Author Archive: tacticalprofessor

Recognition Primed Decision-making (part IV)

RPD in the context of Personal Protection has two components. The first is Recognizing what is happening. The second is making a Decision about what to do about it. That Decision is the result of overlaying our ‘Options’ on ‘People’ and ‘Situations’ to achieve an appropriate response. Our response represents the Confront and Resist components of the Avoid, Escape, Confront, Resist model. The best decisions are made in advance and then implemented in the moment of need.

Part I of the series Recognition Primed Decision-making (part I) discussed the types of people we might encounter.

  • Benign person
  • Angry person
  • Predator or angry person with personal weapons (fists, shod feet, etc.)
  • Angry person or predator with a contact weapon
  • Predator or angry person with a projectile weapon(s)

Examples of situations were also discussed.

  • Area of limited visibility such as a parking deck
  • Walking alone in unfamiliar territory
  • Being in the presence of a person who makes us uncomfortable
  • Having an unknown person approach us
  • Being home in a state of Unawareness or Unfocused on personal protection
  • Etc.

Part II Recognition Primed Decision-making (part II) listed our Reactions or Options to an attempted predation.

  • Freeze
  • Submit (at least temporarily)
  • Negotiate
  • Posture
  • Flight
  • Fight
    • Unarmed
    • Non-Lethal
    • Lethal

Our Confront and Resist Options are based on our personal situation and value choices. These can change over time or rapidly, even second to second. A person may not be initially comfortable with carrying potentially lethal tools but be perfectly comfortable with unarmed combat or non-lethal tools. As time goes on, they may become more comfortable with a wider range of Options or they may not.

Changes in available tools varies with the situation. For instance, a person may not choose to carry a firearm in their place of employment but instead to lock it in their vehicle while working. During the walk from the business place to the vehicle, they might only be equipped with pepper spray and a flashlight. Immediately upon entering and locking the vehicle, the person may don a handgun and impact tool. During the walk, the person may choose a previously developed response tactic that only involves using the tools on their person. While this may not be the optimal solution, it is the one available at the time. Upon upgrading their Defense Condition with a handgun, the chosen tactic may be different.

It’s useful to view the context of Boyd’s Process as an iterative and interactive model between two parties rather than the single party static model usually described. In a predation, the predator will make the first move, the intended victim will respond with a Reaction or Option, and then the predator will choose or react from his/her range of Options.

A predator also has a group of Options/Reactions when the intended victim begins to Confront or Resist rather than being caught up in the Victim Mix. Part V will explore what these are and how they affect our Decisions.

Tactical Professor books (all PDF)

Low Light Indoor Match


I had the opportunity to attend a low light shooting match at a local indoor range yesterday evening. My goal for the evening was to observe closely so I didn’t shoot it. The format consisted of clearing three rooms and a hallway constructed of plastic sheets. It was done three times with targets moved around each time. The shooters had a look at the layout lighted the first time but subsequent stages were not.

Non-threat targets (Don’t Shoots) were designated with hands painted on them.

These non-threat targets were interspersed among the threat targets.

Some of the shooters had weapon mounted lights but many did not.

A few observations:

  • Some attendees, although regular shooters, had never shot while using a flashlight.
  • Most of the shooters had some familiarity with flashlight technique but mostly on a theoretical basis.
  • The cadence of shooting, in terms of splits, transitions, and moving from position to position, really slows down when using a flashlight in low light.
  • The difference in light intensity when going from almost no light,

to illuminating with a high intensity light

can be momentarily disconcerting, even to the person holding the light.

Matches like these represent the practical application of theoretical techniques. They are a valuable exercise for everyone who participates.

Tactical Professor books (all PDF)

Recognition Primed Decision-making (part III)

The Victim Mix

Elements of The Victim Mix

  • Lack of Awareness
  • Lack of Preparation
  • Failure to React

In 2007, the FBI’s Law Enforcement Bulletin described a series of inputs to what the authors called “The Deadly Mix.” While this article and concept pertains principally to law enforcement officers, it also provides a model for how we can think about enhancing our own safety.

Altering just one element of the deadly mix can provide a multitude of changing circumstances and outcomes with which to challenge each officer.

The Deadly Mix

Our end goal for the Recognition Primed Decision-making process in the context of Personal Protection is to avoid becoming victims. RPD allows us to set ourselves up for SUCCESS instead of FAILURE.

Awareness = Recognition

Preparation = Primed

Decision-making = Action

A key part of that process is to understand our internal processes that lead to failure. The Victim Mix uses the concept of ‘tolerance stackup.’ In that way, it is akin to the Four Rules of Gun Safety. Violating one Rule or Element will rarely lead to problems. Breaking two or more can, and often does, result in failure.

