Training for the changing threat

A couple of posts popped up on my radar today that both hit on the same subject – how we’re training and what kind of threat we’re training to fight. First up is Todd at Pistol-Training, talking about the emerging active shooter/terrorist threat:

While there are still muggers and rapists and thieves aplenty in our society, this year has seen a rise in organized, trained, well armed, and fearless teams of ne’er do wells who are all too happy to kill their victims. Murder for them is a goal, not an inconvenience.

Caleb Area 3 with Colt 1911

Next is a post from American Handgunner, where Ralph Mroz talks about how he’s changing his training focus from extreme CQB (inside 3 yards) to more short/intermediate range training; reasoning that the data from recent civilian and LE shootings shows most fights occur outside the “phonebooth” envelope.

We now have the only good data set on civilian defensive uses of guns (Tom Givens’ data published in Handgunner (Sept./Oct. 2014 edition) which indicates most civilian deadly force encounters happen at about 5 yards, at least in his data set. This means we definitely need to train at that distance — plus or minus a couple yards, so say 3 to 8 yards. Further, the astonishing success rate of Tom’s students suggests we need to pay attention to Tom’s fairly traditional training too — sighted shooting with two hands on the gun.

I have always advocated that self-defense training should be focused on making difficult shots under tight time limits, with the simple reasoning that if you’re capable of making a pair of head shots on a 3×5 card under 2 seconds from concealment at 7 yards, a wide open torso at 3-5 yards is an easy shot. Or to put it another way: “No one rises to the occasion, you default to the level of your training.”

It’s sort of like the zombie apocalypse joke: if you’re prepared to survive a plague of the undead sweeping across the land, a tornado is just an inconvenience. I’m not saying that everyone should immediately run out and take a carbine operator course, rather that people should take an honest look at the self-defense skills you have, identify weak areas, and then train to make those weaknesses go away. The mere act of carrying a gun for self-defense means that you acknowledge the possibility, however unlikely, that you may need to actually use that gun for self-defense. If you’re mentally capable of realizing that, it then follows that it’s in your best interests, and the interests of those around you, to be prepared for the most extreme situation in which you could use that gun. Because if you’re training to make 25 yard head shots on moving partials, you’re going to be able to make the easy shots.

But what does that look like? How can we go from “not ready” and find the road that leads to being ready for an unthinkable day?

  1. Evaluate your gear. Step one is simple. Look at the gear you’re carrying right now. I understand some people can’t carry in the workplace, so look at what you can carry. If you can and do carry at all times, what are you carrying? A j-frame? A Glock 19? Is your equipment, be it holster, belt, or gun itself a limiting factor in your ability to make hard shots at intermediate ranges? I would casually suggest that if you can’t make an untimed headshot on an IDPA target at 15 yards with your current gear, you might want to look into changing it up.
  2. Evaluate your skills. Can you make an untimed headshot on demand at a 15 yard target? What about hitting a 2 inch circle at 5 yards, or a 3×5 card at 7? There are a ton of drills available online that you can use to benchmark your skills, whether it’s a good old fashioned Bill Drill, the FAST test, the iHack, whatever. Find some drills, test yourself, and see where your weaknesses are. If you’re good at bill drills shoot a drill you’re not good at.
  3. TAKE A FRIGGIN CLASS. Once you’ve found out where your weaknesses lie, take a class from a reputable instructor to have professional adjustment made on those skills.
  4. Pressure test your skills and training. Once you’ve received that professional instruction, you need to pressure test what you’ve learned in the white hot fire of the furnace of the crucible of motorsport competition. Weird things happen to people’s skills when you put them in front of other people and on a timer.
  5. Practice. Once you’ve done all these things, you need to set up a repeated schedule to practice and continue to build speed and efficiency. It doesn’t do you any good to learn new stuff and pressure test if after that you just sit around for 2 months waiting for your next match. Dry fire. Even if it’s just for a little bit. Go the range and train.

