Thursday, November 19, 2015

You don't need an AR-15

         Lots of folks choose some type of AR-15 as their home defense weapon. Anti-gun proponents often say civilians don't need and shouldn't be allowed to own them as their place is on the battlefield. While I think regular folks should be able to own one if they chose to, I do agree to an extent that their usefulness is pretty much limited to military operations and to a lesser extent certain police applications.

In the 2008 issue of American Handgunners Personal Defense magazine, Clint Smith of Thunder Ranch fame wrote... "There is somewhat of a myth promoted that an AR or AK rifle is mandatory for personal defense. For the cops and military, in the infantry-like environments in which they function, I think a rifle is helpful. For civilians, the need for a combat rifle could be a reality, but I often think it is simply a well-developed sense of something else. The public-some of them-sort of wants to play army or cop if they can and buying the gear helps make the dream come true." 
       AR-15 advocates will often counter with "if police have a need for them, then so do I since we have to deal with the same criminals." That's true to an extent, but there are some very glaring differences. First, the military and police operate primarily in a proactive and offensive capacity whereas a civilian's actions are defensive and reactive by definition and legally. You don't go seeking to engage as a civilian, you look to avoid or escape violent confrontation and only respond as a last resort. This is in stark contrast to the nature and context of military and police action whose job it is to seek, pursue, engage. Some think living in a rural setting somehow increases the need for a rifle for long range engagement, but it doesn't as your bound by the same laws in terms of shooting at other human beings irregardless of where you live and the same ethics apply as well. I'm not even going to address the "fighting government tyranny", doomsday prepper, counter-sniper or SHTF arguments as I find them rather absurd.

        The choice of weapon for the legally armed civilian is the handgun, even in the home as articulated in Role of the Handgun . If gathered in a static location such as a designated safe room, one could make the argument a long gun makes sense and I agree to a degree although I personally would still chose to retain the maneuverability a handgun offers as the need to suddenly go mobile would still carry a realistically high probability.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Understanding Point-Shooting -Michael Janich

      "I thought I'd begin sharing some of the "cerebral" side of my take on shooting to help you understand my approach. And since my lineage in shooting goes back to one of my greatest mentors, the late Col. Rex Applegate, I thought that would be a great place to start.

Col. A was one of the greatest proponents of point shooting. Rather than argue over what point shooting is or isn't, I think it's more important to understand why it's physiologcally important to accept point shooting's role in real defensive shooting.

First of all, ALL shooting begins with point shooting, which I define as "aiming the gun through kinesthetic alignment." Think about it: before you get any kind of sight picture, you "point" the gun toward the target. Typically, the adjustments you make to that general "point" based on the sights are minimal, so the initial kinesthetic alignment of the gun is usually pretty damned good.

Accurate shooting is basically a process of aligning the gun with the target and maintaining that alignment while you operate the trigger. Let's talk about sight picture and put that into perspective with combative shooting when you're in fear for your life.

First of all, we have the theoretical sight picture, as shown in picture 1--front sight perfectly centered in rear notch and superimposed over bad guy's center of mass. Although this is a great "academic" reference, it's physiologically impossible because the eye cannot focus at different distances at the same time.

Proponents of sighted fire will respond to this by citing the "flash" front sight picture. Bad guy establishes that he's a bad guy and you are in fear for your life. You present your gun, align it with the target (sounds like "pointing" to me), and, when you have no other choice but to defend yourself, you switch your focus from the bad guy to the front sight of your gun, confirm its alignent with the target, and fire. 

There are two problems with this approach:

1 ) If you're using all your resources during this process, you should also be using verbal commands like "Drop the weapon!" Well, when you--by your own admission--switch your focus to the front sight, how do you know he still has a weapon and still poses a lethal threat if you're not looking at him?

2) In a life-threatening situation,your body activates its sympathetic nervous system (SNS). This defensive response is what initiates the "Body Alarm Reaction," which is colectively responsible for things like startle response, fight/flight/freeze reflex, adrenaline dump, etc. One of the effects of this is dilation of the pupils to take in more information. Dilation also limits the eye's depth of field, making it physically incapable of focusing at shorter distances. If you weren't already "motivated" to look at the guy trying to kill you, physiologically, your body just made that your default.

With regard to the latter phenomenon, here's some interesting reading from the Journal of Behavioral Optometry

Both pictures 1 and 2 are also "artificial" in that they show the gun and sights as being opaque. This is the way the camera shows them because the camera is a single (monocular) image. If you shot with one eye closed, you'd get the same effect. However, instinct--and good combative shooting technique--will have you shoot with both eyes open. Binocular vision--especialy when focused at a distance--will make things in your near field of vision appear translucent. Your gun is there in your field of vision, but your brain, which combines the images created by your two eyes, allows you to see "through" it. The result is the silhouette of the gun superimposed over the target--Jim Cirillo's "Silhouette Point" (picture 3). This is what you want to see when you're looking at the target.

Since the hardest part of teaching someone how to shoot is knowing that he is "seeing" what you want him to, I like to start with this process. Practice dry fire, with a blue gun, or even with the thumb of your empty hand so you can look at something that is a short distance away, maintain your focus on it, and still visually register the gun/thumb on your line of sight to that object."

- Michael Janich 

Picture 1: Theoretical sight picture 

Picture 2: Front sight focus 

Picture 3: Silhouette point 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Lose of fine motor skill during critical defense incidents- Rob Pincus

 "The lose of fine motor skill that comes during a dynamic critical incident is not just a factor of fear & stress, there is a physiological component that has to do with the redirecting of bloodflow throughout the body, not just an arbitrary high heart rate. Less blood to extremities, less strength & control in the muscles there...

I believe that we should not try to "out train" the human body's natural reactions to fear & stress... at best, it slows us down... and it probably isn't possible at the most fundamental levels.... Work with your body's natural reactions: limit the amount of fine-motor-skills necessary in your defensive training.

