A lot of it deals with the politics & law (which you should get up to date on) but I'd say most all of us wish we could write about the use & uses of firearms so we do so to break up the depression of covering what the senate wants to do to us. The third is The Shooter's Carnival where a subset of us gunbloggers write non political firearms posts. The basics of safety are covered as well as product reviews, home gunsmithing & other less aneurism causing subjects. The fourth is Rustmeister's blog that Say Uncle pays for The Gun Blogs. It's another collection of gun bloggers ranging from range reports to legal updates. The fifth is my Blogger's Firearm Instruction page. It's a collection of folks willing to offer free instruction to new shooters.

So think about training. Then once you acquire a firearm train with it. Not only is it helping you build valuable skills that may just one day save your life, but most folks find it fun. You don’t have to sell your house & move to a cabin where you can practice shooting all the time (in fact it’s damn tricky to – I tried) but you should put as much effort as you can into making sure that violence will beget violence.

Next we'll deal with the tools of the trade so to speak.

Posted by Publicola at July 31, 2006 06:56 AM | TrackBack

Not to nitpick, but Frontsight is in Nevada.

ITTS, however, is located just outside Los Angeles, CA.

Posted by: Scott Ganz at August 15, 2006 03:57 PM