Reality Check — What are you training for?

By Dave Dolbee published on in Concealed Carry, General, Safety and Training

After recent events in Barcelona, Orlando, Paris, Las Vegas and other places, the prospect of a lone wolf or organized attack with severe consequence seems more and more plausible. I am certain any right-minded person would stop a terror attack if it was within their ability. But that is the question: “Do you have the ability?” The first thing you have to consider is that you may be killed. Many terrorists, unlike common killers, are on a hell-bound trip. Holding a gun on them or threatening them will be meaningless.

Bob Campbell practicing quickly presenting the handgun from concealed carry

It’s important to practice quickly presenting the handgun from concealed carry.

Editor’s Note: Be sure to scroll through the picture gallery at the end of the article for additional training tips from the author.

As the instructors at the police academy taught me, when dealing with suicidal individuals, they are to be regarded as homicidal as well. They do not care about their own life and certainly fear no consequence for taking yours.

In Europe during the first wave of terrorism gunfire was the early option and later replaced by bombs. Shooting a terrorist with a bomb pack simply means you have chosen the moment of detonation, not he. No good answer for that one. If he doesn’t have a dead man’s switch in his hand, then perhaps there is a clear opportunity.

Another question that must be asked during training to address school shootings and other incidents, which is overlooked by almost every trainer and correspondent, is are you willing to shoot and kill a 16-year old boy or girl? Are you willing to kill what many of us regard as a child?

Domestic shooters such as the ones at Columbine shot themselves and then the cops came in and counted the bodies. Fast direct action and initiative at Virginia Tech, as officers quickly arrived and broke through chains barricading doors and began moving the wounded, resulted in the shooter killing himself rather than confront the police and shortened the death cycle. He had plenty of ammunition left.

Two shot groupings from a pistol fired from 25 yards at pink roundel target

This seems a fair group, fired from the barricade at 25 yards. It was fired in the Rex Zero 9mm with two types of ammunition. In practical terms one was twice as accurate as the other. It pays to test your load.

Taking a shot in this case may initiate the shooter’s suicide whether you hit him or not, but is he a spree killer or a terrorist? Each is an individual. My thoughts are not random but based on the study of many instances. You train for what may occur in order to be flexible, but you must train for what has occurred and have skills in place for each individual incident. If you are concerned with the possibility of a terror attack, and would not like to be helpless, then the usual range mantra isn’t adequate.

About all we guarantee in the average concealed carry class is that the graduate is safe with his or her handgun and should not shoot himself or someone else by accident. You would wish to be helpful during a critical incident and not add to the carnage by attempting to engage a moving target at 20 yards. If most of your practice involves firing at stationary targets, to which you are directly facing, in slow fire drills, then you will not be a problem solver.

Prepare for the task you are concerned with. Are you physically able to move to cover or run ahead of the threat to a more advantageous firing position? Everyone will be running. You should be the one that runs and doesn’t draw exposing yourself as an armed individual until you are behind cover.

Assess your capabilities honestly. Your skills may be better than most peace officers. Almost all of the folks who engage in regular IDPA matches are much better shots than all but the best institutional shooters. The big difference in addressing a terror shooter or spree shooter is that the terrorist isn’t out to kill you; he is out to kill anyone and everyone he can.

Bob Campbell shooting from behind a barricade

Firing from cover greatly increases your chances of survival in a critical incident.

He is going to kill the sheep in his mind. One sheep looks up and looks different, and that is you. You must respond quickly and accurately with enough power to put him down. That is the goal. But the lone wolf isn’t always alone. Perhaps a fast sprint to cover and firing from a concealed position will give you every advantage.

The next consideration is your carry piece. You are no longer a defensive shooter if you are practicing anti-terror drills. You are now on the offensive. When you have made the commitment to engage in a worst-case scenario, you leave behind the pocket guns. Snub .38s and many of the compact 9mm handguns are less than desirable to worthless.

The Glock 43 is more accurate than most realize, and so is the Walther PPS, but the Glock 19 or CZ P01 are far better choices. You must think now at a different level. Take a hard look at the SIG P229 or the CZP10C. They just might be among the most useful handguns that are compact enough for concealed carry.

The military and police may use long slide Glock pistols, the Beretta 92, or LAPD’s special Kimber 1911 handguns. Perhaps they are too large for daily carry. But beginning with the CZ P01-sized handguns, you will have very accurate and controllable handguns.