Fighting is not a sport.. that is kinda the point...

Shooting can be a Sport... but defensive shooting during a dynamic critical incident?? No.

For my students, I use the analogy of an Indy racer Vs. car owner in a big city.... The urbanite MUST develop the skill to parallel park if he wants to own and operate a car in the city.. The indy driver doesn't need to have EVER done that, but must have other skills developed to a high degree (shifting, cornering at high speeds, etc)... They both use the same tool (a car), but they are doing very different things.

I hope that makes sense... too many people confuse mechanical target shooting skills with defensive skills.

What you "can" do in a controlled environment like a range might have very little to do with what you NEED to do during a dynamic critical incident.

 It's not the degree of skill... its the skill itself. The Indy driver is NOT more skilled than the urbanite when it comes to Parellel Parking, just because he can corner at 180... two different things. Re-read the analogy... in fact, I invite you to read Combat Focus Shooting to learn more about the difference between training for sport and training for a fight.

Stories and anecdotes are one thing... empiracle evidence and observation of what highly trained people do when things get bad is another... do we prepare the average armed professional or self-defense oriented gun owner to work with all that stuff and still be effective in a realistic situation. Competitive shooters at the world class level are PROFESSIONAL SHOOTERS engaging in an athletic endeavor, not warriors preparing for combat and not CCW permit holders with regular jobs, tight budgets and limited training time. 

Can we out-train some automatic reactions? Probably not. Can we train to counteract or overcome them very quickly? Maybe some of the people, some of the time, maybe most of the people in certain circumstances........ but, who has the time? Personally, I don't feel that it is worth the effort to bother. I can also shoot tighter groups if I put my pistol in a Ransom Rest and line it up on the bad guy, but I don't consider that a viable defensive shooting technique."

-Rob Pincus 


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Killing Sacred Cows- Gabe Suarez


Some COMBAT TRUTHS ignored in most gun schools.

The fight will be what the fight will be. Period.

If you are one of those guys' whose proactive fight will be solved by a 5 shot snubby revolver with no reload available, great for you. If you do not get one of those fights, and all you have is a snubby 5 shot, you will wish you were carrying something else. Simple.

Force on force is as close as you can get to a real gunfight. Is it a real gunfight? No. You want to know what that is all about, go to a Crip/Blood neighborhood in L.A. wearing a KKK outfit, or to some of the places we hang out at in South America. You will find out. If you don't want to do that, FOF is your only test.

What we have learned from FOF (and Gunfights because some of our guys have actually shot for blood).

Fights are either ambushes or reaction to ambush. If you can guarantee 100% 24/7/365 that all your fights will be ambushes because you eat live and breathe in condition orange all the time, then go practice your marksmanship and don't worry about anything else. But I would ask if you are so tuned and alert, you can probably avoid all those fights anyway which would make the carry of ANY weapon unnecessary.

If you agree that at least 50% of the time (perhaps more) you will be reacting to the ambush, then what we teach here should make sense to you. Too much range training in search of marksmanship is like too much kata in search of visual appeal. Both drive you away from combat truth.

When you are reacting to ambush, standing still and trying to out-draw and out-marksman the other guy will simply get you shot. I defy anyone to show me otherwise at a FOF session.

When you realize you have to move dynamically off the x or get shot, we move away from range-based marksmanship to what is adequate marksmanship. Marksmanship on a paper, cardboard, or steel is all well and good and easy to pull off on a sterile range where you are in no danger. Its another thing altogether when you are being shot at.

Hit ratio? I will say that most shots hit. Once the guys get used to "letting go" of old range habits, the ratio improves. Think you can guarantee 100% hits by standing still? Great. Do it with out getting shot by the other guy when he has started the fight. Show me against a man who is trying to hit you, don't just tell me what you can do on a target.

Do you miss? Yes you do. It is inevitable. Don't want to miss? Too bad. Again, show me you can do this in a reactive fight (you don't get to start early).

Do your hits go to peripheral areas like hands, arms and legs? Yes they do. If this is the trade off for you NOT getting shot it sounds like a fine deal to me. Again...if you have a better way, show me in a live FOF drill with an uncoop opponent trying to shoot you.

If your hits go to peripheral areas, you will need to keep shooting until the bad guy has had enough, physically succumbs to the damage, or you hit a vital area. If you can do this with 5 shots, again...great for you. Now do it with a 200 pound MMA fighter running right at you from 5 yards fully intent on knocking your block off with a tire iron. What's that? It affects your flash sight picture a little bit when you have to haul ass away from him? Yes...we know that.

The other thing is that Americans are some of the toughest and biggest people on earth. I have seen guys get hit in the chest wioth just about every type of SD caliber out there and still keep fighting. I know of a case where it was a shotgun slug no less! If you give him your best five and he is not impressed what will you do? Reload while running away? Do you train that?

Some of you say "Is spraying fifteen plus rounds around as good as shooting five rounds and accomplishing the same results.?" Again, taking into consideration the difficulty in stopping an angry shooting American, and hitting him while you yourself are getting shot at, I would ask that you show me how you do this.

Are we assuming that one hit = one stop? If that is the case, best of luck to you.

"Where are the other ten plus rounds? In the bad guys also or through a window, wall and into an innocent victim?"

Choose right now.

1). Guarantee all your rounds will always hit what you aim at, but you also get hit with the bad guy's rounds. You will be shot, and maybe injured or dead, but you will be liability free.


2). Do your best, but accept that some of your shots may not only over-penetrate, but not even hit the bad guy...but you will not be hit by his bullets. But you may incur some legal problems due to your gunfire (MAY not SHALL).

Pick now. But talk is cheap. Show me you can back up your choice 100%, 24/7/365 in a force on force drill.

Listen guys...I think my staff and I are pretty good shots. We get to shoot all the time. We have run probably close to 1000 FOF students to date, and none of them have been able to replicate the marksmanship they were so proud of at the range under these circumstances. I know full well that none of us is a superman and all of us are liable to the dynamics of the fight.

