Book Review: Left Of Bang

This is one of those books that is on nearly every self defense instructor’s must read list. And for good reason. The book was written for Marines to detail the principles of the Combat Hunter Program. It is essentially a step by step manual on how to characterize a location, and notice patterns in the people so  you can quickly determine when something or someone is out of place. It is essentially a ‘situational awareness’ manual for combat. Being Left Of Bang simply means having the information necessary to be able to act before (left-side on a timeline) the *bang* of an attack.

Buy Left Of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life
In both personal protection and combat (so I read) we have to make decisions with less-than-perfect and incomplete information.

It is necessary to have heuristics to allow us to make good-enough decisions more rapidly. Sometimes ‘good-enough’ right now beats ‘perfect’ too late. This book details these methods for Marines. With some adaptation, we can use them when at the mall or shopping for groceries.

This book is critical for a war-fighter or police officer. If you work (or live) in the same area/neighborhood/block for an extended period of time, you can fully implement the author’s suggestions.  The authors primarily use military situations and anecdotes to relay the principles. If you personally like the military tone and that appeals to you, then you’ll have no issue translating the lessons to civilian life.

I personally wouldn’t give this book to a teenager or 20-something university student who is living alone in the city . The military stories might seem too alien and it might not hold their interest. A better book for that audience with more visceral day-to-day anecdotes would be The Gift of Fear.

The Principles

  • A summary of Cooper’s color codes, the limbic response to stimuli, avoiding ‘right of bang’ reactionary living.
  • Establishing a baseline in an area allows us to recognize anomalies, which should warrant attention.
  • Using “human universals” which are common features of culture, society, language, behavior, and mind that span all ethnography and history.
  • Kinesics – Conscious and subconscious body language. Posture, gestures, and expressions that indicate inner emotional state. None of which rely on seeing the face. The body betrays the conscious mind and facial expressions aren’t as important. Dominant vs. Submissive, uncomfortable vs. comfortable, interested vs. uninterested. Very useful for personal protection and reading people in general.
  • Biometric Cues – The uncontrollable outward expression of stress. Skin flush, pupil dilation, blinking, dry mouth, pacifying behaviors, etc.
  • Proxemics – The study of distance and movement. How certain people and places either attract or repel people. e.g. a person changing their speed or altering their course to follow you in a parking lot.
  • Geographics – How people act in certain areas. Whether they are familiar, comfortable, and how they interact with the area. For us, think malls/restaurants/amusement parks/shops. Home field advantage is a real thing and people act differently where they are comfortable.
  • Iconography – Colors, symbols, graffiti, flags, bumper stickers.
  • Atmospherics – The ‘vibe’ of an area. For instance, the feeling at the DMV is frustrated and anxious. The feeling at a carnival is joy and excitement. A sudden change in the vibe of an area, or a person or group not fitting with the vibe warrant attention.

The Take Aways

  • People often override the ‘something wasn’t right’ feeling they get before something bad happens. By understanding what you’re seeing, it allows us to trust intuition and avoid a problem.
  • Humans are universally creatures of habit, lazy, poor liars, will run/fight/freeze, telegraph their intentions, predictable, poor multitaskers. This is exploitable.
  • Everything a person does is created twice – once in the mind and once in its execution – ideas and impulses are pre-incident indicators for action
  • Look for the indicators in ‘clusters’. One gesture indicating unease might be a fluke. A cluster of 3 cues that indicate unease are worthy of attention.
  • The Submissive Cluster of kinesics gives us some ideas on how to appear submissive, possibly to de-escalate and avoid unnecessary conflict.
  • Be aware that your personal iconography gives away information about you. Gun guy stickers and shirts, etc. It is also easy to remove these indicators. Why advertise?
  • Combat Rule of Three – when you observe three anomalies against a baseline, you must make a decision. e.g. At a mall, the seemingly nervous kid, in a black trenchcoat, is fidgeting with his backpack and red faced and sweating. It’s time to leave, or whatever your plan is.

    Conclusion

    This is a good book to have in the collection. It would give a person a clear picture of the broad indicators of identifying things that are out of place. Even if you only use that information to decide to leave, the book has proved useful.

