Intuitive Defensive Shooting for Dynamic Critical Incidents
Jan. 10, 2022

Counter Ambush Training & Grass Roots Advocacy (003)

Counter Ambush Training & Grass Roots Advocacy (003)

In today's episode, Rob talks in depth about Counter Ambush Training methodology and in the politics segment, how you can best represent all gun owners following a mass shooting tragedy. How can you best train for defensive situations? Does dry-fire...

Balance of Speed & PrecisionIn today's episode, Rob talks in depth about Counter Ambush Training methodology and in the politics segment, how you can best represent all gun owners following a mass shooting tragedy.

How can you best train for defensive situations? Does dry-fire practice have a place in Counter Ambush Training? What about the "Mozambique Drill" - Two to the body, one to the head? Is that practical? Is it useful? Why is the Balance of Speed and Precision drill a better option? 

If you are interested in firearms training for defensive use, this is an important topic for you.

In the Politics Segment, Rob discusses how can you best represent fellow gun owners following a mass shooting incident. Rob explores this challenging and often emotional discussion with an approach when discussing the balance between gun restrictions and the Second Amendment rights. 

Listen and follow/subscribe today!


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The Rob Pincus Podcast is produced and edited for you by Growing Planet Media, LLC. 

Music: I'm Not Running Away by Max Brodie (PremiumBeat)

Copyright © 2022 by Growing Planet Media, LLC


Episode 003 - Counter Ambush Training & Grass Roots Advocacy


Speaker: This is Rob Pincus. Welcome to The Rob Pincus Podcast.


Speaker: The Rob Pincus Podcast is brought to you by the Personal Defense Network. The Personal Defense Network is the leading destination of high-quality, online personal defense video content, and a no-nonsense gathering place for those serious about arming themselves for defense in every aspect of their lives. To learn more, visit Now, here's Rob.

Speaker: Today in our training segment, we're going to talk about counter-ambush training methodology, which really is the heart of the approach that I take to all of my defensive training at ICE Training Company. In the politics segment, we're going to talk about how you can be a better advocate in the aftermath of a tragedy. We know that a lot of people will be talking about guns and unfortunately, gun restrictions after there's any kind of high profile mass killing or spree killing that goes on with a firearm. You need to be prepared to talk to people from outside of the gun community who have concerns about what we do as responsible gun owners.

The training segment today as always is going to be brought to you by Personal Defense Network. is your source for 1000s of pieces of content related to you being better prepared to defend yourself or those that you care about from harm. This doesn't just mean firearms training, it doesn't just mean interesting information about gear, holsters, and guns. It really means all-around self-defense preparation, training, and education in emergency medicine, security for your home, awareness, how to handle situations that may not rise to the level of physical violence if you can avoid it, and of course, simple ideas about how you can train better when you are at the range with your gun.

The idea that you need to be better prepared is something that comes from you, but the information has to come from experts. That education and information is available at We've been collecting and producing information for over 15 years, and I've got some of the world's greatest experts there inside of our collection. Take a look, see what you think, and sign up, but wait until after the podcast of course. As I said, today, we're going to talk about counter-ambush training.

This builds off of something we talked about in the last episode, the idea of being intuitive when you select skills, select a technique, or when you approach training in preparation at all. Being intuitive means working well with what the body does naturally. Counter-ambush training specifically addresses what the body will do naturally when you're caught off guard in the kinds of situations where you're most likely to need the skills that you'll be practicing and developing. This goes for the skills of verbal de-escalation, conflict avoidance, as well as, of course, your defensive shooting and all of your unarmed defensive techniques as well.

Let's distinguish between an ambush and a defensive incident. One of the problems with a lot of the training that I've seen over the last couple of decades on the range is that it's called defensive training, the reality is it looks a lot like training to be a marksman. It's exactly the same type of training that I would think would be conducted if someone just wanted to be able to shoot tight groups or score highly in competition. We know that in the real world when you need to use a gun to defend yourself, it's not going to be like a competition. It certainly isn't going to be like when you're training to put all those rounds into one hole or score high on a qualification course.