That is why I carry a Glock 22 with a couple of extra magazines and train in stress-proof gun handling drills, and shooting while exploding off the X. I like snubbies, but selecting a 5 or 6 shot revolver in today's world is like choosing a lever action rifle when you have FALs and AKs in volume. You can make them work if everything is working for you. But if things are not working for you, you will be screwed. So do you feel lucky?
Gabe Suarez
Suarez International USA, Inc.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

How important are handgun sights? Do you really need an RMR?

    The vast majority of legal civilian use of firearms in self-defense take place at extremely close distances where a handguns sights won't likely be a factor. The disconnect and lack of understanding of this is perhaps due to the fact that the only shooting most people do is static range work and that's all some schools and instructors teach rather than studying how they actually happen or explore reality-based methods as well as lessons learned from FoF(Force on Force) training that would give them better insight. Many people take great satisfaction in their ability to shoot tight groups at relatively long distances, but real gunfights or scenarios where lethal use of force/use of a firearm is justified are almost always reactive, chaotic, dynamic and usually take place at close distances and under these circumstances, you must be able to immediately respond by getting off shots quickly as well as be able to incorporate movement when appropriate(getting off the X) and should be focused on/looking at the threat. 
         There are times when you could have to make a precision shot(even close range) or engage at farther ranges, but the odds are extremely low to be of any great concern. If a threat is 25 yards away, you should be moving/fleeing/leaving, not shooting or returning fire for common sense tactical as well as legal reasons and I won't even address the contrived notions of long rang engagement of the active shooter, pistol sniping or hostage scenarios. There's nothing wrong with developing traditional marksmanship skills or be capable of precise accurate sighted fire, you just have to understand when it's appropriate and applicable and when it's not. For the civilian defender, it most likely won't be. Interestingly, even at longer ranges, a relatively high accuracy can still be achieved using threat focused shooting. During Magpuls dynamic handgun classes they taught "instinctive” or threat/target-focused shooting from 5 to 25 yards, with each student determining at what distance he had to transition from threat/target focus to sight focus in order to make accurate hits and Chris Costa has been known to have shot a 10″ plate at a distance of 75 feet with a pistol that had no sights at all. Just throwing that out there, so take it for what's it's worth. 
         The bulk of your work should be 21 feet/7 yards and under as that is the most probable distances that you'll encounter if you are forced to use a firearm in self-defense and in those scenarios, sights are simply not a huge factor and something like an expensive RMR is not needed as it wouldn't really be of any advantage. In fact, in an extreme close quarter/ECQ situation, it's extra height/bulk could even pose a slight weapon retention liability since it just might provide additional leverage during a grappling/gun disarm attempt. Not a huge issue, but just something else to consider. There are certain longer range scenarios where an RMR might be an advantage(not a necessity as you still have your iron sights), but the odds are too low to justify it, especially considering it's possible disadvantages in the more probable scenarios. Bottom line for me on RMR's and expensive aftermarket handgun sights is don't waste your money on them.

Can you(and should you) really use your sights in a gunfight?

Sights-What and Why? Gabe Suarez and Rob Pincus 

1. Civilian armed self-defense stats and findings. 

2. The Citizen Armed- A 5 year analysis 

3. Analysis of 5 years of armed encounters(with data tables).

When citizens fight back.

FBI focuses on close-quarter combat.

Officer involved shooting stats.

The following are quotes from Gabe Suarez
Sources: Silly gun school things that will get you killed.  and  Debating if I need a red dot.

For close range gunfighting inside of 5 yards, any sights are irrelevant. You explode off the line of fire, press the pistol to the threat and press a burst into their chest. You wait for nothing and use physical indexing methods.

For indexed shooting in the grey area between pure threat focused shooting and the need for sight verification, you can use the silhouette of the weapon for indexing. We call this meat and metal (metal of the pistol super-imposed on the mass of the bad guy). You can use the corner of the RMR as an improvised front sight, or the top of the RMR at the bad guy's neck when shooting.

Q: Do you really need such a thing(a red dot)?

A: No, you don't. If you are looking at "need" a used S&W J-Frame with lead reloads will probably work. But to shoot well regardless of the aged condition of your eyes, or to shoot with extreme surgical precision up close, or to the limit of your pistol cartridge at distance, then this will certainly be something you WANT.

Shooters often attempt to focus on the dot for close targets. This is a mistake since they don't really do this with their iron sights. What they do with the iron sights is look over or through them as they press off the shots. They do not fixate on them as the speeds necessary for such problems do not afford too much sight time. With the red dot it is important to do the same thing. One is actually looking at the target or threat, and shooting from eye-sight-line, but noticing the red dot in the same way as they would notice the irons at such times...indirectly. The red dot being brighter and more noticeable than an iron sight makes this easier.

    If you need to draw and shoot a threat right there inside of 7 yards, you do not need to use a traditional sight picture at all. That some ostensibly experienced and prolific trainers are still, at this day and age, pushing the "all sights all the time" mantra is as astounding as a grown man still thinking the earth is flat. You can simply tape over the entire red dot sight with masking tape and go through your usual drills at zero to ten yards, relying on body index and your habituated and uniform grip and shooting position. Yes grasshopper, you can hit COM on a steel target while visually focusing on the threat and not on the sights. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Ayoob File; An Urban Gunfighter: The Lessons of Lance Thomas.

The Ayoob files; An urban gunfighter: The lessons of Lance Thomas

American Handgunner, March-April, 2002 by Massad Ayoob

Situation: A law-abiding armed citizen faces multiple armed robberies and murder attempts.

Lesson: Only the power of lawful force can answer the power of lawless criminal force.

