As a woman, I had heretofore never envisioned myself in the scenarios I am about to describe. The decay of our society and culture has made it necessary for me to know how to defend myself. It hasn’t been an easy decision to make, but professional training in proper handgun handling has empowered me.
Through hours of practice, I am learning to be a responsible and proficient handgun owner. I take my privilege of carrying a gun seriously, and recent national events should serve to inform all of us to avoid violent encounters whenever possible. I carry a gun for defensive purposes, and I have sought training that will teach me how to react to a threat in a safe and consistent manner. I want to be safe in the knowledge that I will react to an attack without undue risk to myself or others. So I want to share a couple of defense tactics I have been taught, and I think you will agree that they are easy skills to acquire and should become a part of your defense strategy.
Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA): This is a decision-making loop model developed for the military by US Air Force Colonel John Boyd, also known as “the Father of the F-15.” But it has equal application to self-defense, and is the easiest and, I believe, the optimal response to any threat. You can do this simple defensive tactic, regardless of where you are or what kind (if any) weapon you are carrying.
Here’s a quote I like from Robert Greene, who wrote an article titled OODA and You: “The proper mindset is to let go a little, to allow some of the chaos to become part of your mental system, and to use to your advantage by simply creating more chaos and confusion for your opponent. You, the defender, funnels the inevitable chaos of the battlefield in the direction of the enemy.” Let’s face it; any defensive situation that involves a firearm is a battlefield.
I was first introduced to OODA through a defensive handgun course I took with John Farnam, of Defense Training International, Inc. Farnam is a Vietnam veteran who was awarded three Purple Hearts; is a retired Major in the U.S. Marine Corps; and is a fully commissioned deputy sheriff . He is regarded as one of the top handgun instructors in the world. After training with him, I had a whole new perspective of what it means to exercise my Concealed Carry handgun permit.
We were taught that the Bad Guy usually has a plan, and he performs each one of these steps during the execution of his attack. It is imperative that each one of us abides by the same rules: Observe your surroundings (be aware of what’s going on around you; Orient yourself to your situation (Is there a wall or a car I can get behind?); Decide if you feel your life is threatened and if the situation requires the drawing of your weapon; or if a better and more appropriate response might be to move away from the shooter; and Act (if threatened, do what you need to do to defend yourself, or if possible, remove yourself from the situation).
One of the things that was also pounded into my consciousness was “Get Off The X!”, a key component of the OODA Loop. Let me explain: Gun and/or knife attacks must come at you on a direct line. In order to make the attack, the bad guy must close from his position to yours. That will involve either the path of the bullet from the attacker’s gun, or in the case of a knife attack, the bad guy, himself, will be coming straight at you.
In either case, your first line of defense is to move off the attack line…Get Off The X! The mere act of moving a step or two will cause the attacker to re-evaluate his attack. In effect, you have changed his OODA Loop, gained a second or two, and have taken the advantage in the fight.
This is such an effective tool in changing the dynamics of the fight that your movement to get off the X can reduce your chance of being hit by 70%, according to Farnam. This statistic was based on “Force on Force” drills at the National Tactical Invitational. It’s as simple as this: That one side step buys you 1 ½ seconds to engage the perpetrator, who has had to change his thought process. When you changed his OODA Loop, you took away his advantage.
To increase your chances of success, you must side-step on your draw, and make it a motor skill. Farnam drilled this in our heads for 2 ½ days. “If you’re not shooting….you should be moving!” To begin with, practice side-stepping while drawing your gun, and do that until it becomes second nature. This act must become a reactive motor skill….if you’re drawing your gun, you’re automatically moving off the X. As you progress, your combat reloads, tactical reloads and scanning for additional bad guys are all done while moving.
John Farnam is not the only professional trainer who ascribes to the merits of the OODA Loop. According to Massad Ayoob, an internationally known firearms and self-defense instructor (as well as a law enforcement officer training instructor), there is no better strategy for surviving an action/reaction crisis.
For the Concealed Carry citizen, the handgun is a defensive weapon. This means you will most probably be a reactive shooter. The very nature of defensive handgun training means you prepare for an event that has already started and you are brought in under a “reactive” banner. This means the perpetrator initially has the advantage, since he’s starting the fight on what he feels are his terms.
But when you exercise OODA Loop and Getting Off The X, you have taken that advantage away from him and transferred it to your side of the ledger. You now have the upper hand by causing momentary chaos in his world; don’t lose that advantage!
Not Just For Handgun Defense!
Interestingly enough, Travis Haley, another highly respected firearms trainer, stresses Getting Off The X in his new “Adaptive Carbine” DVD. Haley is a veteran Force Reconnaissance Marine with 15 years combat experience in the Middle East, and as a special operations and security contractor. Mr. Haley also partnered with Magpul as founder and CEO of their training division, before forming his own company, Haley Strategic Partners. His reputation and experience is considerable and well-regarded.
In this outstanding DVD, he demonstrates drills with the AR-15 by exploding, either left or right, for one long aggressive step; then engaging the target as quickly as possible. He also demonstrates dropping to a knee or to a prone position rapidly, which in effect changes the attacker’s OODA Loop, and again gives you the advantage.
One Final Tactic
And in case you’re obsessed with acronyms, I have another one for you: MDCR. Move: the perpetrator may continue the fight. Create Distance from the attacker. After the initial attack SOP9 data proves the attacker will score hits at 3-10 feet, 70% of the time. By creating distance of 10-12 yards (by just quickly backing up), the perpetrator’s hit percentage dropped to 7%! By merely creating distance in your fight radius, you increase your survivability by 63%!! Obtain Cover as quickly as possible. The gunfight may not be over. But seeking cover to assess the situation increases your survivability, as well. Look for barriers that will stop bullets….cars, trees, walls, building corners, etc. Reload: a tactical reload behind cover should be your first order of business. Assess where the gunfight is going, but while doing so, get your gun topped off.
In summary, there’s no doubt that gunfights are systems of chaos. Next to your weapon and subsequent training, OODA Loop, Getting Off The X, and MDCR all provide you with the best advantages. And when the chaos starts, all you will have to fall back on is the motor skills you have developed. If nothing else, please consider adding the one simple element of stepping to the side as you draw your gun. According to John Farnam, this single, seemingly innocuous act could, and probably will, save your life.
I want to leave you with a visual image — Remember the scene in The Last of the Mohicans (one of my very favorite movies!) when Magua, who is the perp in the movie, has his rifle trained on Cora Munro? Hawkeye, reacting defensively, starts to engage Magua to prevent the attack. Magua, sensing Hawkeye’s response, swings his rifle towards Hawkeye and fires. Hawkeye immediately drops to one knee (moves off the X!) and seeks to re-engage. Magua escapes through a cloud of black powder smoke… but I think you get my illustration. That simple move to one knee took the advantage away from the approaching attacker and caused him to re-evaluate. And now the advantage is yours, and that’s what it’s all about!