The Element of Surprise

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

One of the most important military strategies is using the element of surprise to one’s advantage. This principle has been in turn learned and forgotten, over and over again, throughout human history. But you don’t need an army to use the element of surprise to your advantage. Anyone from barroom brawlers to street hoods holding up old ladies have used the element of surprise to win their battle.

For those who carry concealed, the element of surprise is part of our everyday carry. Having our weapons concealed means that we can decide when to make it known that we are armed. People who carry openly, whether police officers or citizens taking advantage of their states Constitutional Carry laws, are giving away a major advantage, in favor of using the presence of their pistol on their belt being a deterrent to crime.

I have nothing against deterring crime; I just don’t see it as my job. That’s the job of the police and I don’t envy them one bit. Their presence, especially their armed presence, is a deterrent to crime, as few criminals really want to take on an armed cop. That’s basically a no-win situation for the criminal and most of them know it.

Even so, if a criminal has decided to go through with an armed crime and there’s an armed police officer there, that officer becomes their first target. The same can be said for any of us who might be carrying openly. Criminals don’t want a shootout, so if they decide to go through with the crime, they’ll take out an opposition they need to, right from the start.

But what about those of us who are carrying concealed? Assuming that we’re dressed in such a way that our weapons aren’t printing on the clothes we’re wearing, they have no reason to think we’re armed. That leaves the question of when we let them know we’re armed in our hands; something that we should use to the greatest possible advantage.

When the criminal enters a building with a weapon, they have the element of surprise on their side. Most people will be shocked into inaction, including those of us who are armed. That’s one thing they’re trying to do, so that they can take control of the situation. Okay, so round one goes to the bad guys. Hold out for round two.

Those criminals will be highly keyed up right at the beginning, essentially high on adrenalin. But give them a few minutes, and the adrenalin will start to leave their bloodstream. It won’t all leave, but they will start getting more comfortable with the situation. Once that happens, they can be the ones who are caught by surprise, when we take action.

Before taking any action though, decide exactly what you are going to do. Which of the criminals, assuming there’s more than one, is the greatest danger to you? Which is the easiest to engage? How can you move your line-of-sight form one to another, so that you can get in all your shots, with the minimum of wasted movement?

You can expect to have no more than two to three seconds of surprise, once you unholster your gun and start shooting. The first second is going to be gone, just unholstering and getting that first sight picture. That means only one to two seconds more, before they start to react. Unless you want to be shooting under fire, you need to do everything you have to in that amount of time. Is that realistic? Not really; but it’s all you’ve got.

One option, if you can’t get them all in that amount of time, is to use the time you have to move to cover, assuming there’s some cover available. That will give you more time to shoot, even if you are shooting under fire. Just be sure to think that through though, so you’re not putting other people in danger by your movement. Ideally, any move to cover should take you away from other people, rather than into their midst.

The same element of surprise can actually be used more than once, although not with as great an impact. If you’ve made it to cover and then find you need to move to a more advantageous position, you will have that same second or two of surprise, before the bad guys can begin to react. That gives you time to start moving from your place of concealment to another. It’s probably not enough; but you get a free start. They’ll be attempting to shift their aim to bring it to bear on a moving target, so the challenge of engaging you while you are running is high.

Whatever you do, try to avoid allowing the engagement to drag out. Your chances of surviving, as well as taking out the bad guys, is greatest in the first few seconds. The longer things go on, the more of a chance they’ll have to get you. Keep the surprise working in your favor.

Surprise can be a great tool, when used properly. Practice it, so that you are ready, just like keeping your powder dry and your survival gear close at hand.

Dr. Rich

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