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Seppo Vesala
01-03-2004, 06:01 AM
Publisher: Rangemaster, 2000

Author: Tom Givens

Size: 8,5 x 5,5”, 240 pages, softcover

I first heard about Fighting smarter on an Internet discussion board, where some people wrote very favorable comments on the book. Naturally, I was compelled to order the book. And since I ordered it straight from the author, I got a signed copy – thanks!

Fighting smarter covers just about all the basic stuff on handguns for self defence (selecting a gun, holster and ammunition, basics of shooting, maintenance, drawstroke, safe gunhandling, and so on). In addition to those basics that you can find on just about any book that is aimed (also) for beginners, there is a lot more information on other subjects as well, and that extra stuff is what sets this book apart.

In addition to the basic gun handling, there is also some material you donīt find in every book; things like reading targets (on a range) and correcting errors, recommended modifications to a sidearm, as well as those you should avoid, and so on. There is also a lengthy chapter on stopping power, which includes a very interesting essay on predicting stopping power of ammunition, by Jim Higginbotham. As you could guess, the conclusion is that it is impossible to predict the stopping power of a given round (I donīt remember who it was who first said that the three most important factors in determining stopping power are shot placement, shot placement and shot placement).

The book starts with discussion about the rationale of carrying a handgun. Next there is instruction about legal issues (including how to select the appropriate level of force suitable for the situation at hand), and advice on how to act if you ever find yourself in a middle of a bank robbery, for example. Givens presents the Cooperīs principles of personal defence, color codes of awareness, and Boydīs OODA loop (for some reason, Givens calls it the SODA loop. I think it is somewhat strange to rename an established term that many readers are already familiar with. And for those who did not already know the term OODA loop, it can be confusing when they study the subject further. Besides, ”observe” is more appropriate word for perceiving a threath than ”see”, because you can notice the threath using other senses than vision first). Next there are chapters on mental conditioning, controlling fear and making decisions under stress, visualization, and related stuff. There is also a chapter on dealing with the aftermath of a shooting (both mental stuff, and dealing with the police).

There is a very interesting chapter on awareness training. As awareness is the most important self defence skill (itīs very hard defending against something you havenīt spotted first), it is surprising how rarely one can find books that handle this issue. Maybe it is hard subject to teach, and perhaps many gunwriters and instructors donīt know how to instruct on something that seems to be an inborn ability. However, Givens presents some exercices you can use to increase your awareness.

In the book, Givens introduces the most common and/or most probable threats (he tells how you can distinguish abusers of different drugs, for example, and what kind of threat they most probably presents to you). Other threats presented are different street gangs, biker gangs, mentally unstable persons and plain old criminals. Givens instructs how to avoid these threats, and how to avoid being a victim of a violent crime. There is also some basic information on non verbal communications. At the end of the book, there is some discussion about training schools, realistic practice, basic tactics, low-light tactics and so on.

As you can see, Givens has included a lot of material into less than 250 pages. This has been achieved partly by using a limited amount of photographs. Donīt get me wrong, there are almost 80 photographs and charts, but they are small so they donīt take up a lot of room. And there really is no need for anything more, therefore I do not consider it a weakness, per se.

My main gripe about the book is that the text is too ”dense”, or information-heavy. There is not really anything missing, but you have to read the text carefully in order to catch all the important issues. This makes the book somewhat heavy reading. What I would like to see is a book aimed for civilian market, that covers the whole spectrum of self defence gun handling, and would be 350+ pages long (like Charles Remsbergsī Street survival and Tactical edge, that are 10 x 7” books, with some 400 and 500+ pages, respectively, but are restricted to law enforcement only – in theory at least). I believe that you canīt appropriately cover a subject this board in much less than that.

That last thing nonwhitstanding, I think that Fighting smarter is one of the better books on the market, and definetly recommended. It covers a broad spectrum of gunhandling (emphasizing more of the mental side than usual), but you have to read it carefully, and preferably at least twice.