Mindset Must Be a Choice!

Certain topics, seemingly old and worn out, do not always get across to people using a firearm for personal defense. This week I was shooting at my local gun club in an evening pistol league with about fifteen other shooters. The league has been established to help people work through any number of issues when practicing personal defense skills with a firearm. The course of fire adds stress to the lives of some and gives others a chance to practice defensive fundamentals. A few people didn’t get too far and, in fact; shot no more than one magazine of six rounds before having equipment failures. This is what I would like to discuss (again) in this article – equipment & mindset choices for personal defense.

I am not sure why people make the choices they do regarding their selection of a tool that they will use to possibly save their lives or the lives of those in their mantle of protection. Perhaps someone sees a slick magazine article or glossy color advertisement about a certain gun and they buy it with the intention of making it their primary every-day carry (EDC). Perhaps people purchase primary guns because someone else has one or they had a chance to shoot a certain size, brand, caliber, make, model of gun but didn’t really have a chance to try it in any self-defense training scenario.

During our league shoot, I saw several shooter violations (my term for wrong or incompetent use) of basic personal defense use of their gun. One prime example is bringing a brand new gun to the league without a proper break-in period. This shooter, who we will call ‘Shooter A,’ was attempting to learn and practice defensive shooting techniques with gun that jammed every few rounds because he didn’t choose an ammunition that was the proper grain for this tight tolerance ‘solo carry’ pocket gun. Granted it is a very valid skill to know how to handle a malfunction in your EDC, Shooter A did not know how to respond to the gun jamming every few rounds.

Another shooter, ‘Shooter B,” had issues with an improperly fitting, off-brand magazine in his 1911-style pistol. This caused every second or third round to jam and create a feed malfunction. As with Shooter A, this shooter did not know the proper procedure for clearing the gun and getting back into operation.

Several shooters lost valuable time, and therefore shots on target, because of the gun’s safety or de-cocker needing to be manipulated. I am against carrying any EDC with a manual safety (except in rare cases) because it slows the process of threat neutralization. Additionally, when cognitive ability diminishes in a dynamic critical incident, shooters often forget the safety is on and they fumble trying to get the gun in action. This can certainly cost lives.

And there were others. To be fair, a few of the shooters never had any formal training. However, most were concealed pistol licensees who have the state-required minimum training to carry a concealed firearm. I’m not sure if this is a stain on the firearm instructors and the quality of teaching or a reflection on skill and knowledge retention of the student. Perhaps it is both.

As I have written many times before and mentioned in a few of my podcasts, if you are going to carry a loaded gun, in public, round chambered, concealed for your personal protection, you must know the operation and function of every button, knob, slide, and sight of that gun BEFORE you use it as one of your EDC guns.

If you can’t clear a malfunction on the range in a low stress environment, how can you expect to do it when you experience adrenaline dump, tunnel vision, loss of fine motor skill, and other physiological factors? Anyone who chooses to carry a gun for protection must have the skill to operate that gun, clear that gun, and shoot that gun in mere seconds. And, it must be done quickly, safely, effectively, and efficiently. There can be no other option!

Do not think for a single minute you will gain sudden super hero powers and you’ll be able to mitigate a deadly force situation simply because you have a gun. This would be similar to someone entering an Olympic skiing event simply because they own the right equipment. The late Col. Jeff Cooper, a noted personal defense instructor and mentor of many, once stated, “Owning a handgun doesn’t make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician.” You must practice weekly (sometimes daily) for weeks and months to become proficient at functionally operating your gun. Once or twice a month will not suffice. Shooting holes in paper, although fun and a great stress reliever, will not develop the proper skill set for a deadly force situation.

Personal defense skills are diminishing skills. Shortly after learning them, they begin to leave our short and long-term memories. This is why it is important to train regularly and train the skills that diminish most rapidly.

Taking a serious approach to personal defense training must be a top priority when allocating resources of time, equipment and finances. If we are truly serious about our safety and the safety of those in our mantle of protection, then we are obligated to train to the highest degree available and to train at that high level as often as possible.

