All posts by Adam Markesbery

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,



If you have ever used a funnel to change the oil in a car, while cooking or baking, or even experienced the concept while in construction traffic you understand how funnels work. Funnels take an object, and force it through smaller point. Taking four lanes of traffic and funneling them down to one causes traffic jams for miles, frustration, late arrivals, and sometimes even subsequent accidents.

What in the world do funnels have to do with self defense? Well, nothing directly but, the concept is a perfect analogy.

There are certain points we have to pass through in order to get somewhere else. These may be called choke points, fatal funnels, vertical coffins, etc. Whatever you label them, they are not good for us, hence the daunting names. Much like critical vulnerabilites, fatal funnels are something we must learn to deal with. There are two common examples that we encounter in our daily lives. Real quick, before you see the examples, try and think of two areas that we encounter every day that funnel us. STOP reading and think before moving on…

Ok, now that you have two funnels in mind, analyze them with these factors:

  • Does your funnel limit movement
  • Is there a way to avoid the funnel
  • Must you pass through the funnel to get where you are going

The two primary examples we encounter everyday are: Doorways and Stairs. You are not wrong if you said windows, hallways, etc. If they meet the criteria above, they are a fatal funnel.

Our homes, offices, stores, practically every structure we encounter has doors, if not stairways as well. The issue with them in a tactical situation is just that, we have to deal with them. We cannot enter the building without going through a door.

There are some critical things to remember when going through a door or staircase; they are:

If you do not have to go in, don’t.

  • If your child is in that room, to protect them you may have to go in. However, if the threat is the only one in that room, use that to your advantage. Set up and ambush and make him vulnerable in the fatal funnel. Let him know that you have him and police are in route (because they are, right!?)
  • Don’t stop or hesitate
    • When you have to make entry, don’t stop in the area that limits your movement most.
  • Go in, and stick with your decision
    • If you decide to go in, do it like you mean it and stick by your decision
  • Staircases are especially difficult
    • They must be done deliberately, with speed and efficiency. They take time a training to learn how to properly traverse tactically.

Look, I know this is a little “high speed”. You do not make a living kicking down doors and clearing buildings, I know. The point I am making is this: There are especially dangerous tactics; entering a room is arguably holds the first place on that list. You need to know this for your home defense strategy. We offer a course we call SHARP, as well as SOAR. These courses are designed to help you through these tactical hurdles. Contact us to learn more and have us come help you meet your goals!

Do not think that getting a gun is the end all. Just because you buy a car, does not mean you are ready to drive. A gun is a tool that you have to learn how use. Now, GO TRAIN!

What can we learn?

Fatal Funnels suck… No way around it.

We have to train to overcome the issues surrounding the tactical hurdles we face

Learn how to work with and around fatal funnels properly


Stay Sharp,


Our favorite action star starts taking fire, shouts “TAKE COVER!” as he dives behind a car door, or a sheet rock wall or some equivalent. As I watch this, I have to bite my tongue for the benefit of my wife.

Cover is a fundamental tactic. It is fundamental because of its importance to our safety and survival in a fight. Cover, however, is more than a hiding spot. Cover is only part “hiding”; but “hiding” can be broke down to two groups: Cover and Concealment. Let’s look at both of these.

Concealment is just that, concealing your presence. What it is not, is bullet proof or even resistant. Car doors, the walls in your house, glass, a couch, among countless other items are concealment and not likely to stop a bullet. This does not mean that you cannot seek out and go to concealment, sometimes it is all we have! There is an old saying that says: You can’t shoot what you can’t see. Now, that is in the context of you cannot take aim at something that you cannot see; however, that does not mean just because the bad guy can’t see you, does not mean that you cannot be struck by a lucky (or unlucky) round.

Cover, the reason we are here. Cover is usually also concealment, but not just. It will more than likely conceal your location, but it will also absorb rounds and not allow penetration. Concrete or block walls, large trees, steel and metal doors and walls, among numerous other items could be considered cover.

