Constitutional Carry From a Trainer’s Perspective

I have been a state certified Texas License to Carry (LTC, formerly CHL) instructor for about five years. During my time as a licensing instructor, I have made a good amount of money from teaching the licensing class. However, I am imploring the Texas legislature to kill my licensing business by eliminating the licensing requirement to carry a handgun when they reconvene at the beginning of 2017. However, this won’t kill my entire training business because Constitutional Carry is not only the right answer from the standpoint of political principle, it is also the right answer from a training perspective. I will leave the discussion of the political principles for another time, but here I want to discuss the training implications.

The state mandated curriculum that is put out by the Texas Department Of Public Safety (DPS) is nothing more than a lowest common denominator overview of state law combined with a very basic shooting proficiency standard. In order to get certified to teach curriculumthis curriculum, instructors must attend a week long instructor class in Georgetown that basically consists of 4 days of death by power point from State Troopers and State Attorneys that covers everything from disability laws and basic business regulations to a somewhat detailed overview of the relevant sections of the penal code that relate to Use of Force and other handgun laws. Instructor candidates are given a written test at the end of the classroom portion and are required to qualify with both a semi-auto and a revolver at the range on the last day of class. While the goals of the curriculum are obviously very basic, I’m not confident that the program consistently turns out instructors who can even convey those basic requirements adequately.

At no point during the instructor class is there any requirement for an instructor candidate to demonstrate teaching skills or ability to present or explain the subject matter of the licensing course. Any teacher worth his salt knows that having knowledge and being able to convey it effectively to students are two very different things. But at the end of the day, if you pay your money and are able to sit through the class and pass the test, you are able to teach classes and issue certificates, regardless of your actual ability to teach. With the standard for credentials being what it is, if you don’t show up at the class with the ability to communicate, you aren’t going to leave with it. There are some great instructors who teach the licensing class, don’t get me wrong, but it isn’t because the state developed them. In fact, the state just about goes out of its way to ensure that instructors do little more than stick to a script. Based on my interactions with my peers on the licensing side, there are far more folks who shouldn’t be teaching anyone anything than there are quality instructors in this program.

All the state can really be confident that they are turning out is people who can read black letter laws off of a slide deck and run a safe range, which does not in any way constitute a quality instructor. When I took my licensing class back when I turned 21, we spent more time listening to the “instructor” rant about politics than we did discussing the complexities of use of deadly force; and my experience was not an anomaly. The licensing instructors who are doing the best job are mostly those who have taken it upon themselves to seek out continued instructor development both on the legal and shooting side, but they are few and far between. ClassroomThe NRA credentials required to sign up for the instructor class are worth about as much as the paper they are written on as well, as there is not a high standard for teaching or communication ability to receive them either. With the subject matter required for licensing being potentially life and death stuff, the standard for instructors is far too low. To raise the standard to a meaningful level would require resources, time, and expertise that the state simply doesn’t have and can’t financially afford. Developing quality instructors is neither a cheap nor fast endeavor, and it can’t be accomplished by a bureaucracy in Austin. The state would do just as well as it currently does to have the class put completely online like a defensive driving class, because that’s about as much as most students get out of it.

The problem with this reality from my perspective as a professional trainer is that when you put a state seal on an instructor and a training program, responsible but otherwise uninitiated people who are looking for quality instruction are going to be prone to assume that they have found it when they go to see their local licensing guy. After all, if you are looking for a plumber, someone who is licensed and bonded is usually going to be better than someone who is not, right? Well, we all know that this is not necessarily the case. Just as there are plenty of licensed and bonded plumbers who will screw up your bathroom, there are plenty of state certified “instructors” who are going to give you a weak understanding of state law and defensive shooting fundamentals. The difference is that with a plumber, you find out pretty quickly when your toilet still leaks that shoddy work was done. When it comes to gun licensing, you may not find out until you are sitting handcuffed in an interview room or worse, bleeding out on the pavement. There is nothing that the Better Business Bureau or the State of Texas can do to prevent the guy who gives students an improper understanding of state law, because as long as they can simply convey what the black letter law says, they have met the standard. Similarly, if your licensing instructor lets you qualify with a screwed up grip and stance as long as you are hitting inside the 8 ring enough times, he is really doing you a disservice, but has still met the state’s standard. Just about every single student I have had in the licensing class could have met the state’s minuscule training standards without paying me any money to do so. The training requirement simply formalizes and stamps “official” what already exists and does nothing to actually increase public safety.

With this reality in mind, it should be clear to rational lawmakers that we aren’t really losing anything from a training standpoint by eliminating the licensing requirement. Getting rid of that state certified label will force instructors who can’t teach well and have no business calling themselves “instructors” out of the market because they won’t be able to run certificate mills anymore. People aren’t going to be as likely to succeed at hanging a shingle with no real experience or ability when they can’t rest on their “state certification”. The people we should want carrying guns on our streets are the ones who go above and beyond the licensing requirement and seek follow-on training anyway, and that group of responsible armed citizens will be there with or without licensing. In fact, it turns out that instructors in states with no licensing requirements tend to fill their classes more easily because people aren’t fooled into thinking that they have fulfilled their responsibility simply by getting licensed by Joe Bob’s licensing shack. Someone is far more likely to come to an advanced use of force or defensive handgun training class if they don’t already have a card in their wallet that they think means they are already good to go. I can’t tell you how many times people have decided to go see some other guy for “training” simply because his class is cheaper and all they wanted was a license anyway. Those people will still be just as big of a liability whether or not they have a card in their wallet, so let’s stop pretending that we are increasing public safety by mandating lowest-common-denominator training.

I’m not worried about going out of business when the training mandate goes away, because responsible people don’t require a mandate to do the right thing. The only people who are served by keeping the licensing requirement in place are those who profit from it both at the state capitol and in certificate mills. I’m ok with both of those institutions not getting any more of mine or my potential students’ money, and you should be too. Be very wary of any “instructor” who takes the opposite position.

