By: Chuck Smick

The two thugs approached me from the vehicle with Illinois plates that was parked at the gas pump ahead of our car, where my wife and I were parked at a gas station near our home in Paducah, Kentucky. The smaller of the two thugs approached me directly, with his phone recording, while I was pumping gas into my wife’s car. The second thug, about 6’5” and approximately 300 pounds, came around the opposite side of my wife’s car.

The smaller thug (gold teeth and multiple gold chains around his neck) started out with, “You’re an older man, I want to talk to you.”

Well, the fact that they approached me to begin with put me on FULL ALERT. When the thug made that statement, I went on RED ALERT! He also acted like he was high on something, too. He tried to verbally distract me, while the bigger thug tried to flank me from the back. My back was against the car as I was pumping gas, and I tried to watch both of the thugs as they tried getting closer. I also warned the smaller thug to back off several times during the incident.

I turned to finish pumping gas, while still trying to watch both thugs. When the bigger thug came around the back side of the car, he yelled out to the other thug, “Hey, he’s packing!” They both quickly backed off and left me alone. I had no doubt, these punks were setting me up for the “Knockout game,” a “game” where one thug distracts a person (usually older people; I was 62 at the time), and a second thug sucker punches the unsuspecting person in the head, rendering the person unconscious or even dead, while the first thug videos the action.

Thank GOD I had my concealed carry pistol on my hip that evening! The pistol stuck out a bit below my shirt as I was finishing pumping gas, and the second thug saw it below my shirt tail before he attacked me. Thankfully, I did not have to pull my pistol or use it that evening.

This happened in my hometown in Kentucky. The thugs were from out of state (Illinois). I never suspected something like this could happen in my hometown, but thankfully, my self-defense and personal protection training kicked in, and I went on alert to the situation quickly. My training and awareness saved me from serious injury or even death that evening.

TRAIN! Like your life depends on it, because your life may very well depend on your training one day, when you least expect something bad may happen in your life.

I try to take a formal firearms and self-defense training courses once a year if I can. I also do informal dry fire training with miniature silhouette “bad guy” targets and a LASERLYTE™ Training cartridge regularly, in my home, or motel room when I am on the road. I also try to get to the range and train, too, so I get the bang and recoil from shooting live rounds.

I was working in Minnesota, about two hours south of Minneapolis in 2020. I contacted a training company to take a two-day advanced defensive pistol course, but the class was full. I then contacted Chandler Firearms Training, in Minneapolis, and Steve Hammer, one of the trainers, said he had an opening in their Practical Pistol Skills I course, so I signed up for the course immediately. I had taken the Practical Pistol Skills II course in 2019, with Steve, and found it to be an excellent course in advanced defensive pistol skills, and Steve was an outstanding instructor.

Chris Chandler, the owner and Chief Instructor, was teaching the PPS I course, and I was really looking forward to taking a formal defensive firearms training course again. While at the course, Chris said they had been very busy with concealed carry classes and other courses in 2020. With the riots, burning, and looting occurring in Minneapolis for months, and around the country, people were concerned for their safety. Many people who had never owned guns before were/are buying guns and taking training to protect themselves and their families. There were four ladies in the course that I took in September, 2020, in a class of 13…..I’m glad to see that! We need a diversified group of gun rights and Second Amendment supporters to help retain our rights in this day and age.

Chris started the course with a description of what the purpose of the course was, and a very detailed SAFETY BRIEFING and discussion with the students that day. Safety is a critical element in any firearms training course, or firearms use. Always remember that if you use or carry a firearm, YOU are responsible for every bullet that leaves the barrel of your gun.

Chris discussed firearms safety in general, then went into safety protocols for firearms use on the range where we were. As a certified firearms instructor myself, and a safety professional, I greatly appreciate a good, thorough safety briefing before the course starts. What is also important is that everyone follows the rules, and helps the instructor ENFORCE THE RULES during the course while on the range. A mistake or accident could drastically affect everyone’s life! TAKE FIREARMS SAFETY SERIOUSLY IF YOU HAVE A GUN, and CARRY A GUN! Practice Safety Religiously!

Next, Chris discussed the importance of accuracy for defensive shooting. Accuracy is critical for several reasons. Only accurate, combat-effective hits in the center mass and ocular cavity will stop the assault by a violent criminal predator thug. Handguns are marginal in stopping a thug (or thugs) from attacking you unless you make accurate hits in the vital heart-lung area and ocular cavity. Remember: just making noise never ended a gun fight or attack. Accurate, well-aimed shots into center mass and ocular cavity will end them!

When drugs are involved, and/or when thug is wearing a ballistic vest or just has the will to survive, effective hits are critical. Another way to stop the threat is multiple hits in the pelvic girdle to break it and put the thug down.

Accuracy also comes to play for safety reasons too. You don’t want to miss the thug and hit some innocent bystander. That causes both legal and emotional ramifications for you, for a long time. Chris had us perform trigger pulls and re-sets multiple times during the course, as well as the “Dime Drill.” The shooter extends the gun, and the training partner puts a dime on the front sight. When the shooter can pull the trigger and not have the dime fall off, multiple times in succession, the shooter is demonstrating proper trigger pull. Improper trigger pull can drastically affect accuracy, so proper trigger manipulations, consistently is very important for shooting accuracy.

Later in the day, Chris discussed the tactics used by criminals to attack unsuspecting persons and rob, kill, or injure innocent people, situational awareness, and how to stop criminals before they attack. During the course, we had the opportunity to get a lot of re-load practice and malfunction training. All of these are critical skills during an actual attack. Students need to strive to practice these skills over and over, so they become ingrained and part of their muscle memory. That takes time, regular practice, and training. Again, regular dry fire practice will help students attain these skills.

Chris also showed a safe re-holster technique/method I had never seen before. I thought that was cool….many injuries occur during the re-holstering process.

During the course, we shot defensive drills and the “21 Drill,” which was developed by Tom Givens, Owner of RANGEMASTER, Inc. Tom is a legend in the training and self-defense world.

His courses are well-worth attending if you can get to one of them.

Formal training takes time, money, and resources. Ammunition can be hard to find, and expensive in this day and time, with all the turmoil in the country today.

TRAINING! Like your life depends on it is critical…because your life may very well depend on your training and skills with a defensive handgun (or rifle or shotgun in a home defense situation). So TAKE TRAINING SERIOUSLY when you can find the time to train, and make the time and resources available to train. You are responsible for protecting yourself and your family. “Violent attacks occur in seconds, and the police are minutes away” is true. BELIEVE IT!

Chuck Smick is a freelance outdoor writer and photographer, NRA Certified Firearms and Personal Protection Instructor, and Safety Professional. Chuck served in the US Army and Army Reserves as an Infantry Officer, Paratrooper, and Intelligence Officer, and is a service-connected disabled veteran. Chuck can be reached at