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Posted on May 11, 2020 by in Training



This article is based upon both the writings and lectures of John Hearne, and in no way does it do justice to his work.  John is a federal law enforcement officer, a noted researcher and speaker who has done both national and international presentations, and a Rangemaster instructor since 2001.  In addition to being an outstanding shooter, John has instructor certifications from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and National Rifle Association. Concealed carriers are encouraged to read a chapter Hearne wrote titled “Inside the Defender’s Head” in the book STRAIGHT TALK ON ARMED DEFENSE”. I am going to cherry-pick some of the material from that chapter and touch on some points in this short article that John made that I believe have significant value for concealed carriers.

Why do some concealed carriers perform exceptionally well under conditions of high stress while others fail spectacularly? John’s take on this is that a small percentage (10 to 20%) of the population are simply natural survivors that are just more capable than the rest to rationally and calmly respond to a crisis. Per John, the great news is that the remaining 80 to 90% of the population can become capable performers under stress if they are willing to invest in defensive training that is best described as “relevant, realistic, and recent”.  In other words, non-copers willing to train can be converted into copers (Hearne credits the legendary Col. Jeff Cooper with this observation).

It is possible to view our head as containing not one but two separate brains. The first brain contains solutions to stressful situations that were likely in place since the time that man (or likely any mammal) has walked the earth. John refers to this brain as the “emotional brain”. The emotional brain’s solution to potential crisis is most notably fight, flight, or freeze. Freezing can actually make sense. In a world where man is also prey, freezing is a viable response where predators use their vision to hunt and locate potential prey by its movements. In other words, freezing in place the first moment we see a hungry saber-toothed tiger can prevent us from becoming converted into an Unhappy Meal. One of the great things about the emotional brain is the speed at which it functions and its ability to generate adrenaline, which is, as John writes, “basically nitrous for the body-it allows greater strength, a reduction in sensations of pain, and if one is executing a primitive option, it makes our fight or flight much more effective”.

The problem with the emotional brain is that it is not particularly good at analyzing and synthesizing complex solutions to an ongoing crisis situation. Modern-day self-defense in a civilized society is not the same as living in a world where the threat can come in the form of a large cat, enemy tribe, or warfare where both sides wear uniforms clearly identifying each soldier as a friend or foe. The problems concealed carriers face include the need to correctly identify a potential threat as a person or persons intending to harm or kill them who possesses the present ability and opportunity to so, and the need to quickly get into play a defensive weapon that is far more difficult to use effectively than a stick or a rock.

This is where the second brain John labels as the “rational brain” enters the picture.  Capable of performing amazing feats like speech and complex problem solving, the rational brain is what sets man apart from beast.  The emotional brain is strong, moves quickly, and can rapidly solve what John refers to as “natural problems” by running away or brute force. This may not be enough for concealed carriers due to the reasons cited above. Concealed carriers who are most likely to perform well under the stresses found in a life-and-death struggle are the ones whose rational brain remains in charge throughout such an encounter. Per Hearne, “Any time we are using tools (firearms and other force options are just specialized life-saving tools) or facing complex situations (such as assessing the lawfulness of our choices), we only perform well if the rational brain remains in control”.

Improving performance under stress for the concealed carrier is based upon training his or her subconscious mind to permit the rational mind to stay in charge under the worst of circumstances. The subconscious is most likely to default to the emotional brain in order in order to deal with situations that  might include danger to health, life, or even ego,  limited amount of time to problem-solve, a high level of anxiety, no familiarity with situations that are similar to this one, and an uncomfortably close proximity to the threat. The worse the situation appears, the more likely it is that the emotional brain takes over. A worst-case scenario might be an adversary located less than three yards away who suddenly produces a pistol and starts to fire it at a concealed carrier (this is one of the reasons that the subject of situational awareness is so heavily stressed by defensive firearm trainers).

Part Two of this article will discuss actions that can be taken by concealed carriers in order to better enable the rational mind to stay in control, select the most appropriate responses to a potential or actual threat, and effectively execute physical actions (some of which are likely based upon fine-motor skills)  that are more likely to work effectively.

Steve Moses

Steve is a long-time defensive weapons instructor based out of Texas who has trained hundreds of men and women of all ages for more than two decades on how to better prepare to defend themselves and their loved ones. Steve has completed over 80 private-sector and law enforcement-only defensive weapons and tactics classes, and has trained civilian and law-enforcement officers in six states. Moses is a reserve deputy, former member of a multi-precinct Special Response Team, competitive shooter, and martial artist. Steve has written numerous articles for SWAT Magazine and other publications. Steve is a licensed Texas Level 4 Personal Security Officer and Instructor who was Shift Lead on a mega-church security detail for seven years, and has provided close protection for several former foreign Heads of State. He is currently an instructor at Relson Gracie Jiu Jitsu/Krav Maga in Tyler, Texas and Director of Training for Palisade Training Group (