Interview #3: Raymond Dettinger – On Firearms for Personal Protection – Part II


Erik: In many areas of the United States, it common for the “average” citizen to turn to carrying a firearm for personal safety. What do you think this person needs to know or do in order to effectively carry a firearm for self-defense? By “average”, I mean someone plucked at random from the Registry of Motor vehicles, not someone with specialized training, skills, or education.

Ray:  Good question.

  1. Awareness training.  Risk assessment.  Types of violence social vs asocial one may encounter.  Know how violence and the participants think, act and feel.  Authors Rory Miller, Marc MacYoung, and yourself have written extensively on these subjects.  These are at the top of the self defense list.  If you fail in these things, you have already failed in your self-defense.  If you have to resort to empty hand defense, it is haphazard at best even though you may be highly skilled.  There is a good probability you could get hurt or killed no matter.  If you are armed and have to draw your weapon, that is haphazard also.  Depending on the situation, you can wrongfully shoot somebody or get the weapon taken from you.  Carrying a gun for self-defense is one awesome responsibility.  Just avoid stupid people, in stupid places doing stupid things and you will be alright 90% of the time.  Stay away from young males 16-25.  Stay away from where these males hang out.
  1. Legal Justification for using armed (and unarmed) lethal force.   You have to absolutely know your state laws for self-defense.  Just because you draw your weapon out does not mean you have to shoot your attacker.  Just drawing and presenting your weapon can stop an attack.  Thus, if a criminal stops his attack on you when drawn upon, you probably are not justified in shooting him.  Your goal in any self-defense is to STOP the attack, if you can, without hurting somebody.  Also, you must incorporate legal justification in all of your unarmed and armed scenario training.  Scenario training is necessary when armed or unarmed.  This gives your students the rules of engagement in a violent encounter.  I have seen too many instructors in Karate teach their students lethal finishing techniques in their dojos without thought of legal repercussions.  They say, do this and do that then finish him off with an edged hand to the throat.  This is teaching their students to kill without thought.  It works fine in lethal confrontations but not in less violent encounters.  A student has to constantly monitor his/her attacker as the fight goes on to determine if lethal force is justified or not.  It could change second by second in an encounter.
  1. Recognizing and accepting the Adrenal Stress Response (ASR).  This is the biggest problem.  If you cannot control this, any form of self-defense will be less effective.  The problem is that nobody really knows exactly how to control this ASR.  Brain science is still in its infancy stage.  Not much is known about how the brain reacts under stress.  It is anybody’s guess.  Peyton Quinn’s RMCAT and Bill Kipp’s FAST ATTACK would be a start for anybody.  I would recommend these courses wholeheartedly.  Another important fact is that the self-defense methods you learn should be able to work under the effects of the ASR.  This is what William E. Fairbairn learned during his tenure as a commando firearms trainer in WWII.  He developed a method that is easy and accurate to use when shooting under the ASR.  I have modified/modernized his methods to make it better.  At least I think so. Students say it is good.
  1. Basic Empty Hand strikes and defenses.  Since most violence occurs at close range where people can be punched, grabbed and wrestled to the ground, people have to learn how to deal with the most common attacks using the simplest of technique.  Forget the complicated fancy martial arts stuff for now.  Some call these simple techniques gross motor techniques.  Thus, if attacked by surprised because you failed in your awareness, you may have to defend against a punch or other type of attack before you can gain distance and, thus, time to draw your gun to re-assess the situation to shoot or not shoot.  Sometimes, the presence of a gun will stop the attack.  We already mentioned that.  Face it, if you are knocked out with the criminal’s first action, you will be disabled, dead and the criminal now has a free gun to kill somebody else with it.  So, carrying a gun for self-defense requires you to know more than just carrying it and shooting it.  You have to approach concealed carry with intelligence and not bravado.  Bravado can get you killed.  Also, if you do draw your gun out, you must realize that you are escalating the confrontation to the lethal level.  The criminal may start his punch and you block and draw your gun but he may have one too and draw his to match your level of force.  All kinds of things come into play here.  We create these situations in Scenario play.  This forces the student to always think about what is going on during the confrontation.  Everybody makes mistakes in scenario playing.  From grand masters to beginners.  It is a whole new level of training.  Sometimes, there are no win situations presented.  Of course, laser or airsoft guns are used with protective clothing.
  1. Basic handgun retention skills are required in case somebody tries to grab your gun.
  1. Basic disarming techniques to get your gun back.
  1. Reliable Equipment.  Do not go cheap with your life.  Buy quality guns and equipment.  How much is your life worth?
  1. Knowledge of your gun’s action and the action of other guns
  1. Shooting Skills using the eyes and gun sights and Center Line Shooting with no sights.
  1. Basic Tactical skills of gun fighting.

If any one of these subjects is left out of a firearms class, then it is insufficient training.  However, many instructors have never heard of the above concepts to even think about teaching them.  It is not their fault as they were taught that way by their trainer.  I fault what I call “The Traditional Training Establishment” for not making firearms training better to incorporate the above subjects into their training.  For every activity/sport there is a Traditional Training Establishment for it who makes the rules and policies that dictate the training.

However, there are plenty of reasons for better training not being accomplished.  Learning all of the above cannot be taught in two hours.  There are few skilled instructors around who teach the stuff.  Lack of funds to take longer courses.  Lack of motivation of people to seek better well rounded training to keep them out of jail or out of the graveyard.  It is just easier to go out and buy a gun, stick it on your pocket or pocket book and tell people, “I’ll just get my gun out and shoot em”.


