Your Wardrobe As A Tool

Today I dig a little deeper into a topic that came up on my Facebook page during the week: Just like your pistol, your clothing is a tool that has the potential to cause unintentional damage if it’s improperly used because you don’t have the right understanding. Check it out and let me know what you think!

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Tweaking Your Wardrobe for Effective Concealment

If you’re still here and reading my material, I’ll assume that you share my interest finding that balance of how to effectively dress for the gun. Either that or you’re being held against your will, in which case blink twice and we’ll send help.

Now before you go out and spend a ton of money on a new wardrobe (something I would never recommend), there are a few tips, tricks, and tweaks that you can apply to your existing clothing. The thing to remember above all else is that fit is king. The properly fitting garment can fall & drape exactly the way you want it. And that is actually the focus of my first to points:

  1. Avoid clothing that’s too tight: This one should be pretty obvious. Over the last couple years the trend seems to thankfully be moving away from overly fitted, almost painted on looking clothing. I don’t think much needs to be said on why this would be detrimental to concealment. We all like to joke about the guy in his shmedium Grunt Style t-shirt trying to hide a duty sized pistol in a hip holster. If your clothing hugs every curve and contour of your body, then any additions made to those curves & contours, be it a firearm or tacos, will be immediately apparent. That being said, I doubt this one will be a real issue for a majority of the people that read my posts.
  2. Avoid clothing that’s too loose: There are actually 2 major reasons for this one. Firstly, baggy clothing tends to look sloppy or careless. This can set a negative impression, and is unflattering. Aesthetics might not be the top priority, but that’s not to say it isn’t important. The second aspect is a little counter-intuitive. Baggy clothing can highlight a concealed firearm almost as easily as tight clothes can. How is that? Baggy clothing means there’s a lot of extra fabric flapping around, so your daily bending, twisting, and moving can result in that extra material settling on the shelf that’s created by the grip of your pistol. If one side of your shirt is bunching and gathering unnaturally, that’s the type of irregularity that can invite further scrutiny.
  3. Belt selection is critical: Typically when you’re dressing up, that means a tucked in shirt, which in turn means your belt is visible. Even if you’re wearing jeans, a “tactical” belt like the Wilderness Tactical Instructor belt or the Ares Gear Ranger belt will look out of place. Even something lower profile like the Mastermind Tactics (formerly Graith) Specialist is too conspicuous in my mind. Ares Gear tried to get around this with the Aegis, but it’s still scuba webbing. Typically dress(ier) belts mean leather. Just make sure the leather you select is appropriate for the environment. If, for example, you’re in a button down shirt with jeans & boots, a beefier leather gun belt like the 1/4″ thick offerings from Mean Gene, but if you’re in chinos, slacks or suit pants, you’ll need something that doesn’t look like work wear. You may have already read my article from last month where I compared the Kore Essentials and Slidebelt, which are my previous and current go-tos.
  4. Your pants play into the concealment of an IWB holster! Most dudes, especially dudes that have a less than athletic build like myself will be inclined to pick pants that are less constricting because that’s more comfortable. This unfortunately creates a problem. You want your waistband to help snug the gun up against the body. Additionally, I’ve found that pants that are a little more fitted in the crotch, seat, and thigh tend to keep the holster body in place and prevent shifting. I’m not suggesting that the waist of your pants needs to be so tight that it’s cutting into you and leaving marks or red spots, but there should be at least some notable level of pressure from the waistband against your body.
  5. Pant rise is important: For those unfamiliar, “rise” is the distance from the waistband to the crotch of a pair of pants. “Wait, you mean to tell me they’re not all the same?!?!?”. Well no, in fact they’re not, nor is one type universally effective. Depending on your build and the length of your torso, standard (high) or mid-rise pants might be moppropriate for you. The most common mistake that most guys make (again, especially those with the “successful lifestyle body”) is that they wear their pants too low. This can negatively impact your concealment by causing the gun to ride too low and/or create hot spots and discomfort. Your natural waist is typically at the level of your belly button, possibly down an inch or two. Most guys wear their pants on their pelvis, which is too low. The other issue is that wearing pants with the wrong rise too low can impede movement. The crotch of the pant is now lower than it should be, which means your legs are joined further down than they are naturally.
