Concealed Carry

All posts tagged Concealed Carry

Have you ever seen a drag race on TV or in person? They are pretty cool; a car can go a quarter mile in about 10 seconds, often finishing at speeds above 130 mph! Many amateurs take a normal enough car with a good engine and make some modifications to the engine and body and can typically double their time down the track for several thousand dollars. Now, once all of the obvious things have been done and the “low hanging fruit” has been plucked, they run into a wall, a very expensive wall… This wall is called the law of diminishing returns.

For this context this law means this: Once the maximum-median effort has been put into a process, your return will lower while your cost increases. Using the car analogy: To get a 15 second car to 10 seconds may only take a few thousand dollars. However, to take that same car from 10 seconds to 9 seconds may take tens of thousands…

Applying this to the self defense realm, shooting a dime is cool but what is the real benefit, and is it worth the time and resources? Now, before you get your feathers all ruffled up, hear me out! To shoot a handgun close range and be combat effective is not terribly hard. It takes some time and good training, but it can be achieved within a relatively short amount of time, then it is just a matter of maintaining your skill set. Being combat effective is a good goal to aspire to. Anything beyond that is just flash in the pan, yeah I said it. Frankly, I don’t care if you can put a whole magazine in the same hole. Further still, I can support why that is even less effective than a 6-9 inch well placed group through a little thing called compound trauma.

If you measure your accuracy, success, and abilities in the self defense world using a bell curve you will better understand my point. The middle of the curve is also the pinnacle. If you, continue to push beyond the pinnacle, your return begins to go back down. Why bother? I mean unless you are a professional competitor, what is the point? Why would you not invest your time and resources in to something new or different? What have you gained in being able to shoot a dime sized group, but you have no ability to fight to your gun? If you have no physical skill set to get to your gun in a fight, the gun loses a huge advantage and may never become part of a fight when you need it most.

This applies to more than just guns. How about striking? You can train for years to become a professional level striker and be able to take on pros in the ring. However, is all that time and money worth it? Do you really need to be a professional level striker in order to win a street fight? Of course you will have the obvious advantage, but what are the chances that you will be fighting a golden glove, or a MMA pro on the street? Not very high. However, reaching the pinnacle of the bell curve and having a good solid hand to hand game will give you a massive advantage over the vast majority of people, especially thugs and criminals.

Look, I am not saying that you should not train to be accurate. If you hear that, you have missed my point and need to go back and start this article over. What I am saying is this: Do not get so focused on mastering one niche that you allow yourself to become weak in other areas. The one who is most balanced in their self defense ability will be the most effective.

What can we learn?

  • Train to be good, but not the best. If you spend too much time on one thing other areas will be weak.
  • It is advantageous to be combat effective in numerous areas than master in one.
  • Think of the bell curve when you train, reach the top, train to stay there, and find something else to work on.
  • Diversify your abilities. If you put all of your eggs in one basket, you are more likely to to lose them all.
  • If you have no physical ability to fight to your gun, your gun becomes less effective and may never come into the fight.

Stay Sharp,


Have you ever had a flat tire? It is pretty lousy, huh? No matter the kind of day we are having a flat tire always makes it worse. Thankfully a flat tire does not directly effect our engine performance, interior climate or comfort, radio, brake lights, etc. Even though the only thing effected is 25% of our tire ensemble the car becomes much less effective, almost worthless for transport. It is essentially taken it out of service, even if only temporarily.

Combat effectiveness can be defined in this context as: Any means or cause that provides one with an advantage in combat. The car has become less effective, without totally destroying it. Translate that analogy to a fight. If you break a guys hand, elbow, knee, or gouge an eye you have not destroyed the opponent, however, he has become much less effective in the fight. He cannot punch if his arm does not work, nor can he chase you if his knee bends the wrong way. Oh, and don’t forget breathing and eyesight, damage those and you have the upper hand!

If you damage more than one system, ie: eye, knee, and elbow, you have what is called compound trauma. This wreaks havoc on your opponent and gives you a marked advantage. Before we get carried away, let’s take a look at a few specific target points that can make one less effective in a fight.