4-shot group from from behind a barricade 25 yards away at a pink roundel target

The author put four Federal 124-grain HST bullets into the target at 25 yards, aiming for the 4 roundel, from a barricade. This is life saving accuracy with the Rex Zero 9mm.

The ability to engage in rapid, accurate fire is important. The bad guys do not always go down when hit, and you may miss. Bullet wounds take time to take effect. The other consideration is that the subject may be encountered at long range. I have in my confirmed, documented database a hit on a criminal at 60 yards with a Glock 19 by a police officer, and a brilliant event in which a military police officer struck and killed a shooter at a long 80 yards with the Beretta 92.

Twenty-five yards is challenging enough for most shooters. I test fire handguns and ammunition on a weekly basis and some combinations are more accurate than others, but many quality handguns will stay in four inches at 25 yards if the shooter does his part. The SIG P220 .45 is among the most accurate service pistols in the world, so is the SIG P226 9mm.

Federal Cartridge Company offers ammunition accurate enough to make good use of these handguns accuracy potential. Wilson Combat’s modified Beretta illustrated it will group five rounds of Federal 124-grain HST into a 1.75-inch group at 25 yards. It is up to the shooter to do the rest.

Marksmanship is the problem. Some shooting and self-defense schools are run by ex Special Forces operatives who show you how the military does it. This is a good thing and a great course to take for character and marksmanship development. But you will never shoot like a SEAL or Delta Force, FBI SWAT, LAPD SWAT or NYPC Special Services District. You will be good and have brilliant moments.

Green and white box of Alchemist ammunition

When engaging steel targets Alchemist Ammunition is a good choice. This frangible load puts safety first.

A select budget team that includes individuals firing up to 10,000 rounds per year in weekly training is trained to the highest possible standard and will not miss. They cannot afford to miss. Your budget and time schedule probably are not up to this. There are competitors who fire a similar number, or more, in practice every year, and they win very competitive contests.

If you really want to shoot like a pro there is no short cut. I see many great shots, some almost amazing, in local matches that are better shots than I am. They have a lot of time and effort invested. They have set a goal.

When considering the possibilities of personal combat, most of us attempt to cut spare motion, work on the presentation, and speed loads. The casual range load isn’t fast enough. You do carry two spare loads at all times, correct?

You must be able to load quickly without looking at the firearm but keeping an eye on the target. You must choose appropriate to superior gear, practice to master the firearm to the best of your ability, and be prepared to accept the consequences of your action. If you do not train properly, you will not be successful.

What others training tips or tactics would you recommend the other readers add to their practice sessions and why? Share your answers 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 Shooter’s 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.

View all articles by Bob Campbell

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Comments (10)

  • Jeffrey Decuypere


    Outstanding insights. Brings me full circle to my biggest concern. How will the decision to engage a shooter, regardless of the circumstances. Be interpreted by the authorities? I’ve read several examples of those who were clear of any wrong doing. But it still cost them thousands of dollars to defend their actions. I truly wish some type of nation wide advanced training/certification system would be developed. I read about a prosecutors office that attempted to accuse a ccw carrier of premeditation in defending himself. Because his weapon was loaded with JHP ammo. My first thought was that the ccw shooter was attempting to avoid over penetration. And possibly harming the innocent bystanders with a through an through. It’s just down right scary out there for concealed carry americans. Does anyone have any confidence in the CarryGuard or other offers available out there. Should you find yourself in the position of having to defend yourself.


    • dprato


      Jeffrey, I use US Law Shield and find their coverage and accessibility to be excellent for less that $200 per year. As long as you are not committing a crime they will cover any form of self defense and will pay all expenses.
      Look into it as it is a good deal.


  • Darkman


    You can practice every possible a thousand times. You can be situationaly aware every minute. Unless you can pull the trigger and Kill another human being it may all be for not. That is and will be the hardest part of a self defense situation. Saying you can and doing so are a long way apart. You must take the time long before you ever may need to.To address this with yourself. The inability to perform this part of a self defense situation will get you killed more often than any other.


  • Dan




  • John RunningWolf


    I agree that a mid size or even full size weapon provides better accuracy than most compact handguns. However, I would like to point out that the Springfield EMP is extremely accurate even for longer distances. As the EMP has many standard features which other handguns (except for Wilson, Ed Brown, etc) lack or would require customized work by a professional gunsmith.


