The Mingle is an Invite Only Ladies event for women in the firearms and personal protection industries. It is hosted by The Complete Combatant and sponsored by numerous organizations and manufacturers of the industry. The 2019 Mingle was held on May 18-19. This was the first year that it was a two day event. Day 1, as in years past, was a networking event featuring a short presentation by a guest speaker. This year’s speaker was Chief Deputy Lee Weems of the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office. He gave an abbreviated version of his ‘Standing Your Ground’ class, which is about the dynamics of using deadly force. Lee’s presentation was sponsored by the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network.
After the presentation, a buffet lunch was served and the ladies had some time for networking. Approximately 60 ladies attended and had a good opportunity to meet others from their own and other segments of the industry. At the end of the event, a multitude of door prizes was given away, including a Glock pistol. Each attendee also received a goodie bag with various and sundry small items.
This was the first year that a second day was added. Day 2 was devoted to live fire training at The Complete Combatant’s Dahlonega Georgia range. Day 2 was limited to 24 ladies who had to either be instructors or have had attended a previous training class of some sort.
The day’s events started with a demonstration and trial fire of the VP9 pistol by Heckler & Koch. H&K presented a short briefing about the pistol and then provided both pistols and ammunition for the attendees to try out.
The balance of the day’s activities consisted of three blocks of instruction and finally a short Qualification Course for the ladies to fire at the end of the day. Each block was two hours, with a lunch break between the first and the second. The Qualification was conducted concurrent with the third block. Each lady brought her own pistol and holster. All the major pistol manufacturers were represented in the ladies’ choices. They shot approximately 300 rounds during the day.
The first block of instruction was Developing the Concealed Draw by Brian Hill, head coach of The Complete Combatant. This class focused on Fundamentals and developing a repeatable, efficient, and accurate draw stroke. Some of the ladies had not drawn from a holster previous to Day 2, so this was an important piece of instruction.
Second came Close Range Precision Marksmanship by Claude Werner, the Tactical Professor. This class focused on developing the ability to accurately engage small targets within conversational distance.
Several innovative targets from Advanced Pistol Practice were included in the class to provide a more realistic approach to target engagement.
The final block of instruction was Image Based Decision Drills by Shelley Hill of The Complete Combatant. Each lady had to react to four different scenarios based on images on cards they turned over at random. The scenarios required a variety of responses ranging from disengagement to using deadly force. Tools such as inert cell phones, flashlights, and pepper spray were included in the drills.
The group was split into two and while half were doing the Image Based Decision Drills, the other half shot a short Qualification Course derived from the Los Angeles POlice Department’s Retired Officer Course. In this Qualification, the shooters had to use several different skills.
- Draw from a holster and Shoot
- Challenge an attacker
- Shoot from Low Ready
- Shoot with the Dominant Hand Only
- Make a Head Shot
It was a challenging course but all the ladies were able to make the requisite 70% passing score. Several made clean runs.
After the shooting tasks were completed, the ladies cleaned up the range, had a short debrief of the day, and then departed. All the ladies said the day had been an enjoyable and enlightening experience.
The Mingle 2020 will be held May 16-17, 2020. Interested ladies should contact The Complete Combatant for an invitation.
Every time we pull a gun on someone, a binary decision, ‘Shoot or Don’t Shoot,’ immediately ensues and continues until the gun is put away. That decision is not necessarily either conscious nor intentional. Because of that, we need to be very mindful of when we choose to place ourselves into that position. Two recent incidents, one involving a personal friend and one involving a gun celebrity, have reinforced that to me. In fact, we probably should change the common usage to Don’t Shoot/Shoot instead of vice versa.
There are even more lessons we can take away from the Duel at the Dumpster, which we probably could also call the Dumbster Fire. Perhaps the most important lesson of them all relates to the human dynamics of confrontations.
You’re always on video
We have to assume we’re always going to be on video. This is especially true when there are other parties nearby, whether they’re Seconds or just bystanders.
Here is a reasonably good transcript of the first minute of the confrontation.