The big difference is the ambush. It's the idea that when you need to defend yourself, at some level, you have to acknowledge that you will have been caught off guard. As I joke in classes, if you know the Chinese food restaurant is going to be robbed tonight at gunpoint, you're probably going to choose to go eat Italian instead. Conflict avoidance and de-escalation are rule number one and rule number two of self-defense. If you can avoid a gunfight, I assume you will, that's part of being responsibly armed, of course, is to avoid confrontation and de-escalate whenever possible. It's just common sense that if you can avoid having to take a life or have your life threatened, you're going to do it.

By definition, all of our truly defensive uses of firearms should be in response to getting caught off guard, and that's the ambush. When we talk about ambushes, we're talking about something we refer to as a dynamic critical incident. That phrase has been attacked and celebrated probably about equally or last decade or two. The reality is it's a cumbersome mouthful of syllables, dynamic critical incident, and it might sound like we're just trying to use a technical term to make something more mysterious than it is. There's a reason that we use that term and there's a reason that we define it the way we do, and that reason is the ambush.

Dynamic critical incidents are surprising, chaotic, and threatening. If I just asked you to find some words to describe something that needed a defensive response, you probably would come up with surprising and you probably would come up with threatening. The word chaos is really the operative word when it comes to developing a counter-ambush training attitude, and certainly, the methodology that will follow from that. The chaos is the idea that in the midst of this situation that you weren't expecting, you also have to deal with a lot of unpredictable variables. That's usually what's missing from that square range training, that's certainly was missing from the competitions.

If you think about the way most dynamic action or even "defensive competitions" work in the firearms world, you're given a stage briefing, you have a bunch of rules you have to follow. You know exactly where the targets are and quite often, the targets have to be engaged in a specific order. Almost always, the targets have to be engaged with a specific number of rounds. The idea that you can shoot extra rounds in many competitions is there but in practice, the people that are winning those competitions and taking home the plaques, or getting the bragging rights, they're shooting the minimum number of rounds in a very controlled, precise, and choreographed way.

It's that choreography that you can't add into your training if you really want to be prepared for chaos. Chaos means that, yes, you were surprised, you were caught off guard and now you're going to have to continue to collect and process information while you're doing the things that you intend to do or even things that you're having to improvise for unexpected situations. While everyone understands the idea of being caught off guard or surprised, most of the training I see doesn't integrate the chaos. What am I talking about? I'm talking about the idea of two to the body, one to the head.

It's known as a failure drill. The idea is that you have fired into the chest and it's not working, so you're going to transition to a headshot. Obviously, that is something that people think is going to be their response to someone who's maybe wearing body armor or something like that. There is a whole bunch of problems with the theory and definitely a whole bunch of problems with the presumed application. The speed with which I see people at close range distances shooting two to the body and one to the head simply doesn't allow for the collecting and processing of new information.

The thing that's not being taken into consideration here is the idea that when you are shooting at the body, you're going to have to take in the information that those shots are not being effective, make the decision, or at least have some level of recognition that you need to switch to an alternative target area, and that target area being the head is going to take more time, effort, and energy to engage than the body did in the first place.

The idea that you would know you're going to do this ahead of time, or that you would even practice the idea of shooting to the body and then to the head really is pretty reckless, especially if we're talking about the physical mechanics of it, which generally is a double-tap to the chest and then a physical movement upward of the gun to a head area, and then a firing of a shot usually while that gun is still moving, or as it's settling onto the head. The human head isn't always going to be linearly and directly above the area of the body that you're shooting into.