Now that we have an operating understanding of the difference of the two concepts, we can start to go outside the box. When we don’t have weapons, or we are in some other way unprepared to fight back, we run and/or hide. This is our natural response. Both cover and concealment are usually good for hiding, but cover of course is preferred. But, how can we use cover while engaging a threat?

We utilize cover to protect as much of our body as possible while exposing only that which is absolutely required to still engage. For example; using a heavy steel trashcan in a park for cover, we squat low and peek out the top or side. This keeps out torso and legs well protected, making you a smaller target and more difficult to hit. The same goes for a wall, you can even stand up and peek around the corner while keeping your torso and legs remain protected. Yes, our head and arms are exposed. There is no way to engage without this though. This is called a critical vulnerability; learn more about critical vulnerabilities by clicking the link.

If we are in a situation in which gunfire is being exchanged, seek cover! Get behind an engine block in a car, a concrete planter, block wall, etc. I say that understanding that is not always practical or even possible. If you are jumped on the street or carjacked, it is not necessarily practical to seek cover. You will have to engage without that luxury.  When you find yourself in a situation in which you can get to cover, do so!

Another major tactical consideration is being able to see. If you are hiding, you are not likely to see where the bad guy is or what he is doing. If you are engaging the bad guy, and take full cover to reload or just get away from the bullets, you are taking your eyes off of the threat. In that time he may move and get a leg up on you, which is very bad. This was one of my main tactics when playing competition paintball. Lay down fire on a guy, make him hide, move to a flanking position. When he comes back up, I am not where I was and he catches paint in the side.

This is arguably the most simplistic tactical fundamental, as it goes with our natural response to a threat.; hiding. The complexity of it comes in when we try to distinct cover from concealment. I have faith you will get a good grasp on it.

What can we learn?

Cover is very important in a gun fight. Begin to look for cover and concealment and distinguish the difference.

When you can, get to cover and utilize it!

Don’t just hide; be prepared to engage from cover.

Try and keep good tabs on the bad guy and what he is doing, if safe to do so.

This concept also works for knives, intermediate weapons, and so on.


Stay Sharp,



We all have vulnerabilities; even the best of us have weaknesses. Some physical, and some psychological. Our degree of vulnerability changes with time and circumstances. What we must be aware of, is our critical vulnerabilities; these are where the true danger lies.

Think back to the 1200’s and the armor that knights would wear. What was the purpose? To protect and defend against weapon strikes. Would a large sheet or box of iron not have done the same thing? Well, sure it would have, however, the Knight wearing the “armor” or box or whatever, would have been worthless in battle and not capable of any movement. However, if he wore nothing then any weapon could have easily caused serious injury or death. This left the knight, and subsequently the armorers, in a tough spot, They had to develop something that could and would stop a weapon, yet still allow some range of motion.

Enter the world of critical vulnerability. In order to function, there must be “weak spots” in the armor. The neck, groin, joints, and face/eyes were often left un-guarded. This is were the combatant would aim; the points in the armor that must be left open in order to be effective. This is practically the definition of critical vulnerability.

We will define critical vulnerability as: “A function, mechanism, or action that is required for combat performance, made vulnerable by its inherent presence”. Ok, I know that is a little complicated, but look back to our previous example of the armor. The face, or at least the eyes, had to be left open for the knight to do anything. The eyes’ inherent criticality made them be present,  yet, by their presence they were vulnerable. Make sense?

So, how does knights’ eyes being open apply to us? Well, like countless other concepts, the direct application may not be present, but, the concept and principles therein apply quite well.

Today, we do not walk around in a suit of armor. This is more of a social obligation than anything else, but it does leave us vulnerable to a point. In order to operate in today’s society, we must lose the armor. Not to mention, body armor is incredibly uncomfortable and inconvenient.

Another physical critical vulnerability we face today is our home. We have to have a place to lay our head, and shelter us from the elements. This central place of residence leaves us vulnerable to some degree. All of our possessions are there, we return there everyday, we sleep there, we eat there, and our family is there. However, we are not always there, we work, we visit friends, family, we take vacations and all that. So, if one wanted to harm us, or take our things, they would have one guaranteed location to do such a thing.