    • Bob Campbell


      Thanks for reading!

      Also thanks for pointing out the EMP. The EMP is a step above just about every other handgun its size and certainly has more fight in it than its size would lead you to believe.


  • Yosemite


    So much goes into this training and more training and more intense training involving tons of ammo. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, KNOW the EXITS and familiarize where they are.
    Scenarios change….. What is the scenario?? Crowed Restaurant/Bar?
    Concert indoors or outdoors? Stadium game? Out door family reunion?
    In a park? In a Gym? In a “Theme Park”?

    Outdoors winter or summer? Daytime clear and sunny Cold??? warm?? overcasts? rain???Sleet?? snow? Night time clear skies Full Moon ? New Moon?
    Persons clothing out of place for the weather? are there exits or potential entrances that are concealed by darkness? etc.

    EVERYTHING depends on the situation.Your situation is going to dictate your tactics…some things apply to all situations…Such as
    Shooting starts
    Take/look for cover
    Listen and look for/identify shooter(s) and escape routes and make a decision to try to find safely escape and get people out.
    (or go on the hunt A VERY BAD IDEA) …you are alone and NO team mates, NO coms. Less than ideal equipment. SWAT or other LEOs might take you for a/the shooter. There Is the chance of other people carrying besides you….

    …..Think Luby;s in Texas… are in a restaurant and shooter is clear and shooting at random and you have a clear shot.
    If more than one shooter…can you take them all out in 2-3 seconds before they can lock on to you…..Unless you have good cover….consider fire and maneuver….

    You cannot see very far people crowding you screaming, dancing, swaying around you having a great time……Someone hears pops and then finally figures someone is shooting///

    Now what?

    Shooter is where? . high above….best move is get people and wounded out….In all reality not much else you are able of doing.

    If shooter is above you like in Las Vegas…He can follow you through the crowd if you get his attention/show up on his radar…..people wounded ,dying, or dead or playing dead all around you….swimming against the tide is definitely get his attention as the swarming people move around you or else trample you.

    If the shooter is on level ground…..and shooting into a/the crowd… MIGHT JUST MIGHT could circle around…… then close enough to identify and kill/neutralize the shooter…say 30-40 feet away.. you nor the shooter can hear over the noise…..

    You are a civilian now No longer military or a LEO and been years since you did such work…. you do have a valid Concealed Carry license….
    .Do you shoot the shooter in the back…is there another shooter…IF you shoot the shooter in the back are you looking at charges and arrest?
    You stopped the bad guy/s….Now what does the State and media decide to do with you.

    Facts are Civilians use firearms far more often in self defense and defense of others than LEOs do every year….Media does not show it very often because of their usual anti firearm stance……there are exceptions here and there…..


  • dprato


    I think that there are so many different situations that could arise in a self defense situation whether it be a home intruder, road rage incident, terrorist act, serial shooter etc etc, that perhaps the most important things to consider are “do you have the will to shoot someone if you need to”, do you have the level of skill you may need to do it, and have you previously gone over a variety of situations in your mind of “what if’s” to assist you in making quick decisions regarding how to respond to a variety of potential situations. I seldom go anywhere where I don’t look at the environment I am in and go through a mental exercise of what if’s that could possibly happen that might require me to use my carry weapon. Not having to have ever used my firearm for self defense I can only hope that between my shooting ability which is very good, my
    mental practice and general level of awareness and what I believe to be
    my will to do what I need to do will carry the day if it should ever come.


  • Bob Campbell


    Excellent observations.


  • Adam


    On June 8, 2014 there was an active shooter incident in Las Vegas. Two police officers had just been ambushed and killed while eating lunch, and the shooter then fled into a nearby Wal-Mart.

    Rather than fleeing the store with the other shoppers, an armed civilian confronted the shooter and held him at gunpoint. He was then shot and killed by the shooter’s female accomplice, whom he had overlooked.

    He could have escaped but chose not to, and it cost him his life.

    Can armed civilians stop these sort of attacks? Absolutely, as demonstrated in Chicago by an Uber driver in April 2015 as well as in other incidents that received little to no press due to having few casualties. However, your number one goal is always to survive.

    Shoot if you must, but don’t go looking for a fight that you may very well lose.


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