Someone is leaning or someone is running, someone is trying to dodge, you shooting at them as they're shooting at you or running towards you with a knife, of course, it doesn't make any sense that you would just automatically track linearly in an upward direction. If that's all you're ever practicing, I believe you're really practicing failure, not just a failure drill. The drill literally is teaching you to assume your shots aren't working on the chest and swing your gun up and fire a shot in the hopes that you'll hit a harder, more dynamic target.

This that kind of choreographed training that works really well on the range and quite honestly looks pretty cool on social media is actually hurting your ability to train in a way that accepts the chaos. Collecting and processing information while executing your physical skills, while choosing your tactics, while responding, of course, to what's going on around you, you may have an opportunity to use cover or the threat may move behind cover. Of course, the number one thing you're going to have to collect and process is when to stop shooting. We know that many people have fired all the rounds in their gun when they didn't need to.

Some people get caught up in the emotion of the moment and chase a threat that's running away. You see convenience store clerks jump over the counter and chase people in a parking lot. You see homeowners chase people out of their home and into the street long after anybody would think it was reasonable for them to feel that they were actually in danger. Most bad guys change their mind about being bad guys when you show that you're ready to defend yourself and capable of it. That's the very basic level of collecting and processing information, which should resonate with everyone.

Obviously, specific situations are going to have even more nuanced details that are going to be important to keep track of. What do we recommend in a counter-ambush training methodology? We recommend grosser motor skills and rehearsed motions that are tied to predictable stimuli. What does that mean? A stimulus-response pattern is a pattern of movement or a pattern of actions that you can train on the range. One of the simplest ones to visualize here while we're talking about it on a podcast is probably an emergency reload or a slide lock reload.

If you know how a semi-automatic gun works, you shoot it and shoot it and shoot it and shoot it until it locks open. The slide, having gone back and forth and back and forth and back and forth, will lock open on an empty magazine. Of course, this is assuming you have a modern gun with proper magazines and everything's in good working order and you have a good shooting platform. You're shooting, you're shooting, you're shooting, you hit slide lock. It's actually the feeling of slide lock that is the stimulus that represents the need for you to go through your motions of a reload.

One of the things that I think is a really bad idea, for example, is practicing your reloads in a dry environment, just going through the motions of the response without tying the response to the stimulus. I've seen a lot of great shooters on the range suffer from this mistake. These are not just great shooters, in my opinion. These are people who've won a lot of plaques.

People who have definitely been acknowledged as some of the greatest shooters in the history of the world, particularly with handguns, who I've been honored to spend time with on the range, but I've seen go through these motions of having real malfunctions or hitting slide lock unexpectedly in the middle of a choreograph drill and simply stopping, or at least having a very, very noticeable pause before they execute a perfect tap rack bang or a perfect slide lock reload.

It's that pause, it's the mental processing that comes from having practiced dry or having practiced in an environment where you know there's only one round in the gun, you drive the gun, you pull the trigger, and immediately start your reload without actually processing the information of slide lock, that feeling. In counter-ambush training, we recommend that you would stagger your loads in your magazines. You might put 30% in one magazine, 50% in another, 70% in a third, scramble them up, put them in your pockets or your magazine carrier, or down on the table in front of you wherever you're loading from. Then run drills like our balance of speed and precision drill, which you can do a quick Google search.

You can research that online and see how the balance of speed and precision drill works. It requires you to shoot a different number of rounds in every string of fire within a certain reasonable amount, three to five or four to six for most cases. You're shooting three rounds, you're shooting six rounds, you're shooting four rounds, you're shooting five rounds, you're shooting maybe one round for a headshot command or a call that you've programmed into your iPod, your MP3 player, whatever you've got giving you your commands when you're working alone, and at some point, you're going to hit slide lock.

When you hit slide lock, that's the stimulus that creates the response. You tie that stimulus of slide lock to your learned maneuvers. You're dropping off the old magazine, reaching for a new magazine, finding it, putting it in, racking the slide, getting the gun back into the battery, and then either continuing to collect and process information if you're envisioning that the threat is down or continuing to engage the threat. The key here is tying the response to the stimulus. That's the heart of the counter-ambush training methodology. The only way to really do that is to be collecting and processing information while you're doing things.