Are you catching on? The things we need to operate and survive may leave us vulnerable. Now before we go on, let me make one thing abundantly clear: Do not freak out! vulnerabilities are far different from a threat. Getting in your car makes you vulnerable, but you make it back and forth from work safely each day don’t you. There is a very small chance that you will be in an auto accident, yet that is a risk we all take all the time.

How about a psychological critical vulnerability? This is not so much how are minds are vulnerable, but the way we think and operate make us vulnerable. The first thing that comes to mind is ignorance. This is two fold. One, we cannot know everything, sometimes that lack of knowledge can leave us vulnerable. Two, willful ignorance. Choosing not to engage in our environment leaves us vulnerable.

Wilful ignorance is more of a choice than a critical function, however, the sad reality of our current society is just that. We tend to encourage ignorance, so I have included by way of societal convention. The first fold, regular old ignorance is indeed critical. There is no way we can know everything, there just isn’t. This lack of knowledge leaves us vulnerable. Learn about situational awareness here.

If you really start peeling back layers and analyzing your life, actions, functions, ideology, and every other facet, you will find vulnerabilities in all kinds of genres. Do not get hung up of the vulnerability, but focus instead on addressing it. Sometimes all you can do is be aware of it, sometimes you can change a habit or function, sometimes you can address it and even remove it. It is up to you to decide and prioritize.

What can we learn?

We are all vulnerable to some degree. We must recognize vulnerability and address it as be we can.

We cannot remove all vulnerability. Critical vulnerability is just that; vulnerability that must be present in order to function effectively.

Train and equip yourself to prepare and address critical vulnerability. Some training, reading, tools and devices, among numerous other venues can help reduce vulnerability.

Give us a shout or comment below if you would like to learn more or have us help you address some vulnerability.

Stay sharp,



This is really less of a buzzword, and more of a buzz”method” but, the concept still applies just as well.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has become an entire sub-culture, with it’s own “speak” and style. UFC started out as more of a bar brawl style cage fight, using whatever training and techniques and style you had, and to the victor went the spoils. Now, however, it is this combination of watered down Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) and Muay-Thai; labeled as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Both of which in there natural and raw form are serious and effective arts.

What the general public seems to have forgotten, ignore, or disregard, is that it is a sport. The “Affliction” shirts, and flat-bill “Tapout” baseball caps make you look hardcore and you belong in and to this sub-culture; but, what does all this stuff mean? For the 1% of the population who actually participates in UFC/MMA, it is how they identify in their sport, fair enough. The rest of those who wear the gear, and know the names of the athletes but do not participate, are fans, also fair.

Where the problem starts is when people assume that MMA is a viable form of self defense. You may have noticed I kept referring to UFC/MMA as a sport, and indeed it is. UFC has taken parts of BJJ and Muay-Thai, both good arts, and sportized (it’s a word because I just made it one) them.

UFC has rules, regulations, etc that go into a sport. They have to make money, keep the fans happy, keep new guys interested, just as in baseball, football, basketball, and all the others in order to keep the sport alive. This is however, not a martial art. I am sure those that participate in the sport are fuming and more than willing “to step in the octagon with me”, but look; I do not fight with rules, the eyes, knees, groin, are all viable targets, and disabling you is a goal.

When you train for self defense, you should train and prepare for a real world street fight. There are a lot of great arts, forms, and styles out there, and even more folks who are masters of their respective art. But, you should not look to a sport for self defense.

Now that I have hurt the feelings of all the UFC/MMA fans out there, lets do a comparison of the pros and cons that UFC brings to the table.


  • Learn to hit and be hit. You must know how to strike properly, without hurting yourself, transferring energy, and all that
  • Fundamentals. Muay Thai is what is used for the stand-up game. Muay-Thai is a series Thai style of boxing/kickboxing. This entails footwork, combinations, focus drills, cardio, etc., etc. All good things.
  • The ground game is primarily BJJ. This is a great art, especially if you are smaller. I have seen little guys, straight dominate little guys. Shoot, I have been dominated by guys significantly smaller than me on the ground. (they were very good)


  • Both BJJ and Muay-Thai are watered down solutions of the original. You can still get good stuff out of them, but I assure you, by the time you get through all the rules and attached garbage, they are not as potent.
  • There are rules in UFC. There are no “rules” on the street.
  • It is a sport…

There are certainly valid points to be taken from such a training for self-defense. But, I would highly encourage you seek other venues for the purpose of self defense

What can we learn?

