Mindset vs. Hardware

Written by Greg Ellifritz

Topics: Articles

  • SumoMe

Written by: Greg Ellifritz




I have a confession to make. I like guns and gear. If you are reading this website, then you probably do as well. Nothing wrong with that. Guns are cool. Having the latest and greatest new gear makes people happy and drives growth in an industry where many of us make our living. But understand this: cool guy guns and gear won’t guarantee you’ll win your next life threatening confrontation. In fact, spending too much time buying and talking about hardware issues may prevent you from doing the work required to ensure your victory.


Let me tell you a little story….


In my cop job I once responded to a call where a man had received death threats. The guy had legitimate intel that a former employee with a grudge was planning a home invasion. The employee and his friends planned to break into the guy’s house in the middle of the night, killing him and his wife, and making off with cash and guns they knew the employer owned. These weren’t just idle threats. The guy had reliable information that the home invasion was going to go down that particular night.


I didn’t recognize the guy’s name or address before I arrived at the call. But once I got there, I remembered the caller as a man with whom I had shared several gun-related chats over the years. He was a guy who would randomly start talking to cops about guns, gear, and tactics. Lest I make it sound like this guy was some “wannabe” or “crazy gun nut,” I’ll say that when the guy had approached me in the past, he was exceptionally friendly. He wasn’t weird, he just liked talking guns. Being knowledgeable on the topic, he was always pursuing the “next big thing” in terms of firearms and accessories. Being a gun nut myself, I enjoyed talking to this guy when we crossed paths.


That night, as he told me about his former employee’s plan to kill him, he was visibly shaking, sweating profusely, and stammering. He looked completely different from the dude I had spoken with so many times over the years. Granted, he was in a scary situation. It’s hard to stay calm when you know that a couple of guys are going to do their best to ensure that you don’t make it to daybreak. The problem wasn’t that he was scared; it was that he was completely paralyzed with fear.


As we made plans to temporarily evacuate him and started the process of tracking down the suspects, I asked the man if he was carrying a gun. This was before the time that my state had concealed carry licenses, but there was an “affirmative defense” clause that allowed people who received death threats to lawfully carry a weapon. Knowing this guy was a “gun guy,” I assumed that he was packing.


The man lifted his shirt and showed me the $2500 custom 1911 pistol shoved into his waistband. He didn’t have a carry holster and had never really contemplated having to use the gun outside the shooting range. The pistol’s hammer was down and chamber empty. He told me he didn’t feel comfortable carrying his expensive gun “cocked and locked.” Unfortunately, he had no idea that his chance of prevailing against multiple armed attackers wasn’t very likely given his shaking, sweaty hands, empty chamber, and gun flopping around in his waistband without a holster. He spoke the language of guns and tactics, but when it was time to put his knowledge to work, he failed miserably. He was relying on his expensive gun as a “hardware” solution to what was essentially a “software” problem, where mindset, skill, and tactics were more important than the weapon he carried.


The story had a happy ending. We got the guy a safe place to stay and soon had the potential home invaders locked up. Even though the deadly confrontation never happened, I often think back to the guy’s behavior that night.


I especially think about it when I see and hear my new students talking about gear instead of mindset and tactics. I shake my head when I regularly see students show up for my gunfighting classes geared up like their favorite special operations soldier or looking like the mismatched lovechild of a 5.11/Crye Precision/Arcteryx threesome gone wrong. I automatically wonder if they are going to turn into a quivering mess like my friend did when things become serious.


It’s cool to have the gear. It’s cooler to have the skills to use it effectively.



This article originally appeared on the Breach Bang Clear website.  Bookmark that site and check it regularly for an informative, yet irreverent look at the firearms and tactics industry.



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6 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. david says:


    You’re right, and I think the explanation for this is ease. It’s easy to buy another gun or “tactic-cool” accessory. Though requiring a little more effort, it’s still relatively easy to take a class – after all, you’ll be there for a set length of time, and the instructors will work you through a number of set-piece drills.

    The problem with mindset is that there really aren’t a whole lot of people teaching it (Craig Douglas’ module on managing unknown contacts comes closest, but mindset is more than just what he teaches there), and that while making a purchase takes relatively little time, and classes teach you what you should be doing when you have a weapon in your hand, a change in mindset represents a permanent, 24-7 change in the way you look at your world – a pretty exhausting proposition.

    Much easier to just get a new laser sight for my AR!


  2. caleb says:


    This line had me LOL’ing

    “looking like the mismatched lovechild of a 5.11/Crye Precision/Arcteryx threesome gone wrong. “

  3. Tobias P says:

    The interesting issue for me is how to help developing the mindset.
    Steadily increased exposure is a classic psychologic solution.

    So my personal checklist is: Have I recently (or ever)…

    …mentally worked through my “most likely to happen” scenarios for my context? – free and always available

    …worked with my volunteer fire department, emergency services or local police volunteer force? – time consuming but free

    …been hit in the face in a combatives scenario? – costs time and money

    …volunteered with the local crime scene cleaner or morgue? – usually requires some contacts, but this is a good measure how integrated you are in those parts of your local community that deal with violence regularly

    …worked places where lower amounts of violence are common (from youth centers to bouncing) – requires a license and official training where I am from, but having one is a good indicator for your level of engagement, I think.

  4. Rat says:


    Outstanding example and something everyone should consider. Shooting at the local indoor range is vastly diffrent than being under real stress.

    I have only drawn my weapon once in a “real” situation. Ironically it was a week after I completed the TDI snubby class. I was on my evening stroll when a large sheperd broke from his owner an aggressively ran up to me ears back and teeth bared. When he was about 5 feet away my brain informed me that I had drawn and aquired front sight on my sp101.

    About then the owner screamed at the dog and he backed away. I didn’t think about doing what I did, it was automatic. I credit some of this to the simunition fof stuff done under stress at TDI.


  5. A gun is a weapon, not a magic wand that will paralyze your opponents with fear or make them reasonable. If you aren’t prepared to kill to defend yourself, don’t carry a gun.

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