The Cornered Cat
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“Why are you breaking my kayak?”

Every once in awhile, I run across a video that beautifully illustrates an important self-defense concept. This one has the virtue of being kind of hilarious, too.

For the best laughs, be sure to watch the entire thing.

Lately, I’ve been playing with the difference between social violence and non-social (or asocial) violence. The difference between these two types of violence is one thing this video illustrates in an annoyingly hilarious way.

Social tactics … ftw?

Note how the woman tried to solve her problem with the bear by using tactics that would appeal to the bear’s sense of social fairness and good manners.

  • Placation: “Thank you for not eating my kayak.”
  • Threats: “I’m going to pepper spray you in the face. That’s what I’m going to do to you.”
  • Complaints: “You’re breaking it! You’re breaking my kayak!”
  • Questions: “Why are you doing that? Why are you breaking my kayak? What am I gonna do?”
  • Ineffectual Demands: “Bear! Stop that! Stop that, bear!”
  • Pleading: “Pleeeeeease! Please stop! Aaaah, why are you doing that? Please stop! Bear, please stop, bear!”
  • Recrimination: “It’s the end of September. Why are you here? You’re supposed to be asleep!”
  • More Pleading: “Bear, stop that. Please stop that, bear. Please stop that. Please stop that, bear. Please stop. Bear, please stop…”
  • Appeal to Justice: “Please stop breaking my things. Please stop breaking my things, bear.”
  • Appeal to Logic: “It’s not even food! It doesn’t even taste good! It’s just plastic!”
  • More Threats: “I’m gonna bear spray you. Please stop!”

Her attacker wasn’t in a socially-compatible place, and thus all her appeals to his sense of justice, fairness, and logic fell flat. Social strategies were not going to solve this problem.

Here’s the lesson.

Some criminals attack their victims for social reasons: ego, status, fear. Or to educate and correct perceived ‘misbehavior’ from others.

Other criminals attack for non-social reasons: because they enjoy the process of harming and humiliating their victims, or because they view their victims as little more than a walking ATM where they can grab some quick cash.

Like bears, criminals who attack for non-social reasons are generally immune to social pressure. The problem can be solved, but it won’t be solved by whiny appeals to justice, logic, and the attacker’s sense of fair play.

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Irresponsible Gadgets

But let’s face it, once you’ve grown bad-ass enough that you can take out a guy with your car keys and a rubber chew toy, you can pretty much use whatever happens to be laying around and don’t need to make a special purchase. – Rodion Medvedev in “The 13 Most Irresponsible Self Defense Gadgets Money Can Buy

This, right here, is why I get upset when people peddle silly little keychain doodads as ideal self-defense tools ‘for women’. It’s not that the gadgets don’t work, or can’t be made to work. It’s that they require so much skill to use effectively that it amounts to criminal dishonesty to hand that type of tool to an untrained person and tell the untrained person that simply having this thing will keep them safe.

Having a tool that we don’t know how to effectively use might make us feel safer, but it won’t actually make us any safer than we are right now without it. This is key.

I love, love, LOVE the idea of having lots of self defense options, especially including lower levels of force. Every tool and technique, from every single part of the force spectrum, comes with benefits and drawbacks. Every one of them has things they require from their users and things their owners need to know about using them safely and effectively. No exceptions!

That’s why it’s so very important to be honest with ourselves, and with each other, when we suggest people arm themselves with any tool, deadly or not so deadly. We always need to how what this particular tool requires of the user — in terms of physical skill, commitment to act, personal awareness, safe handling, and so on. Those are important things to know!

The particular challenge with contact tools is that people may — without good training beforehand, almost certainly will — use them to remain engaged with the assailant in circumstances where remaining engaged would be the very worst possible response. In other words, it’s not just the tool itself that we need to know how to work. It’s everything surrounding its use: good awareness, smart tactics, legal and practical understanding, de-escalation and disengagement skills, and on and on. Selling people on the idea that we can shortcut that process is … problematic. No matter which tools we’re talking about. (And before you ask: yes, that absolutely includes firearms!)

If someone tries to sell you a defensive tool that they say doesn’t require any work or learning on your part, or a tool that can be used safely by you as the defender but that can never be used against you by the attacker — they are LYING. They may mean well, but they are not telling the truth. You might decide to buy the product, if it fits your goals and plans and commitment to act. But don’t buy that story, because it’s a lie.