  • UFC is a sport. Sports are nice to enjoy and play and all that. However, for the purpose of self defense there are better venues.
  • If you are going to invest time and effort into a fighting style/system for self defense, do your homework and research. Find a place and style that works for you and fits your self defense needs.
  • Don’t get caught up in the buzzwords of our modern times. Wearing the “Tapout” gear and knowing the names of all the champs is fun as a fan, but it does not make you a warrior.
  • Becoming proficient in a fighting style/art takes time and dedication. Find something you love that works for you, and dive in head first!

Stay Sharp,



“You gotta train like you fight!” This vague phrase that gets so many worked up and causes us to go over the top at times. But, what does “training like you fight” really mean? Is it gear and equipment, or environment, or what?

In my personal and professional experience when people talk about training like you fight, they often mean wear a bunch of gear, and look “tacti-cool”. Going to the range to sling some lead wearing a leg rig, armor, and a helmet makes you look super cool, but do you wear that when you go to the grocery, or out for dinner? There is a time and place for such a load-out, but self-defense in public is not it.

Where else do some claim you have to “train like you fight”? How about in hand to hand defense? Oh yeah, I have heard too many times that you have to train like you fight when going hands on. Let me tell you something, I pity the poor soul that is on the receiving end of my “training” if we are going all out. I do not trade punches. Through extreme violence of action, I am going to do as much damage as needed to end the threat as quickly as possible. However, I spend time sparring, and working on my skills. This allows my muscles and mind to get used to the right movements, so when the time comes, I can go full-out and win the fight.

Ok, we have looked at a couple of examples of what people think “training like you fight” looks like. Now, let us look at what training like you fight should properly look like, shall we?

In order to understand how we can train for a fight, we have to learn what our fight will look like. It will likely be over in just a couple/few seconds, someone is probably going to be injured, and the threat will not announce it self and you will not have time to plan.

In order to prepare yourself for a real world threat in a safe training environment, there are some simple steps to be taken. This list is not exhaustive by any means, but, is a place to start. These steps are simple and anyone can do them.

  1. Mentally prepare yourself
    • While driving to work you can perform mental rehearsals, learn more about that here. You have to get your mind in the right place for combat before you are in it.
  2. Put everything you have into your training, regardless of the topic (ie: hand to hand, knife, gun, etc.)
    •  Putting everything we have in our training is free, and will automatically up our game. I assure you, when your life depends on it, you will not be engaging haphazardly. Note: This does not mean go 100% on your training partner, this means engaging yourself in the training and giving it everything you have, every time.
  3. Train with the tools you will actually have on hand ( your concealed carry load out)
    • When you are grocery shopping, what do you carry? A compact handgun, and an extra mag in your pocket? If so, train just like that, how fast can you get that mag out of your pocket? Learn your abilities and bottlenecks, then start removing bottle necks.
  4. Get good quality training.
    • There are a lot of good trainers out there, find one, and get trained! Do your homework first to ensure they are certified and a good instructor, running good, modern tactics.
  5. Don’t waste your time on worthless drills, techniques, and popular Tacticool methods.
    • For example; engaging a target with one or two shots, whipping the gun back to compressed ready, and whipping your head around, “scanning” for additional threats is a waste. You are building training scars into your training. Work the fundamentals, then start to add effective tactics.

The five points above are an outline, and they may take numerous different forms and combinations. We are all only have 24 hours in a day, between work, sleep, and life, we do not get as much time as we may like to train, we have to make the most out of our time and training.

What can we learn?

Training like you fight is a buzzword. If you are making the most of your effective training, you are preparing for the fight.

Not all “training” is created equal, some is a waste of time; don’t waste your time.