  • Eyes – can’t see, can’t fight.
  • Throat – Can’t breathe, again, can’t fight.
  • Knee – Fairly fragile and hugely important, can’t walk on a knee that bends the wrong way.
  • Elbow – Like the knee but more fragile, bend it the wrong way and they can’t use their arm.
  • Hand – Break it and they can’t grip. That means no fist, knife, or gun for that hand.
  • Liver – I’ve seen guys black out over a good liver strike. It disrupts your system and your body does not like it.
  • Ears – Clap these bad boys hard and you cant stand up straight due to ruptured ear drums.

These are just a few of a long list of combat effective points on the human body. Some more effective than others, and some more potentially lethal than others. For example, punching someone in the throat is potentially lethal, whereas breaking an elbow is not likely to cause death. So, you need to understand the level of force you are using and apply it appropriately.

Pain. Pain is good, and can help you win a fight. But let me make one thing quite clear, pain is not sufficient to end most real fights. In fact someone who is under the influence of adrenaline, drugs, and/or alcohol is not likely to feel pain, and certainly not to the extent that you would like. That is precisely why you did not see a kick to the groin on the list above. While you can do some real damage to a fella this way, it is primarily pain. If however you lower that kick to the knee, he is likely to lose his immediate ability to walk. In a fight, your goal should be to prohibit the body’s ability to function, not inflict pain.

You can be combat effective without a gun. In a very large arsenal of tools a gun has a very important place, however, it is pretty limited in its use and ability. Hands/feet, sticks, pepper spray, contact weapons, etc. are all tools you can use to be highly combat effective. What is most important is that you learn and train. Then, you train and train some more. Never become complacent.

What can we learn?

  • You can be effective in combat or a fight without destroying your opponent entirely.
  • Learn the human body and what makes it work, then you will know how to shut it down.
  • Pain is not enough to end a fight,  you need to stop the body from working.
  • Know and understand what level of force you are using and apply it appropriately.
  • Never give up, and never stop learning

Stay Sharp,


Let’s run a quick hypothetical. I give you a bounce house and a good knife. Then I tell you that your life depends on getting it deflated in under a minute. You can use the knife, but on to stab no slicing or cutting. How would you deflate that huge thing in under a minute? Would you stab the same place over and over, or would you make as many holes as possible all over? Yeah, I thought so.

Now, take that same theory and apply it to self defense. If your life depending on “deflating”  a threat as fast as possible, why do we so concern ourselves with shooting such a tight group as to make on hole? Hmm, interesting. Let me offer a quick disclaimer here: I am not advocating you do not train to proficiency. I am advocating that you train to be good, real good, then maintain that same ability over time.

Let’s take a closer in depth look at compound trauma. We will use guns and gun shot wounds (GSW) for our mechanism of injury here. If you shoot a bad guy one time, he has one injury. If you shoot him 5 times in the same spot, he has one big wound. But, if you shoot him 5 times (in a 6-9 inch group) different spots, he has 5 wounds. If you are shooting the chest, that kind of group could cover the heart, and both lung,  and maybe even the liver.

If you are looking to do serious damage to somebody, this is how you will achieve it. If all 5 rounds went into one lung, he has a major problem. However, that is quite survivable and he can even stay in the fight if he is determined, or under the influence. If however, you get the lungs, heart, and or liver, he cannot breathe and will likely collapse in just a few seconds due to loss of blood. There is no amount of determination of drugs that will keep him in the fight. The body will fail to function and that will be that.

Are you starting to see the effectiveness of compound trauma? Moving beyond the physical effects of it, we can take a peek at the psychological effects of compound trauma. One wound is bad enough, but when you have several different wounds and you are feeling the different effects of them, panic and maybe even shock will set it. This is good for you. If he can become focused on himself and not you, he suddenly becomes less interested in the fight and a lot more concerned with staying alive.

