Permit Check: Do You Train for What You Claim?

Remember these? They became very popular in the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks of 2001, and they’ve remained somewhat popular since. In fact, I recently saw one — a new one — on a truck in my hometown. They’ve always been good for a few laughs, and I understand that some folks employ them as necessary gallows humor of sorts, but for me, they still raise more questions than they answer.

What I would like to know of everyone who has one of these on his or her vehicle is this: What, exactly, is your plan?

Obviously, if you’re a military vet whose MOS included direct-action training, you get a pass. I understand that there are millions of women and men in this country who are specifically trained for actual terrorist hunting. I’m not talking to them.

I’m talking to everyone else — to the guys who managed to fit one of these on the back window between the bowhunting and energy drink decals.

I’m Listening

Please believe me when I say I don’t ask to be bellicose or insulting. I ask because the thought of a private citizen having to, for lack of a better phrase, “hunt a terrorist” in, say, Minneapolis or Dearborn seems a lot more likely now than it did back when those planes hit those buildings. No longer is this just big talk in the dorm or the bar about how you’d totally kill a terrorist if you saw one. Terrorists of all stripes are on the march, and depending on where you live, there’s a significant non-zero chance that you might end up in the same area (or even room) as one when he decides to initiate a rapid mass murder.

I don’t want you to even think about this kind of thing if you don’t want to. I don’t want you to pump yourself up as some kind of Bruce Willis movie character when you clearly aren’t. But if you’re honestly thinking that one of the benefits of you carrying a concealed pistol is “in case you have to stop a terrorist,” then I want you to seriously assess your capabilities and equipment before you go any farther. The possibility of having to physically stop a terrorist in your hometown is real, and if you’re going to talk the talk, I want you as ready as possible to land the shots. Here are the key pointers.

Be Ready to Move … and Fast

The terrorist that you are trying to stop has already made the decision to murder Americans, but he has not necessarily, specifically decided that he’s going to murder you. This is to your advantage. If you make the concrete decision that you’re going to quickly and effectively draw your sidearm, get a sight picture on the most important available, unarmored part of his body and start putting bullets into it, he’s going to have to react to that. If you’ve trained properly, chances are he won’t react as smoothly as you perform. There’s a phrase that is used in military doctrine and other communities in the professional violence business to describe exactly what I just outlined: “violence of action.”

“Violence of action” means that not only are you doing something successfully and accurately, the speed with which you’re doing it is such as to combine with your technique to make for a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. In short, you’re doing the right things fast enough that not only are you accomplishing your goal, you’re confusing and disorienting your opponent as you accomplish it.

In the terrorist’s mind, you weren’t part of the plan. The mall was supposed to contain shuffling, zombie-like consumers, not 900 shuffling, zombie-like consumers and one kind, civic-minded soul who turned out to be carrying a full-sized pistol and three magazines. Speaking of which…

You’ll Want a Counter-Offensive Rig

I agree with frequent CCM contributor C.R. Williams that we as an industry occasionally use the term “defensive shooting” to our detriment. When we’re talking about trying to stop a mass casualty attack in progress, you’re not on the defensive; you’re on the counter-offensive.

In order to be best prepared to tackle such a task without just walking around wearing a slung battle rifle, you might have to re-assess some of your EDC. I love the pocket and subcompact pistols and revolvers, but if you’re seriously considering your EDC gear as potential anti-terrorist equipment, then you’d better consider that micro .380 your holdout. Yes, most defensive gun uses are three rounds at 3 feet, but we’re not talking about most defensive gun uses here.

I don’t care how fast your reloads are; if you’re facing an actual terrorist who plans on dying there anyway, you will need to be able to shoot him until the threat he presents no longer exists.

If you’re serious, the FNS Compact, Glock 19, Walther PPQ and other similar pistols are about the bare minimum. And 9mm Luger is a fine compromise of power and portability, but many professionals who specialize in such dangerous duty are fans of the full-sized and sometimes even long-slide pistols chambered in cartridges like .357 SIG and FN 5.7x28mm. They’re looking for power and they’re looking for range, and that’s tough to wring out of a .380 ACP cartridge or a 2-inch barrel.

In addition to a pistol with which you can land the kinds of shots you’ll need to be sending, you’ll need to carry additional ammunition. Now, anyone who carries a sidearm should be carrying additional ammo anyway, but if you’re walking around telling people that one of the reasons you carry is “in case you have to stop a terrorist,” you’d better be able to back up that assertion by carrying at least as much as the average street cop (which is a magazine in your pistol and two on your belt, not counting ammo for backup and holdout guns).

You love your five-shot revolver? So do I, but when you look at attacks stopped by people like Jason Falconer at the Crossroads Center Mall in St. Cloud, Minnesota, in September 2016, you’ll notice that he needed more than five rounds to stop that attacker, and he needed them quickly. I don’t care how fast your reloads are; if you’re facing an actual terrorist who plans on dying there anyway, you will need to be able to shoot him until the threat he presents no longer exists. While we’re talking shooting…

Rapid Fire Is Essential

Shooting accurately and rapidly is a technique in which many, many shooters neglect to train because it can expose them as something other than a perfect shot. But let’s all be terribly honest: Though there might be times when one relaxed, carefully aimed shot will end the fight, you need to train for a circumstance in which nothing but a barrage of fire — possibly even suppressive fire — will suffice.

