What would make you pull your gun?

This is a question I ask concealed carry students and instructors.

Think about that gun on your hip. Think about the feeling of comfort it gives you knowing that, if need be, you could take care of yourself or your loved ones. Now erase that feeling from your brain and think clearly and specifically about what would cause you to pull that gun from the holster, point it at another person and think about pressing the trigger.

You better believe I want you thinking about pressing the trigger before you actually press it. What if you pull out your gun and your would-be attacker turns to flee or simply surrenders? You might be in a position where you cannot legally fire.

But I want you to think about what would happen even before your finger hits that trigger. What would make you pull your gun from its holster?

“A deadly threat.”

What is that? What does a deadly threat look like? Recently, a man in St. Louis was beaten to death by a group of teens with hammers after he got out of his car to confront them for pounding on his car. That man clearly did not see our video series on situational awareness. He also clearly did not think a group of teens wielding hammers constituted a deadly threat. What would you do in that case?

I think I would have drawn my pistol but kept it concealed as I looked for a way to drive safely away from the scene. The reason for keeping my pistol concealed is that perhaps brandishing it would have prompted the teens with the hammers to escalate their aggressive behavior. The mob mentality may have prompted at least one of them to lash out with more anger and violence. I likely would have been justified in shooting him, but I would rather leave the scene with a few dents in my car than deal with the aftermath of firing at an aggressor who is part of a large group of armed and angry young men.

Notice I did not say I would fire on the group. In every case you must fire only at the person who poses an imminent threat.

But let’s get back to the “What if?” portion of this column.

When to pull your gun is the most difficult decision you’ll have to deal with. Pull it too soon and you could, depending on your jurisdiction, be guilty of brandishing. Pull out your gun and say, “Stop or I’ll shoot you,” and then see what happens. If your attacker calls the police, you could be charged with making terroristic threats. There could be an investigation with you as a suspect, so you had better be able to articulate exactly why you felt you needed your gun at that moment. That means you have to be able to tell an investigating officer, with your attorney present, why you felt the person or persons constituted an imminent deadly threat. (If you don’t have an attorney, you can find one at www.usccalaw.com.)

Was the person menacing? Did the person make movements or gestures you felt were indicative of someone preparing to attack you? You can’t just pull your gun because someone is giving you the stink eye. But maybe you can if the person is clearly moving to a position that indicates an attack is imminent. If you say, “Can you please move away from my car so I can leave?” and the response you get is, “Why you want to leave so soon, baby?” some red flags should go up. You should start backing away and look for an escape route or an effective barrier to slow a sudden assault. Still, you might not be justified in pulling out your gun. It all depends on your local laws and whether or not the atmosphere where you live and work is “gun friendly.” That’s why it pays to know those laws. It also pays to be willing to avoid a conflict if you can. Don’t press the issue. Back away and call police.

The only time you should pull your gun is if you wind up in a situation where you have no other options. But only you can make that decision.

There is no single answer, but lots of room for “What if?”

Kevin Michalowski

Let’s Stop Fighting About Caliber And Focus On Accuracy

This article was originally published on the website of the U.S. Concealed Carry Association.

Let’s cut the crap. Tell me which caliber you would like to be shot with. Those who worship at the altar of the .45 ACP are going to hate me, but the truth is accuracy is more important than the size of the slug. And if you believe anything the FBI has to say, penetration is next on the scale of importance.

So if you can shoot a .45 ACP accurately, by all means shoot a .45 ACP. But know this: You will shoot a 9mm better than you will shoot a .45, especially if you don’t spend a lot of time training.

Honest show of hands: Who trained today? Who trained this week with live ammo? Dry fire is good, certainly better than nothing, but shooting skills are perishable. If you don’t train often, you will see a reduction in your skill level. During a crisis, you will regress to the lowest level of your training.

Of course there is a tipping point, something my dad always called the point of diminishing returns. You will certainly shoot a .22 better than a .45 ACP. But under stress, you will likely not be able to shoot a bad guy right in the eye or right in the brain stem to make that instant one-shot stop. The light little bullet of the .22 is not carrying the energy or the mass to get the job done quickly without a perfect hit. And perfect is damned near impossible in a deadly force incident. So you should step up until you get to the point of diminishing returns.

Start by shooting your .22 and work to become a really good shot with that. Hone all your skills and work to get better with each training session. Then move up. Maybe you are going to a .380 or maybe a 9mm or a .38 Special for you revolver shooters. Now you are dealing with real recoil and real report. That interferes with your accuracy. As you work your way through to proficiency with this caliber, then you can think about moving up.