As I have stated before, “Obtaining a license to carry a loaded, concealed firearm in public is a huge responsibility and is over a few hours. Training to use that firearm to save your life, or that of another, is developed over a lifetime.”

Stay Safe!

I know how… Do I know when?

Attention: This article is not intended, nor to be used or construed, as legal advice. It is purely for educational purposes only. No warranty or claim is made as to its legal or intended use. Consult a qualified attorney for specific questions as to your rights and obligations under Michigan law. This article is written from the non-legal opinion of an expert & consulting witness, not as an attorney or legal counsel.

The Self-Defense Act of Michigan[1] (the Act) seems to be one of the most misunderstood sets of laws in Michigan by those people who posses a Michigan Concealed Pistol License (CPL). I arrive at this conclusion due to the number of CPL holders attending my classes for advanced training, who are seemingly unfamiliar with the laws from their initial training.

In light of recent events in Michigan, and across the United States, much has been written on the use of deadly force. Many have been justified in their use of deadly force and a few have not. Allow me to list the general provisions of the Act and then I will write about several myths and misconceptions that students often bring to my courses.

In general, a person in Michigan may use deadly force with no duty to retreat (PA 309) if:

  1. They are not engaged in a crime;
  2. They are in a place they have a legal right to be;
  3. They honestly and reasonably believe deadly force is necessary;
  4. The deadly force is used to prevent imminent death, great bodily harm, or sexual assault of the person or another.

Before we discuss the aforementioned points, keep in mind Michigan is generally considered a no-retreat state. However, it should be stated that most firearm and personal defense instructors agree that if a means of escape is available, it should be taken. It must be emphasized that anything you can do to keep from using deadly force, do it! Additionally, keep in mind the following jury instructions:

M Crim JI 7.16 Duty to Retreat to Avoid Using Deadly Force[2]

(1) A person can use deadly force in self-defense only where it is necessary to do so. If the defendant could have safely retreated but did not do so, you may consider that fact in deciding whether the defendant honestly and reasonably believed [he / she] needed to use deadly force in self-defense.*

(2) However, a person is never required to retreat if attacked in [his / her] own home, nor if the person reasonably believes that an attacker is about to use a deadly weapon, nor if the person is subject to a sudden, fierce, and violent attack.

(3) Further, a person is not required to retreat if the person:

(a) has not or is not engaged in the commission of a crime at the time the deadly force is used, and

(b) has a legal right to be where the person is at that time, and

(c) has an honest and reasonable belief that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent imminent [death / great bodily harm / sexual assault] of the person or another.

So remember, the law in Michigan states there is generally no duty to retreat, however, juries may use the fact that you chose not to retreat (when one was safely available) in their decision for or against you.

Let’s examine the previous numbered points:

  1. They are not engaged in a crime.

An assailant who is engaged in criminal activity cannot use deadly force to prevent the victim from using deadly force (or other force) and then complain to the police that they had to use deadly force in order to mitigate the situation; while they were robbing the victim.

  1. They are in a place they have a legal right to be.

Although Michigan is considered a “no retreat state,” the person using deadly force must be in a place they are legally able to be. This includes at the store, the ATM, your yard, place of business, shopping with friends, at dinner, etc.

  1. They honestly and reasonably believe deadly force is necessary.

This is where many people fall into trouble. Many experienced criminal defense attorneys will tell you that in order to defend a deadly force encounter, your honest and reasonable belief must be supported by the facts of the case. You may have been truly scared and had an honest belief the assailant was going to kill you, but if the evidence suggests otherwise, you might have a bit of trouble.

  1. The deadly force is used to prevent imminent death, great bodily harm, or sexual assault of the person or another.

These three reasons to use deadly force do not mean you can shoot someone who knocks on your door, makes a future threat, threatened you five minutes ago but hasn’t carried it out yet, threatens you in a road rage incident but does not have the means to carry it out.

