REALITY CHECK - TACTICAL INSANITY vs COMMON SENSE
As the world supply of common sense continues to dwindle, I have been increasingly noticing an extreme degree of what can only properly be called "tactical insanity" - a level of extreme paranoia matched with an obsession for constant training - because of course, there's nothing quite like spending your entire life preparing to preserve your life from threats you don't deal with on a daily, monthly, or even yearly basis - right?
Don't get me wrong - I'm completely in favor of preparedness, being trained to prevail against sudden violence, and being armed at all times. I have trained in many different methods of martial arts and hand to hand fighting, the practical application of firearms to self defense and survival situations, first aid, etc. I practice defensive type shooting at least a couple of times a month, and sometimes more frequently. I also carry at least one weapon at all times, and try not to leave the house without a pair of handguns that accept the same ammunition and magazines, as well as a small first aid kit and a few other assorted survival tools. If the local gang of control freaks in the area I live in hadn't long ago made threats of violence against people who carry sharp objects of certain lengths and styles, I would also carry a concealed fighting knife, but things being what they are, my fighting knives generally stay in the safe. So I'm definitely not suggesting that we live in a state of unreadiness.
It seems to be disturbingly popular these days in the serious "self defense community" (whatever that actually is) to exemplify an extreme degree of paranoia, thinking that one way is the only way, and to dedicate an undue amount of time to training - ironically, it is usually lousy training for the task at hand. And at the same time, I am not seeing much in the way of that all important trait - the will to overcome. Certainly a part of the desire to protect one's self, rather than just a Thanatos-like drive towards dying in battle, comes from having a life good enough to want to protect, and certainly a drive to protect others requires a willingness towards self sacrifice if necessary - which is also not something I am seeing much of.
So here's some of what I am seeing, that I can't really agree with.
Over Reliance Upon A Particular Equipment Set-Up - Gun-Centric Self Defense vs Self Defense Including the Use of Firearms
As someone who virtually always has a firearm on his person - at home, while sleeping, at work, while out and about, etc. - I am definitely not against having a firearm at hand to deal with unanticipated violence - I am completely for it. Firearms make most defensive force scenarios ridiculously easy to resolve. However, the "tactical community" seems to lean in the direction of reliance upon firearms for defensive use, rather than developing defensive capability which includes the use of firearms as an important asset. Moreover, there seems to be an extreme tendency among many individuals who "take self defense seriously" (most of whom have never been in a deadly force encounter and know nothing first-hand about dealing with unconscientious individuals who will not hesitate to try to kill you if they feel like it) to believe that there is only one way to be prepared, and that anything less is completely unprepared and vulnerable.
One example is the absolute ridicule and contempt that many in the "tactical community" have for individuals who carry a revolver as their primary defense weapon. Heavier trigger pulls and "low capacity" are generally cited as the reasons why "revolvers aren't good enough". While I tend to agree that more shots available are better, most defensive scenarios do not require more than five or six rounds to resolve. Suggesting that a skilled, and more importantly, mentally prepared individual with the will to prevail, is unprepared or badly prepared to deal with violence because they are "only" armed with a weapon holding five or six shots, is patently ridiculous, and I would refer them to study the results of the terrorist attack on a church in South Africa which occurred some years ago, in which a man with a five shot .38 revolver shot and killed five terrorists armed with AK-47s, incendiaries, and explosives. I can personally think of more than a few combat veterans I know who carry revolvers. A good friend of mine, who is one of the most capable people I know at dealing with violence, often carries a Single Action Army chambered in .357 magnum. Is that the best choice for most of us? No. But in the right hands, a revolver, even a single action revolver, is still a highly effective weapon.
Another example of "tactical insanity", this time pertaining to automatics, is the dogma of always having a round in the chamber of your defensive weapon. I agree that having a round in the chamber means that your weapon is at the highest practical level of readiness for unexpected violence - however, it does not mean that a loaded automatic with an empty chamber is "useless" as some have suggested, and it does not mean that it cannot be brought into action quickly and effectively by someone who is competent at dealing with interpersonal violence. More importantly, it does not mean that the individual carrying it is unprepared. If you are completely reliant upon being able to pull out your gun and immediately start shooting with no other manipulation of the weapon, then you are unprepared (ironically, the attitude about always having a round in the chamber seems to be held most dogmatically by those who practice shooting with both hands even at very close distances). Yes, being able to draw and fire immediately with only one hand is a distinct advantage. However, if you are sound of body and yet completely reliant upon the advantage of being able to draw and fire with no additional actions required, then you either are lacking essential combative traits in yourself, you have an unbalanced view towards what actually happens in the vast majority of close range confrontations, or you are lacking common sense wherewithal as to how to rapidly adapt and improvise in dynamic real world conditions. Obviously, in extreme close contact there are options for attacking other than just shooting - striking the head with the hands, kneeing the crotch, kicking, or drawing a pistol and using it as an impact weapon are just some of many options. Striking to gain distance or time can allow for an individual to quickly draw, rack the slide on their automatic, and be completely ready to fire IF it is needed at that point. For reference, before anyone suggests I must not be "serious" about concealed carry because I "obviously" don't carry with a round in the chamber - the pistol I always have on my person does not typically have a round in the chamber. That is because it is inches from my body and immediately accessible while I am sleeping, because I have it concealed on my body while doing security jobs where I regularly have to fight people empty handed and don't want to risk immediate fire if there is gun grab in the event that it becomes uncovered in a scuffle, and for other perfectly valid reasons. However, under circumstances where I perceive a heightened possibility of needing every advantage I can get in terms of immediately shooting, I will generally chamber a round ahead of time. Also, when I am out and about, most of the time I carry a second pistol, which DOES have a round in the chamber and is "ready to go". I figure that's plenty "serious" for anything most of us are likely to have to deal with.