A few years ago, the TV program Turning Point focused on private citizens who had used guns in self-defense. In refreshing contrast to much of the mainstream electronic media, the show for the most part gave a fair and balanced portrayal of ordinary people who had been forced to resort to defensive firearms in extraordinary circumstances. I wrote about it in this space at the time. Among the Turning Point shootings we discussed were the series of armed robberies and attempted murders defeated by Lance Thomas, the owner of a watch shop in Los Angeles.

In 2001, Paladin Press published one of the best "reads" of the year for people who follow the gun culture and understand the principles of self-protection. The author is Paul Kirchner, who has collaborated with Col. Jeff Cooper on previous books, and the title is The Deadliest Men: The World's Deadliest Combatants Through the Ages. It covers figures as disparate as the French swordswoman known as La Maupin, such great American war heroes as Alvin York and Audie Murphy; gunfighters like Wild Bill Hickok and Bat Masterson, and a man named Lance Thomas.

Over a period of less than 3 years, Thomas was involved in four gun battles against a total of 11 known suspects. He shot six of them, killing five. The watch dealer himself was wounded on two of these occasions, taking a total of five rounds. There are many lessons that the rest of us can learn: Lessons of long-term strategy and short-term tactics; of gun selection and ammunition effectiveness; and, above all, of courage under fire in the moment, and of determination over the long haul.

August 10, 1989. Like so many storekeepers, Thomas feels his watch shop would be a safer place if he had a gun with which to fend off armed robbers. He has acquired a Model 36, a five-shot Smith & Wesson .38 Chief Special. He keeps the snubnose revolver where he can reach it easily. On this day, he'll be glad he did.

Two men enter. One appears to have some sort of weapon, and the other pulls what Thomas recognizes as a 9mm semiautomatic pistol. Thomas knows he can just give the man his money and goods, but he also knows that to do so is to trust his life to the whim of a violent man unlawfully wielding a deadly weapon. Instead, Thomas chooses to fight.

His hand flashes to the Chief Special, and he comes up shooting. The little revolver barks three times. Two of his bullets miss, but one smashes into the gunman's face, putting him out of the fight.

The merchant swings toward the accomplice, but cannot see a weapon at the moment, and so, does not fire. Instead, he orders the suspect to leave. The now-compliant accomplice does so, dragging his wounded comrade with him.

The robber will survive. Lance Thomas is unhurt. His decision to be an armed citizen, to fight back, has been validated. The wounded robber will be charged, and the armed citizen has the sympathy of the authorities. Thomas has won in every respect.

In assessing the aftermath, the Rolex specialist analyzes what he has learned with the same precision he applies to the repair and adjustment of fine watches. It is not lost on him that he has expended 60 percent of his ammunition to neutralize 50 percent of his antagonists. It occurs to him that a single five-shot revolver might not be enough if there's a next time, and that there won't be much opportunity to reload.

And what if he had been caught out of reach of his Smith? Thomas expands his defensive strategy. The .38 is joined by a trio of .357 Magnum revolvers: a Colt Python, a Smith & Wesson Model 19 Combat Magnum, and a Ruger Security-Six. He arrays them a few feet apart within the small perimeter of his workspace so there will always be one within reach no matter where he's standing.

If he runs dry, he won't even think about reloading: he'll simply drop the empty gun and grab another fully loaded one.

Professional Hit

November 27, 1989. This time, it's the kind of professional hit that the NYPD Stakeout Squad warned you about-- a five-man team of thugs who know what they're doing. There's seeded backup, a perpetrator ambling around on the sidewalk outside, pretending to be a passerby. The outrider is in the driver's seat of the getaway car, at once a wheelman and a potential killer who can murderously interdict responding officers, or go inside with heavy weapons to rescue accomplices who are captured inside the premises. The remaining three perpetrators comprise the raid team.

It opens hot, fast and ugly. One of the perpetrators opens up on Lance Thomas without warning, firing a semiautomatic pistol, hitting him four times with eight rounds fired. Three of the .25 ACP bullets bite into Thomas' right shoulder, a fourth into his neck. The watchmaker grabs the nearest revolver, the Ruger .357, missing with the first shot but scoring with the next five.

The gunman falls to the floor and so does the Security-Six: it has clicked empty. Thomas drops it, lunging for the next nearest weapon, the snubnose .38 that had saved him last time.

Now he engages the second suspect, who is shooting at him. Thomas shoots back. That gun, too, runs dry. He hasn't hit his antagonist, but he hasn't been hit either, and the second robber is in no mood to continue the gunfight.

The third inside suspect opens fire at Thomas. Wounded, but furious and still in the fight, the storekeeper grabs his third gun of the shootout, another .357. As Paul Kirchner relates it, he "empties it into" the third gunman. That offender goes down.

The little watch shop is filled with the stench of smokeless powder and the reek of blood. The second offender wants no more of being shot at, and has abjured from the conflict.

Outside, the two additional robbers realize that three of their colleagues have gone inside for an easy score, there has been a long volley of explosive gunfire, and only one has come back out alive. Whatever is in there, they don't want any part of it. The three surviving robbers flee.

Inside, only one of the combatants is standing. Bleeding but defiant, the wounded Lance Thomas looks down at the two men he has killed. In the course of the fight, he has fired 19 shots.

Charmed Life

Some people are beginning to think that Thomas bears a charmed life. Since an enemy sent into ignominious retreat can certainly be said to have been vanquished, the score now stands at Lance Thomas 7, Armed Robbers 0.

However, it occurs to the storekeeper that his survival armory might need another firepower upgrade. This time, he decides to try semiautomatic pistols. He buys four, all SIGs, that operate the same way. One is the compact nine-shot P-225 9mm. The other three are assorted versions of the P-220 8-shot .45 auto.

As the Turning Point cameras pan across his gun collection, we see the American-style of SIG with push-button magazine release as well as the European-style with the butt heel mag release. There is a Browning BDA, which is a European P-220 by a different name.