As you can read, using deadly force is allowed in very narrow circumstances. Let’s examine more jury instructions:

M Crim JI 7.15 Use of Deadly Force in Self-Defense[3]

(1) The defendant claims that [he / she] acted in lawful self-defense. A person has the right to use force or even take a life to defend [himself / herself] under certain circumstances. If a person acts in lawful self-defense, that person’s actions are justified and [he / she] is not guilty of [state crime].

(2) You should consider all the evidence and use the following rules to decide whether the defendant acted in lawful self-defense. Remember to judge the defendant’s conduct according to how the circumstances appeared to [him / her] at the time [he / she] acted.

(3) First, at the time [he / she] acted, the defendant must have honestly and reasonably believed that [he / she] was in danger of being [killed / seriously injured / sexually assaulted]. If the defendant’s belief was honest and reasonable, [he / she] could act immediately to defend [himself / herself] even if it turned out later that [he / she] was wrong about how much danger [he / she] was in. In deciding if the defendant’s belief was honest and reasonable, you should consider all the circumstances as they appeared to the defendant at the time.

(4) Second, a person may not kill or seriously injure another person just to protect [himself / herself] against what seems like a threat of only minor injury. The defendant must have been afraid of [death / serious physical injury / sexual assault]. When you decide if the defendant was afraid of one or more of these, you should consider all the circumstances: [the condition of the people involved, including their relative strength / whether the other person was armed with a dangerous weapon or had some other means of injuring the defendant / the nature of the other person’s attack or threat / whether the defendant knew about any previous violent acts or threats made by the other person].

(5) Third, at the time [he / she] acted, the defendant must have honestly and reasonably believed that what [he / she] did was immediately necessary. Under the law, a person may only use as much force as [he / she] thinks is necessary at the time to protect [himself / herself]. When you decide whether the amount of force used seemed to be necessary, you may consider whether the defendant knew about any other ways of protecting [himself / herself], but you may also consider how the excitement of the moment affected the choice the defendant made.

We will pull a few sentences from the jury instructions and discuss their implications.

Remember to judge the defendant’s conduct according to how the circumstances appeared to [him / her] at the time [he / she] acted.

In deciding if the defendant’s belief was honest and reasonable, you should consider all the circumstances as they appeared to the defendant at the time.

This statement refers to the Reasonable Man Doctrine that asks, “Would a reasonable person under the same circumstances, knowing what you knew at the time, likely have used the same deadly force in self defense?”[4] This is the position that the jury must hold. If a juror can see the incident through your eyes, knowing what you knew, and agreeing therefore that deadly force was indeed necessary if they were in your shoes, you have a greater chance of walking free.

Elements of Ability, Opportunity, Jeopardy

These three elements must be present to show a justifiable use of deadly force.

The defendant must have been afraid of [death / serious physical injury / sexual assault]. When you decide if the defendant was afraid of one or more of these, you should consider all the circumstances: [the condition of the people involved, including their relative strength / whether the other person was armed with a dangerous weapon or had some other means of injuring the defendant / the nature of the other person’s attack or threat / whether the defendant knew about any previous violent acts or threats made by the other person].

Ability refers to the assailant having the capability to carry out an attack. In other words, if the attacker is twice the victim’s size, possesses a weapon (gun, knife, bat, hands), is holding a big rock, or some other means of inflicting imminent death or great bodily harm, they have the ability.

Opportunity to carry out a deadly force attack can be shown by the proximity of the attacker. An assailant who is making threats with a baseball bat from thirty feet away certainly has the ability, but if he never closes the distance between the two of you it would be difficult to prove the assailant had the opportunity. The same would hold true if you were behind a closed door, in a vehicle, or had some other barrier that would prevent the assailant from breaking.

Finally, jeopardy simply means that you can show a jury you had an honest and reasonable belief that your life was in peril from imminent death, great bodily harm, or sexual assault. What was the intent of the attacker(s)? Is it reasonable to believe they were intending to carry out an attack that would cause imminent death, great bodily harm, or sexual assault?

