Parsing Reliable Info on Self Defense
Continuing the series on the basics for TKB, something that is often up for debate is how to spot a “fake expert” or conversely, how to find reliable information. As I’ve gone over, it’s not exactly a topic anybody can readily find information on. This isn’t going to be me lecturing you based on my experiences. I’ve mentioned on here that firearms, and self defense as a whole, are subjective. Instead, I’m going to explain how to better parse reliable information that you can use to further yourself. So, let’s talk about how you can recognize your niche and seek out what you need.
The legendary Massad Ayoob, the foremost authority on self defense in the modern world today
There is a very, very high chance that what you read on here is going to contradict something you’ve heard before. You’ll hear things going in every different direction when it comes to guns. Does this mean gun owners are contrarian, ego driven assholes? No, not at all. Firearms are a multifaceted subject. Hell, a person can dedicate their life to studying it and still know very little.
The most important part of parsing useful information is understanding where someone’s perspective comes from.
For example: Police. Most police, their interest in firearms begins and ends in it being a job requirement. I’m not trying to insult career law enforcement officers. Indeed, I’ve worked with them in my time volunteering as an EMT and currently working in private security (update: I am applying to the police force now). In my experience, police officers quite often are highly trained professionals. But, you must understand where their perspective comes from. Their interests are very pragmatic usually- they want the fastest, most efficient way to neutralize a threat. And I can’t fault them for that. However, this stands in direct contrast to someone like Bruce Lee who was extremely passionate about fighting and modernizing it for his time. He was constantly innovating and researching further up until his death, which is why his input carries much more weight than many other people.
Bruce Lee wasn’t a cop, so he didn’t need to constantly be absorbing various things like police officers did and still do (handcuffing and transportation of individuals, reading someone’s Miranda Rights, memorizing procedure, etc). On the flip side, most police don’t have the time to dedicate themselves to a study as thoroughly as Bruce Lee did. There is a different niche that they fill, thus their mindset and responsibilities are fundamentally different.
Another: Trauma surgeons can give useful input on bullet wounds. But there’s a reason why you don’t see trauma surgeons instructing courses; while they can give useful medical input, their environment is usually sterile and controlled as opposed to the unpredictable, high stress scenarios of duty and defense. Understanding where your niche lies is important.
On niche construction, here’s a little background on me: I used to live in Brasil in the heart of Rio. When I came to the States, I was introduced to responsible gun ownership through the Boy Scouts and various wilderness activities around age 12. Most of my time spent has been with shotguns, I’ve been running 12ga for a decade, which is why I prefer one over a rifle in most scenarios. Even when I am using a rifle, I much prefer the AK family over the AR family. In my case, I could tell you a bunch about the ol’ scattergat but if you need information on 5.56 NATO and how to run your AR-15, I’m probably going to point you elsewhere.
Understanding perspective will also help better identify a problem. For example: Fake experts. They are usually “the gun guy” among their friends but haven’t really had any formal training or experience. These people don’t have any malicious intention, they’re people who have a hobby of shooting and want to be seen as the resident source for knowledge on all things gun related. The problem is that they aren’t looking past themselves. As I mentioned above: There are so many facets of knowledge when it comes to firearms that a person can dedicate their life to studying part of it and still know very little on the overall subject. Usually when I do reference somebody as a source, I include specifically what they are good to talk to about.
It’s important not to conflate exposure with expertise. Example: Someone who was once in a defensive shooting thinking they’re the next Massad Ayoob. While being able to draw on past experiences to give advice or take lessons from is good, letting it define you or hoping you’ll osmosis into an expert from it is a good way to destroy any credibility.
Sen. Feinstein demonstrating the competency California is famous for
I’m not going to launch into specifics due to how subjective things can get. (Tactics is like religion and politics. There are a lot of ways to do it and you don’t want to discuss it in a bar.) However, I can give a few general tips about separating someone with quality input from Sensei Chad at your local McDojo.
They brag about their training.
The first and most obvious one is people who talk about themselves. Something you’ll learn very quickly in the gun community is that it brings together people from all walks of life. And while someone sharing their experience is important, that’s fundamentally different than someone talking about how many training courses they’ve completed. One of them is a legitimate input, the other is just masturbating their ego. Furthermore, guys who actually have a perspective for violence know that there is no such thing as being trained enough. With the infinite variables of the real world, you can do everything right and still wind up dead. Some of those infinite variables also include emotional and psychological hurdles. Some people can train 365 days a year and still be no good in a throwdown. Funnily enough, the people who fall into this category are usually the ones loudest about their training.
