Are We Gunslinger Super Heroes?

Every student that takes my concealed carry class hears these two questions at the beginning of the class.

“Why are you here? and “What motivated you to take this course?”

The usual answer is ” So I can protect my family”, however not last week. The only answer that I heard was “To kill the next active shooter.”

This student’s cause is noble, however is the concealed carry class enough for someone to do what he thinks he is capable of doing? If you’re like me the news of an active shooter randomly killing helpless victims makes your blood boil. Maybe you go a step further and imagine yourself using the latest John Wick moves to end the horror and save numerous lives. But is it that easy?

Take a good hard look at yourself. How do you act under stress? When someone pulls a knife and starts charging at you, how will your brain and body react?

Your brain and body are hardwired to respond in one of five ways. You subconsciously spring into fight mode. The adrenaline ramps up, your focus becomes more intense and your brain attempts to work out your plan of attack.

Many people will subconsciously respond by running away. We call this the flight response. Other possible responses are freezing, posturing, and submission.

Do you know which is your natural response? If it’s anything but the fight response your going to be behind the curve in any fight. You may have to overcome your bodies natural instinct just to get into the fight.

The second thing to think about is how well you make decisions on the fly. Can you make a quick educated decision and be equally quick enough to know when it’s time to abandon that decision? How well do you shoot? How often do you train? At what distance can you make a precision shot with your carry gun? I know that beyond 10 yards under a little stress my groups open to 5″ to 7″.

Beyond 25 yards my group under stress is about 10″. What is acceptable, remembering we are responsible for 100% of the bullets that are fired from our firearm? What is your carry gun? How much ammo do you carry? Why does all this matter?

No matter how you imagined it in your head the gunfight is never going to happen the way you have it planned.

Enjoying a great meal with your family at the local Mexican restaurant. You asked the hostess for a seat far away from the bar area so you could enjoy a quiet meal. You hear a few screams followed by pop,pop,pop, your startle response causes you to duck down, it takes you a few moments to focus and realize its not fireworks. You see a young man with what appears to be a rifle methodically taking down the employees and patrons by the bar area. This is not the time to develop plan “A” this is the time when you tweak plan “c” and execute it. I brought this scenario up to the student to give him something to think about.

Could he be the guy to stop the next mass killing? The student was asked a few more questions. What training have you done to improve your shooting skills? Do you have any tactical skills training or background? His answer was” no, none, I plan on learning everything I need to know in this concealed carry class”.

That brings up the question, are concealed carry classes even adequate for training individuals to carry on the street? I personally do not think so. I think concealed carry classes do an okay job of assisting you in getting yourself and your family away from harm but one needs a different mindset and set of skills to run towards an attack.

Ultimately it depends on your priorities. Ten years ago I would have ducked low, and quickly made my way closer to the threat utilizing cover along the way only exposing myself as little as necessary to fire the rounds needed to stop the threat. Today I have other priorities, I am a new dad and husband. My family comes first. I am going to do my best to keep everyone in my family safe and free from harm. This means instantly upon realizing what is going on, I put my escape plan into action. If I am not seated close to a door, well I guess I throw a chair through a window and escape through the hole. If we cant escape that easily we move from cover to cover engaging the threat if necessary until we arrive at an exit point. If exit is not an option then hiding my family in a backroom or closet and protecting access to the area until help arrives. I have a clear plan. It is not specific, but an easy flowchart in my head that I can follow. My family is aware of this plan. We hope we never have to put it into action.

So if your going to be the gunslinger superhero you need to have your priorities in order. Do you get your friends and family to safety then go in and fight or do you escape with them and live to fight another day?

You need to know your strengths and weaknesses. As I stated earlier from 10 yards and closer I can put bullets accurately in the area needed but beyond 10 yards under stress my groups open up quickly.

If your plan is to be a superhero you need to start improving on your weaknesses. I know I am not as good at distance so that is where I work. Training and knowing your capabilities and weaknesses will help you build confidence when putting your plan to action. Speed is also crucial. How quickly can you get to the threat to deliver the incapacitating blow?

If you’re in a crowded place numerous individuals will most likely be fleeing and screaming towards exits and hiding places. Some may think you are the shooter. That’s right not only could you be killed by the active shooter but you risk being beaten, kicked, stabbed, or shot by those trying to escape thinking you are also a threat. You will need to act quickly and decisively before the first wave of responding police enter the room and see you holding a gun. Keep in mind the officers may specifically be looking for you. One or several of the escaping victims may have called 911 and described you as the shooter.

Stopping a mass killing is not as easy as this one may think. There needs to be clear discussion between you and your family. You should seek high quality training from well known top tier instructors. Know your capabilities and work to expand within them.

Next we need to talk about your equipment. What gun do you choose for your noble endeavor? One can’t just go into a store and ask for the terrorist killing multi-shot day saver. You actually have to put some thought into it. The little .380 you keep in your front pocket may work when your confronted in a one on one situation but we’re talking about a public place against someone who may have a rifle.

First thing I look for in a handgun is functional reliability. I want what the police, the FBI, or what our military carries. If these guns work for them they will work for me. Secondly I want a handgun that is comfortable to shoot, one that fits my hands. I look at how easily can it be concealed. If its difficult to conceal or does not fit well then I am likely to not wear it when I need it. I am also unlikely to shoot well with it. The gun needs to feel like an extension of my arm. How about caliber? Ask this question in any gun forum and you will likely get hundreds of responses. Some will tell you it needs to be a .45ACP, others will tell you a 9mm. There is not a perfect answer. These days I tend to lean more towards the 9mm as it has less recoil, allowing faster more accurate followup shots, and greater ammo capacity. In a gunfight I want my bullets to be fast, accurate, and enough of them to quickly stop the threat.

If you were to ask me how I would prepare to stop an active shooter, I would recommend carrying a rifle and body armor. Unfortunately my state does not allow for easily carrying a rifle and that’s before the social sideways glances.

Before you venture out in public with your blaster at your side you should at least have a simple plan of action in case the unimaginable happens. Have your priorities set, know your capabilities, carry good equipment, have plenty of ammo, and pray that speed, agility and luck are on your side

Mike Westra
Mike relies on the on the knowledge, skills and attitude he developed while working as a deputy sheriff, bounty hunter, and firefighter to educate and train his students and customers. Mike manages a gun store and is also the Lead Firearms Instructor with Ammo-Inc. On his days off you can find him tearing up the skies over Michigan in a Cessna. #mikeisawesome