If this happens to you, being the good guy, you need to stay calm and do not panic. Finish the fight or die trying. Then start treatment. You can’t stop in the middle of a fight because of injury, that only gives them further advantage. You must press on and finish the fight. Once done there, you can use the first aid training you received to dress your wounds and call for help. It is of paramount importance that you do not give up mentally. There have been many cases of someone with a would that should have killed them survive because they refused to succumb to the injury. Stay strong and stay in the fight!

Compound trauma is not a topic often talked about or discussed, but I think it is important for you to understand. Not only for you own benefit if you experience it but also for inflicting it to use against a threat. Not just with guns either. You can combine and mix any combination of weapons and tools to inflict compound trauma, that is the beauty of it.

What can we learn?

  • Many holes are more effective than one when it comes to injury.
  • The body will stop working faster with several injuries as opposed to one.
  • Compound trauma works fast to shut the body down and keep it from functioning.
  • Train to be good and stay there! 6-9″ groups are very combat effective on the torso.
  • Get first aid training…

Stay Sharp,


Sometimes I go to training and see the guys with $3,000+ rifles, $1500+ handguns, and $1,000+ worth of accessories with the latest and greatest of everything Tactical; the latest 5.11 Tactical gear, hats, gloves, plate carrier, helmet, so on and so forth… Then I look up my gear and realize it’s a working man’s load out, I have maybe $1,000 into my rifle and then less than $500 in my hand gun.  I am sometimes embarrassed by my “Poor Man’s” load out; then I realized, it’s not just about high-end gear, it is about a whole lot more…

America has become pretentious as a whole. Unless you have the latest car, nicest clothes, and biggest house you are somehow inferior to everyone else. This worldview carries over into the tactical world, believe that. Tactical is synonymous with macho/ego at times, only serving to exacerbate this problem. Some folks look down on people for not being able to afford the all the highest end gear, others may not want to spend that much even if they can.

I understand the feeling, most intimately I assure you. As and instructor I get people of all walks come through our courses. Often I have someone come in with everything nicer than me, and that is ok. Other folks have what some would call “cheap” gear, but that is all they can afford. I don’t understand this attitude of: “you suck unless you have nice gear”. This irritates me to no end. I have known a lot of folks who do not have much money, however, they are good at what they do for this reason: They buy a decent tool, and spend time with it…

Now, let me clarify something real quick: I am not saying that you cannot have nice things, not at all. If you can afford the high end gear, go for it! However, you should avoid at all costs judging others based on their gear! On a related note: worn out gear, of decent quality, is a sign of experience and time, don’t let worn out gear fool you. In my construction days we would joke about the guys who roll up on a site with all new tools; this was a dead give away to that guy not having a clue what he was doing. His tools were all new because he has never used them.

Back on topic now, what is most important is learning to use the tool. Say for example you have a $1000 budget for a new handgun. You could buy a $1000 dollar gun sure, OR you could buy a $5/600 gun, spend a hundred bucks on getting some professional instruction, and spend what ever you have left ($3/400) on ammo and time on the range. You will learn more about your gun in a week like this than most learn in years!

The cold hard reality is %95 of the population does not need the best gear, they need good gear and the best training! So, next time you are at the range or a training and you see “Tactical Tommy” over there, wearing his AR-500 plates and carrier, ballistic helmet, 14 AR mags, thigh holster and 12 inch “tactical” knife ask yourself this question: “Will any of those things help me defend myself and my family”? If you wake up in the middle of the night, are you gonna throw on all that gear, or when you are at a Gala, will you be wearing your plates? I highly doubt it… Train for the fight you are most likely to have. All of the tactical gear is fun, believe me, and it has its place, but don’t get to caught up in all of the flash and forget the substance…

What can we learn:

  • Gear does not define a man, character does
  • Do not get so caught up in the gear itself, you never bother become proficient with it
  • Will all of the tactical gear equip you to better protect you and your family in the “real world”?
  • Do not allow yourself to judge others based on equipment, not everyone has the ability to have the latest and greatest

Stay Sharp


I have seen countless videos on social media and other venues of guys and gals shooting with extreme speed and accuracy in competition. Moving from one target to another after one shot with incredible fluidity, engaging with one shot to drop a steel target. This is no doubt impressive, and I encourage you to find your balance of speed and accuracy, push yourself and grow!

