Personal Tactics and Awareness by Clint Smith

This is a fantastic article!

Personal Tactics and Awareness by Clint Smith

For forty years of my life I have taught as a combat infantryman, a police officer, a firearms instructor and a teacher of firearms and tactics. I have come to the conclusion by both observation and personal experience that most of what gets a person in trouble is a lack of personal awareness. Followed by a lack of personal tactics to address or resolve the fight. After this time there are some things that hold to a pretty steady constant. As an example clearing a stairwell in 2006 in Iraq can be how much different than clearing a stairwell at Stalingrad in 1942? So after this experience and teaching I thought to share some thoughts and concepts if you will for personal tactics and awareness to consider for daily use.

The Big Two
There are in fact two questions that cannot be answered by anyone in the school or teaching personal protection business.
#1. They can’t tell you what the threat is going to look like. There can always be some variables. If I were a cop responding to a gun call of a Caucasian male wearing a black shirt and tan pants I would be leery of a guy answering this description when I arrive. It does not matter if he has clear hands or not because I know wolves’ travel in packs so maybe the knot head next to him whose hands I can’t see…I should also be cautious of? I think you get the point. Then again much energy is wasted lumping people into categories of skin color, eye shape or style of dress, when in reality we shouldn’t actually care how they look. Our interests should be geared towards how they act, what they say and most important of all what is in their hands and /or our ability to see their hands. No visible hands should be a BIG alert. If I cannot see their hands I am VERY uncomfortable until they put their hands into place I can see and confirm that they in fact have no weapons. I would prepare to defend myself from someone who was closing ground on me, verbally threatening me and concealing their hands…all are bad things for your personal safety. This logically doesn’t mean I should draw and shoot but it does mean I should prepare to defend myself by asking for compliance, opening the ground and drawing or preparing to draw as is dictated by environment, distance and circumstance. Remember here that the threat may not have a weapon but due to size and gender considerations might make pause for preparation for defense. Disparity of numbers like in four of them closing ground, verbally threatening you might also make you prepare to defend yourself, again based on environment, distance and circumstance. It is imperative that you can communicate to others—like members of the Grand Jury—that you were in fact in fear for your life or the life of your family members. If involved in a gunfight a lawyer will come in handy. Lots of folks trash lawyers but I’ll say only one thing about them. Lawyers are like fire trucks you don’t think much of them until you need one, then you’ll want a very good one doing the really good job required.

#2. What will it take to win the fight? Done correctly and competently by the prior prepared person most potential fights will stop when a command presence is projected issuing a strong verbal compliance request. Then if required backed by a gun in a strong ready position. Logically if they knew you had a concealed weapon, like in a street robbery scenario, they would not have chosen you…criminals maybe stupid but they are not dumb…they also do not want to get shot. This brings a point into to play for me to communicate to you. I think it is unwise to assume your opponent is either stupid or dumb. Recent FBI studies show that most cop killers practice with their firearms considerably more than the cops they kill and a key point is they approach the cops with the will and pre-determination to engage the officer in gunfire if needed. In the case of a verbal non-compliant armed threat gunfire may regretfully be required. This one I can deal with if I asked them to stop, backed up if I could and they continued to press the issue. The threat would be shot based on what they did, so the decision was theirs not mine. What I did was based on what they did not on what I did. They chose poorly. A point of interest, I personally never plan on a verbal compliance request to work but I do so to gather any witnesses in the area to my favor should we go to court, which we mostly likely will.

What We Know
As mentioned briefly before some things remain significantly constant in conflict. The things listed below cover some of this ground but we need to remain ever vigilant to changes and be willing to adapt as required.

The range to he threat in fights falls logically into three distances. First would be muzzle contact as in the threat is at a distance that their hands can touch you. This is dangerous ground for fighting, contact gunfire, weapon retention and the fact that it may negate or even delete even expert skills with guns, knives and even martial art type skills should be considered. Whenever possible or as soon as possible a break of this contact would probably be best for the majority…if you’re Bruce Lee or Luke Short incarnate go for it…the rest us should back up. Second would be the “hole” generally described as just at arms length for both fighters. The proximity to the threat again negates skills like in everyone is a “good shot” at extended arms distances. You shoot’em with a 1911 and they shoot you back with a cheapo .25 in the crotch…perfect. Third would be long range and in my world this equates to about the width or length of a room or vehicle. There can be some work done here yet any effort to extend the distance will probably be advantageous in the long run. So, anything that creates distance provides time for decision-making, some time more distance allows for better decisions. Distance provides time for marksmanship, more distance could mean more or better marksmanship, or so it seems to work.