  6. Shoe selection matters! Dressier shoes tend to have leather soles. Leather soles tend not to have the best traction. Traction is kind of important if you’re having to physically manage another person. You’re probably thinking “Well that’s an easy fix. I’ll just wear nothing but rubber soled shoes then!”. While that will work, I’ve yet to see a rubber soled shoe that actually looked like it belongs with a suit or dress pants. Thankfully there are some hybrid options out there, where rubber studs or sections are built into a leather sole, giving you better traction without looking like you’re wearing orthotic shoes or a uniform duty oxford.
  7. Get friendly with your tailor: Most clothing off the rack doesn’t really fit anyone all that well, it just fits a lot of people okay enough that they’ll buy it. A good tailor can help tweak and adjust any garment to serve a specific purpose for you, and make sure your clothing is working for you instead of against you. And, speaking of tailors, there are a few specialty adjustments you can have your tailor make to your wardrobe:
  8. Reinforcing your waistbands: Most of us carry guns and other support gear on the belt line. Other than work wear and denim, most slacks and suit pants are more delicate and not well suited to supporting weight. Having your tailor reinforce the waists of your pants will help to prevent sagging, and have the added benefit of more material that will keep your holster clips and other gear from wearing holes in your pants.
  9. Extra belt loops: Along the same line as a reinforced waist, you may find it beneficial to have extra belt loops added to your trousers. This helps more evenly distribute weight across your belt, and prevent the waistline of your pants from sagging. Very important for any tools carried along the mid-line or in the pockets.
  10. Extra lining in your jackets: This is primarily for the hip-carry crowd. If you’re using a jacket as a cover garment, you’ll want to have an extra panel of material sewn into the coat where it rides over the gun. Doing it this way will allow you to only have to repair the panel instead of having the entire jacket re-lined after it gets shredded by the rear sights and/or cocking serrations on your carry gun.
  11. Breakaway buttons: Generally, when a man is standing he should have his jacket buttoned. Well if he now has to access a pistol under that jacket, he has to either tear it open, unbutton it, or try to pull it high enough to clear the holster. There are some companies now that are doing breakaway buttons. Essentially, it’s a normal functioning button & buttonhole, but instead of the button being sewn directly to the jacket, it’s sewn to a snap so that it can perform normally, then in an emergency it can be pulled open without damaging the garment. I’m actually talking to my tailor now about doing this to all my suits & sport coats.
  12. Weight in the hem of your coat: The old bodyguard trick was to keep a spare magazine in the strong side coat pocket. That way, when you went to clear the cover garment, there was enough inertia and hang-time that it would keep the jacket from floating back into the path of the draw. Personally I find a magazine in the pocket too conspicuous. I have heard of guys having weight sewn directly into the hem of the jacket under the liner to the same effect.
  13. Beware of neckties! The fabrics that they use for ties have a pretty high tensile strength. Especially when you consider that good ties are 5 or 7 fold material. That’s a lot of fabric wrapped around your neck. If you’re not careful it can easily turn into a leash or a noose. That’s why all of the uniform neckties I’ve ever seen have been clip-on. It’s super difficult to strangle somebody with a clip-on tie…………..allegedly. I’m not suggesting you replace your Hermes ties with clip-ons, just making sure it’s something you’re aware of. Look at it critically, and ask yourself if there are any modifications you can come up with to make your neckties “safer”.

This was intended as a very high-level primer, and as something to spark more questions and dialog.

Do you feel that anything was left out? Which of these would you like me to go into more detail on? Please let me know in the comments.