Not to mention most training is meant for the lowest common denominator to pass. I can’t help but laugh when I see someone brag about their training, because it tells me they’re proud of belonging to an overwhelmingly mediocre standard.
They care about terminology.
This seems weird at first glance. Shouldn’t a person who knows what they’re talking about use proper terminology? Yes, but there is an extent to that. Much like bragging about training, bragging about terminology is for people who have nothing substantial about them. While it’s one thing to know the proper terms, the people who will lecture you on the difference between a clip and a magazine do so because they have nothing valuable to offer you. Personally, I don’t care what you call it- I want to see how you perform under duress. Operator talk is nearly unbearable.
They keep looking back.
I’ve dealt with a lot of Vietnam vets and salty war dogs who like to hold up Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper as the be all end all of self defense. And yeah, Jeff Cooper was truly valuable for his time, but the key aspect of that is “for his time”. Throughout history, there have been prominent faces who helped to revamp and reorganize self defense to face the challenges of the time. This started with Melvin Purvis back in the 1920s and 1930s, then moved on to Jelly Bryce and Elmer Keith in the mid 1900s. Later on, near the end of the 1970s when things really began to change, we saw folks like Jim Cirillo and of course, Jeff Cooper. However, it is not the late 1900s. In fact, things have changed a considerable amount in the 12 years since Jeff Cooper fell off the island.
It’s a little overwhelming trying to look at this all. How is someone from the outside supposed to understand the difference between Massad Ayoob and Jeff Cooper? Gun culture has been separate from mainstream society for a while now, though this is a separate problem in and of itself; Personally I live for the day when “Jerry Miculek” is as common a household name as “Tony Hawk” or “Micheal Phelps”. However, someone who is supposedly up to date on guns and self defense should be able to adapt to changing times. There is no longer a code like the Mafia had. The Cartel are ruthless cabrones and will not hesitate to kill 3 generations of your family for a sleight against them. Multiple attackers are the norm nowadays. Criminals are desperate and often prison hardened, have a history of drug use inhibiting their pain receptors, or both. Things have changed, and glorifying the gunfighters of a bygone era isn’t going to help you prepare for what’s ahead.
They insist on holding up a “one size fits all” method of training.
Clint Smith has a theory that if you’re dropped butt ass naked into a war zone against your will and find a dead guy with a gun, you should be able to examine it and know how to use it by comparing it to things you’ve trained with that uses the same action/similar design/manual of arms. While I can agree with that in theory, if you are going to seriously tell me that a single mother working full time should train like she’s about to get dropped into a war zone, I’m going to laugh in your face and ignore everything else you have to say. Clint Smith is a very knowledgeable instructor (and this is not a jab at Clint Smith, but rather the people who misinterpret his teachings). Clint Smith has made it apparent that a war zone is not the same thing as day to day life for your average citizen. It’s one thing for a Navy SEAL to be a finely honed weapon ready to drop into danger at a moment’s notice. However, most people aren’t putting themselves into harm’s way professionally or living their lives in such a way that they make enemies who hold grudges. If somebody can’t look past their own idealistic views and realistically assess a person’s needs, they definitely don’t have what it takes to instruct others on self defense.
Furthermore, fights are not performing the right techniques you see on UFC. They are highly context dependent situations, and with the infinite variables of the real world, there will be no one standard for dealing with threats. Specialization is for insects, most people are wasting their time training like they need to be finely honed warriors ready to go John Wick at a moment’s notice.
As I’ve mentioned many times over: Most people do not need to be the tip of the spear. I’d rather everyone carry a first aid kit and know how to use it than everyone carry a gun. Not to mention that guns are expensive- they’re valuable property and they’re an investment. Paying attention to your surroundings and knowing how to profile people/read social scenarios is free. If you avoid the danger, chances are you won’t ever have to use your gun.
Of course, “avoid danger and you’ll be fine” is naive and wishful thinking. Everyone’s scenario is different. As I’ve brought up in my article on selecting your first carry pistol: Firearms are subjective. This is because people are subjective. Your circumstances, your personal experiences, your body type and genetics, all the things that make up the sum of you are specific to you. Sometimes a quality instructor won’t resonate with you. The aforementioned Clint Smith, I just don’t jive with him. Larry Correia, however, is someone who resonates with me a lot more. I can list a few reasons why.
