Concealed Carry & Home Defense

Tactical: It’s all in your head

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By Ralph Mroz, American Handgunner

I hate the word tactical. I’ve no idea who first coined the term, but we seem stuck with it. In common usage, “tactical” doesn’t mean anything like the dictionary says it does. But by now we all know what we mean when we use the word — or do we? With the wide-spread (ab)use of the ever-so-cool new word, it’s become easy to think unless you have the latest new gee-gaw (in Coyote Brown) you aren’t — tactical. It’s not hard to think unless you can run a gun through a complex course set-up like that guy who just retired after 10 years in military Special Ops, you can’t possibly be tactical. It seems you can’t wear regular clothes anymore — no one can be tactical wearing just jeans and a t-shirt. Is that true?

In fact, tactical means none of these things. Instead, as applied to most of us, it most likely means having realized you are responsible for the safety of yourself — and your family. Think of it in the same way you’re likely responsible for their financial and nutritional wellbeing. Just the same, you’re also responsible for their physical safety. Nothing’s more basic.

So what’s tactical? It means being tactical; having completed a reasonable threat assessment of your situation — emphasis on reasonable. This means not having a Pollyanna-ish view of the world, nor a paranoid fantasy one. Being tactical means having taken reasonable steps to prepare for the likely events threatening your wellbeing. It may also make sense to prepare for the ones so severe that their severity counter-balances their relative infrequency. Think: bombings, mass-murderers or terrorist attacks.


Even in the hands of a trained adolescent teen,
this S&W .22 auto may serve as good “tactical”
tool in defense of his family. Photo: Steve Sieberts


In Practice?

In this light I have no respect for the strange-rangers who are loaded up and prepped for the apocalypse, but who never exercise and who eat crap. After all, poor heart health is a far greater threat than a Mad Max type post-apocalyptic societal breakdown.

What’s this “tactical” thing look like in practice, for a normal person? It certainly means knowing first aid and CPR and having fire extinguishers around your home. Clint Smith has warned about these basic ideas for years — and he’s right. It means having a gun (or a few) and knowing how to use them. For almost everyone there are some reasonable threat possibilities, which can only be dealt with by a weapon. To paraphrase Jeff Cooper: “We should be thankful we have guns, because some people need to be shot.”

And no, you don’t need the newest cool gun or cartridge. A 40-year-old .38 revolver and a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun will probably be “enough gun” for the average person. However, your job will probably be easier — and you’ll have a higher chance of success — if you use a standard-capacity pistol and an AR platform rifle. Even then, the basics here will do — you don’t need multi-thousand dollar guns — although most people will benefit from a few intelligently selected after-market modifications like lights and a good trigger.

Far more important than the equipment you have, in terms of being actually “tactical” (as opposed to looking tactical), is what’s in your head. You have to have made the decision you will employ all-out, but controlled, counter-veiling violence — if necessary. If there’s nothing in your background that has verified this for you, then think long and hard about it, because nothing’s more basic. If a fight comes — and it just might — you need to be ready for it and confident in your ability to respond.


There’s no doubt this Franklin Arms compact AR is highly effective —
in the right hands. Simply possessing it doesn’t make someone
“tactical” in the least.


Learn The Basics

You should also have acquired some baseline level of skill in street-realistic empty-hands and firearms use. With all the excellent instructors available in person and digitally these days, this is not difficult to do. I’m constantly amazed most gun owners who claim they have (or carry) a gun for self-defense have actually no realistic training in its use. Nor do they have any empty-hands skills, which are more likely to be needed. Moreover, and even scarier, they have zero training in the lawful use of force, including deadly force. They think because they may be a NRA instructor or club match competitor they are good-to-go for the street. That’s not tactical — that’s ignorance, heading for disaster.

If tactical means anything in our lives, it means “Concerned with the legal and appropriate use of force, and being prepared for the encounter.” Being tactical is, therefore, ultimately a fundamentally practical concern. Like all challenging endeavors, it depends far more on what’s in your head than what’s in your kit, or gun safe or even your Zombie Apocalypse fallout shelter.

It’s a state, and state of mind, within the reach of all of us. Don’t get distracted by the hardware — it’s the software that counts most.

Thanks to American Handgunner for this contribution. Click here to visit themclick here to get American Handgunner delivered to your door for $9.95 a year.

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