The 50 Rules

Advice for life
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I will hereby lay claim to the spurious honor of being the world’s foremost “good example of a bad example,” especially in the arena of personal safety.

Through a lifetime spent as a cop, adventurer and shooter, I’ve managed to make nearly every mistake possible yet lived to tell about it. Fortunately, I’m also a testament to why luck and a benevolent Supreme Deity are a nice fallback when you’re dumb. And — let’s be frank — almost all of us are dumb once in a while.

Well, maybe not Massad Ayoob, but pretty much everybody else does foolish things on occasion.

This overview of personal (dis)qualification is given to explain why I have both the temerity and experience to present my own collection of the 50 most important rules of personal safety. They’re not the only principles for dealing with danger, especially of the social and interpersonal variety, but I think they’re a good start.

Some of this information comes firsthand from the countless “real-deal” folks I’ve had the honor of knowing, some comes from training, still more comes from direct observation of rapidly-coagulating pools of blood and the remainder was learned from The University of Life, School of Hard Knocks, Bachelor of Science in Blunt Trauma and Gunshot Wounds. I’ll allow some of these points are a bit facetious and snarky, but then again, so is life.

So, without further ado, I present “My 50 Rules for Life.”


1. There is no “ultimate manstopper” except perhaps a 105mm High Explosive shell.

2. Shot placement is far more important than caliber, energy, velocity, momentum or advertising hype. Remember the .22 Long Rifle has killed things as large as grizzly bears while a miss with a .458 Win does nothing but punch holes in the blue sky.

3. Wearing “cool guy gear” doesn’t make you cool. Brand-new “cool guy gear” will make you look like a poser. A plate carrier — with multiple witty “morale” patches, of course — worn on the range merely for visual effect when you’ve never actually worn one “in the field” makes you an Ultra-poser with Extra Posing Sauce.

4. The bigger the cleavage on the advertising copy, generally the worse the product. Nowadays, with political-correctness being in fashion, you see less and less of this. Of course, some of us sure miss the old days.

5. Fear is natural. Embrace it and learn to use it to your advantage. Invite it into your home, make it dinner and let it drink your best bourbon because being “fearless” means taking stupid risks.

6. The more combat a person has seen, the less likely they are to talk about it.

7. Scars are nature’s way of saying “I screwed up.” They also make for good graphic training aids and sometimes can even get you a free beer, though the cost/benefit ratio is not usually worth it.

8. Courage is the first requirement of success in a crisis. It’s easy to “talk the talk” but you should really test your courage periodically in some way to make sure it hasn’t died of inattention — or never really existed in the first place.

9. Even a ruggedized, fully redundant, satellite-enhanced, broadband-data-capable multimillion-dollar tactical communication network will break down under adverse conditions such as dew or nightfall.

10. A sense of humor will get you through anything from a gunshot wound to a divorce. It’s hard to think of droll comments when suffering a sucking chest wound during court proceedings, but it does help lighten the mood.


11. Everything on the internet should be considered “For Entertainment Purposes Only.” By now, hopefully everyone has realized “SuperDeathSEALKillerCommando99” on an internet forum is probably a morbidly-obese 13-year-old gamer on a laptop.

12. Gun store clerks come in two flavors: aficionados and salesmen. It’s your job to know the difference.

13. Any product with the word “miracle” in the title isn’t. Any shooting technique named after its developer — as named by said developer — is probably the same thing.

14. Trust no one except your mother. Keep an eye on her.

15. Being alert will prevent 99% of problems. If you are alert, you’ll be much more ready for the remaining 1% which are a problem.

16. Do unto others as they would do unto you; just make sure you do it first.

17. Death loves a braggart. Everyone else loves to see him get kicked in the groin — therefore, don’t ever brag about your tacti-cool-ness. See rule #3 and #6.

18. There is no such thing as a fair fight. If you fight, don’t be fair. This is why many old, slow, creaky guys are still very dangerous.

19. We should do more to include our loved ones in crisis preparation and training.

20. If you know it all — you don’t.

21. There is someone who is tougher, faster, a better shot or just plain luckier somewhere out there in the world. Remember this when considering a fight you could otherwise avoid.

22. The corollary to #21: There is no shame in avoiding a problem. This is otherwise known as “wisdom.”

23. The first rule of knife fighting is “Don’t get into a knife fight.” If you are in a knife fight, the best self-defense technique is applying a magazine full of large-caliber bullets as quickly as possible.

24. Anything and everything can and will fail at the worse possible moment. Plaintiff’s Exhibit #1 — Viagra.

25. We could all use a little more cardiovascular exercise.

26. When in doubt, doubt. Your “little inner voice” is world’s smarter than you give it credit for.

27. Virtually everything you see on commercial television is staged. Everything … as in everything.

28. If you don’t practice a movement at least 500 times (some say 2,000), you will never perform it correctly under stress. This is an iron-clad, unbreakable rule we all ignore.

29. A vehicle will kill you just as dead as a high-powered rifle. Always respect traffic.

30. No instructor is God. Some can reach demigod status after decades, many of them are pretty good and few of them should be prosecuted for false advertising. Beware the Cult of Personality, especially if you are new to firearms training classes — almost everybody seems brilliant when you’re new!


31. There is nothing wrong with blued guns, revolvers, leather holsters or firearms without “cutting-edge aerospace technology.” Then again, there’s nothing wrong with “black guns” either. Don’t be dogmatic.

32. The human brain is the deadliest weapon ever invented.

33. You’ll never wake up knowing “today is the day.”

34. Practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.

35. If you can’t tie a trustworthy knot, change a tire, kill your own food or perform basic first-aid procedures, you are not really prepared.
36. There is no one-weapon system, tactic, technique or school of thought to address every situation. Those who believe such claims are positively delusional.

37. Murder is wrong, while killing is sometimes necessary and excusable. Make sure you are okay with this idea. If not, you shouldn’t carry a weapon.

38. You are personally responsible for the right to keep and bear arms. Take this responsibility seriously or the gun magazines of the future might be pretty dull —“Cover story: A bar of soap in a sock — the ultimate manstopper!”

39. There is always “one more” — one more gun, one more problem, one more knife, one more bad guy.

40. Our opponents are frequently smarter than we give them credit.

41. A bad outcome in the legal system after a justified use of force can be just as devastating as a major gunshot wound. Know your legal rights and responsibilities.

42. Never get between two people fighting.

43. Train yourself to relax during and after stressful events. You’ll perform better and even live much longer.

44. Go somewhere inspiring and meditate on the concept of “honor.” Do this regularly and you are less likely to do something cowardly or immoral.

45. Guns and alcohol don’t mix. If you drink, you must be unarmed. If you can’t live by the rule, don’t drink. This rule personally chafes me, but I follow it religiously.

46. Never stand in a doorway.

47. Use light to your advantage. Whenever possible, just flick light switches rather than using a flashlight. Then again, if you aren’t proficient with flashlight shooting techniques, you are at a disadvantage in many dangerous encounters.

48. Always carry a knife, a gun and a light. Two is better, but one is critical.

49. “Preparedness” or “being tactical” should be an unspoken lifestyle, not a publicly shared hobby.

50. Buy a three-year subscription to GUNS for every one of your friends, family members, acquaintances and random homeless people on the street. You’ll end up richer, thinner, have more friends and be gloriously rewarded in the afterlife, or my name isn’t Hilary Clinton.

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