The rule of thumb is this: the simpler and less potentially damaging the defensive tool is, the more work it takes to learn how to use it effectively. Put another way, force multipliers really only work well when there is already some force to multiply. Learning to generate that force takes work, and that’s before we even include all the surrounding skill sets and knowledge bases.

Buyers beware…

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I’m a dabbler by nature. Have a long string of casual hobbies. The list includes rockhounding, fishing, mural-painting, camping, hiking, gardening, and more. (Shooting used to be a hobby of mine too, but I found it so satisfying a pastime that it soon became an avocation and eventually a true vocation.) I own a ceramics kiln, and enjoy making wheel-thrown pottery and decorating my creations with my own glazes. I like to do Sudoku puzzles and crosswords, and when I can find someone who’s willing to play one with me, I enjoy word games such as Scrabble. At one time, I was going to learn how to sew, but it turned out that the idea wasn’t nearly worth the aggravation it caused. Somewhere between my injured fingers and the tangled threads and crumpled patterns, I realized that off-the-shelf clothing would keep me just as warm.

To be honest, I’m not particularly skilled at most of these endeavors, and haven’t put a lot of work into most of them. We enjoy picking up pretty rocks as a family, and I can tell you a tiny bit about how agates are formed or where you’re most likely to find snowflake obsidian or why thundereggs are so cool. But don’t ask me to identify most rock types at a glance, or tell you more than the most rudimentary facts about any rock’s chemical make up. I haven’t worked at it; I’ve only enjoyed the first few steps along the pathway, and stopped learning more when the effort stopped being worth the rewards I could experience at my low level of skill. Still, I can honestly claim that I know more about rockhounding than most people do, and that I’ve learned everything I know about it without much effort or discomfort.

Handmade pottery, by a dabbler.

Handmade pottery, by a dabbler.

That’s pretty much the way most people are, with hobbies. There’s nothing wrong with that, and much that is right about it. We can’t throw all our energy and all our passion into everything we do, unless we decide to become very narrowly focused indeed. Sometimes a general picture of the idea is all we need.


There’s a level of joy, of wonder, that’s never available to the casual hobbyist. A level of delight that most don’t even realize exists until they’ve already done the work it takes to get there. And it’s most visible in the areas of physical skill. There’s a wild sense of elation, even abandon, that goes with struggling through a tough spot and reaching the other side successfully. That’s a type of joy that mere dabblers never can feel even though they, too, might be having fun doing the same basic activity.

Think of a small child at a skating rink. She pleaded with her mom to let her go skating with her friends. She’s only been skating a few times before, if ever. The skates feel heavy and weird on her feet. You can see a fierce look of concentration on her face as she shuffles along, holding onto the guardrail with both hands and trying desperately to keep her balance. As she slowly makes her way around the arena, she finally manages to let go with one hand long enough to wave to her friends across the room. Finally she manages a complete circuit of the floor, and she’s grinning from ear to ear. “I did it!” she calls to her mom. “I can skate!”

She’s definitely having fun. She has enjoyed every bit of her learning process so far, even though she was clearly afraid that she would fall on her bottom if she let go of the guardrail. She stepped (or shuffled) at least a little way outside her comfort zone, but she barely noticed it because the reward of being able to move along on skates felt so good to her.

We dabble at making gingerbread houses, too.

We dabble at making gingerbread houses, too.

Even though our very young lady might not believe this if we told her, she isn’t having nearly as much fun at the skating rink today as she will a year or two from now, when she’ll be gliding easily through the crowd and making up games she and her friends can play together on skates – assuming she doesn’t move along to another hobby entirely between now and then. She’ll have even more fun when she learns how to skate backward, so that she can hold hands and flirt with her boyfriend as they move through the crowd together. Or when, after much effort and many failed attempts, she finally nails a perfect double axle.

Here we get into some results of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Lots of people think they’re “good” at their hobbies, and have gotten so without any hard work or unpleasant effort or anything that takes them out of their comfort zones – not even the minor discomfort of falling on their bottoms as they learn to skate. But really, it’s not until we’ve put a lot of effort into something that we realize how lacking our definition of “good” once was, or how badly we once overestimated our skills. 1

The little girl’s mom smiles indulgently at her daughter as she completes her circuit around the rink, and calls back to her, “Wow! You skated all the way around! Good for you!”

She doesn’t mean the little girl is done learning to skate. But she can share in her daughter’s joy, because she too was once a beginner. And she can look forward to the day her daughter will really learn how to skate.

What does all that have to do with us, or with firearms?

Juggling for the joy of it.

Juggling for the joy of it.