The bottom line is that once you’ve accepted that the world is a dangerous enough place to warrant carrying a gun every day, the only logical extension of that thought is that the danger is significant enough that you should be training to kick its ass.

Viva la France #parisattacks

I was watching CNN Friday evening when the news of the Paris attacks broke. Everything was pandemonium in the news reporting; however over the weekend the details have settled out. What we’re learning now is more about the background of the suspects and the support network that enabled them to carry out this attack. I’m not going to beat the drum of “carry you guns” because anyone reading this blog at this point should already know to carry your damn gun. I’m also not going to tell you to “die on your feet” for the exact same reason.

the patriot

What I do want to talk about is something that has not been mentioned much in the mainstream media, and is actually the part of these terrorists attacks that I find the most concerning. I’ve seen the recent Paris attacks compared to two different events, the Charlie Hebdo attacks and the Mumbai attacks. The Charlie Hebdo comparison is obvious, because both attacks took place in Paris, however it’s not really accurate. The CH attack was a small group of individuals attacking a single soft target. A better comparison in terms of execution are the attacks in Mumbai, where a group of determined attackers hit multiple targets over the course of multiple days. However, even that comparison is somewhat lacking, because of the nature of the nations that were attacked. Which leads me to the point I’m looking to make, and the reason why I find the Paris attacks far more disturbing than any events in recent memory.

When a bomb goes off in Lebanon, or India, or even Turkey, there’s a tendency to shrug because those nations aren’t as sophisticated as “the west.” Although at least in the case of Turkey, that’s probably not true from a military standpoint. So a coordinated attack in India seems to the casual observer to be “easier” than a similar attack in a western nation. But the Paris attacks were a complex, well executed, operation with multiple actors that would require extensive logistics, planning, and other support operations. These attacks were carried out against a first world westernized nation that possesses a sophisticated intelligence apparatus, and in fact was aware of at least one, if not more of the attackers. Yet the attacks were still successful.

As a citizen of a first world, westernized nation with a sophisticated intelligence apparatus I find that extremely concerning. This wasn’t just some asshole with an AK running into a public market yelling ALOHASNACKBAR before getting smoked by the one-time. What this demonstrates is a level of organization competence that you really haven’t seen since the Troubles, when the IRA was engaged honest to god warfare against the British state. To dismiss the Paris attacks as mere terrorism is to underestimate the resolve of a determined enemy. This was, to borrow a phrase from a friend, an act of war by a nascent nation-state and should be responded to in kind.

Thankfully, ISIS has done the west the favor of actually drawing lines on their maps saying “here is the ISIS/ISIL Caliphate.” They even have a “capitol” city in Al-Raqqa in Syria, which I’m pleased to read the French have already begun bombing. Good. But that brings me to the “response” portion of this post. To avoid typing the same thing twice, I’m going to copy/paste something I wrote on FB on Sunday:

I’ve been thinking about the attacks in France now since last night. Mostly, I’ve been thinking about the solution, how to stop this sort of thing from happening. My left wing friends say that answering extremism with violence only creates more extremism, and they’re correct…to a point. Answering extremism with the sort of casual, half-assed violence that seems to be all we have the stomach for these days does create more extremism, because it doesn’t finish the job.

But history has shown us time and again that when dealing with truly extreme ideologies and the people behind them, a nation and its people must be willing to commit to a level of wholesale violence that we’ve not ourselves touched since 1945. There are parallels to the war against Imperial Japan, not just in the extremism of the country but in how we fought the war. We firebombed Tokyo. We completely destroyed two cities with nuclear weapons.

Nowadays our weapons are more precise, so glassing ISIL stronghold cities probably isn’t necessary. But that level of commitment to eradicating the heart of the enemy is what the West has lost. We fought Japan until we had inflicted such horrible losses that we broke their will to fight, and it’s precisely that sort of war that we’d have to wage if we really wanted to “stamp out terrorism.” You kill badguys until every military aged male in the AO says “you know what? Fuck it. This isn’t worth dying over.” You make it a fact that if you support extremism, you die. Simple.