The best drill for this is a very quick-and-dirty method: a T-shirt, on a hanger to make it easy to mount on a target stand, into which you’ll dump between five and 15 rounds while moving laterally away from it. This isn’t a drill that you can run just anywhere, but do what you can. Keep your rounds between the sleeves and above the beltline and you’ll be making progress. This is an excellent jumping-off point for some of the more specific training you’ll have to master, because…

Long Shots Might Be Necessary

We’ve drilled this one into the ground, and let’s continue to do so right now: You need to at least occasionally practice shooting at paper-plate-sized targets past 25 yards with your EDC firearm. Now, 25 yards can sound like a long ways for pistol shooting if you’re new to the activity, but if what we’re talking about is landing a bullet on an attacker’s torso, pelvis or anywhere on one of his arms or legs, all of a sudden it seems a lot easier. Trust me: It is.

If it gets to the point that you’re in the same room or area as a rampaging mass murderer, the name of the game will be to get bullets in him. If the first one hits his brain stem and drops him deader than canned tuna, fine. If it shatters his left humerus and maybe starts a bad brachial bleed, that’s a decent start. What you’re after is stopping him, whether you accomplish that with one round or 60.

I should note that there are certain situations in which a pocket gun could do a fine job of stopping a terrorist attack. Whenever you have a murderer holding a room hostage and asking who believes in what, this is a situation in which a string of rounds — or even a single well-placed round — from a micro .380 or even a .22 could end the danger. Regardless of what gun you’re using and what your first round does, your goal hasn’t changed though: You need to prevent or stop him from murdering people, which means more shooting, which brings us to…

Reload!

Almost everyone I know kind of shirks on this one, even some who use sidearms professionally. Mag changes are usually pretty rote in most training regimens: Man stands on firing line, man empties magazine while executing rapid movement, man drops empty magazine from sidearm, man retrieves fresh magazine, man reloads pistol.

If you’re carrying that firearm “in case you have to stop a terrorist,” how many times have you trained to change your magazine, clear a malfunction or do anything else from a position other than standing, kneeling or sitting? In short, how’s your scrunching game? Gunfire has a way of making ballerinas of the lethargic and contortionists of the stiff-jointed; don’t be surprised if you find yourself knotted up behind a fire hydrant in need of a fresh gunload. This is one that can be trained on at home with a cleared gun, but it simply cannot be ignored. Know your equipment and your body and be confident that you will be able to run your sidearm even in the most awkward of positions or situations.

Equally importantly, train on what some folks call “tactical reloads,” or replacing a partially charged magazine with a fully charged one. If you’ve fired until the threat is stopped, that isn’t necessarily the time to reholster; that’s the time to reload. Some terrorists attack alone, but a decent number work in concert with others. Just because you’ve stopped one doesn’t mean you’ve stopped them all, and that brings us to our final and most unpleasant reality…

You Might Die

This is, without question, the most difficult aspect of carrying “in case you have to stop a terrorist.” You need to understand there’s a good chance the attacker in question is on a one-way trip — he’s literally shown up to murder people for the rest of his life. He might be wearing a bomb, which might complicate any plans of shooting him and escaping without any missing pieces. He might shoot at you first; after all, maybe you look like the kind of person who reads gun magazines and therefore might be carrying.

All of that aside, nothing will change the fact that, if you carry “in case you have to stop a terrorist,” you’re deciding that you’re willing to die fighting a rapid mass murderer. It’s not that you’re looking to — no one is — but if you’re keeping that rationale for going about armed in the forefront of your mind, you need to understand how difficult it can be to stop ISIS without airstrikes and a few thousand fellow servicemen. War-wise, that reminds me…

Know Your Enemy

This is going to be an extremely brief explanation of a very complicated topic, but here we go: There are basically two types of rapid mass murderers. If the suspect in question is a young man who’s upset at the world and its women who refuse to see what a wonderful catch he is, he’s certainly intending to die during the attack, but he will usually kill himself if shot even once. He isn’t looking to get taken into custody; this attack is all about him finally being in control of everything.

If the suspect is an Al Qaeda- or ISIS-inspired Islamist, then he will usually fight to the death. Note I say usually. All cases are unique, but the data from past rapid mass murders shows several very clear patterns. Regardless of motivation, keep shooting the threat until it no longer poses a danger. If you’re lucky, one shot might be all you have to land.

Keep It Real

I’m not saying that counter-terrorist tactics should even remotely be on the average concealed carrier’s radar. There are plenty of folks who simply carry a pistol or revolver in defense against the odd bad dog or violent man. The thought they’ve invested in concealed carry stopped after, “Buy gun, buy way to carry gun, don’t accidentally shoot self with gun, don’t accidentally shoot someone else with gun.” I’m comfortable with that. I don’t love it, but I’m comfortable with it.

What I’m saying is that if being able to stop a rapid mass murder is one of the reasons you’ve decided to carry, you need to specifically think about — and train for — doing just that. If you tell yourself you’re prepared for such a task and all you’ve done is spent pleasant monthly days at the range shooting bullseye targets from 15 feet, you and everyone you might someday try to save will be in for a very brief, very awful series of surprises.

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