Principles of Armed Self-Defense – The Next Step in Learning to Defend Yourself

When I started in law enforcement 10 years ago I had my first experience with formal self-defense training. The training was great and I felt like I was prepared for anything. I was proficient in several weapon systems and I was proficient in fighting hand to hand; but I wasn’t proficient in fighting to my weapon, or fighting with my weapon in close quarters. My training just didn’t address the area where these worlds overlap. This training gap is even more prominent for the everyday citizen who doesn’t get hours of training every year, or deal with combative people on a regular basis.

While range and classroom drills are vital to learning to defend yourself they rarely go beyond mental scenarios and square range drills. Standing face to face with a stationary target is a great way to learn and practice the fundamentals of shooting but this will rarely translate directly to the real world. This isn’t to say these type of drills aren’t important; they just aren’t enough. The problem is that there is never enough time in these classes to cover everything that is necessary. Even if there were, your mind can only absorb so much information at a time.

For these reasons I began working with Darin VanRyswyk and CWR Firearms Training to develop a class that would address this training gap. The goal was to develop a course that would build a strong foundation on which a house of self-defense could be built. Principles of Armed Self-Defense is designed to build a reliable foundation upon which any weapon can be inserted. If you already carry a weapon this is the next step in the self-defense training progression. If you are just considering self-defense and you are new to training this is your chance to start with a clear lot and begin building good habits. While the course is primarily designed around the use of a firearm the principals are meant to translate to other self-defense weapons. Whether you carry pepper spray or a knife, or simply need to rely upon your hands & feet this course is meant for you.

In order to be efficient and effective in defending yourself you must learn to use your mind and body together. In this course we start with a 4 part concept for addressing potential, or actual, threats. This prepares the mind. The goal is to avoid conflict and deal with it efficiently if avoidance is not possible.

We then build a strong defensive stance and learn how to use the structure of the body to protect oneself without wasting energy. This is the foundation of the house and the structure on which the entire defensive process sits. Next, we add in footwork and principles of creating distance and angles. Think of this as grading the dirt around the foundation to protect it from damage.

Next we cover weapon retention so your weapon isn’t taken and used against you, or deflected off target making it ineffective. Where you carry your weapon, and how you present it, can have a major impact on the outcome of a use of force encounter. Finally we cover accessing weapons from a variety of positions and situations because it is never as simple during a real incident as it was on the range.

During this class you will build a strong foundation to protect yourself and efficiently access your weapon, if necessary, in a use of force encounter. It is truly the next step in learning to defend yourself whether you intend to use a weapon, or not.

For more information on this new course please contact [email protected].

What was that noise…?!?!?!

A while ago a friend of mine sent me an email asking what type of firearm she should consider for home defense.  I was a bit surprised by this request because we had never had a conversation about firearms or self-defense, but I continued reading her email.  The night before an intoxicated male entered her house around 2am while she was home alone.  The windows and doors were open to let the house cool off, it had been a warm day, but was a very nice evening.  Her husband works odd hours and was at work.  She heard the screen door open and close, wondering if her husband had come home for some reason.  The person did not say anything to her and she became suspicious.  She turned off a few lights and peeked out of the bedroom, where she had been reading a book.  She saw a man standing outside the porch on the front steps.  She quickly ran to the living room, closed and locked the door and shut off the lights.  She wasn’t sure what else to do, so she called her husband at work.  When I spoke with her about her decision to call her husband, she said that she was very scared at this point and that was the only thing she could think to do.  Since her husband works very close to home, he jumped in a truck and drove home immediately.  The suspect had stolen a pillow off the couch and curled up in the bushes to fall asleep. Her husband and his co-worker confronted the man who wasn’t able to answer many questions; he wasn’t even sure of where he lived.  They said he smelled like alcohol, but he must have been on drugs too.  They told him to go home and let him go; he wandered off.

I asked why they did not call the police.  They said he was just a drunk college kid and they didn’t want him to get into trouble.  We discussed where he might have gone, if he entered someone else’s house and scared them, if he stepped into traffic and got hit by a car, if he fell into a body of water and drown, or he if ran into a less forgiving crowd and got beat up / seriously injured.  They said they hadn’t thought about those things.

