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Lessons to be Learned

There were certainly a lot of lessons and takeaways from the 2016 Election, especially for cops. The platform of the liberal Democrat Party was repudiated and refuted in over 3000 counties of the total 3143 counties or parishes in the United States of America.

Americans voted as much against the last 8 years of the Obama Administration as they did for the person of Donald Trump. A vote for Trump was a vote against Hillary Clinton and her continuation and support of the policies of Comrade Barry.

Since his “acted stupidly” comment in 2009, Barack Obama and, by extension, all the agencies controlled by the Executive Branch of government have been waging a war on American cops. From the DOJ “Pattern and Practice” investigations, to White House spokesmen making blanket accusations of systematic racism, to Obama inviting the leaders of Black Lives Matter to D.C. and congratulating them, the Federal government’s war on cops has raged.

The cost of the Obama War on Police has been dozens of murdered police officers nationwide, innumerable cops persecuted by politically motivated prosecutors, a destruction of morale from top to bottom, good cops leaving the job out of sheer frustration and anger.

And, of course, a greater rift between the people and the police.

Having your Back, Cops

If you wear the polyester uniform and badge, there was indeed a lesson for you on November 8, 2016. The productive, responsible people of the United States are sick and tired of the Obama War on Police. By taking power away from big government Democrats, the people took away most all of their power to wage war on local cops.

A huge number of those who voted to end the war on cops were members of the American Gun Culture, not gun owners, but a Gun Culture. These are the people with permits or in Constitutional Carry States who carry a gun every day.

One member of the Gun Culture just saved the life of a Florida deputy who was being pummeled on I-75. That was not the first time an armed citizen has come to the aid of a police officer in America, and we pray it will not be the last.

Us vs. Them

The 2016 Election message could not be more clear for American cops nationwide. It is not big government that has your back. Big government sees local cops as muscle to enforce their edicts on the peasants.

If they need to appease their criminal voting blocks, big government will happily sacrifice local cops on their political altar. Big government Democrats have demonstrated time and again that dead cops are good for their business.

If you cannot see who truly stands behind American law enforcement by now, stop reading and go about your business. However, for the rest of us, I must issue you a serious challenge.

It is beyond time to end the “Us vs. Them” mentality in American law enforcement. I am not talking about Cops vs. Criminals, I am talking about the elitist Us vs the Civilians mentality that is far too prevalent today.

Far too often have I run into cops who have the “Only cops should carry guns.” or “Only cops should be allowed to own that kind of gun.” mentality. All of the “leave it to the professionals” people in law enforcement have completely missed the lesson, and they have aligned themselves with the same group that will feed them to the lions if it will please their minions.

For the last eight years, we have witnessed scenes where cops were not being used as “law enforcement officers” but as “policy enforcement thugs”. Big government loves to use cops as their disposable gestapo to punish the errant peasants.

Eric Garner died while police officers were enforcing the taxation policies of New York City. Garner was not engaged in Malum In Se, but Malum Prohibitum. Never forget this, the moment the spotlight fell on the social Democrat, big government Mayor of NYC, he turned his back on the cops. Cops are disposable assets to big government.

Choice to Make

If you have made law enforcement your chosen career, you have a serious choice to make. Are you going to uphold your oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, the Bill of Rights, and your State Constitution? Will you support the productive, responsible people of your community? Or, will you engage in the Us vs. Them, elitist behavior? Will you allow yourselves to be used as big government muscle, a disposable gestapo that they can throw away and disavow at their leisure?

I’m sure some of you are out there saying, “I’m a cop. I took an oath to protect and serve. You cannot ask me to take sides.” Sure, in a wonderful fairytale land that might be true, but here in the real world you cannot serve two masters.

You can choose to serve and protect the people who have shown you by their actions that they want to have your back. Or, you can choose to align yourself with big government elitists, and pray that you are able to take advantage of the perks that come with selling your soul before they decide to betray you.

Whatever choice you make, know this. America is watching.

Watch their hands. It’s the hands that will kill you.” That advice has been offered in police academy classrooms and in-service training for decades upon decades. Like much that we have heard and learned over the years, if it sounds reasonable and rational, we glom on to it and repeat it ourselves over and over again without ever giving it a second thought.

Every year, American law enforcement officers have thousands of successful use of force encounters where the officer(s) involved does it right. However, we still have too many cases where a legitimate good guy is shot and killed despite circumstances determining they should not have been.