A friend of mine shared a memory of this article on Facebook. I’m glad that he did.
I’ve evolved my thinking about Orient to include more nuance but the article is still a good primer on the depth of Boyd’s concept and how we can and should apply it.
“Orientation is the schwerpunkt [focal point]. It shapes the way we interact with the environment—hence orientation shapes the way we observe, the way we decide, the way we act.”
— John R. Boyd, Organic Design for Command and Control (1987)
And please keep in mind that it does a disservice to Colonel Boyd’s ideas when they are reduced to a simplistic four point circular diagram.
An implied task, the first time of the 1,000 days, was simply devising a way of getting through it. To avoid boredom and make the process efficient, I recorded cassette tapes of several different regimens. The regimens were all based on my needs at the time, which mostly consisted of improving my competitive performance in IDPA and other shooting sports. I limited them to 10 minutes duration so I had compact practice blocks. When I wanted more practice, I could do more than one in a day, sometimes consecutively and sometimes one in the morning and one in the evening.
Having a specific structure for my practice also helped avoid ‘grabasstic gunclicking,’ which as a friend said, is what dryfire often devolves to. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had inadvertently incorporated one of fundamentals of tactical decision-making; have a plan ahead of time. My decision-making research of the past few years made the value of having several practice regimens available quite obvious to me. John Boyd’s Aerial Attack Study was instrumental in providing me with this moment of clarity.
My regimens of the second 1,000 Days are considerably different than those of the first. Several of the regimens are based on higher level police qualification courses, such as the Federal Air Marshal Tactical Pistol Course (pre 9/11) and the LAPD Bonus Course. While most police qualification courses are easily cleaned by a competent marksman, a few are much more demanding and I prefer that.
In other cases, I took police quals that had a good basic structure but mediocre standards and enhanced them. My favorite is the State of Illinois Police Qualification Couse. For the armed private citizen, the distances and round allocations are good but the standards are so low that some of my friends in Ill‑Annoy can literally pass it with their eyes closed. The enhancements I made were to make the target smaller, cut the times in half, and do parts of it Primary Hand Only and Support Hand Only.
Being a fan of the NRA Markmanship Qualification Program, I developed dryfire versions of both Defensive Pistol I and Defensive Pistol II. The time limits set for these courses are quite generous but they have an accuracy standard of 100 percent. Since we’re accountable for every round we fire, I like the idea of a strong accuracy standard, in general.
In a defensive encounter, every bullet you fire that doesn’t hit its intended target is headed straight for a bus full of nuns and orphans being followed by a limousine of personal injury lawyers on a conference call with the District Attorney.
There are also some improvisations I like to make. My research into Serious Mistakes and Negative Outcomes made me a believer in the absolute necessity of verbalizing and being able to use a flashlight in conjunctions with a handgun. I usually dryfire something like Defensive Pistol I using a flashlight at least once a week.
One of the concepts I retained from my first 1,000 Days was making a good hit with the first shot. There’s too much emphasis placed on shooting fast in the community and not enough on making sure the first shot counts. Based on the incidents in my databases, I came to the conclusion that making a solid first hit above the diaphragm is the way to gain the initiative in an armed encounter.
Then I told myself, ‘Hey, I need to slow down and aim better.’
What if your situation or job precludes you from having access to a firearm every day? Some thoughts about that in Part III.
In the context of personal protection, I find this highly relevant.
Never bring the problem solving stage into the decision making stage. Otherwise, you surrender yourself to the problem rather than the solution.
– Robert H. Schuller: American pastor, motivational speaker
How does that apply to us?
“I’m going to shoot anyone I find in my house.” That’s repeated so much by gunowners, it has become a meme. It’s a perfect example of bringing problem solving (gunfire) into the decision process (how to best protect my home and, by extension, my family). As I bring up on a regular basis, doing so periodically results in Negative Outcomes.
We make many decisions ahead of time, and that’s generally a good thing. What we have to be careful of is thinking like a hammer in search of a nail.
