Sangamon County Rifle Association Guest Speaker

Tom Shafer

Tom Shafer addressed the audience at our Independence Day meeting and talked about mindset and tactics to survive a critical incident.

Shafer noted that most of the general survival books mention basic stuff like how to build a fire, but it seems most of them gloss over using a firearm defensively.  Shafer talked about a new book he read titled, “Get Out Alive” which features a chapter called “Surviving an Active Shooter”.  Shafer talked about some of the points made in the book and elaborated on them.

1.  MAINTAIN SITUATIONAL AWARENESS.   Pay attention to your surroundings and watch for potential threats!  Don’t be caught in what Jeff Cooper called “condition white” – oblivious to your surroundings.

2.  KNOW YOUR ESCAPE ROUTES.   Knowing where the quick exit is can be a lifesaver if you choose to flee instead of engaging bad guys.  So if you’re in a mall and you hear shooting, look for an escape route.  Don’t engage if it means suicide.

Shafer says his personal preference is retreat, withdrawal and avoidance to minimize the chance he will need to use deadly force.  “Retreat, withdrawal and avoidance are rules to live by,” Shafer repeated.

3.  HIDE OR FIGHT IF YOU CAN’T ESCAPE  Shame on you for getting yourself caught flat-footed in a bad place at a bad time.  Take cover while you ponder a plan before you come out shooting!

“As for myself, I made my decision a long time ago that even at gunpoint, nobody’s going to tie my hands, or take me to a secondary crime scene, or lock me in the cooler or force me down on the floor where they can tie my hands and feet.  That never leads to any good outcome,” Shafer said.

4.  TAKE CARE OF YOUR OWN  If you’re with your family, get them out of the danger zone at the first opportunity.  If fleeing isn’t an option, it’s time to fight like a Spartan.  Everyone’s gonna die sometime.  It’s better to risk death a hero on your feet than to die a coward on your knees.  It’s just another reason to keep yourself fit and trained.

5.  KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GETTING INTO!  You’re risking a lot by utilizing deadly force.  Be absolutely certain you know who’s who and what’s what before you intervene in defense of another person.  Is it a cop making an arrest instead of a criminal attack?  You have to be sure, in part because your actions will be picked apart by Monday morning quarterbacks afterwards if you do indeed shoot.

If you do shoot, don’t miss as you can’t call bullets back.

6.  CALL 911.

7.  MAINTAIN ELEMENT OF SURPRISE.  Don’t feel obligated to challenge bad people with commands like, “Drop it” or “Freeze”.  Don’t advertise that you are armed.   Make your plan and execute it without warning.

8.  KNOW YOUR WEAPONS. The book says this is the time you will be happy or sad about your choice of firearm.  And about your mag capacity.  And your spare mag or lack thereof.  If you don’t know to operate your gun, you are out of luck as well.  It would be prudent to learn how to operate the most common guns, and many even some of the lesser ones as well.

“If you get the feeling I am telling you to train now, you are correct,” Shafer said.

Finally, having an understanding of how to defend against a knife attack is important as well.

9.  DON’T BRANDISH YOUR WEAPON If you’re not about to shoot it, keep it holstered.  If you’ve fired, scan for other threats then reholster.  Brandishing is illegal in most locations without a very good reason and you’ll be giving away the element of surprise to bad guys – and it’ll be a potential bullet magnet for other good guys who might mistake you for a bad dude.

10.  DON’T GET SHOT BY THE POLICE Your own non-threatening behavior will go a long way to keeping you safe.  Let the cops be in charge and be courteous and compliant to their commands.

Reprinted from the August 2011 issue of GunNews

Photo courtesy Oleg Volk.