Armed Citizen Corner: Just One Stab/Pre-attack Indicators in a Knife attack

Understanding that it only takes one stab for somebody to kill you with a knife will give you more appreciation for Pre-Attack Indicators and Keeping a respectable distance from strangers 24/7 (aka Reactionary Gap).

Stay Alert, Armed and Dangerous!


First Rule: Always Assume they are Armed!

Today’s lesson boys and girls involves ALWAYS ASSUMING YOUR ENEMY IS ARMED! As we see in the above vid, these two “loss prevention clerks” did not, and it almost cost them both DEARLY. The only saving grace in this incident was that the alleged shoplifter with the knife was UNTRAINED and UNMOTIVATED. As CO’s we can NEVER count on our enemies being either of these.

I think the crux of this lesson is not only always ASSUMING people are armed, but being aware of how DISTANCE plays a crucial role in winning the fight on the street.

Three things to remember:

Firstly, striving to maintain AWARENESS and keep PRACTICAL distances to allow a combative response or attack. I have never liked the term “reactionary gap” only because it gives the impression that the CO will always be in a “reactionary state” at the time of the incident; this will not always be the case. Also, the notion that we must always maintain UNREALISTIC distances ( 21 feet  or more to counter a knife attack, aka as the “Tueller Drill”) between people in general public is impractical. For this theory to be viable to the everyday civilian, every person I come across in public would have to first, be packing a knife and second, have the skill and motivation to use it. This is both highly improbable (as the vid shows) and highly impractical. As a comparable substitute, we have all heard of  the term “personal space”; where keeping at least an arm’s length or more (3-5 feet) away from somebody is considered socially polite. I think this ideal when combined with the heightened awareness of a persons intentions and body language (watching the hands mostly) is a good place to start.

On the flip side of this coin, we must never be tempted to RUSH INTO a situation prematurely and give our enemy the distance advantage straightaway in an altercation. As mentioned before, we must ALWAYS ASSUME OUR ENEMY IS ARMED. When I say “armed” I am not  exclusively talking about an external weapon (stick/knife/gun). I am also referring to COMBATIVE SKILL. With the outrageous popularity of UFC, every “tom, dick and harry” is taking some type of MMA training, and although statistical probability suggest your odds of running into a” MMA expert” is low, even the chance encounter with a novice could turn out bad for the CO, as the old adage “Knowing just enough to be dangerous”, applies! Consider the recent events in the news of  CHOKE HOLDS being used in street fights and you will catch my drift. ANY technique which seeks to render you unconscious must be considered LETHAL FORCE, and therefore can be answered with in kind by the CO in most cases. Bearing all this in mind, it would behoove the CO to keep his distance!

Secondly, CREATE distance in a fight. While we are assuming our enemy is armed, at the same time, our enemy  may try and see fit to try and close with distance against us. You can only assume at this point it is to do you harm; so your best bet is to create distance with combative striking to allow presentation of your own weapon (stick, knife or gun) depending on the situation.

Thirdly, MAINTAINING distance in a fight. As we have discussed, your enemy if using empty hand or a knife will have to get close to harm you. If using a firearm, maintaining distance will serve you just as well, as a moving, distant target is certainly harder to hit than somebody an arms length away. This is not to say that ECQ shooting skills should not be in your toolbox, as most self-defense shootings occur under 10 feet, just be ready to improvise!

In closing, in this day and age, the CO has to assume that a large portion of society is carrying some type of weapon, be it COMBATIVE SKILLS, a KNIFE or a FIREARM. He must never rush into an altercation until he knows who or what he is  dealing with. Gone are the days of “Fair Fights” and “Chivalry between Men”VIOLENCE, BRUTALITY and DEATH rule the WORLD we live in now, and those who do not adapt to REPLY in like kind will soon end up with a toe tag and their own personal locker at the morgue.

Stay Aware, Stay Armed and Stay Dangerous!

Carry 24/7 or Guess Right!!


For all of the unfortunate and violent stories of  incident’s I have posted of CO’s fighting for their lives to help us LEARN and therefore GROW as Civilian Operators, I think the above story can do the most good-by far. It touches on 4 skill sets that I have always felt are integral to staying realistically prepared in the violent world in which we live. Namely, 24/7 Armament, ECQ Fighting, Vehicle Combat and the “+1 Mentality”.

As you read this list, don’t just skim over the topics, take some time and reflect on each one and see how your CURRENT training and STATE OF READINESS measures up.

