Reviewed by Gila Hayes
For this month’s book reviews we have several shorter books written by Network members.
Calling the Shots: Self-Protection and Firearm Choices that Work for You
By Jenna Meek; Foreword by Marc MacYoung
$14.99, paperback, 133 pages, illustrated
Calling the Shots provides empathetic mentoring for women who are interested in becoming armed citizens. Author Jenna Meek introduces, “If learning firearms was not your idea to begin with, [it] makes it that much harder to stay involved when the experience is not pleasant.” Learning about guns does not need to end that way, she exclaims, then goes on to provide guidance and motivation for beginners.
Addressing the student who is new to guns but intent upon buying and learning to operate one, Meek urges studied introspection to consider, “If the need arose, could I take the life of another human in self defense?” as well as to identify the uses this first gun will be asked to fill. Many buy a first gun only to discover it really does not fit the parameters of the intended use, and sometimes that mistake is repeated on the second visit to the gun counter, too. Gun selection considerations include price, ammo availability and cost, as well as repair parts availability, ergonomics and fit, size and weight, recoil, operational simplicity and ease of cleaning, manufacturer reputation and warranty, she teaches. After comparing gun ergonomics to the way some automobiles feel “just right” and others are always uncomfortable, Meek explains that sometimes more than one gun is the best choice – one to carry concealed, one for home defense or sport shooting.
The same philosophy applies to holsters and other concealed carry products, and Meek opines that for women in particular, just one holster rarely covers all the eventualities. After explaining pros and cons for a variety of carry methods, she adds, “The trick here is to find a holster that has cons that you can live with. It’s the same with guns, by the way.” Additional discussion addresses upsides and downsides of open carry, getting through the first uncomfortable experiences of carrying in public, and a strong argument for carrying inside the home, where many will “ungun” for the sake of comfort.
Responsibility plays a big part in Meek’s instruction, and gun storage is an important issue, she asserts. Families with children also need to teach children about guns, which she suggests can begin with gun cleaning. Satisfy the child’s natural curiosity, she directs, adding, “The more I can teach my son about guns and gun safety in general, the less I have to worry about him trying to learn about them on his own.”
Consider, Meek urges, that guns are not the only dangerous tools in most American homes. Kitchen knives are dangerous, yet while sharp chef’s knives are not left where small children can reach them, neither are they hidden away. The children are simply taught how dangerous sharp knives are and learn at an early age to avoid that hazard, she illustrates.
Adult avoidance of danger is a different problem, and Meek suggests that for many, the time-honored color code of awareness does not compute. Instead, she judges situations by determining if they are “normal, abnormal, or dangerous.” Be observant and determine what is normal in your neighborhood, she teaches, in an echo of the Left of Bang advice reviewed in this column several months ago. This is particularly applicable to “fringe areas,” where relative isolation and poor sightlines provide the anonymity a criminal needs. She also touches on setting boundaries.
Near the book’s end, in a chapter on legal issues, Meek admonishes the reader to know the law, understand brandishing, Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground statutes, as well as defense of property, pets and other concerns. We appreciate the recommendation she gives for Network membership in this segment. Calling the Shots closes with a chapter encouraging training and identifying the ultimate goal: avoiding need to use a gun if at all possible.
Think of Calling the Shots as a quick-start guide for new gun owners. It does not detail the intricacies of firearms operating systems, the merits of various calibers, nor does it delve deeply into ballistics, use of force doctrine and legalities, but it gives enough guidance that the beginner can get off to a solid start, then, if interested in learning more, start reading longer technical works. Before that can happen, interest and commitment must flourish. Calling the Shots is a great way to start down that path.
Facing the Active Shooter: Guidelines for the Armed Citizen Defender
2nd revision 2015
by CR Williams
Paperback: 98 pages, 6x9, illustrated
Publisher: In Shadow In Light
$5.14 at Amazon.com
“Active shooters have come before. They will come again,” with this stark truth author CR Williams introduces his monograph discussing options and considerations facing an armed citizen caught up in an armed mass murder attack. Although many would like a “hard-and-fast rule-set…do-this-here/do-that-there kind of specific suggestions,” Williams wisely counsels that it is not practical to train for specifics, because, “Everyone’s situation is and will be unique. Everyone starts from a different point even if they are in the same room of the same building when an attack starts.”
Williams posits that in the US, domestic armed terror attacks are most likely to be perpetrated by a single, male shooter armed with multiple firearms. The attack may take advantage of trapping numerous victims inside a building, he suggests, adding that only a few attackers will have prepared the area in advance, as occurred at the Virginia Tech shooting when chained exterior doors slowed police response. Prior planning is more often the hallmark of an attack by multiple armed assailants, he comments.
If the attacker encounters armed opposition his suicide frequently marks the end of an attack, Williams continues, adding that attackers intend to “kill as many people as they can before they die.” Decide in advance to fight without hesitation. Because most mass killers come to the crime scene with no expectation of coming out alive, if you can’t escape, “The only choice you have…is whether you will attempt to end their killing sooner rather than later. Historically speaking, the only way you will do that is to either kill them or provoke them into killing themselves,” he concludes.
