All Hat, No Cattle: What is Your Defensive State of Mind?

The 2016 National Rifle Association Annual Meeting and Exhibits in Louisville, Kentucky is in the books, and it was a great event. Over 80,000 people from all 50 states were in attendance and a lot of great products and information were on display. The Executive Editor of PDN, Rob Pincus put on three seminar lectures on defensive shooting skill development and home defense that were very well attended on each day of the meeting. I was in attendance for the Saturday seminar helping to greet attendees and answer questions about PDN and the Combat Focus Shooting program. Rob doesn’t just talk about tactics in physical skills in these seminars, he also tries to help people improve their defensive state of mind. annualmeeting

While I have seen Rob present this lecture several times, there is always something new that sticks with me when I attend the seminar. What stuck with me this year was when Rob said “Unarmed is a state of mind, not a state of being” during his home defense seminar. The point Rob was trying to get across is that regardless of whether you find yourself in a situation without your preferred defensive tools, if you are resolved to evade, barricade, or to respond with whatever means available and have prepared for the fight ahead of time, you are never really “unarmed”. Essentially, it is the knowledge you possesses and your willingness to take appropriate action in the specific circumstances you find yourself in that increases your survivability in a worst case scenario. While having a defensive firearm can provide you an efficient option to respond to evil when you need to, not having one does not mean that all hope is lost. If you have planned and prepared yourself by training, practicing, reading, observing, and deciding ahead of time what you will do in a worst-case scenario with or without your defensive firearm, you are really always “armed”.


On the flip side of that, just because you possess a gun does not mean that you are “armed” as it relates to your state of mind. There were thousands of people at the Expo Center in Louisville who carry a gun every day but aren’t actually any more prepared to confront evil than their non-gun carrying friends and co-workers. I know this because these folks invest more in guns, gear, and t-shirts than they do in developing knowledge and skills. Just take a look at the number of stories as of late of “good guys with guns” doing reckless things out of ignorance that either lands them in jail or an early grave. There are plenty of die hard, ostensibly motivated members of the National Rifle Association who could easily fall into this unfortunate category if the circumstances were to arise. Passionate advocacy for the preservation of the Second Amendment is a great thing, but the Second Amendment in and of itself will not prepare you to confront evil in this world. If many NRA members were as passionate about training and practice as they are about “their cold dead hands”, they and their families would be far better off than they are as a result of mere political activism.

I live in the great state of Texas. In Texas, we are known for our cowboys and their 10 gallon hats. However, I know plenty of proud Texans who wear a Stetson real well but can’t tell you the first thing about what it means to be a cowboy or a rancher. They lack the knowledge and skills required to do anything other than proliferate Texas culture and its iconography. In Texas, we refer to those folks as “all hat and no cattle”. If you want to be a true “cowboy”, you are going to have to get out to the ranch and learn cowboy skills and acquire cowboy knowledge. Similarly, if you consider yourself an “armed citizen” and are proud of your 2nd Amendment rights, you need to ask yourself the question: “Am I all hat?” Do you just have a gun or do you also have a defensive stare of mind? Becoming a true armed citizen is going to mean spending some more time and money on classes and the range, and less time at the gun show.

ArmedAs mentioned above, there were 80,000 plus people in attendance at the NRAAM from all walks of life and all income levels. People flew or drove from all around the nation to get to Louisville and stayed multiple nights in hotels and ate at restaurants. This tells me that people have the time and the money to get out and take a class to acquire the knowledge and skills required to truly be “armed”. The problem is, there is a lot of ”all hat and no cattle” mindset for a lot of NRA members. So do an honest self-assessment, and don’t let yourself be part of that group. Resolve now to put aside some time and money this year to get to a class and learn something. It will do far more to “arm” you against evil than your next gun or t-shirt purchase will. The gun culture is a great thing and you should be proud to be a part of it, but the NRA won’t be in your worst case scenario with you if and when it unfolds. You need to put in the work if you want to truly consider yourself an armed citizen because, as Rob says, it’s more about a state of mind than a state of being.

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One Response to “All Hat, No Cattle: What is Your Defensive State of Mind?”

  1. David

    Thank you Aaron! Finally, I've found a group of individuals who cares more about mindset and training than the size and caliber of your gun and how fast it can be drawn.