In Self Defense - Episode 99: Tom Givens PT. 2 - CCW Safe National | CCW Safe Weapon Liability | CCW Safe Defense Attorneys
In Self Defense - Episode 99: Tom Givens PT. 2

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In Self Defense - Episode 99: Tom Givens PT. 2

In Part 2 of this podcast Firearms instructor Tom Givens joins Don West, Steve Moses, and Shawn Vincent to share his thoughts on verbalization, defensive display, less-lethal force, and the perils of warning shots. Also, a conversation about holsters, and iron sights versus red dot.

The CCW Safe team believes that continuing education is an important component of being a responsible firearms owner/carrier. We offer our free content as food for thought. We try to take a neutral position and encourage the reader to evaluate how they would handle a similar situation. If the content provokes thought we have succeeded in our mission. The opinion of the content provider may not reflect the overall opinion of the company and staff members.


TRANSCRIPT: 

Hey everybody. It's Shawn Vincent. Thanks for listening in to the podcast today. Today is going to be part two of our conversation with Tom Givens. Tom Givens is a nationally recognized firearms instructor with a long and storied career. Tom is the founder of the Rangemaster Institute. He is a veteran of law enforcement. He served as a sheriff's deputy many decades ago. He spent eight years in the Army National Guard. He's an FBI police firearms instructor, or he's a graduate of the FBI Police Firearms Instructor School. Also, he completed NRA Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor School. He is a champion competitive shooter and most notably for our conversation today, for years he ran a bricks-and-mortar range in Tennessee, where he instructed more than 45,000 people who were pursuing their concealed carry permits in the states. And during that long time that he operated that range, he would get reports back from students who had had armed encounters with attackers. And he's going to share some of the insights that he's gleaned from that experience with us today. 


He currently doesn't have that range. He shut that down in favor of becoming a traveling instructor. He and his wife travel more than 30 weeks out of the year to bring their knowledge and experience and expertise to folks all over the country. Today, our conversation … we're going to be joined with Don West as always, and Steve Moses who was kind enough to introduce Don and I to Tom. We're going to continue our conversation. We're going to talk a little bit about defensive display. We're going to talk about the perils of warning shots. Going to have a little conversation about hardware – talking about red dots versus iron sites, and then the importance of visualization for any concealed carrier to imagine the circumstances that they might find themselves in. So we'll get right into it and start off with some great questions from Don West. Thanks again for listening. If you want to find out more about Tom, go to rangemaster.com, that's rangemaster.com.


Don West:

We deal a lot in the cases that we talk about and just general information when we're trying to analyze a case, we see a lot of brandishing cases. They were intended to be lawful defensive display, but they turned out to be charged with brandishing. There may be a fairly hard line to identify on that. And I'm curious of your views on defensive display. Is it ever a good decision and how do you know when and when not to draw that firearm, if you don't immediately intend to shoot it.


Tom Givens:

I think the brandishing in many instances comes from premature display of the firearm where it's not really a deadly force incident and you make it one by drawing a gun. Certainly, there are many, many, many circumstances in which drawing to a hard ready and issuing a challenge is the appropriate response. You'll draw your gun in the real world, many times for every time you actually fired a human being, if you're conducting yourself properly. I found early on, drawing a big gun to a hard ready in a war face will keep you from ever having to shoot a lot of people. They turn the tip on, well, I picked the wrong one and go away. There's a lot of bad guys out there don't really want anything but a good look at your pistol once they've had that, they're happy and leave. But I think the problem comes from prematurely . . . you're in a verbal altercation with somebody and you pull a gun to make a point that's brandishing. 


Don West:

And I suppose that, especially if you pull it too soon and the other person immediately feels threatened.


Tom Givens:

Absolutely.


Don West:

They have to respond – either, they're going to run off, which is what your goal probably was to start with, or feel the need to immediately use force.


Shawn Vincent:

You've just justified their shooting of YOU at that point.


Tom Givens:

You've given them a stand-your-ground defense.


Don West:

So that's really delicate kit stuff, is a hard decision to make. And is it just as hard to identify and articulate? You really can't set a clear standard, you just have to have enough training and experience and visualization to know it when you see it?