    Here is the website that the authors created to further your studies. http://www.cp-journal.com/

Mark

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Technique: The Revival of the Outdated Speed Rock on Social Media

The proliferation of Instagram and Youtube shooting sensations has brought with it a disturbing trend. I have noticed that in MANY of the shooting I’ve seen in the 15-60 second cherry picked drills they decide to post, they use the ‘speed rock’ retention position for contact distance shooting. Then they show you their timer to show how quickly they can complete a contact distance drill. This is an oversimplification of the problems that arise in this contact distance situation. I have to set the record straight because people are actually watching this stuff and considering it to still be legitimate technique. Long story short, it’s not.

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Here’s one IG example so we’re on the same page. Watch his posture as he leans back and back pedals away from the target. Boy howdy, he sure is fast!!! Unfortunately, this is more than a speed shooting problem.

Note: This is nothing against this guy. He's a better shooter than I'll ever be. I just don't want people to think this is viable against a resisting opponent. When you get to initiate a sequence against stationary targets with no free will, ANYTHING will work. Add another human and things get more slippery.

#repost from @truexodus Decided to work with my new @lake_county_knife_and_tool pokey device tonight. Just working a few scenarios in my head. Naturally, when fighting with an opponent with arms and weapons things are a bit different. One of the things people tend to forget is that the bad guy doesn’t know or expect you’re carrying a weapon. So when you decide to act, act quickly and with great violence. Please don’t practice shooting from retention. Remember, I’m not a professional. I’m just a no body preacher trying to develop myself by getting out and using the skills I’ve learned from other professionals to increase the likelihood of my success in a deadly force encounter. #trustandard @rubberdummies @salientarmsinternational @lake_county_knife_and_tool @nevadaammunition @trexarms PS: I don’t care if you don’t like rap.

A video posted by Rubber Dummies (@rubberdummies) on

Here’s the issue…The Speed Rock is a POOR technique!

What is the Speed Rock?

From The Tactical Pistol 1996 “The “speed rock” refined for combative use by Chuck Taylor is a last-option technique for arm’s length situation where there is no room to evade or maneuver. The shooter “rocks” the pistol out of the holster and simultaneously “rocks” his torso back to bring the muzzle onto the adversary’s vital zone”

So, 20 years ago, when folks were still really into the Weaver stance and mullets, this was the state of the art. So why was it a technique worth learning back then? It was the attempt to deal with the obvious real problem of a contact distance fight, in which so many police and citizens find themselves. It was an early beta technique which has evolved to higher percentage techniques. Here is a great article on its history.

It is FAST! You need only clear your duty holster, drop your elbow and bow forward at the hips to bring the muzzle slightly above horizontal, and you can start pressing the trigger as you back away. The more you drop your elbow and sacrifice your base with bowed hips, the more the impact zone will rise on the target. I think this is why the IG-speed shooter guys do it. Showing a timer after a drill like this seems impressive to their ignorant followers. Ignorant, not stupid. I’m trying to educate the ignorant.

Apparently it’s still taught by some very decorated guys from the special operations community. I will remind you that being really good at shooting people with a carbine in a military setting doesn’t necessarily directly translate to a criminal assault at a RedBox in front of a gas station when you’re wearing a subcompact gun under a T-shirt. It’s more than a shooting problem, it should be treated as a combative/grappling problem that happens to include weapons.