1. The most obvious:   CARRY 24/7!!

If there is one thing I continually harp on to my students and friends, it is always to STAY ARMED! and when I say “ARMED” I am not just referring to your handgun. Remaining in a constant state of readiness (for the CO at least), entails having everything on your person, 24/7 you would need to survive a violent, and perhaps even prolonged attack or fight.

The short list would include:

  • Extra Magazine for primary
  • EDC pocket knife
  • small fixed blade
  • flashlight that doubles as a kubotan
  • cell phone
  • small trauma kit

I know this sounds like a lot of gear to tote around 24/7, but I have been doing it for a long time now, and I can tell you right now if you are careful in your gear selection, it is not a big deal. My first piece of advice would be to look at carrying things horizontally (like your mag and fixed blade) so your pockets can be free to clip your EDC and flashlight and carry your cell and trauma kit. I am a fan of carrying my fixed blade (typically a Benchmade CBK Push Dagger or Blackhawk Crucible) clipped horizontal at 11:00, this is a very natural position and I find it very fast to access.

2. Vehicle Combat Training is not “specialty” training for the Civilian!

I always tell my students that your training needs to reflect your lifestyle. Most of split our time between home, work and the commute to get to both of them. The likelihood that a violent incident will occur at one or more of these places therefore is 33%; this story proves that probability is more than accurate. It makes sense then for the civilian to integrate vehicle combat drills into their everyday routine, not just something they touch on once in a while as a “specialty” skill set. I will be doing a series of articles to help you guys design some realistic drills, but in the meantime, when you start looking at designing your drills, don’t go “gung-ho joe” and just focus on scrapping inside the cab right off the bat! First look at PREVENTION measures that could get you “Off-the-X” rather than get you deeper into the “doo-doo”. Remember: there is no shame in retreating when your life is at stake! Remember also, you have a 2 ton, 4 wheeled weapon at your command..that trumps that little handgun on your hip everyday plus Sunday! If you spot danger, haul ass if possible! If that is not an option, then we need to look at using the vehicle as a weapon, if that is not an option, we need to address the threat BEFORE they can pin us in the vehicle cab, if at all possible, we do not want to fight inside a 6×6 ft box with empty hand or knives if possible..take my word on this (and from the guy in this story) IT SUCKS!!

3. ECQ Fighting is a street Reality

One of my favorite instructors favorite maxims was “Well, in a PERFECT WORLD I might agree with you”. Some of his best lectures started with that saying, including the one that shot down a fellow students belief in the much discussed “reactionary gap”. Most civilian combat training erroneously teaches  that the “reactionary gap” is some kind of magic distance that will keep students safe if they abide by it. The problem with this teaching, is like most “fantasy gunfight training” it is not REALISTIC or PRACTICAL. We live in a world where people get close to each other, not so close where it is uncomfortable, but definitely so close so they could hurt you. I mean come on, next time you go in the supermarket or bank, try to keep 21 feet between you and every other human being you come across…NOT GONNA HAPPEN.The above story illustrates the point perfectly: most criminals NEED TO GET CLOSE to do whatever it is they plan on doing, be that rob, rape, assault or kill you. So that begs the question, “What is the best defense then?”. The best defense is two-fold; first is AWARENESS and second is LEARN TO FIGHT UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH EMPTY HAND, KNIFE AND GUN through Combatives training. Does it suck? Yeah, read the above story! Will you get hurt in the process? The probability is very HIGH, but that is the reality of staying alive in today’s world.

4. The “+1” Mentality: Predators always travel in packs

I know this a huge cliché in the training community, but this one actually holds water. Again, our above story verifies it. The guys injuries came from the dude he never saw..why? because in the stress of combat, you are focused on killing the dude in front of you..a friggin nuclear bomb could go off behind you and you most likely would keep on fighting the guy in front of you, because that is the threat YOU SEE AS MOST RELEVANT. Your mentality must always be “+1”, meaning, there is always the likelihood of being than 1 perp around, so look out for him. Second, ALL OF YOUR DRILLS need to integrate some type of “scanning” the area, and not just post-incident either, “Keeping your head on a swivel” means ALL THE TIME, not just after the threat is down or the fight is over. If you can maintain that +1 mentality and drill on breaking that “hard focus” that comes when a fight begins, you are well on your way, but like everything, it  takes repetition.

If there is a constant in the universe, it is this: No plan survives contact with the enemy.  I think the above story proves that. All we can do as responsible CO’s is to attempt to minimize every risk possible and stay prepared at all times, in every imaginable way possible. At the end of the day, any incident (ie attack on your life) that you walk away from is a good one, regardless of what you had to do to make that happen.

Stay Armed, Stay Alert and Stay Dangerous!