We discussed why they felt a gun was the right idea.  Having been a firearms instructor for 15 years, I have my own reasons and thoughts on the subject, but I wanted to hear their ideas.  She said she was scared and thought a pistol would help her feel a little safer.  Her husband said it would allow her to protect herself.  I asked why she didn’t call the police when she realized this man had entered her house.  She said he was probably just a drunk college kid and she did not want him to get into trouble.  I drew the distinction and cautioned them on “labeling” problems.  First I pointed out that shooting him would put him in more jeopardy than calling the police, she agreed.  I pointed how he had gone from a “potentially violent intruder” to “just a drunk college kid” in the same brief discussion.  Our conversation illustrated the importance of simply taking the facts at hand and trying to NOT rationalize, irrational behavior.

I explained how dangerous it could be to either the subject or to you to try to rationalize their behavior / actions.  For instance, years ago another friend arrived home one morning after working an extra shift, arriving at his house around 4:30am, he saw a strange man, he’d never seen before, walk from his neighbor’s house to a van that was parked on the street with a large bag, enter the van, exit the van and walk to his front door, entering the porch.  My friend worked as a security guard and immediately thought the person was committing thefts, he ran to his front door, shouted at the individual who reached into the bag, my friend drew his pistol and challenged the subject.  The subjected screamed at my friend that he was delivering newspapers.  My friend forgot that his roommate had recently subscribed to the sunday paper.  His assumption that this was a burglary led to him drawing a gun on a paper delivery man!!  That’s a tough one to justify.  Needless to say, the paper man called the police and my buddy had to explain himself to the police and learn a tough lesson.  It would have been just as easy for my friend to call the police, report the license plate number of the van, and let the police handle the situation or at the very least, maintain distance, not rush in, and make verbal contact at a distance to avoid creating a situation where a physical assault could occur.

The point here is that while a firearm may “make someone feel safe“, its the ability to think rationally, and weld that firearm with wisdom and skill that actually makes someone “safe” (or at least safer than without it).  Please remember that a firearm is just a tool, having a gun doesn’t make a person into a gunfighter anymore than having a hammer makes someone a carpenter.  Training and practice are necessary.  Please don’t trick yourself into simply “owning” the gun, learn to shoot it well, and learn to defend yourself properly.


Mindset, Skills, Tactics…

Learning to shoot a firearm accurately is a skill….
Learning to employ a firearm as a self-defense tool is a tactic…
Having the will to fight and the self-confidence & freedom of thought under stress to make critical decisions quickly is mindset…

With the recent adoption of the right to carry language in the new Iowa Permit to Carry Weapons law, many citizens are exercising their rights and obtaining their permit to carry.weapons.  Our goal with training students is not to encourage or discourage citizens to carry firearms; that is a personal choice that involves many responsibilities and possible consequences.  Our goal is to provide students with the knowledge, skills, and attitude needed to avoid dangerous confrontations when possible, and to prevail in a life-threatening encounter when necessary.

To that end please understand that when you learn to shoot you are developing basic skills.  The skill to safely handle a firearm, the skill to manage the fundamental elements of marksmanship in order to accurately hit a target.  The more ingrained these skills are, the faster a shooter is able to successfully apply these skills.  We call this rapid application of basic skills.  When you have the opportunity to watch a master shoot, they are simply applying the same skills that any other shooter must develop, however their focussed practice has allowed them to push much of that skill set from the conscious mind into the subconscious mind allowing them to perform much faster with an incredible level of accuracy.

From a defensive standpoint, being able to rely on the subconscious mind for activities such as keeping the muzzle a safe direction and keeping the finger off the trigger until on target and the decision to shoot has been made, as well as having the subconscious mind to manage the fundamentals of marksmanship, allows the defender to be able to utilize the conscious mind to apply tactics to the situtation.  For instance, if a person has to concentrate to ensure they have the proper grip or that they are pressing the trigger correctly, they are less likely to think about verbalizing with the suspect or to search for and move to cover.

