Friday, March 3, 2017

When To Draw

I am a weapons instructor. I no longer teach but I used to instruct on several weapons systems. I have never been a Concealed Carry Instructor. I’ve taken a few CCW classes and so I know what goes on in them. I know they talk a lot about when to draw and when to shoot. I’ve been asked that question many times in my life as an instructor. So, when I decided to write about this I knew it would be sticky. First my disclaimer. I am not a lawyer or law enforcement professional. My legal advice is about as good as the then vice Presidents defense advice. Vice President told people on the Internet to “Buy a shotgun” and “…fire 2 blasts…” in the air to “scare off” potential bad guys. His legal advice was pretty poor, and so is mine. Check the firearm laws where you live or where you will travelling to. Ask a competent instructor or lawyer for this information. My advice will be vague and general on purpose.
When do you draw a firearm? My advice is “depends”. It depends on many things that we will discuss.
There is an invisible line in your mind when you decide to draw your weapon and shoot. How do you define that line? Is that line always the same? How do I determine where my line is?

These are important questions that everyone should be able to answer if they carry a firearm for self-defense. If your line is not clearly defined you could draw and shoot too quick resulting in innocent people being harmed and legal action against you. On the other hand you could draw too late and lose your life in a violent encounter. The ability to properly define that line in your own life is crucial to keeping you and your loved ones alive and you out of jail.

The key to understanding this is to recognize that your line may be different from mine. You are the only person that can determine where that line is drawn, and if I may suggest, in some instances, the line must be fluid. Let me give you a few examples.

When I was single with no one depending on me for anything I would tend to take more chances and tolerate more danger before I chose to take action. (young and stupid) If someone threatened me they were only threatening ME. Now I have a wife, children and Grand-children my perspective has changed a lot. I now feel that any threat to me is a direct threat to my family, a threat to leave my wife a widow and leave my children fatherless. No parent will tolerate a threat to his or her children. That changes the rules. It also helps me to more clearly define that invisible line.

All scenarios will require you to adjust that line on the fly and since most violent encounters are over in a matter of seconds this line of thinking should be automatic. For instance: Some stranger grabs your child and holds a gun to their head. You can’t draw your weapon without putting your child in danger. The line has already been crossed yet you still have a tactical advantage of having a concealed weapon that the bad guy does not know about. You should be thinking … ok, if he does this, I am going to do this. That is the invisible line, the point in time where action is demanded.

The idea is to always be aware of the crucial time to act. You must determine the instant that your life is threatened and be prepared to act.

Several years ago I was at a mall. I was working on vending machines that involved a lot of cash and a few bags of quarters. I had recently hurt my foot and was able to walk but I was favoring that foot. I had just serviced the machines and was leaving for the parking lot. I was not armed for some stupid reason I cannot remember. I was walking out the door toward my vehicle when I heard someone behind me. I had just got to the first car on the parking lot row. It was a punk kid commenting on the bags of change that I had with me. I took two big steps to get to the first car so that I could turn and know my back was covered by the car. As I turned I saw another kid weaving through the parked cars to my right. So I had two potential attackers to my left and another at about 45 degrees to my right. I put up my hand to the closest guy to my left and said “Stop!” He stopped. And so did his buddy. Many things went through my head including using one of the smaller bags of quarters as a weapon. We had a little conversation right there in the parking lot in broad daylight. I carry a big knife case. It’s a Nite Ize brand Clip Pock-its XL holster. It’s kind of big. 7 ¼ X 4 ½ inches. I call it my “suitcase” but I love it. Anyway, it’s always on my belt and it looks kind of like a firearm holster. I finally said to the guys, “I don’t think you want part of this” patting the large bulge on my belt. Immediately the guy to the left put up his hands and said “We’re cool! We’re cool!” The other guy backed up and they both left the area. I counted my lucky stars and vowed to never get caught unarmed again. I knew I couldn’t just drop everything and run with my bad foot. So I had to believe these kids were just that, kids. Not gang members or a serious armed criminal. I was lucky.
So, I’ve asked myself, “If you were actually armed, when would you have drawn the gun?” If I had drawn a gun those two “thugs” would have been gone. But I think about that experience all the time wondering at what point would I have felt threatened. I had some distance, about 35 feet, before the closest guy could have been on me. I had time.
Knowing when to draw is important. But don’t fool yourself into thinking you’ll never have to draw. I’ve had friends in law enforcement who told me they had never drawn their weapon in defense their whole career. I think those times are leaving us to never return. But I also think as law enforcement there is an overt display of authority, a badge, and force, an open carried gun. As a civilian carrying concealed I don’t have that “presence”. I had another experience where I had my hand on my gun ready to draw but did not have to.
This is something we should all think about seriously and often if you carry a weapon. And to be honest, this goes for any weapon, gun, pepper spray, wand, knife, whatever your weapon of choice is. You must know where your line is and when it is crossed. Use scenarios in your training. If you have access to a paintball or airsoft gun, practice with an actual aggressor. I’ve done this to test the 21 foot “rule”. I’ve also done this type of training live with moving targets in a shoot house. Do what you can at the range, if you can do anything but stand there and shoot, to make your training realistic. Move around and shoot from many different positions and angles. Shoot around things as if from cover. Train with a draw and put variables in your training.
This month’s Overwatch: Drill Of The Month for March is a good drill to practice what I’ve been talking about. Check it out.
I cannot over emphasize enough the importance of target assessment and knowing what and who you are shooting at. Safety rule 4 is in play even if you are faced with a threat. You’re still responsible for your rounds.
When to draw should be taught with target assessment and situational awareness. Knowing what is really going on will affect whether you draw and of course when you shoot.
Semper Paratus
Check 6