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Forward In this article, I will look at the sensitive subject of firearms for self-defense. I will explore technical and human aspects, as well as touch up on other issues. This is an extremely opinioned matter, and I do not pretend to give more than my personal view. I certainly look forwarding to answering questions and providing references and subject material. Lastly, we can all ponder on subjects of interest for upcoming articles. Suggested topics may be selecting a firearm for selfdefense, handgun and rifle ammunition, (calibers, makes, ballistics – internal/external/ terminal, hunting vs. military vs. police and self-defense use.) or self-loading weapons operations, optics for firearms, competition vs. self-defense – parallels and disparities, self-defense scenarios, or any firearms, security, or defense related issues. Introduction Admittedly or otherwise, any human being handling a firearm does ponder upon its possible use for the purpose of self-defense. Our deeply entrenched survival instincts inherently associate the weapon’s potential to inflict physical harm with our eventual need for protection. And so the question that any firearm owner needs to ask: am I ready to it use in extreme scenarios? And what would ‘ready’ and ‘extreme’ mean in real-life applications? The ‘extreme’ question is relatively easy to explain, although the fact that it is basically out of our control also means that it can vary immensely from one situation to another. I would categorize an ‘extreme’ situation as one where one or more individuals who have a demonstrated ability and intent to cause you (or anyone else, but ‘responsibility to act’ is another issue to develop separately) physical harm, are actually engaged in such a process. In such a situation, you would be legally and ethically allowed to fend for your life with all available means, including the use of lethal force in general, and firearms in particular. I will end the ‘extreme’ concept by highlighting one more fact: given the speed and violence of the potential situation, and your physiological response, (tunnel vision, adrenaline dump, fight-or-flight, loss of fine motor skills, etc.) you may loose the ability to properly assess the situation before engaging, and thus decrease your chance of success and survival. And so for my most essential advice concerning ‘extreme’ scenarios: avoid them! The key to that is Situation Awareness, (SA) a concept we increasingly stress upon when dealing with security and defense issues. SA entails that you maintain a proper sensory grasp of your immediate environment, by thoroughly (yet casually and instinctively) scanning it, looking for clues of any hostile intent. The only guaranteed way not to loose a fight is not to do it. Otherwise, you have to try and control as many as possible of the variables, and so to the ‘ready’ question… The ‘ready’ question is not difficult to explain either, but the extreme subjectivity entailed when confronting life and death scenarios is that it will probably remain a concept until you come to face it in real life. Considering that professionals train for years in the hope of not failing when the time comes, what can the rest of us do to increase our chances of success? There is, of course, a lot that we can do, and the investment in time and expenses must be commensurate with the perceived danger. There are four main pillars to the ‘ready’ issue. And these are, in order of importance: mindset, tactics, training, and equipment. 1/ 5 4/30/2010
Tactics includes Tactics. and understand why all surviving victims share the same feedback of their encounter: they all speak of the violence and speed of the attack. what will your course of action be? In your house.’ This unflinching resolve has been acknowledged to be the critical ‘make or break’ element when one is in fight mode. Tactics include techniques to detect and analyze the threat.) Although there are many variables to a violent confrontation. 2/ 5 4/30/2010 . (a remote– 30$. Now imagine a scenario which puts you on unfamiliar grounds. hesitation. in as much as professionals dealing with violence go. What it will do. Not to mention that there may not be one best solution and that you’ll be busy figuring other. your response should not be slowed down by any unproductive thought. if you haven’t already figured them out. intentions. and deceit him about your location? Even a tennis ball tossed around a corner can give you that critical fraction of a second to clear a corner… Let me say it upfront: you will never answer ALL these questions correctly. to the point that many training programs now have totally ruled out the ‘dead’ alternative when simulating real life scenarios. Lest we conclude that to think it is to do it. well before the fight has even started.Georges Melhem – Firearms for self-defense Mindset: there is one common point to all survivors. and Procedures. let me spell out the limitations: even the most eager and attuned mindset will neither deflect metal from flesh. or emotional processes. or even hesitating when use of force is the only