Thinkers before Shooters

Thinkers before Shooters

As a responsible, law-abiding concealed carry permit holder there is always one thought in the back of my head every time I go through my daily routine.

 “How does my gun fit in this scenario?”  

Sounds ridiculous, right? Consider how many times you have had to take your gun off today if you carry. How many places can you not carry? For some of you, how many chances are you taking by carrying where you know you are not supposed to, or are legally restricted from doing so? The gun and the ability to shoot are tools that fit some specific situations, but these are not proverbial keys to the city. In many hypothetical situations, just because you could shoot does not mean you should, or, better decisions in moments prior might entirely prevent a lethal force situation from being imminent at all. Its something we keep seeing and hearing about repeatedly, especially nowadays. The question we should all sit down with is, “Do you think you could win the ‘justified’ gun fight and lose the legal battle.” The answer is…absolutely.

We do not live in the Wild West anymore when someone shoots and the response is, “well, they had it coming.” There are very real possible consequences to utilizing firearms besides the obvious mortal calamity. Even just taking out the firearm without a justifiable cause is considered brandishing which is illegal. In my private lessons I often use the analogy of Batman’s belt, where the gun is just one tool of many.  Just as a carpenter would never use a saw to pound a nail, nor a hammer to halve a plank of wood, we should always strive to have multiple options available to us, and employ the correct ones to the best of our ability. In past articles I know I have talked about situational awareness, but I feel it’s always worth repeating. The best tool you have right out the gate is the correct mindset.

By simply being aware of your surroundings, you have a much bigger say in what happens on the ‘battlefield.’  It’s difficult to overstate just how many negative or violent situations one can avoid by simply making eye contact with those in the vicinity, and being aware of their space in relation to your own.  With this mindset, you can casually use your everyday surroundings like building windows, car mirrors, even shadows to get a sense of people nearby who may have the opportunity and intent to harm you. Having the ability to recognize pre-emptive aggressive body language and gestures of intimidation can put you ahead of a predator’s actions. Be advised, I’m not referring to paranoia. Paranoia is an unhealthy mindset, that leads to unhealthy conclusions that leads to unhealthy actions. I’m simply talking about being aware. In the military this is something we call atmospherics, utilizing your situational awareness in order to paint a picture of what is happening in your immediate area. Through gaining atmospherics one can frequently avoid a negative situation in its entirety.  Choosing the hard right over the easy wrong has rarely ever failed someone. If something feels wrong, just leave. You are the one with a gun on you. You have an ability to take a situation to a place to where you cannot come back from, so you must rise to the higher standard!

Martial arts training is paramount, and all too often overlooked.  The same applies to pepper spray and other non-lethal tools, which have a place in the use-of-force continuum.  Not to shame our L.E. brothers and sisters, but how many videos have we seen of our guys wrestling the bad guy down to no avail.  Now, I understand nothing is easy here, and these situations can go from civil to in the dirt in the blink of an eye, but that is what training is for.  Inefficient force will always look like excessive force. When you watch a real Jiu-Jitsu practitioner or MMA fighter go against a street level person that has no skill, they look totally in control of the situation, right? There are few times in life where the movies prove themselves to be true. Think on those moments in martials arts movies where our hero puts his or her hands on someone’s chest and the whole situation changes. The villain looks in disbelief and realizes they have made a big mistake through their assumption, and now they have to revise their decision on whether messing with this person is wise or not. Its slightly comical, and a bit campy obviously, but there is truth to it.

Physical fitness is key, and this applies as much to the cardio aspects of things as sheer strength. The old expression of “run, to fight another day” isn’t just something we tell ourselves to feel better. Most of us were taught to stand and fight on the playground. Our parents tried to instill a sort of mental toughness in us to not back down and embrace cowardice.  I know that world well: My little brother has Asperger’s syndrome, which made it difficult for him to make friends when we were young kids and teenagers. In the time and city we grew up in he was easily preyed upon by bullies of all ages, so I fought all the time on his behalf. There were some fights I won, and some I lost, but regardless, I fought for my little brother.  After almost an entire school year of fighting, an altercation finally happened that gave me a scar under my left eye.  My parents finally discovered how long I had been regularly fighting, and even now, I really cannot imagine how they felt. After my hospital check-up, they took us to Outback Steakhouse and told me how proud they were. It is a memory that I will always hold dear.


A school yard story is not the same as someone pulling a knife on you, or a group of violent perpetrators savagely attacking you in poorly lit garage or alley. If you have the option, you run. Run as fast as you possibly can, until the only available option left is to fight. You, nor I, are anything special in this regard. We all bleed red, and there are no dead alphas, just dead people who should have taken an early opportunity to exit an obviously bad situation. Physical fitness, as mentioned before, is a big component here to make the wisest decision possible. By training the body you also train the mind, and a healthy, capable body is one capable of performing the exertion needed to get you away from trouble, when possible.  He or she who isn’t fit enough to prevail simply can’t be as effective here, and will likely default to the most extreme option, with all the attendant Life, Legal, and Financial consequences.   What do I mean by the latter?  Well, it’s likely a topic for a post all its own, but even if one survives and overcomes in a lethal force situation, the considerable costs of the legal defense and/or civil suits, possible loss or drastic change of career related to that, to say nothing of social fallout, and other related issues means the quality of life for you and your family enjoyed may never be the same again. Is it starting to sink in? 

These are just some of the tools to have in your belt to keep yourself safe both physically and legally. Remember, the gun is merely a tool, not an answer. Your decisions on how you employ this tool can have life altering consequences, that not only effect you, but that of your loved ones as well. To quote a character that very close to me  (but you can’t make fun of me for when you come to the range!), “ There is no power a Sith holds that a Jedi may not choose to wield. You must have the strength to master the force in its entirety.”  If the only solution you have to offer is just shoot until bad man goes away, you are not well prepared to face threat and peril. One of the rules in the eight fundamentals of reconnaissance is, “Leave no reconnaissance asset in reserve.” This means if you have the tools at your disposal, use them. Utilize every tool you have to accomplish your mission.

By:  Josh Sandoval – RSO and Firearms Instructor at Bellevue Gun Club

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