Under the law, a person may only use as much force as [he / she] thinks is necessary at the time to protect [himself / herself]. When you decide whether the amount of force used seemed to be necessary, you may consider whether the defendant knew about any other ways of protecting [himself / herself], but you may also consider how the excitement of the moment affected the choice the defendant made.

The amount of force you use must be reasonable and only be at a level that will counter-act the force being used against you. If you had any other means of defending yourself (pepper spray, taser, martial arts), this may be taken into consideration. However, it would be unreasonable to use pepper spray against an armed (gun) attacker unless pepper spray is all you had at your disposal at the time of the attack.


  1. “I can shoot a person who breaks into my house.”

Remember that you must have an honest and reasonable belief of imminent death, great bodily harm or sexual assault. Although one never has to retreat in their own home, this is not license to shoot on sight.

  1. “If I feel threatened by someone or I feel like someone is going to hurt me, I can use deadly force.”

Simply because a person threatens you, you cannot use deadly force. You cannot use deadly force against a threat that was made but not yet carried out. You cannot use deadly force against a threat that was made or carried out at some other date or time. Remember, the states that the threat must be imminent.

  1. “I don’t have to retreat in Michigan. I can stand my ground.”

Generally, yes you can. However, from an ethical standpoint, you should go out of your way to avoid using deadly force. From a jury standpoint, remember, a jury can use the fact that you had a reasonable means of escape to avoid deadly force in their decision. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should!

Advice to take from this article:

  1. If you can escape safely, DO IT!
  2. Avoid using deadly force unless you are faced with imminent death, great bodily harm, or sexual assault.
  3. It is your legal, ethical, and moral responsibility to avoid placing yourself in any situation that could escalate to the use of deadly force.
  4. Train, read, consult, discuss, and practice so that if you are in need of making the decision of using deadly force, you will make right decision, legally, ethically, and morally to preserve your life and the lives of your loved ones.

The judicious use of force needs to be filtered through ethical responsibility and the attitude that you will do everything in your power to avoid its use. The financial, legal, and emotional aftermath can be devastating to you and your family if you make the decision to use deadly force, even if you’re actions are deemed justified by a jury. Your mindset, attitude, behavior, and thought processes should be that of the preservation of life.

Stay safe!

[1] Commonly referenced as The Self Defense Act of Michigan is found in the Michigan Compiled Laws, MCL 600.2922b, MCL 600.2922c, & MCL 777.21c. Public Acts 309-314 of 2006.

[2] Michigan Model Criminal Jury Instructions, p. 158.

[3] Michigan Model Criminal Jury Instructions, p. 157.

[4] Hayes, Marty. What Every Gun Owner Needs to Know About Self-Defense Law. Armed Citizen’s Educational Foundation. Onalaska, WA., 2014.

I have my Concealed Pistol License (CPL), now what?

An interesting, yet common topic was discussed this weekend in my most recent NRA instructor class. Four new instructors were certified as Certified Pistol and PPITH Instructors. Our discussion was about the lack of quality training standards in Michigan for a citizen to obtain their Concealed Pistol License (CPL).

The discussion quickly gained momentum and the broader topic of training and ability came to the forefront. In Michigan, and many locales, a citizen must only complete an 8-hour course of training, make application, and pass a criminal background check in order to obtain the legal authority to carry a pistol concealed in public.

According to the Michigan State Police, there are slightly less than 500,000 CPL holders in Michigan. The population is currently at 9.9 million people with slightly more than 7 million over the age of 21.[1] This represents approximately 7% of the Michigan population over the age of 21 who are CPL holders.

How many of the 7% of CPL holders are adequately trained to mitigate a lethal force situation? Not very many if they are trained to minimum standards. In Michigan, the minimum requirements for obtaining a CPL, is five hours of classroom instruction and three hours on the range.[2] Minimum number of rounds fired must be at least thirty-five. Why teach to minimum standards? For some instructors, it’s a matter of economics. They have invested heavily in instructor training, equipment for the classroom and range, and continuing education. Other instructors have completed instructor training without ever attending another course to improve their own skills. Many of these instructors do not have the skill-sets to teach others. They barely have the skill-sets to survive a defensive encounter.