Tom Givens:

Imagine how thick a book would have to be to list every possible scenario. And if they do this, do that. If they do this, do that. If they do this, do that. That's just simply not possible. You have to groundwork. Basically, principles to operate by. I can give you countless examples of why drawing to already would work. Let's say I've got a guy with an edged weapon or an impact weapon, but he's 35 feet away across the parking lot. He says he's going to come over and cut me or thump me. I can't wait for him to actually do that nor do I want to shoot him at 30 to 35 feet. But what I would do is draw a ready and say, "You need to drop that. You need to go away." Whatever's appropriate at that particular moment. 


If a guy lifts up his shirt and shows you a pistol and says, "Give me your car keys, give me your wallet, whatever," what's the implication there? Or I will draw this gun and use it on you. I'm not going to shoot him at that point, but I would draw to a ready to preempt him, being able to draw at me. Then if he goes to the pistol, I've already got mine in hand, I've got a good bit of the time-consuming part of it out of the way, I'm ready to respond at that point. So it gives me an option other than just drawing and shooting. So you've got a lot of opportunities in the real world to draw a gun going to do already and stop the situation from escalating the actual gunfire. And I tell students all the time, if we can get out of this without gunfire, it's a hell of a lot better than getting out of it with gunfire.


Shawn Vincent:

And the situations you're describing there, you have a potential attacker who has the ability and clearly the intent to do harm, but the imminence isn't there yet and that's when a defensive display is appropriate when firings not yet?


Tom Givens:

Correct. The guy that's got the gun in the waistband can't shoot me with it yet, but he obviously could take it out and shoot me with it in a very short period of time. The guy with the knife 30, 40 feet away will take a couple of seconds to get over here. And by the way, I'm not saying there's some magic number of feet. It depends on obstacles. Do I have a 25-year old athletic-looking man on an open parking lot with nothing between this? Do I have a pudgy old man like me with a chaining fence between the two of us, those things alter that distance a good bit. I'm just saying that there are plenty of circumstances in which I'm almost to the point of shooting someone, but not quite there. I would want the gun in hand ready to use it if I have to. And that's what drawing to the ready is about. That's not brandishing the gun, that's preparing to use the gun. That's a completely different issue.


Shawn Vincent:

A lot of people are taught don't draw your gun unless you're prepared to fire it, unless you're justified and firing it. And I think for some folks that means they fire even when the display has been effective at deescalating. What's your take on that?


Tom Givens:

The way you hear that, because the problem is “Don't draw your gun unless you're going to use it.” That's stupid. “Don't draw your gun unless you're mentally prepared to use it,” would make a lot more sense. And in the circumstances described, I would be in fact be mentally prepared to use it. That doesn't mean I have to use it. It means I have to be ready to use it.


Steve Moses:

Hey Shawn, if I may insert something here, going back to defensive display, I think what gets a lot of people in trouble in terms of brandishing is not having a full understanding of when use of force is justified. That is perhaps not all those elements are in play. And the second thing is being poorly-trained, not very good at gun handling and believing themselves incapable of getting that handgun out and into action quickly. So if you take a concealed carrier that has trained and understands when he or she is justified in using deadly force against another person that has the skills to then get that handgun out into as Tom said, maybe a hard ready very quickly, may find themselves in a position that even though they were justified and perhaps using that gun, they still had time to not shoot that person because they knew that they could get it into action quickly enough. 


Tom Givens:

Whole thing's about having options.


Shawn Vincent:

And to clarify hard ready, that means the gun's out and it's pointed probably down, we're not talking about muzzling somebody at this point.


Tom Givens:

Our default ready is both hands on the gun, trigger finger in register, gun pointed at the ground right out in front of us. You can snap it up to the eye target line in a fraction of a second, but it's not pointed at anybody. Your finger's not on the trigger. Nobody's actually endangered.


Don West:

Speaking of that, and this may be a real quick answer because there's less ambiguity maybe, what about warning shots? We see a lot of that too, where maybe it's exactly because of what Steve said, not well-trained people who almost panic or somehow haven't thought it through enough to think what the consequences would be of firing a so-called warning shot.


