Social Violence in the Developing World

Social Violence in the Developing World 634 356 Greg Ellifritz

British family ended up driving into a violent slum after a language mix-up

This is a very curious case study in social violence.  This family was driving in Brazil and misunderstood directions.  They ended up in a gang controlled favela.  A drug gang shot up their car and the mother ended up with a bullet wound before they were able to escape.  It’s important to understand that this wasn’t a “random” gang shooting.  It wasn’t a robbery either.  The gang members did not take anything from the family.


No, this was pure social violence.  Take a look at this link from Rory Miller explaining the difference between social and asocial violent crimes.  What happened here is more similar to the idea of the “educational beatdown” than any other motivation.  How do I know?  This quote explains it all:


“But due to a mix-up they were directed to the slum – and were challenged by an armed gang.

When Mr Dixon refused to heed their demand to turn back, they fired a volley of bullets, one of which hit Mrs Dixon in the stomach.”


Social violence almost always comes with a warning.  In essence, the drug gang was telling these folks “You don’t belong here.  Get out.”  When the husband refused, the gang took that as a challenge to their authority and broke out the pistols to punish the infraction.


It’s dangerous to attribute your own values and morals to the members of a criminal subculture who do not share your worldview.  Travelers need to understand this concept well in order to stay safe.  There are some places where tourists are not welcome.  Open air drug markets (which are the mainstay business in the favelas) are an example of such places.  There are many others.  Pay attention to how people react when they see you.  If you are greeted with scorn, disdain, pointing, insults, and the shaking of heads, it’s time to get out.


Just because you would never shoot a lost tourist who mistakenly drove down your street does not mean that the locals will afford you the same consideration.


For more information on this topic, I highly recommend reading Rory Miller’s books Facing Violence and Conflict Communication.  You should also read Marc MacYoung’s book In the Name of Self Defense.  Both of these authors are at the top of the heap with regards to researching how social violence occurs.  Pick up these books.  Your combative education isn’t complete until you internalize the message these authors are trying to spread.


Where to Travel Based on Your Myers-Briggs Type

Where to Travel Based on Your Myers-Briggs Type 1854 2560 Greg Ellifritz
This is kind of a fun idea that I haven’t seen before.  Have you considered matching your travel goals with your personality type?


I’m an INTJ and I would certainly enjoy their recommendation of a solo drive around Ireland.  I haven’t done that yet, but would book that trip in a heartbeat.


Interestingly enough, I’ve done about 3/4 of the trips she suggests for other personality types and I enjoyed all of those as well.


So it might all be crap, but it’s an interesting amusement for travelers.  If you know your personality type, check the link below and find out where you should be traveling this year.



Where to Travel Based on Your Myers-Briggs Type




Understanding the “Collective Mood”

Understanding the “Collective Mood” 300 139 Greg Ellifritz

I occasionally am asked how I assess the relative safety of the areas I inhabit when I travel to third world countries.


Different customs and language change societal norms, but these factors remain relatively constant no matter where you are in the world.


Take a look at this article and learn how to assess the baseline.  It will help you make  good decisions.


The techniques are recommended by the authors of Left of Bang, an excellent book to check out if you want to learn more about baseline behavior profiling.


The Collective Mood and You




Preparing for Foreign Travel- Guns

Preparing for Foreign Travel- Guns 620 465 Greg Ellifritz

I’m currently on a short trip to the Dominican Republic.  My trip prompted some friends to ask me how I planned on protecting myself in a third world country where it is illegal for me to carry a firearm.  I’ve spent an average of at least six weeks a year for the last 10 years traveling outside of the country.  My usual vacation spots are the kinds of places that most experts will advise you to stay away from.  Despite that fact, I’ve managed to survive pretty successfully without a gun, spending a grand total of more than an entire year traveling through nearly 40 foreign countries.


If you think that you absolutely need a gun to survive, you are seriously misguided and are missing out on some awesome life experiences by limiting yourself to only those places that allow your concealed pistol.  Here’s the crux of what I have learned in my travels: If you don’t act like an asshole, people generally won’t try to kill you. 


I’ve traveled through some of the most dangerous countries on the planet without a gun.  I try to make friends with the locals.  I don’t act like the “Ugly American.”  I don’t pick fights.  I try to smile a lot.  I don’t display indicators of my wealth or throw large sums of money around.  I buy my local friends a round of beer on occasion.  I learn some of the local language.   That’s it.  That’s my grand self defense strategy.  It’s kept me quite safe throughout the last decade of my life.  If you are honest with yourself, doing these same things and not acting like an asshole will keep you safe here at home as well.


With all this said, it doesn’t mean that I don’t prepare for violence before I travel to other countries. Before traveling to any foreign countries, I research crime trends and common scams in the areas where I’ll be visiting. I pack and carry both less lethal and lethal weapons (other than firearms) and will be writing about those options next week.


One additional preparation I make is that I prepare to use any “battlefield pickup” weapons I may be able to acquire overseas in an emergency. I look at the weapons that local cops/soldiers/security guards carry and make sure I can use them proficiently. The chance of me needing some local cop’s gun is extremely low, but so is being caught in a hurricane or trapped in a volcanic eruption. I’ve experienced both of those events while traveling and want to be prepared on weapons side of things as well.