Before we get going, let me make one thing clear: I am not bashing competition, I compete when my schedule allows it. There are many benefits to structured competition, but that is another article.

I am going to come right out and say it: Competition speed shooting builds a false sense of reality when you shoot once and the target falls, that is just not reality. One of my first times shooting an IDPA match I found myself allowing speed to trump accuracy! While I support the saying: A fast four is better than a slow 5, there needs to be a balance. What I saw myself doing was getting a fast 2 or 3 and moving so fast that my time makes up for my poor shooting, this is not permissible!

The thing that bothers me most about watching these folks shoot 10 rounds in 3 seconds, engaging 10 targets is this: It creates within you that you shoot the target once, and the threat is neutralized, this is just not true, especially when we are talking handguns (unless you hit the “light switch”). According to a study performed over 12 years at King-Drew Medical center in Los Angles, they found that only 24.5% of handgun gunshot wounds to the heart were fatal (learn more here)!

What I am getting at here is don’t allow competition, or watching others compete, influence your tactics. While there are situations in which you may need to engage numerous targets in rapid succession, don’t get in this habit of shooting once and disengaging. You can still engage numerous targets in a short time by planting a few well placed rounds in one target and moving on. It takes you more time to transition from one target to another than it does to squeeze your trigger finger a few more times.

Side note: Consider training for head shots. With the ever-increasing availability of body armor, “center mass”  shots may not get you where you are going. Training for head shots within 7 yards will not be a waste of time and resources, I promise. If you want to train for the one shot and move on kind of engagement, you must train for head shots.

What I’m not saying: Single shots are ineffective. A single, well placed shot does something, what exactly, varies based on the situation. I was talking with an officer friend of mine, and he was telling me about an encounter a friend of his had out west. He shot a suspect 3 times (it was justified for the record), the suspect then began to fight, and hard. The officer was in the fight of and for his life for over 30 seconds, which might as well have been 30 hours. An autopsy of the suspect revealed that the officer’s first shot blew the suspect heart to pieces. He was dead but he did not know it for 30 seconds. Thirty seconds are a long time do serious damage…

Speed and accuracy are critical for effective handgun self-defense, but, they are not everything. We must use sound tactics; which means addressing the threat until it is no longer a threat. Shooting once and disengaging may leave the threat intact, I mean, what if you miss?! This is why follow through is so important. If you decide to use your handgun use it to its maximum potential, don’t hit it and quit it…

What can we learn?

  • Speed kills; Question is, will it be you or the threat? You decide that through your tactics.
  • Don’t shoot once and move on!
  • If you compete do not allow your time to influence your shooting.
    • Hold fast to your commitment to accuracy and shot placement, speed will come naturally.
  • The majority of handgun wounds are not fatal, that goes for you and the threat both.
  • Follow through to ensure that the threat stops being a threat.
  • Everything you do is training, act like it.

Stay Sharp,


In 1989 Patrick Swayze starred in a film called Roadhouse. It is a rough and tumble movie with even rougher characters. Swayze is hired for his reputation, site unseen. They know this guy is as bad as bad can be. He woops butt, and loves the back leg spinning roundhouse (possibly why the movie carries that kick’s namesake). He brings in his mentor (played by Sam Elliot) when things get rough. A few guys want to prove they are tougher than they hear these two are and are dead set on proving it; then the fight is on! Both of these men had reputations that far surpassed their geographical reach. What does your reputation say about you?

Every now and again, I meet someone who says: “Markesbery? any relation to….”, or “I think I met you at…” or maybe even “Oh my gosh, I’m your biggest fan!”. Okay, I made that last one up. However, I often meet people who have heard of me, know of me, or know some of my family. They have some predetermined view of me, and have made assumptions based on what they have heard, seen, or read even though they have never met me personally.

