In my first article, I covered some basics on concealed carry and practical defense. This second part in the series shows the illicit intentness of the adversary with a disturbing look into the criminal mind. —Bob Campbell
The training you receive is important, and the people you meet in gun-handling classes are often among the most friendly and interesting in the world. Many have similar interests that cross all racial, gender, cultural and social boundaries, which is as it should be. The classes you take will be a positive experience.
On the other hand, dealing with the adversary is a lesson in the negatives of human behavior. Rather than sins of the spirit and flesh, you are dealing with the violent actions of criminals bent on taking your life or injuring your body. It is a flip of the coin to see whether the best or worst of humanity is in the news, and the fact remains, you do not have to prepare to face the good. The bad is another matter. Most of us are passive observers in human interaction, although when the deed is personal and the body is violated, we must prepare to resist the attack. It does not take an extraordinary or particularly heroic person to resist a criminal attack; it simply takes a determined one who wishes to survive. While I despise thieves and con men of all description, I am less concerned with the identity thief or those who write bad checks. The thief who steals property or shoplifts is sometimes dangerous when cornered; a drug-crazed felon or psychopath bent on inflicting suffering and death is the worst-case scenario. Those who have been there may say they simply did what they had to do.
Some believe there is something in those driven to evil. While it is a fine study, the bottom line is that when confronted with these people, you realize your life is more important than the offhand study of criminals. All criminals are sociopaths, in my opinion. They do not accept or adhere to the laws of society—although they are often very good at working the system to their advantage. The inner determinants of human behavior are very difficult to understand and catalog, although in my experience, street cops with 20 years or more of service understand far more than psychiatrists. So, the bottom line, in my opinion, is that all criminals are sociopaths. But the real problem is that a few are psychopaths, and others are simply psychotic.
Psychopaths are bent on causing human misery and suffering. They will not flee at the sight of a gun and will take advantage of anyone unwilling to act decisively to stop an attack. You cannot be distracted; you must act on the situation. There are many who enable those criminals and try to convince others that circumstances drove them to those deeds. I do not agree.
When facing those criminals, there are two types of risk: personal and public. The risk of personal injury is very real, and the social stigma of taking the a person’s life is also something with which you need to deal. You must give a due measure of forethought to the risks in either category. The result of training, however, is a positive. You remove the certainty of injury, and instead, your action now is a calculated risk. You must take seriously the mindset to deal with a criminal attack. I can counsel you, but you must have a well-developed sense of self-preservation. In the end, you must understand that our protein-fed, ex-convict criminal class does not consist of individuals like us who may have had a bad day; they are truly evil people in a most cases.
Human conflict is an interesting study. After more than 30 years in police work and security, I believe I am able to read people. Most of my associates have learned the skill as well although, in my opinion, the general populace does a pretty poor job of reading the other’s mindset. I believe the single greatest mistake is assuming the criminal thought pattern is similar to your own; predators have a wholly different mindset than the rest of us. An example is mental age. Most of us correlate pretty closely in both chronological and mental age.
The average criminal has successfully completed an education, on average, of no more than the eighth-grade level. In the past, people who, for some reason or other, were unable to complete secondary education were nonetheless able to secure employment of some type. However, in my experience, the criminal element is unwilling to engage in honest work and does not become educated. Few progress past the 14-year-old mindset and have little fear of jail.
You and I would find being in jail a dramatic, life-changing experience. Criminals consider occasional jail time simply a part of the game they play. Just the same, do not underestimate the violence to which a felon will resort simply to avoid jail. I once pursued a ragged, filthy, homeless person through city traffic as he attempted to escape incarceration. It seemed he would rather sleep in the cold than get three square meals and a shower in jail.
During the past few months, my experiences have given me pause. I have encountered criminals who excel at con games, including a female cell phone thief who was well dressed and articulate. She fit in completely at the meeting she attended; in actuality, she was crashing it. It took a certain amount of luck and coordination to collar that one. A few months later, a diligent and alert sergeant put her away for some time since she had six outstanding warrants. She was looking for bigger game than a cell phone at our post, perhaps a laptop computer or secretary’s purse, and took what the opportunity presented.
Another person seemed normal enough until the conversation took a far left turn—and I do not mean politically. My point is some criminals are easily spotted; others are not. The pasty-white oldster covered with jailhouse tattoos or the young thug with the teardrop under his eye are easy to avoid. The less obvious threats are the ones who concern me.