way out for you. can operate three) which you can use to distract an intruder from a distance. for the dreaded ‘what if?’ scenario. or notice three men with hands in pockets converging towards you. for instance. or a human predator. equally pressing issues. Techniques. even if that includes the use of lethal force… In other words. When the time comes. For armed citizens and professionals. a vicious animal attack. do you rush to the door or round each corner and pie-slice every room on the way? Wouldn’t you rather ambush the threat… after securing loved ones? Do you turn on the light or use your weapon-mounted light? Now or when facing him? What if it’s “them?” Shoot immediately or identify (always)/ summon first (depends)? Do you take the time to reach for the longer gun? Spare ammo? Put your shoes on? Can you avoid making crackling noises while moving on your wood floor? How about distractions/ diversions while “clearing” your house? Have you thought about adding electrical socket remotecontrolled plugs. Unless you think your life and that of your dependants is not worth it. concerning the hostile party: numbers. and you can see how complicated and fast evolving things can get. (CQC. Mindset is the most critical part of all training systems. (IAD) If you hear a thump at night. and the use of ‘Alert Level Systems’ whereby one may go from yellow to orange (potential threat to affirmed threat) and on to Red (action required. in the heat of the moment. however. whether they faced extreme weather. instantaneous location. They all had their mind set on one core decision: ‘I am not dying today. weapons. training and equipment that you have. It also includes maintaining a proper SA. your mind has to be set. then decide upon and activate the appropriate response. mindset is one of those which may decide on the outcome. is allow you to properly use the tactics. (somebody forced your door) or realize there’s guns with the men in that car cutting you off. Mindset starts with a deeply ingrained resolve of not submitting and abandoning the fight. on two or three convenience lights. such as the car jacking situation mentioned above. in order to prevail. We call it: Tactics: Tactics constitute the modus operandi of proper physical deployment and efficient use of assets in order to prevail in a hostile situation. in that darkened parking. etc. Your operational methodology should be pre-acquired and immediately initiated. nor spontaneously repair tissue damage. prior to the event. you had better pre-condition and prepare yourself. (TTP) Close Quarter Combat/ Light Infantry Tactics. LIT) and Immediate Action Drills.
rehearse it physically.) and on to the first steps of “pro” skills: shooting on moving targets. for the purpose of eliminating the source of danger. communication. and tactical preparation where everything is tested both as separate entries. Training starts with basic skills. and use it the best you can. and so not particularly pressed to train. physical. Tactics are not cast in stone. or an order from you. weapon transition. Coming back to us. and prearranged rules of engagement. Your wife may be tasked with gathering them in a (the) safe room. Whatever scenario you have figured. or hide in the bathroom. but make sure you have your priorities straight. drawing. Considering your opponent has the same. challenging environment. then the main question concerning firearms tactics centers on their/ your deployment. using full body armor and explosive entry. house clearing. they should slide under the bed. As civilians in no clear and present danger as part of our daily life. a tactical light. keep in mind that it (the car) may be your best weapon. He often wins… food for thought when selecting the armed response option! Not that you shouldn’t. (weapon operation. that if they hear firing. challenging physical situations. Not everyone will install airbag and taillight kill-switches. raise an alarm. and probably none of us is 22nd SAS. safe handling. we need to carefully gauge our precise abilities to execute whatever we set out to do. One more word about training: it should include all those who may be involved. etc. or whatever. then get a couple of plastic pellet guns and play force-on-force with a friend. in order to increase our chances to prevail? When dealing with security issues. It would be best to draw your loved ones into a safe room and call for help. attesting to their lack of SA and tunnel vision respectively before and during the event. carry and storage methods) before moving to advanced skills. and not with quenching turf or property related emotions. both together. as a minimum. Your children should know. in that you should be concerned with your survival and that of your loved ones. shoot/ no shoot scenarios. so she doesn’t shoot you… 3/ 5 4/30/2010 . advanced immediate action drills. (various shooting positions. What type of danger do we face? What are the probable threat scenarios? What are our present responses? Assuming that basic/ intermediate skills in the safe and effective use (carrying. then as an entire system. and test them for functionality in… the third