Power stance. Crush Grip.

The course is named Lethal Force Institute–1 (LFI-1). If I were to name it, it’d be Target Hardening 101.

My objective here is to give you a good taste of what my wife and I went through for four of the longest, most mentally engaging, intense, expensive, fatiguing and, yes, enjoyable days of our lives. I also want to give you my take on seeing if what we’ve all read for years—that you really need to spend the money and get good training—has been self/industry promotion or is actually true. Lastly I want to share input from my wife Betsy’s perspective, both as a female and as someone who, aside from having been shooting a few times, was pretty green on the topic.

First, let me tell you that I believe I was capable of defending my family before this class, and that, if you really apply yourself, you can actually go beyond most people by just reading about it. If you read the right material and you apply it, that is. I’ve read most of Massad Ayoob’s writing as well as that of other top tier writers such as Taylor, Cooper, Rauch, Awerbuck, Smith, Lovette, Thompson, and Cirillo. But for the vast majority of people, especially if you put a high dollar value on your time and/or you hate reading, taking a class is the way to go. My wife is a good example, because she doesn’t like to read and she wouldn’t read about this topic anyway. I went in a skeptic, but after the first day I knew my money was being wisely invested.

All techniques start with dry fire…

…then live fire.

I’ve been reading Massad Ayoob for over 25 years. I knew he was a pioneer in teaching all the legal aspects of self-defense and the attendant liability that goes with it. His efforts have permeated the industry to the extent that most of the better schools now give coverage to this, as well as teach you how to shoot better. There are two predators that you must defend against. With predator #1, the criminal, you may use deadly force when he presents an “immediate and otherwise unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily harm to the innocent.” Predator #2? Depending on the mood of the courts and the District Attorney in your locale, you may be criminally prosecuted. The guy who attacked you had a family that loved him. Many times they have never seen the side of him that he showed you. In the courtroom, the jury of your peers (none of whom are likely to be gun owners) will be shown two photographs of the deceased: his high school graduation picture and a picture of his body on the slab at the morgue. They will see you sitting pretty in your suit. Innocent until proven guilty? On the contrary, there is a phenomenon in our courts that you are believed to be guilty of something or you wouldn’t be there.

Ayoob tells you he will teach you the way it is, not the way it should be. LFI-1 teaches you to prepare for the worst-case scenario. Although I try to do this in other areas, I’ve at times underestimated how bad the worst case could be. On day one, Ayoob says that if he does his job, every student will have several pages of notes. I have 77 pages, so I think he adequately covers worst case scenarios. It is a real comfort to know that if you, as an LFI student, follow his teachings, you will not only have made sure you did the right thing in the right way, but Ayoob himself will also be an expert witness on your behalf. In a nutshell, you have to be able to pass the test of the reasonable man doctrine: What would a reasonable and prudent man have done in the same circumstances? Knowing what you did at the time is where the burden of proof falls on you, because your jury will be bone ignorant of what you knew. Ayoob shows you how to prove it to them.

Cover crouch is sort of modified “rice patty prone.” Very fast in and out, and knees don’t hit hard objects.

You’ll learn what to do and what not to do with a surrendering assailant. A very important part of the class is dealing with arriving police officers and especially investigating officers who, by the way, have never been taught how to interrogate an innocent person. They deal almost exclusively with the criminal element and this works against you. Ayoob goes into detail on the extreme urge of the innocent to spew about why they were right, etc.

Due to the long days of information overload, everyone in the class indicated a degree of sleep disruption. Some of us were still experiencing it up to a month later—an intended consequence of the class. Ayoob covers all the symptoms that people who have had to kill to defend innocent life go through. We learn why people often say things differently than what actually happened and how once you’re branded a liar, you’re doomed. Witness interaction dynamics are covered, which explain why witnesses who instinctively focus on you with a gun, don’t see anything the assailant is doing. Ayoob has an excellent case and documentary film analyzing the Zapruder film and showing things we all missed because we focused on the President.

As an innocent person in the criminal justice system, you’re like a racecar driver trying to win with an empty gas tank. Does anybody remember the fourth and last time A. J. Foyt won the Indianapolis 500? He coasted across the finish line because he was literally out of gas. He won because he had a significant lead and he knew his limitations. Think of LFI as a driving school that will not only teach you to safely go over 200mph, but will also help you cut your time trial laps so you qualify for the race. You too can win, but you’d better have a huge lead.

One handed at four yards. I shot better weak side straight up, but strong side canted inward.

Ayoob lays bare the underbelly of our judicial system so that you are forewarned and forearmed to deal with it. Much of this material is covered in In the Gravest Extreme and The Gun Digest Complete Book of Combat Handgunning 5th Ed., both by Massad Ayoob. In The Gravest Extreme is the textbook sent to students in advance of LFI-1.

Predator #2 includes the civil attorney and the survivors of the deceased, who forced you to commit an unnatural act in taking his life to save your own. Yes, the U.S. is where 90% of the world’s lawyers practice, and it’s where you can sue anybody for anything. It’s also where most of the world’s money is located. Ayoob provided an added bonus when the two attorneys in our class lectured and answered our questions for about 90 minutes. The two things that stuck with me most were from the DA who said if he were to be involved in a shooting, he would fully expect to be sued in civil court, and the civil attorney who said the single best defense against being sued is poverty!

