Warriors vs. Praetorian Guard…which mindset fits you best?

It’s been said, and I agree, that we are in the early stages of a renaissance of the warrior mindset.

This is due in part to the fact that we’re 14 years into the Global War on Terror, part due to movies, TV, and novels, and part because of the fact that computers and the internet have paved the way for the collection and analysis of large amounts of post-incident data that used to be impossible.

The refinements in training, tactics, and techniques have created an unprecedented number of warrior minds which has resulted in countless lives saved in battle.

But what about outside of battle?

Is the warrior mindset beneficial or even healthy if it doesn’t have the proper outlet?

Is it possible that a “guardian” mindset is more realistic, healthy, and productive for most people, most of the time? Even for warriors back from overseas and law enforcement?

Maybe. Maybe not. I want to share some thoughts with you today inspired by an article that we ran in the Journal of Tactics and Preparedness a few months ago from the former commander of the 19th Special Forces Group and internationally recognized SWAT instructor, Randy Watt.

In the article, Randy spoke of watching a TV show about a SWAT unit getting ready to serve a narcotics related search warrant.

Instead of following current best-practices for the situation that emphasized a low intensity approach with the ability to switch to high intensity if necessary, they got themselves all jacked up on adrenaline and the alluring maiden of going to war to vanquish an evil foe.

Instead of using tactics designed to preserve and protect life, they decided to go on the offensive in a non-life threatening situation and execute a dynamic entry…and one of the SWAT officers was shot as the entry began as a result.  As Randy said in his article, it didn’t need to happen.

There is a definite place for the warrior mindset, but it can also cause unnecessary frustrations and problems when people operate in that mode unnecessarily.

Let’s step back for a moment and define terms…

Lt. Col. David Grossman defines a warrior as a knight of old and if I substitute the word “knight”, “paladin”, or “guardian” in place of “warrior” in Grossman’s writings, I agree with him 100%.  He’s a legend, I have tremendous respect for him, and don’t want anything I say to appear as if I’m nitpicking.  I’m not.

But history and popular culture has defined “warrior” differently.  Instead of a “knight,” “paladin,” or “guardian,” most people see/think of an Apache, Zulu, or Spartan warrior when they hear the term.  This creates mixed messages and as great as Grossman is, it’s hard to compete with a constant onslaught of media defining the term “warrior” in a different way.

I’m defining a warrior simply as someone who is on offense and taking the fight to the enemy. They are a specialist and a master at offensive skills and they don’t play defense.  Their goal is to make the world better by eliminating evil by kinetic means.

They don’t think that they might engage the enemy.  They KNOW, without a doubt, that they are going to engage the enemy.

This is where things get a little complicated…because for most people, it is valuable to be able to switch into warrior mode, but not good to be in warrior mode all of the time.

A couple of examples are that if you are ever attacked, you want to immediately switch into warrior mode and in a firefight, military and law enforcement personnel better be in warrior mode.  The faster you can flip the switch, in all 3 situations, the more likely you will survive.

As I said, this mindset and attitude is incredibly valuable in the right circumstances. In it’s purest form, it’s also very rare. As Heraclitus said:

“Out of every one hundred men,
ten shouldn’t even be there,
eighty are just targets,
nine are the real fighters,
and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle.
Ah, but the one, one is a warrior,
and he will bring the others back.”

And yet, if you watch movies, look at clothing at an MMA gym, or read any law enforcement magazines, it appears as if being a warrior is the standard that all “real” men should aspire to and the mode that they should be in all of the time.

Let’s take things to an extreme and look at a historical example of what a warrior culture looks like.

The Spartans (think of the movie, “300”) were legendary warriors. Their craft, focus, passion, and purpose was warcraft and some of the lessons they learned are still in use by today’s modern warriors. Spartans weren’t farmers. They weren’t merchants. They weren’t guards.  They were warriors.

That part’s really cool. The other side of the story isn’t. They killed their infants who weren’t “warrior material.” They exiled youth who didn’t make the grade as far as health, physique, mental toughness, and combat ability. This wasn’t like getting kicked out of the military or washing out of an elite unit. In many cases, it was banishment from society into the wilderness and essentially a death sentence.

In modern terms, that kind of pure warrior focus on the tactical arts has a time and a place, but when there is no opportunity to use those skills for good, it leads to frustration if that’s the only mode that they have to operate in.

A warrior with no war to fight oftentimes looks for a war to fight, creates a war to fight, or lives in frustration like a dog who can only run to the end of it’s chain and bark. I’ve been there. It’s no fun.