We have no control over what people think of us, how they see us, or what they say about us when we are not around. What we can control however, is our own actions. This is where we need to spend our efforts, not worrying about what others say about us. I have had some nasty rumors spread about me in the past, but, those who hear them discard them out of hand, or ask me about it. I have spent many years gaining and maintaining a reputation of honesty, integrity, humility, and character. Those that have spent time with me know that if they hear something counter to what they know me to be, know the rumor to be bogus because it is inconsistent with my character.

What in the world does our reputation have to do with self defense? Frankly, nothing directly, but, indirectly is another story. Your reputation does not help you shoot straight under stress, make you stronger, or sharpen you blade. What our reputation does for our defense is spread the word. I have personally witnessed several fights that started as a result of something someone said about someone else, or at least were accused of saying.

If you have a reputation of being above reproach in character, as well as being a capable warrior, then you are a lot less likely to be attacked by those around you. If, on the other hand, you have a reputation for drama, histrionics, and starting fights, guess what? You are going to be in a lot more fights.

I was able to avoid fights for the most part growing up, as I was born bigger than most and maintained that advantage into adulthood. At 6’5″ and 240 lbs, I am larger than most. One day, during my stint in public school I somehow collected for myself a bully, he was 3 years older and 2 grades above me, with about 70 pounds or more (even if it was all fat, it was still mass). He kept pushing me around and down. One day, after I reached my tipping point I told him “If you do that again, I’m going to hit you back”. He and his two friends were standing over me mocking me and betting with their tongues I wouldn’t. They bet wrong… The next time he pushed me down (about 5 minutes later) he started walking away. I stood up, and commenced to run as fast and hard as I could, lowered my right shoulder and put it into his lower back right on the spine with everything I had. He went flying in the air for a few feet and landed on his face. He started to get up and come back at me, and one of my buddies tripped him again. He then got up and left the Gymnasium.

From that day forward, if I was in and around the Gym, he would not come in. Several times I witnessed him looking through the doors, we would make eye contact, and he would walk away. What did I do in those five seconds of action? I established my reputation. Everyone there that day knew that if you pick on me, there will be retaliation. I did not have a problem with a bully for quite some time after that.

What does your reputation say about you? Are you an easy victim, a pushover, liar, drama queen/king, a jerk, rude, needlessly combative, hateful, arrogant, etc? Or, are you humble, gentle, kind, hard, strong, an intercessor, a warrior, capable, honest, man or woman of integrity? Don’t get me wrong, I have my moments; my wonderful wife can tell you that I can be a jerk at times. But, does that define me? I certainly hope not, nor is that the feedback I get from people I interact with!

What does your reputation say about you? If someone was telling me about you, what would they say? Is it flattering or degrading? Would what they say honor or embarrass you? People will not remember you for what you had, but for who you where; what does your reputation say about you?

What can we learn?

  • Your reputation proceeds you.
  • Be conscience of your reputation and do your part to ensure you project the kind of person you want to be
  • People talk. If you are a jerk, people will know about it. If you are kind and capable, people will know about it
  • It takes 1 second to ruin your reputation, and years to repair, if repairable (consider public figures who lie or cheat, they are often ruined and fade into obscurity)
  • Integrity and character is critical for establishing a positive reputation
  • A good reputation won’t keep you from spontaneous attack (robbery/mugging, indiscriminate attack, etc.)
  • What does your reputation say about you?

Stay Sharp,



We talk about practice an awful lot; well, training anyway. This article is a follow up to an article we did a little while back titled Practice makes perfect… Or does it? In that article we discussed practicing, training, and the difference. This week, we are talking about practice, and what it does to us, or for us.

As the title of this article states, practice does not make perfect, it makes permanent. We can practice all day long, but if we are not improving, we are only making our inability permanent. Yeah, I said it. If you stink, and never improve, you are going to be really good at being lousy.

Well then, how do I improve? Great question! With time, and proper instruction. A good teacher combined with dedicated time to practice will help you improve. Easily formulated, complexly accomplished; I know. But, as my Mamma always said, “nothing worth doing is easy”; or if you prefer “anything worth doing, is worth doing right”.

