Category Archives: Philosophizing

Thoughts and thinking processes

“The “Run-to-the-Store” Gun”

I was perusing my facebook feed and found a blog post written by Civilian Gunfighter linked here:

The “Run-to-the-Store” Gun

What I found interesting was that I was just thinking about this very topic, specifically the rig I wear at shooting schools/courses and what I carry every day. They’re not at all similar.

While I was driving home yesterday, I was considering the analogy of a seat belt (I was driving, see what I did there?). It’s safety equipment that I use every time I drive. If I was in a motor vehicle accident, I would certainly want to be wearing a helmet and full harness and all the associated NASCAR safety gear (and not be traveling 200 mph).

Here’s an unrelated example to set the stage: If you’re a gun person, you probably have multiple guns staged around the house in case of the inevitable zombie apocalypse. But do you have a fire extinguisher? A first aid/trauma kit? Emergency lighting? Because a fire, an injury, and a power outage are a lot more likely than gunplay.

I happen to fall into the group that carries a J-frame a lot. For those non-cognoscenti, It’s the small 5-shot S&W revolver. Mine has Crimson Trace laser grips.

The argument always seems to drift toward the worst case scenario, and there are some compelling arguments to be sure.

I carry my J-frame all the time. If I carry a bigger gun, I’ll still have my J-frame with me. I also carry at least two flashlights and believe them to be the most versatile and least appreciated piece of pistolfighting equipment one can carry. And I carry a knife (or two) every day.

I’m going to expound on this theme but I don’t want to drone on. For now, I’m not going to say I disagree with any of the conclusions of the blogger to whom I referred, as I think they’re all valid. But I’m not going to start wearing my full school gear every day either. I think the argument is incomplete, and respectfully differ not on the substance but on the degree.

The Predator Dial

I want to tell you about something I learned right about the 2nd or 3rd time I was killed in force-on-force training (FOF). It was one of those ‘ah-ha’ moments, and it was not a happy revelation.

I’m not a good predator.

I was pretty mad at myself, more ashamed than anything in retrospect, that I had allowed myself to get killed. I mean, come on, I was a better than average shooter and it wasn’t my first time in a scenario! How did this happen? I replayed the event multiple times, and could still feel that adrenalin dump while the memory was still fresh in my mind. I even blamed the instructors (there’s a thread of truth there, which I’ll touch on in a later post). It wasn’t that I did one thing wrong, it was more like I didn’t do anything right. I was mortified at my own performance. The cognitive dissonance with my self-image was glaring.

And that was about the time that I started to consider the predator/prey relationship, and specifically where I was on that particular scale. This is not a pleasant conversation to have with yourself. After all, in our fantasy life, we’re apex predators who save the day every single time.

I developed a theory, after I got tired of beating myself up, that everyone has a predator vs. prey dial. We spend most of our lives in the ‘prey’ mode out of necessity. Society, our professions, our personal relationships with friends and family, all these factors play into how we deal with others. And it’s important to not use ‘prey’ as a pejorative, because normal social interaction is a prey behavior.

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about the classic ‘color code’ here. You can spend your life in yellow, elevate to orange and be aware of the threat, right up to the point where they kill you. I’m talking spinning the dial up to full predator while realizing that things are going from yellow to orange to red.

We all have the dial. The problem is that it’s probably a little rusty. It may be a lot rusty. You may even have forgotten where it is.

Here’s a mental exercise that I tried when I first realized what I was missing: Imagine that an unknown contact is closing with you. You know he’s up to no good despite whatever it is he is saying. Your inner voice is screaming “THREAT!” in your ear.  Bad things are about to happen. You know you are being set up. You are in condition orange and no one is coming to help. Your body is dumping hormones and your brain is looking for a tape to play but can’t find it. He’s not stopping.

Now turn your predator dial up to 11 and replay the exercise.

He is no longer the threat. YOU are the threat. The only thing keeping him alive is your good graces. You hunt the threat like he’s hunting you. Find some cover and get him into a position where you can do the most damage and he has no escape. Check and make sure he didn’t bring anyone else for you to hunt. Take your weapon out behind cover so he can’t see it. Pick a spot to hit.

How did that feel? Remember, this is a mind exercise, not a tactical exercise. I can’t tell if you were in a parking lot or your house, whether your assailant (or assailants) were zombies or mutant hipsters, or however your mind constructed the scenario. I want you to focus on the way you felt and how your mind worked differently once you spun that dial.

It helps if you’ve been in that situation either in FOF or in life. I know that for me, it was a real turning point.

The case for the shooting school over the individual instructor

I have had the good fortune to have trained with some outstanding individual shooting instructors. I also believe that the well-established shooting school has a distinct advantage over the individual instructor besides the obvious advantage of facilities and longevity.

The advantage is doctrinal.


The shooting school has a doctrine, and that doctrine is established by a committee of senior instructors, periodically reviewed, and followed by everyone at the school. Considering the wealth of experience and breadth of knowledge of the faculty that some schools have to draw on, it’s no wonder they are extremely well regarded and popular.

The individual instructor is a singular doctrinal resource, and although their experience and knowledge may be formidable, they are constrained to one set of opinions. Their value lies in what makes them worthy of consideration, or more literally, what they’re particularly good at (and it can be more than one thing). But just because what they teach works for them doesn’t make it automatically work for you. And their experience may have nothing to do with your circumstances.

I know and have experienced various individual instructors whom I hold in high regard. And I can honestly report that I have taken valuable lessons from each experience. But I approach individual instructors as specialists and I incorporate the lessons learned into my personal repertoire not as a revision but as an addition or clarification.

If you’re new to this business of becoming a pistolfighter, then find yourself a quality shooting school, save up your money and get there. You won’t regret it. The biggest danger is that you’ll love it so much it becomes a borderline obsession (guilty as charged).

If you’re already on the journey, then you know the conversations that take place at various venues among others of our ilk, and you know who to seek out and who to avoid.

More on this later.