ACCORDING TO A BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS REPORT, AN AVERAGE OF 49,000 NON-FATAL CARJACKINGS OCCUR per year between 1992 and 1996. This report was released in late 1999, so these are the most recent statistics available. It is interesting to note that fatal carjackings, the type that concerns us the most, are not contained in the report. This is likely due to these offenses being reported as homicides by law enforcement agencies.
While these statistics do not sound like a national crisis, carjacking remains a big concern for many people, especially those that dwell in or around urban areas. What is the reason(s) for the surge in carjackings? While I am not an expert on the subject, I have interviewed a number of these offenders over the years. I have been told that some suspects just like the thrill, violence and adrenaline rush of forcefully taking someone's property. This type of offender should be of great concern to everyone. Others, however, find it easier to steal a car by removing. its occupants (thus, the keys are in place), rather than break the steering column and bypass the ignition. Additionally, many cars now have security systems that make theft somewhat more difficult.
What do we, as concerned citizens, to counter this very real threat? Well, being aware of our surroundings is good, but many people just cannot stay switched on no matter how hard they try. It is quite evident that a training course, directed at the average citizen, is certainly in order. The perfect class in counter carjack measures would need to be a combination of awareness training, hands on driving skills and realistic close quarter weapons training. Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? Well, in fact, this course of instruction does exist and it is presented as a collaboration of two of the biggest names in the defensive training business.
The Gryphon Group is best known for its expertise in the area of dignitary protection. Gryphon both provides this service as well as training government agencies and personnel from major corporations. Gryphon Group recently purchased the renowned Scotti School of Defensive Driving, which offers a wide range of hands on training courses. Gryphon also offers training courses in surveillance detection, crisis decision-making, workplace violence and critical incident management.
"When we decided that we needed to move into firearms training, we decided to look outside of Gryphon Group," states Chief Operating Officer Ed Lovette. We certainly have the expertise in-house to do it; but it just makes sense to collaborate with an established firearms training company. Lovette recently announced an agreement with SIG Arms Academy to provide this training. SIG entered the training arena in 1990 with the addition of Bank Miller to the SIG staff. Bank retired as Chief Firearms Instructor of the Drug Enforcement Administration, bringing with him impressive credentials. Within a short period of time, George Harris, a twenty-year veteran of the U.S. Army where he specialized in combat skill development, joined Bank. The newest member of the staff is John Peterson, a former active duty Special Forces Operator who is still active in the Army Reserves. These three gentleman comprise one of the most effective training teams found anywhere.
The driving instructors from Gryphon Group are as equally impressive. Ed Lovette is a retired CIA Operations Officer who spent over 25 years in many of the world's hot spots. He also spent a number of years working at the CIA's training facility instructing new intelligence officers who were headed out to assignments around the world. Mark Snelson, who is Gryphon's Director of Training, joins Ed Snelson recently retired from the British Special Forces, working in numerous hostile environments, including Northern Ireland where he worked surveillance intelligence assignments.
I had the opportunity recently to take this counter carjacking course at the SIG Arms Academy in Epping, New Hampshire. Without a doubt, the information and training provided in the course will go a long way towards preparing anyone for the ambush event known as a carjacking. The course is actually broken down into two sections. The first is a concealed carry handgun course taught by the instructors from SIG Arms. The second is a hands on, crisis driving course taught by the folks at Gryphon. It is a very effective package!
The handgun portion is taught at SIG's new training facility. This facility is state-of-the-art and includes a 25-yard indoor range (which includes a simulation-only shoot house), a fifty-yard outdoor range for rifles, shotguns and handguns, an action target match house which provides a complete 360 degree field of fire, and a 300-yard precision rifle range. All ranges are equipped with Action Target target systems. All ranges are quite environmentally friendly with frangible, non-toxic ammunition used throughout. Bank Miller continually says, "If it's not dirty, don't make it so.