Just this: somewhere after the beginner’s grin, if shooting is nothing but a hobby to you, you may stop wanting to improve; or rather, you may start to feel that getting better won’t be worth the effort it takes to improve. You might get tired of thinking about it and decide you don’t want to learn anything more. Like me with rockhounding, you might decide you’re good enough. That’s okay, when it’s just a hobby; because, with hobbies, the joy of doing the activity itself should always outweigh the effort we’re putting into them.

And that’s okay. It’s natural. There’s nothing wrong with being a dabbler, when dabbling is all we intend to do. Please don’t read more into this than I’m really saying. For some people, learning to shoot is simply a hobby, nothing more, and that’s okay. People sometimes dabble in firearms just as they dabble in any other hobby.

On the other hand, if – for you! – shooting is more than a hobby, more than just something you do on Saturday afternoons, but is actually something that you believe might someday be used to save your life or the life of a family member, then it’s very likely that at some point past the beginner’s grin, you will find that you need to put in more effort at this than comes naturally to a dabbler. You might find that in order to move beyond the beginner’s world, you need to grit your teeth and keep going. You may need to force yourself over an effort-filled bump in the road, the one that pretty much stops most dabblers on the spot.

Being able to do this on demand is more fun than missing!

Being able to do this on demand is more fun than missing!

That might sound discouraging. It’s not, really. Because remember — there is a level of pleasure and joy in the thing itself, that the casual dabbler won’t be able to experience until she’s put in the work it takes to get there. The joy comes back again, stronger than ever, when we’ve forced ourselves to do the work that needs to be done. It’s not all grim determination, forever and ever without reprieve. It’s just a speed bump.

To get past that speed bump, you’ll probably have to do what a serious athlete does in order to reach a higher plane of performance (and joy). Your ultimate goal probably isn’t available to the casual dabbler anyway, and the shallow happiness of doing what feels good to us right now can never rival the deep joy we feel when we finally nail it after working hard to get there. Like a serious athlete, even though you will still enjoy shooting for its own sake,  you’ll do more than fiddle around with it just for the immediate pleasure you feel in the moment. Instead, you’ll cast your eyes toward a reward you can’t yet completely see, and you’ll make the conscious decision to work hard for that reward. Just like the Olympic athlete, you sacrifice your own immediate pleasure in order to learn skills that aren’t instinctively comfortable to you.

To be more than a dabbler, do more than the dabbler does. Let another type of joy drive you: the long-lasting pleasure of knowing that your skills will help you take care of yourself and the people you love.


  1. From the original paper: “In essence, we argue that the skills that engender competence in a particular domain are often the very same skills necessary to evaluate competence in that domain—one’s own or anyone else’s. Because of this, incompetent individuals lack … the ability to know how well one is performing, when one is likely to be accurate in judgment, and when one is likely to be in error.”
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For the joy of it

Yesterday, I told an untruth. It wasn’t deliberate, but it was an untruth. Here it is: “Doing things that are hard and even unpleasant is the only way we improve as humans.”

The mistake was using the word and. Should have used or instead, for clarity’s sake. 1 That’s because hard things aren’t necessarily unpleasant things. Sometimes they are, sometimes they’re not; and that was the sense I meant to convey by using the word even. Doing hard things is a given. Finding them unpleasant is often a choice.

But there’s more.

Doing hard things is not pleasant in the same sense that lying in a shaded hammock on a summer day is pleasant, but we can still feel a very strong sense of joy in doing them or in having done them. Hence the popularity of near-cultish, abusively exhausting exercise programs. The high that follows such hard work feels very enjoyable, and worth the effort it takes to get there. More than that, the effort itself, even before the successful conclusion of the work, can feel amazingly pleasant to those who have the right mindset.

Try mowing a full acre of lawn on a hot summer day with a push mower. It’s hard work and you sweat and you itch and the sun beats down on you and maybe you’d rather be lounging on the deck with a cold glass of your favorite beverage. It’s easy to quit, because there are other ways to get the reward of having a good-looking lawn. You might hire a neighbor’s kid, for example. But as you strain with the effort of pushing the mower around the yard in the hot sunshine for hours on end, you might find a fierce joy in it, and find the pleasure of doing it yourself just as rewarding as your final goal of having a manicured lawn.

In fact, the harder the work, the more pleasurable it can be in that sense. If you’ve been cooped up all winter and spring with a painful joint injury, being able to do such work brings a joy all on its own. That’s a particular flavor of joy that can never be felt by someone who hasn’t faced a similar injury. For the rest of us, even if muscles and joints ache with effort, being able to move them effortfully can be a pleasure of its own. That’s the root of the old saying: “Hard work is its own reward.”