But remember this: Those three calibers, even though they are much maligned, still stop plenty of fights. If you want to move up, be my guest; but know that every step up the caliber ladder means another round of very serious training. Are you willing to invest that time and money? If not, you are shooting bigger bullets less accurately. Only hits count.

Something to think about when you are discussing stopping power is that only rarely will you encounter a criminal so motivated that he “needs” to be shot with a .357 Magnum. And even then accuracy is more important. If you know the story of Trooper Mark Coates, you know that Coates shot his dirtbag attacker four times with a .357 Magnum, but was killed when one round from a .22 Magnum severed his aorta after entering under his armpit.

Remember to carry your gun every day. Carry it everywhere you legally can. Know the laws governing the use of force in your areas. Those three elements are much more important than the caliber of your pistol.

–Kevin Michalowski

What Is Gun Violence?

The term “gun violence” seems to have been coined by either the anti-gun media or some other anti-gun group in an effort to vilify the tool used to perpetrate violence on another.

Somewhere someone said, “If we call it ‘gun violence’ that will make it sound like guns are bad. We should do that.”

political cartoonYou and I know guns are neither good nor bad. Guns cannot do anything on their own. A gun cannot be violent any more than can a hammer, or a bowling pin or a rose bush. A gun can be used during violent acts. But here is something interesting: A violent act is not always a bad thing. Righteous violence in defense of the innocent is a good thing and should be applauded. Yet still the media and anti-gun politicians continue to beat the drum of “gun violence” in America as if to say, “If we take away all the guns, there will be no more violence.”

Several years back, politicians also said, “If we take away all the booze, no one will drink and all those problems will go away.” We saw how that turned out. It spawned the largest crime wave in U.S. history and directly gave rise to criminal syndicates that are still running today.

Since 1993, crime has been dropping. Despite a few recent high-profile cases, the numbers of mass shootings have been dropping. Armed citizens regularly intervene to protect others by employing or threatening to employ violence with a gun. But the media doesn’t report on that. Criminals are much more interesting. Guns work. Violence, when employed against criminal predators, benefits honest citizens.

So I ask again, “What is gun violence?”

It is a fantasy term. It is political spin designed to dupe the masses. If the media and the politicians can keep you thinking that guns are bad and keep telling you that reducing the number of guns will reduce crime, maybe you will believe them and one day give up your freedoms.

Our Founding Fathers knew that each individual citizen of a free Nation would need guns in defense of those freedoms. To restrict guns is to restrict our ability to, when needed, draw a line in the sand and be able to back up our words.

So many liberals will decry such ideas as something that will never happen and will say that the right to bear arms against the government is something that simply is not and will not be needed.

I give to you “The Battle of Athens, Tenn.” In 1946, after election fraud and voter intimidation in the elections of 1940, 1942 and 1944, the citizens of McMinn County took up arms to finally stop corrupt politicians.

We need guns. Righteous violence works to protect Americans. Don’t let liberals use the term “gun violence.” Call them on it, every time. Guns are not violent.

–Kevin Michalowski

The Open Carry Debate Continues

Well, the topic of open carry has come up again here in Wisconsin as a couple of well-meaning men wandered through the Village of Germantown (just northwest of Milwaukee) carrying sidearms and rifles in full view. It happened in mid-March and was a flash in the pan as far as social media goes.

As expected, frightened citizens called police, who responded immediately. Under the watchful eyes of the video cameras, the police responded appropriately when they asked for identification and the gun-toters denied it.

But the incident prompted a news story in which Germantown Police Chief Peter Hoell said, “I understand some of you may disagree with me, but this type of insensitive behavior to cause alarm with so many people just because it is your right to do so is senseless.”

Let me point out before I go any further that I think open carry relieves the good guys of their tactical advantage. Open carry allows the bad guys to plan an ambush and come take your weapons. But in the State of Wisconsin, open carry is a right — and I don’t think any rights should be infringed or otherwise restricted just because some people feel the exercise of those rights are insensitive to the easily frightened.

I spoke to the reporter who wrote the story, and she told me that it appears everyone knows it’s legal to practice open carry in Wisconsin. She wondered why some open carry advocates would continue to do such things. I pointed out that some people apparently don’t know it is legal and still call the police when they see a gun, regardless of who is carrying it.

If “everyone” knows it’s legal, why should anyone care that people are carrying guns? Even if the open carry advocates’ only intent was to get attention, getting attention is not a crime. There was no intent to commit a crime. So the police acted appropriately. Would they have acted differently if there had not been a camera present?