Tom Givens:

One of the biggest problems we face as instructors, it's cultural indoctrination. By the time somebody's old enough to apply for a permit, they've seen tens of thousands and that's not an exaggeration, tens of thousands of hours of television movies. And that becomes ingrained in their mind as reality. And in movies where you do against, you draw at them constantly, you point them at people constantly, you fire warning shots, you do all the goofy stuff we tell people not to do. But they've seen it, literally thousands of times that is deeply ingrained. We have to really fight against that as trainers. I'm adamantly against warning shots. So that bullets got to go somewhere. A pistol bullet can travel as far as a mile in a typical urban environment. Another common misconception is that shootings involve a bad guy and you in a sterile environment with nobody else around, that's kind of goofy.


If there's nobody else around, why the hell was a bad guy there? There go places where there are people so they can find a victim. That bullet can go as far as a mile, then the urban setting, a one mile radius around, you've got 30,000 people in it. Well, it's got to go somewhere, and you're accountable for every one of them. Secondly, the pistols only got so many in it, don't waste any of them. And thirdly, what you're probably convincing this guy, because he's probably been around the block a few times, is that you don't have the balls to shoot him. Then he can take that gun when you feed it to you. If you honestly have to fire that gun, it should be to put somebody on the ground. If you're not justified doing that, then don't fire the gun.


Shawn Vincent:

Since you were talking about being accountable for each bullet that you fire and a bullet can travel a mile, I think that also means that you have to be aware that drywall doesn't necessarily stop a bullet?


Tom Givens:

You put your fist through drywall bullets to sail right through it.


Shawn Vincent:

So part of what you've written about is you take that into account when you're on threat level orange and you're going up to threat level red. Part of that is positioning yourself where you can defend yourself but also lower the threat to bystanders?

Tom Givens:

If you shoot through a home invader and you hit Timmy in the head, you're no better off than if the home invader shot Timmy. So you need to be aware of what's going on. You might have to move, change the angle a little bit, you got to be aware of what's around and beyond your own target. And that that's a pet peeve many people think the rule be a certain of your target and what's around it's a range rule somehow. It means keep up with which ones are the paper targets, which ones are the staff. We would like you to keep up with that. And having people who need to be shot and people who don't need to be shot and people who don't need to be shot vastly outnumber of people that do.


Don West:

Well. And let's not forget though when we're talking about not just the real-world practical aspects of what happens when you fire a gun with the bullet and the danger that you pose to everyone around you, including those on the other side of the wall. Once you have pulled that trigger from a legal standpoint, you have now used deadly force. So the self-defense analysis, the justification of having the gun and displaying the gun versus having the gun and firing the gun is very, very different and can get you in trouble a lot quicker. Unless you can establish that, in fact you were facing that deadly force threat, which meant you probably would've been better off shooting the person.


Tom Givens:

And the same thing applies to shooting to wound, another old B movie practice. I wish people scrub out of their vocabulary. If somebody's honestly trying to kill you and him into pinky toes, he's going to kill you. If somebody's not honestly trying to kill you and shoot them into pinky toes, you're committing aggravated assault at least and you're going to prison. So either shoot to put people on the deck or don't shoot one or the other.


Don West:

Now that reminds me though of something else I wanted to talk about that we haven't introduced yet into of this conversation. I'm curious your thoughts on less-lethal options. We hear that from other people saying they think that's very, very important. Others think the more training and experience you have with a handgun and when to use it as important as how to use it. You don't really need OC spray or something like that. I'm just curious how you see this spectrum of force playing in with less-lethal options.


Tom Givens:

I really don't see how being more skillful with a handgun has anything to do with somebody who's not a threat that rises to the level of using the handgun. I think it's probably pretty important to have an option between a harsh word and a bullet, OC serves that function. What people do need to understand is OC does not serve the same function for a private citizen, that does for law enforcement officer. A law enforcement officer can actually use chemical agents to gain compliance. That's not what a civilian uses for. A civilian will be using it to break contact. When you go back to the concept of somebody who's a little bigger, a little younger, a little stronger, a little meaner looking than you, and you don't want to have a hand to hand encounter with the guy, then OC might give you an opportunity to disengage this guy and get away from him.


You would not be voluntarily engaging in a fistfight with a guy you're using the OC to prevent having a fistfight with a guy. And there are certain people, extremely aggressive panhandler drunks – one of the examples I hear you used a lot is your drunk and aggressive brother-in-law at Thanksgiving dinner – really don't want to shoot him in front of family.