pillar: Training: Training is that part of your mental. He/ she should maintain and improve them as much as the threat assessment dictates. as far as tactics go. firing accurately. If you are in a car. It will eventually culminate in realistic force-on-force training. Avoid being immobilized. malfunction clearance. then as part of a system. immediate action drills) of firearms are acquired. I sometimes play “house clearing” with my son using mechanical pellet guns. or even a SWAT team member. Tactics are about how you move around in a dangerous area. weak handed shooting. rehearse it your mind.) and finally force-on-force training where force continuum (up to physical contact and hand-to-hand combat) is used. shooting while moving. using terrain and assets (including ‘friendlies’) to your advantage. or whatever. You will learn for yourself why house clearing is done using a ratio of up to 10-1 of attackers to defenders. A concerned person should acquire the “tactical mindset” and the basic skills required in order to prevail. Your firearm is nothing more than your ability to inflict physical damage from a distance. what can we do. etc. where there will be no points for second place. low-light situations. the first thing I do is a criticality assessment. and how to use it. it becomes obvious that your immediate concern is for you to position yourself in a way that you can reach out for him before he does for you.Georges Melhem – Firearms for self-defense Recollection is usually extremely focused. Training is the final test before any eventual real one. with a functional gun she can safely use. but stay aware of where your best response lays.
or basically. combining fire power (capacity) and power (energy) I can use. try it with a stopwatch ticking. Remember. fast-opening touch panels. Do it silently. etc. So I stick to a 9mm with quality (and readily available) hollow-points. is the proof-house of man and equipment. Cost: weapons cost in Lebanon is often a major hindrance for those on a low-budget. or multiple targets engagement. the second pillar – tactics. Caliber: Modern bullet design means that ammunition selection supersedes caliber choice. Your weapon should be kept within reasonable reach from you or any person qualified to use it. a knife. is not acceptable. I recommend using the most potent bullet/ caliber combination in a firearm you’re comfortable handling. as long as you do your part. so tossing the entire drawer content on the bed does not count. Whatever your choice is. you must add carry gear.) The tools you’ll need to increase your lethality fall under the fourth pillar: Equipment: Firearm buffs reading this article are probably thinking ‘finally’ down to core issues… Well. My favorite for handguns is the 357 sig. as it would seriously hinder access. suitability. and operational deployment. A quick release gun lock may be an alternative. I will not handle this caliber in follow-up shots. may very well fail. with you already in the room at the start. especially one that closely mimics real life scenarios. Accessories: a topic for a separate article… accessories include carry gear. of a decent caliber. to perfect them and deeply ingrain them in your mind(set. And so you should train only for the sound tactics you may use in order to succeed. spare clips. an attached light. integration with other system components. carry method. (a common practice) unless you consider using your gun as a brick. Extra concern: Home safety issues! Storage: it goes without saying that firearms need to be kept away from people unqualified to handle them. I will also add a few more things: A firearm is nothing more than a platform to launch bullets. I am also against storing gun and ammo in different places. to any firearm. Anything longer than two to three seconds to “ready” status. accuracy. bottle neck design) but I also know that with my extremely limited training. ammunition. Some modern gun safes have a quick access. equipment ranks four on our list of our parameters. whereas a bad training. Does your weapon ever jam? Can you clear the malfunction? Can you navigate your house in total darkness? In full silence? Can you disarm a gun-wielding individual? (Every time!) Do you have the basic skills in defensive driving? How do you know? … Answering yes once doesn’t make it permanent. (excellent external/ terminal ballistics. Any quality firearm from a reputed manufacturer. I would not recommend the storage of a self-defense firearm under conventional lock and key. tactical/ weapon-mounted lights. magazines. Weapon selection criteria include reliability. 4/ 5 4/30/2010 . a first-aid kit. communication gear. or one using the wrong tactics. coupled with the right ammo and magazines can do the job.Georges Melhem – Firearms for self-defense Last but not least. and remember Murphy’s law! (Anything that can go wrong… will!) A final call on training: the reason it comes after tactics in terms of importance is that good tactics may prevail. even if not trained for 24/7. training. let me reiterate what I started with: although essential in itself. ergonomics. by the way. and training cost.