Weapon Retention Realities

Weapon retention

One of the first things I tell a newly “Christened” Concealed Carry Licensee when they come to train with me is this:

“From now on There will always be ATLEAST ONE FIREARM present in every shitty situation you get into: YOURS!!! Understand you may see this is a huge POSITIVE, but as soon as your ENEMY REALIZES you have a gun, they will ALSO see it as a BIG POSITIVE, and attempt to turn it into a BIG NEGATIVE by taking that gun from you, sticking it up your ass and killing you with it. Therefore, your first priority as a serious student must be not how to have the coolest holster or the fastest draw, but how to NOT get your gun TAKEN FROM YOU and KILLED WITH IT.”

For some of my students, this has been a shocking, if not terrifying realization. You can literally see the fear in their eyes and the second guessing in their minds. You then realize (with amazement) that they had never taken the time to contemplate this sobering fact until now. They have been so caught up with the excitement of getting their license and the camaraderie of their state mandated 8 hour CCL Class, that they had totally forgotten the stark reality of what it means to carry a lethal weapon around with them.

Enter the Need for Advanced Concealed Carry Weapons RETENTION Training!!

To cover this topic in a thorough manner , we need to divide it up into two main subjects, as in all things “tactically” related, those two areas are:  Hardware and Software.


OK, so you got your license and you got your gun, now you are going to have to decide on a holster type/material and carry position. Since this is not a beginner article about “How to Choose the right Carry Holster” or “The Best Holster Position for a Concealed Handgun” I am going to dispense with all the pro/con stuff of both subjects. Do your homework if you have not already..plenty of data out there.

Having said that, let’s talk about IWB retention holsters for a minute. No matter the material you go with, kydex or leather, most all of the major manufacturers offer some type of Level 1-3 Retention holster. The question you will have to answer is do you want to go the Retention route?

It has been my experience in many hours of firearms and combatives training that a Retention holster DEMANDS advanced training to be effective and MUST be paired with the SAME User and Weapon ALL the time. In other words, this is not a piece of kit that can just be thrown on one day and everything continues like it was..NOa retention holster changes the entire dynamic of how you train with your sidearm.

FACT: Anytime you change the way you ACCESS your weapon, you change EVERYTHING related to your firearms and combatives training!

Don’t get me wrong, the added weapon security that a retention holster gives is undeniable, but at the same time, that same security can turn into a huge NEGATIVE to the CO under the stress of combat. We have to remember what happens to the human body under severe stress: fine motor skills and minutia task management virtually disappear; As blood flow is directed away from the brain and heart and rushed to major muscle groups, so Gross Motor Skill becomes easier.

Ask yourself this question: Can the problems that you are attempting to solve with a piece of kit (a holster) be equally if not better solved by an increase in better gun handling skills and Realistic ECQ Combative Tactics Training?




If the bad guy is not close to you, he cannot grab your gun. I know, this is a lot easier said that done..the reality is, despite what the “Reactionary Gap” doctrine states, we all live in a world that requires us to be relatively close to people, it’s just the way it is, but this does not mean we cannot be AWARE of what they are doing. Secondly, thanks to YouTube, most LEO dashcam and Private CCTV footage has proven that a majority of street encounters end up “hands-on” meaning, even if a weapon is involved, the final distance between the bad guy and CO typically ends up less than 3 feet.

So ultimately, for the CO to stay realistic in his training, instead of trying to avoid getting close to people or trying to invent “mall-ninja” methods of keeping people away from them, we need to train for the inedible eventuality of fighting “close in” (aka bad breath distance) with an attacker (ECQ) and having a tool box of skills ready for that moment.

This means in staying with the Combative Continuum we will be prepared no matter what is thrown at us. The heart of ECQ Combatives as my friend CW sais is “Violence of Action combined with compressed weapon positions”.

CCW Early Deployment

I have heard this termed “Concealed pre-ejaculation” by some instructors (I know there are a myriad of good jokes that could be inserted here, but let’s stay on task!) aka Deploying your concealed weapon too soon or too fast, thereby giving your enemy “heads-up” notification that you are IN FACT Armed. This can apply to any weapon system, but mainly concealed firearms. Obviously, if you are a practitioner of open carry, you can skip over this section, but for you Concealed Carry folks, listen up. Carrying a Concealed Weapon has with it many advantages and many dis-advantages. The advantages STAYING advantages are mainly dependent on YOU keeping a low profile and keeping your weapon CONCEALED (this would include the proper cover garments) until you are DAMN SURE you are ready to use it. Surprise in warfare is a HUGE DEAL, read Sun -Tzu’s “Art of War” and he can tell you all about it better than I can. Bottom line in the words of Foxy Brown “My daddy said Don’t ever take your shit out until you are ready to use it.” Nuff Said?