Do What Your Stripes Can Handle

A friend asked a question yesterday that I felt warranted a little exploring. Allow me to set the stage:

This buddy reached out to me with the following scenario: He was planning an excursion to the zoo with his wife and newborn. He had some questions for me about the validity/legality of the signage posted that bans the carriage of concealed firearms. Now, technically the property is owned by the city, so the signage shouldn’t be enforceable (due to my non-lawyer understanding), however I advised him to err on the side of caution. While it may not be enforceable and result in a conviction, someone could very well find themselves in a long, drawn out, and expensive legal battle as the test case to establish that precedent.

Everyone treats “No Guns” signage differently

Personally I have a specific, dedicated toolset for the times where I’m going somewhere that bans firearms (30.06 or 51% postings). The gun isn’t the end-all be-all solution, and there are times where it’s not situationally appropriate. Now there are those that take the staunch hard line of “I don’t go anywhere where I’m not allowed to carry a gun”, to which I reply ” Cool story bro. Enjoy your stunted life where you don’t socialize, travel, enjoy the arts, or drink.” I think it’s silly to limit your life experiences based on where you can and can’t carry. But that’s just my opinion. You live your life how you want.

Getting back to my friend’s question, I did a quick analysis for him. I suggested that the likelihood of he and his family being targeted within the park was pretty limited, so the transitional space between his car and the entrance was the most likely battleground, and in that instance good verbal agility, some OC, and decent situational awareness to head off an impending altercation would likely suffice. This is an instance of not having to outrun the bear, but just having to outrun someone else in your hiking party. As long as his little entourage didn’t neatly fit into the victim profile, any potential predator would likely move on to a weaker target.

Those who stay up on these sorts of things may try and sight the Disneyland fight from back in July, or the Great Fredrick Fair event. Here’s the difference. In the Disneyland fight, if you listen carefully, the video starts off with the man ranting at the woman about “disrespecting his daughter”. Sure videos don’t show the whole story, only a limited perspective. But if you watch how this unfolds, it’s pretty apparent that this was an ego driven confrontation that could have been easily avoided, and probably deescalated if the woman had apologized.

Disneyland Fight

Now here’s where a lot of people get wrapped up: I don’t know who was truly at fault, whether the woman did something so egregious that the man was justified in getting on her like that, or if he was just an asshole looking for a fight. It doesn’t matter. If you were in that woman’s position, wouldn’t you rather swallow your pride, and make dude feel like he won instead of having him swing on you? Are you more interested in being right or being safe?

Now, as for the Fairground fight, there’s really only 2 resolutions that I can see: Either a) the teens were looking to jack someone up, and this guy was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, or b) because of how the verbal exchange went, the teens felt offended enough that they were compelled to get even and/or save face (this is something William Aprill covers in depth in his Unthinkable class. Take it)

Great Fredrick Fair Assault Results in Fatality

Point being that, had the man in the video managed the teens more effectively, he may have been able to either disengage entirely without incident, or have gotten a bigger clue thus allowing him to prepare for and defend against the incoming assault. Craig Douglas talks about this verbal agility when he covers his block on Managing Unknown Contacts. It’s one of the most useful skills anyone can learn, and you’ll find yourself using it multiple times a week.

The Gospel of MUC According to Craig

Here’s the kicker: sometimes, if the dude’s just hassling you for 5 bucks, you know what Craig says to do? Give ’em 5 bucks! If you’ve read the situation, and that’s really all they want, that’s all it costs you to prevent things from getting worse. Sometimes it might cost you a fiver. Sometimes it may cost you a little pride. But ultimately, if it avoids further conflict, you’ve gotten them to do what you want, therefore you’ve won.

There are of course those people who take the stance that “concealed means concealed”, so short of there being metal detectors at the entrances, they carry a firearm with them everywhere, regardless of policy or law. My final piece of advice was the same as the title of this post: Do what your stripes can handle. Meaning all actions have consequences, and everyone has to do their own risk analysis.