Magazine release styles don't matter. Lance Thomas still doesn't plan to reload. If one gun runs dry, he'll reach for another. He now has up to eight handguns readily available. Fully loaded, they hold 56 rounds between them.

With his plan, they all function essentially the same: grab gun, index weapon on target, pull trigger until it stops shooting, grab additional guns, repeat as necessary. Thomas commits himself to constant practice in accessing one or another of his defense guns from any conceivable position.

Two Year Break

December 4, 1991. It has been more than two years since the last incident. Some others would be complacent by now. Not Lance Thomas, who has learned that vigilance equals survival, and from the beginning has realized he is responsible for the safety of his customers.

On this date a male perpetrator strides in, accompanied by a female accomplice who shows no weapon. The man pulls a loaded Glock pistol. He points the gun at Thomas and orders him to be motionless.

No way. Thomas goes for his gun.

The perpetrator fires first, pumping a 9mm bullet through Thomas' neck, drilling a wound channel that is just a fraction of an inch from being fatal. But now, Thomas has reached his nearest pistol, the little P225, and he is firing back.

The watch shop proprietor has been forced into an awkward hold on the gun, and he can only fire three rounds--all straight into the chest of his opponent-- before his imperfect grasp causes the usually reliable SIG 9mm to jam. Without missing a beat, he drops it and grabs one of its big brothers, which he fires into the opponent five more times until the armed robber falls and stops trying to commit murder.

Frozen in terror, the female accomplice offers no violence. It's over.

Wounded, Lance Thomas will recover. Not so the criminal who shot him, who will die of the eight rounds-- all hits, eight for eight-- that the armed citizen has inflicted with his two SIG-Sauer pistols.

Ever Vigilant

February 20, 1992. It has been just over two and a half months since the last shootout. Lance Thomas has remained vigilant. Now, his wariness pays off.

Two armed perpetrators enter the store. As soon as Thomas sees the automatic pistol in one of their hands, he reflexes to his nearest pistol, one of the P-220s. This perpetrator goes down fast, hit with what author Kirchner describes as most of a "gunload" of .45 ACP ammunition.

Grabbing another P-220, Thomas engages the second armed robbery suspect and shoots him four times. The suspect falls. The danger is over.

Both armed robbers are dead at the shopowner's hands. In four gun battles, Lance Thomas has fired 40-plus shots. He has killed five men, and wounded another. He has defeated a total of 11 perpetrators, either shot down or driven off in abject flight. He has been wounded five times.

Word On The Street

By now the word was out on the street. Some of those who had died by the blazing Thomas guns had been members of the organized street gangs that infest Los Angeles like an advanced, spreading cancer. They had declared war. They were going to rake Lance Thomas' watch shop with drive-by shootings and massacre his customers for revenge.

The armed citizen had to make a difficult decision. Thomas had stood up to the armed criminals for some 29 months. He was ready to continue to risk his own life, however, he felt he had no right to risk the lives of customers and bystanders in the face of this latest threat. Reluctantly, sadly, he switched to business by mail order and Internet. The watch shop was closed. The big Rolex sign that some believed had attracted the robbers like flies came down. Lance Thomas moved.

The epoch of a modern urban gunfighter had ended.

Ayoob's Analysis

There were those who said that Lance Thomas was a vigilante, something out of the Death Wish movies. Nothing could be further from the truth. Thomas never went looking for men to harm. The harm came to him, and he warded it off.

None of the predators he shot had been hunted down and self-righteously executed. Each and every one of them had died from a sudden and acute failure of the victim selection process. This is why each and every one of the deaths Thomas inflicted was ruled a justifiable homicide.

"It is not unusual for critics of the American scene to deplore what they hold to be an uncivilized toleration of personal violence in our society," Jeff Cooper once wrote. "Violent crime is not so much the issue, but rather the use of violence by socially acceptable persons in self-defense, in the righting of wrongs, and in meeting challenging situations. Such critics feel that Americans are too ready to ignore the police and handle their emergencies personally; and that, further, this barbarous attitude is encouraged, rather than inhibited, by our tradition."

Some thought Lance Thomas a dangerous man. I spoke at length with one of the producers of the Turning Point episode that featured the fighting watchmaker. He was appalled that Thomas had said that one reason he had survived these nearly unsurvivable experiences was that he had been "ready to die."

I explained that the producer had misunderstood the point. "Ready to die" didn't mean wanting to die in the suicidal-cum-homcidal sense; it meant prepared to die if necessary.

There are some things worth dying for. Freedom, including the right to make your living doing your chosen work. Protection of others from violence. There were times when innocent friends and customers were in the store when the attackers came in with guns in their hands and their fingers on the triggers

There were doubtless gang-bangers in Los Angeles who thought they had won, having driven off the man they feared. If so, they were deluding themselves. Lance Thomas had stood against 11 of them and won, 11 to nothing. Each time he had been against multiple intruders, never less than two-to-one odds and as high as five-to-one. He came back each time, resolute and defiant.

He left only when, the threats to himself extended and went past him, reaching out to innocent customers and bystanders whom he could not protect out on the sidewalk if the promised drive-by shootings had come to pass. The same man who risked his life to stand up for his rights and to protect others, chose to give up the shop he had created, the shop he loved, for the sake of the safety of strangers.

Lance Thomas was a better and more moral man than any of the street gang cowards who hated him, a better and more moral man than any of the commentators who criticized him from the safety of their office desks.

Tactical Lessons

Some observers in the gun world thought Thomas would have been better served to carry his hardware on his person instead of stashing the guns in strategic locations in the shop The theory is that when the gun is on your person. it is always where you can reach it, and also simultaneously secured from unauthorized personnel.

The criticism has some validity; In his third gunfight, if Thomas could have quick-drawn from his hip instead of having to stretch and reach for his SIG, he might not have taken that first gunshot to the neck, which came so close to killing him.