That starts with simply processing commands so that you're not going through a stage briefing and saying, okay, on the whistle, you're going to shoot three shots into the chest, reload, and shoot one shot into the head. If you're doing those kinds of drills, are they fine for basic mechanics? Sure. Will they help you win competitions? Absolutely, but they may or may not best prepare you to use your defensive skills when you really need them in a vital critical incident. One of the other key things we stress is no visual reference when you don't need it.

Of course, this includes aiming the gun, using kinesthetic alignment whenever possible, using your sites, of course, when you need them, and when you're doing things like reloads and clearing malfunctions, not looking at your gun. Running your gun without visual reference is a great way to be able to do develop these skills in a way that you can apply them while you're continuing to collect and process information about your threat or the environment; where there's cover, someone who needs help, a family member that needs medical attention, for example.

This all comes down to training in context. Training in context is something that, again, a lot of people talk about, but I don't always see really coming through in the range drills. One of the things that's bothered me over the last 10, 15, 20, 30 years of reading the material from the gurus, the greats in this industry, the people that I certainly stand on the shoulders of as a defensive shooting educator, is that they sound like they're going to be doing exactly what I think should be happening on the range.

What that reinforces to me is when they talk about theory, when they talk about concept, when they're in the classroom, or even in between drills out on the range talking about how we should develop skills and the skills we should be developing, everything sounds right. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people have run back to isolated performance as their metric of success when it comes to square range activities. What happens? The theory is great, but the range drills, again, look like marksmanship drills. They look like drills designed to help you do well in a qualification course or win at competitions. That's really not what we should be focused on.

Training in context, training for an ambush when you're caught off guard and things are chaotic, that's really what we're focused on at ICE Training Company. I think that's what you'll see when you look through everything at Before we get into our next segment, I want to talk to you again about Second Amendment Organization. Second Amendment Organization is a grassroots advocacy organization that was formed in the aftermath of Sandy Hook. It was actually originally designed to help business owners share their love of firearms and their appreciation for firearms ownership, and especially obviously responsible firearms ownership in the public with their customers.

One of the things that has happened sometimes after tragedy is that businesses have decided to ban the illegal carrying of firearms on their premises. I'm a big believer in private property rights and I think that businesses and property owners have the right to tell people, "No, we don't want you to carry guns." Of course, we have the right as consumers and as potential customers to agree or not agree with that policy. Second Amendment Organization made it easy for businesses to share their friendliness to responsible gun ownership with customers, put a sticker in the window or add your name to the list that we had going at

That was many, many years ago and the organization has certainly evolved, but it is still something that's really important to understand. We want businesses to tell people that we appreciate responsible gun ownership. I think that'll encourage responsible gun ownership. One of the other ways that we get involved at is by giving out advice on grassroots advocacy. That's what we're going to talk about today. If you want to learn more about what Second Amendment Organization does and how we do it, you can head over to after you listen to this podcast.

You'll get to read the blog. You can sign up for our newsletter. You can check out our position statements and, of course, you always have the option of donating to help support the cause. Today, I do want to talk a little bit about grassroots advocacy and specifically how you can be a better advocate in the aftermath of tragedy. As I said at the opening of the show, it's important to understand that one of the times that we're going to be either forced or we're going to have the opportunity to talk about gun rights and our own firearms ownership and how we feel about whether or not rights should be restricted is in the aftermath of a mass shooting or public spree killing.

We had one during the holidays in Denver, where an individual targeted, mostly people he knew at multiple locations and went from place to place in Denver killing multiple people. I was involved in a lot of these conversations in that immediate aftermath, as I always am. Anytime this makes national news, particularly with school shootings, it's a very emotional subject. I actually had a very good friend in the tattoo business who knew some of the victims in this incident. He happens to be pro-gun, so it wasn't a difficult conversation on that front, but of course, anytime a friend loses someone, there's difficulty involved.