So, back to this permanent thing. Have you ever heard of muscle memory? If you have been around us here at Strategic Defense Group for very long at all, you know we are sticklers, and quite picky about semantics. Muscle memory is a common term and generally accepted. However, there is no such thing. Muscles cannot create memory. Muscle memory is simply motor learning through procedural memory. Basically, we do something so much, we do not have to think about doing it any more. For example, if you type on a keyboard a lot, or play an instrument a great deal, you fingers just go to where they need to go to do what you want; you don’t have to tell yourself, hey left index finger: place yourself on the third fret on the A string (for guitar).

Muscle memory is actually procedural memory? Yes. So is practicing to permanency bad then? NO! It is a great blessing! However, there is an underlying danger… The horrific “training scars” *gasp*! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, training scars are very real, and very dangerous. These nightmarish things can come from no training, or worse yet, bad training and instruction. A training scar is:A procedure or process learned and practiced into a procedural memory that is wrong and or dangerous. We will pick up training scars in another article.

You were saying that there is a good side to training to permanency?.. Oh yes! There are many, too many to list in any singular entry or book even, advantages to procedural memory. Everything that is not bad, is good. Learning where all the functions on your firearm are and keeping your knife or keys in the same exact spot all the time are good examples of major positives.

I am a monumental fan of consistency. It makes us better at everything we do. Through being consistent, we develop procedural memory, and that is our friend. Thanks to Hyper-vigilance and the need to move we know that our brain does not function like normal in combat, we have to have a plan already. That is precisely why practice making permanent can be a good thing.

Take your time, and do it right. If you shave corners in training and practice, you will surely do it in combat; and cutting corners in combat will get you killed… If you do not make a tight fist when you train punching the air you will make a weak fist in combat. Then on your very first punch, you will break your hand, and be down in the fight. Do not give your opponent that gift. Take a little extra time, make a little extra effort, and find a good teacher; then you will be the best.

What can we learn?

  • Practice makes permanent, not perfect
  • Permanent is not a bad thing, unless it is, then, you better fix it and now!
  • Muscle memory is not real, it is a lazy way of saying Motor learning through procedural memory
  • Training scars are real, and real scary. Once procedural memory is established, it takes some time and effort to correct
  • Procedural memory is a real blessing, take full advantage of it!

Stay Sharp,


I was recently ask after a class by a good friend and student; “What do you do to get better at shooting”. I did not have an immediate answer for him. After a minute’s thought the fog lifted and I was able to tell him what I do. This article is a direct result of that conversation.

There are about as many ways to train as there are colors in the spectrum. That goes for anything; physical fitness, rock climbing, whatever. In the context of self defense, there is an equally long list: Handgun, Rifle, Shotgun, Knife, Hand to hand (which is massive in and of itself), mentally training, so on and so on. That said, the way I do things is a way, not the way. If you like it and it works for you, take it and run with it. I have developed this methodology over time and still allow room for modification.

This approach and process can be applied to any skillet. We will use handguns here, as that was the original context.

I take the approach of getting better like I would if I was to eat a whale, one bit at a time. When I go to the range, I go to get better at head shots at 10 yards from the holster, or get better at unsupported support hand shooting and reloading, or whatever I am improving.

I do not go to the range to “get better”. If you go to the range just to get better, you never will… What I do, and what I recommend students try is profound, are you ready!? Here it is: “Focus on one thing at a time!” See, not so hard right? But it’s so obvious, there must be more to it, well, there kinda is.

Let’s say you want to get better at shooting handguns, overall. Your groups are spread out and sometimes you miss all together. How does fixing one thing at a time help? Well, I’m thrilled you asked. Everything! Remember, what I said about the whale? One bite at a time. You will not become an expert shooter in one range session, not gonna happen. That takes time and practice. What you can do however, is get a little better each time!

When you go to the range to get better, start big and get small. Meaning, work on your big actions (stance), and move small (trigger control). So, you are at the range, and shooting all over the place. First things first: be consistent! If you are nothing else be consistent, you cannot improve until you are doing the same thing over and over.