There is no way to account for every potentiality. Master the fundamentals and basic tactics, and they will give you the advantage in a fight.

Use the 5 tips above to improve your skills starting today!


Stay Sharp,




March 1983 was revolutionary for Law Enforcement Tactics, but should it have been? Dennis Tueller a now retired Lt. with the Salt Lake City Police Department, developed and conducted a drill to find out How close is too close? Today, the Tueller drill has become more than was ever intended, and not in a good way.

Lt. Tueller’s findings were first published in SWAT Magazine. The intended audience was, and to a certain degree is still, law enforcement. However, the principles and tactics apply well to your self defense. I highly encourage you to read Lt. Tueller’s article from the March 1983 issue of SWAT magazine titled, How close it too close?, find it Here.

The Tueller Drill was intended to answer two questions: How fast can the average officer (person) draw their firearm, and what distance can a threat cover in that time? A great drill and great questions! However, it is far from being a rule! Yet, there is this HUGE misconception that this drill constitutes a rule, even among leaders and professionals in law enforcement and law.

Here is why the drill is great, but, the “rule” is bogus:

Bogus Rule:

  • Each person is different. Tueller’s findings were based on a class of a couple of dozen new recruits he had in his firearms course. This is an extremely small test pool.
  • The 7 yards/21 feet was arbitrary, for all intents and purposes. It was a distance they were comfortable at and had the availability to use.
  • The drill was conducted for the benefit for his class; it was not scientific and conducted in laboratory conditions.
  • The time that was determined to draw and put two rounds on paper at 7 yds was determined to 1.5 seconds. The time to cover 21 feet was determined to be an average of 1.5 seconds. This is a good baseline, but in no way assures stopping the threat. They are literally on top of you in that 1.5 seconds.Even if you make those two rounds count and the threat is killed instantly, they are likely to fall on top of you and still cause injury.

Great Drill:

  • In conducting your own Tueller drill, you can determine your personal reactionary gap (the distance that can be covered in the time it takes you to recognize and react to a threat.)
  • You can gain a good understanding of your skills as they pertain to drawing and engaging a threat.

Points of interest and of note

It is important to note that in 1983, almost all police departments we using revolvers, leather holster with snap retention exposed on their hips, and the tactics were vastly different. Here are some things you need to know as a citizen who carry’s a concealed handgun legally for self-defense.

The draw dynamic is quite different for you than an officer. Officers have retention holsters and carry them openly, you likely do not on both counts. You have to consider the time it takes to recognize a threat, present your handgun for access, draw, and get on target, and fire. Officers just have to overcome the retention, and they may even already have their sidearm drawn due to the nature of the call.

Tactics have changed too. How we draw and shoot have evolved over the last 33 years. You can even get training for reactionary/reflexive, etc. shooting (close quarters emergency shooting, typically a “point and shoot” training, not much sight work)

Physical ability varies from person to person. The drill was conducted by people who had to meet certain physical requirements. Your right to self defense has no minimum requirements. If you have a handicap that prevents you from drawing your handgun like Billy the Kid, then you need to know and understand that.

Cover/Concealment is a basic and fundamental part of combat. Where the rule is, the more bulletproof the better; in the context of a hand held threat, any trip hazard is a help. Putting furniture, a fence, etc. will slow them down and give you time

What can we learn?

Do your own Tueller drills and get a good grasp of your own time, and get a distance. This should become your “hazard zone”

Use cover and concealment. Any object you can place between you and the threat will slow his time and in turn give you more time to act and react.

There have been many, more scientific, tests and studies performed since 1983, I recommend you poke around the internet and look into “The Force Institute”. They have turned out some great studies.

Don’t get caught up in buzzwords. The Tueller drill is a great tool, but it is no rule!

Stay Sharp


We all train, and we do it often. How you and train and what you train for may not be what your intended goal is. When we go the range, we call it training. When we study in martial arts, we call it training. Both of these things are good things, I actively participate in both, and I recommend you do the same.