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Reality: Good Guys Don’t Always Win

There is a very real possibility that a lot of armed citizens take for granted: good guys can lose fights. I meet a lot of people in the gun culture who thump their chests and suggest that simply because they carry their guns, victory is inevitable if they are ever involved in a critical incident. A lot of the time, these folks will suggest that they will even instigate fights over mere property just because the state law (as they interpret it) may make some allowance for doing so. To put it frankly, there is a dangerous amount of hubris that permeates the gun culture that can put lives at risk if carried through to action.

It is possible that when you draw your gun even in a clearly justified and reasonable response to a threat, that the threat may defeat you in the fight that ensues. There are no pre-determined winners in these situations, and it could be that you find yourself on the ground bleeding out after pulling your firearm in self-defense. The likelihood of an armed citizen winning a fight increases to some degree based on the level of training the individual may have and how prepared they are for the fight. The rest of it comes down to circumstances and chance, which are totally out of our control. The unfortunate reality is that most armed citizens don’t spend near enough time on the range training and practicing with their defensive tools, which makes the probability of losing a fight that much higher. However, even if you train and practice regularly, factors outside of your control may put you at an insurmountable disadvantage that nullifies your level of preparedness.

Does this mean that you should have a defeatist attitude toward personal defense? Absolutely not. I am by no means telling you that you can’t or won’t win your fight if it ever comes. I bring up the possibility of defeat to drive home the fact that you shouldn’t develop a false sense of security just because you carry a gun. If you can avoid putting yourself in situations that may lead to armed confrontation, you should always do that. If there are things that you wouldn’t do unarmed because of the potential danger they pose, you shouldn’t do them armed either. Unfortunately, I hear far too many people express the opposite disposition. While I understand that a lot of that has to do with “sounding cool”, I’m afraid that it sometimes reflects a very reckless mindset.

I see this dangerous mindset expressed most frequently as it relates to using deadly force in defense of property. In my opinion, which is informed by reading a lot of legal scholars and case law; there is nothing you own that is worth taking a human life to defend. Deadly force should only be used in defense of life, not stuff. The fact is, if you aren’t willing to give your life in defense of your property, you shouldn’t be willing to take someone else’s either. It may be the case that when you instigate a confrontation over property, you may lose your life over your tractor/car/dog, etc. when it is all said and done. When you go into your yard and confront the guy trying to steal your riding lawn mower (an actual scenario a student brought up in class), you may find yourself bleeding to death next to that lawn mower if the fight doesn’t go your way. Don’t be that guy.

When you accept the reality that fights are not always won by the good guy, it should motivate you to avoid the fight altogether to the extent that you can. Despite how “badass” you may believe yourself to be, there are no guarantees in life, and you can’t predict how a fight will go down. Your gun doesn’t confer superpowers on you, and you are not Superman. Guns are merely tools designed to help you efficiently respond to the threat of deadly force when and to the degree it is immediately necessary to do so. Regardless of whether you decide to train and practice with your firearm, your positive mindset should never turn into an irrational hubris. Train, practice, and be vigilant; but don’t start to believe that you are invincible, or it may lead to making bad decisions that end in your ultimate demise.

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What Good is a Right?

As I write this post, I am less than 24 hours away from teaching my first defensive shooting class of the 2016 spring/summer training season. Tomorrow I will have 12 armed citizens from across the state of Texas who are paying me to teach them potentially life-saving skills, should they ever face a worst-case scenario that requires the use of deadly force. These people are waking up early, driving out to a remote location, foregoing a weekend with their families, or even taking off work in some instances to get out and train realistically with their defensive pistols. This small group of students represents a growing but still small minority of armed citizens who understand that rights are pretty useless if they aren’t accompanied by some level of responsibility.

Consider for a moment the other rights you have. You have a right to life, but to stay alive, you obviously need to nourish your body with food and water; which must be purchased with money you earn at a job or is given to you as charity. If you want to live comfortably, you need shelter from the elements, which also must be purchased, rented, or received as charity. You have a right to move freely through the country, but you must purchase a vehicle or utilize public transportation if you want to do it efficiently. You have a right to free speech, but you aren’t going to be a good speaker if you don’t learn grammar and the ability to read, write, and speak appropriately. The rights you have don’t give you the ability to exercise them efficiently; you must either take responsibility for yourself or rely on society to take responsibility for you. The right to personal defense and to keep and bear arms are no different.

You have a natural human right to personal defense, and to own a firearm for that purpose. However, that right no more confers on you the ability to efficiently exercise it than your right to live and pursue happiness will keep you alive or make you happy. You have two options: to take responsibility for your own personal defense, or to outsource it to society. I am confident that no one reading this post is going to take the outsource route; as we are mostly “gun people” here. However, too many “gun people” seem to believe that just appreciating a right will make them magically able to exercise it in a life or death situation. A lot of “gun people” think that simply possessing a firearm and carrying it checks the responsibility block, but I beg to differ.

Simply owning a gun and/or putting it into a holster is only part of the responsibility equation. If you haven’t taken steps to learn how to use your gun in the context of what is most likely to happen to you as it relates to personal defense and then to practice those skills; you are not actually meeting your responsibility. You may well survive, as many do, having not met your responsibility; but you are merely betting on luck at that point. Possessing a gun no more prepares you for a gunfight than possessing a spatula makes you a good cook. The only way your spatula is going to reliably help you cook good meals is if you learn how to use it; and the same applies to your gun.

There are at least 12 people in Texas who understand this reality, and are taking appropriate steps to meet their responsibility. You have a right to carry a gun for personal defense, but your rights won’t save you. You have a responsibility to take it upon yourself to learn the skills necessary to efficiently use your gun. Getting formal training from a good instructor is a good first step in meeting that responsibility, and I hope to see some of you on the range! Whatever route you choose to take whether it is distance learning on your own or coming to a class, don’t let yourself believe that rights equal abilities. You wouldn’t apply that logic to any other right, so don’t apply it to your 2nd Amendment right either.