Another little side trip here, the point of my message yesterday: sometimes, we might not feel like getting out of the lounge chair and firing up the old lawnmower, but the work still needs to be done, one way or another. We grow as humans when we force ourselves to do the work that needs to be done, when it needs to be done. Joy often comes while putting in the effort, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an effort. And that’s a type of joy that can only be felt by someone who got out of the shade and went to work.

Just keep swimming.

We can’t ever learn to stay afloat until we take the risk of sinking.

There’s something else here, something big that I’ve been struggling to articulate for awhile now. Will take a longer stab at this sometime soon, but meanwhile: it’s easy to gain a little bit of skill at most things without any real struggle, without pushing your own limits, without any discomfort at all. But as far as I can tell, it’s impossible to get truly good at something without doing the hard things – which is sometimes unpleasant and always takes you outside your existing comfort zones. That’s why I said that we improve as humans only by doing the hard things. We can take a few baby steps down any given pathway without much effort, but the road always turns uphill at some point. To refuse the uphill climb is to refuse to grow in that area.

Think of the adorable little guys splashing around in the kiddie pool. They are having fun. Many of them are hollering to their moms: “Mommy! Mommy! Look at me! Watch me swim!!!” They demonstrate their swimming prowess by lying on their tummies in three inches of water, splashing all fours as their bellies and knees hold them above the waterline.

Can those kidlets really swim? Or do they just think they can?

Can they ever become more skilled at staying above water, unless they first let go of the bottom of the pool?

Can anyone become a good swimmer without getting out of the kiddie pool?


  1. Some people took issue with the word only, but I’ll stand by that one even though any editor will say that sentences with always in them are always wrong, that only is the only word we should not use, and that an unqualified never is never correct. Phooey!
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This past weekend, I did something that was hard for me to do. Doesn’t matter too much what it was, at least not for our purposes here – the point is, I did it. Even though it was hard. And even though I knew that on Monday, my body would have to pay for the weekend adrenalin rush.

Doing things that are hard and even unpleasant is the only way we improve as humans.

Want to grow stronger? You’ll have to pick up things that are slightly too heavy for you to lift with ease right now. You have to do that repeatedly while your muscles and lungs complain about doing the work. Afterward, you’ll have to cope with achy muscles as they recover from the work you made them do. Worse, you can’t push your limits just one time and then brag about how well you did, mission accomplished. Nope! In order to get stronger, you have to make a habit of going through this uncomfortable process on a regular basis. You have to push your limits over, and over, and over again.

Want to grow intellectually? You’ll have to force yourself to follow someone else’s logic, to read books that are slightly too advanced for you, to do mathematical puzzles that make your brain hurt. You have to somehow bring new knowledge into your head and force yourself to remember it. Then you need to tie that information together with the other things you already know, so that you can actually use the stuff you just learned. It’s an uncomfortable process, but there is no other way. And to keep the process going, you have to keep pushing your limits.

Want to become better at interpersonal relationships? You’ll have to put yourself in social situations that are slightly outside your comfort zone, and force yourself to interact with others even when you’d rather not. To get better at small talk, you’ll have to engage in small talk and cope with the inevitable little stumbles and bumbles everyone makes. It’s uncomfortable and it takes work and you have to keep doing it over and over again in order to get better at it.

Want to become better at public speaking? The only way to do it is to take on public speaking assignments that scare you, that have an audience too big for you to feel quite comfortable with, in venues that make you a little nervous. Keep pushing those boundaries and keep honing your skills, and one day someone will accuse you of being a “natural” at public speaking. But you will know exactly how much your expertise cost you, and how hard you worked to learn it, and how uncomfortable it felt to push your limits over, and over, and over again.

So … do you want to be better at protecting yourself and the people you love?

Do you want to be a better shooter?

Do you want to be better at identifying danger? And better at avoiding it?

Do you want to have a more solid understanding of the legal realities of self defense?

How far outside your comfort zone are you willing to move, and how long are you willing to keep pushing through your limitations?