The late Lt. Colonel Jeff Cooper, a highly respected firearms instructor, once said, “Owning a handgun doesn’t make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician.” How true! We can modify his statement for our purposes: “Possessing a CPL doesn’t make you proficient in self-defense any more than owning a car makes you a NASCAR driver.”

As firearm instructors, we must seek to change the mindset of the people we train. Learning to read music is the first step to becoming a musician. Taking a SCUBA course is the first step to learning to dive. Likewise, shouldn’t we consider purchasing a gun and taking a concealed pistol course the first step to learning to use a gun in personal defense? Unfortunately, this is not the mindset of most CPL holders and instructors. Obtaining a CPL and carrying a pistol, concealed and in public, appears to be the end game for many of our citizens.

However, this attitude leaves those carrying a concealed pistol in a dangerous predicament. Carrying a gun is one thing; using it in a defensive confrontation is certainly another.

Let’s take a look at some very real statistics involving lethal force incidents. (Keep in mind while reading this; many defensive firearm courses are based on mitigating a defensive encounter 21 feet from the shooter). Dave Spaulding’s research shows that over 80% of defensive encounters occur within 20 feet of the victim. Furthermore, his research concludes that in the 30 years prior to publication of his research, the majority of the close-quarters defensive encounters occurred within 6 feet.[3] In his book, Counter Ambush: The Science of Training for the Unexpected Defensive Shooting, Rob Pincus discusses the need for training for the “nine to fifteen feet” radius around the victim that “someone could be close enough to attack you without ever noticing [his or her] presence.”[4]

If research proves the majority of defensive encounters occur within 20 feet and the of those, a vast majority occur within 6 feet, why do firearm course objectives place so much emphasis on the 21-foot rule? In 1983, Salt Lake City Officer Dennis Tueller wrote an article, based on his original research, discussing the time it takes for an officer to draw, aim, and fire at an attacker encroaching from 21 feet.[5] In a later interview, Tueller commented that training that day consisted of “draw and fire” techniques from 7 yards.[6] The concept of the 21-foot rule soon became a part of the defense-training lexicon. So much research and many more articles have been written to give us an insight into why the 21-foot rule (which, by the way, was not a term coined by Tueller) is not a hard and fast “rule.” This is part of our culture that must be changed.

Changing the cultural mindset in firearm training requires the instructor to rethink many opinions they have held, perhaps for decades. For example, many instructors continue to advance the myth of the “one-stop shot” even though it has been disproven many times over. When firearm instructors do not become students of their craft, they will continue to use old methodologies, outdated statistics, and continue to be proponents of myths and misconceptions.

The public does not understand, mostly, what they are missing in defensive training. Most students place a deep trust, perhaps to their dismay, in their instructor. As in any professional endeavor, there are good instructors and there are bad instructors. How does the beginning CPL student know the difference? For the student, it is difficult and many times they simply do not know. Rob Pincus states “ Credentials do not always equate to ability.”[7]

How does a student vet a firearms instructor? How do students know if what the instructor is teaching them is valid? Because a class or program meets minimum requirements of some standard does not mean it is adequate to meet the needed requirements of the end-user.

Rob Pincus additionally states “It is important to remember that experts are not always right and certainly don’t always know everything.”[8] Going back to the questions just asked, we can ask the prospective instructor a few questions. Consider the following as a place to start:

  1. What was the last student-level firearms course you attended and when?
  1. In the previous five years, what have you changed about the way you personally train?
  1. How do you keep your current level of skill at peak performance?
  1. What is the title of the last book you’ve read on personal defense?
  1. What is the source of your training philosophy?