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Warrior Devotional #3: Seek Wise Counsel

For Warrior Devotional #3, I want to talk to you about the importance of choosing wise counselors and confidants. Our Scripture passage for this devotional is Psalm 1: 1-2, which reads as follows:

“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.”

 

You have probably heard it said: “Show me your friends and I will tell you who you are”. I believe it was probably my grandpa who first shared that cliché’ with me when I was a rebellious teenager. Well, it turns out that in chapter one, that is essentially what the Psalmist is telling us. We as believers ought to seek out wise counsel as part of our lifestyle, and seek to cultivate worthwhile friendships that don’t lead us to engage in bad behavior.

We ought to strive to associate ourselves with people who are not “sinners” or “scoffers” as much as possible. Now that isn’t to say that we ought only to associate with people who see eye to eye with us on everything, or even that we can’t be friends with non-believers. After all, we are all sinners saved by grace and there is truly “none righteous” as Paul says in his letter to the Romans. There can be much growth intellectually and spiritually when we develop friendships with those who may challenge our faith or assumptions in so far as it ought to strengthen us in our understanding and ability to defend what we believe. It may also make us aware of some holes in our reason or understanding that we may not have noticed if we only associated with like-minded people. But that is entirely different from “standing in the path of sinners”.

If your inner circle and the people that you confide in is made up of the unrighteous and deliberately sinful, you are eventually bound to begin walking in their path and sitting in their seat; you become like they are, which is what you want to avoid doing. We are told in another Psalm that “Iron sharpens iron” when we surround ourselves with wise and righteous confidants. This is one of the reasons that we are called to associate with other believers in church. When we fall out of church, we lose many opportunities to gain that wise counsel and have that support structure that helps in our Christian walk.

However, even amongst so-called believers, it is sometimes tough to know the difference between the wicked and the wise when we are deciding who to confide in. Churches are full of sinners and scoffers of the sort the Psalmist warns against. If it were as easy as “sizing someone up” when you meet them, you wouldn’t see the kind of drama we are witnessing during this circus of an election season. So what are we as believers to do to avoid the pitfalls of bad associations?

First of all: we can pray about it. We are told in James chapter 1 that “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God that giveth to all men liberally…” So, we as believers have a spiritual lifeline that we can and should rely on if we are as active as we should be in prayer. That is what the Psalmist is referring to when he talks about “meditating day and night” on the things of God. The Psalmist is essentially describing a healthy prayer life. You have to be “in the Word” and meditating/praying on it, or you are bound to suffer in the area of discernment. As believers with the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are given the ability to discern the difference between good and evil when we are where we need to be spiritually speaking. We would do well to meditate on God’s Word and pray before all of our decisions; but certainly in circumstances where we feel the need to rely on others by choosing wise counsel and associations.

Furthermore, we can take a look at the evidence that exists about the person or people in whom we seek to confide and use that to determine if they are trustworthy. If you feel that someone is worthy of your confidence, you should be able to find out some details about who they are and how they live their lives. When you take a look at the facts you discover about people, you are going to see evidence or lack thereof as to their trustworthiness. Jesus tells us that we will know false teachers “by their fruits”; which is simply a way of saying that there will be evidence of their true character based on what they have said or done that we can discover if we are willing to do some investigation. Like President Reagan said: “Trust, but verify”. It is important as believers that we never neglect the second half of that wise advice.

So what is the practical application here for the Warrior? Well, we as Warriors are going to want to associate with other Warriors, and as armed American citizens, we ought to seek out quality training to hone our Warrior skills. When you are going to figure out who to spend your time and money training with, you want to avoid the “counsel of the wicked” as it relates to instruction and information. A synonym for “wicked” in the context of training that you will hear all too often is what I and many other professional instructors like to call “derp”. If you are a discerning and wise Warrior, you ought to be able to recognize “derp” when you see it. If you are considering an instructor or curriculum, take a look past the surface and see what they are really all about. Instructor and avid shooter Melody Lauer likens choosing a good instructor to choosing a good oncologist. You don’t want to go with the one who simply has the best commercials, you want to find out who their referrals are, what kind of treatment they offer, their success rate, reviews from their patients, etc. before you put your life in their hands. In the same way, you don’t want to learn life and death skills from someone who is peddling “derp”. So you can apply the principles of Psalm 1 to avoid walking in the ways of the “derp” or sitting in the seat of the “derp”.

So, pay attention to who you confide in, and do your homework instead of blindly trusting people who may not always have your best interest in mind. Blessings come to those who pay attention to detail and are mindful of who they associate with. This is true as you live your Christian life, and as you prepare yourself as a Warrior for possible confrontation with the evil in this world. Make sure you don’t find yourself in company with the wicked or the “derp”, and you will live a blessed Warrior lifestyle.

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Don’t Just Get Licensed, Get TRAINED!

                The most common response I get when I talk to potential students about coming to a Defensive Focus Shooting class is: “I already have my license”. I probably heard it 20 times minimum from people who stopped by my booth at the gun show this past weekend. While I’m glad to see that more and more Texans are taking the steps necessary to exercise their right to carry a defensive handgun; I’m discouraged by how many people seem to believe that attending a licensing class adequately prepares them to efficiently use a firearm in a worst case scenario. To me, this is similar to saying “I went to freshman orientation” as a qualifier for never going to another class in college. The licensing class is essentially an orientation class for armed citizens, and is not meant to be viewed as anything more. You can’t possibly hope to learn much in college if you don’t go to your classes, and you can’t possibly hope to be prepared to use deadly force in self-defense if you stop learning after qualifying for your license. With this post, I am going to lay out some things you need to know that the licensing class simply does not cover. The gaps you will see here should demonstrate why you need to get to follow-on training such as Defensive Focus Shooting if you are really serious about being prepared to defend yourself with a firearm.