Don West:

Much as he might deserve it and you want to, you really can't do that.


Tom Givens:

You might do something else, and OC might allow you to break contact you realize you do not have to actually fight him in front of the kids and everybody, tough call in that particular case. But that's just an example. The aggressive panhandler, it will not get out of your face that will allow you to break contact with him, get away without doing any real physical harm to him. And that's not a circumstance where Pistol's even remotely appropriate.


Shawn Vincent:

You said “something between harsh words and a firearm.” Talk to us a little bit, Tom, about your experience with teaching people how to use harsh words, because my experience in the cases that we've explored and, Steve, a lot of the instructors that you've brought to us to talk will have a story about somebody who's willing to pull the trigger multiple times, but a little embarrassed to say, "Don't shoot, I've got a gun!” or “Get the hell out of here." What is your experience with that Tom?


Tom Givens:

The same thing. The people that show up for a permit-type class or training beyond that level, hopefully, those are well-socialized, acculturated, normal human beings and well-socialized, normal, acculturated human beings don't go around screaming at each other and giving commands to strangers. And it's hard at first, people are very reluctant to give commands to people because they've been taught not to, basically. But there are circumstances where it's appropriate. And like I said, if I can yell, “Stop!” and they stop, then that accomplished my goal without having to do anything beyond that, then I'm happy with that. But it is hard, as you'll find a lot of trainers tell you, it's very hard to get people to verbalize properly. The other issue though, is we got a limit that verbalization a great deal.

Verbalization is a very high-order mental activity. It ties up all the neurons and morons in your head,  and you don't want to make elaborate sentences because in the middle of one, and you need to act, you'll try to finish the sentence first. So we tell people to keep commands to two or three words that the absolute most one when we can make it: “Stop!”, “Drop it!”,  “Don't move!”, “Go away!” Those are commands that clearly articulate what I want but don't tie my head up for a long time. It doesn't take me long to say “Stop!”, it doesn't take me long to say “Go away!” And now that I'm not on job anymore, that's my command: “Go away.” What do I want them to do? I want them to go away.


Shawn Vincent:

Tom, I find you a very concise writer. Your whole book is filled with short, powerful declaratory sentences. So that's good advice. You also write though that about 80% of our communication is nonverbal, and you talked earlier about “put your war face on.” Would you tell, for our listeners, the story about the potential robbery at the restaurant that you stopped with a stern look?


Tom Givens:

There are so many lessons in that one. A little barbecue joint I used to go to, and most of the front is glass, as many of them are. But there's one little section of the front of the store's brick and there's a booth just inside that section. So of course that's where I sit. So I don't have my back to the glass. I got my back to the brick wall, and that puts me facing toward the counter. In a retail operation, whether it's a barbecue joint or a store or whatever, action that would require gunfire is typically going to happen around the cash register. So by sitting where I was, that meant anybody who came in the door had to go past me to go into the store. So I'm immediately behind them and I can see the cash register. They'd have their back to me at the cash register.


So that's “tactical barbecue” eating. I was sitting there and this couple of little old ladies come in, I just glance up every time the door opens. I hear the door, I just glance over and see who it is. It's a couple of little ladies. So I back to what I'm doing. They go up to the counter and start ordering their food. Then I hear the door again and a young male comes in about 22, 23. And as he goes by me, I look him over and there's the outline of a pistol in his back pocket. He's been sitting in his car with a pistol in the back pocket of his jeans to the point where you can almost read the serial number of the pistol through the material. If it dresses like a thug and looks like a thug, walks like a thug, acts like a thug, pretty good chance it's a thug. So I'm watching the guy. I'm not going to shoot the guy for having a pistol in his pocket, but I'm watching him.


So he goes up behind the two little old ladies. And when the cash register was for them to pay for their meal, he gets up on tiptoes and looks over their shoulder into the cash drawer. Well, a policeman would call that a clue. He's getting ready to rob the place. He's checking the till. So at that point, I empty my hands and he decides before he pulls that gun out of his back pocket, he was going to take a quick look around the store. He turns around and he looked at me, his eyes got wide, and he literally ran out the door, jumped to the little car, pulled out on a busy street, almost got run over by a truck, and just went out there in a huge panic.