I am pleased to announce the opening of registration for:
Violent Criminals and YOU: A Thinker’s Approach to Decisions about Personal and Family Protection
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
— The Art of War by Sun Tzu [Giles translation]
- How do violent criminals think of us and how do they target us?
- What do we need to do to avoid or counter their attacks?
This course is a collaboration between myself and eminent mental health professional, William Aprill. We have designed a course about personal protection that is intended for your brain rather than your trigger finger. William will be presenting his material about Violent Criminal Actors, how they think, and how your mindset preparation can position you to defeat them. I will be covering Strategies, Tactics, and the decision-making process with particular emphasis on avoiding Serious Mistakes and Negative Outcomes.
Defensive awareness is rooted in the realization of risk. Defensive preparation adds the commitment to prevent or mitigate threats. The objective of this course is for each student to unify those two elements into defensive decision-making strategies and tactics appropriate to their individual needs. The goal is that an actual life-threatening scenario will not be the first time participants have honestly faced and decided what will be necessary to survive and thrive in the aftermath.
Topics of the course
- Understanding Violent Criminal Actors (VCAs) (WTA)
- Strategies, Tactics, and Options for Personal Protection (STOPP) (CW)
- The 5 W’s of Risk: Constructing an Effective Pre-Need Defense Paradigm (WTA)
- The Environment of Decision-Making: Structure and Pitfalls (CW)
- How VCAs Identify their Victims (WTA)
- Decision-making drills – Recognition, Timing, and Triggers (CW)
- Kidnapping/Abduction concepts used by VCAs (WTA)
- Scenario based decision-making exercises based on actual events (CW)
October 8-9, 2016 – two full days of training
Classroom only, no shooting or physical contact involved
$400 for the weekend. Lodging, meals, etc. not included.
Registration available at:
Bios of the Instructors
William Aprill is a licensed mental health professional with over 19 years’ experience across the continuum of clinical care. He presently maintains a private practice and consultancy specializing in post-traumatic interventions and other disciplines. William is a former deputy sheriff (Orleans Parish, LA, Criminal Sheriff’s Office) and Special Deputy US Marshal (Eastern District of Louisiana). He has presented his material on violent criminals and their decision-making, defensive incident aftermath, mindset development and defensive preparedness at numerous conferences and events throughout the country.
Claude Werner is a retired Army Officer who spent the majority of his career in Special Operations and Intelligence. Post military, he was Research Director of three commercial real estate firms and eventually became the National Director of Real Estate Research for Deloitte. He has been an NRA Certified Instructor in six disciplines for 25 years. For five years, he was the Chief Instructor of the most difficult shooting school in the world, the elite Rogers Shooting School, where he taught numerous Special Operations units and SWAT police officers. He blogs as The Tactical Professor. www.tacticalprofessor.com
“William Aprill is one of the most important thinkers in the defensive shooting world today. His insight into what makes criminal attackers ‘tick’, as well as his understanding of the psychological aspects of training and response, are valuable to everyone who has a firearm for personal defense.”
— Grant Cunningham, Personal Security Institute
“Claude is one of the deepest thinkers in the training community.”
— Rob Pincus, Personal Defense Network
“The gun is certainly a wonderful and very powerful tool, but it’s not wise to pin your survival strategies entirely upon the possession of that tool. [William] arms you with information. Critical crucial knowledge that may not be needed every day, but if the ‘Unthinkable’ actually happens to you it gives you enough exposure to know there is almost always something you can do to improve your situation. The exposure opens your mind…”
“Claude Werner is the preeminent researcher of armed citizen-involved shootings.”
— Ralph Mroz, retired Police Officer and author of The Street Standards blog
Mindset and decision-making are intimately related. One of the phrases we use for having made a decision is ‘I’ve made up my mind.’ While not a formal topic, the concept of mindset and decision-making was a clear subcurrent of thought at the 2016 Tactical Conference. While this wasn’t a formal topic, per se, it was a theme that ran through several presentations and side conversations. As my friend Mark Luell put it, “This [my life and my family] is important to me and I won’t let you take it from me.”