The chief says such actions by the open carry crowd are senseless. Well, perhaps such actions by the open carry crowd need to continue until citizens stop calling the police every time they see a gun. Guns are not the problem. Actions are the problem. How many people go out of their way to call police when they see a man stagger out of a bar and head to his car? Most just shrug and say, “I hope he doesn’t kill anyone.”

Think about this: You may not like it, but that does not mean you can stop people from exercising their rights. And now open carry is apparently practiced to prove the value of the 1st Amendment (freedom of expression), the 2nd Amendment (right to keep and bear arms), 4th (prohibit unlawful search), 5th (self-incrimination), 8th (excessive punishment), 9th (Constitution can’t be use to take other rights), and 10th (powers not delegated in the Constitution are retained by the States and the people). Who knew one little act could be used to show that we need to protect so many rights?

I won’t carry openly because I think it is better to carry concealed. But I won’t advocate for the elimination of open carry. Once you start stomping on all those rights because you become scared by the sight of some piece of machinery you don’t understand, you could end up losing a lot more than you think.

Kevin Michalowski

The Great Equalizer! Only One Thing Levels The Playing Field: Your Pistol

Smarter people than I have pointed out that a loaded handgun is the only thing that puts a 65-year-old woman on even ground against a young thug. Without guns we are at the mercy of the young, the strong or the many. With a gun we can fight back.

These two videos show the importance of not only having a gun, but also being willing to use it. In the first video, five young men come into a jewelry store, pointing guns and demanding money. Rather than cower and hope the men will be merciful and kind, the 65-year-old store owner picked up her own pistol and came out shooting. The resulting rush to escape would be the stuff of a slapstick film if it were not so deadly serious.

65-Year-Old Woman Chases Off Robbers

When a group of thugs picked the wrong store, they could not get out fast enough when grandma came out shooting. You can bet these guys only robbed this store because they thought it was an easy target. Don’t be an easy target. Be ready to fight!

In the second clip, a 90-year-old man faces down a thug who figured he could take what he wanted because the man was old and frail. A couple years earlier, the old man had been beaten and robbed. He was ready this time. Yes, even this event wherein the man drew his pistol against an “unarmed” aggressor is an appropriate use of the gun. Could the thug have caused death or great bodily harm to the old man? You bet. That alone allows for the use of deadly force in self-defense.

90-Year-Old Man Defends Himself

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQlkM-aYTwg

A strong-armed robbery is still a deadly situation, and this 90-year-old business owner did what he needed to do in order to protect his life. No shots were fired, and the victim remained safe. How could this have ended if the victim had been unarmed?

A gun is the tool that evens the odds. It’s the great equalizer. You need to train, and you need to be willing to defend yourself. Think how different the outcomes of these events would have been if the victims had been unarmed.

–Kevin Michalowski

Lots To Learn From This Incident: Police Respond Over An Hour Later!

This news story from Texas offers several “teachable moments.” The gist of the story is this: Robbers hit the store. The owner fought back. The owner called police, who arrived 74 minutes later!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7aDacoKiDo

Item No. 1: I said “robbers.” It appears the days of the lone bandit are all but gone. Today’s criminal predators roam in packs. Yet politicians want to reduce the number of rounds we can carry in a magazine for a self-defense firearm. What do you call a person who carries only a five-shot revolver and no extra ammo? An optimist. This is just another example of why you should carry a standard capacity magazine and a spare magazine at all times.

Item No. 2: When the owner fought back, the robbers fled. Look at that video again. Not a single robber stopped to say, “That’s only a .38!” Unless the criminals you face are really highly motivated, your aggressive defensive action will disrupt their plans and typically send them into panicked flight. Don’t buy into the liberal mantra that you should just do what the robber says. When you do that, you are hoping for mercy from a person who would rather take by force what the rest of us work hard to earn. Would you trust an armed robber to show you mercy? I wouldn’t.

The final element of this incident is the one that upsets me the most. People still believe the police are here for our protection. They are not! Police investigate crimes after they happen. It took police more than an hour to arrive on the scene of an armed robbery. Police administration says the call got mishandled because it was difficult to understand the reporting party. Even if you accept that as a valid reason, does it not make you shudder that it took police more than an hour to respond?

And while we are on that topic, remember to slow down and speak clearly when you are talking to the 911 operator. Yes, you will be under extreme stress, but even your phone call is a matter of life and death. Stop. Take a breath. Slow down and make sure you are heard and understood.