This happens A LOT…

– This happens with warriors who come home from battle who no longer have an offensive outlet where they can “take it to the enemy” with “speed, surprise, and violence of action.”

– It happens when warriors switch from offensive roles to primarily defensive roles like most law enforcement, security, and close protection details like the Secret Service without switching their mindset.

– It happens when people start getting firearms and other self-defense training and their “bogeyman” meter is a little too sensitive.

– It even happens with SWAT and SRU units that have a low offensive OPTEMPO and don’t get called out enough.

Some of the consequences of continually being in an offensive warrior state with no enemy and no war to fight are frustration, negative impacts on relationships, and even the potential for unnecessary injury, as was illustrated in the SWAT story above.

That being said, when a situation demands a warrior, nothing less will do. And when society realizes the situation needs a warrior, it’s already too late to create/build one. (H/T to Force Recon Marine, Chris Graham)Whether it’s a war overseas, in a plane on 9/11, an active shooter situation, or a couple of terrorists in Garland TX…when you need a warrior, you need a warrior NOW.

I want to propose a solution that takes advantage of the warrior mind, warrior ethos, and the ability of a warrior to completely change the tide of battle without the negative impact of creating a warrior who has no outlet for their mindset.

Why’s this matter? Because everyone has a movie playing in their head where they are the lead character. The role that they see themselves playing affects everything that they do, regardless of whether or not it’s accurate or beneficial.

If the movie in your head and your internal dialog constantly frames you as a warrior when you don’t have an outlet to be a warrior or the ability to be a warrior, then you’re going to be frustrated and/or looking for excuses to be a warrior, whether they’re necessary or not.

In short, I’m suggesting that for most people, most of the time, it’s healthier and more accurate to have the mindset of a guardian—even a Praetorian Guard–than continually operating with the mindset of a warrior.

Why the Praetorian Guard in particular? Praetorian Guards were the elite bodyguards of Roman emperors who guarded the emperor and his family, the palace, and certain other high ranking officials. Like law enforcement and Secret Service today, many of them participated in wars and had combat experience.

As Praetorian Guards, they were able to operate on both defense and offense. They acted as observers, protectors, and guardians when that was appropriate and could flip the switch and go into warrior mode when necessary.  It wasn’t an either/or situation.  They trained themselves to flip the switch back and forth, depending on the situation.

Here’s a couple of illustrations of the difference between warriors and guardians…

A warrior will spend his days seeking out and approaching hornets’ nests and destroying them.

A guardian will go about his business, avoid the hornet’s nest when it’s practical, but won’t hesitate to destroy any hornet that threatens him or his family. If the nest has to go, he’ll flip into warrior mode or call in warriors and take care of business (TCB).

Here’s another example…

A warrior has a hammer, is an expert with it, and is always looking for an opportunity to use it to do good. If he can’t find a nail that needs banging, sooner or later he’ll look for something else he can justify using the hammer on.

A guardian has a hammer, is good with it, but also carries a screw driver, a ratchet set, and other tools. Since he has other tools, he’s not always looking for nails or excuses to use his hammer, but when the need arises, he uses it with expertise and without hesitation.

And an example from football…

A warrior is like a football player who either plays ONLY on special teams and who’s job it is to sprint down the field and crush the kick/punt returner or who only comes on the field to sack the QB.

A guardian is like a football player who can still make tackles, but 9 plays out of 10 fills more traditional roles like plugging a hole on the line, covering a receiver, or even blocking and catching on offense.

And one more that may or may not be a stretch…

A warrior wakes up knowing that he’s going to either train for war that he eventually WILL be in or will take the fight to the enemy that day.

A guardian knows that the possibility exists that he might be involved in physical violence when he wakes up in the morning and is ready for it, but it doesn’t consume his day.

So, what’s the point of all of this?

Two things:

First, I’m trying to help warrior soldiers who have transitioned into a phase of their life where they no longer have the opportunity to take action as a warrior. I see and hear frustration from them on a regular basis. I want more guys to know that a slight shift in inner dialog can make life less frustrating for the “frustrated warrior.” They can still be a bad-ass Praetorian Guard and flip the switch into warrior mode if necessary, but they don’t have to be in warrior mode 24/7.  If you see any ways to fine tune the message, I’d appreciate it.

Second, as alluded to with the SWAT story at the beginning of this article, when law enforcement (and civilian sheepdogs) see every situation through the eyes of a warrior, the tendency is to act offensively with speed, surprise, and violence of action. Sometimes that’s what’s needed, but for people who are looking at the world through the eyes of a warrior but who never have the need take action like a warrior, oftentimes it’s better to look at the world through the eyes of a guardian.