Erik: Regarding this hypothetical “average” citizen, what are three things/practices/beliefs that this person usually does “right” or correctly regarding carrying a firearm for self-defense?

What are three things/practices/beliefs that this person usually does “wrong”?

Ray: Regarding this hypothetical “average” citizen, what are three
things/practices/beliefs that this person usually does “right” or
correctly regarding carrying a firearm for self-defense?


Here is my take on this question about what people do right when they decide to carry a firearm for self-defense.

  1. The person makes the decision that they are absolutely willing to terminate a life in a self-defense situation before they even consider buying a firearm and carrying it.
  1. The person makes the choice of self-defense with firearms in lieu of or with other options.  Firearms are the most efficient tools for self-protection for all people especially smaller and weaker ones.
  1. The person is aware enough to attend or pursue firearms training and continue to train.  Do not rely on Uncle Charlie to teach you.  He may not know what he is doing either.  Seek professional training from a professional trainer or school.  Remember, everybody who owns a firearm thinks they are an “expert”.  Seen it over and over again.  Myths and stupid practices get passed down from each generation.

When looking at a shooting school for training, make sure it is a well-rounded program that includes the knowledge and skill sets you will need.  You may have to go to multiple schools or trainers to get well rounded firearms training.  Do not forget books, videos, magazines and the internet for training.  Be critical of the training advertised.  It may be what you need or maybe not.  You have to find out just what the school or trainer is teaching and why they teach it.  Is it target shooting oriented, sport combat or civilian self-defense shooting?


Regarding: What are three things/practices/beliefs that this person
usually does “wrong”?

Here is my take on this question about what people do wrong when they decide to carry a firearm for self-defense.

  1. A person chooses the wrong firearm for his/her purposes.  He/she buys a Dirty Harry .44 magnum pistol instead of a pocket .380 semiautomatic pistol or .38 revolver.  This is a big problem I have seen over the years.  A slick firearms dealer convinces a woman or small person to buy a Dirty Harry .44 magnum knowing that it will only be shot once since it will frighten the new owner out of his/her shoes after the first shot is fired.  Boyfriends/husbands are really guilty about buying large caliber firearms too big for the psychological and physical makeup of their girlfriends and wives. This applied to men too however.  Most have a hard time shooting these big guns – even experienced shooters have trouble shooting them.  When a person chooses a firearm, he/she has to look at its reliability.  Does it fit his/her hand properly?  Are the front and rear sights clear to the vision?  Is the trigger hard to pull?  Is it accurate?  Is it easy to operate and maintain?  Also, you do not want a firearm with hundreds of extra bells and whistles on it – too complicated even for me.  Also, cost has to be taken into consideration.  Bottom line is that most people do not take the time up front to do their research to find out what type of firearm would be best suited to their psychological and physical makeup.  It is best if you can try out the firearm before you buy it.  Some firearms dealers have a shooting range attached to their store.  You can shoot your perspective firearm there before you buy it.

Also, no thought is given on how to carry the pistol in a comfortable manner that can be easily drawn and pointed quickly from concealed carry.  Wrong gun, wrong equipment, wrong ammo and wrong skills lead to disaster during a crisis.  To carry a firearm effectively, one must research all of these things or get training in concealed carry.  There is a lot of information out on this subject so it is easy to gather information on concealed carry.

  1. Most new firearms owners are not experienced enough to pursue, choose and attend adequate training courses that encompasses both the psychological and biochemical effects of violence along with how these things effect the physical manipulation and firing of their handgun – the ASR.  They fall for the same old training that does not include how the ASR will effect their armed self-defense capabilities or legal judgments during a violent confrontation.

Most traditional courses emphasize SAFETY and marksmanship over actual gun fighting skills along with other required training already discussed in question #3. A good course that incorporates the psychological and biochemical effects of handgun violence would be Peyton Quinn’s RMCAT.  His “Stress Shooting Course” would address all of these concerns in a very short amount of time.  I would highly recommend his course for anybody who is planning to carry a concealed firearm for self-defense. For info:

  1. Another wrong thing people do is that they purchase their new firearm, they take it out to the shooting range, shoot two or three rounds and place it back into the box and into the bedroom closet never to be seen again for years – maybe never again based on their experience with it.  When they need it, they cannot find it and clueless on how to load and shoot it, especially under stress.  After a firearm is purchased, you need follow on training and practice.

Now days, I tell people to buy a plastic airsoft BB gun that is a replica/copy of their real firearm and practice with it in their back yard or even in their homes.  The closer the airsoft firearm comes to replicate the action of their real firearm, the better it is.  Buy one operated by gas or batteries since they replicate the real firearm’s action better than the single shot spring types.  All you are missing with the airsoft firearms is the recoil and loud bang.  The rest is the same.   These airsoft replicas are also cheap to shoot compared to the overwhelming cost of real ammo now days.  The days where you could buy a case of 500 rounds of .9mm for $80.00 and shoot all day with live ammo are gone.  I do miss those days however.  Many firearms instructors, including myself, first teach basic and advanced firearm skills with airsoft firearms.  They are always treated as if they are real firearms throughout training.  After airsoft training is done, real firearms are used.  Airsoft firearms increases the safety of training and saves time and money.  They also are less intimidating when first learning to shoot.  People are not afraid of them right from the start.  Thus, airsoft firearms makes it easy to transition to real firearms safely.  All of the skills learned on airsoft are transferred to the real firearm.


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