                First off, the licensing class is absolutely NOT A SHOOTING CLASS. The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is adamant about this fact in the instructor certification class. The licensing class is merely designed to give students a base level understanding of state law and to confirm that they aren’t incapable of operating a firearm safely on the range. Licensing instructors are only required to give a very basic, mechanical overview of how a firearm functions, and how to safely operate the firearm on the range. The things you are expected to learn about handgun use, as mandated by the state, are even more basic than what you would learn in an NRA Basic Pistol class. The 50 rounds that you fire at 3, 7, and 15 yards are just designed to verify that you are “proficient”, which is to say that you can safely operate the gun and put holes in the target at reasonable distances. How efficiently you accomplish this task is not measured, and thus the score you get at the end is totally irrelevant to personal defense. It is quite possible to “qualify” during the shooting portion of your licensing class while using atrocious technique when viewed through the lens of personal defense. Thankfully, many instructors will go above and beyond the state mandate in this area to make sure that students leave with at least some understanding of what “right” looks like, but that certainly is not because the state requires us to do so. When I look at pictures of people shooting the proficiency portion of the state licensing class on Facebook, the grossly lacking standards of most licensing instructors when it comes to shooting fundamentals is very apparent.

                Not being a shooting class, most licensing classes are not likely to teach you any shooting techniques that are relevant to personal defense, unless you have an instructor who goes beyond the mandate, which few do. For instance, one important skill that isn’t covered is presentation of the firearm from the holster. It doesn’t really matter how well you can shoot from the ready position (whatever your instructor thinks that ought to be) if you can’t efficiently present the gun from your holster. Another thing that doesn’t get covered is what generally happens to the human body in the context of an unexpected attack. Shooting under standard conditions in a controlled “qualification” may demonstrate mechanical proficiency, but it certainly doesn’t demonstrate proficiency when your sympathetic nervous system is engaged, with all of the physiological and psychological changes that come with that. Knowledge of what is likely to happen to your body in that situation, and how to efficiently access and employ your firearm in that context is very important, but is totally neglected by the licensing class. Furthermore, with so little time spent on the range in most licensing classes, you can’t learn anything about your physical ability, or the reliability of your gun and gear. One of the great benefits of a full one or two days of class on the range is that any shortcomings in your physical ability, your chosen firearm, holster, belt, positioning of the holster and belt on your person, etc. will become very apparent and can thus be corrected with the help of an instructor. You can very easily “qualify” in the licensing class with a gun that may not actually be reliable in a fight, and you would have no idea. If you don’t learn about your limitations and that of your gear in class, you may not get another chance to do so unless and until your life is on the line. That would obviously not be the ideal time to find out that you are “jacked up”. Coming to an actual training class allows you to find and correct these issues before they can potentially cost you your life.

                We have countless examples on video of law enforcement officers and civilians who may have been “qualified”, “certified”, or “licensed” but were nonetheless forced to improvise in the moment when actually faced with the need to defend themselves. Since the advent of dash cams and surveillance videos, it has become glaringly apparent that “qualification” is not training, and does not ingrain the skills necessary to efficiently confront a threat. The things that we see people doing when they “demonstrate proficiency” or “qualify” on the range almost never looks like what they do in actual fights as captured on video. Many progressive police departments have taken this knowledge and adopted training programs that focus less on bureaucratic training standards and more on training in the context of reality. On the civilian side, there is no department that is going to mandate that you do more after licensing, nor should there be. If you intend to carry a firearm in the public space, you have a personal responsibility to do more than what the state requires to prepare yourself for the reality of a defensive shooting. Simply having the card in your wallet does not mean that you are “trained” or “prepared” in any sense of the words. It’s what you actually DO beyond getting licensed to prepare for a worst case scenario that will set you up for success or failure if you are ever forced to fight with your gun.

                I implore you not to rely on your completion of a bureaucratic licensing standard as adequate preparation for personal defense in the real world. I want you to become as dangerous to the bad guy as possible, and getting licensed is just the first step in your journey to responsible armed citizenship. There are countless resources available to you from distance learning options such as Personal Defense Network to formal training classes under the tutelage of an experienced instructor like you will get in our Defensive Focus Shooting program. Whatever you choose to do based on your budget, please don’t carry a firearm in the public space where my family is if all you have is a piece of plastic that says “licensed”. Get to a class, get to the range, train, practice, and be prepared. Not doing so makes you little more than a potential liability to yourself and the rest of us.

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Warrior Devotional #2: Do Not Place Your Trust in Swords

For Warrior Devotional #2, I want to talk about a flawed mindset that far too many Warriors have adopted: making their tools into talismans. This devotional ties very closely to a blog post I recently wrote for Personal Defense Network, and some posts that my peers have written about the topic in recent weeks, which can be found here:

Gun free Zone Woes

Do You Carry Religiously?

“My Gun Kept You Safe”-no it didn’t

A talisman is an object that is believed to possess some sort of magical or supernatural property that allows its possessor to “ward off evil” merely by possessing it. All too often, well-meaning armed citizens elevate their defensive tools to this irrational level by believing that simply possessing a firearm will somehow “keep them safe” in and of itself. Not only is this belief rationally flawed, the Scripture cautions against it. Our scripture passage for today is Psalm 44:1-8 (NASB), with an emphasis on verses 6 and 7:

1 For the choir director. A Maskil of the sons of Korah. O God, we have heard with our ears, Our fathers have told us The work that You did in their days, In the days of old.
2 You with Your own hand drove out the nations; Then You planted them; You afflicted the peoples, Then You spread them abroad.
3 For by their own sword they did not possess the land, And their own arm did not save them, But Your right hand and Your arm and the light of Your presence, For You favored them.
4 You are my King, O God; Command victories for Jacob.
5 Through You we will push back our adversaries; Through Your name we will trample down those who rise up against us.
6. For I will not trust in my bow, Nor will my sword save me.
7 But You have saved us from our adversaries, And You have put to shame those who hate us.
8 In God we have boasted all day long, And we will give thanks to Your name forever.