To conclude these points, the problem I'm seeing is that a lot of the tactically obsessed out there are not practicing holistic defense which includes the use of firearms - they are practicing gun-centric self defense, and are over-reliant upon the presence of firearms, specifically of certain types and carried in a specific way. Over-reliance upon anything is a potential problem. Not long ago I had a discussion with a range master at a shooting range I frequent. He's a younger man with distinctly "tactical" tendencies. Nice guy though. I mentioned that I often carry a pair of handguns, partially because I like to have other options in case one of the guns fails. He replied that he wouldn't carry a backup gun because if his gun fails, he fails. I suggested that his life should probably have a higher value to him than the amount of trust he puts in a machine.
"Every Defensive Situation is Potentially Lethal."
No sh*t. That doesn't mean you shouldn't be able to end low level violence with a minimum of force in situations where you are confident in your ability to do so. Getting really good at it requires real world exposure to violence (probably), so most people aren't likely to get "really good" at it - but with some basic knowledge of "high stress psychology" and simple principles of fighting, most people can still be "good enough" at it to effect a good outcome. All this means is being able to fight someone without seriously injuring them, talk them down, and give them a way out without losing too much face. Of course that must not be very much fun for many of the "tactical guys" to learn, because John Rambo and Jason Bourne generally didn't fight a man to point where he could be talked into leaving peacefully and with most of his dignity intact, and instead these guys just practice to go full on "Duke Nukem" once they have the opportunity. I suspect that many of the so called "serious" types into concealed carry are also genuinely afraid of confrontation, and have a hard time not panicking and either becoming completely ineffective or just maxing out under the stress of even low level violence.
Don't get me wrong - there's a place for drawing your sidearm and emptying half a magazine into an aggressor, or driving repeated blows into his windpipe, but there's also a place for physically fighting someone just enough to make him reconsider what he's doing, hopefully without serious injury, if deescalation skills have already failed. A "one solution for every problem" approach cannot be had.
"You Have to Train Regularly!"
This one is not surprisingly often preached by individuals who make money by training people in the use of firearms, martial arts, etc., but I have heard it from other "tactical" guys who do not have a financial incentive to get people training regularly.
The idea of training regularly can be as simple as taking a training course twice a year to maintain skill levels, to being as over the top as "you have to practice shooting at least once a month to be able to even use your gun under stress!" I recently even heard it suggested in a video from a very knowledgeable trainer that you should be practicing to draw your concealed carry firearm every day.
I wholeheartedly agree that training for the defensive use of force is a good thing, but it is entirely possible to take things too far. Is it really worth it to spend that much of your life, preparing to protect your life? Are you wasting it, for fear of losing it? Especially when we consider that simple, effective, solid skills, really are not that "perishable" if learned right in the first place. I remember reading some years ago that in the early part of this century, the CIA conducted an experiment involving several US military veterans of the second world war, to see how "accessible" their hand to hand combat skills were. The results showed that even after over five decades, these old men were still able to quickly use the simple, effective blows, holds, and break holds they had learned as young men in the military and special operations. As a personal anecdote, I once went almost two years without doing any shooting at all. When I returned to the range, my skills had not degraded in the slightest, and the range masters wanted to know if I had a background in special operations or similar (which I do not - I have a background in common sense). Equally, I have not trained consistently in martial arts for several years now, and I deal with violence highly effectively on a fairly regular basis. My lack of practice has not left me "ineffective". For reference, my success in this area cannot be accounted for by exceptional physical fitness, or even great size, since I weigh less than 130 pounds. It is simply an example of how the myth of needing constant practice is false, and should NOT be allowed to sap your confidence. Certainly you should keep learning new things if you have the opportunity. Certainly regular practice helps to improve existing skills and helps to maintain an edge. However, even a dull knife can be thrust into an adversary with extreme effectiveness, if the will to do so is strong. If you know what you're doing, you know what you're doing - good skills, once learned properly, do not degrade to the degree of being ineffective.
"You Have to Train Realistically."
