Monday, September 26, 2016

MAG 40 -- Thoughts

So, it's been just over two months since I took MAG40 at Firearms Academy of Seattle. Before I went, I had noticed that there seemed to be few reviews/AARs of the course on the Internet. I wasn’t sure why, perhaps Massad Ayoob discouraged such, lest proprietary information be revealed?

I am now prepared to state that it more likely that the “drinking from a fire hose” nature of the class makes it difficult, to say the least, to distill the lessons into a blog post.

“Drinking from a fire hose”: That’s the way someone, I think it was Ry Jones, described the class when, at dinner after Ray Carter’s funeral, I explained why I was staying in a motel in Centralia rather than make the hour and a half one way drive to FAS every day.


My notes from the classroom portion run over 30 pages, and I am not done1 transcribing/editing them; I have no intention of trying to publish multiple uber-posts of the class, but that's what it would take, because I cannot distill the experience into a single post.

But here's an attempt:
(After the jump. It was kind of long...)

For any readers not familiar with the "course catalog" of the Massad Ayoob Group, MAG 40 is the "basic" course. It is intense, four-day, 40-hour immersion course in the “rules of engagement” for armed law-abiding private citizens.  The course emphasizes legal issues, tactical issues, and aftermath management. Topics will include interacting with suspects, witnesses, responding police officers, threat recognition and mind-set, and the management of the social and psychological aftermath of having to use lethal force in defense of self or others.  Also covered is preparing beforehand for legal repercussions and minimizing your exposure to them. Situations in the home, at the place of business, or “on the street” will all be covered.  Range work will include instruction in the use of the defensive handgun under extreme stress. Drawing from concealment, two-handed stances, shooting from cover, one-handed stances with either hand, speed reloading, and more are taught with an overall emphasis on fast, accurate shot placement. The course will culminate with a written examination covering the classroom topics and a police-style handgun qualification course.
(Course description from MAG website.)
 MAG also offers this as two 20 hour courses,  MAG 20/Classroom – Armed Citizens’ Rules of Engagement and MAG 20/Live Fire.

While MAG40 may nominally be divided into roughly equal halves, of range time and classroom instruction, that range time seemed to fly by. Many will think “Duh”, because they figure busting caps is always fun, but when you’re performing specific drills, and specific tasks, to a standard, the fun can turn to work, or even drudgery, pretty quick. (SEE: Any range run by the US Army.)
The classroom…  Like I said, my transcribed notes run over 32 single spaced pages. (With HTML links and footnotes.)(What? You don’t use footnotes in your transcribed class notes?)

One thing Mas emphasized was that any record of any training is discoverable (as well as anything you said in the Internet…), and so we should wait a minimum of two weeks before transcribing our notes. I have also (to be frank) gotten a little more up front (without being aggressive, I hope) about challenging stupid statements about self-defense I see on the Internet. (and maybe in person...) I may not be able to save them from themselves, but at least I have established that not everyone is full of derp…

By also putting footnotes with HTML links to court cases and definitions and discussions of laws and legal concepts and procedures I have also demonstrated that I wasn't just preparing to emulate the average college student, writing down whatever the professor said with no retention. (While I make no claim, and have no expectation, that I could explicate these things with no preparation, I did actually research them...)

The classroom portion covers material that may be familiar, especially if one has read Mas’ books, and/or taken Andrew Branca’s Law of Self-Defense class: Definitions of things like The Reasonable Man doctrine, the Ability/Opportunity/Jeopardy “Triad”, with a review of significant court cases to illustrate how these things apply to self-defense, as well as going more in depth on concepts like the Voir Dire process.

About seven hours of the 20 in the classroom are watching video. This accomplishes two things: It ensures consistency between course sessions taught over several years, in several venues, and it saves the instructors' voice. Actually, it probably also cuts down on classroom digressions as people ask questions and engage in discussion of things that do not apply universally, so three. (Looks around for the Spanish inquisition...)

One of Mas's recommendations is to familiarize yourself with local law libraries, and to study more than "just" the what the law says in your jurisdiction about concealed carry. He specifically recommends consulting:

  • Black Letter Law (what does the law literally say)2
  • Case Law
  • CJS (CorpusJuris Secunduman encyclopedia of United States law at the federal and state levels.) Offers “clear, plain language explanation of the laws, and case law.
  • Warren On Homicide
  • Recommended Jury Instructions for the jurisdiction in question. (In WA this is the Pattern Jury Instructions )
Mas noted that the law regarding Lethal Force is very stable, with few actual changes in the law. (Even passage of laws regarding Duty To Retreat/”Stand Your Ground”/Castle Doctrine” constitute little change to the actual use of force.)  Unfortunately, he also noted that very few lawyers are familiar with the law of self-defense, that it is rarely if ever covered in law school. and that defense attorneys will go their entire career without representing a client who is actually innocent.

One would think that it would not be necessary to mention that

A Concealed Carry Permit (by any other name…) is a “license to use deadly force” if necessary, NOT a “license to kill.” (Subtle, or not so subtle, difference.)

(Quoting my notes there, so consider it paraphrasing Mas. Much of the following is copied from my noted.)

Blackstone noted that Self-defense is the highest human right.” (One would not think that this would be in dispute, but...)

The difference between self-defense (i.e., "justifiable homicide") and murder (or manslaughter) is determined by
The “Triad of Self-Defense”:
  1. Ability
  2. Opportunity
  3. Jeopardy
“He had the Ability to kill me, the Opportunity, and based on the Ability and Opportunity, I (or another) was in jeopardy.”

I.e., if the assailant is only armed with a knife and yelling “I’ll cut you!”, but is 30 yards away, and I am in my car and can leave, I am not justified in shooting. But if I am in my car and I see him attacking my wife as she is leaving the store, I am.

 Note that Federal Rule of Evidence 404b speaks to “What the Reasonable Man knew at the time", and governs what evidence or information about the assailant can be introduced at trial. Generally, you had to know at the time that the assailant was a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in order to argue that his skills at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu enhanced the ability and jeopardy. Some courts and jurisdictions disagree.

That's a brief outline of the legal portion of Training Day One. We also talked about shooting. Then we hit the range. I'll post a different post about the shooting portion, I think it merits it.

I will also do an extract of my notes from the extensive discussion of Myths of Self-Defense.

Hopefully I will not take as long to get those up as I did this one...

The bottom line is that, as I believe Tamara said, MAG40 is The One class to take, if you're taking only one." If only one of the MAG20 classes is on offer, take it!

Class schedule: When & Where - Massad Ayoob Group (Mas said that next year's class at FAS will be about the same time next year, but it is not listed on the MAG web site...)

Other posts about this training experience:

1. First draft typed up and saved. I want to make a second run-through to make sure I left nothing out, or could explain stuff better. This stuff is discoverable, I want it to be right!
2. Not to be confused with Blackstone’s Commentaries, or Black’s Law Dictionary.


Old NFO said...

Great write up, and yes feeding with a firehose is appropriate! Glad you got a chance to take the course!

Rod Spade said...

Another benefit of the classroom videos: Evidence that you watched the video is discoverable, so then the jury can be shown portions of the video that are relevant to your defense. It's an effective way to educate the jurors so that they understand why you did what you did.

D.W. Drang said...

Which Mas said, so why wasn't it in my notes??? See, I said I wasn't done with them yet!