Here we have a Psalm that pays homage to the history of the Jewish people and their victories in the battles for the conquest of Canaan. The history of the conquest of Canaan is contained mostly in the book of Joshua. During this period of Jewish history, the people of Israel were commanded by God to drive the pagan inhabitants out of their land by military force. There were many great battles fought, such as the well known Battle of Jericho, and there were many great military commanders and strategies that were employed throughout. However, the overriding theme of the conquest, as well as this memorial Psalm, is that the Lord provided the victory. Though the battles were fought with human hands and weapons of iron, the victory ultimately belonged to the Lord.

It is important to note that on the occasions where the people of Israel started to put too much faith in their weapons and human abilities, they learned some hard lessons. In Joshua Chapter 7, Joshua decides to send Israel into battle without seeking God’s counsel, and as a result his men are defeated and forced to retreat from Ai in shame. God had a way in the Old Testament of letting His people know when they were getting “too big for their britches” by putting their faith in something other than the Lord. Though we as modern day believers don’t often find ourselves doing battle, we are certainly susceptible to the same dangerous mindset that befell the people of Israel from time to time.

Warriors in 2016 should not put undue faith in our “bows and swords”. On a spiritual level, this means that we should never value our firearms above our faith in God’s protection. By no means am I suggesting that you should simply pray for God’s protection and forego carrying your firearm. Rather, I am suggesting that letting your faith and hope rest in the possession of an inanimate object is foolish. Notice that neither Joshua nor the Psalmist suggests that they laid down their weapons or that God asked them to do so. On the contrary, they carried their weapons into battle to do God’s bidding and had faith that He would ordain the circumstances that would provide them with victory. The Psalmist is merely suggesting that weapons are just tools that cannot and will not impute victory by themselves. For the believer, victory belongs to God and God alone, though he may choose to use our abilities and tools to bring it about.

On a practical level, this means that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to believe that we are more or less safe based on the tools we may or may not possess at the moment. We carry our firearms in order to have the ability to respond efficiently with deadly force in the off chance that we are ever required to do so. However, just like the people of Israel couldn’t rely on their swords for victory, we cannot rely on our firearms alone for safety. That’s why God gave us brains.

What makes us safer as Warriors is the ability to assess and mitigate risk. We should make decisions about where we will go and what we will do based on a constant appraisal of potential threats, and balance that with doing what is necessary to live our desired lifestyle. If we are able to go about our business armed, that is obviously the most ideal situation to be in; I am not disputing that fact. However, at times we will likely find that being armed is impractical or even at times illegal. There are very likely going to be times where we simply have to go places or do things that require us to be without our firearms. When those situations arise, we are not out of the fight, so to speak. We should still continue to assess risk and seek to mitigate it with our actions. For all practical purposes, nothing about our mental state should change when we are unarmed.

If you do an honest self assessment and realize that being unarmed significantly affects your mentality, you have begun to “trust in your bow” in an unhealthy way. If that sounds like you, I would challenge you to remedy your situation by learning more about the full spectrum of personal defense and break your gun-centric focus. Guns, just like swords and bows, are tools of very limited application. Sometimes even possessing a firearm won’t necessarily mean you have a better ability to solve a defensive problem than you would if you were unarmed. If you don’t have a “warm and fuzzy” just because you don’t have your firearm on you, some unarmed skill development or learning how to manage unknown contacts would be in order.

Warriors should arm themselves with more than just their physical tools. As Christians, our faith is in the Lord, who is our protector and deliverer. God and God alone has ordained the days you and I will have on this earth. Having or not having a tool in your possession at any given moment should not lead any Warrior to a feeling of helplessness. God gave us the inate ability to fight and survive long before weapons were a thing. So carry your gun when you can, but carry your brain everywhere; and let your hope be grounded ultimately in the Lord.

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Warrior Devotional #1: All Things in Their Season

​When I look at the Christian landscape in 2016, especially on the social media and the internet, I am mostly inundated with a view of God and Christianity that paints the ideal believer as a timid, pacifistic, emotionally weak individual. I believe this to be a blatant misrepresentation of the Word and an attempt to strip away the overriding Biblical theme of what we are called to be as believers: Warriors.

The purpose of this devotional is to provide commentary and insight from the Scripture that can be applied to the lifestyle of the warrior. For our purposes, the warrior archetype is not limited to the armed professions (LEO, Military, etc.), but includes anyone who cares about personal defense and being prepared to confront the evil that exists in this world with the appropriate amount of force on both a physical and spiritual level.

While I will endeavor to keep each passage I use for this commentary in context, the applicability of Scripture to the various lifestyles of individual believers transcends the context in many ways.

I hope that the Scriptures and my commentary will encourage and uplift those who read it, and will inspire cordial debate when it is warranted. Enjoy!

​I want to set the stage for what is to come by looking at a passage that gives us an idea of what we are to be as Warriors, and how we should be prepared to put on our armor when the time comes, and to do other things in their time as well. Let’s begin with Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:
“1There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every [a]event under heaven—
2 A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
5 A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
6 A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
8 A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.”

​Here, King Solomon tells us God has ordained a time and place for every human activity under the sun. In each verse, he juxtaposes the more pleasant activities with the more fearful ones, as there may come a time in each individual’s life where partaking in one or the other might be appropriate.

For the purposes of the Warrior, there are a couple of important applications to be found here. First, we can see clearly that there is a time and place where it would be appropriate for Warriors to do Warrior things such as kill, tear down, throw stones, tear apart, hate, or make war. There is nothing inherently sinful about any of these human activities when they are done in a time and place that calls for them.

The Judeo-Christian tradition that undergirds our legal system has made it such that these times and places are usually codified into our laws. While the laws vary from state to state as far as the black letter, most generally justify the use of force in defense of one’s own life or the life of another in the right circumstances.