On the other hand, a person who is Aware, Prepared, and Ready to React is very difficult to victimize. The article illustrates its point by summarizing two actual incidents. Part of the analysis of the incidents described the impact of perceptions and assumptions in the encounters.

In the two incidents presented, it was the offender’s perception of both officers’ behaviors and the assumptions that he made that significantly altered his actions and resulted in the attack on the one officer and not on the other.

The Deadly Mix

Understanding the inputs to The Victim Mix allows us to reduce our vulnerabilities. Reducing our vulnerabilities allows us to Avoid and Escape undesirable situation before it becomes necessary to Confront and Resist predators. That is key to setting ourselves up for SUCCESS.

A fight avoided is better than a fight won.

John Farnam

Tactical Professor books (all PDF)

Serious Gunowner Mistakes – Unintentional Discharges (Part I)

One of the categories of Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make is ‘Unintentional Discharges.’ A colleague texted me this question.

Would it be fair to say that most of the negligent shootings on ranges are when people are re‑holstering too quickly?

There are some definitional issues involved in answering the question. First, are we talking about ‘Shootings,’ i.e., an injury occurs, or ‘Discharges,’ where an unplanned discharge occurs that may or may not involve injury?

So far, I haven’t done a statistical analysis about Shootings, per se. However, my collection of images of extremity (hands and feet) injuries that are the result of self-inflicted gun shot wounds is many times larger than my collection of images relating to holster related injuries. It is worthy of note how gory the shotgun wounds through the foot are as a result of using those toe popper shoe attachments that are popular in the clay target sports. The injuries are similar to those caused by the M14 Toepopper Anti-Personnel Mine.

It’s sometimes difficult to tell in either case whether the injury occurred at the range or somewhere else. Whether the discharge occurred at the range or elsewhere may or may not be important, depending on your point of view.

My opinion is that, regardless of where they occur, holster related injuries are not the majority but they are the most publicized. The reasons are simple. First, they tend to be graphic injuries that lend themselves well to being posted and viralized on social media. Second, they are the most likely to occur where someone will capture an image or video. However, a video recently surfaced of a party in an underdeveloped part of the world at which an attendee shot himself in the hand. Nothing good comes of placing the muzzle of a pistol against the palm of your hand and pulling the trigger. His friend was very angry about the copious amount of blood that went all over his sandals.

Another definitional issue is the distinction between Unintentional Discharges (UD), Accidental Discharges (AD), and Negligent Discharges (ND). The Los Angeles Police Department Board of Police Commissioners draws a distinction between AD and ND as concerns LAPD Officers and considers each type to be a separate subset of UD. AD are caused by equipment failure, i.e., the mechanism of the firearm itself malfunctioned, which caused the Discharge. While this is rare, it does occur. By contrast, the BOPC defines ND as the result an operator error of a fully functional firearm. This distinction was made explicit in Categorical Use of Force Report 045-09 NON-TACTICAL UNINTENTIONAL DISCHARGE This report was in regard to an Unintentional Discharge by an officer while Outside the City.

A. Unintentional Discharge

The definitions for an Unintentional Discharge, both Accidental and Negligent, are as follows:

Accidental Discharge: The unintentional discharge of a firearm as a result of an accident such as a firearm malfunction or other mechanical failure, not the result of operator error.

Negligent Discharge: Finding where it was determined that the unintentional discharge of a firearm resulted from operator error, such as the violation of firearm safety rules.

LAPD Board of Police Commissioners

A third definitional issue has been raised by Marty Hayes, President of the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network. He commented that the circumstances of most Unintentional Discharges do not fit the legal definition of ‘Negligent.’ Given the firearms community’s preoccupation with the distinction between ‘clip’ and ‘magazine,’ his comment is particularly cogent. The possibility exists that a ‘Negligent’ Discharge might have to be defined in the context of Intentional but Undesirable Discharges (resulting in a Negative Outcome) rather than Unintentional Discharges.

Getting back to the original question, it is easy to make a simple numerical contrast relating to ‘Discharges.’ Observe the number of bullet impacts on the ceiling and floor of an indoor range. Almost every one of those was a Discharge that was unplanned and went somewhere other than it was intended.

I say ‘almost,’ because I was once asked to give a private lesson to a lady who literally shot her revolver like Antonio Banderas in Desperado. Most likely several rounds of each cylinder hit the ceiling. While the shots were Planned, they did not impact anywhere near the target.

There are something like 4,000 shooting facilities in the US, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Given the number of unplanned impacts at Atlanta area ranges alone, it’s likely that Unplanned Discharges occur thousands of times daily throughout the US. However, almost all of those cause only property damage or no damage at all. So, while we can probably safely say that Unplanned Discharges are relatively common, Unplanned Shootings are relatively rare.