We each bring our own preferences and habits to these topics. This writer prefers to keep the gun on his person, and has done so since growing up in a jewelry store much like the one in this case. Yet Lance Thomas' story hits close to home, because my father used he same strategy of keeping his handguns seeded at various places in the store plus a shotgun in the back room.

There are times-- when seated behind a watch repair bench, for example-- when it might be faster and easier to reach for a holster nailed to the side of the bench than to draw from one's belt.

For the most part, the strategy worked for Thomas. It worked better the more guns he had. Toward the end, according to the Turning Point people, he had a gun about every three feet. His workplace was fairly compact. The larger the workspace, the more room there is for the good guy to move, the more sense it makes for the gun to be on the shopkeeper's person instead of in a fixed location.

Practice is critical. Turning Point filmed Thomas at a shooting range, firing rapidly from a Weaver stance. Kirchner notes that he constantly practiced quick-draw of his guns from their resting places. There can be no doubt that both of these practices helped Lance Thomas survive his gunfights.

Firepower was a factor in all but the first, three-shot incident. The next three averaged more than a dozen shots by Thomas per incident. Add in the first shooting, and it still comes out to at least 10 shots per gunfight fired by the defender, 19 shots in one incident. Once the scope of the predictable threat became evident to him, Thomas was wise indeed to upgrade his firepower from the five-shot, snubnose revolver he started with.

Some critics-- usually ensconced safely in armchairs-- opine that five shots should be enough for five perpetrators. Well, well. One of Thomas antagonists apparently thought that four shots would be enough for one Rolex dealer: he shot Thomas four times. Thomas sucked up the four gunshot wounds and then proceeded to kill the man who shot him.

Others might suggest, "He just didn't use the right ammo." Really? Unimpressed with the effects of conventional .38 Special ammo in his first shooting, he went to the Glaser Safety Slug, and was underwhelmed with its performance the next time, out in the real world. He shot men multiple times with 9mm and .45 automatics and with .357 Magnum revolvers and had to shoot them again and again.

Sometimes, against dangerous men in the heat of battle, nothing less than multiple serious gunshot wounds will short-out the attack. If we learn nothing else from Lance Thomas' four gunfights, we cannot miss learning this.

Will. The predators had strong motivations-- greed, perhaps anger, certainly lust for power over others. When fought back against by surprise, some exhibited great will to live, as evidenced by the fact that it took so many of the good guy's bullets to put them down.

But one reason Lance Thomas prevailed against them was that his will to survive, to prevail, to stand up for the right thing was greater than their will to harm him. Outnumbered, drawing against drawn guns, sometimes wounded seriously at the opening of the encounters, Thomas never lost his indomitable will to survive, to fight, to prevail. This, in the last analysis, may be the most important lesson each of us can draw from his experiences.

Again, a quote from Col. Cooper. "It is very difficult for a normal man to realize that he is suddenly in danger of death. The time it takes him to realize this and act upon it may be too long to save his life. Thus the prime quality of the gunfighter-- more important than either marksmanship or manual speed-- is the instant readiness to react to a threat."

A men. The subject of this article had this trait. It obviously kept him alive.

Final Thoughts

This is one of the very few "Ayoob Files" installments I have written without debriefing the survivor. I tried more than once to reach Thomas, and was unable to make contact. Given the many death threats and the unwelcome press attention, Thomas guards his privacy. It wasn't that he was hiding in terror from his antagonists. It was more that he took no pleasure in being lionized for his acts, and simply wanted to live his own life, quietly and peacefully.

It was all he had ever wanted when the men he had to kill in self-defense forced their way into his life. In the end, I had to respect his obvious wishes, and I abandoned the search. Thus, the information above comes primarily from Turning Point and the excellent Kirchner book.

Kirchner's The Deadliest Men celebrates strong individuals who used deadly force righteously. You'll not find Jack the Ripper, Henry Lee Lucas, or the Boston Strangler in those pages, deadly as they were. The Deadliest Men is a collection of heroes and heroines. Lance Thomas well deserves his place in the book.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Revolvers as a "roving gun." - via Warriortalk Forums

In Defense of the Revolver.

So why do some of us still rely on a revolver?

Reasons for a revolver :

Civilian fights happen up close generally!
So close that a misfire or pistol jam will NOT be resolved in time to prevent being shot/stabbed/whatever.

I have, over the years, (33 years since I bought my first handgun,) had a few misfires.
A misfire with a revolver is resolved by simply squeezing the trigger again.

I have had a build up of powder residue which stopped (malfunctioned) my revolver, but this was after many rounds, during competition.
This never happened with the first couple of dozen, - the "important" rounds of course.

Pistol slides can be pushed back with the result that the disconector inables the gun to fire.
Not so with a revolver.
One can stick a revolver right into a BGs guts and squeeze the trigger, knowing full well that the gun will fire.
Revolvers (these days anyway,) have heavy (but smooth) double action triggers, which certainly help in preventing ADs.

A revolver can be loaded with the widest, and most extreme HP round, with no feeding problems.
We can load Full Wadcutters if we wish!

Revolvers can be left (they shouldn't be of course,) with little or no maintenance for months.
Just like my external hammers, double barrel, side by side shotgun, revolvers do not need to be checked frequently.

A revolver looks like the real gun that it is.
Some small pistols look like toys.
Pull out a S&W .44 magnum and you will get the BG's attention! :D
How many armed BGs are we capable of shooting down, before one of the number hits us with their fire?


If they are 'wankers', then they will flee with our fire. We could probably send them running with shots from a .22 "saturday night special".

If they are trained and professional, then we will have problems.

I have mentioned, various times here on WT, that IMHO, the best combination is a service pistol and a smallish revolver as a "roving gun".

A small 'J' frame revolver that can be fired from a pocket, 'palmed' and held "gun in hand" in many instances.

If we 'spray and pray' with half a dozen rounds, then we achieve nothing more than a round or two that misses from our revolver!

"So what", you might ask?

Having only 6 or so rounds in our gun, tends to make us control our fire better.