Once you are doing the same things constantly, you can begin to improve what you are doing! Start with your stance. Make sure you have a good, solid, comfortable, and repeatable stance. Once that is solid, go smaller, how about your grip? Is that a great grip, or is it meh? Get it great and move smaller. Trigger control and sight alignment are the most critical functions for accuracy, they are also the smallest.

Now, about 90% of what makes you a better shooter can be done by dry firing. Please make sure you are being incredibly safe while dry firing! Follow all safety rules and remove any ammunition from the area!

When I go to the range, I will go with at least 100 rounds. I will spend all 100, more or less if that is what it takes, to work on one particular skill. If I need to work on my trigger control, then each shot is slow and analyzed to death. If I want to practice speed reloads from running dry, I will only put a round or two in the magazine so I can maximize my reloads, while still working on a shooting skill.

Do not try to do too much at once. That will frustrate you and you will not improve, because you will never know what works and what does not. Be particular, and take your time. Change one thing at a time, otherwise you will end up “chasing the bulls eye” and you will only become frustrated. When you train, train with a purpose, do not go shoot just to waste ammo and money. Nor should you swing a knife around and call it training, use these principles in all areas of training and watch yourself grow. Training implies improvement, and we should always be improving.

What can we learn?

  • Be consistent! You will never improve without constancy.
  • Once you are consistent, you can move your group
  • Focus on improving one thing at a time. Do not change too many things at once, if you do you will never know what works and what does not.
  • Start big and go small. Start with stance, move down to trigger, one step at a time.
  • Dry fire training will make you better when done correctly and safely
  • Be patient

I hope this helps, Nighthawk.


Stay Sharp,


FREEZE! Don’t move! Stop right there! Hypervigilate! Okay, I made that last one up, but the other three I’m sure are familiar to you. We have all seen that cop movie, you know the one; where the good guy is breaking the rules in order to enact “justice”. When he finally catches up to the villain, he uses one of those three aforementioned cliches; the bad guy stops and turns slowly only to make a move and wind up losing the fight.

This style of drama serves to captivate us, what it does not do however, is reflect reality. Both the good and bad guys are cool as cucumbers in the midst of a deadly encounter, hardly factual. Let’s talk about reality and facts for a moment then shall we?

Fact: It is not rare for a solider in combat or an officer in the streets to lose control of bodily functions during a deadly encounter. This is no reflection on them, it is a bodily function that is not controllable. As our sympathetic nervous system goes through the roof, our parasympathetic nervous system pitches in to help, and stops doing the non-vital functions like, holding your bladder and sphincter muscles.

Fact: When our heart rate goes above 140 BPM, we exit our frontal lobe processing, and enter Parietal lobe processing. Our speech does not come as easy, our complex motor skills deteriorate, our sense of touch goes us, and smell goes down. There are all manor of things that our body does that drastically affects and effects our body and thought process.

Both of the facts above, along with a host of other areas, contribute to our response in moments of extreme danger. One possible response is “hyper-vigilance”. In layman’s terms, freeze, or stop moving. In the south we have a saying for such an action: Deer in the headlights. For anyone who has driven country roads at peak active times for white tail deer has seen the look and knows what I am talking about. You come around a corner only to see a deer in the middle of the road, just staring at you, not moving.

I was a conversation with a fellow instructor and trainer friend of mine about hyper-vigilance. He described it like this: “Think of your brain as a Rolodex, each experience is logged away on a card. When you encounter something familiar, you go to that card and respond using the data found. Everyday functions are easy to find, rare functions may take a minute to get to. But, new experiences are not found, you just keep scrolling through trying to find an appropriate response, but keep coming up empty.” Thanks Fred. That is what is happening when we freeze.

The danger of freezing is obvious. If we are in a deadly force situation, we may get killed or seriously injured. If we are on stage, we look foolish and become embarrassed. So, we need to move, to act, to do something! I have heard said: “Do something, even if it’s wrong!” Now, I caution against this in the context of self defense as the wrong thing may end with criminal charges. However, tactically speaking we have plenty of options, even “wrong” ones.