There are lots more teaching elements from this video, but we have covered the big three in the time we have. Watch this thing again and see what you can learn.

–Kevin Michalowski

What’s In Your Kit? Concealed Carry Means More Than Just a Gun

I think it was famed firearms trainer Clint Smith who coined the phrase, “Carrying a gun is not supposed to be comfortable; it is supposed to be comforting.”

I’ve met Smith a couple times; and while I am sure he doesn’t remember me, he certainly made a great impression with his no-nonsense and straightforward ideas about self-defense.

The first thing you need to remember is that self-defense is about fighting back. You have to be willing to fight back, or all the self-defense tools in the world will not protect you. Once you have made the choice to no longer be a victim, you need to get training and walk the path of continued training. Skills are perishable. If you don’t use them, you lose them.

Now we can talk about concealed carry gear. What you carry every day is important. Sure, many of you strap on a pistol and call it good. And that is good, insofar as it is better than nothing.

The next item I would suggest you carry regularly is a small, high-intensity flashlight. Bad things happen in the dark. Predators lurk in the shadows waiting to strike. Illuminate those shadows, and you take away the element of surprise. Time is incredibly valuable when you are the second person to know you are in a fight. The more time you give yourself to respond, the better off you will be.

The choice to carry spare ammo is a personal one. Good, solid arguments can be made on both sides of the topic, but remember this: No one who has survived a gunfight has ever said, “I wish I’d had fewer bullets.” This is not Hollywood. There are very few one-shot stops. We all know that predators often hunt in packs. Consider this: You are already preparing for the possibility, not the probability, that you will be attacked. So why not prepare for the possibility that you will need more ammo?

Next up on my list is good quality pepper spray. If the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail. There will be cases where you can’t draw your weapon, but you need some extra help. Pepper spray will not solve every problem, but it can adjust the attitude of a potentially violent person and give you a chance to escape. Remember, police are allowed to pepper spray against “active resistance or its threat.” Check your local laws; but in many cases, you don’t have to let someone throw a punch before you arm yourself with pepper spray. You have to reasonably believe the aggressor posed an imminent threat. If someone says, “I’m gonna kick your ass!” believe them and act accordingly.

Your cellular phone is a tool you likely take with you everywhere you go anyway. If you have resisted cellular technology for any reason, it is time to reconsider that lifestyle choice. Communication is a key element of self-defense and being without a means to call for help is akin to being without a means to defend yourself.

There are plenty of other potential additions to this list. I am by no means suggesting this to be comprehensive. This is a starting point. Your self-defense choices are very personal and individual. All I want you to do is start thinking about them and act on those thoughts.

Kevin Michalowski

Never Say Never

A concerned reader recently sent U.S. Concealed Carry a note about when you should or should not draw your firearm. I’ll paraphrase it here: Many articles by attorneys and others say never draw unless to fire or you would be charged with brandishing. Then the True Stories column always gives examples where it (drawing) prevented or stopped a crime and no charges were filed. This is really confusing to me.

Well, here is the deal: You don’t have to fire your pistol every time you draw it. In my tactical pistol shooting classes, I actually teach people not to fire every time they draw their pistol, because that could instill the habit of firing even if the situation doesn’t call for it. What if the bad guy suddenly gave up and thrust his hands high into the air and you, using your verbal skills to turn bystanders into witnesses, now have witnesses watching you shoot a man with his hands in the air? What if the bad guy turned tail and ran at the first sight of your gun?

In both situations, the imminent threat has disappeared and you no longer have the right to shoot. But in both situations, the imminent threat could reappear very quickly; so you had better have your gun out and be ready.

The difference between brandishing and drawing your weapon in the face of the threat is your ability to articulate that threat you saw was real. If there was no threat and you pull your gun, well, that is brandishing. If there was a threat and you pulled your gun and the threat instantly disappeared, then you have no right to open fire. But you did have the right to pull your weapon.

This is another reason why you need to be the first person to dial 911 after you pull out your gun. If the bad guy runs around the corner and dials 911 and says, “Some guy just pulled a gun on me!” and gives your description, who do you think the police are going to be looking for? What attitude do you think the police will have when they find you?

On the other hand, what if you are the complaining witness and you tell police: “I was threatened by a man in a white shirt and blue jeans. He ran away when I drew my pistol.” That looks much better for you, doesn’t it?

When police get there, you had better be able to clearly tell them what prompted you to pull your gun. If you cannot, you may be cited for brandishing.

Kevin Michalowski