We train, carry our defensive tools, and stage them in our homes in case one of those “appointed times” to take action should arise. Our police officers and military personnel put on uniforms and walk our streets and deploy to foreign lands in case the time should arise.

We can see clearly from this passage (as well as others that we will address in future devotionals) that the Word does not indicate anywhere that the Almighty has a problem with an individual believer doing what needs to be done to combat evil when the time calls for it, including killing it. To believe otherwise is to ignore a large portion of Holy Scripture. There are appropriate circumstances for doing things that a lot of people would rather not do. What separates the Christian Warrior from the rest of Christian society is his or her willingness to step up and do the “dirty work” ,so to speak, that very often comes with confronting evil.

​On the other hand, the Warrior cannot forget the other side of the equation. There is a time and place to sheathe the sword and partake in the gentler and happier things in life such as healing, building, laughing, dancing, embracing, and peace.
We as Warriors have to be careful not to obsess about our “Warriorness”. It is often a tough transition for a Warrior when the time comes for the happy things, but we have to be able to make it if we want to live the life that God has called us to.When military members return from combat, their ability to transition back to civilian life has an affect not only on their own mental well-being, but also greatly on that of their loved ones.

Though it isn’t always easy , we as Warriors have to remember how to act in times of peace. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be prepared for the time to come when we have to flip that switch again; but we shouldn’t let that preparedness prevent us from enjoying life during the good times.

I see this issue manifest itself in civilians with the folks who obsess about where they can and can’t sit to be “tactical”; those who choose to display their defensive tools or sport the 5.11 catalog in public spaces, or refuse to go places that prohibit the carry of their preferred defensive tools. In those situations, “time and place” considerations would be appropriate. There are a great many experiences that we as Warriors can miss out on if we aren’t mindful of our surroundings and acting appropriately for the time and place.

​So, as you go through your life as a Warrior, don’t be ashamed of your willingness to do the things that need to be done when evil rears its ugly head. Your capacity for violence is not in itself sinful. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Solomon himself was a warrior King like his father David before him. Both of them fought and killed men when the time called for it. God put Warriors on this planet and gave us that predisposition for violence so that when the time comes, we can survive and help others to survive. But, when the time and place calls for happier things in life, don’t be standing on the sidelines in your tactical gear missing out on all the fun.

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My Thoughts on the PRACTICE of Open Carry

The open carry of a handgun by a license holder became legal in Texas as of January 1, 2016. In the anti-gun community, this was met with the usual anticipation of blood in the streets and vigilantism that has yet to materialize in any of the other 44 states where open carry is lawful. Despite all of the hype, the open carry of handguns really hasn’t actually changed much of anything except that law abiding gun owners are no longer guilty of a criminal offense if they choose to display their holstered firearms. In fact, I have yet to actually see anyone in public partaking in this newly legalized practice outside of the small demonstration at the state capitol staged by some open carry advocacy groups on New Year’s Day. Obviously, there is nothing to fear from open carry from a public safety standpoint, and I don’t suspect it will affect the lives of most Texans in any substantial way. With this new law in place, I have been asked by several former and perspective students what my thoughts are on the practice of open carry; and so I will detail them here. Please understand up front that I fully support your right to open carry (I am actually for Constitutional Carry); but I will continue to conceal my firearm and encourage my students to do so for the reasons detailed herein.

The first reason that I choose to conceal my firearm and encourage my students to do so is that I don’t carry my firearm for the purpose of advocacy; which is to say that I don’t carry it in order to make a political statement by showing it off. I am a very opinionated guy, and I have no problem taking a stand on my principles and speaking my mind on the issues. However, when I want to express my opinions, I do it by writing blog posts such as this, supporting candidates I believe in, voting, writing my representatives, and generally making good use of my First Amendment right to free speech. When I holster my firearm and walk out my door into the public space, I don’t do so because I am interested in “making a statement” or “starting a conversation” about gun rights. I may well do those things throughout my day, but I don’t need the sight of my firearm in its holster to be the catalyst for them. Up to this point, I’ve had no shortage of opportunities to share my pro-2A beliefs with people I meet while my firearm has remained concealed the entire time. I just don’t see the need for the sight of a holstered gun to be the catalyst for a discussion of gun rights or responsible gun ownership. Regardless, advocacy isn’t my personal motivation for carrying my firearm, and so it will stay concealed. If that is your motivation, then I guess OC is an option for you.

The second reason I choose to conceal my firearm and encourage my students to do so has to do with what my motivation for carrying a firearm actually is: personal defense.  I carry my firearm for the purpose of defending myself and/or my family in the event of a violent confrontation with the evil that exists in this world. With that being the case, I simply don’t see what I gain in the context of personal defense by displaying my holstered firearm. Some will say draw speed, but the tradeoff in split seconds is negligible at best for a trained individual. Some will say comfort, but in 2016 there are literally hundreds of holster options that will comfortably work for any lifestyle and body type that I am aware of. One school of thought (and probably the most frequent talking point of those in favor of the practice of open carry) suggests that displaying your weapon could provide an advantage in the context of “deterrence”. While it is true that the sight of a holstered firearm might deter some would-be attackers, there is no guarantee that it will in every instance. If that were the case, armed and uniformed police officers would not be attacked and killed with their own weapons, which is something that happens. Furthermore, gun grabs, though very rare (as are shootings in general), wouldn’t be a thing; but we know that they are. So, if it is your belief that open carry is an effective deterrent, then I hope you are right 100% of the time; because all it will take is that one time that you aren’t for you to have to deal with the fact that you are armed on the bad guy’s terms instead of your own. I don’t necessarily believe that open carry “makes you a target” in and of itself; but I certainly don’t think it eliminates you as one either. If you do become a target when open carrying for whatever reason, there will be no illusion on the part of the bad guy as to what your intent is and where your tools are. Also, it could necessitate a deadly force response that may not have been called for otherwise. Personally, I intend to keep my playbook full of options that merely include deadly force, and I will keep that playbook a secret as opposed to sharing it with the other team and hoping that they will forfeit out of fear of what might happen.

