Oct 27, 2009

On Self Defense

Most of the bloggers have already read about Caleb's adventure this weekend. If you haven't, hie thee there and do so.

Those who read my old blog on Livejournal (now lights-out) may have seen my post about self defense and situational awareness, which I'll re-post below. Meantime, though, my own thoughts on what happened to Caleb...

He handled the situation as well as anyone could have. He went home without extra ventilation and with all of his property; there is no need for a lawyer or a stay in a cell. This is a Good Thing.

A few commenters have bashed him about the caliber choice (.25ACP), the carry method, the decision to no-shoot, etc.

Addressed individually:
Caliber: .25ACP is marginally less powerful than .22LR. That said, it's a personal choice and Caleb is well aware of his own situation - moreso than the rest of us are. Would a Tomcat in .22LR be more effective? Not particularly. A 1903/.32ACP? Perhaps. LCP/.380? Undoubtedly. But Caleb has his Jetfire... and it worked.

Carry method: those of us who have to worry more about printing than ease of access acknowledge the limitations. A pocket holster for a pistol is a touch slower than an OWB anything, and maybe slower than an IWB choice. For me, carrying means IWB and *tucked*, which is the slowest thing out there... but I don't want folks knowing I'm carrying.

Decision to no-shoot: this is likely the reason Caleb didn't at least get the nickel tour of the Greybar Motel. Carrying for self-defense means that you protect yourself from threats. When Goblin dropped the knife, he STOPPED being a threat. Caleb managed to perceive that and ease off the trigger in time to not ventilate this Choir Goblin. Gamer's reflexes? ;-)

We've all seen the "Rules of a Gunfight":
(1) Never bring a knife to a gunfight. Bring a gun. Preferably, bring at least two guns. check
(2) Bring all of your friends who have guns. not an option
(3) Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammo is cheap. Life is expensive. not needed
(4) Only hits count. The only thing worse than a miss is a slow miss. gamerboy would do just fine, methinks
(5) If you can choose what to bring to a gunfight, bring a long gun and a friend with a long gun. not an option
(6) If you are not shooting, you should be communicating, reloading, and moving. with who?
(7) Always cheat, always win. The only unfair fight is the one you lose.coffee ain't cheatin', it's winnin'
(8) Have a plan. go home alive
(9) Have a backup plan because the first one won’t work. but it did
(10) The faster you finish the fight, the less shot you will get. don't get shot by a knife

Any questions?


Now, my tale of woe: (this happened in January 2009)
When I got my pistol permit, one of the things I started reading and processing more was works on self defense. There is plenty of good information out there. Massad Ayoob and Col. Jeff Cooper are two of the better-known names, but there are lots of folks with their own views and ideas. Some of it is internet trash, some of it is excellent advice, and some of it contains a few pearls mixed in with the slop. I won't tell you which is which; everyone out there parses and processes things differently and has different priorities.

One of the light-bulb moments for me was the Color Code. It's very simple, and is more of a mental trick than anything else. There are four levels: White, Yellow, Orange, and Red. NONE of these levels require the use of any kind of tool or weapon: the greatest self-defense tool ANY person can EVER possess is located between their ears. Training with that tool is the key. So, the colors:
White: You are relatively un-alert. Complacent. Familiar surroundings and so forth. In one sentence: "It won't happen to me."
Yellow: This should be a constant level if you're serious about self defense. It's not overly taxing. You aren't looking for any particular problem, but are aware of the people and happenings around you. "It could happen to me."
Orange: Someone or something has tweaked your attention. It may or may not be an active threat, but until you have decided, you are more aware and need to be looking for options. "It MAY happen to HIM."
Red: To borrow a phrase from LawDog, it's gone rodeo. Feces have met the impeller and you have decided to actively defend yourself. "It IS happening. NOW."

The other trick I've learned is the twenty-foot rule. Anyone within twenty feet of me can be an immediate threat. There are various studies on it; I won't go into details on those. What it comes down to is this: my immediate bubble is 2-5 feet in radius. That's MY space, and you best be staying WAY out of it unless I know you. From 5-20 feet, I am actively aware of you, where you're going, what you're doing, and where your eyes and hands are. Outside 20 feet, I've catalogued your presence and leave it at that.

