Sunday, April 24, 2011

Gunning For Self Defense

"Don't the Israelis all do it in Condition-3, and they have real issues...", DirtCrashr in comments here.

I don't actually think of myself as a "gunblogger". I don't have any special expertise about guns in general or any caliber or model in particular. On the other hand, I do own several examples, am licensed in Texas to carry concealed and (as the law allows) do so. I have some depth of experience with the guns I have owned upon which to draw, but that hardly makes me any one's idea of an expert.

I am, and have been off and on for several decades now (sadly more off than on), a student of self defense. I got into the general topic by way of my reading Sun Tzu and contemplating how and by what mechanism his writings might be applied to my personal life in the 20th Cent. (and Beyond!) Following the traditional process of trial and error (further regarding which the deponent sayeth nought), I finally settled on Krav Maga as being the most broadly applicable and most logically structured course of instruction. Of particular relevance to me was that even the most basic student received modern weapons (handguns and knives to be specific) defense training as a routine part of the curricula.

Since starting this blog in August of 2007, I've been as inconsistent as a 9 year old written on a variety of topics, with my gun ownership and the more general topic of shooting numbered amongst them. I see now I should have made a better effort at distinguishing between gun carrying/shooting and etc. and self defense.

In comments to this post of mine, TamaraK chimed in, as did others. Much of what follows is based upon that comment thread.

As Tam commented in response to DirtCrashr's observation, "Pretty much all militaries teach Condition 3 for people who aren't actually currently shooting at the enemy." And I will confess that my initial introduction to shooting came from a retired US Marine who was my town's local NRA Small Bore shooting club instructor/range master (he also was involved with the local Big Bore shooting team too) in the mid- to late-1960's. My quirks and kinks are many and deeply rooted, you see.

Part of my response to Tam was, "... my initial (and unchanged) belief that Condition 3 carry is more consistent with both the considered doctrine of professional self-defense and military instruction .." has it's genesis from my first military instructor in 1965 (I was 11 that summer). The balance of my response stems from my later reading, "... as well as being in greater accord with the philosophical underpinnings of personal self defense as that is commonly understood here in the United States (your rights end where my rights reach)."

There is, I think, a tendency to talk past one another in discussions of this type. The unexamined assumptions we all allow into our writing is a big contributor to that happening, so I'm going to go on a bit about what I regard as the distinctions between guns and self defense.

Since I began this discourse with a disclaimer of my gun expertise, I'm going to stipulate that anyone who's made it this far has at least as much direct knowledge as I do about firearms, their history and operation and all the rest of the minutia an actual gunblogger brings to any discussion about guns. Except to ask, how much of your self-defense preparation involves your gun?

Self defense begins with personal recognition of your capabilities and their limitations. When you Look, do you See? When you Hear, do you Listen? How much of a fight involves moving your feet rather than your fists? What constitutes winning for the defender? Does your obligation to some "other" take precedence over your liberty?

There ought to be a formal 'philosophy of self defense' in the US if only because of the enshrined position weapons ownership has in our national structure. We make do with an ad hoc arrangement of (often contradictory) legislative mandate and social convention instead. Still and all, I think an important part of any such philosophy would include critical examination of a hierarchy of response to provocation as well as a consideration of the distinctions between actions taken in defense in a variety of circumstances, if only to help clarify when (and possibly to what degree) a proactive action might be consistent with "defense"?

It is here, I think, we begin to get into the question of when a gun is the appropriate defense tool.

As I stated in my earlier post comments,
"The original argument (to the extent it can fairly be called such) is whether or not proficiency with your hand cannon is sufficient for an adequate self defense. I contend it is not and offer my - limited - experience with Krav Maga (and specifically as that relates to gun defense) in support of that assertion.

Unless your self-defense training deliberately incorporates defense against weaponed and empty-handed assault, both with and against a modern weapon, your self-defense capabilities are woefully inadequate. Indeed, I'm tempted to argue that the time you spend training only with your gun, beyond the level of basic handling and firing competency, detracts from your overall self defense capability. Ideally, we should each train to fight with our weapon and without it, against both an armed and unarmed attacker(s). Krav Maga is the only structured system of instruction available to civilians in the USA that does all that to my knowledge, but learn some method of physical combat that doesn't entirely rely on Samuel Colt's PC self-defense crutch (or derivative).

Though not directly in response to the above, Tam challenged: "... name one US law enforcement department or serious firearms instructor who teaches empty-chamber carry."

To which I respond that the first example is a false dichotomy in that it demands equal treatment of disparate circumstance, and the second requires a dissertation on market analysis.

Police do not practice personal self defense within the established meaning attached to the phrase as it is applied to that portion of US society not actively in military arms. The police are armed for the express purpose of imposing their will (as impartial officers of the court, of course) upon the rest of the populace. The common ruck are expressly prohibited from doing the same (on their own recognisance at least), and carry the additional burden of a more restrictive legal definition of "self defense" as well.