The final reason for why I choose to conceal my firearm and encourage my students to do so is that I just don’t want or need the attention that comes with OC, as that attention can come with unintended consequences. We are already seeing several restaurants and other private establishments across Texas modifying their gun policies to prohibit open carry. Thankfully, lawmakers had the foresight to codify a new signage requirement separate from the 30.06 statute to allow for private property owners to prohibit open carry in their establishments without prohibiting concealed carry. I don’t believe that most business owners have a strong opinion on the gun issue; but some are simply worried that the sight of firearms in their establishments could drive away other customers. While that may be misguided from our perspective, you have to understand that most business owners are going to naturally err on the side of caution when it comes to how they are perceived in the market. Starbucks didn’t take a stance on the open carry issue until they were inundated with open carry activists who forced their hand, and there is no doubt that other businesses saw that and don’t want to deal with it. If you walk into an establishment open carrying, you are forcing the owner to make a statement either in favor of or against your actions at that moment; which is simply not a situation I want to put most people in, not knowing what their irrational predisposition toward guns might be. I know that one of the stated goals of the open carry movement is to normalize the sight of firearms in public, but I don’t believe that is the real issue for most people. We in the gun community always talk about shifting the debate away from the inanimate object and focusing on the individual human. With that in mind, what we really need to do is normalize the view of the people who are carrying firearms in public, and the best way to do that is to keep them concealed and go on about our business, in my opinion.

I am fully aware that plenty of Texans will choose to open carry their handguns, despite my best efforts to dissuade them, as is their right; and as mentioned above, is a right I unequivocally support. I hope that even those who disagree with me will at least consider formal training, regardless of how they intend to carry their firearms. Participating in reality based training can go a long way to help someone understand the full context of a fight instead of just fixating on tools and how they are carried. My job as an instructor is to recommend best practices as I see them, based on my observations and empirical evidence; and that is all I am doing here. I’ll leave the politics of it alone and just simply say that whatever method of carry you choose, do so from an educated position; and make sure you have fully considered the ramifications of your decision. Unfortunately, I’m not confident that most people have thought it through very thoroughly (and that would include MOST who choose to carry concealed as well). At the end of the day, it’s about what you SHOULD do, as opposed to what you CAN do.

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Nehemiah and the Armed Believer in 2015

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Over the past few days, I have been contemplating the state of our fallen world in light of the most recent terrorist attacks in Paris. With these horrific attacks, we have once again seen what just a few dedicated extremists can accomplish when a society abandons its sovereignty and sacrifices its means to defend itself in favor of political correctness and naivety. I see people all over social media who are obviously eager to “do something”, and so I will attempt to give what I hope is a compelling Biblical perspective on the matter. How should we as Christians to respond to the atrocities that have occurred and the fact that they will continue to occur? I believe we can find a very good answer to that question in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah.

When we first meet Nehemiah in chapter 1 of the book, he has just received a report on the state of his native home of Jerusalem, a place he had never seen due to the fact that he was born into Persian captivity. Here we find out a couple of things about Nehemiah right off the bat. First, he is a patriot; which we can see in that the news of Jerusalem’s state of desolation was enough to bring him to have “wept and mourned for days” (1:4). I think we as red-blooded Americans can identify with Nehemiah’s sorrow as we see what is becoming of our homeland in the age of secular-progressivism we now find ourselves living in. Though we as American Christians live free from any real persecution, we can certainly identify metaphorically with the desolation of Jerusalem as it parallels the moral decay of the United States. However, the larger point here is that it is ok to love your country as a Christian. In fact, reverence for God and Jesus Christ are the only things that supersede the reverence for the Jewish homeland detailed throughout the scriptures. God does not have a problem with Jews being proud of their national identity and their land. One’s nationality and heritage is a birthright given from God, and Patriotism is a good thing. We as American believers should love our country in the same way that Nehemiah loved his.

Second, we find out that Nehemiah is a prayer warrior who asks earnestly for God to forgive the sins of his countrymen and return them to their homeland (1:5-11). His patriotism is what moves him to sorrow for the state of his nation, but it is his faith that moves him to prayer for its restoration. We as American believers should be patriots who pray. When we look at the continued moral degradation of our society, we should pray earnestly for God’s mercy on us and our countrymen. We should acknowledge as Nehemiah does that our own households are not blameless and that God is the one who preserves nations according to his will for those who “love him and keep his commandments”(1:5).  All too often, we as Christians act like the state of this nation in 2015 is not in large part due to our own turning from God; but I’m afraid that is not actually the case. It is more the failure of God’s people than the actions of the Godless that have brought this nation into decline, just as it was for Israel. When we pray, we should acknowledge this fact and pray for our own forgiveness as much as for the society around us. However we pray, we should do far more of it than we are inclined to in our daily lives if we expect God to move in this nation.

After praying, Nehemiah is given the opportunity to return to Jerusalem with a contingent of his countrymen and begin to rebuild Jerusalem: God answers his prayers. In chapter 4, we find Nehemiah and his group of settlers beginning to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, which had been destroyed when it was conquered. It should be interesting to us as Americans in 2015 that Nehemiah’s first move upon returning to Jerusalem was to rebuild a wall around the city. The concept of securing borders in 2015 draws as much ire from the Christian community as it does from the secular left. The fantasy of a world without fences on this side of heaven is not one that we find embraced in Scripture. If the Old Testament Jews had good enough sense to secure their borders from foreign invasion, it’s really baffling that it should be such a stretch for American Christians in 2015; but I digress.