When contemplating your first line of defense, you must consider access. Access is easier downward than upward. Street people and common criminals have little to lose, in my experience, and some even seem thrilled by attention when interrogated. A healthy BS detector is good to have, and you can glean much from street interviews. Victims are not always cooperative for many reasons. Quite often, in my experience, the victim was involved in some seedy deal involving drugs or a woman who remains mum. Access in interviews runs downward easily. Upward access is another matter. Someone concerned with the legal ramifications of their actions may prove difficult to interview. They are not easily persuaded to discuss a critical incident. The police may discuss a case in confidence—not for the record—and I have done so on many occasions, which helped me isolate the common criminal tactics.
Many of my investigations centered on unarmed thugs, although some were armed with knives and guns. Do not underrate a knife. Every time someone flicks open a locked blade, the long scar on my face itches. Once we have both generalized and determined specific information about how things work, we may develop tactics for dealing with criminals.
Most assaults are unarmed. They most often involve a disparity or great difference of force. In my experience, strong, large felons feel invincible. Against children, the frail elderly and most women, they are indeed invincible. Drugs often fuel part of that feeling of invincibility, and in my experience, many of those criminals are bullies used to getting their way.I have isolated the single, most common tactics. Whether attempting to rape, rob or grab a purse, the attack often proceeds in the same way. At this point, you should realize situational awareness is important. Thinking and looking ahead are indispensable. However, sometimes we are blind-sided, especially in busy areas where we simply cannot control our personal space.
In my experience, the single, most common criminal tactic is to attack either squared to the opponent or at a slight angle. The scenario often plays out like this: The criminal’s dominant hand—most often the right hand—reaches for the victim’s right hand. The victim resists; the criminal pulls harder, and he overpowers the victim. Often, the criminal twists the victim so he has an advantageous position. I have studied enough to realize that this form of attack is the norm. However, there is a form of counterattack that I have found works. I have confirmed the efficiency of this counterattack in force-on-force training. The important thing in such a situation is to stay calm and think rationally. A rapid, explosive, counterattack is vital. You may get a few bruises, but you will survive, and the SEC (scene of the crime) crew will not have to dig your body out of a trash dump in a remote location. When an attacker grabs your arm or wrist, the first impulse is to resist by tugging to get away, which does not work. Instead, strike forward with all your strength in the direction to which the felon is pulling you. That is unexpected, and you should be able to drive your fist into the attacker’s body. You may only weigh 100 pounds, but if you put all 100 pounds on the point of your fist, you will achieve some effect. The aim is to break loose and run. As you strike—if the assailant does not release your hand—grasp your hand with your free hand and pull up violently with all your strength. When you fight back and inflict pain, in my experience, criminals motivated by profit are often dissuaded and will turn and flee. But a sadist or serial killer is another matter. As I previously stated, all criminals are sociopaths, although not all are psychotic. A knife, impact weapon or handgun is the best tool for dealing with the most dangerous. You also must have open-hand tactics available.
Sometimes the victim knows the attacker, who has been waiting for the moment to attack. The attack has been planned, and the mode of attack is often rearward originating, a type often practiced in prison yards (this shows up in the scores of video taken). That is the same tactic used to attack and disarm police officers. There is very little effective, unarmed defense against those attacks. An edged weapon is essential in combating the assault. The assailant most often runs, placing one arm around the victim’s neck while using the other arm to control the victim or their body, or even the victim’s sidearm. Do not fight the arm that is around your neck with your fingers. The arm is around your throat, and you may have only seconds to escape. The proper means of escape, in my opinion, is to quickly deploy your knife and slash the offending arm.
About 50 years ago, my uncle was involved in a brawl with a dangerous drunk, who slashed him in that manner. It is not something he wants to repeat. However, this drill is essential for personal defense. As you can see, my estimation of the criminal element is far different from that of many trainers. They simply have no experience with criminals even if they have been to a lot of schools. I have dealt with the sorry lot of them, and our criminal class is extremely dangerous. Respect for the rougher man’s way of life is one thing, but understanding the basis for human evil is another. Never underestimate it.
A Look Into the Heart of Darkness
Ask any hunter what he knows about his game. Does he concentrate on range work, shooting and his firearm, or does he study the game? A hunter must know his game intimately to successfully pursue and bag an animal. He knows the terrain they inhabit, their eating habits and what it takes to find and take the beast. I think personal defense shooters do not always “get it” when considering the intersection they may have to cross with the bad guys. I believe they have in mind a sanitized television version. Make no mistake; we are the prey in that scenario, not the hunters.
