Bad guys- helmeted “space men” and green stripe shirt who likely was a driver until he came out to help.
Good guy- Security guard in black coat.
Bystanders – Couple transferring $50k to a bank
This ambush fits Craig Douglas’ criminal assault paradigm to the letter. Multiple opponents, armed, and the ambush is initiated at best time for them, worst for you.
Classic transitional space ambush. It was over $50k in the white bag. Always remain alert when in transitional spaces like entering/exiting buildings or cars. Doubly so when you have valuables, and triple so when you have valuables that you move on a regular schedule.
Ambush is initiated by a pistol whipping on the woman. The bad guys seem like they didn’t intend to do any shooting this day. They just wanted to show their magic wands, and get what they wanted. There was a discernible ramp up period that they needed to get into fight mode. This luckily cost them.
The security guard tackles the only known bad guy (at the time) and tries to gain control of pistol.
The other bystander (the husband) picks up the bag and gets into a 2 on 1 with the spacemen. Security guard picks up spaceman pistol and starts shooting. Gun fight begins.
Accomplice in striped shirt that wasn’t committed to the fight decides he should get involved and picks up pistol and slugs it out with security guard.
good guy wins.
The ability to make and break entanglements is crucial. Especially when there’s multiple bad guys (which we have to assume is the case).
Understanding basic wrestling or BJJ is like cheating in these scenarios, especially if you have an understanding of guns as well.
The ability to mentally shift from distance shooting, right into a retention and entangled shooting posture also helps here. The distance is ever-changing until the fight is over.
A dedication to the fight is required. The security guard remained aggressive the entire time, even though he was starting from a huge initiative deficit.
When the bag guy’s plan started going bad, notice the confusion that begins once they start trying to get the object of their focus, and win a gunfight they weren’t expecting. Stripe shirt was not expecting to get in a gunfight that day and had to steel himself up to get into the fight.
I shared this video on my Facebook page, but I wanted to give it some more attention. I feel like there are layers to this onion that are worth peeling. This short clip is a powerful example of several concepts that we try to convey in the extreme close quarters range and fighting in general. I’ll address it non-contextually, as if we don’t know who the good or bad guy is, since there are lessons on both sides in both cases.
***Graphic Content, Gun Fight, DeATH***
The Monkey Dance
You need to know who you are with your gun on, to paraphrase William Aprill. When good guys put the gun on, we give up the right to get angry in traffic, posture and chest bump someone who we disagree with, yell and scream and poke chests, and generally be an asshole. We strive for avoidance, deterrence, and deescalation. Even if there was no gun on scene before, once we arrive there’s a gun that could be used by anyone around. Swallow your pride, apologize even if you’re right, walk away, and you’ve won. RedShirt probably isn’t a good guy, and didn’t take the advice.
Avoid the chest thumping monkey dance.
A gun as a talisman/intimidation tool
This being Brazil, there are strict rules on gun possession and carrying outside the home isn’t really allowed for good guys. As a result, the common feeling in Brazil is that carrying guns is something bad guys do. As a result, there is a big stigma on firearms in general. It’s safe to say that RedShirt is a bad guy who regularly uses his pistol as a conversation starter and negotiation tool. He shows the pistol, you do the thing he wants, and everyone can go home. As a result, he didn’t bother handling the gun like he might have to use it, and paid dearly for it.
Luckily, the bad guys in the US tend to feel the same way. It’s merely a tool of convenience to get what they want. We can use this to our advantage.
If we’re the one with the gun, we have to understand the space management and pitfalls of drawing a gun within arms reach.
Decisive action and aggression can make up for lack of skill
BlueShirt’s disarm was sloppy, possibly accidental, but his action was decisive. As soon as he was aware of RedShirt’s gun, he averted the muzzle with his left hand and began landing sloppy punches with his right. RedShirt, realizing he made a bad timing decision, starts to turn away (bad idea) and blades himself to BlueShirt. With a classic (if accidental) boxing outside position on Redshirt, BlueShirt was able to perform a sloppy trip while holding onto the gun. Redshirt lost control of his gun, and BlueShirt pressed the fight.
There was no technical skill involved here. Since Redshirt wasn’t really ready for a fight, the simple act of immediate retaliation completely overwhelmed his ability to fight back. We can use this to our advantage. I believe this is why it is so common for the average person to win their fight when they simply decide to fight back. I personally don’t want to rely on facing an unskilled opponent, so I continue to improve myself in this area.
Retention gun handling
We’ve covered this before (Here). If you train with a high and tight thumb-pectoral index shooting position built into your drawstroke, or at least get repetitions getting to this position, you’ll be able to avoid the problem that RedShirt had. Floating the gun and over-extension are common in untrained people who are doing this for the first time.
I would argue that the immediate action for RedShirt once the gun was out and BlueShirt had a hand on, was to aggressively draw the elbow back into a thumb-pectoral index, drop his base, and square his hips. None of those things are intuitive when a weapon is in play. We tend to get weapon fixated and think we should try to get the most distance between the weapon and opponent, when recomposing a strong structure and base is priority.