Where’s the balance between a warrior and guardian mindset? It’d be nice if there was a clear cut answer. There’s not, but hopefully this will help you sort it out for yourself.  Questions?  Comments?  Please sound off by commenting below.

3 Great Lessons From Getting Disqualified at Indoor Nationals

Ox here, from Dry Fire Training Cards…

A couple of months ago, I sponsored and shot in the Smith & Wesson IDPA Indoor National Championships. Many of you knew I was getting ready for it and heard rumors of what happened, and I want to share exactly what happened. It was simultaneously horrible and awesome, and hopefully you can get as much enjoyment and education from my pain and comedy of errors as my friends have.  :)

The fun starts off when I’m getting ready to go out the door to go to the airport and realize that I haven’t taken my vitamins.  I see a glass of water by our water filter, figure I’ll save a few seconds and pick it up and proceed to chug my vitamins…only it’s not water.

It’s the hydrogen peroxide that my wife used to clean our toothbrushes the night before! If you’ve ever gargled with hydrogen peroxide or put it on a wound and saw all of the bubbles form…imagine 4 ounces rapidly reacting and expanding in a sealed balloon (my stomach)

I used my google-fu and figured out what I needed to do to neutralize it, but was still burping violently, had a headache, and was nauseous for the next hour and a half while I drove to the airport.

I dropped my truck off at the Ford dealer to get some warranty work done on the way to the airport.  The service guy started driving my truck off before I got my stuff out and I had to chase after him to get my stuff.  This was about half an hour after I took the hydrogen peroxide and running seemed to re-ignite the reaction in my gut. In the rush and my altered state, I left my coat in the truck…which was also my cover garment for the match :)

I made my flight and got to Springfield Mass.  There were 6-10 foot piles of snow along every street/road, the temperature was in the teens, and my coat was back home in my truck.  I called stores in 2 states in a 50 mile radius for almost an hour to find one that had a L or XL coat in stock…they were all sold out because of the extreme cold they’d had the previous few weeks.

Now I had what would technically be called a big-ass Carhartt coat to keep warm and use as a cover garment. Not a high-speed, light weight fishing/photography vest like most guys use for their cover garment, but much more like what I wear most of the year in real life.

Before the match, I bought a new Glock 26 and bought my first drop-in trigger from Zev. I happened to talk with the match armorer (Scott Folk from Apex Tactical) there and found out that my Zev trigger knocked me out of the stock service pistol division and put me into the “enhanced” service pistol division.  I am not classified in enhanced service pistol, so it looked like I was going to be DQ’d.

3 people offered me their guns in the first 10 minutes…no questions asked and unbelievable.  The match director, “King” Bob Stonehill, even found a new Glock 26 for me at a dealer in Connecticut and was going to have it driven down for me to use which was off-the-hook unbelievable.  In the 30 minutes between when he found it, found me, and called back, it sold.

Not to be deterred, Bob found a guy (Tom) with a “well loved” Glock 19 who said I could use it.  (Tom was, again, unbelievable.) Scott, the armorer, took the stock trigger out of Tom’s Glock 19 and put it in my 26.  Now I had my gun, but not my trigger, but I was fine with it.  I wanted my trigger, but I knew I could run anything I had in my hands.

That night, I figured I’d better put in a lot of dry fire time with the 26 and the new trigger instead of just using my SIRT.  The holster that I had had an odd quirk. It was MODEL specific.  In my hurry to pack, I saw that my SIRT was holstered, figured I was good for a holster, and left it at that.  Once I started trying to draw and dry fire, I couldn’t get the 26 subcompact to release from the Glock 17 full-size holster.

Comp-Tac was there, so I bought a holster that fits all frame lengths…but it had the drop attachment installed and didn’t have a wrench included to swap it out.

This was the night before the indoor national championships.  On a hunch, I went downstairs to the mixer, found Neil Feathers, who helped me a ton before Back-up-gun Nationals, and he happened to have an allen wrench that worked, and now I had a holster and put in dry fire time until I was comfortable with the new trigger.

Despite all of the challenges, I went to bed feeling confident, excited yet calm, and ready to go.  Then I got a text from my alarm company telling me that the alarm was going off at the house and police were on the way.  I couldn’t get a hold of my wife and couldn’t get a hold of the babysitter who was watching the boys.  Finally, I called off the police and got a neighbor to go over (faster), reached my wife, and reached the babysitter.  It was a false alarm because the boys left a helium balloon out that triggered the motion sensor. There went an hour of sleep.