Since most armed citizens carry only handguns, what are the odds of prevailing against assailants with rifles, Williams next asks. A study of reported incidents leads Williams to the conclusion that engagements within “pistol range” of up to 20 yards is common, owing to the preponderance of indoor attacks. While killing team members may join up later, it is not uncommon for multiple attackers to separate, so needing to engage more than one or two attackers in close succession is unlikely, he asserts. Move to flank the shooter(s) and move to cover as you shoot, he advises. In addition, watch for their gun malfunctions or reloading and make your move during the pause in gunfire, he adds.
Although armed citizens crave high-speed tactics to improve their odds, Williams writes that to a great degree, it is fundamental defensive shooting skill that lets you prevail against an armed attack. If you’re a well-trained armed citizen, you already possess most of the skills you need, he stresses. What is missing in many, he reiterates, is the mindset and the iron will to take on a murderer in action. Without developing that determination in advance, you may not “get your feet moving in the reality of the actual event,” he warns.
Good physical condition presents tremendous advantages under the stress, maneuvering through a panicked crowd, and assisting family or those in your care to escape, he adds later. Physical condition affects mental condition, and “it’s harder to come up with a plan when your body is demanding air and your muscles are burning from fatigue,” he suggests.
Get in the habit of taking note of the terrain around you, Williams writes. Although we may think of hills, rivers and roads when the word “terrain” is used, it also applies to a maze of office cubicles, a shopping mall or the counter of a fast food joint, he accounts. “How can you use counters, shelving units, racks, stacked merchandise, walls and halls to help you defeat an attack?” he asks. How can an attacker use open areas or chokepoints, cover and concealment against you? he continues. Observe what is around you and use visualization to mentally run through attack and counter attacks in the normal course of waiting in line and other idle moments, he suggests. “Visualization provides us the ability to familiarize our minds and emotions with things we cannot otherwise experience in reality,” he concludes.
Weapon selection is another pre-attack preparation, Williams continues, giving a strong recommendation for carrying a magazine-fed pistol in 9mm or larger, and carrying at least one extra magazine or more for low-capacity pistols. Even if escape is your first priority, you must be prepared to fight your way out, he adds. Sure, a snubby revolver or a .380 pocket gun can inflict damage, he writes, “What you can do is going to be less than you want to do when you’re trying to neutralize somebody down a hall with a rifle in their hands,” he admonishes. In truth, a 50-yard gun—a pistol with good sights, a decent trigger, and of reasonable size—is most desirable under those demanding circumstances, he recommends.
In addition to carrying good fighting equipment, armed citizens need to consider and learn to deploy from covert ready positions, protected ready positions for moving through crowds and close-in shooting positions, Williams next states. With any of a variety of challenges possible, he also illustrates and gives the nod to learning, practicing and mastering braced shooting positions for use when a handgun must be shot accurately at longer ranges.
The next chapter in Williams’ book is almost a workbook – an outline encouraging the reader to recognize the irrationality of an active shooter attack, and base his or her responses on best options for survival, which may include escaping, engaging, taking a position of cover and determining how to make best use of that position. Adaptation and flexible thinking are vital, he urges, as is the will to live, weapons skills and trauma wound care, to name only a few.
Williams prioritizes actions likely to aid in survival against a single mass shooter, multiple shooters, at close range and at greater distances. He warns against waiting for perfect circumstances to execute a perfect plan. “A good solution applied with vigor now is better than a perfect solution applied ten minutes later,” he quotes George S. Patton. “You will never have all the information you want or need,” Williams urges. Make a decision quickly and act on that decision. He illustrates how this applies to setting up an ambush as well as to making an escape.
Williams addresses surviving additional complications including interacting safely with responding authorities, understanding what happens if the hostiles capture innocents, moving through panicky crowds, inadvertently drawing the attention of accomplices of the shooter(s), avoiding being herded into a kill/capture zone, and quite a few other possible problems.
Woven throughout is the warning that the armed citizen’s task is to survive, and while that may require decisively engaging with the shooters, it may also call for escaping, and even possibly leaving behind victims whom you cannot help. In short, this is not the stuff of heroes – it is a blue print for surviving.
Aftermath is discussed, including repeated warnings against actions that will get you shot by responding units. Be prepared for a barrage of questions, Williams warns, and not only from authorities, but from family, friends, the media and even your own need to justify or explain what you had to do to get out alive. The urge to talk is strong, he comments, but he adds a strong warning against seeking 15 minutes of fame.
Williams addresses additional sociological phenomena experienced by those who fight back, and closes with the unpredictability of not only what may happen but also the public’s response to it in the aftermath. Still, taking action is better than dying cowering, and this short monograph gives the armed citizen much to consider and a lot to build into mental preparation that will apply to interpersonal violence as well as the active shooter threat it addresses specifically.
Click here to return to May 2016 Journal to read more.