Self-Defense Lessons from Concealed Handgun Carry Course

This article originally appeared on the Defend University web site and detailed a number of items which apply to everyone carrying a concealed weapon for self-defense from an instructional module in a high level executive protection course.

This particular course had representatives from the military, law enforcement and the security industry. There was also a very skilled martial artist taking the course as a way to get into the executive protection business.  Many of the students have experience at the highest level of the special warfare and special forces business.

The lessons learned by the experiences that happened during this course are the same that instructors will see time and time again — and they have direct applications for any one carrying a handgun for self-defense or for the defense of others. What this class presented to these students was a good dose of stress (much of it probably self-inflicted since they wanted to pass the shooting module to graduate from the course), movement and drawing from concealment.

My observations:

  1. Shooting a handgun quickly and accurately involves perishable skills.  All of the mechanics that go into smooth, effective and accurate handgun shooting are fine motor skills — and that means they don’t hold up well over time without practice.  I witnessed operators with world-class experience right out of the hottest combat zones having a difficult time presenting and shooting their handguns well. I’m not saying they were terrible — they were adequate, but I could tell visually that there was a lot of rust in their technique and it was not what you would expect from this strata of operators. Their comments to me indicated they were not happy with their performance. The comments were not so much an excuse, but more of an explanation like “sheesh, I’ve not really shot my handgun in the last 18 months” or a lot of head shaking and muttering under their breath. It’s obvious there was room for improvement. (To be fair here, it’s a whole different story with other courses I’ve done with active military personnel that involve carbines. Obviously, the M4 is their sword and the one that they spend their time shooting and not handguns.) All of the students’ targets improved significantly as the course went on, some from getting back into the groove of their potential skill level and other because they were benefitting from the instruction and coaching.
  2. Shooting is not a natural behavior. It’s a skill that requires putting together multiple actions over a short period of time. There is a grip, presentation, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press and follow through. Then there are other aspects like ammunition management and the re-holster. That’s a lot of thoughts and actions in what should be a simple sequence. It’s a bit like golf in that regard. To become a superior golfer, you need instruction. To become a superior gunfighter, you need instruction. Practice and then get more coaching. Practice what you’ve been coached on. The most proficient shooters where those who have been taught an efficient drawstroke and delivery of rounds on target. They have practiced and can smoothly repeat the action over and over again. The self-taught and uncoached students were inconsistent and seemed to be searching for an answer to their inconsistency during the course. This second group of students did benefit significantly from the instruction (my point in #1 above), but they were still outshown by those who had good technique to begin with.
  3. Practice with your concealment equipment. This is probably the number one problem I observed during this course. A good number of the students have not regularly shot from concealment. Police officers and military members are almost always overtly armed and carry a duty rig that is configured the same all the time. Security personnel and citizens almost always do their shooting on the range. But carrying covertly or concealed means you will have some sort of garment covering your holster. In fact, many people carry a different type or sized handgun for concealment than they do for duty or the range. Many people then use a different type of holster for concealed carry than they do for duty, range or competition. Let’s look at this — shoot all the time on the range with one handgun and one holster on a belt, but now carry a different handgun in a different holster under a garment for self-defense. See where I’m going with this? I saw some serious flubs on draws caused by unfamiliarity with the concealed carry. I saw draws that got tangled up in shirttails. I saw two students fumbling with the safeties and magazine release buttons on unfamiliar pistols. I saw a student literally draw his holster — his paddle-style holster was still attached to the pistol when he drew it. It had come right out of his waistband. I also talked with one operator who carried a compact .45 semi-concealed on his plate carrier in Afghanistan only to find out one day that it had become rusted sometime during his deployment. Practice with what you are going to carry. Shake down your set up. Does it work? Does it work under stress? You should probably rethink your handgun system. Instead of having different types of handguns for different activities, take a look at having the same handgun in different sizes, i.e. duty, compact and subcompact. For Glock people that could mean a Glock 17 full-sized handgun for duty or range; a Glock 19 compact model for concealed carry or a Glock 26 subcompact model for deep concealed carry. In this example all of the models use the same caliber (9mm) and are the same size with the exception of shorter barrels and grips for the compact and subcompact models. If you are a .40 caliber fan, then you could repeat this system with a Glock 22 full-sized handgun for duty, a Glock 23 compact for concealment and a Glock 27 subcompact. Staying with one handgun system means the same manual of arms, the same sight picture and the same “feel” for all of the handguns.

