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Lethal Force Institute

A Review by Stu Wayne


I have just returned from the LFI-1 course taught by Massad Ayoob. This course is a forty hour immersion in the techniques, tactics, liabilities and ethics of defensive pistol use. The course flyer states that it covers such areas as:

- When the citizen can and cannot legally use a gun in self-defense

- Tactics for home defense

- Street gun-fighting tactics

- How to take a criminal suspect at gunpoint

- Selection of guns, ammo and holsters

- Psychological preparation for violent encounters

- Justification of your actions in court

It covered all of this and more. About 60% of the course content was in the classroom and 40% on the range.

For those unfamiliar with Massad Ayoob, he has extensive background as a police officer, champion pistol competitor in a number of disciplines, firearms trainer, self-defense author (In the Gravest Extreme: the Role of the Firearm in Personal Protection and others) and has been an expert witness for the defense in many justifiable-shooting courtroom trials. He also has lectured as an ethicist. His supplied resume ran seven pages!

Our course was indeed an immersion, starting with a ten-hour day in the classroom utilizing live lecture, videotaped lectures and practicing draw-and-fire techniques with unloaded handguns. We explored the legal requirements for the justifiable use of lethal force in detail, but also gave serious consideration to the duty to avoid that use and the concept of threat management. We considered the priorities of survival, and the reality of defense against contact weapons such as knives. Range safety, travel with firearms and the modified Cooper color code system were all dissected. It was a very busy day, with tons of notes taken!

Day two brought us to the Second Chance range in Central Lake, Michigan - site of the famous Second Chance bowling pin shoots--through the courtesy of Richard Davis, President and CEO of Second Chance Body Armor, Inc. Ten hours of shooting, around 350 rounds live and probably as much dryfire, using various defensive positions and techniques, wore us out but we all learned more about shooting as a defensive reality rather than a casual sport. I wish I could go into all the different drills we attempted, but they have blurred together in my mind - we didn't have the ability to take notes and shoot at the same time. I do recall that the shooting varied over ranges from 4 to 15 yards, and we were encouraged to make serious attempts to use aggressive versions of all of the three basic stances, Weaver, Chapman and Iscoceles, in order to evaluate which served best under which conditions. One-handed strong and weak hand shooting was also practiced, but from a strong martial-arts posture rather than the conventional target stance. The range work incorporated Ayoob's StressFire combat shooting system, a form of shooting designed to make positive use of the physical and psychological changes one undergoes under stress. This achieves its objectives by using techniques that emphasize gross, rather than fine, muscle control and was adopted by the U.S Army in the 1980s. The shooting grind was interrupted by two welcome breaks - Mr. Davis fired up his barbecue and cooked a huge pile of delicious beef ribs for our lunch, and later in the afternoon he brought out some full-auto playthings, a Thompson submachine gun and two suppressed MP5s, for us to try out! All in all, a lovely day. Thank you, Mr. Davis, may you sell a TON of Second Chance body armor!

Day three was the longest grind of all--twelve hours in the classroom, many videos, and serious burnout before it was all over, despite the vital nature of the material covered. I can't go into detail about most of the material covered in this day's instruction. We promised Mr. Ayoob that we would not discuss it outside of class because of the sensitive and specific nature of the material presented and the possibility that it could serve to harm police officers were it to be casually passed around. I plan to honor that commitment. Suffice it to say that the more detailed the information became, the more seriously we realized that we weren't being trained for an IDPA match, but for the possibility of having to take the most difficult action of our lives, one that would have vast financial and psychological after-effects under even the best of all possible outcomes!

Day Four began at the range. The day started with some interesting drills, including one in which we shot for group with our eyes closed! Then came the Qualification Test, sixty rounds on an IPSC target from various combat positions and distances for a 300 point maximum possible score. This was not an especially difficult set of shooting exercises, but one in which we all were prodded to excel under the Bill Jordan perception that there are no second-place winners in a gunfight. Ayoob had offered an incentive--he would demonstrate the qualification course of fire and record his score. Anyone who matched that score would win an autographed five-dollar bill from him. His money was safe--he shot a 300! His group consisted of one baseball-sized ragged hole with a single 9 o'clock flyer just to its left. Shooting buddy Bob, who took the course with me, qualified with a 296 out of 300 and I shot a 295--pretty good for a couple of geezers, but still short of the 297 shot by the slender young girl who won the class champ distinction!

After qualifying, back to the classroom for some further lecture and video, discussion of the ethicality of armed self-defense and then the written final exam. At six PM, it was suddenly all over--we were LFI graduates! Mas Ayoob is good. An expert both in his material and in his presentation skills, his lectures were at times grim or bawdy, whispered or shouted, but never dull! They were detailed and filled with descriptions of real-world court cases and gun fights which illustrated his points. If you can't handle street language, don't attend LFI - Ayoob uses vulgarity to make many of his points and does so not casually but with purpose. This isn't charm school, but an excursion into the world of "Feral Man", whose only concern about you is "do you have something he wants?" and who isn't about to be polite when he tries to take it from you. LFI-1 is a worthwhile course for anyone who plans to carry a concealed weapon or who may ever need to defend his household against intruders. As important as what you may do in this defense is what you may not do. Even more important is what groundwork you must lay before the fact to ensure that necessary action in self-defense can't be construed as anything else in a court of law. Take Massad Ayoob's LFI-1 course if you anticipate even the remotest possibility of ever finding yourself in that position.

copyright 2003 by the author, all rights reserved.

Uploaded: 2/21/2004