The last thought I’ll leave you with is this: I’m fortunate enough to know quite a few people who are good at violence. They’re capable people. The interesting common thread amongst all of them is that they don’t seem overly concerned with where they can and cannot carry a firearm. The ones that truly know and understand their own capabilities as fighters simply take the available tools into consideration. It may force them to adjust their tactics, but it won’t have a major impact on their survival. The ones that cling to the firearm as a thing of refuge tend to be the ones with less training, and limited experience pressure testing their abilities.

I forget what gun magazine I saw this in, or what the ad was even for, but the tagline caught my attention: “Either you’re the weapon and your gun is a tool, or your gun is the weapon, and you’re a tool”. Not necessarily the most eloquent, but it certainly drives the point home.

What do you think? Please leave your comments below. I think this is an important dialog to have.

*DISCLAIMER: The Suited Shootist in no way condones violating laws (federal, state, county, city, municipal, etc). At no point should any of my content be construed as a endorsement or encouragement to break the law.
Nor am I a lawyer, or in any way equipped to give legal advice. None of my content should be taken as such. These are merely opinions derived from my personal experiences. They are open to your interpretation. You’re a grown ass adult, so act like one
. If you have questions on these topics, feel free to post them in the comments or message me directly and I’ll be happy to connect you with the appropriate subject matter experts*

Non-Events as Learning Opportunities

Plenty of contributors and content creators on the “Gunterweb” will take news stories and use them as teachable moments. I think that’s a great idea. Otto von Bismarck famously said “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” Before I was ever aware of that quote, I was fond of saying “I’d rather learn from people who learned the hard way”. These are easy to draw lessons from because there’s generally a clear outcome, either positive or negative. 

What I personally find a little more interesting, albeit less dramatic, is dissecting and Monday morning quarterbacking what I call “Non-Events”. These are situations that are seemingly benign, but could have the potential of degrading into something serious if not handled properly. Going through my social media posts, it looks like I average one of these “Non-Events” every year, so I decided to share them, in the hopes that it will encourage others to analyze their habits and how they conduct themselves.

Non Event Jan 2019:

On my way home from work today I stopped to put air in my tires. As I pulled into the air station, I noticed a dude on the corner of the sidewalk. Initially it looked like he’d just left Buc-ee’s and was waiting to cross the street. Except that, after I’d pulled through, dude was still just hanging at the corner. It’s 40° in Houston right now. Nobody’s voluntarily spending more time in that shit than absolutely necessary. (Red Flag number 1)

Here’s where things get interesting: An occupied Pearland Police cruiser was parked almost right next to me, so I figured that would be my scarecrow… Nope!

As soon as I kneel down to put air in my tires, my man starts paying attention to me. As I move to my next tire, my new friend CROSSES IN FRONT OF THE HOOD OF THE COP CAR, and is now positioned between my car and Mr. Popo. (Red Flag #2)

I have my OC palmed already because I’m wearing one of my favorite pairs of shoes and a watch that would be a bitch to get fixed, so you bet your sweet ass I was fixing to hose this fella down if MUC1 didn’t work.

Nothing happened. But it could have easily gone the other way.

Non Event August 2018:

We’re leaving the grocery store, and I see two dudes in line at the Western Union counter “admiring” my wife. It wasn’t a fully predatory look, but every male on the planet recognizes that look as one of less than innocent thoughts.

On any other day I would have just dismissed it, but I had just finished listening to John Johnston ‘s interview with Tim Chandler discussing the Petit family home invasion murders.

I made very direct eye contact with these two, and made damn sure the message received was “I see you motherfucker” Not because of some ego driven notion of defending my wife’s honor, but making sure it was clear that if there was ill intent, they should move on to a softer target.

Some people will call this paranoia, but they are mistaken. I don’t think anyone’s coming to get me. I do however recognize cues of potentially predatory behavior, and know at least loosely how to avoid fitting the template of “the victim”

Did I overestimate the situation? Probably. Did it cost me anything? Not in the slightest. The thing is, I’ll never know if I read the situation correctly or not until it’s too late.