But! When you go the range and train, what are you training for? How are you training? By definition training is the action of teaching someone something. For those of you with kids, or if you have ever been around kids for any amount of time, you will see them learning, they are always learning. Always… They learn by doing, seeing, and hearing. Of course, seeing us do something and repeating the action themselves is the most prolific way children learn.

So, what changes as we grow up? Nothing. We still learn by performing a task more than any other method. This very much carries over to our training. We go to the range, or to a class with the intent of learning. We have engaged our mind and body to accept a task and perform it over and over.

Now, let’s use the range as our example. When you are at the range “training”, what are you training yourself for? If you use an indoor range, to shoot at paper, in climate controlled area, with safety equipment, from the low or compressed ready, you are training for that scenario unless you have a predetermined training goal.

We will discuss “training like you fight” in more detail in another article. So we will not go into detail here. What we are going to discuss is having a training plan. Going to the range “to sling lead” is fun, but if you are calling it training, please stop. Correction: do not consider it productive training, you are training, but it is not productive.

Keeping with our range example: there are many a good training that come from those nice indoor range days. You must have a predetermined training plan going into the range if you expect to be productive however. Go with the intent to work on one or two things, Trigger Control, Sight alignment/picture, reloads, shooting both eyes open, etc. are some examples of training areas that can be honed in such an environment.

In martial arts, if you go with the intention of self-defense training, be sure you are getting what you are going for. A fancy sport in which you perform no hand cartwheels, and spinning back kicks has its place; self-defense is not that place. There are many good martial arts out there that have both, traditional martial arts require years of study before you really get into the meat and potatoes. If you are going just for self-defense look for self-defense training, boxing, Krav Maga, or something of the sort.

Our time is valuable, every second spent is one you are never going to get back. Make your training count. Don’t waste time and money of on some fly by night training or method. Invest yourself into the process and put everything you have into everything you do, especially those things in which you may trust your life to someday.

What can we learn?

We are always training, be sure your training is effective and of quality.

Don’t waste your time or money on junk. If you are going to go to the range, or a class, be sure to make the most of it.

Put everything you have into your training; trust me when your life hangs in the balance you will be fighting with everything you have.

Get training. Guns are great, but we don’t need a $3000 rifle, we need a $1000 rifle and $2000 of training!

Stay Sharp


If you have spent any time in the defensive realm, you have heard two words at least once: Situational Awareness. In every discipline I have studied in whether it be martial arts, executive protection, firearms, etc., every one of them not touches but drives home the concept of situational awareness.

This concept sounds cool, and it flows off the tongue in an exquisite manor; but what is it exactly? What it is, and what it has become may be two different things.

What it has become: A buzzword. It is great to say and when you do, you are speaking the language of the defensive community. A newbie can sound like they belong in about 3 seconds! But in all the times I hear the phrase, I never get a good definition and explanation of what it is. I think many instructors take for granted that both words are common and easily defined. However, when put together they become more than the sum of their parts. This brings us to what it actually is.

What it is: Critical! Situational Awareness (SA) is far more than is often let on. Typically when it comes to firearms training, situational awareness is limited to that 1 second of scanning performed after target engagement. Knowing what is going on around an engagement, but that is putting it far too small a box.

Knowing what is going on around you (situational awareness) is not limited to threat engagement. Employed properly, SA will prevent a threat! This however takes more than looking around. It requires being engaged in your environment and planning ahead. Walking down the street at night, you see a few people lurking around just hanging out. You could continue to walk right to them, watching their hands, or: you could cross the road! When you park your car at the movie theater and it is daytime and when you come out you know it will be dark; park accordingly. Don’t park in a dark corner. Find a light post and park close enough that your car and the surrounding area will be well lit.

I propose here and now a change in phraseology from Situational Awareness to: Environmental Engagement; and here is why:

  • Situational assumes intangibles. You find your self in awkward or uncomfortable situations. Situation implies a moment in time and emotion. Environment mandates, by definition, mandates tangibles. Environment is people, buildings, cars, etc., etc.
  • Awareness is superficial. I am aware there is a suspicious looking character approaching me, but unless I am engaged, I do nothing about it. Awareness does not require action.