“Blue on Blue” shootings destroy multiple lives. The officer on the receiving end of the negligent rounds now has a widow(er) and fatherless children. Those who delivered the negligent rounds have to live with the fact that they killed another officer mistakenly.

Training the Target

For as long as I’ve been involved in the arena, and that has been nearly thirty years now, we have tried to solve the Blue on Blue or mistaken identity shooting problem by putting the onus on the target. Tools and techniques for off-duty officers and armed good guys have been offered. Special shooting techniques for holding your badge and gun while in plainclothes have been developed. Unique “off-duty” jackets with pull down “POLICE” placards have been sold by the thousands.

For years I carried a specially designed waistpack that when opened had a large Velcro patch with “POLICE” boldly displayed as a potential deterrent against mistaken identity shooting. I suppose that pack is in a box upstairs somewhere.

Discussion versus Practice

Despite the profiling boogie-man and the modern PC advice against it, veteran cops understand that genuine bad guys tend to all behave in certain ways and that paying attention to visual cues more often than not will pay off. Salty vets can spot a bad guy just by looking at him.

In the aftermath of a mistaken identity shooting, the knee-jerk reaction of the administration is most often to make everyone sit through an in-service Use of Force class. Unfortunately, the majority of these sessions are simply warmed-over basic academy periods of instruction. These classes talk about observation, verbal commands, and again, stress how off-duty officers should behave so as not to get shot. There are even numerous policies that off-duty cops are expected to memorize and follow so as not to be a victim.

While there certainly are mistaken identity shootings where an officer ‘thought’ they saw a weapon but it turned out not to be so, these cases are a rare minority. The majority of mistaken identity shootings occur when the bona fide good guy has a gun in hand and responding uniformed officers shoot them. Rarely does the off-duty guy get shot because he pointed or threatened the patrol guys with the gun, he/she gets shot because there were “holding” a gun.

Live-Fire Training to Kill People with Guns

Shoot-house and scenario based training where officers must address full-color human-like paper targets have been vogue for decades. Many companies offer targets with special overlays to change a “man w/gun” target to a “man w/cellphone” target. You can get a paper “badge” overlay to tape/glue onto the plainclothes target to make it appear to be an off-duty officer.

Consider the last live-fire scenario shoot house training you went through. If the scenario is like most I’ve attended and I’ve attended a lot, there will be numerous full color paper targets throughout. Some have guns, some don’t. As the student progresses through the scenario they shoot the targets holding guns and, if they are locked on, they don’t shoot the ones without guns. If a student shoots a target without a gun they are remediated and possibly fail the course.

Rarely, if ever, does the student ever fail to engage a target that is in possession of a gun.  There’s a fifty/fifty chance that they won’t shoot the plainclothes guy with a gun and a ‘badge’ overlay on his belt. How many times have you scored these paper targets and found bullet holes in the guns? This despite the fact that the gun is held waist level and we understand that a good stopping shot is in the upper chest?

Officers will instinctively, if unconsciously key in on the gun and put all of their focus on it. It is the gun that is their signal to fire and that is exactly what they do. Whether or not it has ever been verbalized, the lesson is that the gun, not the man, is the threat and the possession of a gun is the mental cue to fire. We are literally training our officers to kill people in possession of guns, motivation or actions be damned.

Thousands of man hours every year are devoted to training officers to shoot targets with guns and not shoot those without guns. This is practical live-fire, not classroom discussion. We see the end result on the street every year and scratch our heads wondering why.  After all of those in-service briefings, why do Blue on Blue shootings still continue to happen?

Paper targets do not display emotions or actions. We cannot divine the intent of a colored paper man in a flannel shirt holding a gun. What do we do? We shoot him because he is holding a gun. You will not find a full-color paper target with a man in a police uniform to mix into the shoot/no shoot scenario. Why, because no company on Earth would make one. Are you kidding? We can’t make a ‘target’ with a cop in uniform. Holy Hell, are you insane?

Pause for a moment. Did you ever think that in your shoot houses you might want to put ‘No Shoot’ targets that look like guys in uniform? If you can manage it, put a paper target of a guy in uniform in your next shoot house training session. Consciously observe the reaction of your officers as they enter a room that has been designated as “Man w/Gun” call or “Domestic Violence” and come face to face with a cop in uniform.

One School’s Solution

A few years ago I attended training at the Combat Shooting and Tactics school. I knew that the CSAT owner and chief instructor, Paul Howe, retired US Army, Special Forces, understood the problem of mistaken identity shooting. During a telephone conversation with Paul I asked for his thoughts on the situation. “A lot of shooters will work on shooting fast, but they don’t work on discrimination. Your target discrimination skills have to be on par with your shooting skills. See fast, shoot fast is how we do it.”