Dr. William Aprill says in his class “weird is enough”

Non Event 2016/2017:

I was gassing up at the local stop & rob in the late morning (around 10-11 AM) before going into work. All I remember specifically is that a truck pulled up to the pumps opposite the gas tank (I could see the gas cap, so they weren’t there to fuel up), and that one of the 2 dudes in the cab had a tallboy in a paper sack. They attempted to engage me verbally, but I politely but abruptly gave them a “I’m good man! Have a good day!”, got in my car and drove off. I decided to remove myself from the situation because Unusual Behavior + Day Drinking = no possible positive outcome for me.

It very well may have been nothing, but I preferred to not stick around and find out. 

Non Event November 2015

So I just had another “non-event” that I figured was worth documenting. Nothing happened, but it definitely is one of those scenarios that most people shrug off, but have the potential to change everything:

Scenario: I was walking my dog around the track behind our house. During my 2nd lap, I noticed a guy walking down the street, and crossed into the area of the park. He was alone. He didn’t have a dog to walk, and he didn’t start walking around the track. I thought he was maybe going to sit down at the bench, but he continued towards the picnic tables.

The initial alert was that this appeared to be an able-bodied man of working age. Now, I’m gainfully employed and was at that park at noon on a weekday, so that in and of itself wasn’t a major alarm bell, but it does deviate from the norm enough to warrant attention.

It was what he did next that elevated my alert level: He appeared to be picking up or looking for cigarette butts around the benches and tables. This isn’t normal behavior. He then started arguing with himself, pretty aggressively. As soon as I heard that, I turned down the street instead of continuing to walk the track.

Seemingly innocent, but these are also the types of situations that end up as headlines and lead stories on the evening news. Previously, I may have just tried to avoid him, but continue on my way. But after reading The Gift of Fear, as well as works by Rory Miller, Greg Ellifritz, and George F Matheis Jr, I had the good sense to “un-ass the area”. I was able to enjoy a leisurely stroll with my pup instead of having an unscheduled date with a cop or EMT.

While you’re out and about, keep your head up. Pay attention to who’s paying attention to you. Did you get home safe because of what you actively did, or were you just not the slowest gazelle today?

What Today [Sept. 11th] Is All About

Tomorrow marks the anniversary of one of the greatest tragedies this country has ever witnessed. You’re going to see a lot of posts, many of them trying to whip up an emotional fervor. This is not one of those posts.

I originally wrote this years ago, and until I come up with something more poignant that does justice to what I’m trying to say, I’m going to keep posting it:

18 years ago this country suffered a tragedy the likes of which it had never seen before. Unfortunately, over the past decade we have lost sight of what September 11 2001 actually represents. People from all over the country have manipulated and misinterpreted the event to serve their own purposes.

I’m as red-blooded and patriotic as the next guy, but this isn’t going to be an “America’s great and we need to destroy evil” kind of commentary. And before all you hippies get excited, anyone who knows me already knows that this ain’t gonna be a “We need to be tolerant, hold hands and hug it out” message either. What today is about is something much simpler than politics or religion. It’s about the people in your life that you care about.

This is something that everyone, myself included, take for granted. How many times have you passed over a friend or family member’s phone number, email address or screen name, thinking “I’ll talk to them later. They’re not going anywhere.” Something else we are all guilty of is investing far too much energy on people that aren’t worth our time: the tailgater, the rude cashier, that jackass that took your parking spot. Collectively we spend more time thinking about people that piss us off (and we usually don’t even know) than those that actually matter in our lives.

September 11 shouldn’t be a representation of people being shitty to each other, we can see examples of that every day. What we have lost sight of is that, for one glimmering moment of clarity, this tragedy brought out the best in every last one of us in America. For a split second our priorities changed.

How many people went to work at the Pentagon and World Trade center that day, or got on what they thought was another routine flight and expected to be able to call their parents, apologize to their wife, hug their kids, or tell someone they loved them as soon as they got home?