An early conversation I had was about our Mindset as Americans. The focal point of our conversation was an article in The Atlantic Monthly. The article described the difference between US soccer competition and soccer in the rest of the world. A key dissimilarity is that in the US, our children typically spend much more time playing and less time practicing individual skills. We’re eager to confront and control/dominate early as part of our culture in a way that is less common in the rest of the world. The common attitude of “I’ll shoot someone who’s in my house” is rooted in this piece of our American Mindset. Sometimes that works out, sometimes it doesn’t.
The article’s comment about developing individual decision-making skills resonated with me. I continue to be less sanguine that Force on Force training is the panacea it’s thought to be in the training industry. If we don’t teach people the process of decision-making and then just throw them in the deep end of the pool, how helpful is that in teaching them?
“The thing that makes elite players is decision making,” Lemov told me. “They need to integrate not just how to do something but whether, when, and why.” He sees parallels to the difficulty many American students have solving problems independently. “If you give [American] kids a math problem and tell them how to solve it,” he said, “they can usually do it. But if you give them a problem and it’s not clear how to solve it, they struggle.”
John Hearne’s presentation FBI Research: The Deadly Mix got me wondering if being a nice guy is just another form of trying to control the situation. Granted, it’s a different approach to control but maybe it’s just a matter of tone and style rather than substance.
Two of Tom Givens’ presentations had an undercurrent of decision-making. Deciding whether or not our personal protection equipment is ‘needed’ during the course of our daily lives is a serious choice. As Tom puts it, the only failures in his student incident database are the result of ‘forfeits,’ i.e., the victim was unarmed and therefore unable to resolve their problem. Being unarmed was a decision that didn’t work out well in those cases.
John Murphy provided me a video I had previously seen that relates heavily to decision-making. The officer’s action in the video demonstrates the clarity of his decision and how unhesitatingly he applied it.
Those of us who have actively been at this for decades have a very clear idea of our options, their consequences, and how to appropriately apply those options. Choosing options and being clear in your own mind about when and where to apply them is a critical part of the personal protection process.
The decisions we make almost inevitably determine the outcomes that result. Good Decisions lead to Positive Outcomes and Bad Decisions lead to Negative Outcomes. We all know that decision making is difficult in a broad array of situations. Having a framework for decision making can be helpful.
Skill development and to a lesser extent, ‘situational awareness’ are the most often taught or talked about aspect of personal protection. In the broad scheme of things, though, those are only a couple of aspects to the process of not being criminally victimized. Ultimately, skills and awareness are just inputs to our decision making process. The decisions we make are what will determine the outcome of any encounter.
It’s trendy now to view Colonel John Boyd’s OODA Loop as if it is a model that can help us ‘think faster,’ i.e., make tactical decisions more quickly than our opponent. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. The O-O-D-A Loop is a representation that describes in a strategic sense how one party thinks during the course of the decision process. That is a far cry from being a usable decision model or even framework. Colonel Boyd never mentioned O-O-D-A as a tactical decision model, nor do I believe he intended it as such.
Those who wish to look to Colonel Boyd for a decision model would be best advised to read his Aerial Attack Study. Over 50 years after its publication it is still considered the manual for fighter combat. The Aerial Attack Study describes a decision process almost completely the opposite of the way most common taters describe the O-O-D-A Loop. By performing an in-depth analysis of the situations fighter aircraft could encounter, Colonel Boyd described exact maneuvers and counters our fighters could use to defeat the enemy. That’s a better framework for defining tactical decision making.
This post is the first in a series describing a conceptual framework for decision making. Several other people contributed thoughts to it and I thank them for their input.
Know the Rules and Have Adequate Skills were proposed to me as inputs to good decision making by my friend LTC (Ret.), JAGC John Taylor. In addition to them, I include Understand the Situation.
If we overlay these two sets of inputs, a graphic would look like this.
Finally, to make Good Decisions, we need to consider two levels of focus:
- Tactical – doing things right, our techniques and procedures
- Strategic – doing the right things, what is in our and our family’s best long term interests
What rules do we need to know?
- Use of force
- Use of deadly force
- Employer policy and cultural peer pressure are corollaries to the legal
- Other rules
- Firearms and other weapons’ safety rules
- Our personal core values
- Rules of ‘the interview’ (between predators and prey)
- Difference of criminals’ psychological rules from our own
- Changes from the (your) past
Knowing the legal rules bears some discussion. There are several excellent books about the legalities of using deadly force, such as:
The Law of Self Defense
However, there isn’t much material about the use of non-lethal and less-lethal force. This leads to some confusion in people’s minds about tools like pepper spray. One common tater opined that pepper spray couldn’t be used legally unless the victim had already been physically battered and the battery was continuing. While this might POSSIBLY be true in some States where citizens, or perhaps subjects, exist in an almost perpetual state of arrest, it’s certainly not true in most of the US, where the citizenry remains free.
As an example of relative importance, most law enforcement officers will never apply deadly force in their entire careers. On the other hand, they will use some kind of physical force on a regular basis. As private citizens, there are only a few situations that justify the use of deadly force on our part. Having the ability to employ some form of non-deadly force is an option that needs much more serious consideration than it is generally given.
Note also that of the ‘Other rules,’ only the Safety rules for firearms are commonly taught. Although the balance of the Other rules aren’t thought of, they will definitely be inputs to our decision making.
Since it’s probably the first thing we should consider, we’ll go into Know the Rules in more depth in the next installment. Far too many people don’t consider the Rules very much, especially the Other rules.
There’s a Safariland holster blowout sale on my webstore. Glock 17 and S&W M&P holsters at prices you can’t afford to pass up.
My colleague Grant Cunningham posed two interesting questions on his blog, which led to a lengthy Facebook discussion.
Question #1: “what are your biases or preconceptions?”
Question #2: “what have you changed your mind about in the last year?”
I gave a brief answer to #2 but I think they both deserve some elaboration.
Question #1: “what are your biases or preconceptions?”
I am very reluctant to design training for myself or others that is rooted purely in hypothesis or conjecture. I.e., I am very biased toward following the scientific method, as much as possible, when developing training paradigms.
The overall process of the scientific method involves making conjectures (hypotheses), deriving predictions from them as logical consequences, and then carrying out experiments based on those predictions. — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method
It’s important to note that testing is an inherent part of the scientific method. Testing implies some form of measurement. As a result, I believe that having performance standards is an important part of training. I think of training as ‘outcomes based’ rather than ‘input based.’
We have at our fingertips, via the Internet, an enormous amount of data available to us. At the top of this blog are links to a number of sources that I regularly read to gather information about armed encounters, shootings, gunfights, and gunbattles. I use each of those terms in a very defined way because I consider many terms used in the training community to be fuzzy and ill-defined. Fuzzy and ill-defined terminology does not fit particularly well in the scientific method.
One of the often parroted phrases I hear about gathering information from the Internet is “The plural of anecdote is not data.” I rebut this with the words of one of my accounting professors, “Accounting information is expensive to gather and is sometimes not worth it.” What he meant was that, at some point, you have to accept whatever information you have been able to collect and work with it to form an opinion.
Something I try to avoid is ‘cherry picking’ data that supports my hypotheses. Cherry picking is not always an intentional process, either; it can require a significant amount of intellectual rigor to avoid. I learned this years ago when I was Research Director of a large commercial real estate brokerage company. The brokers all worked specific geographical areas and the Vice President asked me to analyze the Zip Codes of their contact lists. As it turned out, only about 20 percent of the brokers actually had the majority of their contacts in their assigned areas, even though they thought they did. That was when I became a believer in writing things down and checking them periodically to eliminate unconscious errors. A while later, I created a database of five years of data from the Armed Citizen and found some patterns and trends I hadn’t anticipated.
To sum up my bias, I might say:
I’m not interested in conjecture. Tell me where your hypothesis originated, what data supports it, and how you measure the outcome(s) you expect your students to achieve as a result of this training.