Situational awareness is an important concept, and needs to be a part of your repertoire. But, you must insist on expanding it beyond what is currently accepted. I recommend using the term Environmental Engagement. This, through simple change of terminology, changes your perception and approach of the concept.

To be effective you must become engaged. Understand what is normal and familiar to your common environment, and look for differences. Don’t just be aware of your surrounding, but engage in them. Wolves prey on those who look like they are not engaged in their environment. Playing on your cell phone requires you to be oblivious to your surroundings, making the wolves job much easier.

One of my favorite Sherlock Holmes quotes is: “You see, but you do not observe”. He tells this to Watson numerous times when Watson does not observe the infinitesimally small details that Sherlock sees in his environment. This is a perfect example of the difference in one who is aware and one who is engaged.

What can we learn?

  • Situational awareness has become a buzzword, but for good reason. It is an important part to our overall defense strategy.
  • SA is more than what is often taught. The term itself may be to blame for this anemic application.
  • Consider transitioning to Environmental Engagement. This term is better suited to the reality of what is needed.
  • Engage in your environment, don’t just be aware of it


Stay Sharp




They say there are three things you don’t talk about: Religion, Money, and Politics. The logic behind this is that these three topics are very sensitive to people and they become very passionate about them, as we hold them all dear.

However, I am would like to propose an amendment to this phrase, to include, Caliber selection! If you are itching for a good old fashioned heated debate, go to a group of “gun guys or gals” and state matter of factly what caliber is the best. Then, stand back and watch the show! We all have a preferred caliber for one reason or another.

The one phrase that comes up constantly is: stopping power. “.45 ACP is the best because of the stopping power!”; “.380 is junk because it has no stopping power!” I can almost guarantee that you will here these two things said.

That begs the question what is stopping power? Well, we will define it as follows for this discussion: Stopping power is the ability to end a threat with the minimum amount of effort or rounds on target.

Ok, so now that we know exactly what we are talking about, why does this matter? I’m glad you ask! It doesn’t! Yeah! I said it! Stopping power, as it is used is a statistical farce for the most part. I guarantee you I can find 5 cases of a single shot from a .22lr neutralizing a threat, and 5 cases of a .45 ACP not stopping the threat in just a few minutes.

A couple years back an older gentleman shot and killed 1 of three intruders in his home with one shot, from a .22lr rifle he uses for squirrels. This happened in the town over from me. Well, how about that for stopping power!

Let’s take another look at our definition above: Stopping power is the ability to end a threat with the minimum amount of effort or rounds on target. I think that .22 has plenty of stopping power, wouldn’t you agree.

Stopping power has become a buzzword among the gun community, often misused and misunderstood. Too many people believe that stopping power looks like Hollywood depictions of a guy getting shot with a shotgun and flying backwards through the wall… Newtons 3rd law of physics tells us that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So, in order for the “bad guy” to go flying backward, the same amount of force would be placed on the one pulling the trigger. So, even the .45 acp only hits as hard as you feel in the recoil. Granted, the .45 has a lot more recoil than a .22, but nothing that will stop a man in his tracks.

Here is what is important. Forget stopping power, think shot placement. What stopped the intruder in his tracks in our story above, was shot placement. The round was perfectly placed, right in his heart. One officer shot a man 14 times with a .45 acp, six of those rounds were supposed to be fatal, and he kept coming! This is an extreme case but, it drives home the point: Shot placement, not stopping power. Had one of those rounds struck his heart, or ended brain activity, that would have been the end of that.

What can we learn?

Next time you hear someone say something about stopping power, remind them that shot placement far supersedes “stopping power”

The only way to stop a threat “dead in his tracks” is to turn out the lights. Shut the body down and prevent it from functioning.

This mythical illusion that shooting someone with a .45 acp will knock them backward and kill him instantly regardless of shot placement is a farce and should be ignored.

Larger calibers have their advantages, as do smaller calibers. However, it is not all about calibers. If you only can carry a .22 lr or .380 acp, than go for it, it is better than nothing. Be sure to use top quality ammo and practice practice practice!

We discuss choosing a handgun here:

And here:


Stay Sharp,