The important thing I want you to notice from chapter 4 is that Nehemiah and his group of settlers faced a threat that we ought to be able to relate to in light of the geopolitical climate we now inhabit. They had to deal with a group of people who didn’t want them to be there, namely the “Arabs, Ammonites, and the Ashodites” (4:7). These folks mocked them and threatened to kill them and knock down the wall that they were so earnestly working to rebuild. It seems they were being… terrorized! So what was Nehemiah’s response? Well, just as before, he prays; but I want you to notice how he prays. He prays “Return their reproach on their own heads and give them up for plunder in a land of captivity. Do not forgive their iniquity and let not their sin be blotted out before You.” Surrounded by enemies, Nehemiah prays that God would (gasp) DESTROY THE ENEMY! Do you as a Christian pray that God would lay waste to Islamic terrorism? If not, why not? I hear a lot of outcries for compassion for these people who would seek to murder our families and destroy our way of life, but precious few calls for God to blot them from the face of the earth. Maybe I’m Old (Testament) School, but I think we need to see far more of the latter in this day and age. Maybe if we prayed for it, God might make it happen.

Also, don’t miss what else Nehemiah and his people do in the face of the terrorist threat: they armed themselves.Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon. As for the builders, each wore his sword girded at his side as he built… So we carried on the work with half of them holding spear… Each took his weapon even to the water.” (4:17-23) Even as they prayed for God to destroy their enemies, they carried weapons in preparation to defend themselves. These were not soldiers, mind you, but simple families of Jews who took up arms as they labored on the wall. As a result of God’s protection and the fact that they were armed and ready to face their attackers “God frustrated” the plans of their enemies (4:15). It is obvious from the attacks in Paris that none of the victims were able to return fire on their attackers. Paris is a disarmed society that learned the hard way how badly that policy can backfire when evil men with arms arrive to do their murderous deeds. We as Americans (depending on where you live unfortunately) do not have that same problem due to the rights our forefathers (leaning on the Bible, incidentally) guaranteed for us in the Constitution. If you are worried about the possibility of a terrorist attack, or any other worst case scenario for that matter (terrorist attacks are still VERY unlikely, statistically speaking): get armed, get trained, and don’t leave home without your weapon. As Nehemiah says, don’t even “go to the water” without your firearm. That prudent advice is as good today as it was thousands of years ago.

Nehemiah lived in an age of moral depravity and terrorism, much as we do today. He responded to the struggles he faced through patriotism, prayer, and armed vigilance. We as Christians are not facing anything in the 21st century that hasn’t been faced by our forefathers all the way back to Abraham. We should all spend more time on our knees and on the range if we are really as concerned about the situation as we let off on Facebook. There is a time and a place for compassion, but war is not that time or place. Make no mistake, we are at war both physically and spiritually. Pray earnestly that God may drive our enemies before us as he did for Joshua, David, and Nehemiah; until Jesus returns. Then and only then will we find true peace on this earth.

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“Whatever Works for You” is BAD Advice

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There are far too many instructors in the defensive/tactical training industry who have no ability to backup or defend what they teach. The way you can spot these charlatans is by noticing their inability to answer “why” questions. Instead of providing real answers, you will usually find them using cop-outs that allow them to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings while giving worthless advice. If you are paying someone to train you for a potentially life-threatening situation; they should be teaching you about the best, most efficient tactics/techniques/gear that they have knowledge of. This doesn’t mean that an instructor shouldn’t adjust their curriculum or recommendations to your specific needs; just that they shouldn’t suggest that you continue doing things they know to be suboptimal or inefficient just because they may ostensibly “work for you”.

For example, I often have students that show up to my classes with guns that are not on my recommended list (which consists of Modern, Striker-Fired Semi Autos w/ no manual safeties). Most recently, I had a novice female student come to class with a SIG P938. This particular firearm is so small that it is difficult to get a solid grip on, makes reloading nearly impossible, and has a tiny,hard to operate manual safety. I know from experience that this firearm is prone to malfunctions, is extremely inefficient, and is frankly a reckless choice for personal defense. It would have been extremely irresponsible for me to let this student believe that she was “good to go” because the gun may have “worked for her”. As such, I let her run the first drill with it (which illustrated the aforementioned reasons why I don’t recommend it), and then I loaned her a more efficient firearm to complete the class with. As a result, she will likely be making a more informed gun purchase in the near future. I could have easily done what her CHL instructor from the state licensing class undoubtedly did, and just made sure that she could hit the target with it and then said something like: “it’s better than having no gun at all”. However, I like to be able to look myself in the mirror and sleep at night after I get home from teaching a class. Therefore, I took the chance that I might offend her for a brief moment and used the expertise she was paying me for to make the best recommendation I could. If an instructor can’t bring his or herself to do that, they shouldn’t be teaching people at all; and certainly not for money.

This same mindset should apply to all things being taught in class. If a given technique or piece of gear is known to be inefficient, new recommendations and changes should be made (or changes demanded if safety is an issue). Obviously, an instructor should still consider if the juice is worth the squeeze when making these recommendations and changes. There are minute tweaks that can always be made to a student’s technique or gear setup that may cost more in the way of time, effort and energy to adjust than would be gained in making the adjustment. In those circumstances, it would be a waste of time to “split hairs”, so to speak. That being said, I have found that those circumstances are very rare compared to those where a change should be recommended. A good instructor will be able to make the proper decision on whether to intervene or not. The important thing is for them to have the willingness to make the call when it needs to be made, and to be able to clearly articulate “why” when they do. The delicate balance is being able to do this in a manner that doesn’t seem condescending or belittling to the student. Different instructors have different ways for walking that balance beam, but it must be walked regardless; failure to do so is a detriment to the student and demonstrates a lack of integrity on the part of the instructor.

So, if you as a student ever run into an instructor who fails to answer the “why” questions: run, don’t walk away. If you are fine doing what “works for you”; you could have done that without paying for the class in the first place. Look for someone who knows enough about their subject matter to clearly articulate how and why you should do the things you are paying to learn. You are paying for expertise, so don’t settle for cop-outs.

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