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Top 10 Myths About Self Defense
  1. Self defense starts and ends with owning a gun. You don’t have to learn anything about violence dynamics or how criminals work. Simply own a gun, that’s all.
  2. A woman should never carry a gun because it will just get taken away and used against her. A woman should carry less effective tools instead, like silly little keychain doodads, because those lesser tools are so ineffectual that even a bad guy who can beat her to death with his bare hands won’t be able to hurt or kill her with one of those.
  3. Learning anything about the law will just slow you down and make you hesitate when you should be shooting. Nobody ever hesitates because they don’t know what’s legal; they only hesitate because they do.
  4. You will always have enough time and space to use the same type of drawstroke you’ve practiced on the range. You won’t ever need any empty hands skills for any reason: not to clear the way for a draw, not to protect yourself from a physical attack while you create an opportunity to use the gun, not to maintain control of your firearm if someone grabs for it.
  5. If someone tries to take your gun away, all you have to do is shoot them. That always solves the problem immediately, 100% of the time.
  6. Learning how to protect yourself from an attempted gun grab takes a lot of hard, painful work. You can’t learn anything worthwhile about it in any amount of time that’s measured in anything less than “years.”
  7. Never carry a round in the chamber. That’s dangerous.
  8. You can just rack the slide to show the attacker you mean business. The bad guy will run away at the sound.
  9. Situational awareness means you can never be surprised or taken off guard. You will never fail to see something in real time that a different observer believes they definitely would have seen, and says so as they watch the surveillance video in slow motion for clues to the violent crime they already know is about to happen.
  10. Learning better skills with firearms will make you more violent and less able to solve problems without violence.

Just for the record, none of these things are true.

What myths would you add to this list?

What does training do?

John Johnston, of Ballistic Radio, blogs the following:

IN MOST INSTANCES YOU DON’T NEED TRAINING TO SUCCESSFULLY DEFEND YOURSELF WITH A GUN. … You don’t need hundreds of hours of training to survive most self-defense encounters. Untrained people prevail, with varying degrees of success, against bad guys all the time.

The caps and red letters are his. Johnston goes on to say that he believes that the primary value of training is that it makes us “much less likely” to get involved in a shooting in the first place, and more likely to avoid the kind of situations that turn deadly.

I don’t disagree with much of what John said, and want to add one more important point to the discussion. My point … well, it’s a bit like touching the third rail of American gun culture, but I’m gonna do it anyway. It’s about safety. After 15 years of learning and teaching defensive handgun classes at the professional level, it’s my deeply held belief that people who have not had serious defensive handgun training are not as safe with a firearm as they believe they are. 

Yes, this means you.

If you haven’t had at least one serious training class — over and above the state-required permit class — the chances are that your gunhandling isn’t as good as you believe it is. This is especially and particularly true if you grew up in a gun-owning family and have handled firearms throughout your entire life starting from childhood.


“Hey, I grew up around guns!”

That’s not a sin, by the way. It’s simply a thing that’s likely to be true. It doesn’t make you a bad person or anything like that. If it’s something that bothers you, it’s also something you can change. No judgment here; everyone lives their own lives and ultimately makes their own choices about their priorities in life. It’s okay.

Oh, and if you have had such training? Don’t get too cocky; people who have had such training tend to behave less safely than they believe they do, too. (Yep, that includes me.) We’re all human. Not being able to see our own blind spots is simply human nature and again, not a sin.

The blind spot problem is why it’s good to have someone outside ourselves watch us handle the gun and help us spot what we’re actually doing, compared to what we think we’re doing, when we handle the gun. But simply going to class, without making a commitment to changing our habits as needed, really isn’t a cure all. By itself, it certainly doesn’t erase the human tendency to overestimate our own skill levels. It isn’t magic. In fact, the not-as-safe-as-we-think-we-are problem may be especially strong for those who have had some training (in classes or from military or law enforcement experience), but who haven’t had that training recently. The work of Professor David Dunning almost certainly applies here:

But education, even when done skillfully, can produce illusory confidence. Here’s a particularly frightful example: Driver’s education courses, particularly those aimed at handling emergency maneuvers, tend to increase, rather than decrease, accident rates. They do so because training people to handle, say, snow and ice leaves them with the lasting impression that they’re permanent experts on the subject. In fact, their skills usually erode rapidly after they leave the course. And so, months or even decades later, they have confidence but little leftover competence when their wheels begin to spin.

Grab a cup of coffee before you follow the link to Prof. Dunning’s article. It’s an excellent article and worth reading. But it’s long enough to make people think, which means most people won’t bother to do more than skim it, if they even do that. Be special and read the whole thing. You’ll enjoy it!

"Childhood play taught me all I need to know about firearms."

“Childhood play taught me all I need to know about firearms.”

