Saturday, December 07, 2013

Something different this December 7

Normally, on December 7 I will post something about the attack on Pearl Harbor.  I still am, but in a different sort of way.  While most commemoration of this day is about the loss of life, I want to take a brief look at a lesson we can draw from the event.

Quite frankly, the US was caught napping, and we shouldn't have been.  Based on my reading, it seems that our political leaders knew, or at least should have known, that their actions were pushing us toward a showdown with Japan.  Yes, there was a military buildup going on, and while some of it was directed toward the Pacific, most eyes were on Europe and the Nazis.  When the Japanese showed up bright and early on that Sunday morning, we were caught with cold boilers, planes in nice neat tight lines and most of our guys making a lazy morning of it.  We paid for that with over 2,000 dead.

Some would say that it's easy to identify this with the benefit of hindsight, and it is--or at least, it's easier.  But if you put in the effort to stay informed, it's also possible to see these things coming.  I liken it to the situational awareness that is discussed in self defense classes, but with a broader reach.  Just as an individual who is situationally aware would not walk through a parking lot without scanning the area, an individual who is situationally aware in the broader sense will not live their life without scanning the area they live in, the region they live in, their country and the world at large.

Yes, this can be a tall order, but with modern technology, it is manageable and need not take an inordinate amount of your time.  You pay the most attention to those things that are closest to you, either in terms of distance or effect.  The further away they are, the less attention you pay.  Using apps like Flipboard or Feedly and a smart phone or tablet, you can customize your news from a multitude of sources, prioritize the stories and keep up with it all on your schedule.

By keeping up with the wider world and carefully considering what you read or hear, you need not be caught unaware when something like an ammo shortage occurs.  When there is a particularly bad harvest season for a food that you like, say peanuts, you can go ahead and stock up on the peanuts and peanut butter ahead of time and save yourself some coin.  And you may just find yourself aware of the next big economic bubble about to pop before it does, and able to preserve your assets.  Or perhaps you simply figure out that it's time to take an extended vacation at your cabin in the woods a few hours before most folks.

You don't want to live your life in Condition Orange, and you can't.  Try to do so and you will wind up in the hands of those nice fellows with the funny jackets and strong medications.  But neither should you live it in Condition White.  Be aware, not only in the parking lot, but of the wider world around you.  You'll be amazed what you'll see.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Armed self defense--you don't automatically win

One of the things that those of us who go armed probably don't like to think about is what would happen if it all goes pear-shaped.  Let's say you're faced by multiple attackers who don't run when you go to the gun, even after you shoot one of them.

Defiant 76-year-old woman dies in shootout with gang of three who tried to rob her of bingo money

This nice little grandmotherly looking lady faced a trio of attackers who were determined to relieve her of her bingo money.  She shot first and got what sounds like a disabling hit on one assailant.  She was in turn shot by another of the attackers.  She died on the scene; the attackers have all been captured and are charged with murder.

We all have our training scenarios that we run through.  Do you have scenarios with multiple attackers?  Scenarios in which you must fight after being wounded yourself?  If you don't, you might want to add them into the mix.

I can think of several skills you might want to practice:

  • Target transitions--shifting focus from one target to the next in minimum time.  You aren't going to have a lot of time to stop and assess your shots--you must become confident enough in your skill to know that you have hit your target.  (A lesson that I learned from this guy, even though he didn't realize he was teaching it to me at the time.)
  • Rapid fire--multiple hits on multiple targets in a hurry.
  • Combat accuracy at speed--as opposed to traditional target shooting.  Many of us refer to this level of accuracy as "minute of bad guy", but it's more than just that.  It's all about getting multiple hits in certain zones of your target quickly.  Rob Pincus calls it a "balance of speed and precision".
  • Movement--if you're standing still while shooting, you make yourself an easier target.  Learn to hit your targets while you move.
  • Reloads--many of us carry smaller guns because they conceal easier and carry more comfortably.  They also hold fewer rounds, generally 5-7 for guns like the Springfield XD-S.  Practice reloading at speed.  (You do carry at least one spare mag, don't you?)
If you are a match director at a range, give some consideration to the two types of shooters who come to your matches.  You have the competitors, the ones who are out to win.  And you have the folks like me who are there to practice our skills on a clock.  When I get the opportunity to shoot a tactical match (far too infrequently), I know I'll never do better than the bottom of the pack.  I'm shooting full-house rounds out of the guns I would be carrying.  I don't "game" my stages, I shoot like I would normally.  Throw folks like me a bone, and design a stage or two for us with close targets and shooting from awkward cover mandatory.

If you are a range officer looking for a new type of match, consider a "self defense" match.  Set up the rules so that, as far as safely possible, competitors are shooting carry guns from carry holsters with carry ammo.  Make the scenarios realistic--home invasion, "knockout" victim and so on.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how good your turnouts will be once word gets out.