If you feel you are going through life just waiting for that attack, for the inevitable flurry of motion, and believe you will emerge from that action victorious to the point you visit the local stop-and-rob at any hour because, man, you are packing heat, you may need more help than I can give. If you are recklessly stopping at the ATM at midnight to withdraw handfuls of cash, you are headed for trouble. If this mindset pervades your thinking, seek professional help, because you are the prey.
When I served as a peace officer and actively hunted the bad guys, I let caution be my guide. The hunter learns his prey’s habits to find him. We learn our adversary’s habits to avoid him. Avoiding rough clubs and sleazy entertainment is an immeasurable aid. An illusory practice is transferring our mental process to theirs. The street-wise criminal is not a Dick or Jane who is having a bad day. He or she is a sociopath. Some are bipolar; others are schizophrenic; many take drugs that induce elation when first ingested, then bring the addict down with paranoia on the flip side.
Experienced cops sometimes comment on the transparent nature of criminals’ best-laid plans. A certain level of intelligence cannot comprehend a level above his or her own intellect. As an example, I know I am not Stephen King, but a street thug may believe he is as smart as Albert Einstein. Thugs and their cronies plan crimes that seem perfectly foolproof to their culturally retarded minds (cultural retardation occurs when a child of normal intelligence is limited in his or her cultural education or has a lack of positive familial upbringing and social experience). In my experience, criminals of all backgrounds are equally subject to cultural retardation and viciousness.
I hope this look into the criminal mind gives you some insight into senseless killings. Many criminals do not care if they are caught; others think they are too smart to be caught. The justice system has often given them every reason to believe they will not be punished. If a criminal does not care if he is incarcerated, no deterrent is effective. I promise you one thing; I have learned through many years of dealing with this type that they are not immune to fear. In fact, many of them are fearful. They fear something. They do not want to be killed or injured. They may not fear long prison stretches because they adapt to prison life. Their first choice in drugs and sex may not be available, but highs and sex are available in some form in prison. Many have healthy egos and burgeoning self-respect. They cling to life; they do not want to be executed and do not wish to be shot.
Another myth is the worn-out junkie who is easily faced and defeated in your home if he attacks you. While many crimes are motivated by a desire for drugs, few of those people are on drugs at the time of the crimes. They are more dangerous when strung out and need the next fix. They are often hardened by their lives and physically strong. You do not survive long stretches in prison without personal defense skills. You must take every precaution when dealing with those criminals.
As for sexual predators, our young men and women are equally in danger from the deviant. Even if most male convicts prefer women to men as sex partners, brutal sex in the pen has many times given them a desire to inflict pain in their sex lives. They often will use sex as punishment—a particularly humiliating form of attack against adult males. Young people attacked in such a way often become deviant themselves for many psychological reasons.
A note of worry, or perhaps a relief to some, is that the average number of active criminals in the population is two percent. While that seems a bit low for some areas, and may be much higher in certain districts, consider this: if you live in an average city similar to my hometown where there are perhaps 80,000 inhabitants, there are about 1,600 active criminals to deal with every day. The police department numbers fewer than 300 officers. The sheriffs’ office covers a county with 250,000, including the major municipal area. That figure supports a conclusion that the active criminal population is about 5,000. We have 300 municipal officers and a like number of deputy sheriffs. There are a half-dozen or so small towns in the jurisdiction, with about a dozen officers in some and two or three in others. In my experience, small-town officers are either constantly mired in political scandals and interference from the “council” or mayor, or primarily operate as revenue agents concerned with writing tickets for small infractions. They are poorly prepared, in my opinion, to deal with real criminals or conduct investigations beyond the fender-bender level. Those are the odds. We are outnumbered when the bad guys are compared to the peace officers, by a considerable margin of more than 10 to one.
If, however, you consider armed citizens—the good guys and girls—the odds look better. When dealing with the criminal element, never sugarcoat reality: those people will kill you. They have little hope for tomorrow and little regard for other humans. They have nothing and respect nothing. They are not folks like us who have had a bad break.
Take these words to heart the next time you are hammering a one-dimensional target with your 9mm. It is not about a game; it is about reality.
In my next concealed carry and practical defense installment, I’ll discuss the basics of sight alignment, sight picture, trigger control and hitting the target.
Have you ever been attacked or known someone who has? How did you handle it? Share your experience in the comment section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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