Howe went on and elaborated. “We teach our shooters for first observe the whole person, then the hands, and the waistline. Shooters must take in the entire situation, not just ‘Is he holding a gun? During, scenario training we put the paper badge photos in different places on the targets so the students must take into account the entire picture, not just the gun.”

Parting Thoughts

If we are honest with ourselves, we will have to admit that all the briefings and policies are not stopping Blue on Blue / mistaken identity shootings and off-duty cops are being shot for simply holding a gun.

As long as we continue to carry on the live-fire training regime of shooting anyone with a gun this will continue to happen. It is the definition of insanity to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result. For decades we’ve been trying to treat the problem of mistaken identity shootings the same way and wonder why they keep happening.

The very hard but honest question you must ask yourself is this; does our training teach our officers to instinctively shoot anyone that is holding a gun? It doesn’t matter how many times your people sit through a Justifiable Use of Force class and reexamine Ability, Opportunity and Intent, if all of your live-fire focuses on ‘kill the guy with the gun’ that’s what is going to keep happening, regardless of visible badge holders or Velcro pull-down signs.

Rather than simply train people to instinctively shoot anyone out of uniform with a gun, it may be time to rethink our Force on Force and reality based training scenarios. Will this take dedicated time and effort? I suppose it will. The other option is to simply continue to do what we’ve always done and be shocked and saddened the next time a patrolman shoots an off-duty cop.

About the Author

Paul Markel has been US Marine, Police Officer, Professional Bodyguard and a firearms industry writer for twenty years. He is the author of the new book “Student of the Gun; A beginner once, a student for life.”  Paul hosts and produces “Student of the Gun” a show dedicated to education, experience, and enjoyment of firearms.  Episodes of SOTG can be viewed by simply going to www.studentofthegun.comand clicking the “play” icon.

In this column we’ve previously discussed off-duty guns and some of the hardware choices available to modern lawman.  When we are carrying off-duty, as well as on, we must understand that we need more than a firearm.  Guns aren’t a mystical talisman or magical good luck charm.  They are merely tools we use to keep ourselves and those we care about safe.

The great thing about a duty belt is that you can carry a lot of gear and you don’t need to worry about concealing it.  When we put on street clothes, we need much of the same gear we carry on duty, but now we need to conceal it and carry it comfortably.  The comfortable part is the tallest order.

Off-Duty Lights

We spend about half of our life either in the dark or reduced light situations.  As a human being, your eyes require light to gather the information your brain needs to process the situation.  No light, no information, no plan.

In our modern era there are a plethora of high-quality, super-bright flashlights from which to choose.  Duty lights from SureFire and Streamlight come in a number of sizes and configurations.  However, as light-weight and portable as they are many of these personal tactical lights can be a chore to carry in plainclothes, particularly in shorts and t-shirt weather.

During this month’s column we’re going to take a close look at two lights that are now in the running for ‘Best Off-Duty Flashlight’.  You can decide for yourself.

Brite-Strike Executive

I must admit that I discovered this light quite by accident.  The Brite-Strike EPLI (Executive) was a gift from a friend and one for which I am most grateful.  For those unaware, Brite-Strike has been chipping away at the tactical light market once dominated by the big dogs.

First of all, the Executive light is indeed a white LED with a focused beam.  Of the two lights featured herein, this one is ‘long and thin’.  The Executive’s size is actually deceptive, looking at it you wouldn’t believe the light is as powerful as it is (220 Lumens) or that it is so stout and well made.

Checking the manufacturer’s specs, the Executive is 5.125 inches long and just a hair over one-half inch at the bezel.  The total weight is only 1.2 ounces as the body is constructed primarily of aluminum.  Two AAA batteries provide the power source.  A spring-steel pocketclip is included as well.

A tailcap switch is used to activate the light and it has three levels or settings.  First click is the brightest light at 220 Lumens, the second click or press is the low setting at 110 Lumens and the third click is a bright strobe option.  Every option can be momentary with a light press of the tailcap or constant by pressing the switch until it clicks.

Naturally the Executive light can be used in conjunction with a sidearm in order to clearly and positively identify potential threats.  Any light is good for utility tasks such as looking under the car seats or illuminating dark corners.  The third use for a light such as this is a less-than-lethal force tool.   When held in a closed fist, the bezel end can be quite the attention getter for those who are misbehaving but not yet crossed into the deadly force zone.