If your singular goal in obtaining a CPL is to have the ability to carry a gun in public, you can stop reading here. It is not overly difficult to attend a class for 5 hours, spend a few more hours at the range, make application, pay the requisite fees, and wait six weeks for your license. You will have the legal ability to carry a loaded firearm in public anywhere the law allows. However, if your goal is personal protection, you must look at reality and develop a self-defense plan appropriate to your needs.

Obtaining a CPL should be viewed much akin to earning a driver’s license. Driver education teaches the very basics to get one started. Driving skill is learned over the years to follow. Similar to a driver’s license is the Concealed Pistol License. Your skill with a firearm and skill in defensive tactics is learned, developed, and refined over a lifetime. If you are not willing to put in the time through continuing education, I submit that you should pack your firearm away and make a conscious choice of not including it in your personal defense plan. This would be the most responsible and ethical thing to do.

How is a personal defense plan developed and what do I train? This is a common question among new students and isn’t difficult to understand and develop. Consider the aforementioned research of Dave Spaulding. If over 80% of defensive confrontations occur within 20 feet and a majority of those are within 6 feet of the victim, it should become clear that close-quarters training should be at the top of our personal defense training list. This means we need to focus an appropriate amount of time and training resources to learning how to mitigate this type of attack. In your training model, you may want to consider taking courses in unarmed defense and ambush training. Study the physics and physiology of a close-quarters attack. Train and develop your response. Examine your carry methods. Changes may be needed to safeguard your firearm with a different carry method or retention device. Research the effects of the body’s physiology when involved in a critical incident (This topic will be discussed in a future article). Train to use the body’s natural reactions and safeguards to your advantage. Train in low-light, one-handed shooting, unorthodox shooting positions, shooting from a sitting position, train to transition from a primary firearm to your back up.

Plan your range time to incorporate at least one of these techniques each time you go to the range. Plan to take additional training or intermediate/advanced training each year. Read books, search the training forums, attend conferences, and join a local gun club. If you are choosing to include a firearm in your personal protection plan, you must be more than proficient at simply standing on a square range and putting holes on a paper target.

Obtaining a license to carry a loaded, concealed firearm in public is a huge responsibility and training is developed over a few hours. Training to use that firearm to save your life, or that of another, is developed over a lifetime.

Stay safe!

[1] “American Fact Finder – Results.” American Fact Finder – Results. Accessed October 12, 2014.

[2] Michigan State Police, Concealed Pistol License Application. 2014.

[3] Spaulding, Dave. Handgun Combatives. Flushing, NY: Looseleaf Law Publications, 2003.

[4] Pincus, Rob. Counter Ambush: The Science of Training for the Unexpected Defensive Shooting. I.C.E. Publishing Company, 2013.

[5] Tueller, Dennis. “How Close is too Close?” S.W.A.T. Magazine, March 1983.

[6] Hayes, Gila. “The Tueller Drill Revisited,” Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Fund, Inc (2008): accessed November 9, 2014, http://www.armedcitizensnetwork.org/the-tueller-drill-revisited.

[7] Pincus, Rob. Combat Focus Shooting: The Science of Intuitive Shooting Skill Development. Virginia Beach, VA: I.C.E. Publishing Company, 2010.

[8] Pincus, Rob. Combat Focus Shooting: The Science of Intuitive Shooting Skill Development. Virginia Beach, VA: I.C.E. Publishing Company, 2010.

Are you truly ready to use deadly force?

Many of you know I currently work in the security/EP industry and am also a process server for one of the largest process serving companies in Michigan. My job allows me to meet a host of different people from all walks of life. My job takes me to upscale, secluded neighborhoods as well as dangerous, dimly-lit, high crime areas, where I try not to be after dark.

A high percentage of the time, I am the bearer of bad news. People do not generally like to be served with civil process that demands payment or perhaps to appear in court. Some people know the summons is coming and they simply take it, say thank you, and close the door. Others are not quite so congenial.