This is a false comparison of disparate society positions.

"serious firearms instructor" is equally mis-leading. By what standard or metric? Simple participation in the instruction market generally? Employment by a stipulated organisation for it's other personnel? Is consideration of market demand by said professional instructor an acceptable criteria? You of all people are aware of the answer to the perennial question, "What's it for?" Care to apply that to your "serious firearms instructor"'s business plan?

I wonder Tam, if you would you be willing to stipulate any of these fellows as meeting the standard of seriousness, or perhaps this one possibly? I've personally taken classes from all three of the first group and the other certifies instructors in this very course of instruction (for civlian, police and .mil customers) all over the USA and Europe.

You areTam is comparing instruction in firing your gun wellcompetently with self defense. We agree the former is a critical component of the latter. The disagreement seems to me to be the extent of that importance within the entirety of the latterself defense preparatory process for non-police in a non-military spontaneous combat setting.

Another commenter, seeker_two, subsequently asked: Have you considered Condition Two carry?

I replied as follows:
I have.

I'm trying to put together a somewhat more cogent post about all this, but to expand on your question, seeker_two, in a physical assault situation your gun is a priority point of attack (as is your attackers weapon from your own perspective keep in mind). As such, routinely keeping the gun in a condition of one-handed readiness empowers you both equally; whoever can best control the muzzle's direction determines who gets the bullet hole.

An apparently little considered factoid on the gun blogs (as far as my limited reading can determine). Whether a semi-auto is SA or DA, once the first round has been fired, a reasonably firm grip on the slide will prevent it from cycling the next round into battery and you're in Condition 3 no matter what. It's not quite as certain an eventuality, but the same effect occurs with a revolver too. If the assailants grip on the cylinder area of the frame is sufficient to contest your hold on the gun, it's likely the cylinder won't rotate by trigger pressure alone as well.

Ask me how I know.

Basically (and to bring this back to a more generalised construction), my contention is that Cond. 3 carry for a semi-auto pistol offers greater all around safety than any other condition as a basic self-defense posture. There are exceptions and special circumstances to consider also, but this discussion was (before Weer'd sensibly went on to other topics :)) about that distinction.

I would consider Cond. 2 to be the re-set position following a Cond. 0 confrontation for example (until the PD showed up and it's "prone'd out, arms and legs spread wide"). My objection to Cond. 2 is that it offers an attacker at least as much advantage as it potentially does me. Carrying a gun is an important part of self defense, but it's at best only 20% or so of a good self-defense posture IMO.

I think this a good point in this discourse to acknowledge that Tam has a distinctly different focus of gun interest than I do. She writes often about revolvers and I assume has far more experience of carrying them as a defense weapon than I do. I bring this up because (as should be obvious with only a little thought) DA revolvers in particular can't be carried in Condition 3, they're either in Condition 1/2 (depending upon the design of the gun) or Condition 4 (a SAO revolver w/o a round under the hammer might arguably qualify as C-3; I put the question to the commentariat for a ruling on that point). Consistency of carry condition is a valid consideration in arriving at any conclusion on this topic, and one I'm going to have to give further thought to once S&W finally poops out my replacement wheelgun.

Heretofore, the only revolver I've carried as a defense weapon has been my S&W 431PD. As it is a conveniently sized pocket pistol with an exposed hammer, I train to draw it from it's in-pocket holster with the end of my thumb up against the end of the hammer spur. This facilitates firing the first shot SA for better first-shot accuracy and also makes it less likely I'll catch the hammer on my pants pocket material when extracting the gun. As the gun comes clear of my pocket and settles fully into my grip, the thumb naturally slides over the top of the hammer and draws it back to full cock as the gun rises above the height of my waist.

Drawing an N-framed pistol from a waist holster is going to require very different mechanics from that, though I intend to investigate the possibilities of the gun as a pocket-carried weapon too. Without a gun to practice with, I'm unsure just how different drawing from the waist will be from the mechanics used to draw an auto pistol, but I don't foresee too much difficulty. I believe my already established practice of firing revolvers SA on the first shot will work to my advantage though.

Carrying a gun for self defense ought not be different in principle from training to fight without a gun in self defense. In one sense it shouldn't matter whether you do or you don't carry as far as the philosophy of the activity is concerned. The fact remains that most other routinely available modern weapons don't much exceed the users immediate reach, and guns are expressly designed to do exactly that. This being true, self defense training needs to specifically teach fighting with and without a gun against variably armed attackers in dynamic situations that prepare the student to keep the defense to themselves and not over-reach so as to involve bystanders.

I'll close with a question in return for Tam; name one "serious firearms instructor" who teaches as a routine part of his/her course of instruction any other activity of defense that doesn't rely entirely on a gun. [no fair throwing my own examples back at me :)] [no, "call the cops" doesn't count either :)] If we're going to use "self defense" as justification for carrying a gun, maybe we ought to give some thought to what defense with a modern firearm entails in modern society.

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