The west lacks the stomach for this sort of thing. Our enemies? Clearly they have it.

The longer I’ve had to think about this response, the more I’ve come to believe it. We broke the back of not one but two major, industrial nations in the 1940s, and we did it by visiting such an amount of violence on them that, at least in the case of Japan, an entire warrior-culture decided to swear off war for the next 60 years. In fact, there is still a huge culture of pacifism in Japan as a direct result of what happen in 1945. But that is the level of violence we have to be willing to engage in if we really want to combat ISIS in a meaningful way. As a nation, as a culture, we have to be willing to go to where they are, and stack up the bodies of military aged males until the next guy that looks at an AK decides “nope, this crap isn’t worth dying for, because these western devils will f***ing smoke me.”

But we don’t posses that will. Which is sad, because as a nation we have no lack of young (and older) men who are willing to sign on the dotted line to do exactly that. Despite the PC attempts to destroy it, there is still a warrior culture in America, and there is still steel in her spine. Whether or not that steel extends to our leadership is a topic for another post, and another time.

I want to wrap this post up on a happy note, but I don’t think I’ll be able to. The west was attacked in what should be considered an act of war by a self-declared nation-state. So I’m going to go back on my word from the beginning of the post. Carry your guns. This kind of thing absolutely could happen here. Yes, the odds are low, and yes you’re more likely to get killed by heart disease or in a car crash. But if it does happen? Fight.

It’s not “senseless” violence

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that last week four Marines and one Sailor were fatally wounded in what a large chunk of the political and media “mainstream” has labeled a “senseless” attack. It has become rather common place to hear political figures and people on TV describing acts of violence as “senseless”, especially when the act has arrested the attention of the nation or the world. It’s almost rote at this point…someone commits some heinous crime or act of barbarism and immediately “senseless” gets glued to every description of the act that goes out over the air waves or the web.

The dictionary defines “senseless”, at least in regards to violence, as being without discernible meaning or purpose. There are certainly some acts of senseless violence. The “Miami Cannibal” attack would be an example of truly “senseless” violence, as it was perpetrated by a completely deranged man against a completely unrelated victim. The attack in Chattanooga, however, was not “senseless”.

Earlier this year two terrorists attacked the offices of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo. Charlie was one of two publications in the entire world to re-publish a series of “controversial” cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Mohammed, and since then had put out a number of cartoons with unflattering depictions of Islam and Mohammed. Charlie regularly printed cartoons with unflattering depictions of Christianity, Judaism, and Jews in general, but it wasn’t until they reprinted the Danish Mohammed cartoons that they began getting death threats. In November of 2011 the offices of Charlie Hebdo were firebombed, stopping production of the paper for a short time. Despite this, the paper continued to publish their material. Interviewed in 2012 after publishing cartoons relating to the controversy over the “Innocence of Muslims” film (which our domestic leadership initially blamed the Benghazi attack on) the chief editor of Charlie Hebdo told Al Jazeera:

The man in the video is Stephane Charbonnier. He and several others along with a French policemen were murdered in the January 7th attack. Cameras caught multiple dimensions of the attack’s aftermath:

This attack was called “senseless” by the usual suspects, including the President of the United States. As you can hear from the mouths of the terrorists themselves, though, it was anything but “senseless”. There was a very clear meaning and purpose behind the slaughter.

This attack was purposeful and effective. The new editor of Charlie Hebdo announced that their magazine would no longer have any Mohammed cartoons:

“We have drawn Muhammad to defend the principle that one can draw whatever they want. It is a bit strange though: we are expected to exercise a freedom of expression that no one dares to. We’ve done our job. We have defended the right to caricature.”

Keep in mind that the man making that statement was wounded in the attack and survived only by pretending to be dead as he listened to the two terrorists murdering his coworkers and friends.

