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Words mean things

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Words mean things. Words can articulate something precisely, with specificity and context, or they can (sometimes intentionally) promulgate ambiguity and misinformation.

I'm no ‘Nomenclature Nazi', but in a largely non-absolute world we should be 100% accurate with those absolutes we do have – particularly if you're an instructor, teacher or other form of SME (Subject Matter Expert) . Calling a slide catch a “doohickey” doesn't pass muster. To do so sews confusion and shortens the student's learning experience. You should realize that some students don't know what the “doohickey” is properly called (however obvious it might seem to you or your other students), which is at least partly why they came to you in the first place. If you are going to teach something, you should understand the “hows” and “whys” of it – including the etymology and proper context. Conversely, if you are learning something, you should seek to understand etymology and context. Both are significant.

In the gun owner/training world we are frequently guilty of “Blue on Blue”. It's gone on for so long things have become Balkanized. Like minds tend to gravitate together, and there isn't anything inherently wrong with that. However, there are certain things that should be universal. When they aren't, things become a mess. As I see it the number one cause of consternation and conflict is our choice and use of words.

Verbiage has become a point of annoyance for me. Semantics is not always petty. Sometimes it's critical. When I hear people dropping terms out of context it makes my skin crawl. It's insulting to those who have lived and died in the gunfights that provided lessons learned – where we get our TTPs (Tactics, Techniques and Procedures). Where in some instances established terminology has been reduced to buzzwords, other times established terminology is replaced by colloquialisms and rebranding. Counter to popular theory, “tactical” is not determined by gear and speed of performance. “Tactical” doesn't mean fast or covered in armor or Duracoated insert color here.

To do things tactically means you use the appropriate speed, techniques and equipment for that task, under those conditions.

The term “tactics”, used without a sound and solid foundation of various techniques to choose from, is merely a buzzword.

Take my friend Jon for example. When Jon was physically assaulted by an “Occupier” in DC, he used the appropriate level of force to put the aggressor on the ground. Then performed a cursory 360 scan, found a path of egress, took off his flip-flops and beat feet to the Metro station.

Excellent tactics Jon!

My friend Jon is a master of tactics. It doesn't matter if he is fully jocked up in Crye, throwing a 9-banger through a threshold or rocking flippy-floppies, jeans and a Dirtybird hat. Tactics (being tactically minded) isn't determined solely by our equipment – although equipment properly used can be a tactical advantage. That church-going Christian there might wear a suit on Sunday, but that doesn't mean everyone is a suit is a Christian. Furthermore, that Christian is (presumably) a Christian the other six days of the week regardless of what he's wearing.

You follow?

Z3ro Three Solutions on the range 1

Tactical things

There are those who teach that reholstering is an “administrative task”, as though there is no reason to put your gun away until there's a big balloon drop and a bikini-clad chick hands you a big check. Quite the contrary, there are situations where putting away your gun as quickly and safely as possible is required, i.e. running, climbing, treating the wounded, or maybe even clawing your way out of a smoke-filled building or overturned vehicle. Reholstering is not adminstrative. There is not a single administrative task conceivable that involves a gun in hand. When a firearm is in hand, it becomes a deliberate task.

Procedure keeps the frank above the beans.

Keeping the Frank Above the Beans

Many believe that every initial loading procedure should be done “tactically”, incorporating a full presentation and scan. It is believed that “one more rep” could be the key to success. However, this does not translate at all well to real life. Even FLETC teaches this procedure and we had to unteach it at DSS. Why? In both day to day citizen and LE life, discretion and safety with CCW carry of a weapon are primary concerns. An armed citizen retrieving their pistol from a safe doesn't need to press out to full extension in order to load and make ready. There is a human propensity to feel that trigger (trigger affirmation) – if you combine that with the fact that an average person only rarely aims a gun without shooting, you have the potential for a problem. Then factor in discretion and the fact that there are very few situations in which you can draw and point a gun without causing a stir. Even fewer are the occasions that you can own the other side of the wall with 100% certainty.

What is more important here – one more rep, or insuring that the weapon is loaded without aiming in at a wall with unknowns on the other side? Practice and “OpChecking” equipment are crucial and often overlooked, so I understand the school of thought that leads to this initial loading procedure. My suggestion is to let dry practice be dry practice; let maintenance be maintenance, and when you are loading or confirming status, just load the dam gun as safely and effectively as possible and holster it.

“…the appropriate speed, techniques and equipment for the task.”

What are more inclined to described as a “tactical” manipulation, the “one more rep” procedure or a more discrete loading procedure? Being situationally aware, utilizing deliberate manipulations while safely insuring the status of the pistol…does that not meet my definition of tactics?

The irony is that you know very well  that many of those who laud the “one more rep” procedure often end up looking around to find a safe direction to escape a possible threat or drama in day to day life, which is as it should be. I am not besmirching the instructors who teach the “one more rep” procedure, I raise it as an example because of the possible conflict between that TTP's potential results  and the Law of Primacy, “What's learned first is learned best.” That is a constant, and so should be taken in context by instructors. Our time with students is limited. All aspects of the training we provide need to be applicable to their lives.


“…it ain't about looking cool.”

Instructors labeling themselves as “tactical instructors” should possess a mastery of numerous techniques with the understanding of situational driven combinations and employments thereof. At its heart, tactical firearms training is where marksmanship and weapon manipulation are driven by mindset. That's all there is to it. There are plenty of instructors out there. Be it former or current military, LEOs or competitive experts, lots of them do great work with many shooters. Still there are others who have picked up skills without the being able to concurrently shoplift the maturity and background to know the difference between masturbatory theory and tactics. This is in large part why there is such consternation over instructor background, verbiage and kit – it's because the original author/trainer/teacher's intention or context was lost in the retelling.

Words have meaning. If those wielding the words do so without understanding the progenitor's intent, it's like listening to a Puritan trying to cuss for the first time. Just like words, techniques have meaning and usage rules. When married together justly you get tactics, much like a sentence. When the meaning and usage isn't applied properly you end up with a fragmented and confusing result. If this stings you, then perhaps you shouldn't be throwing around words and terms like tactical, dynamic and non-permissive, whether in jest or in an attempt to sound relevant.

It's nauseating how often buzzwords are tossed around, whether seriously or joking. It's like checker players heckling chess players. Happily though, ignorance isn't terminal.

Not as long as you do something to correct it.

About the Author: Chad Mercer is the owner of Z3ro Solutions LLC (pronounced zero three as in the USMC infantry MOS). A former Marine whose career as a professional stuntman necessitated a change in career, Mercer became a gunsmith and eventually a Defensive Equipment and Armored Vehicle Branch Armorer at the US Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security. He went on to become a Senior Instructor at the DSS Training Center Firearms Training Unit. Z3ro Solutions had its genesis when LWRCI approached Mercer to teach their armorer courses. He currently instructs for Practical Firearms Training in Alderson, WV and “helps Rob Tackett move heavy stuff” at TacStrike. You can contact Z3ro Solutions or Mercer at info(at) or at cmercer(ag)



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