Law Enforcement has a phrase we will borrow here: “Get off line” This means basically be somewhere other than where you were when the bad guy made his move. “Get off of X” is also popular.

Not being where you just were is important; as the threat knows where you were, but not where you are going. If you take a big step to the left or right, you now have a slight advantage, as the threat is still going where you expect, but you are not where he thinks you are. This serves two purposes: 1) Hopefully you are now so far “off line (off of his line of movement)” that what ever tool is being used will not make contact with you immediately and buy you time. 2) The assailant is now exposed in a way he is not prepared for. At his side you have a host of options available to you.

The natural reaction to freeze is nothing to be ashamed of, but is something you should train against. By training with scenarios, creating stress, and making things as real as is reasonable and safe, you begin to fill your Rolodex. A full Rolodex will help keep you from searching for a response, you will simply react to a threat. I close with the immortal words of the greatest tactician in history:

“Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected” – Sun Tzu

What can we learn?

Hollywood misses the mark here. Surprise surprise.

MOVE! Do something, just get off the “X”

Train and practice. Fill up your Rolodex so you can respond without thinking, you won’t be able to think.

You can train to overcome fear and natural response, but you have to train!

Read Sun Tzu. It is a bit dry if you are not into such literature, but is is n absolute masterpiece of tactical literature. Still used today around the world as a training aid in the most elite military, law enforcement, and private groups in the world.


Stay Sharp,


One of the few requirements I gave my wife before I would marry her was that she had to learn how to bake an apple crisp just like my momma. I am happy to say that we have been together right about 7 years at the time of this writing!

The tricky part to slicing a pie, as we have all learned the hard way, is letting it cool. If you do it while it’s hot (wrong) then you end up with a mess. To get the perfect slice you have to wait for the right moment, after it has had a chance to cool. Start at the apex of the pan away from you, draw the cutting tool straight back towards you carefully, turn and repeat in even sections until you have a perfect pie, ready for consumption, with ice cream of course.

Now that I have both of us craving pie; we can see how this translates to tactics. When we hear the words “slicing the pie”, what is the first image that comes to mind? Could it be, slicing a pie, or a sliced pie, or something similar? That is why we have so readily adopted this term, everyone knows what you mean when you say that.

But why do we care, and when is slicing a pie going to help me when defending myself? Actually slicing an apple or cherry pie will not help you too much, however, the concept applies well.

When we find ourselves in need of going around a corner, there is a particular way in which we do that. What we do not want do is walk around the corner like we are just on a stroll. We need to take it carefully and with a system. We do this by “slicing the pie”.

Just as we take a pie and slice it into 8 or so pieces, we do the same with a corner.

Important Note: I discourage you from clearing your home without some form of weapon in your hands. If you feel that you need to investigate a concern with the level of care that requires such tactics as we are discussing, you need to be prepared; or don’t do it at all and let the police do it when they get there.

As we approach the corner, we want to stop several feet back from said corner. Get several feet away from the wall with the corner you are addressing, and peek around the corner (gun up and ready) just a little bit. Take a small step , just as far as you peeked, and repeat until you have taken the entire corner.

As I sit here and write this, I am thinking this needs a video… So, give me a little time and let me try and put one together.

This concept is important for us to know and use as it helps prevent ambushes and surprises. A slow methodical approach and action on our part helps keep us alive and safe. On the same token, it may prevent a horrible tragedy. I have seen too many times a family member shooting and killing another because they were scared that someone was in the house… I pray that you never encounter such a catastrophe. That is why we publish The Sharpening Stone, our earnest desire is to see you and your family safe.

If you have more questions about slicing the pie, comment below or drop us a line. We offer a course for just such training and equipping called SHARP

What can we learn:

Slicing the pie is an advanced tactic that requires training and practice to perfect. It can be learned and performed by you, but you need to seek advanced training.

Clearing a room or home is very serious business and is not a task to be taken lightly. Before you ever take on such a task, I highly encourage you to call to police and get them en route. If safe to do so, wait for them to do it for you.

It is our desire to equip you with the skills necessary to protect and defend yourself and your family
Stay Sharp,