Since I most recently traveled to the Dominican Republic, I’ll give you my pre-trip range training practice session details as an example of what I do for most of the countries I visit. In the Dominican, you generally see a lot of .38 revolvers. You also see pistol gripped pump shotguns (usually Winchesters).   In a crisis, if I had to arm myself, I would either offer to buy one of those guns for an exorbitant sum of money or I’d choke out an unsuspecting security guard (sorry dude) and “acquire” his weapon.  I need to make sure I am very proficient with both weapon types.


Would you know how to use this gun (seen being carried by an Ecuadorian security guard) in an emergency?

Would you know how to use this gun (seen being carried by an Ecuadorian security guard) in an emergency?


I broke my Winchester pump out of the gun safe and did a little dry firing. The big difference between the Winchester and other brands of shotgun is the location of the safety. I spent a few minutes dryfiring and working the safety until I was completely comfortable with it.


I also took a 4″ Model 10 .38 revolver out of my safe and took it to the range. Because the security guards who carry these revolvers rarely carry spare ammunition (and the ammunition they do carry is 158 grain lead roundnose), I knew I had to focus on extreme accuracy and making fast head shots. One round of round nose .38 to the chest isn’t a likely stopper and I wouldn’t have extra bullets to spare, so I planned on using more head shots than I normally would. The combination of faster stops and less ammunition used is exactly the solution I needed. Reloads weren’t likely to be possible, let alone a realistic option, so I didn’t waste any time working on them.


Since accuracy is paramount, I started out with a modified version of the Humbler drill shot at 50 feet to ensure I had good trigger control with the revolver.  After shooting the Humbler, I put a full sized silhouette target up at 20 feet.  I ran two cylinders of ammunition through the revolver on each stage.  I shot each stage from the ready position because I was unlikely to be using a holster for a gun I had to steal from an unsuspecting security guard.


– Six fast body shots

-Three body shots right hand only

– Three body shots left hand only

– Two to the body and one to the head

– One to the body and one to the head

– Single head shots as fast as I could make my hits


With a little over 100 rounds fired, I felt pretty good about my abilities to use a .38 revolver if necessary.


You will find different weapons carried in different countries.  In Latin America and the Caribbean, the .38 revolver/ pistol grip pump shotgun combo is exceedingly popular.  Those are two guns you should definitely understand how to work.  In all my other travels in third world countries, I see the following other guns most commonly carried on a regular basis by the local cops/soldiers/security guards:

– Glock pistol

– Beretta 92 (or Taurus Copy)

– M-16/AR-15 variant

– Ruger Mini-14

– FN/FAL Rifle

– AK 47 and AK 74 (full auto- Know the safety differences between these and their semi auto cousins)


To be a well rounded and prepared traveler, you should understand basic operating functions of all of those weapons.  They are the ones you will most likely see.  If you have time, use Google Images and search “xxxx country police weapons.” Look at the guns you see the cops carrying and make sure you are at least proficient on those weapon systems.


I’m hoping that the only danger I face in the Dominican Republic is sun burn and alcohol poisoning.  But it’s still nice knowing I can take care of myself should the need arise.


Check in next week for my article on the weapons I carry when I travel in foreign countries.

Stress Free Travel

Stress Free Travel 768 432 Greg Ellifritz

I’m outside the USA (generally in some third world place most would consider Hell) about six weeks a year.  The screwed up travel situations that I’ve encountered could fill books.  How do I stay sane?  The same as this guy: “the real secret is that I treat my life as an adventure.


Read the article and embrace the concepts for a much more productive trip.



How to Handle Any Stressful Travel Situation


Assessing Neighborhood Safety When Traveling

Assessing Neighborhood Safety When Traveling 660 880 Greg Ellifritz

I occasionally am asked how I assess the relative safety of the areas I inhabit when I travel to third world countries.  Different customs and language change societal norms, but these factors remain relatively constant no matter where you are in the world.  Take a look at this article and learn how to assess the baseline.

The Collective Mood and You


It will help you make a good decision.  The techniques are mentioned by the authors of Left of Bang, an excellent book to check out if you want to learn more about baseline behavior profiling.


In addition to the article’s advice, I would also suggest that you might take a look at a couple additional factors.  These guidelines may be pretty basic, but using them will give you a quick assessment of your relative safety in any neighborhood in the world:

  1. Are there lots of armed guards?
  2. Do the properties seem to be run down or not cared for?
  3.  Are people in the area walking in pairs or small groups rather than walking alone?
  4.  Is there a lot of graffiti present on the walls?
  5.  Are there obvious security measures (like broken glass embedded atop walls, electric fences, barbed wire, etc.) present?
  6.  Are there lots of people are aimlessly “hanging out” in the street?

If you answer “yes” to most of these questions, you may not be in the world’s safest place.  It’s time to move on.


For a more detailed explanation of these concepts, read my book Choose Adventure- Safe Travel in Dangerous Places.


How would you assess the safety of this neighborhood?
The world famous “Black Market” in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay