Fight Smart: Tips & Tactics for the Armed Citizen

posted on March 13, 2018

Some time back, my partner and I were serving as guinea pigs for a new class at Gunsite Academy. They called it “Team Tactics For 2,” and it was to be a class designed to teach couples how to work together for their mutual protection and defense. The last couple of days were set aside for force-on-force exercises using marking rounds.

In one exercise, we were told to leave the house and walk to our car as though we were about to go out to eat. As in most good force-on-force training, we were given no other information. Walking out of the house, my partner and I spotted a water bottle sitting on the hood of the vehicle, something that was probably not part of the scenario. However, it was out of place, and we alerted to it.

Quartering away from each other, we moved into the yard, scanning the area around the house, and were ready to go when the two bad guys stepped into view, hoping to take us from two different angles. I hate to brag, but John Wayne would have been proud of us the way we double-tapped those two crooks before they ever got their guns level.

As we were complimenting ourselves on our quick thinking and good shooting, the instructor posed one question. Why, he asked, when we saw the water bottle, hadn’t we just gone back inside the house where we had good cover, telephones, long guns and just waited for the police to come ferret out the bad guys? Clearly, without thinking, we had placed ourselves unnecessarily at risk.

Someone once said that, when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. And, that was the trap my partner and I had fallen into. Just because we have a defensive handgun doesn’t mean that the smartest thing to do is to go hunting crooks.

In real life, we probably wouldn’t call the police just because someone left a plastic water bottle on the hood of our car. However, if we step back inside the house, we have strengthened our defensive position immeasurably. We can lock the door and then use the various windows to check our surroundings to more-safely evaluate the situation. We have cover, but more importantly we are in a location familiar to us and not to the criminals. Further, a study of any number of military battles shows that defending is more successful than attacking. By that simple move, we have put the criminal at a serious disadvantage.

In the past I have been involved in a number of armed encounters; not force-on-force games, but the real deal. One thing quickly became obvious: At close range (most deadly encounters occur at close range), everyone can be a good shot. I once had a Texas Ranger friend who was killed when a doper’s bullet went through a closed door and hit the Ranger in the head. Life isn’t fair, and gunfights darned sure aren’t.

We often hear macho advice from folks who talk about taking the fight to the criminals. In most cases, I think they have been watching too many movies. All sorts of bad things can happen in a gunfight, so the armed citizen is best advised to do whatever they can to avoid the experience entirely. For this reason, we avoid arguments, especially with strangers. When we observe a situation that could be dangerous, we immediately look for cover and exits. When trouble turns out to be unavoidable, we should find a defensive position and cause the crooks to have to come to us.

Recently, a friend of mine had just stepped out of the shower when she heard the doorbell ring. Putting on a housecoat, she started for the door thinking it was the neighbor from across the street. However, as she got to the door, she determined that whoever was out there was trying to open the locked door.

Instead of going to the door and opening it, she went back into the bedroom and retrieved her defensive handgun. Then she took a position of cover, where she could see the front door and waited until the person left. She still doesn’t know who was at the door, but she completely avoided what could have been a dangerous encounter. If this was a criminal trying to gain entry, most of the advantage would have been hers.

We should never forget that our job as armed citizens is to protect ourselves and our family. It is definitely not to go after the crooks and predators who prey on people. We use deadly force only when we have no other choice.

This is one advantage of getting training beyond that required to obtain our concealed-carry licenses. Role-playing and force-on-force classes can bring home the realization that the good guys don’t always win. And they remind us that hasty, macho thinking can get us hurt. It is far better, when faced with a situation that can’t be avoided, to take a defensive position and make them bring the fight to you.

I think that it was the fine instructor and my friend, Clint Smith, who coined the phrase, “Fight Smart.” To that, I would add that the smartest fight you can be engaged in is the one that you avoid entirely. Failing that, the smartest fight is the one in which you force the criminal to have to deal with your defensive position.


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