Part II of this series will explore the types of UDs in Serious Mistakes, discuss definitional issues further, and make some observations about preventing this undesirable phenomenon.

Tactical Professor books (all PDF)

Note that Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make is included with the purchase of any other book.

SureFire® SideKick® Initial Review


The first of SureFire flashlights from the Try-Out Haul to be evaluated was the SideKick® It arrived in a battery depleted state but was quickly recharged via the supplied USB cable.

It has proven to be useful and yet relatively unobtrusive on my keychain.

The carabiner attachment has been handy for removing and reattaching the light to the keychain. When setting the light down as an impromptu worklight, the flat shape is much better than a round light, even one with a limited roll aspect.

The switch has two options, which are an improvement over some of the complicated switching patterns often found on tactical lights. Pressing the switch and leaving it puts the light in the High mode. If the switch is pressed a few seconds later the light turns off. The variability of output is controlled by quickly pressing the switch multiple times. Mine cycles from High (300 lumens) to Medium (60 lumens) to Low (5 lumens) and then Off in order. The literature says this is the opposite order of the factory order setting but that’s how it came. The order can be reprogrammed during the recharging process.

Comparing the SideKick to the 6P LED showed some noticeable differences. SureFire’s website says:

MaxVision Beam® floods your boundaries with light; triple output: 300, 60 and 5 lumens

The throw pattern is clearly different than the 6P LED. The 6P has very bright center spot with a less intense spill surrounding it. The SideKick throws a much wider pattern that is much more even throughout.

The Target ID test for it was on a prototype Recognition Primed Decision training target at 10 feet. This showed that both High and Medium modes would provide more than adequate illumination to make the Don’t Shoot/Shoot decision. The Low mode’s usability for this would depend on the user’s eyesight but that’s probably irrelevant for this usage.

One thing the SideKick doesn’t do as well as the 6P is function as a shooting assist light. Because of its size and switch location, none of the commonly taught flashlight shooting techniques will work with it. That’s not the SideKick’s intended role but if it were pressed into service for that purpose, the user would have to be very careful not to get the hand holding the flashlight in front of the gun muzzle.

When I have the opportunity, I’ll have someone shine the SideKick in my face to see if it’s as blinding as the 6P is. That’s another good testing criterion for a flashlight.

As a reminder, the flashlight shooting chapter of my book Indoor Range Practice Sessions is free to download. If you own a pistol for personal protection, you should know how to use a flashlight along with it. Your flashlight should be as close or closer to your bed as your pistol is.

Flashlight Chapter of Indoor Range Practice Sessions Free

Indoor Range Practice Sessions Not Free

FTC Notice: The SureFire products were sent to me gratis but I receive no compensation for writing about them.

The opposite of Breaking Contact

The group took the dog and began walking away, when Drake returned with a firearm and fired four shots in their direction, according to Murphy. No one was struck, and the three men tried to run away.


Attempted Dognapping Precipitated Fatal Shooting on Lower West Side: Prosecutors

A prime example of the sequential nature of ‘OODA Loops.’

  • Group of men chases man walking dog
  • He runs home and gets inside without the dog
  • Group takes dog
  • Man comes out with a gun and shoots at them
  • The group decides the dog isn’t worth getting shot for so they drop it and run away
  • One of them falls down
  • Original victim’s girlfriend comes out and gets violent with the downed malefactor
  • Original victim joins his gf in doing the Irish jig on the malefactor
  • Unsatisfied with this level of violence, he pulls out his gun and shoots the malefactor in the head
  • Original victim, now Executioner, and his gf decide to exfiltrate from the crime scene
  • A friend of the now deceased malefactor shoots and wounds both Executioner and gf
  • First responders arrive to take wounded Executioner and gf to hospital
  • Executioner charged with First Degree Murder, while still in hospital
  • Unwounded Dognappers escape, most likely never to be found

Don’t let your emotions control your actions. No one wants their dog to be napped but legally dogs are property, not people. You can only use the level of force necessary to protect property in their defense. Shooting someone who is down is also a bad idea. Review the Jerome Ersland incident for further study.

Bottom Line: If the Executioner’s lawyer is clever, the charges will get pleaded down but odds are, he’s going away for some time.

Tactical Professor books (all PDF)

Recognition Primed Decision-making (part II)

Dr. Klein explains gives a brief explanation of his model in this interview about RPD.

Examining our Options

The NRA Guide to Personal Protection Outside the Home (PPOTH) lists these “Psychological Reactions To A Threat” in Chapter 6.