As for Massad Ayoob himself, what’s this self-titled “little Arab” like? If you sorely miss the writings of Elmer Keith, Finn Aagard and Bill Jordan, then you’ll agree there’s another tangible benefit to taking a class such as this. Although these guys are still teaching from the grave, so to speak, I sure wish I had met them in this life. I have now met Massad Ayoob in person, and though neither of us plans to depart anytime soon, I’m glad I did it now. Yes, Mas looks just like all the photos you’ve seen. But, unlike his consistently stoic photographs, he is very personable, has a good sense of humor and is a compassionate instructor. Mas will quote Shakespeare in one breath and do an impeccable accent while impersonating one of his mentors in the next. He is an excellent speaker who never lost my attention or my wife’s. There is never any doubt in the minds of his students that he’ll do what needs doing, including giving a one-day suspension to anyone who covers himself or someone else with a firearm’s muzzle, and expulsion without refund for a second offense. Mas complimented our class on its adherence to safety protocol. This was a concern for me, as I had read of classes that turned a blind eye to these extremely serious infractions.

Firing from one knee and surprisingly stable.

LFI-1 is about 65% lecture/video and 35% range time. You need 500 rounds of full power ammo in your gun of choice. Ayoob recommends you bring the gun you use for carry/self-defense.

Our class was in Amarillo, Texas. I had mentioned some concern about carry equipment for Betsy on the application when I sent in the money, so Mas called me and recommended Kramer in leather and Blade-Tec in Kydex, as they both have a lowered and off-set strong side hip holster designed for the female physique. Betsy didn’t like the Kramer rig at first, but she had never carried and didn’t know what to expect. She had some trouble getting the gun in/out through day one and the single mag pouch is still a bit tight, but now that she’s “seen the light” I think we’ll break that in pretty soon.

Regarding range sessions, our one Gunsite graduate indicated a huge disparity in the amount of range time between the two schools. He also commented that watching Mas shoot the pacesetter for our qualification course of fire was almost boring. Ayoob put 60 rounds into less than five inches, and 55 of those went in one ragged hole group under 3.5 inches. Two students tied him for a perfect 300 score, but nobody in our class shot smaller. This wasn’t the hardest qualifier, but it was considerably more than any CCW class requirement.

Ayoob shares a large tool chest of techniques on the range. I learned that I shoot better left-handed with a standard straight up grip, but better right-handed canting the gun inward. Besides the power stance and crush grip, we all shot Weaver, Chapman or modified Weaver and Isosceles. We shot cover crouch, from one and two knees. We speed reloaded often and I found my Glock magazines rocked in better for me against the side of the well, as Frank Garcia of Universal Shooting Academy & former IPSC world champion does it, than against the back of the well as most teach. Ayoob also pulled all our triggers for us. Putting his index finger over ours, we fired six rounds with just him pulling the trigger, six rounds with both of us pulling, and six rounds with just us pulling and his finger along for the ride. This was very enlightening for me. It was the first time I had consciously been aware of my Glock’s trigger reset. It also gave me some excellent tactile reference to use as a foundation for my range training. Two things that our class had more of than most others were revolvers and camaraderie. I believe both were due to our location in the Southwest.

Double knee position is very stable. Watch for hard objects before going down on one or two knees.

Regarding my wife, she had a major paradigm shift after taking this class. Although she has her CCW and has even renewed it once, she has never carried due to lack of confidence and understanding. I have respected her decision, but one of my motives for taking this class was to get her taught by an expert and see if she might change her perspective. I knew LFI-1 was more classroom than range time, and that it would hopefully help her understand the why in addition to the how of self-defense. Her impressions follow:

“As a woman and not an avid shooter, I thought the class was well worth the time and money. It gave me the confidence and ability to defend my family. Mas gave me wonderful pointers on the range that took me from a pretty lousy shot to actually making qualification. I feel more women should take this course to have the understanding and techniques to be able to defend themselves. Being the only woman in the class, a lot of the men told me they wished they’d brought their wives. I think their wives would have really enjoyed it. Women should understand what it takes to protect their households, because oftentimes they’re home more than the men are. Mas gave excellent details on dealing with various situations and I am much more aware of my surroundings. Even if you don’t ever want to carry a gun, you will benefit from the understanding of criminal activity, its avoidance and the law.”

My wife has a tendency to enter “panic palace” when facing the unknown, but she can be extremely stubborn and tenacious when accomplishing a task. LFI-1 has helped her move out of the unknown to focus on the task if she should ever have to face it.

To sum up LFI-1, I’ll close with one of the many great quotes Mas shared with us, this one from the man who was once the world’s fastest shot, the late Bill Jordan: “Fast is fine, but accuracy is final.”


Lethal Force Institute
Dept. S.W.A.T.
P.O. Box 122
Concord, NH 03302-0122
(603) 224-6814

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