I recently had a situation where I was to make a simple posting. Postings are writs that have been sent back to the judge and alternate service is ordered. This means I can simply walk up to the house, tape the summons to the front door, take a photo with my phone (documentable proof), and walk away. Unfortunately, I did not notice the servee sitting just inside the house with a clear view of the front door. As I stepped back to photograph the posting, he jumped up and came after me.

As I backed down the driveway, I quickly identified myself and tried to explain why I was (legally) on his property. He was shouting at me and I was able to maintain a safe distance of about 10-12 feet as we both moved in sync. After this exchange repeated several times, I stopped, put one hand up, and ordered the man to halt. What happened next was chaotic but fortunately did not take me by surprise.

The man reached behind his back and postured as though he was about to draw a gun. I immediately accessed and gripped my weapon and ordered the man to “stop and show me your hands!”

Now comes the adrenaline dump as my mind is racing with thoughts of what might happen next. Fortunately, when he saw that I actually had a gun, his hands went up and he stopped. Again, I explained who I was and why I was on his property. At this point, he began mumbling expletives, turned and walked back to his house. I got in my car and got the heck out of Dodge.

By the way, as the man turned to walk away, he did not have a gun!

A few lessons learned in this event. First, never, ever posture that you have a weapon. False posturing can get you killed. Second, I am very thankful that I have had the benefit of great instructors throughout the years who have ingrained in me the need to train, train, train. I preach to my students at every self-defense class that scenario training and visualization is as important as sending bullets down a range into a dirt berm. I have trained this scenario many times at my own range since it is a probable situation I in which I would find myself due to my line of work.

I teach my defense students to always have a back-up. This could be a firearm but most likely should be pepper spray, martial arts training, etc. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages. As a life-long practitioner of the martial arts I understand it is only effective in close-quarters. I normally carry pepper spray and decided I didn’t need it since this was an “easy” posting.

Another lesson learned is never underestimate the situation in which you find yourself. Had I not left my pepper in the car, the kind gentleman would be writhing on the ground crying like a baby. This is a mistake I will never make again.

I like the rubric I learned from Rob Pincus in one of his classes. A DCI (dynamic critical incident) has three elements: Surprising, Chaotic, and Threatening. My situation was certainly all three. Surprising in that I never expected the man to be in view of his door so late at night (my mistake). Chaotic because for a few seconds, several decisions ran through my head on what action I need to take. The moment he postured for a gun, I knew I couldn’t  run. I’m not that fast, I can’t outrun a bullet, and this is not a movie set. Lastly, I perceived his act as a true threat.

Although I am not an attorney, I have studied the Michigan Self-Defense Act in great detail. This law allows the use of deadly force if the person using deadly force honestly and reasonably believes that the perpetrator is about to cause imminent death, great bodily harm, or sexual assault against you or another. Did I honestly and reasonably believe that this man was about to cause great bodily harm or imminent death? Absolutely.

I realize that I was but a moment away from drawing my gun and defending myself. Thankfully, before my brain made that final connection to draw and fire, he brought his hands out in front of his body. So very close. And yes, I was scared.

My ability to act quickly and efficiently in this situation can only be credited to the fine instruction I have received over the years and my desire to apply that instruction to my own training. However, it goes much deeper than that. Where I carry, how I carry, and practicing accessing my gun are all key factors to survivability. As I debrief my own actions, I see that certain carry modes could have cost my life because of the time it would take to access the gun from that location. I understand the need to not only send bullets down a range, but to visualize my target as well.

Talk is cheap. Talk can cost your life. Training for specific events, training with specific equipment, training for dealing with a DCI, and training with varying levels of stress are the only things that can get you through a chaotic, life-changing event. We don’t have time to plan in the heat of the moment.

The decision and ability to use deadly force is not predicated on the single act of pulling a trigger. It begins long before the actual event.

All of us make mistakes. I made several in this DCI. I am alive and so is the nice man who now has a summons to appear posted on his door.

Stay Safe!

