How do you internalize the idea that it’s the other stuff you do that really keeps you safe? How do you get over the irrational notion that it’s your CCW that does this? As I’ve told more than one class, I think a valuable drill is to occasionally practice NOT carrying your gun. I know it sounds odd, and I know the overly-shooting-oriented defensive training community will excoriate me for saying that, but I believe there are benefits to be had by occasionally doing such an exercise.
About a week ago, I responded to a Letter to the Editor about how “My gun kept you safe” saying “No, it didn’t. My original response to that letter had nothing to do with Grant’s proposal, but Grant’s proposal came in while I was composing and it was good food for thought, so I changed my response. As well, I figured that it’d be worthwhile to partake in the drill myself. I already have times when I don’t carry a gun, such as when I go to concerts. While I lose the use of a tool, I don’t necessarily feel “unarmed”. Again, it’s not the gun keeping me safe, it’s me keeping me safe. But I thought it’d be good experiment to try in a different context.
I spent the past week on a business trip. Due to the nature of the trip and the events that would be participating in, having a gun on my person was going to be complicated. I’m sure I could have found ways to manage it, but I thought this would be an interesting context in which to try Grant’s drill. So I made the decision to leave the gun at home.
I also started going “naked” a couple days before the trip, just because I could. But those couple days started to give me my first insights.
There are other tools one can utilize.
Knives are a good example. Pepper spray is another. There are times I have a hickory or oak cane. What I might have can be affected by circumstance and situation, but realize there’s more out there. And if you opt to handle one of these others, it behooves you to obtain some sort of training and skill with that tool. Yes, even pepper spray. No, you don’t have to spend 10 years and become a black-belt in it, but knowledge and skill will aid you if you have to use the tool.
One downside? I lost a good ranged tool. While typical self-defense incidents happen in the 0-5 yard range (within the length of a car), there’s still more than enough data on incidents happening at longer ranges. But even 0-5 can be out of reach for some of these tools. A knife is really only useful if the person is WITHIN arms reach, which is already too close. Pepper spray has a degree of reach, but it’s limited and even more so if there’s wind blowing (which there always is to some degree). That is one thing that I was bummed about losing was the ranged weapon.
Change of Habits
For years I’ve carried my keys in my left front pocket. I’m right-handed, but use my left hand for keys. Why? Because it keeps my right hand free for other things. When I started carrying the ASP Defender (pepper spray, and quasi-kubotan), I actually retained my existing habit of the left-hand pocket. Well, going naked for those couple days made me think more about the Defender being a primary tool, and I realized I needed to switch and put my keys (and thus the ASP Defender) into my right-front pocket. Granted I could still work it from my left if needed, but it makes more sense for me now to have it on the right. The unorthodox drill forcing me into this different paradigm paid that benefit of having me rethink and improve my strategies.
Awareness of Awareness
One of the biggest take-homes from the drill was regarding awareness.
For sure, you perk up your awareness. What does that mean? That you weren’t running as aware as you thought you were.
Throughout the week my awareness went to various places.
When I was walking the dog, I realized how easily she caused distraction and my focus to shift. Same thing would happen when I’d be walking around with other people, talking to them. There just are times you have to pay attention to other things, to have the majority of your focus on something else. Your attention is easily divided, and you likely don’t realize it.
This is reality, I’ve known this, and anyone that denies slipping into Condition White from time to time is dishonest with themselves.
I did find myself paying more attention to things. Had one opportunity for some light MUC (Managing Unknown Contacts) practice. Being in semi-familiar surroundings, I spent time looking, watching, orienting myself in ways to survey what was going on and adjust behavior. But that’s another thing: when you’re “just passing through” there’s only so much you can fully assess.
The bottom line is: we can never be 100% dialed in, 100% aware, 100% knowledgable of all things. So what can we do to help manage that reality? How can we make decisions, have behaviors, etc. that, if they can’t help us gain advantage, at least minimize the loss.
There’s no single answer here. It’s just something to think about. It’s something to seek solutions on.
Sometimes you gotta go
There’s sayings like “don’t go to stupid places, with stupid people, and do stupid things” (Thank you, John Farnam). For sure, that’s a valuable piece of advice to keep you out of most trouble. But sometimes, you have to go to less than desirable places. For example, the place I had to go on business, I had no control nor choice over. Is it in a bad part of town? Not really, but for sure there are elements of “less than desirable”. Even speaking with other people working in the area, they all had minor reservations about the area. In fact, I spoke with someone else during the trip that said he was walking to get lunch and came onto an encounter with some dudes, a gun, and something “going down”. He immediately removed himself from the situation (he was no way involved; just walking down the street), but still.
Or on a more mundane note, some of the evening activities were known to be “unfriendly” to someone carrying a gun. For example, attending a Dallas Stars hockey game denies licensed firearms carry by law, and also requires passing through a metal detector. Or having a happy hour at a microbrewery that would have 51% signs posted. How to manage your carry gun, on a business trip, in such situations?
Sometimes you gotta go. And if you gotta go, what can you know ahead of time to help you with your decisions and course of action? The more you can know, the more you can learn ahead of time, it will be helpful in determining your course of action.
I’m back home. My gun is back on my hip.
Of the drill, Grant writes:
If you find yourself feeling different, more careful or less confident without the gun, that’s your cue that you haven’t been paying nearly enough attention to your real safety. It means that you’ve assigned too much of your well being to a device of very limited utility. Your gun is a talisman, not a tool. It also means that you need to devote some of your training resources to those other skills I listed above and integrate them into your life.
If, however, you feel completely confident and change nothing about your routine or your habits, then you probably have a good understanding of your concealed gun’s real place in your personal security planning. That’s how you know you’re at a point of balance, which means you’re safer overall than someone who isn’t.
Strive for balance.
I didn’t feel too different. I changed a couple of things, I was given opportunity to think about some things from a different angle. But overall? Didn’t feel too odd or weird, I didn’t feel naked, I didn’t feel vulnerable.
I’d say, at least in terms of how Grant summarizes things, I have a good understanding of my gun’s real place in my personal security planning.
Of course, there’s always room for improvement, and I’m happy for having undertaken the drill.