We know that we cannot just squeeze the trigger in a hasty manner. We know that we have to make our shots count.
But the well trained person with good mindset, is suitably armed IMHO with a quality revolver.

I have lived here in Brazil for 22 years. Most of this time in Rio de Janeiro.
I have pulled my revolver(s) on several occasions.
The problem was resolved in most cases, without firing a shot.
When (a) shot(s) was/were required, the revolver had sufficient ammo.


When a Revolver beats a Pistol.

It was early January 1990.
I had arrived the day before on the Madeira river, in Rondonia state, Brazil, at a gold prospecting camp. Dredges, about a hundred of them, all floating.

We were all tied together with rope and steel cable. Tied up on the river bank were the floating shops that supported the whole 'garimpo' ( prospecting camp.)

There were bars, mini supermarkets, brothels, welders, etc. One could find everything one wanted.
Including drugs of course.
The currency was gold.
Ten cans of beer cost a gram. Weighed in front of the purchaser.

Firearms were abundant. Mostly .38 revolvers and .32 ACP or .380 ACP pistols. Taurus and Rossi of course, being Brazil. The occasional Rossi shotgun or lever action .38 carbine ( Winchester '92 copy,) would appear in the hands of a prospector.

So I and the owner of the dredge which I was going to manage were drinking coffee on the varanda of his dredge. The dredge was tied up right close to the floating shops and bars.

Two men were sitting at a table on the porch of a bar, and seemed to be in a heated arguement. We were about 30 metres away at the most. The owner of the dredge told me "those two deal in drugs."
I thanked him for the information. I really had absolutely no interest in drugs. I never have, except for my legal tobacco and alcohol.

As we watched the arguement, right before our eyes, one of the men stood up and pulled out a pistol!
He pointed it at the other man and we could see that he was squeezing the trigger.
There was no 'bang'.
The other man stood up and pulled a small revolver from his waistband. The pistol wielder was squeezing the trigger on his double action pistol with a certain frenzy!
There were five loud bangs as the revolver was discharged into the pistol wielder's chest.

This was a lesson for me.
I love a fine service pistol, but at what I call "bad breath distances" I much prefer a revolver.

OK.....I know very well that the pistol owner had probably neglected to change his ammo etc, something important in the tropics.
But a malfunction drill would not have been quick enough for that distance of across the table.

This incident, and later incidents up there in the Amazon region, helped me with my idea of a pistol in a fixed position, but a small revolver as a "roving" gun.

When we have time, the pistol is the first choice.
But when we have to react to an "in our face" situation, then I want a revolver in AIWB, or my pocket, or "palmed" perhaps, - whatever?
I want to be able to squeeze the trigger on a bad cartridge and turn the cylinder to put a fresh cartridge under the hammer.

As I watched this incident, I was pleased that I had chosen to take my Taurus Model 82S to the camp, instead of my Colt .45 1911. Both would have been better, but I chose the revolver.

The killer jumped in a small boat and starting the outboard motor, sped off.

The dead man was pushed into the river. He floated into our dredge, so the owner asked a worker to push his body away with a pole.
The dead man floated off to wherever? The Amazon river perhaps, if the fish didn't eat his body before arriving. The Madeira river is an Amazon tributary, but the Amazon was a good 1000 kms down river.
My thread is really just to point out two things:
a) That a revolver is not dead and gone. ;)
b) That at "bad breath distances" we need reliability before anything else.

These guys didn't even register their sights.
They just stuck their guns out in front, a foot or two from the chest of their opponent and started to squeeze their triggers!


Sources-from Warriortalk...

Monday, January 12, 2015

Can you learn self-defense from the Internet?

           I often see self-defense folks, gun guys, weapon "experts" and martial artists of varying styles mocking the concept of learning via internet youtube videos or DVD's, but I think their criticism is unfounded . I've looked at the resume at many of the people throwing out the derogatory comments and notice repeatedly that a lot, if not the majority, of their training often has come from various seminars. I'm not referring to just some random anonymous guys on forums, but many prominent defense instructors. They teach every physical component of defense(firearms, blades, impact weapons, unarmed Combatives) and feel qualified to do so with the bulk of their "expert" knowledge being derived from these seminars while being dismissive of anyone who didn't receive all their training in person. I've been to a lot of seminars in my 30 years of involvement in self-defense and they have all pretty much been the same. They are generally short on detailed information and the material is diluted and condensed to fit in the allotted time(not necessarily a bad thing in itself) and you don't receive a whole lot of one on one instruction. Most often the instructor stands in front of the group lecturing(usually much more so than interacting and discussing), demonstrating and occasionally walking around giving a few pointers as the attendees practice the techniques. How is that all that different from watching a video of the seminar? I've attended many seminars and watched videos of seminars and to tell you the truth, I never felt they were all that different although there are a select few trainers that give better (needs to be small group) seminars than others.
                 Now, if your goal is to be a recognized "certified" authority or authentic "expert" whatever that means to you(it's definition often differs) in the entirety of a particular self-defense method or system, then your probably in anyone's perspective going to need actual first hand formal, live, in person instruction from a "recognized" actual instructor as there are many subtle nuances and on sight immediate direction and correction that can only be made with them there with you in person for intensive training. But, were talking about just learning some practical effective self-defense techniques and often that context, simple is best and in certain cases, some forms of in depth training are unnecessary, overly complex and actually wasteful and a hindrance to that goal. And we are also comparing video learning with seminars, not in becoming a "master" of a particular martial art or other complete defense "system" and in that case, book, video and correspondence learning is pretty much an equivalently effective learning method. It is even more so if someone has had actual proper and effective in person instruction. Someone who already has fairly extensive training can usually take a video of a certain new technique or concept, study it, try it out, train it and be able to effectively apply it. We also have the modern benefit of email, so you can always follow up with any questions you have as most instructors are pretty accessible and open to questions or they at the very least have a presence on one or another self-defense forum. Plus, if video learning/DVDs are worthless, why does almost every single prominent instructors offer instructional DVDs? Are they dishonest charlatans offering a completely worthless product? If so, then why would you want to receive actual in person training from them?
           I think a lot also depends on the individual. Some folks have a lot of natural ability and are very quick learners who can visually watch something once or even just read about it and understand it and even apply it while others need to study and train hard, be corrected constantly and ask question after question to even marginally understand and effectively apply it. And what about the most important skills? The first priority of true self-defense is to avoid the situation altogether. The most effective way not to get shot, stabbed or beat up is to not get into a violent confrontation in the first place, so avoidance skills such as situational awareness, de-escalation and escape strategies are the most important skills we need to study, understand and be able to implement and you do not need to have live, in person training to learn those skills. We have tremendous access to information available to us that I only dreamed of when I started training back in the 80's and to not take advantage of it because of some distorted idea that learning and understanding can only come directly from in person training rather than books, video or correspondence is nonsensical and severely limits opportunities of learning.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sights-What and Why? Gabe Suarez and Rob Pincus