Certainly there are benefits to training under realistic circumstances. The interest in reality based training shows at least some level of pragmatism in the outlook of the "tactically inclined". However, the core, basic methods often practiced for concealed carry and home defense are generally quite poor. I'll keep this short, as I do not intend this post to be about techniques and tactics.
The obsessive over-use of the sights, "strong stance" and both hands with pistols that is rampant in the "shooting community" is a detriment, not an advantage, to prevailing in up-close and personal mayhem. Certainly having good sights and knowing how to use them can be a lifesaver under certain circumstances, but the majority of interpersonal violence happens too quickly, and often at too close a range, for sights to be effective. Point shooting is far more effective for the vast majority of people in the vast majority of defensive scenarios. The same is generally true for the use of longarms in home defense scenarios. For longer distances, such as beyond 10 yards, I wholeheartedly agree that sighted fire methods are generally superior. There are certainly some applications for the sights within 10 yards as well. However - unsighted, instinctive shooting, including methods in which the gun is held well below eye level, are far more essential for what most of us are likely to have to do. Because these methods are more instinctive, they are also better retained (see above) once learned properly.
"You need the best equipment!"
If I actually knew what the "best" equipment was for any given situation, I would probably go to reasonably great lengths to obtain it. I think the same could be said for most of us here. However, what is best for one situation, is not necessarily best for another, and what is best for one person, is not necessarily best for another.
While it seems very wise to only use high quality equipment, there seems to be an attitude that only certain well established brands, and often only items of a certain price point or higher, are of good enough quality to use for defensive purposes. Having owned handguns from about $2500 to $250, I can't really agree that a low cost always indicates low quality or performance (my all-over favorite defensive handguns are all in the under $800 range, with most of them possible to find for under $450 - that doesn't mean those options are necessarily right for anyone else, but I have definitely found that exceptional functionality can be had at very low cost). Certainly fine craftsmanship and attention to detail can inspire confidence and can even be a reason for purchasing something in itself - after all, if you're going to invest money in a carry gun that's going to be on your person most of the time, why not get one that looks nice and has real value of craftsmanship in it, in the same way we often do with a wristwatch or similar (while maintaining functional quality - I would not sacrifice reliability or usefulness for aesthetics). However, there are plenty of highly reliable, accurate, and robust options available at unusually low prices, which are more roughly made and perhaps do not have the same level of craftsmanship as more expensive options, but can still outperform many of them. Unfortunately, the use of such "off brand" guns is often frowned upon or ridiculed within the oh-so-serious "tactical community" where backyard operators are too intently focused on "getting the job done" to be bothered with "cheap" equipment.
The reality I have often encountered, is that those who really know what they are doing when it comes to actual violence have very little preference for brand or price point, as long as the piece of equipment functions the way it is supposed to. This would of course include some quite wealthy people I have met, who own all manner of highly expensive firearms such as custom Performance Center Smith & Wessons, Wilson Combats, historically significant Colts, completely ground up builds costing many thousands of dollars, etc., and yet still like their Taurus and Kel-Tec pistols which continue to function extremely well for them. Certainly you should only use high quality gear if you have any choice at all, but the price to quality ratio of certain items is not always equal, and that goes both ways.
One of the best examples of the "cheap is bad" mentality among the tactically insane involves holsters. Over the years, I have purchased many different types of holsters from many different makers, from very inexpensive nylon holsters to the more expensive leather holsters from Galco, to those custom made to order. The most functional have not always been of equal price. The Galcos have generally been extremely good, but the pancake holsters in the $25 range never disappointed. As long as your holster of choice isn't falling apart on you, is a good fit for the gun you're using in it, offers good retention and allows for a quick draw with a firm grip, what does it matter if it cost $15 instead of $150? Some of the most capable people I know often carry without a holster at all - personally I am not overwhelmingly in favor of this approach, as I suggest that a good holster offers better retention and allows a weapon to be carried more safely with a round in the chamber. However, the fact that many very competent people choose to carry this way, and have successfully deployed their weapons this way, indicates that, once again, the equipment and the way it is carried is not the only deciding factor in how a conflict is resolved.
As a closing note, I feel it worth stating that the goal of the being capable and well equipped for employing defensive force, for myself at least, has virtually nothing to do with ego, or "being cool". It has everything to do with being highly capable of defending life and liberty. I would suggest that anyone with a heavy emotional investment in their skills or gear think long and hard about what they are actually trying to do, and whether or not their actions are really helpful to the preservation of a free and peaceful existence, or whether it has more to do with establishing a persona which they feel is more impressive than the other guy.
It is my hope that this post was not boring or redundant, nor do I have any interest in offending anyone who holds some of the viewpoints noted above. My intention with this post is simply to bring forward for discussion certain trends that have become quite popular among many who choose to carry a firearm for personal defense or are otherwise involved with the defensive use of force - trends which I personally find are not in keeping with a common sense approach towards the subject or life in general. Please share your own input - genuine wisdom is always appreciated by those who can see it for what it is.
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Nice article to read while I take a break from online ammo shopping.
Professor Stu Padasol
Professor Stu Padasol
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