Seven rounds

This is an important read……


The controversy surrounding New York state’s new gun control laws mystifies me. What’s the big deal about limiting a pistol’s magazine capacity to seven rounds? Nobody needs more than seven rounds for self defense. After all, when you shoot someone even once, they fly through the air and drop dead, just like in the movies.

I arrived on a robbery call one night. A robber had shot a man through the sternum with a 9mm hollow point. He looked dead. I got on the radio and notified dispatch that we had a murder. Thirty seconds later, the victim started moaning and squirming. Less than a minute later he was fully conscious and complained, “This is the fifth time I’ve been shot.”

But nobody needs more than seven rounds. One round is usually fatal. And nobody could possibly still be a threat after being shot more than once.

The same robbers…

View original post 1,591 more words

Why I don’t teach a $99 concealed pistol class and why you shouldn’t take one.

Recently, a gentleman pointed out to me that my Michigan Concealed Pistol License class was overpriced at $150. He informed me he could get the same class for only $99. I gently inquired if he knew anything about my course. He didn’t and this prompted a conversation that lasted a few minutes whereby I explained why he should never settle for the cheapest price, especially in personal defense training.

It has become commonplace in my home state of Michigan for firearm instructors to undercut other instructors by offering prospective clients a $99 class, free lunch, and anything else they can to entice the unsuspecting consumer to their courses. In my travels, I have the opportunity to talk to other instructors and invariably we get into the conversation about training standards and marketing, including pricing and course content. Some believe price doesn’t matter and they like to recite the worn out edict that all instructors use the same course outline and therefore we all teach the same course. Others will give a lengthy speech about their law enforcement or military background and how that makes them a better instructor to teach civilian personal defense. Still, a few others don’t care and they simply want the money.

I am not against a free market society. However, more often than not, price is usually the deciding factor. Many variables exist when comparing how an instructor teaches a course and the content being presented. For example, if an instructor presents the “nationally recognized” course popular in Michigan and elsewhere, very little is taught about concealed carry and how to mitigate a lethal force situation outside the home. It is a course focused on personal defense inside your home, not on the street where you will carry concealed.

I am well aware of the fact that this course meets the minimum state law on concealed carry. I am also aware that because a training program meets minimum standards or law, the minimum may not be enough. I am not naïve and I know many people who take these courses simply do so to obtain a concealed carry license – they are not interested in actually learning to use their firearm defensively. Many are not interested in advanced classes nor are they informed as to the real risks in a real world. I hear complaints, often from instructors who teach advanced classes, that students can’t load their magazines properly.  Or, perhaps, they do not know nor understand the basic function of the firearm they are carrying concealed in public for personal defense. This is truly a travesty that will one get someone killed because they have a false sense of security, training, and preparedness.

If we truly compare apples with apples, the “national” course does not come close to what some of us are teaching in our concealed carry classes. For example, I include a classroom and range module on concealment techniques, drawing from a holster, utilizing the startle response in our training, balancing speed and precision drills, additional information on the physics and physiology of being in a dynamic critical incident, and more. This is why my class is longer than 8 hours. This is why it cost $150. Although the “extras” are not an official part of the NRA course (I add them as an optional supplement), I find that most of my students enjoy the added training and find value in it.

Many consumers don’t know what they don’t know. They believe the instructor to be someone of authority on the topic of firearms and training; after all they’re the instructor!

Allow me to add a note about the NRA. I am an ardent supporter of the NRA, and a Life Member. It is not their fault nor responsibility that the law in Michigan dictates that the minimum training standards to carry a concealed firearm in public is simply not adequate. Nor is it their fault that it has very little to do with concealed carry. The NRA produces fine courses; Michigan is simply not using the right one for the purpose intended.

 Bottom line – ask questions. Ask the instructor about the last time they took a training course. Ask them if they teach to minimum standards. Ask the instructor if the class they will teach will provide you with real-world defensive shooting skills or is it a gloried marksmanship class. Human nature dictates that most instructors will not spend the extra few hours teaching you real defensive skills for $99. They simply won’t.

Stay safe.