Having the proper attitude toward training and skills development, benefits the shooter through proficient, proper practice.  By taking the time to develop efficient movements, with proper manipulation, grips, sighting, trigger press, following through, etc, the shooter develops excellent foundational skills.  This is the focus of CWR’s training program – the Crawl, Walk, Run methodology. Our goal is not to see how many students we can train, but to see how well we can train our students.  If you have questions about training please let us know.

Best Regards!


Ouch!!! Points on Safety…Training…Equipment Selection

This video was forwarded to me by one of my students.  It is an amazing video that brings up various points related to equipment selection, training, and of course safe gun handling.  My comments are not meant to belittle or ridicule the individual in the video (Mr. Grebner).  As a point of training it is essential that we shed our egos if we truly desire to move beyond remedial issues and mistakes.  Mr. Grebner demostrated this through his willingness to share his experience so those who can learn from others’ mistakes have that opportunity.

Safety…Training…Equipment Selection

The first issue with this incident is directly related to the NRA’s rules for safe gun handling:

1. ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction

2. ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shooT

3. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use

The 3rd rule also supports the ideal of “always treating all firearms as though they are loaded”. 

Clearly this incident would not have happened if the pistol was not pointed at his leg or if his finger had not been on the trigger, ok so that’s pretty clear so what’s my point?  Training – plain and simple.  As a person seeks to develop useful defensive skills with a firearm, s/he needs first understand the duality that exists between speed and accuracy and then develop those skills at an appropriate pace to both push their speed & accuracy, while still maintaining (and further ingraining) their safe gun handling skills (again this is not an assessment of Mr. Grebner’s skill or ability – this is in reference to the skills possessed by the readers of this post.)  It is important to push your skills, but at the same time it is essential that you only operate as fast as you can “control” your actions.  This is not to suggest that you can never miss the target in training, but you should strive to hit the target and you are ALWAYS responsible for the rounds you fire, they must impact the berm/trap and be fired when you intend for them to be fired.

If your objective is to increase your presentation speed, a great method of decreasing your time, while increasing your skill is to practice this skill set dry before going live.  At first it might seem a little silly to “dry practice” at the range, but that feeling goes away quickly.  As in the video, if the objective is to draw quickly to the retention position, practice the draw to retention and the trigger press 10 or 15 times with an unloaded/empty pistol, slowly pushing the speed each time on the draw and presentation, but maintaining control over the safety and the orientation between the trigger and trigger finger.   A good tool for this type of practice is a shot timer.  By setting a par time, you can After you are comfortable with the mechanics of the draw, go live, but DON’T start out at full speed.  Start out slow and work your times down from there.  This issue is at the heart of this training company…crawl, walk, run…

An issue brought forth from the video was related to equipment selection, specifically focused on holsters, it also mentioned moving from one pistol to another.  I’m not endorsing brands of equipment, but would like to make a couple of points on the issue of equipment.  The first is that all of the gear mentioned in the video is quality gear, the bigger issue is moving back and forth between holsters and pistols.  I strongly recommend that if your objective is to be good with a pistol, then train with that pistol and that holster.  Don’t play the “gun of the week” game, or let yourself get bored with your holster and switch from day to day.  I have two holsters that I work from on a regular basis – a duty holster and a plain clothes holster.  On occasion, I have the need for a different mode of carry, but that is the exception and in those instances, I take about 5 minutes to work my draw/presentation with an empty gun before leaving the house.  Of course, I’d like to swap out pistols regularly, but I stick with the full-sized or compact duty pistol depending on my assignment that day.  While I am a big fan of 1911’s, I will challenge new shooters to take it slow and master the thumb safety and trigger finger positioning on the 1911 before practicing intermediate or advanced skills.  1911’s are great, accurate pistols, but part of that is due to triggers that are not forgiving of mistakes.  I’ve seen plenty of skilled shooters put rounds in the dirt 3 feet in front of them because they were trying to index the trigger like they were used to with their Glocks or Sigs, but the 4 pound, 1/8 inch trigger won’t allow for that kind of sloppiness.

Finally as Mr. Grebner said, if you are not a member of the NRA please consider joining and thanks to those who serve this country – God Bless.