Next up on the list is a light that I long ago dubbed the “J-frame of flashlights”.  The SureFire Backup light might not be the biggest or brightest light in the catalog, but it is so convenient to carry that it is the one you will, or should, always have on you.

Powered by a single 123A lithium battery, the Backup is the ‘short and fat’ member of the team.  Since its introduction a few years ago the Backup® has undergone several modifications.  Naturally, in the flashlight business they are always striving for more power.  The Backup lights today a much brighter than the original models.

SureFire also offered the Backup lights with various switching configurations.  My first model had a dual-light capability with high (80 lumens) and low (5 Lumens) output.  I also have a single output Backup that has 120 Lumen output.  Those of you who have been paying attention might know that the original Backup light was cataloged as the E1B, the latest model is a slight variation called the EB1.

As I put pen to paper the current EB1 Backup from SureFire is a dual output white LED flashlight.  The high setting is a whopping 200 Lumens.  Yes, 200 Lumens on a single battery.  The low setting is 5 Lumens for reading, etc.  The beam is a fixed focus.

The EB1 is 4.4 inches long and 1.1 inches wide at the bezel end.  Construction is aluminum and a two-direction utility clip in included.  Naturally, a tailcap switch is used to activate the light.  Modern Backup lights can be had in anodized black, desert tan, or silver.

Parting Thoughts

While I’ve been carrying the SureFire Backup every day for going on five years now, I am certainly impressed by the Brite-Strike Executive.   Both lights provide ample light for a tactical application and are so light and compact as to offer little to no excuse for not having a light on your person anytime you are wearing clothes.  As for an alternate use of force, the tough aluminum construction of both lights gives your strikes much greater impact.

There you have it folks, two extremely well-built lights that easily qualify for off-duty carry.  The hard part is now making the choice between the two.  But that’s up to you.  Check out   www.brite-strike.com  and www.surefire.com.

3 Methods to Prevent Your Son from Becoming a Pussy

Grappling is an excellent method to prevent vagination in boys.

“Surprised” is not really the word I would use to describe my feelings when reading the latest story about the Boy Scouts of America. I suppose “disappointment” or “chagrin” might be more apt descriptors added in with a bit of sadness or malaise.

In case you missed the dozens of different outlets that featured the story, on May 20, 2015, the NY Post published a story highlighting the new rules in the Boy Scouts of America official handbook prohibiting the use of squirt guns and strictly limiting the use of water balloons (yes, water balloons).

The story quoted the BSA manual stating:

“[P]ointing any type of firearm or simulated firearm at any individual is unauthorized”. To continue, water balloons may be used but only if they are no larger than a ping pong ball and “biodegradable”.

To be fair, it seems that pellet-guns, .22 rifles, muzzle-loading rifles and shotguns will remain in the official Boy Scout Shooting Sports curriculum. One has to ponder if boy scouts cannot be educated to tell the difference between shooting someone with a live firearm and dowsing your buddy on a hot summer day with a water-filled toy. This story is not in and of itself the disease of Vagination in modern America, but more a symptom of that malady. Folks, far too many of your fellow citizens are raising their sons to be pussies. It is not my aim to be trite or glib. As a matter of fact, I mean to be frank with you. The United States of America that your great-grandfather or grandfather fought to preserve and defend is eroding from under our feet and we are largely to blame. During the recent unpleasantness, I spent three years teaching Small Arms and Tactics to U.S. Military personnel. The vast majority of our students ranged from age 18 to 21, the age of my own son at the time. What I discovered first hand from working every day of the week with these kids was that we have largely failed to prepare them for the rigors of adulthood and civic duty. What is even more frightening is that the young people I worked with were the uppermost percentage of their peers as they had at very least graduated from Basic Training before they arrived at our Expeditionary Combat Skills School.

3 Methods to Prevent Vagination

Although this article has been rolling around in my head for quite some time, the BSA story forced me to take action. What follows is an extremely thoughtful dissertation of three methods I believe will aid our sons and help them to become men who are worthy of citizenship in the United States of America, not France.

I feel certain that most of you reading this will, by virtue of following Student of the Gun, have implemented some of these, but perhaps not. Understand that, like the Drill Instructor who takes you to the pit or quarterdeck for extra PT, I undertake this mission not with malice in my heart, but with love. Read on MacDuff.