       There was a time in our development when we thought that all pistols needed high visibility sights. "You must use the sights, always, and at all distances" we were told by the gun gurus of a prior age, and like faithful followers, we shipped our guns to the smith to have them suitably arranged. And yes, sights that were easier to see made those 1 1/2 second head shots at 3 yards very easy to make, and right inside the "credit card" too. "Bravo!", we thought, as we holstered our 45s into our pricey Milt Sparks rigs (just like the instructor had) and walked up to examine the group with a jaunty swagger.

But then...something changed. Some crazy guy thought to have students shoot each other with Airsoft BB guns. Shooters would replicate exactly the drills that formed the Modern Technique, and that Gusmoke's Matt Dillon tried to emulate in his show. Insane! Outlandish! Heresy! Yes, they called it all of those things...but the first time guys stepped up to do it, everything changed.

Gone were the Weaver Stances. Hell, those lasted one evolution as guys realized that standing and shooting it out, in an equal initiative fight, or a reactive fight, was a guarantee of getting shot. The need for movement made the need for a proper stationary position obsolete in this type of fight. And keeping two hands on the gun was a luxury few got a chance to enjoy.

I recall after our first session of this several years ago I asked, "What sort of sight picture did you see"? Silence was the reply. "Well, what did you see?". I got varying replies from "the bad guy running at me", to "nothing", to "meat and metal". What we didn't hear, and have not heard, is that anyone has used a proper sight picture inside of five yards.

I base my view of the pistol fight on what we see in force on force sessions, as that parallels most, what I have seen on the streets. What a competitive pistol champion may use is interesting from a technical perspective, but that is all as the two worlds of range shooting and gunfighting only bear a passing resemblance. And the world of force on force, paralleling the gunfight more closely than anything else, tells us that using traditional sighting methods for close range shooting on a moving adversary is simply not done. Guys point and shoot.

At recent classes I have been using Airsoft guns with no sights at all...just to be sure. You know what? It has not changed the hitting percentages at all. It has made guys somewhat faster since they are not slowing down to try and find the sights. Wow! Insane? Outlandish? Heresy? Maybe, but also the truth. 

So, why do we need sights?

We need sights for precision shooting at close range as might be seen in an adversary's exposed elbow, foot, or eye behind cover. Or as may be needed for a shot passed an innocent to hit a bad guy.

We also need sights for long range shooting as might be seen in an Active Shooter countermeasure. We have taken pistol shooters out to 220 yards at one point so it can be done.

Do you need high visibility sights for shots inside 7 yards? Nope. In fact, you could literally take the sights off the gun and be able to, statisticqally speaking, handle most CCW gunfights easily.

So if we need sights we need them for the things discussed above. Which sights will work best for this? Sharp, clearly discernible black sights, with a serrated front and flat rear face.

Do we need dots or bars on the sights to see them better at close range? In my opinion, no we don't.

Do we need Tritium? I admit that many of my pistols have tritium in the sights, but when I have bought sights for my new guns I have gotten plain black sights with no tritium.


Because here is the thought - if it is dark, but there is enough ambient light to see my adversary, I neither need "night sights" nor a flashlight. I just shoot as I do during the day. If he is close, he is a short time frame problem. I shoot him. If I can see some sights, cool. But I am not waiting to see them. If he is far away, I probably won't be able to see where he is in dark environments so nights sights are of no benefit.

The more I work with this, the more I am convinced that plain black non-illuminated sights are the best option for a CCW pistol.

-Gabe Suarez


      I am not in the camp that recommends night sights...

Nightsights are a big marketing thing.. like rails on guns... They have their place, but that place isn't justified by the overwhelming presence in the marketplace except for the fact that they sell well.

The conditions under which nightsights are actually very valuable are pretty contrived, for example:

Enough light to see/indentify the threat, but not enough light/contrast to line-up the sights and the need for precision dictates precise sight alignment. Perhaps you are in the dark and the threat is in a decently lit room, but wearing dark clothes and not within 10', for example.

I think (hope?) we are past the point where people are preaching a "need" for nightsights. I have noticed a trend of people recommending tritium in the front sight only, for example, if you really feel you need it.

Your point is well-made, but I think the assumption that nightsights are all that important is flawed based on empiracle data.

As much as some camps don't like to hear it, we continue to find that most people shooting at human size targets at plausible defensive distances (especially inside the home distances) are able to get combat accurate hits without the need for a clear sight picture...
Extend the gun into and parallel with your line of sight, touch & press.

Many people are under the misconception that they need to have a clear sight-alignment/sight-picture every time they pull the trigger. This dependence creates a lack of confidence in just the type of situations that you are describing.

There is a ton of empirical evidence that says you can get combat accurate hits while focusing on a typical threat at typical defensive ranges.... but the best experience is to go and try it yourself.

- Rob Pincus