Time of the Fight
Time is simple. Your fight will last as long as you have ammo to shoot back. No ammo, no shoot and the fight is over for you. We will all die in the end, but it should not be for a lack of shooting back. Carry ammo and guns for personal defense accordingly.

Target Appearance
In reality the target will be large like from crotch to head. It could be frontal like in the advance towards you or it could be angular moving away or going to cover. The key ingredient will be that the threat is often moving. The movement is not a big deal except for some subtle points. The target is moving and you might be moving. Of all the rounds you have ever fired what percentage did you shoot at a moving target while the target was moving, and what percentage was fired at a mover while you were moving? Hence, the reports “forty rounds were fired at the suspect while he moved behind the vehicle while officers were moving forward to engage. No hits were recorded on the threat.” Substantial practice is required to acquire moving targets and moving shooter hitting moving targets skills. I think.

Target Condition
A ballistic jelly block has never attacked me, and there is a strong possibility that the person that might attack you has never read a book on ballistics. This said many people have been killed by people they shot first in gunfights, and just because you shot them and maybe even shot them well does not mean the fight is over. The old line two to the chest and one to the head to me simply means I shot them, it does not mean they are incapacitated or that the fight is over. Highly motivated people by drugs or principle—even if warped in your opinion—are still dangerous and may need to be shot well and often to get compliance. A last point here is that many people have access to body armor and the handgun you carry—like in all handguns—may be defeated by armor. Practice accordingly.

After Action Response
More appropriately responders, may be a threat to you? As an example, you are in a parking lot and you are attacked. Fearing for your life you draw smoothly and shoot well and the threat goes down. As responding officers arrive they see you, gun in hand standing over the body of the criminal you shot. Who will the police point their gun at when they dismount their patrol car? Put the gun away and get your hands away from your body. If you call the police to your home do not answer the door with a gun in your hand. The police do not and will not know that you are the homeowner they only see a possible threat to them standing in the doorway with a gun in their hand. If you don’t get it now, you probably never will.

What Kills Us, Or Keeps Us Alive?

“Why you can win or lose in a fight.”

Mental Preparation
First and foremost is mental preparation, which is in fact personal awareness or a daily reality check that in fact “it can happen to you.” By playing the “what if game” you can review and or play though scenarios based on experience or exposure that you anticipate may occur in your world. Caution is recommended here as a common statement heard is“ well I never thought it would happen to me.” With no disrespect intended many people went to work on September 11th and had something happen to and around them they have never experienced before or after. If you walk into a 7-11 and there was a guy waving a gun around screaming “this is a stick up… everybody put your hands up and get on the floor!” this could be a totally new world you’ve never been in before but the thinking person should have considered it might happen. Although it may seem odd to some I always pause at the door and look into the interior of my bank before I shove the door open and step inside. In reality I look at the cars at the front of and near the bank as I approach the door. Should I see anything I don’t like I simply walk by or act as if I forgot something in my car and return to my vehicle. Although it might be considered paranoid to some I have never been caught in a cross fire in a bank robbery. Remember what seems paranoid to some should be considered by us to simply be preparation. As a thought here, how many of you have a spare tire in your car, yet when is the last time you used it?

When To Shoot?
This cannot be answered in an article or column and maybe not even in a book. Yet as a basic guideline I would shoot to defend myself, I would shoot to defend my family and I would shoot to defend my partner in a squad car or foxhole. It seems simple enough and it might be or it could seem difficult and this it might be based on a decision you’ll have to make in seconds. The jury however will have a somewhat longer time to make their decision. The law will be basically irrelevant, as the law as it were will be manipulated by the lawyers of both sides to try to serve the requirements of their prosecution and the defense.
A jury will judge you and more than likely very few NRA members and gun owners will be chosen in the jury selection process. I consider it nothing personal, just life, and it makes me think carefully about what I would do to defend the appropriate “others” in my life and myself. I am also very careful about “sticking” my nose in other people’s business.

The Variable?
In reality the only totally controllable variable in your fight will be you. If it is a bad man with a gun and they attack you there is in fact little you can do but be prepared by whatever definition you call preparation. If you have trained in firearms or other defensive tools, if you have trained and mentally prepared yourself to fight and win no matter what it takes and regardless of the who, what, where, when and how of the attack your chances of survival greatly increase. I have heard the adage “I’d rather be lucky than good.” Personally I would rather be as good and prepared as I can be and let luck come and go as it may. In reality you will make your own skills and maybe even your own luck? Train hard fight easy is another catchy adage. I have limited use for adages especially in fights so; maybe just maybe, you should train hard…as your fight might not be easy?

May God be with you. C~

Thunder Ranch

As Always,

Stay Vigilant and Be Prepared


Founding member at NW Survival LLC

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