Offensive and Defensive Shooting - Shoot - Don't Shoot

When trained thoroughly, mentally, physically, and visually in true reactive shooting, there is no difference between 'offensive' and 'defensive' shooting. Your mental ability to make quick decisions, based on presented scenarios could be the difference in a "Shoot - Don't Shoot" type event. One of the discussions that seems to come up fairly frequently is "offensive" vs. "defensive" shooting. These discussions follow a general theme that when you are "startled" or "surprised," you are going to react or behave differently in your responses when compared to when you are "ready" and anticipating action on the part of a subject. A good example would be this. You hear noises coming from your kitchen at 3 AM. You get up from your bed, grab your weapon. You are in a defensive mental state because a strange noise is heard in your home. You can stay in your bedroom in a defensive posture in the event the noise comes closer to your bedroom and you are going to defend your space that includes your family. Or, you can go on the offensive posture by leaving the bedroom and looking for the threat. Now, if the noise stops and you are searching the house for the noise, you are on the offensive to find the possible threat. If the noise remains and you approach the noise and determine it to be a threat, you take up a defensive position to defend. See the difference?


In shooting exercises you should try to create these type scenarios. Some trainers try to capitalize on the "startle" response and tell us what we are going to do and then how to use the response to flow into a defensive strategy. Others have tried to justify a default response, usually point shooting, as an immediate action drill to make up for a "transition" from defense to an organized offense. Still others have voiced the opinion that there is no difference between "offensive" vs. "defensive" shooting. Shooting is shooting, period. Do you agree? To many, the objective is to find the threat and eliminate it. You may have split seconds to make the decisions. And, if you aren't competent with your weapon and what it will do for you and against you, you could be shot first and potentially die. I have read and been trained on how we should always be prepared for anything and that surprise is not an option. But, even for a person who stays on alert mentally, the human still has lapses and that could be the single event when the sudden threat is present. One can use mental color codes, mental conditioning, situational awareness, as well as endless practice routines and training drills that are all designed to make people feel better about the very real dangers we face on the street every day. This is part of the thinking outside the box. If you read Hope For Survival or have been reading blog post and emails I send out, you have heard the term "outside the box." So, let me ask the question. In your mind, is there a difference? Is there a difference between offensive vs. defensive/surprise encounter shooting?" I will speak from past personal experiences, training experiences, education, and conversations. There can be a difference if were truly mentally surprised. Like, you were not ready to respond when it happened and that causes you extreme anxiety because you got caught off guard and unprepared at that moment. Physically, when the mental state is not up to the task of processing and when the subconscious mind is not well trained it will be reflected in sub-par skills. Like the saying goes, we play how we practice. Standing stationary and shooting 1000 rounds twice per month is not the sort of training I am talking about. You must exercise your brain in tactics just like you train with your weapon using tactics.


When you drive down the road, do you ride with your handgun on your lap because you suspect every passing auto to shoot at you? I hope not. So, if you answered no, what would be your plan to react to someone who rides by you and starts firing in to your car? Would you speed up to get beside the car while reaching for your handgun so you can fire back? You are driving at 80 mph now with your family in the car. The shooter surprised you and now your blood is pumping and you are thinking offensive and want revenge. Or, maybe you should think about your family in the deadly weapon you are driving, your car, and go defensive and get your family away from the shooter. Or, it's bedtime and the kids forgot to take the dog out before going to bed. You know you better do it now or else you will be up at 3 am doing the same task. You open the door and walk outside with the dog. You are hoping the dog does her business quickly so you can get to sleep . Your mind is thinking about the big project you brief to management tomorrow. You are following the dog as she sniffs and moves along the tree line. Suddenly, you are caught off guard when you hear something crash inside your home. You realize you left the front door open and you left your handgun in your safe space in the home. Panic ensues. A threat is between you and your family and your weapon to defend them. This is a sudden event that escalates your emotions. Will you be able to think clearly and outside the box to respond and gain control of the situation, quickly? When trained thoroughly, mentally, physically, and visually in true reactive shooting, there is no difference between "offensive" and "defensive" shooting. You must process the situation and take focus under duress. So I ask, if this is the case, then is there a difference when you are behind a wall shooting at targets as they approach your location while taking shots at you vs targets being behind multiple walls shooting at you while you maneuver your way from wall to wall eliminating targets threatening you. Difference?


If you have never considered this previously, just think, you are not only having to react physically with your handgun but also mentally. If you have never participated in mental drills with your handgun, it will exhaust you quickly. Think about it. I don't know about you but anxiety is not something I want to deal with when handling a weapon, but you very well may at some point.