I wrote the license plate down on the napkin, went up to the manager, who I knew, and said, "Hey, if that guy shows back up, here's his tag number. Give that to the cops." And she said, "What guy?" And none of the staff were even aware the place just almost gotten robbed because they're typical people who don't think in those terms, don't expect that sort of thing. 

But what caused the guy to get wide and run out of the place? When he turned around and looked at me and made eye contact with me, I smiled at him and he thought, “Oh Jesus!” He considered that to be a clue, and off he went.


Now I never touched my pistol in the entire process. There was no need to, but that's a good example of having my head up, paying attention to what's going on. I'm out in the uncontrolled world with hazards about. So every time I heard the door, I simply looked which doesn't cost me a thing. When the guy went, looked him over, which doesn't cost me anything, saw the pistol in his pocket, which allowed me to start thinking in terms of  “Okay, if he has that pistol in the pocket for some bad reason, I need to start thinking about what to do about that.” And by simply living in the mental condition where you got your head up and your eyes open, you avoid an awful lot of problems.


Now had I not been paying attention and I had my head down paying no attention to him when he looked around and he had pulled that gun, now I'm between the exit to the place and dude with a gun, which will be a lot harder problem to deal with. So that's just an example of how I like to handle these things and handle them but not having to handle them.


Shawn Vincent:

Yeah, that made me think of an experience that I had. I have this tendency when I find myself in a place where I don't feel comfortable and I'm walking and I see someone that gets me to code orange and I'm concerned about him, I start visualizing what might happen and what I would want to do to him if he attacked me, and I intentionally get very graphic about it, like reach out and pull out his entrails or some really gross stuff. But what I realized is it makes me subconsciously make this face. So I'm doing this to this guy who's coming up to me and I'm looking for where can I get across the street so I don't have a pass by this guy. He must have seen my face because he decided to cross the street and get out of the way. But I think what you're touching there is awareness, demonstrating even non-verbally that you are aware and then demonstrating that you're not afraid to interact if you have to.


Tom Givens:

Clint Smith said 30 years ago, “If you look like food, you will be eaten.” And an awful lot of people in the modern world are just being cheeseburgers. You need to get your head out, open your eyes, look around. If you work in a patrol car for just a few days, you will hear over and over and over again from crime victims. “Geez! It all happens so fast. They materialized next to me, I never saw them.” And the truth is he did not materialize next to you, he got out of that ragged Buick over there, walked 30 feet over here with a pistol in his hand, and you didn't see him. He didn't materialize next to you. They don't beam down out of the mothership and attack you. They get out of ragged cars to walk over to you. And you should have seen that. If people would just get their head out and pay attention, they could avoid an awful, awful, awful lot of things.


Shawn Vincent:

Steve, is there anything that you're hoping that way talk to Tom about today?


Steve Moses:

One thing that I think would just be interesting, Tom, is just . . . maybe if you could briefly talk about some commonalities that you may have observed amongst all of the shootings in which the students that you have after-action reports on. I always thought that was kind of fascinating. And one of the things I think it tells people is that if you're in an engagement with someone in a transitional area, it's probably going to be at a relatively short distance. And what you don't have on your side is going to be a lot of time. So, Tom, you could just address that briefly I'd appreciate it.


Tom Givens:

Sure. In our culture, confrontational distance in conversational distances mean about the same thing. We talk to strangers in our culture at about three paces, and that's where awful awful lot of this crap happens. Goes to rob you, rape you, kidnap you or carjack you, he's got to be close enough to talk to you. They're very rarely going to shout at you across the parking lot. “Hey, get your wallet out!” They're going to be close enough to talk to you. That is not always the case because of the exceptions of targeted attacks and other crimes other than armed robbery. But if you look at all of ours, for instance, we've had two that involved actual physical contact. One of those was intentional physical contact that hit my guy with a sap, and the other was completely unintentional accidental contact where they both came around the doorway and ran into each other.


And that's two out of almost seventy. We've had three that had to engage at 15, 17, and 22 yards. Those were exceptions and those were unusual circumstances, in all three cases. All the rest occurred in about a three-to-seven-yard envelope with about 90% of those occurring in the three to five-yard envelope. Because three to five paces is where we deal with these issues. You're typical American sedan is 16 feet long. That's five yards and a foot. So basically, from two or three steps to about the length of a car is where over 90% of our issues have happened. And that reflects what I've seen in 50 years of study of both from law enforcement and the trainer perspective, the vast majority of this stuff is going to happen in that three-to-five-yard area. Not all of it, now like I said, we had 15, 17, and 22 yards.