Martial Arts Training

When I say “Martial Arts” I do not mean cardio kickboxing or what passes as Tae Kwon Do in contemporary America. Modern “kids Karate” is like soccer in white cotton uniforms. The best it serves to do is work out some of the hyper-active energy from your little crumb-crunchers.

Boys need to tussle; they need to rough it up with other boys. We know that the liberal indoctrination centers that we laughingly refer to as public schools frown upon boys being boys and tussling with each other. “Use your words little Billy”. Try using your words when a crackhead is smashing your head into the asphalt so he can take your last $20 or when Johnny Jihad has that rusty knife pressed to your throat.

No, I am not telling you that your son should be a Krav Maga black belt at age nine, but he should also not pee in his pants the first time he is physically accosted by a bully. Your son will have to deal with bullies his entire life. Bullies do not go away when you leave junior high.

Traditional collegiate-type wrestling is a great place to start. Throughout the entire history of man, societies understood this. It is only in our great modern and vaginated state that we cannot understand its value.

From a more traditional standpoint, Jiu Jitsu (Japanese or Brazilian) are both fantastic ways to teach your boys to tussle with other boys in a productive manner. Punching and kicking the air or foam filled pads is fun, but nothing instills genuine confidence in physical abilities like grappling sports. And, unlike boxing, with grappling little Billy doesn’t risk the broken nose and concussion his grandma is afraid he will get.

Farm Work

Yes, I fully understand that the vast majority of you are reading this from the confines of some metropolitan area. I was blessed and consider myself infinitely fortunate that my parents took us out of the city of Detroit and transplanted us in rural Holmes County when I was 15 years old.

Farm work, from a physical standpoint, forces a boy to exert himself like no other type of work can. We had wood burning stoves in the house and if we wanted to stay warm in the winter we needed a woodshed full of split logs before the frost came. You may be familiar with the old saying that a wood burning stove warms you twice; once when you split the wood and once when you burn it.

Taking care of animals teaches responsibility that cannot be learned from a book. The livestock needs to be fed, every single day, morning and evening. The horses and cows do not care if you are warm in your bed or tired. Don’t even get me started on dairy cows.

I recall hard winters when the water pump in the barn froze and I had to haul five-gallon buckets of water, one in each hand, from the house to the barn before high school so the animals would have something to drink.

You think your burger flipping job is tough? Try spending an entire sweltering day in July filling a hayloft with freshly baled hay and straw (P.S. round bales are for pussies. I kid, I kid, calm down). Spend an early spring weekend pitching the manure that built up all winter long into a spreader. Then come and tell me your job at Subway is soooo stressful.


Teach your sons to respect firearms just as they would respect the dangers of power tools. Speaking of which, make your son mow the lawn. For Pete’s sake, tell your wife that it is not going to kill your son to mow the damn lawn once in a while. When I was ten years old, I pushed a lawn mower around our yard every week April to October and it was nearly a half-acre. No, I didn’t die.

Back to guns, teach your kids the 4 Universal Safety Rules as soon as they are old enough to understand fire is hot and razor blades are sharp. Make use of .22 LR rifles and pistols (either you or one of your friends is sitting on 5000 rounds of .22 rimfire, quit hoarding it and teach your kids to shoot). I have personally worked with hundreds of 4H Shooting Sports youth who are now productive adults.

When your son is physically and mentally mature enough, teach them to shoot a centerfire handgun and rifle. As they progress I highly recommend that you have them shoot reactive targets; steel is the most common type. Get your sons up and off of the shooting bench and have them hold the gun in their hands. By this time they should be responsible enough to control their actions and behave in a safe manner. If they violate safety rules, be sure that they understand what they did and why it is important not to behave that way.

Parting Thoughts

Your sons are only going to be children (little boys) for a very short period of time. It is during this time that they learn how to be men. Expecting a boy to magically become a man on his eighteenth birthday is the height of naiveté and silliness.

As I mentioned at the outset, societies throughout the entire history of the world, going all the way back to Greece and Egypt, knew that a boy is a man in training. Train them up right and they will be productive citizens, prepare them for the ugly and unfair world they are about to enter.

Coddling your sons, attempting to shield them from all that is rough, ugly, and dangerous is the greatest form of child abuse you can inflict. I’m not telling you to name the poor kid “Sue”, but stop treating your sons like fragile little babies. I am deadly serious when I tell you that the United States of America cannot survive another generation of man-boys, weak-willed little ninnies who cry and run for their momma when things don’t go their way.