Anyway, safety. Let me mention a few statistics that are not widely known nor widely repeated in the firearms training world, though they absolutely should be. The numbers below came from the Centers for Disease Control (WISQARS), and you can check them yourself using the widgets at [this link] and [this link].

In 2013 (the latest year for which these numbers are available) 16, 864 people of all ages presented themselves at hospital emergency departments suffering from unintentional gunshot wounds. This number does not include suicides or deliberate shootings, only mistakes where “the gun just went off” and someone was injured badly enough to need the services of a physician. This adds up to one avoidable, preventable injury happening every 33 minutes, all across the country, all day long, every single day.

During that same year, more than 500 people died from unintentional gunshot wounds. That’s one or two desolate gravesites, one or two devastated families, one or two grieving communities every day of the year.

Do you find yourself marveling at how many unreported unintentional discharges must happen, in order to create this many tragedies? After all, catastrophe doesn’t always follow these potentially-deadly mistakes. Nobody tracks the close calls. We do know that private, unreported mistakes are more common than reportable accidents where someone got hurt or killed by a stray bullet.

Caution: May have unexpected side effects.

Caution: May create unexpected side effects.

This horrendous toll of injuries and deaths does not need to happen. It’s preventable with good education and training, and especially with education and training geared toward teaching people how to defend themselves from violent crime.

People come into defensive handgun classes mostly to learn how to protect themselves using firearms. But there’s a beautiful side effect: learning to live safely with a firearm is an unavoidable side effect of learning to effectively use one for self defense. That’s because, when students are properly motivated in professional defensive firearm training classes, they keep going until several things have happened:

  1. The formerly naïve student consciously understands the things his hands need to do in order to safely manipulate the firearm. He may not yet be able to make his hands do these things every time, but he can describe what he’s trying to do.
  2. The student becomes able to make his hands safely manipulate the firearm – as long as he moves slowly while carefully paying attention to everything he does, and as long as he feels little or no external stress while he handles the gun. By doing each action slowly and repeatedly, with conscious attention to what he’s doing, the student builds neural pathways dedicated to safe gun handling.
  3. The student’s neural pathways become stronger, better organized and more efficient. He can now load and unload the gun, and perform other basic firearm manipulations, without thinking through each individual step along the way. His movement patterns for basic tasks begin to approach automaticity. Now we can add stress and interest to shooting and gunhandling drills: how fast can he draw the gun and get good hits? How quickly can he hit the target, and at what distances? How fast can he reload or clear a malfunction?
  4. As the student handles the firearm safely under the mild stress of time and performance standards, his neural pathways become strongly optimized to maintain good habits even while he thinks about other things. It is at this point that we challenge the student with decision-making drills and realistic scenarios, because we can finally trust that his gunhandling will remain safe despite having a mental focus on other topics. We reasonably believe his gunhandling will remain safe under many different types of stress: performance stress, the fear of failure, time and accuracy standards, etc. We can trust that he will handle the firearm safely and competently as we help him expand his problem-solving abilities through repeated challenges.
  5. The student’s safe and skilled gunhandling finally becomes sturdy enough to stand up to the extreme stress of a life-threatening encounter. This is the point where every student who intends to use a firearm for self defense should strive to reach, and strive to remain. 1

By the time our students have reached this final step, safe gunhandling has been engrained so deeply that it will hold up even when the student is highly focused on a life-threatening problem and accurately fearful that he’s about to die if he doesn’t use the gun immediately.

This creates an obvious corollary: as a result of our efforts to teach skills that remain under life-threatening stress, the student has built safe gunhandling habits that will almost certainly withstand the more mundane danger of everyday distraction in far less stressful situations.

This is why I say that good training can save your life, even if you never become one of the 60,000 to 460,000 people who use the firearm to defend themselves from violent criminals every year. Being prepared to live with the gun is every bit as important as being prepared to live by the gun.

Stay safe.



  1. Sadly, all too many students quit at step one or two. Good instructors must motivate students to continue, and help them understand the value of having well-practiced skills that will stand up under severe stress.
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The surprising burden of ignorance

The less we know about a subject, the less we think there is to know about it.

That’s why the boss who knows nothing about your specialty will demand impossible time frames on your projects, unless someone speaks up to tell him otherwise.

It’s also why casual, amateur photographers can’t see — literally cannot see — the difference between their badly-done snapshots and a well balanced, properly focused and composed work of photographic art.

And especially, that is why people who have never had serious defensive handgun training think there’s nothing to learn and no reason to invest in it.

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