So you need to be able to engage at distance, but that's not the norm. The norm inside length of your car for the most part. And inside the length of your car, you're going to have a very compressed timeframe. The other asshole could hit you from there. If you just stand there and let him get off enough shots, you're going to collect some of them. So the idea is to move very quickly inside that three-to-five-yard envelope with guaranteed anatomically valuable hits, not just somewhere on dude, but in that area, bounded by collarbone to diaphragm inside the nipples somewhere. The ability to hit a dinner plate right now out about the length of the car is probably the most important skill that you could have. Of course, the first step in hitting them right now is presenting a gun quickly and efficiently, as you noted earlier, one of the deficiencies I see with an awful lot of people that carry a gun, they've never given any thought to the idea of getting it out in a real hurry.

Presentation needs to be really polished because if you're not at home, the gun is going to be in n holster when you need it. You're not going to wander around an American city with a gun in your hand for very long before somebody's going to talk to you about that. So it's going to start from a concealed presentation. So if you're not at home, we know that's going to be the case. You may or may not have to actually fire it. You may or may not have to fix it. You may or may not have to reload it, but [inaudible 00:28:46] sure going to have to draw it. So that's a critical skill I think people should put more time into and the faster, more competently you can produce your weapon, the more you look competent, the less likely you are actually have to fire it.


Shawn Vincent:

And that's something you can practice with a unloaded weapon in a dry fire at your house.


Tom Givens:

And I tell people don't, don't ever miss an opportunity to get one more good rep or something. When you get ready to go out in the world in the morning, don't just pick up your pistol and stick in holster and you walk out the door. Go over, pick it up from wherever you store it, go ready and then holster it correctly. When you come in at the end of the day, go by wherever you keep it, draw it ready, and then put the gun down. That's a reputation of drawing the gun, a reputation of holstering the gun that you wouldn't have got otherwise, that's 730 repetitions a year you wouldn't have got otherwise. And that's enough to make it count, make it stick.


And the other issue is recency trumps damn near everything else near everything else in training. If you presented your gun that very morning and you'd have to use it later in today, once your brain's been reminded of where your gun is, what kind of clothing you got on, what it would take to get it. So don't ever miss a chance to do something dry that's not going to cost you a thing, but might help up you later.


Don West:

We know we've spent most of the time talking about the software side of this and some of the training to be more proficient with operating the hardware, but really haven't talked about hardware. And I know in your book, you talk about it fairly extensively and you draw some general principles from it that people obsess over having exactly the right gun, et cetera, et cetera. And you've sort of put that in great perspective from my point of view. How do you make those decisions? And what's ultimately the most important in hardware selection?


Tom Givens:

Well, obviously the pistol requires a bit of thought, but there's no one answer to that. The appropriate gun for a five foot tall, hundred pound female and a six foot five inch, 350 pound male may not be the same, not gender-based, based on things like hand size, hand strength, overall, overall body strength, overall body size, have enough real estate to have the gun on for instance. So those considerations come into play. An often overlooked thing is the holster. As we just mentioned, if you're not at home, the gun's going to start in the holster. So the selection of the holster is almost as important as the selection of the side arm, I find people go out and spend $700 or $800 on a quality firearm and get a $15 one-size-fits-none, sausage sack, stick it in. And that's really false economy.

The selection of the holster's critical. It's got to keep the gun on your person safely, securely. It's got to be comfortable enough for you to actually wear it. Because I don't care how many you got in the sock door. They're not going to help you on the K-Mart parking lot. Got to be able to give the gun up in a heartbeat when you need it. It's got to protect the trigger guard so it's got being discharged when it's sitting in the holster. So properly designed holster's got to do a lot of things that are somewhat in competition with each other. Anything you do to make it more secure, it's going to make it less fast, anything you do to make it more concealable may make it less comfortable. So it's a compromise almost everything in its line of work. I couldn't care less what brand of gun you carry. If it works reliably and you can hit well with it.