So, I went to bed and was good to go for morning…with a new trigger, new holster, and new cover garment.

First stage was a little rough getting the timing/cadence in tune with the trigger.  2nd, 3rd, and 4th stages were awesome and it looked like I was sitting in 2nd place in my division/classification.

Then they did the equipment check.

I was shooting Freedom Munitions 115gr ammo that’s supposed to fly at 1150fps.  It chronoed on the 5 1/2″ test gun that they used for every other shooter in the mid 950s to low 1,000s.  It needed to be at 1089.  I was DQ’d.  After all of the preparation, flying from coast to coast, rental car, 5 nights in a hotel, and almost a week away from home, I was disqualified.  It sucked.

They let me shoot the rest of the match for no score.  I was “a little off” for a couple of stages, and then did great on the last 5-6 rounds.

So, a few big takeaways…

First, if you want to try sport shooting and haven’t because you have the idea in your head that everyone will be mean, impatient, and laugh at you, they won’t. The shooting sports are made up of an awesome group of people.  Every group or organization will have roses and turds, but I’ve found way more awesome people in sport shooting than turds.

Some may be recovering drill sergeants and yell more than they need to, but they’re just trying to keep everyone safe and they’ve got a lifetime of mental baggage from dealing with 18-20 year olds.

Be patient with them and they’ll keep you from hurting yourself. You may only yell and use a loud voice when you’re angry but drill sergeants and firearms instructors communicating with 5-20 students shooting guns with ear protection on yell and even scream just to be heard.

Second, I was, frankly, very excited about how cool and calm I was the night before the National Championships considering all of the cascading problems that had happened. It wasn’t a case where I was saying mantras or trying to convince myself to be calm…I would just get a big smile on my face from time to time realizing how calm I was considering the onslaught of problems. (there were other, BIGGER, problems that I didn’t even mention)

This calm wasn’t an accident. It was a combination of confidence through repetition, stress inoculation, and state control.

The confidence through repetition came from doing a few hundred dry fire reps per night and a good bit of live fire practice to validate the dry fire…roughly in a 9:1 ratio.

The stress inoculation came through training with pain stimulus, under time pressure, force on force, and performing in front of others with high expectations at the risk of embarrassment.

The state control came primarily from the work I’ve done with Matt Seibert at Insight Firearms Training which uses techniques and tactics to blunt the release of adrenaline in extreme stress situations and to consciously, predictably, and instantly trigger the proverbial “ice flowing through my veins” state that someone who’s “been there, done that, and got the T-shirt” has when they’re in a life or death situation for the umpteenth time. This extreme brain hack allows mere mortals to perform at elite levels.  It really is one of the few “holy grails” in shooting and you can find out more by going >HERE<

Third, I was initially very pissed at Freedom Munitions, but have become a huge fan.

In short, I bought their standard range ammo that was 115 grain 9mm rated at 1150 feet per second. It was not and is not intended for competition. It’s purpose is to reliably cycle stock handguns with the minimum amount of powder and recoil so that shooters can have an optimal practice experience.

They had recently re-tweaked the load and lowered the muzzle velocity. Since it’s not intended to be a competition load, that’s not a big deal for 90% of their customers.

The industry expectation is that if you’re shooting competitively in major matches, you’ll run the ammo you’re going to use through a chronograph before the match…regardless of whether it’s factory ammo or hand loaded ammo.

Their new VP of marketing, Janson Jones (3 Gun Nation Shooter), helped spearhead 2 new ammo options…”Super Match” and “Hush”. I’ve shot a few hundred rounds of each and am extremely impressed.

Super Match is designed to make power factor for all calibers with a minimum of excess powder and recoil at a fraction of the price of traditional match grade ammo. As a pro tour shooter, Janson understands how important this is.

Personally, I’ve used it to shoot 10 shot groups with a Glock 26 sub-compact where there were 4, 3, and even 2 visible overlapping holes in the paper. This means that the group wasn’t 1” or even .5”, but 10 rounds of .38”/9mm made a .45” group with only 2 visible holes where the bullets went through.

Fair warning…if you run this ammo in your gun, anything other than a 1-hole-group is user error.  It WILL make you a better shooter.

The “Hush” ammo is a line of ammo designed specifically for use with suppressors. It has just enough fast burning powder to reliably cycle the gun without causing excessive fouling. I’ve found it to be reliable both suppressed and unsuppressed, although the slide stop won’t always engage on the last round unsuppressed.

One “cool” feature of Hush is that you can shoot a full 17+1 round mag and still touch your suppressor with your hands.  This is awesome and not normal.

