Concealed Carry in the Era of Terror (Part One)

It is only a matter of time before Islamic terrorists execute a Mumbai or Westgate Mall (or, since I wrote this a week ago, a Garissa University College) style attack in the United States. Consequently, citizens armed against a criminal threat may find themselves drafted in the war for civilization by being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Carrying a concealed pistol to protect against garden variety thugs is a vastly different proposition than confronting terrorists bent on committing murder and mayhem. Here are some planning considerations for this dire eventuality.

Get your mind right, right now

Get this straight in your head. Terrorists are not criminals out to support their drug habit, or a drunken bully looking to throw you a beat down. They are ideologically committed killers determined to use violence to achieve political change. Killing as many as they can in order to maximize the terror impact of their acts is their goal. Do NOT underestimate these people. Take careful note not of just the mass beheadings which are currently in vogue overseas, but the artful manner in which they are now staged and recorded, with high production values throughout. That is highly evolved messaging leveraging modern technology with ancient terror tactics. Remember that dying for their cause is considered a bonus. They won’t be dissuaded, and they won’t be bargained with. They will be heavily armed and adequately trained for their task, which is to slaughter unarmed innocents. Unlike your typical criminal crew, a few shots won’t send them into flight. So, with that in mind, back shoot them without hesitation. The cheaper the shot, the better. As you pass their bodies, “anchor” shoot them, preferably through the brain and from a position of advantage, to ensure there’s not a threat behind you as you move on. While these methods of engagement are illegal and inappropriate for a criminal encounter and would likely see you charged with murder in that context, I suspect a citizen acting this way against a terrorist threat will be given a pass. (Differentiating between the two at that time could be difficult. Choose wisely…) Prepare yourself for mass chaos and carnage. Look at pictures from terrorist attacks and watch video of the bombing of the Boston Marathon. Watch the HBO specials on the first two incidents I mentioned above. That will be the reality confronting you at that time. This brutality cannot shock you into inaction. Be prepared to step over bleeding children, screaming for help, and having to leave them in that condition, possibly to die, as you press ahead to stop the attack, or fight your way out. Consider that terrorists will deliberately strike at our most vulnerable points, such as schools, malls, hotels, air ports, or in a rural area with limited capacity to respond. They will employ ruse and deception, and they will be ruthless and cunning.

This is what success looks like to terrorists.

Finally, and most importantly, decide right now what your purpose is going to be. Are you going to intervene with the goal of thwarting the attack, or are you going to fight your way out of the hot zone and escape? The “Die Hard” series of movies featuring Bruce Willis as a hardcore cop gunning down dozens of terrorists with a Beretta and a spare magazine are entertaining, but the hard cold reality is that about the best you can hope for is to “die well” in that situation.

“Hard Skills” and Some Random Considerations

Can you shoot on the move? How about engage multiple targets while on the move in an environment where a miss means you hit an innocent? These are skills that are hard to attain and difficult to maintain on the square range with the resources most citizens have available to them, but would prove crucial in this sort of confrontation. (Imagine navigating through a panic stricken crowd with your pistol in hand…) Can you operate an AK? That simple rifle is likely what the enemy will bring, and the ability to reload and HIT with it could be crucial if you execute a battlefield pick up. Do you know the difference between cover and concealment, and how rifles EXCEL at turning what you thought was cover into concealment? (Rifle bullets can penetrate a lot of material that would stop a pistol round, and still be lethal.) Can you apply a tourniquet, pack a wound or strap on a pressure dressing? Do you even have the stuff to perform these tasks in your car? A good first aid class and some kit might be a better investment than yet another shooting course. 

An AK-47 pickup drill, waiting to happen, or your worst nightmare? Both?

What is your maximum effective range with your carry pistol? The ability to reliably hit a man-sized target at 50+ yards, from behind cover, would be a useful skill in being able to intervene from a distance. This is one area where I see the trend toward red dots sights (RDS) on pistols as offering a real advantage for most people. Still, at around $800 for a complete set up (not including the gun), plus the retraining, is the cost worth the capability? Maybe I’m just a slow adopter? The evidence is piling up before me, but I still question the utility of an expensive RDS on a daily carry, CCW sort of pistol. Can you “pie a corner” in basic structure clearing? Move stealthily? Employ a flashlight? These also would highly useful skills that won’t magically just happen appear you need them. And let’s talk about you for a minute. Can you run 200 yards nonstop in a time that doesn’t need a calendar to measure? If you can’t, maybe a gym membership and losing 20lbs or so would be a better investment of your time and money than another carbine course. (Are you seeing a theme here?  Shooting is fun, but it is nowhere near the whole game.

John Murphy