Those are the two absolutely critical things. Since the only reason we'd reach for it in real world is because our life is literally at state. Then it's got to work. Baffles me that people put up with guns that malfunction periodically because I guarantee it's going to malfunction in fight, so get rid of the damn thing. We're not in South Africa, you can get another one. So either get it fixed or get another one. Don't care what color of the bullets in it are until you learn how to put them where you need them. To be good hit with the marginal bullets a lot better than a marginal hit with a good bullet. So learn to place them correctly and quit obsessing over the hardware crap, get a gun that works that you can hit with, carry it religiously and learn to hit with it. And you'll be way out of the game.


Don West:

One last question on hardware from me, and I thought of it because I was listening to a podcast the other day where they were talking about the proliferation I guess, the common now, what's common use of red dot sites as opposed to iron sites. And the comment that caught my ear was that we are in this sort of transitional period where folks in our generation grew up learning to drive a car with a manual transmission. And as our kids got older, we'd want them to learn how to drive a car with a manual transmission, because you never know when you might need it. Of course, in the 21st century now there aren't any cars with manual transmissions. And I'm wondering what's your view of red dot sites, and are you transitioning in any training that you're doing or recommending and for new gun owners, especially maybe younger gun owners that have never really trained on either, do you have any just thoughts on that?


Tom Givens:

Yeah. I honestly don't care if you want a dot, put on on it, if you don't want one, don't put it on them. They're not a panacea. The problem with so many people, particularly if they're new to this, think if I just put a dot on and don't want to learn to shoot, if you have a crappy grill up, you don't understand trigger control, the dot is not going to help you. It's not going to do a bit of good for you. If you understand those things, then you can shoot fine with arms. Dots increase precision at distance, but that's not the big issue. The big issue is 4-5 yards. I'm not sure they're big advantage there.


I honestly just don't care if you want to carry a dot, carry it.  If you don't want to carry a dot, don't carry a dot. One thing you'll find, if you go take a couple of dots specific handgun courses is it's just a pistol course. You've got to present the gun correctly, you got to hold the gun correctly. You've got to work the trigger correctly. Whether you're using irons or a dot, there are nothing in the world, but an optical reference point to allow you to align the barrel with the target, they don't do the shooting for you. So it's just a mistake to think “If I buy a red dot, I'll be a good shot.” No, you'll be a guy that owns red dot.

Don West:

So of all the things we've talked about, it doesn't boil down to whether or there's a dot or not. It's the decision making that leads you up to that point of pulling the trigger is far more important in the big picture than whether or not you have a dot or not?


Tom Givens:

Whether you got a front sight or a dot, by the time that's on the target, all kinds of other things have happened that you should have been thinking more about.


Don West:

But either way you need the training, no matter what?


Tom Givens:

Yeah. The dot's not going to make a point shot a good shot. It's just sense, doesn't work. There aren't any magic beans in this business.


Shawn Vincent:

And since you mentioned the decision making, Don, maybe that's a great place to bring this around. One of the goals of our podcast is we look at real life self-defense cases, looking through all the nuances that we know about, often through the lens of the courtroom that hashed out all these details. And the real lfie scenarios that people find themselves in are often very different than the thing that they imagined they'd face when they purchased their firearm and decided to be a concealed carrier in the first place. And you mentioned Tom in your book that a lot of the folks that you've trained, they walk around with a firearm. They may not have visualized what the scenario is or what types of scenarios they might find themselves in, and that's the mental work, that's the software work. For a final thought here, what recommendations do you have for our listeners about how to develop a practice of visualizaton and develop the right mental state for being a concealed carrier?


Tom Givens:

It's really pretty simple. Police officers are involved in really ambiguous situations a lot of the time where they're arriving on the scene, where the action already unfolding, there may be multiple people with weapons that there's no possible way for the police officer to look at people in plain clothing with weapons and say, "Well, that one's a good guy, that one's a bad guy." So they often have to make judgements that turn out to be quite wrong based on all of that. But the reality is real self-defense shootings involving private citizens are almost always just absolutely crystal clear not ambiguous at all. If I'm walking across the parking lot, some guy steps out from between two vans and points a gun at me and my wife. I might conclude somebody needs to be shot, but it won't take me long to figure out it ain't me, and it ain't her, it must be him.