Remember: When I first got into shooting, it was due to the hobbies of wilderness survival and hiking/mountaineering. So I was introduced to a responsible gun culture through hunters, park rangers, and hillbillies. As a result, all I had available to me were pump shotguns, bolt action rifles, and some old handguns (usually 1911s and revolvers). Rather than lament on what I couldn’t have, I got good on 12ga and .45 ACP. Guess which two calibers Larry has shot the most? 12ga and .45 ACP. Larry was also one of the pioneers of competitive 3 Gun. He ran pump Remington 870 and single stack 1911 during this time. My first gun ever was a police trade in Remington 870. Furthermore, I grew up in Brasil. I came to America when I was about 12 years old. Larry grew up in a poor Portuguese town in California where the enlightening activities of the day were tending to a dairy farm, downing beers at the local watering hole, and getting into fistfights. Like Larry, I’ve been caught between very old school Latino cultures and very Americanized predominantly white communities, as well as the culture clash of various inner cities in America. I’m extremely familiar with a lot of the same kinds of weapons that Larry is, I’m familiar with a lot of the same kinds of situations he is.
Massad Ayoob helping a disabled man understand his situation when carrying a gun
These are some (but not all) of the reasons Larry Correia resonates with me. For you, it may be someone else. Which is completely okay. One of the best things a person can do is build consistency. I mean this in every sense of the term. Self defense and instructors can get esoteric, after all. Similarly, everyone has something good to teach and something crap to teach. Example: Dr Gary Roberts has done extensive research on the medical side of gunshots and self defense. He’s largely responsible for our current understanding of ballistics. He’s also said that, in his eyes, 5.56 NATO and .357 Magnum are useless calibers. This is crap. Even if there are some calibers and types of rounds that have better numbers, the sheer versatility of 5.56 and .357 Mag and how many different weapon types take them means they will be around until humanity discovers phased plasma rifles in the 40 watt range. Does this mean everything else Dr Roberts has said is useless? Absolutely not. He’s still extremely useful. God, if only some of the drama whores who try to put out information online could just understand this concept instead of trying to own people at every opportunity.
Information online is worth what you paid for it, but I’m going to talk YouTube gun channels for a quick second. Most YouTube gun channels fall into what I call “Bill Nye category”. Much like Bill Nye The Science Guy or the Mythbusters, they are there to entertain and they do a good job at that. They take a basic question and use it to fill a 30, 45, 60 minute block of time. But, they are under no obligation to provide accurate information. So what you wind up with is usually either a bunch of extraneous “what if” questions or something that anybody worth their salt could explain to you a lot faster and simpler. Then you have people like Paul Harrell or TNoutdoors9– they don’t invest in the stage presence I see in a lot of other gun channels. Neither of them sound like salesmen, either. They’re very straight to the point, no bullshit, leaving enough information for you to reach a conclusion on your own. This is how it ought to be, but YouTube isn’t exactly a community of peers who review and critique you. There is still some valuable or interesting information to be found there though. When you fire up a video from Active Self Protection, Garand Thumb, Forgotten Weapons you know exactly who’s point of view it’s coming from, what their experience is, and what they’re trying to get across to you. Additionally you have efforts such as Tactical Rifleman who run one of the most comprehensive training groups to date putting information of all sorts out there. If it helps get you more into things as a self defender or model citizen, then I’d say it’s worthwhile.
And yes, I’m aware of the statement “information online is worth what you paid for it” while writing these articles. Just because you read what I write doesn’t mean you’re squared away, fam. Even if you think I’m right or if you think I’m a blubbering idiot, I want you to keep expanding. Invest in competent training and proper exercise. Reach out to your local community of first responders. Get involved with things, because the more you wake up and the more you experience things, the more you’ll be molded into a competent, capable individual.
These books are all good reading for people unsure of where to begin on finding information:
Deadly Force: Understanding Your Right To Self Defense by Massad Ayoob is available on Amazon
In The Gravest Extreme by Massad Ayoob is another ‘Yoob classic on Amazon
The Anatomy of Motive by John Douglas is a good one about understanding criminal behavior on Amazon
As usual, I’m supporting charity.
Black Rifle Coffee Company is doing some good work to help veterans and first responders. Buying their Thin Blue Line and Warrior’s Heart coffee blends will make profits go directly to charities and give you some good shit. I wasn’t always a regular coffee drinker, but since going into the line of duty full time now I buy this whenever I can.