George Harris discussed concealed carry stating, "There is not much new here. There are a lot of different carry systems as well as carry locations, but the best remains the strong side belt holster." He adds that, "concealed carry techniques are nothing more than marksmanship skills from a covered position". George put great emphasis on mindset and tactical skills. Tactics is using your personal assets to meet an objective. Being tactical is nothing more than being smart!
Shooting drills are conducted from a concealed position at varied distance. Single, multiple and moving targets are all engaged. Shooting from a cramped seated position, such as from a motor vehicle, is emphasized. Muzzle control is essential in such a cramped environment as it is quite easy to point the gun in the wrong direction when working from the holster.
Unlike many of the big name schools, Sig Arms addresses and teaches what is known as point shooting at close quarter distances. George Harris advises that there is a very clear point when to move from point shooting to sighted fire. If the outline of what you are shooting at is larger than the outline of the gun, then point and press. If not, use the front sight. As it turned out, the shooting portion of the course dovetails well with the driving.
Prior to hitting the driving pad, Ed Lovette and Mark Snelson delivered one of the best lectures I have ever heard on situational awareness. Lovette is the co-author of the book Defensive Living (www.looseleaflaw.com or 1-800-647-5547) in which he discussed this topic extensively. In reality, states Lovette, you will do better in the street with awareness training than any weapons or driving course. Avoidance through awareness is the key. The essentials of any personal security program are:
1. Situational Awareness
2. Survivor's Attitude
3. Threat Management Training
Lovette went on to advise that the four layers of defense against carjacking are:
1. Common Sense
2. Visible and audible security devices
3. Vehicle immobilizing devices
4. Vehicle tracking devices
Of the four, common sense doesn't cost anything, provided you have it, adds Lovette. A low profile-proactive mindset is worth a pile of gold. However, if you are caught in a situation, access it and ask yourself can I avoid it? Can I evade it? Can I counter it? If no is the answer to above, you may have to give in. But that is not the same as giving up.
Once we moved to the driving track, Mark Snelson took over with a dazzling display of defensive driving techniques. It was quite obvious that he has performed these techniques often and probably when his life depended on them. We want the student to keep their counter measure techniques as close as possible to what you do in your everyday driving. We cannot un-do in a couple of days what you have been doing since you were sixteen. Bootleg turns and J-hooks look sexy, but they are hard to do under stress on real streets. Instead of doing a bootleg, how about just turning around real quick. And this is where the training began.
I was amazed how well the common mid-size sedan sticks to the pavement at higher speeds. During the class we slalomed both forward and backward at 40 plus miles an hour. We then went on to making 45 degree angle turns at speed by using both feet on the brake and accelerator. Reverse Y-turns were also undertaken at speed using nothing more than the width of a normal two-lane road. It is obvious that the folks at Gryphon have given a great deal of thought to their course content. Mark Snelson summed it up by saying, "Firearms are terrific, but if you can, use your car as a weapon and get away."
If you live in a locale where being forcefully removed from your vehicle at gunpoint is a concern, then Counter Carjacking Measures is the course for you.
...common sense doesn't cost anything provided you have it,...
The armed carjack! The driving portion of the course addresses vehicle counter measure.
When attacked by an armed man, driving away may be your reaction. Within a second you are twenty yards away from the assailant.
Rapid backing away from an armed threat is an excellent way to exit the kill zone.
SIG Arms Academy and the Gryphon Group have teamed up to create the most effective counter carjacking program currently available.
The SIG Arms Academy is a state-of-the-art firearms training facility located on 130 acres of New Hampshire woodlands. The indoor range has a full compliment of automated action target range equipment including charging targets.
The compact SIG 239 may very well be the perfect concealed carry/car gun. It is available in 9mm, .40 S&W and .357 SIG. The Carjacking course begins with concealed carry training.
Concealed carry means a quality holster. This Milt Sparks IWB rig is an excellent example.
Point shooting at close range is part of the SIG program.
Things often can and do go wrong in a crisis, like the seatbelt getting in the way of one's draw.