Anxiety is a primary causative factor in performer failure and is also a motivating factor in many seeking training or a drill or response to mitigate their anxiety. High levels of anxiety can cause people to make bad choices, flub their skills and perform subpar to include get you killed. Rather than trying to come up with "training recipes" all the time so people feel better temporarily, let's work on principle applications that create more permanent and workable solutions. Reduction of anxiety is accomplished by commitment, acceptance, situational awareness, preparation and experience/adaptive thinking. Like I talked about in Hope For Survival and the classes I teach. You must understand yourself and who you are. What makes you tick? How do you respond to different stress levels? Would you respond the same if you drove up to a car accident and found only the driver alive but he/she had a splinter of glass protruding from the neck vs walking through the mall and some stranger walks up and punches your teen aged son in the back of the head. Would you respond the same? Now, take both of the examples provided and ask, how would you respond going through a tactical firing course immediately upon facing each of the examples? Hope vs anger. Would you shoot the same? There are no guarantees that you will live in any given situation. But you do have a choice on how you choose to act. Think about it this way. Your will and knowledge of the unknown moves you forward. Your judgement, ability to think on your feet, and training will allow you to continue moving forward safely. Your values and beliefs, as well as the strength of the beliefs and emotional connection you have to them are a prime mover in any situation. If you are truly committed to doing what appears right to you and intervening in potentially dangerous situations because you truly believe that what you are doing is right, then anxiety is greatly reduced. Have you conducted mental exercise within yourself to determine what is right and wrong? You may already know what you are going to do. And, for many, immediate undecided action will determine what you are going to do. Like Mr Riley Howell, the young hero from Waynesville, NC who charged the active shooter at Univ. of NC, Charlotte and lost his life but saved many others. Mr Howell immediately reacted to the shooter. His prior training and instinct determined his course of action. That doesn't mean there is no fear. It means that you choose to act in the face of fear and that is called courage. Part of our beliefs and value system has to do with how you value yourself. I won't speak for others but I will speak my mind. I don't put myself as #1. I put others as #1. When others are in danger, I value their lives and I willingly put myself at risk for my country/society, my family and my friends. Part of living outside the box is always keeping your situational awareness at the front of your mindset. I talk about this a great deal in training lasses and in my book. A good book to read for more understanding is Jonathan Gilliam's book, A Sheep No More. I won't get into this one too much as it is an obvious one. The world is a potentially dangerous place and it is our responsibility to maintain a connection with what is going on around us. Situational Awareness. Being a hard target. When I see people with eyes glued to their phones and texting while eating lunch, taking a poor position, and generally oblivious to what is going on around them I can only shake my head. If you are being stalked or surveilled, you only have to be a soft target for a split second to lose your life. Living in condition OWAC (operating without a clue) is not a strategy for longevity. If you need downtime, go somewhere where you are protected from approach or can see someone coming from a long ways away. Don't spend 90% of your day living outside the box as a hard target and then jump in the box and shout "shoot me." I am convinced that many could pull out their phone and start a video to film an event quicker than the ability to draw a weapon and stop an active shooter event. It is the world we live today. Having attended a professional driving school twice to learn evasive driving and surveilance detection techniques internationally, the basic skills taught can overlap basic life while walking down a sidewalk or through a shopping mall. We learned a red light, yellow light, and green light technique for driving. Jeff Cooper's Color Code system is an excellent process on mindset, situational and operational readiness. You see, many of these tools are pieces to a complete puzzle for your life.

As has been said in the past, "Preparation is a state of mind, not an abundance of supply." When addressing the question of offensive vs. defensive shooting, it all comes down to mental and physical preparation. Remember, this is principles and not methods or strategies. Be Ready AND stay ready, Don't 'Get Ready' Keep these things in mind:


* When you expect something to happen and it does and YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO, there is very little lag time. * Expect something to happen when you walk up to a car, make a contact, go into a convenience store for a late night snack or sit down in a restaurant. That doesn't mean you draw your weapon. It means you are prepared for a possible encounter and have a plan for the eventuality of events that could occur. This is a mindset. If you want to understand the mindset more, go on YouTube and check out (Ret) Lt. Col Dave Grossman's Bullet Proof Mind. * Consider having deadly force in mind when entering any situations and look at it first from a potential deadly force perspective. What is your plan? Then let the situation show you the correct level of force required, if any. If time permits, conduct a quick Risk Assessment of the Situation. Identify the immediate visible and known threats to your life. * Even if tough at first, traing of all types is your friend.


Experiential Training and Technical Training * Experiential training is training in an environment similar to what you will encounter in the real world. It need not be exact if you have an adaptive mindset and can use your imagination properly. Acclimation is the key here to allow people to learn to process, decide and operate at the speed of real world engagements. * Technical training is training truly reactive shooting skills at the speed of the gunfight. They are truly necessary and in many cases there is a real gap between true gunfight speed training and the speed most people shoot in training. Taking training shortcuts by trying to teach quick and dirty shooting techniques will not prepare you for the totality of what you will face when you have to do it for real. In almost every case how you train makes a very real difference in how you perform. In your training, don't forget to focus on your breathing and understanding how your personal breathing is impacted by the training.

Experience * Experience allows you to acclimate to situations and get used to the dangers and distractions and gain confidence through successful application of skill and judgment. Calmness under duress is built by both training and experience and knowing what to expect and how to deal with it. * Experience can be a problem when you run into something outside of your experience and have to handle it. This is where adaptive thinking comes into play. By using your experience and correct training principles, you can adapt your thinking to the requirements of the mission at hand and come up with a good strategy. To summarize, mental and physical preparation will minimize poor responses to dangerous situations. Affirming commitment to mission, training with the correct level of intensity along with high quality information and training is the path to true preparation. So we can talk offensive or defensive shooting, training, mental ability to process, recognizing your environment and situational awareness, but the reality is making the first shot count because you may not get a second shot. The speed that you can mentally process while you draw and engage eyes on target is the difference. It all boils down to that.

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