Remember that just because you don't know anyone who lost someone or you aren't even talking to someone who knows someone who lost someone, there's still going to be emotion. It's important that you aren't defensive, that you don't perceive an attack against you personally. You may be able to extend that if someone's complaining about guns and talking about gun restriction and attacking gun rights, that they're attacking you and your philosophy on life and your wellbeing and your ability to defend your family and all of that, but be realistic. That's not going to be how it's meant and that's really not the way you're going to go into a productive conversation.

Understand that there will be emotion and you have to be able to empathize. You have to be able to understand some of that emotion. I think one of the problems we have in the gun community is if you picture a guy standing out in front of the mall with a bucket on one side of the entrance, another guy standing out in front of the entrance with a bucket, and both of them have signs asking for donations. One guy says, "Defend our gun rights, Second Amendment, molon labe," quoting the founding fathers, something like that, picture of Thomas Jefferson, whatever it is.

On the other side, you've got a guy standing next to a bucket with a picture of dead kids and crying families and candle-lit memorials saying, "We want to save kids." Think about where the average person walking into that mall is going to put their dollar. If you're not already a gun rights advocate, if you're not already in the gun community, you're probably going to be a lot more compelled by the person who's saying we to save kids, but why do we have guns? I think this has to be an important part of the conversation. This is I think a very honest and emotional part of the conversation.

Most of us have guns to be able to protect our kids or our family or ourselves in these worst-case scenarios. Guns are owned to save lives, and that's an important part of the conversation. You're only going to get there if you can empathize and understand how someone could be upset or bothered that kids lost their lives inside of school, or that people got shot inside of a theater, or that a gunman went from business to business around a major American city killing people that he had a vendetta against for some reason. There was no one there to stop them is quite often the answer that we jumped to.

Guns do save lives, and we know that people have used firearms to defend themselves many, many more times than there free killings or mass shooting events in the US every year. Some estimates put the number at over 200,000 defensive gun uses a year. Of course, those aren't situations where the gun comes out and someone is actually shot for the most part. Worst case scenario, 35,000 to 40,000 firearms involved deaths a year, we know that 60% of them are self-inflicted wounds, suicides involving firearms.

At best if we took all the rest of them, and we pretended there was never a homicide, never a killing, and no police officers were using their firearms, then we've still got less than 20,000 defensive gun uses where someone actually shoots a bad guy to the point where they put that bad guy in the morgue. Of course, that's not the intention. The intention is simply to have the gun to be prepared to defend yourself when you need to and use the minimal amount of force.

While I'm not a big fan of using statistics to talk to people, especially during the emotional aftermath of a tragedy, I do think it's important to point out that there are over 100 million gun owners in the US, there are hundreds of millions of firearms, and there are some unknown tens or even hundreds of thousands of times that the mere presence of a firearm deters someone from trying to take advantage of someone that they thought was a victim. That's it. It's just pulling that shirt back, putting a hand on a gun, and saying, "Sir, you need to stop. You're not going to get my car keys. You're not going to hurt my family. You're not going to hurt me. You need to leave. You need to run away."

That's generally what happens. Most of those defensive gun uses don't even get reported. Of course, I'm a big fan of making sure that you report any defensive gun use, so that there isn't a potential misunderstanding or false claim made against you for some kind of criminal activity with a firearm, but that's just simply not what happens most of the time. As an advocate, you need to be sensitive to the fact that you're not going to be able to go to any reliable statistic. You're not going to be able to give a citation, because when there's not a crime or there's not a crime reported, there's no official record.

The other guys are going to be able to come at you with this is the number of kids that die involving firearms every year. They're going to tell you things like even one child is too many, and we can all agree on that. We can all agree that one child dying at the hands of a murderer is too many. We can agree that one child getting their hands on a firearm that wasn't secured properly and taking their own life is one too many.