And that is the vast majority of private citizen shootings. What they need to do is get in their mind an idea of what violent crime actually looks like. So when they see it unfolding, instead of, “I can't believe this was happening!”, it’s  “Well, I knew this was going to happen sooner or later.” Completely different mindset. It depends on who you believe, but at one time the justice department came out with a study that said if you were 12 years or older in 1986, you had a one in four chance of being involved in a violent crime in your lifetime. one in four – not a couple million in four. 


In Memphis, people ask me sometimes “Why do we have so many students involved in gunplay there? I looked at the violent crime stats for 2018 in Chicago, there was a violent crime for every 99.4 inhabitants that year. So you had about one in a hundred a chance of being involved in a violent crime in that one year in Chicago. In Los Angeles. In that year, there were 133.8 people for every violent crime or one violent crime for every 133 people. In Memphis in that year, there was a violent crime for every 51 people. So the violent crime rate is two and a half times out of Chicago. So instead of, I can't believe this is happening to me, no matter which of those cities or any other city you're in, instead of, I can't believe this is happening to me, what should your response be? Should be, well, I knew this was going to happen sooner or later. That's a completely different mindset. Then you're not stuck in that denial loop. You're able to actually move and do something about it.


So the first thing I suggest people do is internalize the fact that violent crime is a lot worse than the media and the government would like you to believe – a lot more prevalent – and that you're not immune, and you could take as many precautions live as carefully as you like and still be faced with this. So the first thing is mental acceptance, yes, can actually happen to me and I don't have to deal with it. Second thing is to understand that it is simply not physically possible for somebody else to come fix it. It's not possible the way system works. So you have to deal with it yourself.

We used to tell people, get a big city newspaper, whether you live in a big city or not have one delivered your house and just read it every morning, because the every big city newspaper, the first section is typically international news, but the econd section is usually local news, and local news typically consists of nothing more than the litany of yesterday's atrocity and a bunch of crime. And just pick out too, as you're eating your breakfast, drinking your coffee, pick out two crime stories and read them and look at them from a critical eye. What, was this person doing? Made them vulnerable? How did the bad guy capitalize on this? What could the victim have done to get out of this? And what you're doing is you're getting practice making tactical decisions. 


I kind of gave up on tell people to read the newspaper because they kind of look at me blank what else is in the newspaper. But everybody's got the internet now and they're sitting there staring at their phone while they're eating their breakfast. So looking a few of the news . . . one of the things, one of the advantages of that actually is that when you had to read a newspaper, you had to visualize the action that you were reading about. But now when you see videotapes of the . . . and I get my newsfeed every day, several of them a day, criminal interactions called surveillance.

If you're not in your home, you're probably on the surveillance camera. If you're on the Walmart lot, you had multiple cameras looking at you. If you're on the service station, parking lot, you have multiple cameras. If you're inside the grocery store, multiple cameras – these are the kind of places where attacks occur. So look at some of these videos, just look at a couple a day two a day and think about all right now if that happened to me, what would I do about it? And as I said you're getting practice every day, making tactical decisions then rather than have to go take a specific class on how to make tactical decisions just every day, run through a couple of those scenarios. Before long you'll start figuring out that violent interpersonal crime, what we call street crime, has only got a fairly small number of variations. And white collar crime, economic crime has endless variations, but there's only so many ways that guy can rob you. There's only so many ways that guy can carjack you, only so many ways that guy can kidnap you and rape you. So if you look at those episodes couple a day over a period of time, you're conditioning your brain to accept the possibility of violence and know what it looks like and know that you need to respond to do something about it.

So to me, that's probably the simplest and easiest way to do that. You don't want a lot of personal experience in this field. The test comes first and the lesson comes afterwards. You want to do it, it's profit from other people's experiences. And now there's not a day goes by I don't get several of those in my newsfeed every day now. So just look at them with the critical eye. Don't just say to yourself all that's horrible, I don't want to think about that. Think about it. Somebody had to deal with that. There's no reason to think you won't have to deal with that. So think about how well I deal with that when it happens, not I can't believe this is happening to me, but “my day at bat.” A completely different mindset.


Shawn Vincent:

All right everybody, that's a podcast for today. Thanks for listening through to the end. Next time you hear from us, you're going to be treated to an interview with the illustrious Craig Douglas. Until then be smart, stay safe, take care.



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