practice and train for all situations from which you may be required to draw from. I can only say one thing. your rehearsed them mentally and physically. training. and communication gear. sitting. spare ammunition. © georges. FEAR.com The Author: Georges Melhem is a Lebanese citizen. weapons. your first pillar. If that fails. driving a car.) Situation Awareness (SA) Model Building (MB) Alert Level Systems (ALS). 1989.Georges Melhem – Firearms for self-defense Firearms Awareness: all family and house members need to know the four rules of safe firearm handling. and bring the situation to a positive conclusion. Be SAFE… Georges M. Disaster may strike when the actual environment does not correspond to the one you’re building. Casually read your environment. depending on its projected use. itself centered on your mind. Essentially. Graduated with BS in mechanical engineering. your mind is constantly building a model of the relevant environment around you. and so you’re as ready as you can be. 5/ 5 4/30/2010 . and all types of clothing you may wear and potentially need to work against. until you are ready to shoot. the concept of SA. a security consultancy. AUB. Published the novel Brotherland in 2009. Learn to ‘read’ your environment for early threat detection. Whether you are commanding a military unit. Worked for 20 years in the real estate development and construction. and… FEAR! No plan survives first contact with the enemy – von Moltke. a part of a much larger system. Conclusion: any firearm is nothing more than a tool for self-defense. leading a hiking group. which are your operational methodology. built-in defense mechanism. coaching a sports team. either stalls or makes the wrong decisions. for proper MB. Trust it (EAT it) for what it is: a natural. Your brain. (Anything beats freezing) You know your basics. driving. As such. for a restructured armed forces concept. (Do trust your instinct) Be ready to act. hence the twothree seconds window mentioned previously. carry gear. Currently runs his Project Management consultancy MELENCO and SAFE. 1966. and no.) Carrying and deployment: Once you selected your carry method. (4) always check your target. or go through. and a proper use of an ALS (like the color codes: yellow/ orange/ red) is crucial for any safety-minded person. Until next time. equipment.melhem@gmail. such as a back-up firearm. they should be treated as weapons: (1) all guns are always loaded. tactics. The action of drawing the gun should be a one to two seconds affair. to prevail over and terminate the threat. (2) Never point the gun toward anything you’re not willing to destroy. so you’d better be ready for that. based on force multipliers and total C4ISTAR/ fire integration. lights and optical sights. other tools. proactive use. even in a manner you had not planned for. from experience and not just science: do not fight it! It always wins. a first aid kit. such as walking. This is the subject of an extensive article. Accept it. or set you in motion towards using the second pillar. Expect it. (You may have more “warning” inside your house. (without becoming paranoid) and note any odd signs of trouble. overwhelmed with information it still denies and can’t process. or strolling down the street. Going directly from yellow (unaware) to red (act!) is not a recommended experience. Melhem. It may include. a knife. Working on a doctrinal defense thesis since 2003. so that you can use the fourth and last pillar. or stress. born in Beirut. tested and perfected in the third pillar. It can be a fearful asset (pun intended) when put into good. it will boil down to you. mindset is what will either cause you to freeze. and what’s behind it. (In case you miss. (3) Keep your finger out of the trigger guard. in case they inadvertently come across a weapon. As to the last concept. should not be treated as the plague. and I will just say that things will not go the way you thought they would.