  • Freeze
  • Submit
  • Posture
  • Flight
  • Fight

We could further subdivide ‘Fight’ into:

  • Unarmed
  • Non-Lethal
  • Lethal

To the ‘Submit’ option, we could include the caveat, ‘at least temporarily.’ Being taken to a 2nd crime scene is generally not a good idea but it might be unavoidable. In one of his student’s incidents recounted by Tom Givens, two stickup men got the drop on the victim in a parking lot and had guns to his head. However, they failed to realize he was carrying a concealed pistol. The stickup men kidnapped him and eventually took him to the 2nd crime scene, his home. There, he waited for his turn in the OODA sequence and killed both the predators.

‘Posture’ could simply mean saying NO! in an unambiguous way.

Another option we should consider is ‘Negotiate,’ a tactic included by The Most Dangerous Man in The World as part of his PARRR system. Even a Sixth Army boxing champion, obviously no slouch with his fists, found this tactic useful in an encounter with Razor Willy, a local prostitute in the Fort Campbell area. She became enraged and threatened him with her EDC, a straight razor, but he managed to talk his way out of the encounter with neither party becoming a casualty.

It’s apparent that our Options extend beyond the simplistic “Fight or Flight” and ‘Gun or None’ possibilities that we usually hear about. Thinking about what our Options are ahead of time gives us the freedom to program an appropriate level of force, or none, when we become concerned for our safety or that of our loved ones.

Part III will go into overlaying our ‘Options’ on ‘People’ and ‘Situations’ to develop a personal Avoid, Escape, Confront, Resist model.

Tactical Professor books (all PDF)

Recognition Primed Decision-making (part I)

Recognition Primed Decision-making is a concept developed by Dr. Gary Klein. It has become a widely accepted model for first responders, the military, and in aviation.

The RPD model is based on the idea that experience allows people to make decisions quickly without having to sort through a series of possibilities. Rather, if a situation appears similar to a past experience, the solution that worked in the previous situation can be applied or modified to provide an adequate solution for the current situation.

Since most people have not been mugged, had their home invaded, or been murdered in a previous experience, the relevant question for an Armed Private Citizen is about acquiring the experience. That is to say, ‘How do we train and practice RPD in the absence of experience?’

In order for us to think clearly about self-defense and personal protection, we need to consider ahead of time the types of people and situations we might encounter. Then we consider what our options are, based on our personal preferences and choices. Finally, we can choose ahead of time which option is best suited to deal with the person and situation.

Types of people we might encounter

  • Benign person
  • Angry person
  • Predator or angry person with personal weapons (fists, shod feet, etc.)
  • Angry person or predator with a contact weapon
  • Predator or angry person with a projectile weapons

Examples of situations

  • Area of limited visibility such as a parking deck
  • Walking alone in unfamiliar territory
  • Being in the presence of a person who makes us uncomfortable
  • Having an unknown person approach us
  • Being home in a state of Unawareness or Unfocused on personal protection
  • Etc.

What we want to avoid is the Typical, or at least Common, Self-defense Process.

Model of unsophisticated decision-making by David Blinder

Part II will go into our Options and an interview with Dr. Klein about the model.

Tactical Professor books (all PDF)

Shiny! – Surefire Try-Out Haul

A friend at Surefire sent me a large box of swag as a present. A number of flashlights were in the package, as well as some batteries and CDs.

As much as I advocate using flashlights to avoid Negative Outcomes, I should talk more about the particulars of those tools. So, for several weeks I’ll be writing a series of #flashlightfriday posts. It will be a ‘Try-Out Haul’ as the YouTube models say.

Comrade Detective

The Surefire 6P LED has been my bedside light for years. It’s a tried and true product and well regarded in the industry. A Streamlight Microstream I received from HK-USA has been on my keychain for a couple of years now. It’s been useful and convenient to carry.

I’m going to try out the new gear from Surefire to see what I think of it as an upgrade for my current setup. On Friday, I’ll be reviewing the Sidekick, which will take the place of the Microstream on my keychain.

Also included in the package was an invitation to attend the Inaugural Surgical Speed Shooting Summit. The event will be held in Tennessee in June of 2022. It’s still in the planning stages but as more information becomes available, I will post it.

FTC Notice: These products were sent to me gratis but I receive no compensation for writing about them.

Consistency (again)

In my book, consistency does not mean 70%, it means 100%. I’ve written about it before but it’s worth mentioning again.

That’s the reason I prefer evaluation protocols that involve short 100% standards that are done repetitively. I would rather someone know exactly what they can do to a 100% standard and stay within those boundaries than have two rounds out of six going into someone else’s house.

Two NRA standards come to mind.

  1. the Red, White, and Blue Levels of the NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting
  2. the NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program – Defensive Pistol I

Naturally, I love the 5^5 standard I developed, based on Gila Hayes‘ original 5 times 4 idea.

Work on learning to do one thing consistently well, then move on to more Cool Kid Cosplay stuff.