One of the things I’ve found glaringly absent in the conversations being had on social media is a working understanding of Deadly Force Law. So much of the gun counter mythology is still sadly alive and well. On top of that, you have the “Armed Citizen” blurbs from the NRA publications that also contribute to the confirmation bias, especially since there’s no mention of the legal fallout in those one-paragraph summaries.
I’m currently reading through Andrew Branca’s The Law of Self Defense, which I would strongly encourage everyone to pick up. It’s certainly a lot less expensive than shelling out for a 4 day class, although the class is absolutely worth it. I figured since it’s still topical, I’d share my experiences from The Massad Ayoob Group MAG-40. Here’s the AAR I wrote after I took his class back in 2016:
I wanted to write this while the memory of last week’s training is fresh in my mind. I’ll start off with some basic “dos and don’ts” to set the expectations of the course:
- Treat this like a college/continuing education course, not like you’re regular weekend of burning through ammo
- Bring a laptop. There’s so much material covered that I would have never been able to keep up with it trying to take notes by hand. Hell there were a few times where I got bogged down even whilst typing.
- Have some prior training/experience. This is not an introductory course. This is not a course to teach you what gun to buy or what holster to carry.
- Be proficient in basic gun handling/marksmanship.
- Bring gear as close to your daily carry as possible. Not a requirement, just a good idea.
- Be “that guy”. This is generally the first rule of any class. Don’t think you know everything, don’t be the one that says “but I do it this way”.
- Get bogged down in gear selection. There was a bunch of time that got tied up (unnecessarily in my opinion) with “what pistol do you carry?”, “what holster do you use?” from novice attendees. Don’t think that gear is going to make you a better shooter.
- Expect a shooting course. The ballistic portion of this class pretty much serves the same purpose as the shooting portion of your Concealed Carry qual: to show you’re responsible/effective/competent with a handgun. You’re not going to learn some new high-speed reloading technique, you’re not going to learn “transitional, dynamic multiple threat engagement” (That’s trademarked, by the way. You can’t just use that)
- Make this your first shooting course. There is a lot of very intense material covered here, so generally it’s better if you’ve already got some time studying/thinking about mindset/negative outcomes/ etc.
OK, now to the review:
*DISCLAIMER*With my version of the course, the shooting portion was taught by a local instructor, certified by Mas, and then he taught the classroom portion. So, for me, the first 2 days were the range-portion, and days 3-4 were the classroom. When Mas teaches the whole thing, they tend to spread out the shooting and classroom both over all 4 days. You can tell which one you’re signing up for based on if your class specifies “MAG 40” vs. “MAG 20 Range” and MAG 20 Classroom”. Mas arrived around this time, and at that point the instructors shot the qualification to show us what it looked like, provide some context as to the time frame, etc. At that point, everyone shot the qualifier and was graded. If I remember, a passing score was 240 or better out of 300 (80%)
Day 1: Showed up to the range, signed your life away with the requisite paper work (waivers and the like), reviewed the basic firearm safety rules, and then we hit the firing line. They started with the basics first: grip, stance, trigger press, etc. Then they moved on to reloads. They didn’t really teach a specific technique, the understanding being that students already had basic gun handling down. From there they went into the different stances (Isosceles, Weaver, Chapman). You got some exposure to the different distances and times that you’d be shooting at.
Day 2: We continued over what was covered on Day 1. We then started working from the holster, and then went through the specific stages of the qualification, which entails:4 yards: 6 rounds off hand – reload – 6 rounds strong hand. 8 seconds. 7 yards: 6 rounds – reload – 6 rounds. Stance of your choice. 25 seconds. 10 yards: 6 rounds “Cover Crouch” – reload – 6 rounds High Kneeling – reload – 6 rounds Low Kneeling. 75 seconds. 15 yards: 6 rounds Weaver – reload – 6 rounds Chapman – reload – 6 rounds Isosceles. We shot each section 3 times. Once under no time constraint, once under the time limit for each stage, and once “as fast as you can” (while still keeping them in the A-zone).
*Secondary Disclaimer* There’s a lot of proprietary information covered in this class that’s not to be shared with the general public. That’s why one of the requirements of attendance is either a criminal background check or current Carry License. Due to that, there may be some gaps or ambiguity in the overall review. Trust me when I say that the 2 days of classroom are reason enough to attend the course. The range portion is there so that, should he need to, Mas can testify to your proficiency with a firearm, not just that you had the academic knowledge about use of force.
Day 3: The introduction covered the information that would be discussed, how we should handle that information, and certain steps we should take to document our knowledge moving forward. We covered some of the basics, like what is entailed in Jury Selection, some basic legal concepts like what circumstances justify use of deadly force, different levels of homicide (murder, manslaughter, justifiable, etc), as well as a more in-depth look at Cooper’s color code. We also discussed different standards of proof, and the different legal applications of each. We went over the fact that a claim of self defense constituted an “affirmative defense”, and what that entails.
Day 4: The day did start out with some discussion on equipment. There are prudent things that a defensive gun carrier should consider before purchasing/augmenting their firearm. We reviewed things like trigger mods, safeties, etc. We also reviewed studies in human reaction time, including the Tueller drill. There was some review of common “Defensive Myths”. You know, the dumb shit you hear tossed around at gun stores, gun shows, and on different internet forums. Throughout the course, there were a lot of helpful tips on how to prep your life for certain events.
One of the biggest segments was focused in the different physical/emotional reactions after the shooting. We talked about the psychological and societal impacts. The idea behind this is to ensure the students are aware of what to expect. That way a) they are less scared by the unknown of what to expect and b) are able to critically think and develop their support plans ahead of time. There was some discussion of attorney selection, as well as the potential value of being a member to a program like US Law Shield/ Armed Citizen Legal Defense Network/ etc.
We also discussed the how and why of ammunition selection. Not so much from the ballistic performance, but also how it can potentially play into your defense. They eschewed the mixing of ammunition. The discussion segued into combative anatomy, and the 3 major target areas, and which is appropriate under what circumstances. There was also a discussion on rendering aide, and under what circumstances it would be (im)prudent. As previously mentioned, there was a lot of proprietary information, that was to be expressly contained within the scope of the class, and only shared with those directly vetted by the alumni. What I can comfortably say is that this section was built around how to avoid getting shot by other good guys, how to communicate with all parties involved, and how to keep from turning a righteous shooting into an inadvertent homicide charge. The irony is that the most valuable segment of the course is the one I have to write the least about. There were lots of legal cases provided throughout as case studies of the different principles covered.
Regardless of if you take Massad’s course or not, you really do owe it to yourself to get more info on this topic. Just because you know one guy that came out on top one time and didn’t go to jail because of his defensive gun use does not mean you’ll share his experience. Branca’s book is only 10 bucks for Kindle. There’s really no excuse not to at least have that as a resource.