I’m not sure what the decibel reading is for Hush, but I know that I can shoot a full mag of 9mm suppressed without hearing protection and have no ill effects. If you haven’t shot suppressed guns before, this is a surprisingly rare thing.

Suppressors are awesome, and are normally “hearing safe” but shooting most rounds through a suppressor will still cause your ears to ring. For more on Freedom Munitions, go to FreedomMunitions.com.  Like I said, I have become a huge fan of theirs, and when you sign up for their mailing list, they’ll send you daily coupons/specials on ammo.  It’s one of the few daily emails that I look forward to receiving every day.

I’ll leave you with a video of another stage from Indoor Nationals. It was a mind-bender, to say the least…leprechauns, clouds, lollipops, and all sorts of crazy stuff between me and the bad guys.

Thoughts, questions? Fire away by commenting below:


4 Hacks To Improve Your Self-Defense Mindset

Ox here... The response to Tuesday’s article on the Coyote vs. Moose was great. Several of you signed up for training, commented on the article, and emailed in. One of the comments reminded me of 4 lessons that I’ve learned over the years training with Tim and Chris. The commenter said, “piss on the rules, when it’s me or you, it’s been nice knowing you” and I get the mindset 100%. I’ve been there. I’ve had the same mindset. But what I found through the years is that you can make slight … Continue reading...

Self Defense lessons from a coyote vs. moose (surprise end & pics)


I want to show you a couple of pictures that I took the other day when I was trail running.  I've got kids and have changed diapers and am immune to "gross" and don't think there's anything wrong with what I'm about to show you, but here's a fair warning that you might not want to read this if you're currently eating milk duds: What they show is the ultimate in disrespect…a 40 pound coyote pooping on a pile of scat (poop) from a 1000 pound moose. Did you think, "How could the coyote DARE … Continue reading...

The BEST Pistol Shooting Technique

Glock mag release (Small)

Ox here…This article is going to blend an important life lesson with shooting in general and pistol shooting in particular and I'm sure it'll ruffle some feathers. I guarantee it’ll be entertaining and educational. There’s a school of thought in pistol training that you want to pick and use techniques that will work on several different platforms, regardless of which pistol you primarily shoot. You may not know which gun you’re going to have with you when disaster strikes and you may find … Continue reading...

Top 10 Reasons You Should Shoot Competitively

Ox here...Summer is almost here, and along with it, there will be thousands of opportunities across the country to compete in local, regional, and national shooting sports events that can make you a better defensive shooter. Specifically, IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association) matches, USPSA (US Practical Shooting Association) matches, and/or 3-gun/multi-gun matches are all great opportunities to hone your skills and rapidly improve your skills with a life saving tool. If you're … Continue reading...

Visual Perception Delay and In-The-Back Shootings

A horrible story is coming out of North Charleston, South Carolina this week about an officer shooting a man 8 times in the back while fleeing on foot after a traffic stop. What I've seen and read so far is not good…simply by the number of shots the officer fired, but do you know why that is? Or do you know why it’s common for civilians or law enforcement to shoot their attackers 1, 2, or even 3 times in the back before realizing that their attacker has turned? In short, reality isn’t … Continue reading...

Pistol Training In Your Car That could make you a safer driver

Sometimes (actually quite often) I find crossover between what I'm doing on the firearms training front and the rest of my life. Vision training is one of those areas.  The same exercises that help me pick up my front sight faster also help me keep my eyes on the road more when I'm driving and help me scan a room/crowd faster. In this case, the drill is one of the drills from www.DryFireTrainingCards.com that I've adapted to do in my truck (without a pistol) at stoplights.  It's easy, … Continue reading...

4 Firearms Myths That Bad Guys Believe And You Shouldn’t

Ox here with 4 myths about firearms accuracy that bad guys believe and you shouldn't MYTH 1.  You can't shoot accurately with a (fill in the blank) pistol. Normally, I hear this argument about subcompacts, pistols/revolvers with long heavy triggers, or pistols that have a long double action for the first round and a single action thereafter. The fact is that all of these make firing fast and accurate groups more difficult, but it shouldn't be an excuse for poor performance. If you … Continue reading...

Maximizing Your Performance Under Stress

Ox here... Whether you found us because of a desire to be more prepared or to shoot better, there’s a good chance that you’re like the rest of our audience and would love to know how to perform better in extreme stress. It could be reacting to a family member having a life threatening emergency, responding to a natural or manmade disaster, stopping a lethal force threat, or everyday life challenges. Through the years, I’ve encountered high stress situations where I’ve frozen with … Continue reading...