What a Study Military Small Arms Innovation Has to Teach Us About Civilian Defensive Firearms: Defining the Battlefield (2 of 3)

This is the second of three planned posts reflecting on the civilian defensive firearms lessons to be learned from Matthew Ford’s book about military small arms innovations. Yesterday I wrote about balancing competing features of weapons, ballistic science and lethality.

Tom Givens on the range at Rangemaster Instructor Development and Certification Course, May 2017. Photo by David Yamane

PART 2 of 3


Looming large throughout Ford’s book is the point that “developing a coherent and effective weapon is greatly complicated by the way in which different constituencies within armies first think about and describe the battlefield problems they face and then use their power to carve out their particular interpretation of battle” (p. 27). In short, what “battlefield” problem are we trying to solve?

This is actually a common theme in many of the civilian gun training events I have attended. When I first heard Tom Givens present at the 2014 Rangemaster Tactical Conference, it was on “Defining the Threat, Designing Training Programs for Reality.” He began the presentation by asserting: “One cannot find a correct solution until one defines the problem.”

The “battlefield” faced by armed citizens – criminal assault – is not the same as that faced by .MIL or LEO. Givens connects this to gun training, but we could also think about it in terms of the weapons that armed citizens should be carrying.

Active shooter/hostage scenario at Suarez International Pistol Gunfighting School. Photo by David Yamane

How different conceptualizations of the battlefield affect weapon selection is a point made often by Gabe Suarez. Suarez begins his Pistol Gunfighting School with the problem it addresses, and uses the board game “Clue” as an analogy to drive home his point. For Suarez, defensive firearms instructors play a game of “Tactical Clue” in training their students.

In 1997, “Tactical Clue” was most often solved with: “Thug in the parking lot with a screwdriver.” That was the problem defensive firearms instructors trained students to address. 2017 America poses a new problem for armed citizens. “We live in a time of war,” Suarez tells his students, and the winning solution to Tactical Clue in 2017 is “Mustafa with a rifle in a mall.” Or a husband and wife with guns at a Christmas party. Or a domestic abuser with an AR-15 in a small town church.

Solving the 2017 battlefield problem requires the armed citizen to do more precise shooting in proactive situations and at longer distances. This necessitates a different sort of weapon system, perhaps pistols with red dot optics like those sold by Suarez International?


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