That is what today should be all about. Call a friend you haven’t spoken too in a while. Remind your parents you love them. If there’s someone in your life that you love, whether they know it or not, tell them! I’m not saying that life is necessarily short, although it can be. All I’m saying is that (and I apologize for sounding like a motivational speaker) you should live life like you mean it! Lots of people just go through the motions, but I guarantee you can do something that will enrich your day. It’s just up to you to figure out what that is. Just ask yourself this question: If there’s something in your heart that you’re thinking about doing, would you be able to forgive yourself if you never got that opportunity to do it?

Update 2015

The other reality this day forces us to confront is the fact that we live in a world that is sometimes ugly, chaotic, and hostile. Those of you that know me well know that I place very heavy importance on protection and self-defense. I’m not saying everyone has to go out and buy a gun, but this day should serve as a reminder. How many people that perished left their house that morning thinking they were perfectly safe, and that it was a routine day like any other? Tragedy and violence can find any one of us, and can strike at any time. I view it as my personal obligation to take the measures I deem necessary to ensure that I go home safe every day, because I have people who rely on me, and whose safety and well being I am responsible for.

This is going to mean different things for different people. For some, it may simply inspire them to get in better physical shape, and take care of themselves more. For others, it may be the catalyst to take up the mantle of self-protection. It could be as simple as taking a class in trauma first aid, or as extensive as learning the tools and techniques of combatives.

At the end of the day, there is someone that you owe it to to walk through your door safely, and in one piece. Don’t leave it up to chance.


You’ll see a lot of posts today of very evocative imagery and words. A lot of people still expressing anger and disbelief. That, in and of itself, is nothing but emotional masturbation. It’s a self-gratifying act with no significant result.

What are you DOING with that anger? If you’re just sitting there being pissed off, then you’re not contributing to the solution.

There are really only two “right” answers:
1) You either go out and actively try and make the world a better place, through whatever means/methods suit you. Charity, mission work, mentorship, whatever.

2) You better equip yourself to face the violence that my one day come looking for you. Get in better shape. Learn how to fight. Study the criminal mind. Understand predatory behaviors.

Neither one of these is a universal answer, there are some people that just aren’t suited to one or the other. But doing anything other than one of these does nothing to improve the reality that currently exists.

To quote Seth Anderson Bailey “Be love…until it’s time to shoot a motherfucker in the face”

Tribal Warfare

*DISCLAIMER* This post is a little ranty. It’s not about gear, tactics, or training. 

So it’s a rapidly growing trope that you literally can’t say anything online these days without someone taking offense and/or arguing. Everyone is quick with whatever the epitaph du jour is: “triggered”, “snowflake”, “fudd”, “boomer”, “gamer”, “Timmy”, “pansy”, “coward”, etc. There is rampant tribalism online, both within the ecosystem of gun owners and on social media in general.

The common, almost comical examples these days are the “9 vs. 45”, “red dot vs. iron sights”, “AR vs. AK” camps, that almost immediately degrade into an almost Spy vs. Spy level of competition. When confronted with an opposing opinion, the offended party tends to resort to the same formulaic response:

  • Get louder
  • Resort to ad hominem attacks
  • Aggressively establish a superior posture
  • Entrench themselves in their position, digging in their heels
  • Ensures that everyone participating knows just how right they are
  • Has zero concern as to whether they’re advancing the conversation

The MO these days seems to be more focused on being right than actually influencing the opinions of others. And so many of the subject matter experts, and keepers of good information are either too busy or too exhausted to engage with every misinformed opinion on the Dunning Kruger curve. Matt Landfair had an approach that I like, about being good stewards of information. The idea being that:

  1. You’re absolutely not going to win over whomever you’re talking with by being belligerent and combative and
  2. If you’re being an asshole, any 3rd party observers that are not participating in the exchange are more likely to be alienated by that behavior, and more resistant to your point of view. 

It’s as if people’s sense of self is tied directly to them being right. As if them being misinformed would somehow cause their marriage to break up, their house to be foreclosed on, and their employer to go under all in the same day. 