waving gun

The “Gun Tailsman” Syndrome:  Addressing the Distance Problem

The one thing I see in training time and time again that could solve 75% of weapon retention problems IMO is what a friend of mine (B.E) calls the “Gun Tailsman” syndrome. How many times have you seen this: The shooter “Sticking” or “Waving” the gun out in front of them as if it is “warding” off some terrible evil in front of them; as if that gun is producing some kind of force shield that is keeping the attacker at bay. This is what another good friend of mine calls “Fantasy Gunfighting”; not good folks. To correct this, we need to first understand where this all started. Many years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, what we now call “Combat Handgun” techniques came, initially, from Competition IDPA Shooting. To make a long story short, basically these techniques held that to be accurate with a handgun, and to hit your target, you HAD to have a 2 handed grip on the weapon with a FULL Extension of your arms, elbows locked with the correct stance. Later on, Jeff Cooper came along and simplified the equation with the Modern Technique. OK enough history, moving on.

Well,  without getting into the details of ALL the flaws of this type of thinking, (and they are a lot of them!) The main one was it did not take into account the DISTANCE you were from your target. I mean what if your attacker is “bad breath” distance from you and not the stipulated IDPA 7 Yards?? Do you still want to lock them arms and elbows out to ensure you get a good “hit” and in the process hand that meth monkey your gun!? No, of course not.


Fast Forward a few years and some really smart folks, in coming up with a “4 step” sidearm presentation, came up with the “Compressed Ready” Shooting positions. The heart and soul of this position is keeping the gun close (but your enemies closer..ha ha, sorry had to throw that in there!) to your body and AWAY from the threat. What is cool about this is that DEPENDING on where your attacker is (proximity of how close they are to you), you have a pre-designated position where you can PRESENT and/or FIRE your weapon if need be. Without getting too technical, there is the:

  • Half-Hip or Speed Rock Position: This is a one-handed grip, where the gun barrel has just become horizontal to the threat out of the holster.
  • Compressed Low or High Ready: This is where your grip joins together either at chest or belly level.
  • Half-Extension: The two-handed grip is now extended out from your body about a foot or so..this of course can be tweaked according to the distance to the threat!
  • Full-Extension: Arms extended, elbows locked; best position when distance from threat allows it.


Along these same lines is also the SUL (Portuguese for “South”) Position, adopted by a majority of SWAT and HRT Teams for room/structure clearing; it basically tucks the gun into the chest (giving retention) but hands are connected in a way that allows a quick presentation. At the same time making the gun “safe” by directing the muzzle down, which allows movement without at anytime “covering” anybody close by with the muzzle.

Another huge fallacy that made its way into Self-Defense Shooting via Competition Shooting back in the day is the ideal you cannot shoot accurately with one hand. As Combative Handgun Techniques and ECQ Firearms Training became more formalized, and as this training found its way into the real world (or is it the other way around?) civilians and LEO alike showed, that YES, in fact, you could shoot accurately with one hand and survive the day, in fact a large percentage of  LE dash-cam video shows that in the moment of truth, officers were shooting one-handed, while at the same time, Getting off the X” or simply, getting out of the kill zone!

As Combative Firearm training has further evolved, it is now widely drilled in ECQ (for civilian and LEO alike) when the firearm is deployed,  to maintain a one-handed compressed high ready position grip on the firearm (muzzle at the deck, elbow tucked) while the other hand is out front, ready to fend, if necessary. This position has proved to be one of the easiest ready positions to fight from (and shoot from) when the shooter gets surprised in a ECQ situation. Compare that to the “Gun Tailsman” syndrome that we looked at and you can see very quickly, logic and common sense have (thankfully) prevailed!

So in closing, to answer the question I first asked at the beginning:

“Can the problems that you are attempting to solve with a piece of kit (a holster) be equally if not better solved by an increase in better gun handling skills and Realistic ECQ Combative Tactics Training by the end-user?” 

I think a better question to ask here is “Isn’t it good that we asked ourselves this question!!” I mean, whenever you choose to question the status-quo and explore new ways to solve a problem, you will by consequence of that, TRAIN HARDER! Compare that with relying on a piece of gear to solve a problem and I think you have done yourself a huge service! Remember the mantra: FIGHT FOCUSED, not WEAPON or GEAR focused!!

Keep that Gun Close, Stay Frosty and Stay Dangerous!