So, with all that in mind, we'll get into yesterday's doing. Other Half had a game in Rochester, and I went along for the trip. After the game we went to the farm, where she did some animal-maintenance stuff, and then we headed out, into the midst of a pretty good snow storm. On I86, there's a rest area around Exit 41 (Campbell), and I'd been driving into the blizzard for about an hour and a half at that point. We'd been following the state plow the last twenty minutes and watching the rest of the morons on the road jockey for position and try to get around the plow. Being out of traffic and stretching for a minute sounded good. We pulled into the rest area, which was pretty empty. There was one other car in the lot, running, with at least two people in it. We parked a couple spots down and under a light, shut off the truck, stretched for a few seconds, then hopped out. Between the time I'd parked and getting out of the truck, someone had gotten out of the car and walked all the way around the back of my truck, stopping essentially right at the driver's rear corner by the bumper. The very first words out of his mouth were, "Hey, sorry to walk up on y'all like this." (1)

My first reaction was to get both hands out of coat pockets and turn my left side slightly toward him, while my right hand rested on my belt just behind my hip - essentially on the sheath for my Leatherman tool, but also precisely where I would carry a pistol. For someone who doesn't carry or shoot, it looks like a tired driver massaging a stiff back or working out a kinked shoulder. It's a relatively non-threatening movement but puts me in a better position for whatever might happen. This fellow had taken me from yellow to orange instantly.

He rambled on with a long story about being out of state (from Mississippi, but wearing an Alabama Crimson Tide hat), had a disabled vehicle down the road (conveniently just out of sight), and they were trying to get it towed to somewhere, etc. I kept half an eye on him, checked Other Half's position (between the truck and the other car, focused on the guy talking to me), and catalogued the car - at least two and probably three occupants, but silhouetted such that I couldn't tell race or gender. Driver's rear window half-down (odd, in a 15-degree snowstorm). Half-listened to the fellow in front of me, who had both hands up in front of him as he talked. (2) Eventually he got to the point and asked for "fourteen dollars". Kind of a random number, but the easy answer was, "Sorry, I don't carry cash." He started backing away then, apologized a couple more times for, "Walking up on y'all,"(3) and got into the car.

We went to the bathrooms, took care of things, and when I came out and waited for Other Half, they were just pulling out of their parking spot and heading back out to the interstate - medium blue or teal Buick sedan, older model, with New York tags. Not out of state at all, and no rental company would use a car like that.

I kept my eyes peeled for the next several miles, in case they really did have a broken-down trailer just down the road - I would have found a few bucks for them in that case. I never saw one, and I presume it was a sob-story scam. Yes, I'm a cynic and don't trust people. So be it. Was this guy an immediate threat? Possibly. I had four inches and fifty pounds on him, and I know he saw where my hand was. Could I have handled it better? I really don't think so. There are plenty of what-ifs to play out the scenario, none of which were favorable.

(1) Opened with an apology. It may be genuine, but it may also be a ploy to gain confidence.
(2) Hands up in front is frequently a sub-conscious defensive posture. My posture was a dominant one and he'd instantly switched to a submissive/defensive pose.
(3) Multiple apologies: please forget this ever happened and forget me.

After we left the rest stop, Other Half and I spent the next twenty or thirty minutes discussing self defense, situational awareness, pistols, and lightly touched on tactics. She had picked up quickly that something was twitching wrong, but didn't quite figure out what. Only thing I asked her to do? Next time, take three steps back or come around to my side of the truck so that she's not between me and targets*.

I don't carry all the time. (Yet.) Concealing a full-size 1911 can be tricky, even for someone of my size. Other Half is still not 100% comfortable with the pistols, and I respect that. However, I view a pistol as being in the same category as smoke detectors, seat belts, fire extinguishers, and insurance: you don't want to use it, but if you need it, you REALLY need it.

* - some folks are uncomfortable with the idea of a person as a target. I don't want to take a life, ever. I have had people die in front of me. It's NOT fun. The idea that I could be responsible for it is even more sobering. However, I subscribe to, "Your rights end where mine begin." Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If those are threatened, I will respond appropriately. My wife? She's an extension of me. Threaten her, threaten me. No one is a target until they prove that they need to be.

1 comment:

Jay G said...

Wait until you have kids. The drive to protect your progeny is a powerful one indeed.