Learn It NOW! The Importance of Verbal Commands
When we think of training to stop an armed encounter, situational awareness and marksmanship come to mind. Those are great skills, and certainly, we should put in the work to prepare so we won’t be left flatfooted if that moment arises.
But one skillset that is often left out of the training arsenal is verbal commands. One of the responsibilities, when you take action in a situation, is to take command. If you’re the guy who is going to stop the attack, you need a strong command voice. This is especially true in key stages of the attack.
Before the Attack
Sometimes an attack can end before it starts. Situational awareness can often keep you out of a tangle because you see it coming and can remove yourself and others before bad things happen, but sometimes you’re stuck and have no choice but to get involved. The fight came to you. But that doesn’t mean you should instantly grab your gun and start shooting.
Now, don’t think for a second that I’m opposed to violence of action. If you need to shoot someone, take care of business. But consider it your last resort. As you’re assessing what to do, ask yourself if there’s a way to stop this incident without your gun. Often simply yelling at someone to let them know you see them coming can stop an attack. Think of the bad guy as a charging dog. Dogs attack if they sense fear. Show them who’s boss and they back down. Criminals are often the same. Like the schoolyard bully, they are looking for an easy victim, someone who isn’t going to stand up to them. If you show them you’re not afraid, they might just change their mind and either stop completely or move on to someone else.
Verbal commands before an attack can take two forms.
- Commanding the attacker to stop.
- Communicating with others to help them avoid becoming victims.
The first commands often happen instinctively. You’re about to be attacked and you want the attacker to stop, so the yell will likely come out on its own. Great! YELL!
The second command might not be as obvious because your tunnel vision just locked onto your attacker and everyone else sort of disappeared into the walls. But your yelling at the attacker will probably get everyone else’s attention. You’re being loud, after all.
During the Attack
If you can’t stop the attack and it’s game on, it’s time to take the advantage away from the bad guy. If you can – and this totally depends on how fast the attack comes – try to warn the others around you and get them away from the immediate scene. Sometimes it happens too fast, so you’ll just have to judge that in the moment. But if you have the time, issuing verbal commands can be a lifesaver.
When I appeared on season four of First Person Defender in 2016, I was put in a school shooting scenario where I had to protect myself and several classmates from a man with a gun. While I won both scenarios and took out the bad guy, host Chris Cerino chastised me – rightly so – for not issuing verbal commands to let the others in the room know what was going on, what I was doing, and how to get to a protected area. As he mentioned in the episode, if you carry a gun, you have a responsibility to take charge of the scene if you take action.
Like so many of us, I’ve trained on shooting, angles, cover, concealment, how to pie a corner, etc. – the tactical side of a fight – but had zero training on how to take charge of the scene. In a real shooting, the good guy with the gun needs to issue strong verbal commands to make sure everyone in the room knows what’s going on.
“Move!” “Get down!” “Head toward that door!” and then point to the exit to safety. These are all important commands that need to be issued with force and authority. There is no place for politeness in a life-threatening situation.
After the threat is over – whether with shots or without – it’s time to take an after-action assessment. Assign someone to call 911 (it might be you). See if anyone needs medical attention and act accordingly.
There is much more to an attack than tactics. Take charge and keep people safe through effective verbal commands. ~ David
David is an avid gun guy and a contributing writer to several major
gun publications. In addition to being an NRA-certified RSO, David trains
new shooters on basic handgun skills and CCW requirements and is a strong
advocate for training as much as you possibly can. "Real life shootouts
don't happen at a box range."