by David C. Reed @dcrtag
Teaching people a proactive mindset, tactical positioning, and critical thinking is the true focus of any realistic training with defensive weapons. Sure, marksmanship training is important, but knowing who and what to shoot (and often more importantly – who and what not to shoot) is the whole point.
In any martial art the smartest move is to avoid trouble and thus deflect the need to fight. This is the same with carrying a firearm. No one wants to have to shoot, but if you are forced into this position without any other viable option, be ready to meet the threat with proficient applied force to protect yourself and your loved ones.
And don’t get caught off guard. The Boy Scouts have been saying, “Be Prepared” since 1910. Note they don’t say, “Get Prepared.” It’s a mindset not a suggestion.
So as a person of this modern martial persuasion, I tend to think about such things a lot. I look at how places are arranged, people’s actions, and how events around me not only flow through time, but also the specific space where they occur. How any one minor change could impact the outcome. I want to always be ready for the unexpected, but how can I, through a tactical mindset and minimal preparedness, offset the greatest range of potential negative outcomes?
The First Ten Rules below are a compilation of teachings from various people, courses I’ve attended, books on the topic, and my real life experiences. We can even have a discussion of their relative ranking here. But they are expressions of the core tactical tasks we all can agree to: Shoot, Move, and Communicate.
I would need to write a book or have a week to fully express and teach these First Ten Tactical Rules, but maybe it starts by laying out these points and getting all of us thinking and talking. In other words, your thoughts may vary. So consider these the First Ten.
- Have a gun with you. Always, and have a reload.
- Train realistically and often with your primary defensive weapon. Train to a measurable standard. Then document that training as a hedge against allegations of recklessness or negligence. (We at Reed and Ward have some thoughts as to how to best accomplish this.)
- Practice tactical communication. These days, that means have a cell phone with you as you carry your defensive firearm. Teach your closest friends and loved ones a code word that lets them know you mean business when communicating. Too often your spouse or kids may think you are kidding, so a simple but uncommon code word to prefix your commands will help start immediate positive action.
- Wherever you are, have an escape plan. Be able to move dynamically to get yourself and your loved ones out of trouble. Know where the exits are, where your car is parked, and (as above) have a code word for your loved ones that means, “Now, move out!” Also “Rule 4a” would be never sit in a booth or allow yourself to be wedged into a situation where you can’t move quickly to get out or get to cover in case of an emergency. Think “active shooter.”
- When possible, carry two firearms. Anytime you think you need to, but especially when you know that you are moving into potentially hostile environments, be prepared. The fastest reload is often a second weapon. Ideally they should be ammo/magazine compatible.
- Have a good high quality flashlight when carrying a firearm. Legally and morally you must be able to first see the threat and secondly be able to discriminate your target (Cooper’s Safety Rule 4.) By the way as with Number 5 above, try to have more than one. Think a tiny LED on a coat zipper or key chain to back up your main light. For cops, even day watch officers/deputies need good flashlights on their person. Not more than one of the two to three flashlights you have on you should be rechargeable.
- Always look for hard cover. As you move around your daily life, be aware of what cover is available. “Cover” meaning something that will stop incoming bullets. Catalog mentally any cover you see, especially in your workplace and anywhere you frequent. FYI: there is little or no cover in most homes and cars are generally poor cover. Oh, and Cops: wear your body armor.
- Concealed means concealed. Tactically speaking, open carry is stupid for civilians. The less anyone around you has an idea you’re armed, the better. This is your surprise defensive advantage. That said, as with Number 2 above, practice an effective and efficient draw stroke and weapons presentation regardless of the concealing garment/ holster. So if you wear winter gloves, train with gloves on.
- Use the “When/Then” thinking philosophy, not “If/Then.” The first is proactive and tactical, the second is reactive and represents weak, wishful thinking. Mentally stay prepared whenever armed and assume the worst is going to happen (When) and have a plan to react (Then). Thinking “If” trouble will happen is too reactionary and puts you behind the power curve.
- Adapt to your environment to stay one step ahead. Don’t let others dictate position to you. Naturally we try to avoid sketchy situations and seedy areas, but when unavoidable use your body position, angles, barriers, objects, time, and distance to your advantage. If in public, watch how people stand, what they do with their hands, how they move, and how they look at you. If you look and act like prey, predators will begin to circle. Then remember Numbers 1-9 above.
While there are doubtlessly many other Tactical Rules, these are my First Ten.