Question #2: “what have you changed your mind about in the last year?”
My short answer to this question on Facebook was “The importance of manipulation skills vis–à–vis decision-making.”
I’ve been thinking about this for many years. In 2011, my presentation at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference was entitled The Myth of the Lone Gunman: Working with Family, Friends, and Significant Others.
At the Conference in 2014, my colleague Craig Douglas made the suggestion that I do a presentation about ‘Bad Shootings’ for the 2015 Conference. The results of my research changed me forever.
As many people know, I was part of the Rogers Shooting School for ten years, culminating with being Chief Instructor for five years. Rogers is the most elite and difficult shooting school in the world. Many police and military special units go there to train every year and get to eat a piece of Humble Pie every day of the five day Course. “We’re the best shooters in our Department, by far. Then we come here and find out we suck!” The Handgun Testing Program has no peer for difficulty in the entire training community. It is training on a level that only a select few shooters will ever get to experience. I am enormously proud of my association with the School and maintain a relationship to Bill and Ronnie to this day.
That being said, once I started doing my research on ‘Bad Shootings,’ which eventually morphed into ‘Negative Outcomes,’ I saw a vastly different set of priorities were important. Although I still believe performance standards are important, the level of those standards has changed in my mind. The NRA Defensive Pistol standards, probably at the Sharpshooter level, will suffice to solve almost every confrontation I have been able to find between an Armed Private Citizen and a marauding criminal. Truth be told, those standards would work for most police shootings also. The kicker about the NRA standards is twofold; 1) competence must be demonstrated repetitively and 2) the standard is 100 percent hits.
Once a person can shoot a pistol to a reasonable standard, it’s time to move on to thinking about the circumstances of personal protection and becoming proficient at decision making in that context. Decision making can be a very difficult task, especially when we are armed. Lack of proficiency, not just at marksmanship, but at gunhandling under stress, complicates this. Persons who are not Unconsciously Competent can easily become focused on the firearm rather the situation. Focusing on the wrong thing can lead to Bad Decisions, which in turn can result in Negative Outcomes.
These are the Negative Outcome categories I identified in my research. There are probably more.
- Chasing and shooting
- Downrange failures (shot an innocent while shooting at a threat)
- Lost/stolen guns
- Mistaken identity shootings
- Negligent discharges
- Self-inflicted GSW
- Unintentional shootings
- Police Involvement (arrests for non-shooting related incidents)
- Poor judgement
- Unauthorized access (generally by small children)
- Unjustifiable shootings
- Warning shots
As an example of one category, Unintentional Shootings, here’s a screencap of some of the stories I have collected.
Bad decisions have serious consequences and end up being punished in a variety of ways, some legal and some social. The legal consequences are obvious; the shooter goes to court and sometimes thence to prison. The social consequences of Negative Outcomes are less obvious. If a person accidentally shoots a family member, whether the criminal justice system gets involved or not, I doubt that family relationship will ever be the same. The particular incident I am thinking of occurred when a police officer shot his daughter, thinking she was an intruder.
Decision making has many aspects to it that people don’t often consider. Where you point a gun anytime you handle it is a decision that has to be made. Consider that the next time you’re in a gun shop; where are you going to point the gun as you pick it up to ensure that you don’t muzzle anyone? This relates to another reason I am not fond of the overhand method of slide manipulation. During administrative gunhandling, which happens far more than shooting, the overhand method simply does not give the same level of muzzle control that the slingshot method does. I regularly have to correct students about muzzling themselves when using the overhand method. Using the slingshot technique, not at all.
Note that the Decision Making Process starts long before an incident. For instance, having a flashlight and then practicing with it is a decision. Not having one and/or not practicing with it is a Bad Decision. There are many other possibilities too. Failing to devise emergency plans and then discuss them with your family is a Bad Decision.
Look at the list of Negative Outcomes. The category ‘Downrange Failures’ is the only one that is marksmanship driven. All the rest relate to Decision Making and gunhandling. That’s why I changed my mind.