Emotional control at the point of victory
While we might be inclined to understand how BlueShirt would mag-dump into RedShirt’s face out of rage, we have to strive for better emotional control. I would say the first several shots could be explained away to a jury. But the coup de grâce mag dump takes it too far in the eyes of the law, to my basic understanding. People have been locked up in the US for similar things. It would be hard to explain 7 head shots on a downed opponent to a group of your peers. We have to be training to stop shooting so we don’t fall victim to this trap.
Fight and use deadly force until you perceive the fight has left your opponents. Then pump the brakes.
Experience in Violence
It is apparent to observers that BlueShirt is experienced in violence. From his immediate forward drive when he sees the gun, to this ruthless face shooting, to his calm demeanor immediately following. He has done this before.
So, short of getting into gunfights, how can we gain experience and not become completely overwhelmed if we ever find ourselves here? Training and Practice. Learning to manage emotion by inoculating ourselves to the stress of a fight. Familiarity and study of these videos, Force-On-Force training, Shooting Competition, Grappling, and boxing. The formula is simple. You just have to Do The Work.
Put yourself in deep holes in training that you have to dig yourself out of. That way, when it counts, you’ll have the best chance possible.
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If you read my posts on the Ruger 10/22 (part 1, part 2) that I set up for home defense, this post will contain echoes and similar logic to that series. That particular .22 now lives at my parent’s house as their home defense rifle. Since we had a gun-void, I sought to fill it.
Find a carbine that my entire family could confidently use for self defense in the home, be willing to train with despite being recoil/muzzle blast-sensitive shooters, and keep at a reasonable cost. The ultimate goal is to build shooters with sufficient skill to make high pressure shots with no-shoots downrange on low probability targets. The only way to get there is if shooting isn’t a chore or abusive to the senses.
The Resource Problem:
Ammo costs and availability are a factor. We have a limited income, so a more affordable caliber makes sense for us. In my experience, less expensive caliber doesn’t mean spending less annually on ammunition, it means buying more ammo for the same price. More ammo means more practice, which means more proficiency.
We also don’t have $1200 for an AR-15 pattern 9mm carbine. We have a cost ceiling that we need to stay under. I have a pile of Glock pistol magazines that largely go unused since I’ve switched to Double Action Pistols. Using Glock magazines would be a nice bonus to save on support gear.
We have a time limitation. I need to maximize the training time, and blunt the learning curve by picking a platform that lends itself to quick proficiency. We rarely get time together, period. So finding time to go to the range is exceedingly rare. I have to strive for efficiency. Rifles are easier to shoot well. Four points of contact with a rifle beats two points of contact with a pistol. A red dot sight makes the learning curve easier for getting hits.
The shooter consideration problem:
For the shooters in my family, I need to be very considerate of recoil, and muzzle blast. My wife is quickly turned off to shooting a 5.56 rifle at indoor ranges due to the chest thumping concussion and flash that an AR-15 gives. She’s good for maybe 30 shots before she’s done. If concentration and focus is gone after one magazine, then competency will be impossible given the rarity of our range trips.
My wife isn’t a shooter. She wants to understand and be able to run all of our guns, but she doesn’t love shooting like I do. I have to be considerate of her time and pick something that she might enjoy more than an AR or shotgun.
I’d wager that many of you might be in a similar boat. It’s really time to bump the obsession with terminal ballistics down the list and keep context at the top. Despite what the ‘5.56 AR-15/ 00 buckshot or nothing’ crowd says, it’s more important that all the shooters meant to use a firearm can achieve a certain level of competency. If that means a .22LR, then that’s what it is. I wanted to give a 9mm carbine a chance, so here we are.
The tactical problem:
This is the reason we want a rifle that anyone in the house can use. My greatest concern is the shooting problem of a home invader with a downrange no-shoot. Not that it needs saying, but in the real world, it is very likely that there will be no-shoots forward of the ‘180* range safety line’. In fact, it’s quite common in home invasions for a husband to answer the late-night knock on the door, only to be overrun by bad guys. If I’m downrange, I want to make sure my shooters are competent enough to shoot them well, and not shoot me. It’s a self-preservation thing.
A struggle ensued, during which the homeowner was shot in the thigh by one of the suspects. The homeowner’s wife was at the front door to greet her husband, and saw the attack. She ran upstairs, got her handgun, opened the bedroom window and engaged the suspects with several shots from the window.
She hit one suspect, and both fled.
As the husband neared the front door, he heard the dogs growl and ran back to his bedroom, arming himself with a can of wasp spray, the records say. A man charged him in a hallway, and the husband sprayed the wasp spray in the intruder’s face, but it had no effect.
“The fight was on,” the records say. Both men tumbled to the floor, and the wife ran out with a baseball bat and struck the intruder with it until it broke, according to the documents.