What we can't agree on, and this is the important part of the conversation that you have to handle delicately, is that it's appropriate to take away a civil right from hundreds of millions of people because a few people a year abuse their access to firearms or steal firearms, or otherwise use firearms to hurt themselves and others in some catastrophic major way that makes the news. Being emotionally sensitive is incredibly important.

Finding the common ground that people do use guns for appropriate defense, just getting people to understand that and acknowledge it, and making sure that you explain the concept of responsible firearms ownership, those are probably the best ways that you can have a productive conversation and move things forward. Don't be afraid to acknowledge the realities of risk. Just like if you put a pool in your backyard, you have to make sure you put a fence around it, and you want to teach your kids how to swim and make sure that they're not out there before they can swim unsupervised when they're unsupervised. They put floaties on them, put them in the pool with rafts, put them in the low end.

All the things that we do to mitigate the risks of drowning when we have a pool at the house, or when we're visiting someone with a pool, or we go out even to the ocean, we always try to take care of our kids, and that's common sense. We do the same thing with firearms. Responsible gun owners don't just leave loaded guns sitting on a table where kids can get at them. Most people think it's a really good idea lock all of their guns up all the time even if they're loaded in a quick-access safe ready for defensive use at a moment's notice during a ambush situation.

If you don't explain that we acknowledge risk as firearms owners, we can seem careless. We can seem like that guy in front of the mall standing across from the pictures of dead children quoting the founding fathers. That guy is not changing any minds. Real advocacy happens outside of the gun community. It's not about cheerleading, it's not about fear-mongering. It's about educating people in an empathetic and understanding way. We're going to remind people that purchases through dealers do go through background checks, and most of the killers that they've heard about on the news bought their guns legally. They went through those background checks.

Remember those who didn't almost always have obtained the guns from family. Family in many cases who didn't properly secure their guns. It really does come down to an issue of education. It comes down to obviously proactive mental health care, something that Walk the Talk America works very hard on both inside and outside of the gun community. There is evil and there are people who really want to hurt others, and there's people who set out to do it. Then there's situations where someone just crosses a line of mental control where lose control of themselves, and they do something tragic, and then they quite often end up taking their own life at the end of or during that spree killing.

Again, being a proactive gun community that really does cherish responsible gun ownership advocate for proactive mental health care, and do all the things we need to do to prevent unauthorized access to guns is a big part of the way that we prevent suicides and murders. Explaining that to people is probably a great way to form common ground and get them to understand that we're not just a bunch of careless people who don't care about kids, don't care about lives, and just want to quote the founding fathers, pound on the table and say shall not be infringed.

That is not the gun owner that I know. It's not the responsible gun owner that I am, and it's not the one that I recommend you be if you really want to be a good and effective grassroots advocate. It is ultimately okay to acknowledge that freedom isn't safe, but that doesn't mean that we don't care about risk. It means that we acknowledge the risks that come with our freedom, and we take steps to mitigate them. Honestly, the people that are into gun control, we probably want them to understand how we do it and support us in doing it, not fight us as if we aren't taking the right steps because, in the vast majority of situations, we are.

That's something that we firmly believe at Second Amendment Organization. If you agree with us, check out more information on being a great grassroots advocate over there at That does it for this episode of The Rob Pincus Podcast. One of the things I want you to remember is that we're going to be talking soon about all the great things coming out of SHOT Show 2022. It's been a while since we all got together in the firearms industry, and this show was really a great one.

It was great to be back together with a lot of people. It was great to see some new things, and there were some cool new things specifically related to personal defense. I'll be talking about some of those items in an upcoming show. Meanwhile, don't forget to subscribe to this podcast. The podcast is new. It makes a big difference if you subscribe and share it with your friends, so do that. Also, sign up to get important alerts at our website. This is The Rob Pincus Podcast, and we are delivering the best information that we have when it comes to training and gun rights advocacy.


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