Crimson Trace

July 17, 2017

Editor's Notebook: The "Software" Element

Back in the day, I had subscriptions to many of the gun magazines that were out there. We'd finally gotten a few magazines geared to handgun and not focusing on hunting game, shooting clay birds and the like – like the "bigs" did.

When we got magazines in which content recognized armed self-defense, we got the same faux controversy crap we'd seen about hunting cartridges and rifles. It became "revolver v. autos," ".357 (or 9mm) versus .45 Auto" and other assorted nonsense.

It was entertaining enough, it just lacked relevance and rigor.

Very few columns and features went beyond gear. Of those that did, some lasted many years and were very successful. Among those columns, many were the invention of and authored by Massad Ayoob.

One of the few of the "A" list gun-writing crowd who could and did talk about the "software" part of the equation, he not only talked tactics but "internals." It should be no surprise that he'd hit on collecting real experts in the fields of criminal violence, physio-psychological aspects of deadly force events and the legal battlefield and have them explore their fields of expertise for our education.

If you're looking for the "best" gun, holster, caliber, load, etc., you can go nearly anywhere else. Have at it. If you want to know what the battlefield looks like, how the enemy thinks and operates, how to best prepare for battle and what potential disasters await in the aftermath, you need to buy this book: Straight Talk on Armed Defense.

I'll highlight just a few areas and authors here. Otherwise, I'd be rewriting the book.

John Hearne, a federal peace officer, actually kicks off with components of the human mind and how they function when faced with incipient death: the emotional brain and rational brain. Believe me, you want to have the rational mind in charge. If the emotional component perceives a loss of control, it takes over – with generally negative results.

Part of the programming is repetition: if we do something often and a lot, the mind concludes that it must be important. It prioritizes the activity, according to Hearne, and finds ways to make it work quicker, better. A "well developed motor program" appears to others to have been "natural" or "hard wired."

It's not instinctive. It's become reflexive.

He discusses the threat of 'novelty.' We use 'humanoid' appearing targets to prevent the novelty of seeing your sights on a human target. That is in no way as effective, he says, as video simulators – a very good point. Even force-on-force involves intervening safety gear – face masks and such. Any indoor range facility geared to a self-defense clientele – sworn or nonsworn – should make use of video simulators for that very reason.

Dr. Anthony Semone writes of the psychological aftermath of someone who survives an event, especially if that person had to kill to win. It's the "Mark of Cain," you become "that guy" to everyone who knows you. Dr. Alexis Artwohl writes of the memory and perception phenomena accompanying the near-death experience. Symptoms reported by a survey of officers involved in deadly shootings included diminished hearing, tunnel vision, a perception of "going on auto pilot," heightened visual clarity, a sense of everything in slow motion and other issues. These are relevant to the time of your post-shooting law enforcement interviews and your psychological survival.

Dr. William Aprill writes of the "violent actor," a marginalized maldeveloped offender (Walt Rauch's "other human") as opposed to the "Normal, Ordinary, Rational Person" (NORP) – "us," so to speak. Someone whose early development of "deprivation, dysfunction and violence" finds elation, feelings of power and accomplishment through the "violent subjection of others."

All these things come together in Craig Douglas' "Criminal Assault Paradigm" and Ayoob's "Armed Lifestyle" (a "rules of the road piece). Among others, there's career investigator "Spencer Blue" and his case studies of what worked – and what didn't – in real incidents, each giving us vital lessons to learn.

The rest of the book includes top flight pieces on training and the legal aftermath – by people well versed in the issues.

More important than the gear -- guns, calibers, ammo, support gear – is the preparation of the person who has to face the threat. It's best to avoid the fight: if you learn nothing else from this book, you learn that. More importantly, you need to not be surprised by the inhumanity of the violent criminal offender.

If it's a surprise, a novelty, you're unprepared for the threat. You're not ready and you are behind the curve. Paul Gomez, a trainer taken from us too soon, noted that your problem is becoming aggressive enough quickly enough.

As for me, I entered this life of crime 40 years ago. I was a patrol officer, law enforcement firearms instructor, veteran of a number of school, government and private. I was a defensive tactics instructor trainer for James Lindell, a Deadly Force Instructor, I presented at national conferences of instructors and trainers and I was an adjunct instructor at a university's criminal justice department. This was in addition to being a supervisor of fugitive warrants personnel, detectives and narcotics enforcement types.

I've been exposed to some of the material in this book before and there's material in here I've never seen before. I've never seen a more comprehensive treatment of the self-defense experience in a single volume.

Straight Talk on Armed Defense covers the field. I recommend it for anyone who carries a gun: sworn or nonsworn, licensed or in a state with no permit requirement.

- - Rich Grassi