The Charlie Hebdo attack was most definitely not “senseless”…nor was it an isolated event in some far away country, as we learned in Texas where two more terrorists attempted to turn a Mohammed-themed cartoon contest into a slaughter.

The political and media “mainstream” has been trying very hard to paint the attack in Chatanooga as “senseless” to deny a fundamental reality that they also tried very hard to deny in the aftermath of the Fort Hood attack. In the immediate aftermath of that attack we were treated to all manner of possible explanations of why the traitor Nidal Hassan killed his brothers in arms from it all being based on disagreements with others, not wanting to be deployed to Iraq, and even a cockamamie claim that he somehow had second hand PTSD. Further investigation revealed Hassan had been chummy with Anwar al-Alwaki…a figure who had been hanging out with several of the 9/11 hijackers before fleeing to Yemen immediately after the 9/11 attack. (Where he was later killed by a US air strike)

…and I could go on literally all day listing one “senseless” attack after another that had a pretty clear point to it.

Words mean things, and using the right words is important. “Senseless” attacks are discussed almost like a tornado or some other natural disaster that comes out of the blue to destroy people’s lives…at least until someone senses the opportunity to maybe spin it into a “narrative” that gives them political advantage:

But these are not random events. They are not “senseless”. They are calculated. They are deliberate. And they are, unfortunately, effective:

“Following the Chattanooga shooting that took the lives of five servicemen, officials have shut down several recruiting facilities and warned Marine recruiters not to wear uniforms in public areas.”

Years ago I took a college course taught by a former member of the CIA’s Osama Bin Laden unit who had been working in terrorism related intelligence for a couple of decades prior. It was a fascinating class that covered the development of terrorism from Munich until the present day. The final exam was an essay where we were to give our best guess at the future form of terrorism against the United States. In that paper I argued that the spectacular 9/11-style terrorist attack was going to give way to what I termed “franchise terrorism.” Smaller, less coordinated, less sophisticated attacks perpetrated in higher frequency by individuals or extremely small groups (2 or 3 people) with perhaps only a limited amount of technical support from established terrorist networks. They would become radicals and then perhaps seek out information and training on how to carry out an attack, then act. Terrorist networks wouldn’t have to do much actual recruiting…these people would come to them desperate to commit heinous acts of barbarism in the name of their silly faith.

Unfortunately the assessment I made in that paper has proven to be accurate. Unfortunately it is impossible to make this problem go away by slapping the “senseless” label on it and hoping the bad men are sufficiently appeased to stop killing.

Chatanooga, Garland, Oklahoma City, New York, Boston…this is all really happening. Stopping it, defeating it, requires at a bare minimum a willingness to at least describe “it” accurately. These are not “senseless” acts of violence. They are an attempt at conquest by parties willing to die in the effort to endorse their belief in supremacy with the blood of all who oppose them.

Chatanooga will not be the last attempt at this. It would behoove us, then, to prepare accordingly and make the necessary changes. It’s hardly sensible to have Marines (and other service personnel) hiding their uniforms and forcing them to be unarmed when we know these sorts are out there gunning for them. There are guys out there who get orders to go find and kill bad men like Osama Bin Laden but aren’t allowed to have so much as a pen knife on them at their bases because, god forbid, they might hurt themselves. Pardon my French, but that is absolute merde.

Lest you be tempted to believe that it’s just the folks in uniform that have to deal with this problem, remember that civilians are fair game to the global domination set, too. Do you have a good medical kit handy? Do you know how to use it? Have you spent any time considering how you would respond to the Unthinkable?

If not, maybe now’s the time. As I said, these attacks have been effective. The bad men believe that if they kill enough people they’ll get their way. It worked with Charlie Hebdo. Find me a paper or magazine in the western world that will publish a Mohammed cartoon. As the new editor of Charlie Hebdo stated, “…no one dares to.” The heckler’s veto is alive and thriving, ladies and gentlemen…and they’re not going to stop at cartoons. Because they’ve had such great success, expect more of them. And soon.

Be ready.