I saw this firsthand the other day. A casual post about how concealment can be tricky, and there are people that pay attention to subtle tells and cues. If you’re interested, you can find the post here. The majority of responses were some flavor of “printing isn’t illegal” or “who cares, nobody ever pays attention anyways”. A few got a bit more antagonistic, demanding examples and proof that exposed firearms are problematic. The most common evidence cited was this article from Greg Ellifritz and these two videos from Varg Freeborn . They were rejected outright. 

Well the funny thing is, there’s a psychological effect called Motivated Reasoning where essentially, when confronted with evidence that challenges a thought process, it’s immediately dismissed as false to reduce the cognitive dissonance. And that’s exactly what I encountered. Despite being presented with that info, some insisted it didn’t matter. Others hurled accusations of shaming or fear mongering. Of the 600+ comments at the time of writing this, maybe 10 of them were constructive. Most of the counterpoints were dismissive. Nobody tried to build an actual case. 

I encountered this again a couple of days ago. In one of the groups I’m a part of, someone had posted an article, taking exception to the term “assault weapon” as a made up term. I’d suggested that, instead of getting hung up on pedantic nomenclature, it would be more productive to try and engage the opposition at the root of their argument, and attempt to shed light on our pro-gun perspectives. Again, this was immediately met with ad hominem attacks and resorting to a variation of the “shall not be infringed” talking point. I merely suggested that it’s more productive to pose a scenario of “Here’s something you may not have considered” instead of “Here’s a list of all the reasons why you’re wrong”. The other participants in the thread seemed far more concerned with building up their castle of being right. 

The Carry Trainer podcast that I mentioned last week addressed the necessity of both verbal agility and social fluency. Those two things seem to be severely lacking within the ranks of gun carriers. It’s astonishing how, within a community that espouses avoidance and de-escalation, people are so willing to immediately resort to the verbal equivalent of grenades.

Oddly enough this seems appropriate to follow last week’s post, because interpersonal communication seems to be the most woefully lacking “tool in the toolbox” of not just gun carriers, but the general public at large. I’m going to suggest a radical idea:

Lighten the fuck up, and don’t assume everyone’s wrong, stupid, or out to get you! Let’s take a breath, and assume that we all ultimately want the same thing: to improve the world at least a little bit. Just because someone’s opinion doesn’t immediately align with ours doesn’t mean they hate us. We may just not understand each other. And it’s unfair to expect someone else to see things from our perspective if they don’t have our context.

Don’t assume everyone else is an asshole. Hanlon’s Razor (with slight modification): Don’t attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by ignorance or misunderstanding.


A Not-So-Quiet Professional

A couple weeks ago, Mickey Schuch of Carry Trainer interviewed Craig Douglas over the course of 3 hours touching on a variety of subjects. One topic was the desire of Craig and the Shivworks Collective to develop multidisciplinary students; people that are multi-faceted. Craig summarized their training goal as “developing someone with the pistol skills of a USPSA Grand Master, the combatives skills of an MMA champion, and the verbal agility of a standup comedian.

That last one confuses some folks…I mean why in the holy name of John Moses Browning would someone with ability to end another person feel it necessary to be good with the words and the putting together sentences making? Well here’s the dirty little secret that is so closely guarded by the cabal of self-defense instructors that my sharing it here may very well result in me getting “yeeted” or “clapped” by a squad of Kryptek-clad ninjas:

Being proficient with words can dramatically reduce your need to use the “hard skills” that we all love to practice so much. In fact, over the dozen years of my gun carrying life, I’ve managed to avoid more conflict verbally than I ever had with a firearm. 

Craig calls this Verbal Agility. Tanner Guzy calls it Social Fluency. Well what the hell is it? It’s the ability to navigate a situation in a way that’s pre-established for you, but not predictable by the other party. Additionally, it helps if your brain is able to process inbound information while the outbound info is being sent. This gets tricky because what you’re saying needs to be crafted in such a way as to not degrade or escalate the situation. This is important because the wrong words, or words used at the wrong time, can throw “gas on the fire” resulting in the very conflict you’re trying to avoid. So the ideal goal is being able to receive and process the inbound information, and have at least a rough framework of the response already pre-established, so that you’re not having to take up RAM figuring out how to respond in the moment.