After about three minutes, the husband yelled to his wife for help, “not knowing how long he could hold out in the fight,” according to the records. The wife “ran to the kitchen, grabbed a knife and stabbed the suspect several times until he quit fighting.”
These instances are not rare. That’s reason enough for me to want good shooters in the house.
I decided that I wanted to try the Ruger PC Carbine in 9mm. It checked a lot of the boxes that I had for this purpose. There’s a lot of reasons I went with this over some of the other options out there. I’ll make a quick list of the big ones:
In 9mm. A caliber that all of my handguns shoot. I have plenty on hand, and one caliber streamlines things. It’s also the most affordable ‘duty round’ caliber.
Easily takes an optic on the section of picatinny rail on top of the receiver.
Takes Glock magazines. From 10-round to 33-round happy sticks.
Similar ergonomics to the Ruger 10/22. The rifle that my wife has the most time on.
Affordable. I got mine for $425 on Brownells. That’s extremely reasonable for a rifle.
Adjustable length-of-pull with included butt-pads
A section of rail that can be used for a weapon mounted light. I always try to have a light on long-gun.
Has the ability to break down in half for transport and storage (not necessary, but a nice feature)
Next up will be some details on running it faster, optimizing the setup, and designing a training program.
There’s a common saying in combat sports (and other high risk endeavors) that goes, “You Can’t Teach Heart”. As in, either you’re born with the gameness to fight, to push yourself beyond your comfort zone, run into the burning building, and continue to fight in the face of adversity and possible injury… or you’re not.
This phrase has one of two effects on the observer. One, the person gets fired up and feels they’re part of a special class who is willing to fight with heart and overcome adversity. Two, a person who sees someone exhibit great Heart and can’t fathom themselves ever being able to keep up and they subsequently never start.
I would like to propose that ‘Heart’ is a skill like any other that can be built through years of dedicated work, working towards a meaningful goal, a willingness to be uncomfortable in the pursuit of that goal, and the discipline to keep showing up. I will agree that there are people who seem to be naturally fearless and talented at maintaining a winner’s outlook. There are those who were born with the attributes that allow them to excel quickly. I’m not writing this for them. Those of us who question if we have what it takes are not lost. There is hope for us and ample room for growth.
My path to cultivating Heart has been through Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. So I’ll be talking about heart through that lens. Why BJJ? Because improving at Jiu Jitsu requires:
Discipline to keep showing up.
Repeated and Demoralizing defeats (Ego calibration)
Collecting and assimilating techniques (motor learning)
Discovering your personal strengths and many weaknesses (self-reflection)
Developing your athleticism (multidisciplinary pursuit)
Mental toughness (Heart)
There’s lots of ways to show Heart in BJJ. Lots of ways to stretch what you can tolerate and develop grit. I’ve been at it almost 8 years, my BJJ honeymoon has been over for a while, so I feel I can speak about this a bit objectively and with enough experience to be useful.
If there is a genetic component to heart, I feel like I probably was given a minimal share. I am full of fear, low confidence, self-doubt, and generally don’t care for competition. I’d rather go with the flow and fly under the radar. I’m the kind of person who you probably wouldn’t expect to love a combat sport. Here are my observations for what it takes to improve your Heart. To turn from an easy-quitter to someone who is likely to see it through.
Maintain an internal focus. Try to learn to be completely present and to understand and accept yourself. Make it less about winning, and more about improving yourself an incremental amount day to day. Strive to say, “If I had to fight last week’s version of me, I’d win”.
Keep showing up. Even if you feel the majority of your workouts are placeholder workouts, just keep going. Suppress the negative self talk and say to that voice, “you shut-up until we get this work in” and just go. If you are resolved to your ultimate goals, you’ll be able to see past bad workouts and demoralizing defeats. It seems heart is developed at the edge of your willingness to continue being uncomfortable. At your quitting line. So the more time you spend with opportunities to suffer, the quicker you will develop heart.
Don’t allow yourself to be the biggest fish in the pond. If you’re no longer challenged, you need to expand your group of training partners or your goals to continue your personal growth. Luckily this has never been an issue for me, but I can see it in others.
Maintain a growth mindset. If you come to view shortcomings as obstacles to overcome, rather than excuses to quit, you will continue down the correct path. If you believe that Heart is a skill to build, and you work at it, you will find you are able to do things that take more Heart than you thought you had.
Understand that having Heart ultimately is about Love. Love of the game, love of your people, love of the journey. You might start your martial arts journey because you’re fearful or angry, but if you don’t grow to love the journey itself, you’ll burn out. The people who are dominant through anger or hatred eventually get beaten and crumble mentally. If you’re coming from a place of love, even failure is motivating. Be love.
I can’t think of many higher pursuits than self-improvement and self-understanding. I will continue on this path as long as my body and mind lets me. I hope you got something useful from this one.