Your super-stressful self-defense incident should not be the time to be figuring out your equipment. It should not be the time to find out that you haven’t kept up your skills.

There will be no warm up.

You will not have time to get ready — you will have to be ready.

Train like your life depends on it.

Mindset of Successful Defense Against Knife Attack

We have another post concerning a murder spree in  New York where Maksim Gelman killed four and injured another five people during a 28-hour rampage with an 8-inch chef’s knife.

His rampage finally ended on the subway when he ran into Joseph Lozito, a 40-year-old ticket seller at Lincoln Center.  He had noticed Gelman earlier and pegged him for a suspicious type. When Gelman tried to break into the motorman’s car and was repulsed by the cops there, he ran back through the car lunging toward Lozito yelling “You are going to die!”

Lozito’s actions and his story is a brilliant example of the successful self-defense mindset.

Lozito instantly counter attacked, taking down Gelman with a leg sweep. Gelman produced the 8-inch knife from under his jacket and began slashing at Lozito who was grappling with the killer, trying to control his wrist. During the onslaught, Lozito suffered a number of slash wounds to his head, hands and arms — typical

Joseph Lozito knife injuries
Joseph Lozito’s actions stopped the murder spree. (Photo credit NY Daily News)

defensive wounds suffered by stabbing victims.

Tying the bad guy up gave enough time for New York’s finest to charge onto the train and subdue the attacker.

Let’s look at the lessons we can take from Lozito’s brave and unselfish actions on that train:

  • Lozito is basically an untrained fighter although he is described as a “MMA buff” who watches the UFC on television. If he can do it, you can do it.
  • Lozito was highly aware of the suspicious nature of Gelman.  ”You could tell this guy was shady,” he said. “I had my eye on him”.  AwarenessHe was already ‘switched on’ to possible danger and was not surprised when the confrontation began. 
  • Lozito reacted to the threat immediately, most likely crashing into Gelman as the madman lunged forward, then kicking or sweeping the attacker’s legs out from under him. “I wouldn’t win any style points for taking him down, but it did the job,” he said. You are not in a competition, no one is scoring you on the looks of your techniques. Only the effectiveness of the techniques count. Remember, there is no second place in a lethal force encounter. 
  • His bulk (he is 6-2 and 270 lbs.) undoubtedly helped negate the charge from Gelman. Mass and firepower count in combat.
  • Lozito had a clear sense of his mission — take the bad guy down and control his wrist.  Concentrate on the immediate task at hand. Reject negative or disassociated thoughts that can enter your mind. Keep a clear mind and focus on what needs to be done right now, which is stop and secure the weapon. 
  • During the attack, Lozito pressed for a psychological advantage by telling Gelman, “You better hope that I die because I’m going to come kill you.” The tide of a battle or a deadly assault often turns in favor of the combatant with the sheer determination to fight to the end, to never give up.
  • Lozito’s commitment is obvious and he continued to fight despite being slashed severely.  However, as is often the case in the heat of defending against a murderous attack, he was unaware of his injuries until after the event when blood was pouring out of his wounds. You might have already been stabbed, cut, shot or knocked down. But that’s not the end of the fight. You must press on and persevere — finish the fight! Heinous injuries are survivable and modern emergency medical services will be there shortly to give you the best care on the planet. Better to act and be injured than freeze and allow yourself to be killed.
  • Lozito said, “I’m glad he picked me. There were a lot of women and children on the train who couldn’t defend themselves. He picked me and instinct kicked in.” You are morally justified — indeed morally obligated — to protect the weak and innocent from evil. 
  • He had something to live for.  After the cops subdued Gelman and a good Samaritan came forward to put pressure on Lozito’s wounds, he said, “I told him, you gotta get me out of here. I can’t die on this train.  I have a wife and two kids.” You have something bigger than yourself to live for: your wife, your kids, your parents. Don’t let him cut your life short — you have more to do in this life. You were not destined to die on the floor of some subway train or in a filthy gutter or deserted ditch. Keep fighting to preserve the life you deserve.

“I wasn’t going down without a fight,” he said. “I took his best shots and I am still standing.”

Kudos to Joseph Lozito for modeling the way of a successful defender.

This post has been revised from the original on the Defend University website which no longer features articles.