Enter “The OODA Loop”: The famous, yet routinely misinterpreted decision cycle from Air Force Colonel John Boyd. The part that seems (at least based on my understanding of it) to be misunderstood is the “D”: Decide. Most folks look at the word, and interpret it as “analyze”, actively formulating the response during the process. The true definition of decide is “ to make a choice from a number of alternatives,” which means that the options between which you are deciding are already pre-formulated, and you’re just picking A, B, or C. You need enough social fluency to ensure that your options are suitably inoffensive, and at the same time not so passive as to embolden a would-be attacker. 

So what does all this have to do with the title of the article? Well, as luck would have it, it seems that my chosen profession of sales plays very strongly into this skillset. Over the years, I’ve developed the ability to listen to a client on the phone, engage with them, uncover their needs and build value in my product, while simultaneously building out other orders or performing some other unrelated task. This allows me to almost separate the physical and intellectual parts of my brain, to the point where they can operate independently without drawing bandwidth from the other. 

I realized the benefits of this ability last year, when I attended Cecil Burch’s 2 day combo class Immediate Action Jiu Jitsu/Immediate Action Pugilism. Like most of the Shivworks Collective, a block of instruction is dedicated to Managing Unknown Contacts (MUC). Without divulging too much of the exercise, there is a portion of the drill where you’re engaged verbally, then suddenly having to transition to “default cover” and contend with an assault. It was common to see people vapor-lock, and having to finish what they were saying before they responded. Other folks would transition, but you would watch the switch as their brain went from one task to the other. My experience was actually quite different. For me, I continued my verbal response even as I was physically reacting to the assault.

Working in sales has also made me more sensitive to people’s body language, intonation, and choice of words. Unlike other professionals, my choice of words and timing can have real and immediate impacts to my quality of life, so I’ve learned how to apply them in a manner that yields my desired result. And here’s the fun part: if you get good at this, you can get the other person to think that the desired outcome that you want is their idea! I’m sure that you can see how this translates to personal protection. The idea is best quantified in the book Verbal Judo by Dr. George Thompson; a book equally popular among defense practitioners and business professionals. I highly suggest picking up a copy. 

It’s difficult though, because it’s not an objective, measurable skill. You can’t check yourself against a shot timer or an accuracy standard. There’s not a shiny new piece of gear or crisp certificate that you can show off. The good news is that it’s free to practice, and you can do it literally anywhere. It’s even more fun to do with strangers, if you can pull it off without them getting wise to it. You’d be amazed what people are willing to do if you start off smiling, with a “Hey I’m sorry to bother you, but could you help me out real quick?”. As long as you’re not doing anything dishonest or immoral, I say try it out. 

Those for whom verbal agility and interpersonal skills aren’t part of their daily professional requirements, Toastmasters is still a great option to get more comfortable with speaking. The great thing is that, if properly applied on a broad enough scale, these abilities can have widespread benefits. Suddenly we’re all a bit more cordial to each other; less eager to take offense and, if offended, less likely to lash out with a response that irreparably devolves the situation.

Next time you’re out and about, give it a shot. Here’s something to consider. If you carry a firearm, every little altercation you get into is a potential gunfight…because you’re there and you have a gun. I literally ask myself in those situations where I feel socially wounded “is this worth getting into a gunfight over?”. It takes self control to keep that ego in check. Just remember that carrying a gun doesn’t make you an enforcer of the social contract. That asshole that cut you off in traffic, the selfish jerk that stole your parking spot, all of the inconsiderate people you feel compelled to correct because they’ve somehow wronged you…just let it slide. If someone ends up yelling at you for whatever reason, craft a response that takes the wind out of their sails. Let them be right so they don’t have to get hurt. Try it out. It’s fun.