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Man fights with his mind. His hands and his weapons are simply extensions of his will, and one of the fallacies of our era is the notion that equipment is the equivalent of force.

What, then, is the “combat mind-set?” It is that state of mind which insures victory in a gunfight. It is composed of awareness, anticipation, anticipation, concentration and coolness. Above all, its essence is self-control. Dexterity and marksmanship are prerequisite to confidence, and confidence is prerequisite to self-control.

The pistol is a conceptually defensive arm, intended to stop lethal aggression. Thus when used as intended it will be required with almost no warning. The man who shoots to save his life, or that of his wife or child, will rarely have any time in which to consider the situation, steel himself, say a prayer, sing a war song or go into a dance. His mental reaction will probably be astonishment rather than fear, for fear takes time to build up. Since he cannot anticipate specifically he must anticipate generally. Anyone who carries a pistol on his person is presumably aware that he may have to use it, but there is a large difference between the hypothetical possibility and the actual event.

To anticipate generally the shooter must train himself into a state of mind in which the sudden awareness of peril does not surprise him. It is essential for the man who wears a gun to react to a sudden threat with the knowledge and confidence that he can handle it. His response should be not “Oh my God, I’m in a fight!” but rather “I thought this might happen and I know what to do about it.” Instead of feeling that the situation is unheard-of, he must feel that the situation is distinctly heard-of, and that he is in charge of it rather than his aggressor. He must regard the quick and precise use of his sidearm as “Plan B,” and be fully ready to implement it when confronted with a deadly human adversary. In this situation there can be no build-up of emotion and the shooter’s exercise will be entirely intellectual. He will not have time to get excited until after the fight is over.

When a man demonstrates, in effect, that he is ready and willing to kill you, your response should not be fearful but wrathful.

When you are being shot at there is only one proper thing for you to think about, and that is your own shooting. All other thoughts must be blanked out. In bold red letters across your “heads-up-display” should appear “Front sight. Press. Front sight. Press. ” If you concentrate on a clear, sharp picture of your front sight, and concentrate upon a smooth, steady, surprise break, you will almost certainly survive the encounter. If you forget these things, you very probably will not.

The combat mind-set, therefore, should be:

A. Before the fact — alert, prepared, and aware. If there is time for fear to build up it should be overcome by a conscious effort toward anger.

B. During action — total concentration upon the technical matter of placing the shot properly.

C. After the conflict — probably relief, gratification, and pride — approximately in that order. If it is advisable for the shooter to display distress, for various ulterior reasons, that is an administrative matter.

There is nothing wrong with winning. There is a great deal wrong with losing. Those who bear arms should keep that in mind.

  • Jeff Cooper

Keep your head down and keep the faith,


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