That, and Tom Cruise did it in Collateral…

Why it Sucks and You Shouldn’t Practice It

  1. The first and most important issue is the complete sacrifice of athletic base to achieve the position. Hips forward, torso back, weight on heels. Bad. This is the EXACT position you want your opponent to be in when you perform a body lock takedown.
  2. It is demonstrably easier to sustain an impact when in an athletic base (weight on balls of feet, nose over the toes, spine in alignment) than when your weight is on your heels (only people tripping over things backwards do this).
  3. The gun is actually NO FURTHER AWAY than it would have been with good technique. You have sacrificed your mobility and ability to sustain impact for ZERO extra distance. Bad trade.
  4. You can not move backwards faster than someone can charge you.
  5. Pistols suck at stopping people. Question: What does a person do after they are shot? Answer: Whatever they were doing before they got shot. Sacrificing mobility and your base for maybe 2 shots to the lower abdomen before you’re in a grounded gun fight is a bad trade. A motivated attacker will push through you and eat your lunch. Not to mention several attackers.
  6. The upward angle is meant to put rounds into the adversary’s thoracic cavity for a more reliable stop. The problem with this is that a miss at an upward angle means a bullet that can travel extreme distances. To demonstrate my point, watch Aaron Cowan of “Sage Dynamics” advocate stitching the target by breaking the wrist to achieve higher and higher shots. Three problems with this. One, when the other guy is moving, the floaty bent wrist index falls apart and it compromises wrist strength for retention. Two, where would those missed shots land when fired at an upward angle (edit: Aaron’s range is private land and has a large wooded area behind range)? Three, if your other hand is fending or tying the other guy up, you run the risk of shooting yourself in the arms and hands. Shooting yourself in a gunfight still counts.
  7. You’re probably not fast enough to make it work at arm’s length. I’m not. Not from concealment. This technique was designed for people who carry outside the waistband. You will eat so many punches/stabs at arm’s length that the trade isn’t worth it. You need to deal with the adversary’s forward drive and strikes FIRST. Then you get to shoot him.
  8. Since we understand the criminal assault paradigm, we realize that we likely will be engaged in some verbal judo with our adversary as he tries to close distance and find the opportunity to launch his ambush. This will create a cognitive load which WILL slow down our reaction time. So by the time you clear leather, he’s on you and you’re on the ground with your gun out. Bad trade.
  9. You’ll likely not initiate the shooting whether police or citizen. He/They will make the first move. You’ll likely be reactionary. This is the way of things when you’re the good guy. There are ways to spot pre-assault cues which will clue you in that something is about to happen, but good people have trouble being aggressive enough, fast enough.
  10. This won’t work in a confined space or against a wall. Your back has nowhere to go. The technique calls for ‘full retreat’ while shooting from the hip and leaning back. We live in a world of curbs, bumpers, bollards, and walls. That means tripping.

“What Do You Advocate Then, smartass?”

  1. I learned these principles from the Shiv-Works collective. Craig Douglas, Paul Sharp, Cecil Burch, Chris Fry, and Larry Lindenman. I have seen versions of the same postural cues and retention shooting from Active Response Training, Tactical Response, and a boatload of other schools and books. The good technique is so prevalent that I find it hard to believe the speed rock is still a thing, hence the post.
  2. If we make it our mission to try to stay upright, stay mobile, and most importantly, stay conscious, then we have a spring board to drive our technique.
  3. Adopt an athletic base. Hips low, nose-over-toes (weight on balls of feet), strong posture, aligned spine. Ready to deliver or receive forward drive.
  4. When you’re reacting to your adversary’s attack at this distance, it’s foolhardy to attempt to get your gun into play. You have to deal with his forward pressure and strikes/stabs FIRST.
  5. The less-than-ideal target zone of the hips and stomach serve to diminish our opponents ability to fight. As he soaks up rounds with no obvious recourse, his will to fight will fade, and you can improve your position and make more vital-area hits if required.
  6. The dropped elbow retention position is serviceable with good posture. Elbow retracted back as soon as you clear leather, forearm indexed along ribs, slight downward angle to shots. At least we know where they’ll land.

    Greg Ellifritz from Active Response Training demonstrating a retention position along with a fending off-side arm.
    Greg Ellifritz from Active Response Training demonstrating a tight retention position along with a fending off-side arm. Note downward angle of shots, forward posture, and no intersection of muzzle line with shooter’s body.
  7. I feel that an even more defensible and repeatable position exists. It’s simply the ‘count 2’ of the draw I prefer. Elbow retracted straight up and back, thumb flagged away from slide as a standoff, thumb indexed on the pectoral muscle, bunched tight trap muscle. This creates a repeatable downward angled shot path that won’t intersect in your other arm, which is probably fending or tied up with your adversary. It also works in the horizontal plane (read: on your back). Watch Craig Douglas work this position on the range. Video by Ballistic Radio.
  8. You might need to weather the initial storm of the attack. Learn a solid non-diagnostic default position to survive the first volley. Here’s a great article about options.

In Closing

These are the best methods I’ve seen and used in high pressure force-on-force training (which is as close as we can get to a gunfight without losing training partners). If you think I’m full of shit, I encourage you to get a bite guard, some MMA gloves, a blue gun, a buddy, and a grassy field and work it. If you’re near me, I’ll work it with you. Start slowly and ramp up the pressure until you have a competitive ‘gun-fight’ and see which method keeps you on your feet longer and absorbing fewer strikes. Test, refine, repeat.

Oh, and don’t believe everything you see on the internet.

Mark

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